Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Jason just alerted me to a heartening development: Morrissey is coming out with a new album! Evidently no more once-every-seven-damned-years business. "Elizabeth" better dig the Moz, because come April 4 she's going to get an earful . . .

I did this interview with Fate Radio seemingly ages ago. For whatever reason, it only recently "went live."
You've probably already seen this. Now "Sleepless in Seattle" has been given a make-over.

(Found at Boing Boing.)
Astronomers Had it Wrong: Most Stars are Single

For more than 200 years, astronomers thought that most of the stars in our galaxy had stellar companions. But a new study suggests the bulk of them are born alone and never have stellar company.

Since planets are believed to be easier to form around single stars, the discovery could mean planets are more common as well.

I'd write a nifty summary of why this discovery is important, but Chris Wren has beaten me to it. Just let me go on record saying that the "rare Earth" extremists who maintain we're the only so-called "intelligent" species in the universe look even sillier than they used to -- which is very silly indeed.
Apparently some think there's a massive face at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. While I realize it's impossible to prove a negative, I'm personally satisfied that the Pacific "face" is naturally occurring and, moreover, not all that face-like. But it catches my interest because it helps provide a systematic way to gauge the archaeological merits of similar surface features, both on Earth and on Mars.

If the Pacific "face" is a simulacrum, as I'm betting it is, we can bring our understanding to bear on a number of supposed geoglyphs on the Martian surface. Like the vaguely defined likeness deep below the Pacific, most of the "faces" (and animal likenesses) on Mars are seen solely in profile. While this doesn't automatically discount them from the artificiality debate, it makes objective assessment surprisingly difficult; after all, our own planet is littered with asymmetric artificial formations that could easily pass for natural hills and mesas if not for extensive aerial and on-site analysis.

(Click here to see your host bravely clambering atop ancient Indian burial mounds.)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Take a good look at these examples of gnarly atmospheric weirdness. "Chemtrails" have nothing on some of these. I'm reminded of Rudy Rucker's ideas of panpsychism and universal automatism. According to Rucker, sufficiently complex natural phenomena could indicate advanced intelligences from parallel universes harnessing the computational substrate of our universe to "think" themselves into existence.

Could Rucker be onto a no-kidding unified theory of the paranormal? Remind me to play with this idea in "The Postbiological Cosmos."

(Thanks to PAG E-News.)
It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Airborne Wind Power

It seems obvious that once someone creates a workable system, it will become a huge winner, because of the sheer amount of power available up high: 1% of the jetstream's wind power could supply all US electrical demand. Also, one of the main complaints about wind power is its intermittency--the wind doesn't blow all the time, and so (according to Sky Windpower), most wind farms are only operating at their peak capacity 19-35% of the time. The wind is much steadier at altitude, so you get even more advantage over ground-based wind power.
Rudy Rucker's brand of panpsychism keeps growing on me . . .

Mind = Computation + Memory. Genii loci.

Imagine freefloating RAM-souls that attach themselves to natural processes and let the process "think" them for awhile. For the thinking to work, though, the RAM-souls would have to be able to do some input/output with the parameters of the natural process. Alter the flowlines of the water coming into the fall, count the bubbles coming out.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I downloaded and started experimenting with Cloud this evening. I still haven't quite got the hang of it, but I like the soundtrack and the navigation.
World War III May Be Fought on the Moon

Helium 3 is an isotope (a unique atomic arrangement) of the element Helium which is invaluable in fusion reactors, which the Chinese plan to build to serve their energy needs in the future. When you hear the word "fusion," it's a clue that a country or company plans to mine Helium 3 on the moon.
I know ripping off of Boing Boing is an easy way out for bloggers who pretend to have something original to offer, but take a look at this! And this!
Just for kicks: Amazon's Sexiest Book Covers.

(Thanks to Reality Carnival.)
I just watched "The Island." What an appallingly silly movie. The action hinges almost entirely on fortuitous accidents; in one scene, the main couple survives falling from a great height (while clinging to a chunk of uprooted outdoor signage) by detaching at precisely the right time to fall into a scant cushion of chain-link mesh. The whole movie is a numbing series of near-miraculous and largely unwitting escapes.

The future (we're told it's sometime after 2050) is only peripherally futuristic. Characterization is conveniently dispensed with because the protagonists are clones with the mentality of children. Stock characters prevail. We have the ethically challenged corporate genius; the evil twin; the seedy, wise-cracking -- and above all, disposable -- technician who knows and resents the Awful Truth but apparently isn't bothered enough to be deterred from showing up to work.

"The Island" shamelessly bogarts its visuals (and at least one key revelatory scene) from genre classics like "THX-1138" and "The Matrix." (Watch the hero learn that he's an artificial humanoid with implanted memories and you'll be instantly transported to Harrison Ford's apartment in "Blade Runner," where a doe-eyed Sean Young learns precisely the same thing.)

"The Island" pretends to celebrate the human spirit. But spirit is exactly what's lacking. The details are sloppy. The back-story is unconvincing. The dialogue is downright painful.

The only genuinely enjoyable moment arrives when, by pure chance, a Hummer gets obliterated during one of the film's innumerable chase scenes. Nice touch. If only the villain's inevitable demise could have aroused so much vicarious satisfaction.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

Considering that we're living in a society whose very existence hinges on ignoring the implications of climate change, can anyone be truly surprised?
The Venus Project

One of the cornerstones of the organization's findings is the fact that many of the dysfunctional behaviors of today's society stem directly from the dehumanizing environment inherent in the existing monetary system.

(Via Busy, Busy, Busy.)

More, please!
This might be the coolest video I've ever seen online. It's like a panpsychic botanical fever-dream transmitted from the cortex of Gaia herself.

The thing about Paul Kimball: He's always up to no good. This time he's started a blog advocating Paul Hellyer for Liberal Leader.

Crazy Canadians.

Friday, January 27, 2006

South Pole Detector Could Yield Signs of Extra Dimensions

Researchers at Northeastern University and the University of California, Irvine say that scientists might soon have evidence for extra dimensions and other exotic predictions of string theory. Early results from a neutrino detector at the South Pole, called AMANDA, show that ghostlike particles from space could serve as probes to a world beyond our familiar three dimensions, the research team says.

No more than a dozen high-energy neutrinos have been detected so far. However, the current detection rate and energy range indicate that AMANDA's larger successor, called IceCube, now under construction, could provide the first evidence for string theory and other theories that attempt to build upon our current understanding of the universe.

(Via Dark Planet.)

