Tuesday, February 28, 2006

3D plasma shapes created in thin air

The night sky could soon be lit up with gigantic three-dimensional adverts, thanks to a Japanese laser display that creates glowing images in thin air.

[. . .]

The display utilises an ionisation effect which occurs when a beam of laser light is focused to a point in air. The laser beam itself is invisible to the human eye but, if the intensity of the laser pulse exceeds a threshold, the air breaks down into glowing plasma that emits visible light.

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)

Two off-the-cuff predictions: A massive increase in spurious UFO sightings and a decrease in backyard astronomy due to light pollution.
'Project SERPO' story gets more credible? Alleged insider accounts revealed

Natural questions have been raised about the authenticity of these reports. Is it a hoax and fiction? Is it a disinformation psychological operation (PSYOP) of some kind? Is it part of an acclimation program to further educate and prepare Americans and the international population for the reality of extraterrestrial visitation and activities on Earth? Or, is it something else or some combination of things?

(Via The Anomalist.)
Intelligent Small World Autonomous Robots for Micro-manipulation

This project aims to take a leap forward in robotics research by combining experts in microrobotics, in distributed and adaptive systems as well as in self-organising biological swarm systems. The project aims at technological advances to facilitate the mass-production of microrobots, which can then be employed as a "real" swarm consisting of up to 1,000 robot clients. These clients will all be equipped with limited, pre-rational on-board intelligence. The swarm will consist of a huge number of heterogeneous robots, differing in the type of sensors, manipulators and computational power. Such a robot swarm is expected to perform a variety of applications, including micro assembly, biological, medical or cleaning tasks.

(Via the recently revamped Betterhumans.)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Here's a website devoted to the number 23 and its mystical implications, courtesy of Frequency 23.

As some readers of this blog know, I'm plagued by occurrences of the "23 phenomenon." (Click here for an example.) I truly don't know what to make of it, other than that it can be quite trippy.

I'm open to the possibility that the number's near-incessant recurrence in my life is due to a psychological filtering mechanism of which I'm not consciously aware. Maybe I was subconsciously "programmed" to seek out the number when I encountered the works of Robert Anton Wilson and William S. Burroughs. Conversely, maybe reading Wilson and Burroughs helped trigger a "synchronicity circuit" in my mind, revealing a hitherto unacknowledged phenomenon.

At one point I reasoned that, if our universe is a computer simulation (a possibility I'll return to in a later post), we humans might be able to discern compression artifacts that take the form of recurring numbers. I even likened the Cosmos to a kind of hyperlinked retrieval system in an attempt to explain synchronicity in general. So far no luck on that front (despite my growing hunch that "reality" is indeed more elusive than we think . . .)

Lately, whenever I look at a digital clock, I usually see either 1:11 or 11:11, sometimes with the digits interspersed with zeroes. This started not long after reading about my friend Peter Gersten's experiences -- which suggests that the phenomenon is either genuine and literally contagious or else a potent, if inadvertant, mind-fuck.

Since I haven't attempted any sort of formal analysis, I can't claim that anything statistically unusual is actually happening; it merely seems like it is. This leaves me no room but to concede that my subconscious might be cuing me to look at clocks at specific intervals -- weird in itself, but admittedly not as interesting as the prospect of tapping into some acausal continuum.
Evidence for 'Backward Evolution' Directly Observed in Humans

I was struck today by news that a rare genetic defect seems to be turning back the evolutionary clock in humans. The similarities between people carrying the defective gene and a certain, ape-descended, politician are quite astounding.

It's uncanny!

I was at Starbucks reading Rob Sawyer's "Hominids" when I heard it:

Brazil, where hearts were entertaining June
We stood beneath an amber moon
And softly murmured "someday soon"
We kissed and clung together

Then, tomorrow was another day
The morning found me miles away
With still a million things to say
Now, when twilight dims the sky above
Recalling thrills of our love
There's one thing I'm certain of
Return I will to old Brazil

This is, of course, the song that helped inspire Terry Gilliam's cult classic -- which, in the last few months, has become an overarching theme in my life, a synchronistic template to waking (and sleeping) existence. Now, not even the world's most ubiquitous coffee franchise offers escape.

Welcome to 2006.

Welcome to "Brazil."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Cheery, all-American kids plan to detonate radiological bombs and create all sorts of good old-fashioned mischief in Nigel Ayers' heart-warming paintings.

(Thanks to Dr. Menlo.)
Damnit. Science fiction author Octavia Butler has died.

Butler was the first "major" genre author I met personally, when I attended a conference as a guest panelist here in Kansas City. I hadn't read anything by her when I was notified she was the guest of honor, so I immediately read one of her Xenogenesis novels, about alien "gene traders" who take up weird sexual relationships with donor species -- in Butler's case, humans eking out a life after a global nuclear war.

Although Butler was a genuine talent, I could never shake the feeling that her MacArthur grant was undeserved.* But she could still prove me wrong; I've only read a fraction of her output and it's very likely the rest deserves close attention.

*Ideally, of course, all good SF writers would receive "genius" grants by default.
Today's viewing assignment: Rejected Family Learning Channel Cartoon

(The end of the cartoon, in which the two-dimensional characters flee a wake of wrinkling paper, can be viewed as a cataclysmic distortion of space-time and is an excellent illustration of concept for those interested in visualizing hyperspace.)

(Found at No Touch Monkey!)
Here are a few of my favorite photos from 2005 . . .

The Gombe Chimpanzee Blog is the first I've seen that utilizes Google Earth. Cool idea!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

NASA's Next Leap in Mars Exploration Nears Arrival

"This mission will greatly expand our scientific understanding of Mars, pave the way for our next robotic missions later in this decade, and help us prepare for sending humans to Mars," said Doug McCuistion, Director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program. "Not only will Mars Science Laboratory's landing and research areas be determined by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, but the first boots on Mars will probably get dusty at one of the many potential landing sites this orbiter will inspect all over the planet."

Please let just one of these potential landing sites be in the Cydonia region . . .

We're guinea pigs. They sell us things, they watch and see if we die. If we do, they ask, "How many of them are dying and can it be traced to us?" If the answers are "quite a few" and "yes" they probably discontinue it. But first, they sell us the stuff. Lead in paint. Mercury in coal burning plants. Then later on, we all pay the price--but it's okay because they got their price.

Once again, John Shirley says it exactly the way it is.
Just as they