Sounds like the set-up for a Robert Charles Wilson novel!
Russia plans to put a mine on the Moon to help boost energy supply

Russia has staked out plans to recapture its Soviet-era space-race glory and start mining the Moon for a promising energy resource that scientists say could meet the Earth's power needs for more than a thousand years.

Nikolai Sevastyanov, head of Russia's giant Energia Space Corporation, has unveiled plans to build a permanent base on the Moon within a decade and to start mining the planet for helium 3, a sought-after isotope, by 2020.

The idea would be to use helium 3 to power thermo-nuclear power stations, harnessing its potency to achieve nuclear fusion.

Russia, China, the US . . . This is going to be some show.
Questions For Skeptics: The problem with James Randi and his foundation on the paranormal, pseudoscientific and supernatural

Randi can be eloquent and is quite the showman; he is also wildly intelligent -- he got a MacArthur genius grant in 1986. But according to his detractors, Randi's main qualities are his malice and hypocrisy. He's hell-bent on tearing apart anyone he deems a kook, including distinguished scientists and Nobel Prize-winners. This is amusing, as Randi has no scientific credentials whatsoever (although he did once write an astrology column for a Canadian tabloid and host a paranormal-themed radio show).

In 1997, Randi threatened to fly to Sri Lanka to persuade Arthur C. Clarke to stop advocating cold fusion. (Clarke, a genuine scientific visionary, inventor of the communication satellite and award-winning author, received degrees, with honors, in physics and mathematics.) In 2001, on a BBC Radio program, Randi attacked Brian Josephson, Nobel Prize-winner and professor of physics at Cambridge University.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Let's just come out and say it: The man's a crank. Yes, his intentions are good -- I think -- but his attempts to advance pop "skepticism" are offensive to actual thinkers and his fashionable addiction to rote dismissal of the unexplained is, to use a showbiz term, "played."
Two Stars Kicked Out of the Milky Way

Two stars have been spotted streaking out of the Milky Way, never to return. These stars are part of a new class of objects which astronomers have dubbed "exiles". These are stars which were once part of a binary system that strayed too close to the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way. The pair is torn apart, and the exiled star is fired off on a trajectory that will take it out of our galaxy.

I feel a strange kinship with these stars.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Cool -- an online interactive flipbook! Start drawing!

(Thanks to Chapel Perilous.)
Experience the exquisitely aberrant world of Lisa Bufano.

Still in the mood for strangeness? Then "Rubber Johnny" might be your bag.

(Thanks to Zakas.)

Time changes modern human's face

Modern people possess less prominent features but higher foreheads than our medieval ancestors.

Writing in the British Dental Journal, the team took careful measurements of groups of skulls spanning across 30 generations.

The scientists said the differences between past and present skull shapes were "striking".

So, if this trend continues, it's plausible humans will more and more resemble the cover of "Communion." Perhaps the time-travel hypothesis for "alien" visitation deserves a better, closer examination . . .

Must-see post-ironic retro sci-fi and pin-up art.

(Found at Unity of Multi.)
Digital masochism goes wireless.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

This guy's good.
Discovery of small, rocky, extrasolar world suggests such planets may be common

Using a relatively new planet-hunting technique that can spot worlds one-tenth the mass of our own, researchers have discovered a potentially rocky, icy body that may be the smallest planet yet found orbiting a star outside our solar system.

The discovery suggests the technique, gravitational microlensing, may be an exceptional technology for finding distant planets with traits that could support life.

Science fiction fans, rejoice!
These pictures supposedly show the autopsy of an alien in Yugoslavia. I'm intrigued by the "alien's" grotesque appearance. Is it a charred human corpse, a prop or something else?
Pray for Baruchito.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Of interest:

It May Look Authentic; Here's How to Tell It Isn't

Among the many temptations of the digital age, photo-manipulation has proved particularly troublesome for science, and scientific journals are beginning to respond.

(Also via The Anomalist.)
Strange Setup: Andromeda's Satellite Galaxies All Lined Up

That nearly 80 percent of Andromeda's satellite galaxy mass is located within a single plane is highly unusual and can't be accounted for by traditional theories of galaxy formation, Grebel said.

(Via The Anomalist.)

OK -- you know where I'm going with this: What if this is some sort of engineering marvel constructed by an intergalactic hypercivilization? Rest assured, I don't think this is a likely (or even very tenable) explanation. But it's fun to consider.
Physicist hypothesizes creator left messages

A University physicist has proposed that temperature fluctuations in microwave radiation may contain messages from the universe's creator.

"It's one of the most speculative possible hypotheses," said associate professor Stephen Hsu, a member of the University's Institute of Theoretical Science.

However, it may be 20 or 30 years before experimental physicists develop instruments refined enough to collect the data necessary to test this hypothesis, Hsu said.
NASA says 2005 was warmest year in a century

Some other research groups that study climate change rank 2005 as the second warmest year, based on comparisons through November. The primary difference among the analyses, according to the NASA scientists, is the inclusion of the Arctic in the NASA analysis. Although there are few weather stations in the Arctic, the available data indicate that 2005 was unusually warm in the Arctic.
You've never seen fractals like Jock Cooper's Fractal Recursions. Wow.

(Thanks to Busy, Busy, Busy.)
This could be good . . .

Major Scientific Discovery on Extrasolar Planets

The scientific journal NATURE will publish in its issue dated 26 January 2006, a major paper on a discovery addressing extra-solar planets.
Flying car captured on Google Earth

No, really.

According to our Oz photo interpretation bureau (Clinton Bird), the vehicle in question is at an altitude of three of four metres and doing about 80 knots.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Monday, January 23, 2006

I'm not into psychedelics, but I'm amazed at the many fungal forms recorded by photographer/shroom fanatic Taylor Lockwood. There's something appealingly alien about fungus; much of it looks simultaneously amorphic and architectural, like something glimpsed on the horizon of some far-flung exoplanet.

(Tip of the cranium to The Six Thousand.)
I just got this obscurely disturbing bit of spam-poetry:

derail and smug see schoolgirl and auschwitz or gazette try ragging it grandeur try transportation the buckeye be felicity be policeman the drift be ampersand the nordhoff or buchenwald may breccia try shuddery be at it's postlude may ridgepole on high may janeiro or spectrograph some symbol see and dudley may cockroach or some gentile be apostate or

Auschwitz? Cockroaches? And what the hell is "shuddery"?
As a potential cryonaut, I found this pretty exciting:

Doctors claim suspended animation success

"It is still pretty awe-inspiring," Dr Alam said. "Once the heart starts beating and the blood starts pumping, voila, you've got another animal that's come back from the other side.

"Technically, I think we can do it in humans."

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)
I can't speak on behalf of Portishead, but given their mesmeric fixation with retro musical effects, I think they'd find some of the gizmos catalogued at 120 Years of Electronic Music worth tinkering with. (With audio samples!)

(Found at Ollapodrida.)
World's Largest Telescope

The four-year Square Kilometre Array Design Study (SKADS) will bring together European and international astronomers to formulate and agree the most effective design. The final design will enable the SKA to probe the cosmos in unprecedented detail, answering fundamental questions about the Universe, such as "what is dark energy?" and "how did the structure we see in galaxies today actually form?".

(Via Universe Today.)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Looking for fun? Apparently all you need is a bunch of pennies and some time to kill.

(Thanks to Tech Swarm.)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Fantastic -- 550 new science fiction and fantasy book and magazine covers compiled by Locus, the genre's premiere trade journal. All you can do is gawk.

(Found at Rob Sawyer's blog.)
Here's a nice picture of "Elizabeth" doing her thing at the Folly Theater last Saturday.

It was a fun evening. The final piece was heavy on multimedia, with live videography and a rousing drum performance.
Robot Cops to Patrol Korean Streets

The South Korean government has robot fever, and they're about to unleash a whole army -- literally -- of the mechanized creatures on their public. According to The Korea Times, the country will see the rollout of police and military robots within the next five years, thanks to a newly approved $33.9 million spending appropriation. Patrol bots will guard the streets at night, and even chase criminals, while horse-shaped combat bots will augment the country's fighting force. In both cases, the bots will communicate via Korea's vast mobile network.

(Via Parrish Baker.)
Today is my first day of cohabitation, although most of it has been spent stressing over last-minute errands. Luckily we have a strong Wi-Fi signal from our new first-floor digs, so I guess I can go ahead and cancel my MSN subscription. Right now I'm on the futon watching the rather excruciating spectacle of our cats establishing territorial boundaries.

I've still got tons of books to move from my old residence (which I can keep until the end of the month). My broken arm isn't helping matters, but I think I'm on the mend. I'm still amazed by how many comments from strangers I get about my splint; they always expect a dramatic story, and I have to tell them I slipped in the shower while reaching for a towel.*

*100% true.
Now you can receive updates to Posthuman Blues via email; just enter your email address in the FeedBlitz field on the sidebar. That's it!

As always, let me know what you think.

Damn those blogger paparazzi!

Friday, January 20, 2006

This just in from Zindra:

Think of him (?) as a mascot.
More spacecraft biomimicry:

Europeans studying spacecraft that bleed

The promise of self-healing spacecraft opens up the possibility of longer duration missions. The benefits are two-fold. Firstly, doubling the lifetime of a spacecraft in orbit around Earth would roughly halve the cost of the mission. Secondly, doubling spacecraft lifetimes means that mission planners could contemplate missions to far-away destinations in the Solar System that are currently too risky.

I 'romped' with 6ft alien

"The orgasms were intense. When I tell men about my reptilian experience, they find it difficult."

(Via The Anomalist.)

I have a hunch the "alien" was actually David Icke in a latex suit.

Uh-oh -- it's the Lettuce Ladies! (If they find out I secretly scarfed down a crab-wrap yesterday I'm in big trouble! The things they might do to me!)

Here's a nicely produced but underwhelming recap of alleged UFOs taped over Mexico in 2005. Only one or two appear to show structured objects of some sort. Unfortunately, the "X-Files"-esque soundtrack is more compelling than the remainder.

More, as promised:

Warmer seas will wipe out plankton, source of ocean life

Scientists have discovered a way that the vital plankton of the oceans can be starved of nutrients as a result of the seas getting warmer. They believe the findings have catastrophic implications for the entire marine habitat, which ultimately relies on plankton at the base of the food chain.

The study is also potentially devastating because it has thrown up a new "positive feedback" mechanism that could result in more carbon dioxide ending up in the atmosphere to cause a runaway greenhouse effect.

"Posthuman Blues: Stalking the Eschaton since 2003."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Alternate Histories and Projected Futures

Both Arthur C. Clarke's (ACC) and Philip K. Dick's (PKD) projected futures were stunningly accurate at times, but a great deal more of their futures came to pass without any relevance to their fiction. Here is an alternate history and projected future compiled from both of their creative musings.

I'm fascinated by futures that never were. Not even 80s cyberpunk, prescient in so many crucial regards, is exempt from the onrush of events that become our history. In the foreword to the 20th anniversary edition of "Neuromancer," William Gibson apologizes for not foreseeing the ubiquity of cell-phones; in his novel, characters rely on the very pay-phones stores are presently removing from their premises because of their virtual obsolescence.

I'm beginning work on a novel that attempts to envision the next 100 years or so of human history (soon after, alien contact occurs, so all sagely bets are off). My pre-ET future history feels right, but then again Isaac Asimov's robot stories must have seemed at least somewhat inevitable when he wrote them.

Today's climate change updates, courtesy of Bruce Sterling's Viridian newsletter:

Danger Zones

America's Next Top Disasters
Ranking determined by likelihood and potential impact
1. Levee Failure in the Sacramento Delta
2. Flooding in the Upper Mississippi
3. Indian Point Meltdown
4. Earthquake in Missouri
5. Eruption at Yellowstone
6. Tornadoes in Dallas
7. Landslide at Mount Rainier
8. Tsunami on the Eastern Seaboard
9. Massive Power Failure in Boston
10. Rupture in the Alaska Oil Pipeline

Note that predicted "earthquake in Missouri." Curiously, I managed to sleep through a minor one while in college.

Cloudy With a Chance of Chaos

A disturbing consensus is emerging among the scientists who study global warming: Climate change may bring more violent swings than they ever thought, and it may set in sooner. Lately John Browne, the CEO of BP, has been jolting audiences with a list of proposed solutions that hint at the vastness of the challenge. It aims at stabilizing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at about double the pre-industrial level while continuing economic growth. To do that, carbon emissions would have to be reduced ultimately by seven gigatons a year. A gigaton, or a billion tons, is even bigger than it sounds. Eliminating just one, argues Browne, would mean building 700 nuclear stations to replace fossil-fuel-burning power plants, or increasing the use of solar power by a factor of 700, or stopping all deforestation and doubling present efforts at reforestation. Achieve all three of these, and pull off four more equally large-scale reallocations of capital and infrastructure, and the world would probably stabilize its carbon emissions.

There's just one catch: Even change on this vast scale might not stop global warming.

More tomorrow!

You want weird links? I got weird links.

For your browsing pleasure: Intercepted Transmission.

Diesel-Electric Hypercar

The combination of super-streamlined shape, ultra low-weight materials, and high-output supercapacitors gives the design incredible efficiency. And because the composite production process developed by Accelerated Composites is faster and more efficient than previous methods, the overall cost of the vehicle can be startlingly low.

I can most definitely see myself behind the wheel of this.

NASA's Pluto Mission Launched Toward New Horizons

The first mission to distant planet Pluto is under way after the successful launch today of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

[. . .]

"Today, NASA began an unprecedented journey of exploration to the ninth planet in the solar system," says Dr. Colleen Hartman, Deputy Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. "Right now, what we know about Pluto could be written on the back of a postage stamp. After this mission, we'll be able to fill textbooks with new information."

(Click here for more!)


As we extend human lifespan, I think it's inevitable that our definition of self will also extend. People living for centuries or millennia will almost certainly find our contemporary concept of individuality antiquated. If we can live to be 500, the only way for us to maintain the illusion of continuity of self will be by storing memories outside our bodies. If we can store memories, we'll definitely start file-sharing them, and memory mashups might even become a form or recreation.

Just one more reason why Chris Wren is one of my favorite bloggers.

James Lovelock: The Earth is about to catch a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years

We are in a fool's climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.

(Via The Anomalist.)

SF writer and Boing Boing main-man Cory Doctorow interviews futurist Ray Kurzweil: Thought Experiments: When the Singularity Is More than a Literary Device.

(Thanks to KurzweilAI.net.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

After moon, India keen to reach Mars

"If planetary explorations become an international theme, it benefits all. We (India) will welcome such a move (global partnership) from any quarter," Madhavan, who is also the secretary in the Department of Space said.

The ISRO chairman said the Indian space agency is not shying away from manned mission to the moon.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
For some reason I've never linked to Parrish Baker's "Sparrow's Fall." Parrish is a local cartoonist; I see his work around town now and then. This afternoon I ran across several framed comic strips at the Broadway Cafe, a very good indie coffee shop that, mysteriously, I'd never visited before. (I was quietly thrilled to discover that they provide tiny spoons with their espresso.)

Baker's weblog is well worth a look. He just got one of those robotic vacuum cleaners. And I really like the idea of "sketchbook jams."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I was at jury duty all day. A murder case. I complained (legitimately) that I had moral difficulty helping to judge a fellow human if that judgment might entail the death penalty, which is alive and well in Missouri. I don't know if it did any particular good, but I don't have to go back.

I'm going to be fairly busy finishing my move to the new apartment over the nest few days, so posting might be relatively scarce. (If anyone wants to come and help me carry stuff, feel free.)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Cool -- I have a new masthead. And thanks to John Fenderson's expert tutelage I didn't render the rest of the blog into an unintelligible slurry of eye-jarring fonts and mismatched text-blocks in the process!

The masthead was created by Zindra. She debated between creating something sleekly high-tech or something eerie and xenomorphic; the latter won out, and I couldn't be happier with the result.
Yes, I'm adjusting the template and adding a cool new masthead (more about that later).

In the meantime, please bear with any format anomalies. Thanks.
Oh, boy! Guess what? I've got goddamned jury duty early tomorrow morning!
I enthusiastically suggest hustling over to John Shirley's blog and checking out his new essay on "constructive megalomania" (see left-hand sidebar; Shirley's not too big on permalinks).

I, too, have been in a somewhat utopian mode lately. Where do we go from here? Even assuming we can somehow change the minds of -- or, more likely, simply outlast -- the fuckwits running the show right now, can we repair the damage and make society tolerable?

Personally, I'm not convinced. So I've been playing with the idea of founding a space colony -- whether a Gerard O'Neill-type orbital station or an extraplanetary refuge I haven't decided -- designed to minimize the possibility that the good parts of the human legacy on Earth aren't irrevocably lost.

Only one problem: I don't have the resources to reach orbit, let alone help spawn a brave new world among the planets. So I suppose I'll continue doing what little I can here, hopefully staying moderately sane in the process.

Don't misunderstand -- I want the world to end. But I want it to end in a conveniently selective sense, retaining all that's just and enlightening and disposing of all the crap that stands firmly in the way of a meaningful human future.

Oh, well. Read John's editorial. It's a start.

I had a horrifying -- yet oddly beautiful -- dream a couple nights ago. I was in a city watching some sort of climate disaster unfold. The sky was a seething rust-red; epic winds lofted debris and furniture through the air while people hid beneath inexorably crumbling buildings.

There was a sudden, intense flash of light on the horizon and I knew intuitively that a nuclear weapon had detonated. I watched dazedly for a moment and waited for the blastwave, which arrived several seconds later, rocketing me into the sky.

I awoke impressed by the dream's clarity; despite the violence, it had the contemplative stillness of a painting.
Weirdness, or just teenagers in bass-thumping low-riders?

Booms are Back

This phenomena is known as the "Seneca Guns," and has been going on for hundreds of years. The name comes from Seneca Lake in New York, where the same sorts of sounds have been heard for years. Author James Fenimore Cooper called these booms the Seneca Guns in one of his short stories. Scientists say they are not earthquakes, thunder or sonic booms caused by supersonic planes, which are not allowed to fly across the continent.
This site bills itself as "The World's Tallest Virtual Building." Unfortunately, construction has ceased.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Introducing Tech Swarm, another blog by the unflappable Cliff Pickover.
NASA's Comet Tale Draws to a Successful Close in Utah Desert

"Ten years of planning and seven years of flight operations were realized early this morning when we successfully picked up our return capsule off of the desert floor in Utah," said Tom Duxbury, Stardust project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "The Stardust project has delivered to the international science community material that has been unaltered since the formation of our solar system."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pentagon to families: Go ahead, laugh

When the stress of the war in Iraq becomes too severe, the Pentagon has a suggestion for military families: Learn how to laugh.

With help from the Pentagon's chief laughter instructor, families of National Guard members are learning to walk like a penguin, laugh like a lion and blurt "ha, ha, hee, hee and ho, ho."

(Via American Samizdat.)

Everything's fine.

Everything. Is. Just. Fine.

In the never-ending quest for readers (and neat things to do in odd moments), I've begun embellishing this weblog with Technorati "tags." So far, these take the form of one or two labels at the bottom of each post. Clicking them will take you to a whole slew of related material from disparate blogs. If any Net-savvy readers know of a better way of doing this, let me know.

Also, I'd like to replace the PB masthead with something, well, cooler. In the spirit of the button contest that yielded these a while back, I'm accepting entries from anyone who wants to crunch pixels for competition's sake. (I'm still trying to think of a suitable prize. Something tells me advance review copies of my Mars book aren't going to do the trick this time.)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Speak of the devil. Electronic copyright maven/SF author Cory Doctorow has posted a brand-new short-story. If you're into the socio-economic potential of "fabbing," you'll probably dig this.

The coppers smashed my father's printer when I was eight. I remember the hot, cling-film-in-a-microwave smell of it, and Da's look of ferocious concentration as he filled it with fresh goop, and the warm, fresh-baked feel of the objects that came out of it.

The coppers came through the door with truncheons swinging, one of them reciting the terms of the warrant through a bullhorn. One of Da's customers had shopped him. The ipolice paid in high-grade pharmaceuticals -- performance enhancers, memory supplements, metabolic boosters. The kind of things that cost a fortune over the counter; the kind of things you could print at home, if you didn't mind the risk of having your kitchen filled with a sudden crush of big, beefy bodies, hard truncheons whistling through the air, smashing anyone and anything that got in the way.

Click here to read "Printcrime" in its entirety.

On a related note, I recently asked my editor if I could have an e-book copy of "After the Martian Apocalypse." He consulted with the publisher. A few days later we got our answer: a firm "no." While "ATMA" is available in electronic format, Simon & Schuster refuses to give copies away -- even to authors. I'm not particularly upset, but I found this interesting.

The Huygens landing: one year on

The Huygens mission has been an outstanding engineering and scientific success, one of the most complex and scientifically rewarding space missions to date. The touchdown on the surface of Titan marked the farthest a man-made spacecraft has successfully landed away from Earth.

(Via Science Blog.)

Meanwhile . . .

NASA's Pluto Probe Set for Flight

A NASA probe bound for the planet Pluto and the distant icy realm of the Kuiper Belt is spending its final days on Earth as it nears its Jan. 17 launch date.

"We're in great shape," New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern told SPACE.com this week. "We have a very clean vehicle."

New Horizons cleared a Flight Readiness Review Thursday as the days tick down toward liftoff of the first-ever flyby mission to Pluto, mission officials said, adding that a series of mission news and science briefings will be broadcast on NASA TV beginning at 1:00 p.m. EST (1800 GMT).

Check out these haunting, perversely gorgeous photos of New Orleans.

Pretty soon, more coastal cities will look like this.

(Thanks to Beyond the Beyond.)

Dark Matter Galaxy?

Astronomers think they might have found a "dark galaxy", that has no stars and emits no light. Although the galaxy itself, located 50 million light years from Earth, is practically invisible, it contains a small amount of neutral hydrogen which emits radio waves. If astronomers are correct, this galaxy contains ten billion times the mass of Sun, but only 1% of this is hydrogen - the rest is dark matter.

Surreal, isn't it? What are we not seeing? I imagine a plethora of perfectly invisible "dark" stars orbiting a bloated "dark" galactic core. Endless "dark" planets circled by "dark" moons and occasionally smacked by "dark" comets.

But ultimately it's "dark" life and the shadow-world of "dark" ETI I really wonder about.

Today I walked to the hospital for X-rays. The doctor, who was gracious enough to fill out my medical background instead of insisting I use the digits protruding from the Fiberglas mesh encasing my right arm, actually advised taking the damned thing off a couple of times a day in order to practice "gentle movements," so I suppose I can consider blogging physical therapy.

I got lost on the way home and ended up strolling through Westport, enjoying the bright blue sky despite the cold wind. I made for the library -- now featuring a coffee shop -- and began reading Rucker's "Lifebox" book, which promises quite a few intellectual rewards. The only other non-fiction book by Rucker I've read is "The Fourth Dimension," way back in high-school.

On a whim, I also checked out a trite-looking New Age book called "Calling on Extraterrestrials." The author claims she knows how to summon and communicate with kindly Grays. I think she's full of shit, but what the hell; maybe she's right. If I have any conversations with ETs in coming weeks I'll be sure to let you know.

I've begun slowly moving my "stuff" -- largely books, knick-knacks and electronic ephemera -- to my new apartment down the street. (Although we were approved for the apartment we'd originally had our eyes on, we decided against it after enduring a week of bureaucratic incompetence.) Luckily "Elizabeth's" current landlord has a nice first-floor pad with a sun-room and recessed, gallery-style lighting, so we have the rest of the month to relocate at our convenience. I'll be literally only a few paces away from my favorite coffeeshop and free to pursue my writing while I await graduate school, where I'm applying for a teaching assistant position.

My nonfiction book-in-progress, "The Postbiological Cosmos," has been temporarily set aside in favor of a slightly different, less technology-dependent book (as yet untitled). And I've almost decided to write my alien invasion/eco-disaster novel in the form of interlinked short-stories; I know the medium better, and it's likely that the finished product will be indistinguishable from a "real" novel.

It occurred to me this afternoon that I should write at least some of the novel online, thus getting some extra mileage from my blogging fixation. But I'm not terribly certain of the potential copyright issues. Maybe I should ask Cory Doctorow . . .

Our bug-eyed admirers

Sedona is like many other small tourist towns, but scratch the surface and you find a very alternate reality. The other day I found a leaflet advertising Julie, a "licensed alien abduction counselor," who has "been received by the Intergalactic Space Brotherhood as an ambassador for all alien contactees." In November, I dropped in on a meeting of the Arizona chapter of MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, which rented a parish hall from St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. The lecture was on Atlantis and UFOs, and when the speaker asked the crowd of about 20 upright-seeming citizens if they'd ever been on a spaceship, four raised their hands. We watched a video of a regal-looking woman who, under hypnosis, spoke Atlantian, which to the untrained ear sounds like a cross between Basque and Mandarin.

Yep. No place like Sedona!

I love stuff like this . . .

Doomsday vault to avert world famine

The room is a "doomsday vault" designed to hold around 2 million seeds, representing all known varieties of the world's crops. It is being built to safeguard the world's food supply against nuclear war, climate change, terrorism, rising sea levels, earthquakes and the ensuing collapse of electricity supplies. "If the worst came to the worst, this would allow the world to reconstruct agriculture on this planet," says Cary Fowler, director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an independent international organisation promoting the project.

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Orion Nebula shines in its grandest portrait

Scientists have created the most detailed portrait ever of the closest known star factory, the Orion Nebula. They have also uncovered new details about the stellar winds responsible for carving out the nebula's ghostly skyscapes.
Hands-down site of the day: Chuck Norris Facts. (Click here to read a disclaimer by a dissatisfied Boing Boing reader.)

Chuck Norris' real website is arguably funnier than the spoof. Peruse the religion section at your own risk.
Taiwan breeds green-glowing pigs

The pigs are transgenic, created by adding genetic material from jellyfish into a normal pig embryo.

(Via The Anomalist.)

(I couldn't pass this one up.)
Global warming sowing disease, extinctions, researchers say

Global warming has triggered epidemics that killed off dozens of amphibian species in tropical America, and is fomenting disease among other animals, researchers say.

It's all part of an unpredictable spiral of warming-induced epidemics, they add -- and there are signs that the phenomenon is starting to touch humans, who are far from immune to it.
Skepticism greets claim of possible alien microbes

"These particles have much similarity with biological cells though they are devoid of DNA," wrote Godfrey Louis and A. Santhosh Kumar of Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, India, in the controversial paper.

"Are these cell-like particles a kind of alternate life from space?"

The mystery began when the scarlet showers containing the red specks hit parts of India in 2001. Researchers said the particles might be dust or a fungus, but it remained unclear.

"Scarlet showers"? Wait a minute -- is Peter Gabriel behind this?

draw-something is a program that generates original drawings. It does so by generating a simple random polyline scribble then drawing around that using a simple maze-running algorithm. This procedure was chosen as the simplest behaviour that models the creative process of drawing as either sketching or drafting.

(Found at Future Feeder.)
This lake in Trinidad is like the landscape of some gnarly (and no doubt perilous) other planet.

(Thanks to Exploding Aardvark.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


The new designs are part of a broader shift toward a vision of robots that are partners, not simply remote-controlled probes.

The change has been fueled by more powerful computers and better robotics as well as by new space policy. The Bush administration's push for more human space flight -- signed off on a few weeks ago by Congress -- is increasing the demand for robot partners that can learn new tasks, use tools the same way people do, and act as a space support staff.

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)
Western U.S. to get comet capsule light show

When a NASA capsule hauling comet and interstellar dust plummets through the Earth's atmosphere this weekend, residents in large sweeps of the West will witness a cosmic spectacle.

During the Stardust capsule's blazing re-entry at 1:57 a.m. PST Sunday, it will travel at 29,000 mph, making it the fastest man-made object to return to Earth.

The 100-pound cargo will arc over Northern California toward Utah's Dugway Proving Ground, a remote Army base southwest of Salt Lake City.

Forget that weird red dust -- these space-germs mean business! ;-)
This fucking scares me.
What Was The Red Dust On Cars? Nothing Worse Than That

The Illinois EPA believes the red dust came from Oklahoma and Texas, about a thousand miles away.

(Via The Anomalist.)

That's what they want you to think. Actually, the dust is from a top-secret Mars sample-return mission. Now deadly Martian microbes are on the loose and mutiplying in Earth's balmy, mothering atmosphere. Look out!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Author/blogger/musician and friend of Posthuman Blues John Shirley just sent me this:

The Weinstein Company, the new company built around the producers of The Lord of the Rings, has optioned John Shirley's Del Rey books novel DEMONS for a "high five figure sum". Jim Sonzero has committed to direct. Shirley's novel IN DARKNESS WAITING is in development at Gold Circle productions ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "White Noise"), and the script by Matt Venne ("White Noise 2") has just been completed. A third production company, part of a major studio, has inquired about the rights for his novel CRAWLERS but details are under wraps as of now. John Shirley's new novel THE OTHER END will be out in its first edition from Cemetary Dance in 2006. His novel John Constantine, Hellblazer: War Lord will be out from Pocket Books in February 2006.

"Demons" and "In Darkness Waiting" are great books that beg big-screen adaptation. Congratulations, John!
Something tells me we won't be seeing this on Cute Overload anytime soon.

The future was then!

(Both links found at Boing Boing.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Strange Airplanes Appeared in the Sky of the Bohai Sea

Feng and his team were conducting the performance training over the Bohai Sea. At 9 a.m., the flight team reached an altitude of 21,000 feet. Suddenly a large unidentified formation of planes appeared just about 30 miles left to them flying from southeast to northwest. Feng reported this observation immediately to the air traffic control center and requested them to conduct a search. Air traffic control replied that no other airplanes were flying in the area at that time.

Feng reasoned that perhaps he had imagined it all. But, all his teammates have also seen the same aircraft formations. Perhaps even more surprising to Feng was the fact, that the airplanes both he and his team have seen, all represented different countries from different periods of history. Propeller types as well as jets had been included in the formations.

(Via The Anomalist.)

The anachronistic aircraft are very much in keeping with Fortean phenomena. When "Men in Black" make appearances, for example, they tend to ride out-of-date cars (that, strangely enough, look brand-new). "Aliens" themselves have been reported wearing old-fashioned clothing.

In "Visitors from Time," a fascinating book by Marc Davenport, the author suggests we're dealing with a civilization of time-travelers that make occasional logistical mistakes. Maybe our visitors simply don't "get" the concept of time. Or just don't care; after all, the notion of a tidy, sequential reality may strike them as insufferably trite if they hail from some Escher-esque higher dimension.

(Interested in books on UFOs? See my reviews.)
Hurricanes of 2005 were filled with mysterious lightning

The boom of thunder and crackle of lightning generally mean one thing: a storm is coming. Curiously, though, the biggest storms of all, hurricanes, are notoriously lacking in lightning. Hurricanes blow, they rain, they flood, but seldom do they crackle.

Surprise: During the record-setting hurricane season of 2005 three of the most powerful storms--Rita, Katrina, and Emily--did have lightning, lots of it. And researchers would like to know why.

That's eerie . . .
Longtime PB reader John Fenderson (of DRT News and The Cabal) sent me a link to this intriguing patch -- ostensibly an official NASA mission emblem -- which clearly shows Discordian frontwoman Eris doing something or other in orbit around the Earth.

Writes Fenderson:

This cloth patch has some connection with NASA, is rare, 3.5 inches in diameter, and clearly intended to be placed on the arm of a uniform. That's all we know, but our first guess is that the Erisian Liberation Front has expanded its realm of operations to include near-Earth orbit. And it's about damned time.

So, does the patch commemorate an actual NASA endeavor, is it a clever hoax, or is it yet more head-tripping parasymbolic weirdness from NASA's psy-ops department?
Cliff Pickover invites you to press the red button.
In Love With Reality Truly, Madly, Virtually

Right before our eyes, this thing that we call the world has been irrevocably altered, along with the "reality" we have counted on. Virtual reality is so permeating our lives that one day soon we may find it impossible to distinguish the virtual from the real.

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)

I think VR is perhaps the most portentous technology on the planet. Like nuclear energy before it, VR is so powerful, so alluringly potent, that it challenges our continued existence at the same time it suggests new and better ways of coexisting with the "real" world.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Running Hot and Cold: A Dozen Weird Weather Moments

Katrina turned the weather into the year's biggest news event, as the natural world against which Bush has made war since 2000 decided to send back a return salvo. The storm quickly became a political portent for both ends of the spectrum, with Christian conservatives interpreting the supposed fetal shape of Katrina to be a pro-life meteorological statement sent by a vengeful Lord to ravage the Gulf of Mexico, and the sane world noting apprehensively that hurricane season has been worsening with steadily increasing ocean-surface temperatures. Bad as it was, the scientists added, 2005's weather is just a taste of what's to come.

Apparently my broken arm hasn't affected my morbid fascination with anomalous weather.
I haven't researched this story enough to vouch for its accuracy/provenance, but it seemed intriguing enough to post.

Anomalous Worldwide Tectonic Event

With a variance of eleven minutes total, the events are far too close in their time of occurrence to be from a near surface source. In order to achieve the arrival times shown in the list above, an event would have to take place deep in the Earth's mantle, or more likely in the outer or inner core, an area not known for seismic events. The problem with this concept is that the mantle is believed to be mainly molten lava on which the outer crust is floating. The core is thought to be mostly iron, with the outer core being liquid and the inner being solid. Thus there could be no "earthquake" in these regions unless some massive external magnetic force was applied that could momentarily disturb the position and movement of the liquid iron in the outer core.

(Via PAG E-News.)
I wanted a Wicked Laser for Christmas, but I suppose I'll settle for an ion ray gun.
"Plumage from Pegasus" is a very funny (and very nerdy) short-short-story. I laughed. I cried.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Overpopulation 'is main threat to planet'

By the middle of the century, the United Nations estimates that the world population is likely to increase to more than nine billion, which is equivalent to an extra 200,000 people each day. Professor Rapley said the extra resources needed to sustain this growth in population would put immense strains on the planet's life-support system even if pollution emissions per head could be dramatically reduced.

(Via Mondolithic Sketchbook.)

Welcome to Mars express: only a three hour trip

A "hyperspace" engine that could make interstellar space travel a reality by flying into other dimensions is being investigated by the United States Air Force and Department of Energy.

The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

Oh man, do I wish I could type normally right now . . .

Friday, January 06, 2006

bad news -- for me. i fell and broke my arm this morning. typing left-handed is excruciating, so i'm going to take a temporary break from pb while the bone mends. i may be slow to respond to email as well.


FYI: SF writer/futurist Bruce Sterling is taking questions.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I just read a short but wonderfully alarming book called "A Guide to the End of the World" by Bill McGuire.

Next up: "The Life and Death of Planet Earth" by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee
Global Warming Can Trigger Extreme Ocean, Climate Changes

Although the events described unfolded millions of years ago and spanned thousands of years, the researchers, affiliated with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, say they provide one of the few historical analogs for warming-induced changes in the large-scale sea circulation, and thus may help to illuminate the potential long-term impacts of today's climate warming.

Leading the Way Back to the Moon

The new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), while reminiscent of the Apollo blunt-body capsule, is three times larger with the capacity to carry four astronauts to the moon. It also has the ability to dock with the International Space Station, and the same crew vehicle will eventually carry astronauts to Mars. The separate lunar module will be able to land anywhere on the moon, including the poles, unlike the Apollo spacecraft that could only land near the equator. Initially, crews will stay up to 7 days on the moon's surface.

I won't even try to pretend I'm not excited about this.
Wow -- check out fellow Six Thousand member Asya Schween. She is, if not a genius, then at least hovering precipitously at the threshold.
Note: This post can be considered a sort of sequel to an entry posted in October.

Drugs, art and the aliens who lit our way to civilisation

We pick up the story just after the shaman began the ritual ceremony by singing the icaros, ancient chants which draw the spirits around the circle. Hancock then took a sip of the drug, which he describes as a "vile-tasting liquid, so strong and bitter-sweet and salty, so dark and concentrated as to be repellent". His muscles involuntarily relax, he closes his eyes and then the visions begin.

In "Transformation," Whitley Strieber recounts being forced to drink a similarly nasty-tasting liquid prior to an encounter. And in his self-published "The Key," he remembers drinking a strange milky beverage prior to speaking with the person he's taken to referring to as the "Master of the Key."

Consciousness-altering fluids aren't unknown among other reports of "alien" contact, leaving the impression that this particular rite of initiation is in some sense integral to close encounters with nonhumans (regardless of their origin). Whatever its nature, it triggers a breakdown in the normal flow of awareness and induces heightened receptivity.

Hancock continues:

"I had a very scary beginning to that trip," he says. "I saw incredible transformations of different animals and beings glowing with light that appeared directly in front of my field of vision. It was a typical scene which many describe as an alien abduction. They were very anthropic, and definitely wanted to communicate with me. It was rather like going to a strange new country, where I had to start learning the rules of communication."

[. . .]

What he has found - and what forms the basis of his new hefty tome - is a theory that to many will sound absurd. He believes that when shamans and drug users experience these hallucinations, they are actually tapping into a parallel universe. The visions - be they of fairies, elves or aliens - are real, they exist all the time, and they want to communicate with us.

I don't find Hancock's theory all that bizarre. Perhaps unfortunately, we've been trained to think of parallel universes as exotic realms accessible only via the might of high-tech physics. But our brains are themselves a fledgling technology: organic quantum computers that have undergone countless evolutionary "upgrades" over the course of mammalian occupation of this planet.

The notion that we can hack reality with the assistance of mere organic chemicals -- known to shamans of "primitive" cultures for thousands of years -- is both staggering and empowering. If true contact occurs, I predict it will be most unlike that envisioned by exponents of "exopolitics" and "UFO disclosure"; dialogue with the "other" will be far more robust, infinitely more rewarding . . . and even more difficult to integrate with consensus reality than the sudden, irrefutable appearance of extraterrestrial spacecraft in our skies.

If Hancock is right and the denizens of unseen worlds wish to communicate with us, one may rightly ask what they want to talk about. That question may well form the backbone for a new era of scientific inquiry.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Don't look now, but I've been, er, "selected" as one of the "6000 intriguing people you want to meet online before you die" at Cliff Pickover's new blog, The Six Thousand.

First a "Zorgy" Award -- now this. Where will it end?

Take the red pill -- read Steven Lehar's A Cartoon Epistemology.

(Found at Rudy Rucker's blog.)
Wil McCarthy's "Hacking Matter" is available as a PDF download. (Add another title to my nonfiction to-read list . . .)
Atmospheric plasma or cosmic bowling pin?

(Thanks to PAG E-News.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Knockout Mars rover image of the day.

(Found at The Meridiani Journal.)
Now aspiring digital auteurs can Photoshop JFK's bespattered brains to their hearts' content.

And don't miss the (in)famous Patterson "Bigfoot" footage, now stabilized for easy viewing.
Cuidado: hay un OVNI en la ruta

An English translation of this article can be found here.

"Suddenly, the object was enveloped in a bluish-white light and started to spin like a top and rise straight up, lighting the landscape like daytime. In the measure that it ascended, it issued colored lights in intense phosphorescent shades. It suddenly disappeared to become a glowing dot. I immediately began perceiving an odor of heated metal that blended with a very particular smell resembling sulfur," remarked the traveler.

(UFO UpDates has also posted a timely disclaimer.)

The alleged sulfurous odor is a distinguishing trait of several UFO encounters I consider genuine. Oddly, the smell of sulfur also accompanies reported encounters with "demons" and assorted other "supernatural" entities, including "Bigfoot."

One can, of course, conclude that UFOs are themselves demonic (an interpretation embraced by the likes of Pat Robertson), but I'm more interested in establishing the exact nature of the odor. Is it subjective -- like the illusory sense of burning rubber that sometimes precedes epileptic seizures -- or can it be empirically verified?

If UFOs and "aliens" are actually interdimensional, they may release large amounts of energy into our environment when they penetrate our spacetime; anomalous microwave effects have already been documented, as described in Jacques Vallee's "Confrontations." Perhaps the smell of sulfur is another clue waiting to be unraveled.

Plus, wouldn't it be funny if we were able to build a hyperspace drive only for it to literally stink? Property value around spaceports would plummet . . .
Top 10 green energy schemes named

Ten new green energy projects have been named as best in the UK for leading the way in cutting carbon emissions and promoting renewable energy.
Are you an alien abductee?: 58 common indicators of UFO encounters or abductions by alien beings

This is a list of 58 common indicators shared by most UFO abductees. It is based on known research on the subject and on personal findings. It has been compiled to help you determine if you are an abductee. Of course there may be other explanations for these occurrences and this is in no way an absolute means of knowing if you are an abductee. If you or someone you know does fit many of these traits listed here, PLEASE seek the help of a qualified researcher of therapist. This list is not in any particular order.

I'd seriously like to know if any readers of this blog answer "yes" to the majority of these questions.

I don't consider the questions in any way a means of concluding abduction by aliens, but if you find yourself answering in the affirmative more often than not feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, January 02, 2006

You Should Get a PhD in Liberal Arts (like political science, literature, or philosophy)

You're a great thinker and a true philosopher.

You'd make a talented professor or writer.

I suppose that's heartening.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

I've started 2006 in a rather misanthropic vein. Specifically, I don't see evidence that enough people care about transforming what has become a rapidly disintegrating and precarious consensus reality to make a meaningful difference. I'm not equipped to make any dire, decisive predictions, but I'd hazard -- reluctantly -- that humanity's odds for surviving the next 1,000 years are painfully low.

Our wisdom lags far behind our technological muster; our compassion is eclipsed by the artificially enforced need for short-term profit. If there is such a thing as "spirit," then it's been rendered all-but-vestigial under the weight of virulent religions.

We're distracted, obstinate and infantile -- and we've remade the planet into a caricature of our deepest psychopathologies.

But the true devil is, as always, in the details. Take John Shirley's excruciatingly observant essay, "Curmudgeon or Culture Critic?"

Even the daily papers are redesigning themselves for simplicity of absorption, offering colorful box photo "menus" to choose from. They'll be gone, soon, replaced with online newspapers, of course. And I'm just a curmudgeon to complain about that--even though looking into a screen is not as comfortable as looking at a newspaper, and even though articles in online news venues are often shorter, more simple minded. What am I, Andy Rooney over here? I'm turning into him, I'm afraid.

I play Poker, but the television fascination with the game is beginning to scare me. Young people are beginning to make it a financial goal. It's their early retirement plan. No one interviews the kids who got into it and lost their money and their parents' money; who're getting into trouble for credit card fraud so they can play Poker.

Shows on MTV about Sweet Sixteen parties. Teenagers getting --not making this up--gold and diamond encrusted Playstation consoles. Teenagers shrieking drunkenly from the roof of 200,000 dollar limosines. Interviewers cooing over rap-stars' cribs. Some of these guys made their first money beating women into going down on strangers. Now we're oohing over their "cribs".

I'd like to chalk Shirley's gripes up to a geezerly inability to cope with the new. But I share his disgust. Although 20-some years younger, I know exactly what he's talking about. (Contrary to his essay, I think my age has actually helped me perceive the ugly subsurface of contemporary media culture.)

Of course, if it were only the media we might be able to breathe a sigh of relief. But the distinction between the media and "reality" are increasingly entangled -- and this confusion overlaps and obscures the very concerns that must be addressed if we're to avoid extinction.

So I'm not encouraged about our continued reign as a dominant species. Yes, the "Singularity" is probably inevitable -- at least in some contrived cybernetic sense -- but the ability to use it to our betterment seems as distant as ever. We've dreamed our way to the dark shores of a new "entertainment state," an existential interzone where facts survive not by their capacity to change and improve but by their ability to distract.

Anesthetized, we await whatever it is we've been conditioned to expect (whether the cartoon pyrotechnics of the "Rapture" or the convenient arrival of saintly extraterrestrials), landlocked and ineffectual behind the controls of our all-terrain vehicles and video game systems. And we couldn't be happier.
First link of the new year: Dreamlines.


(Found at Scarab Dreamer.)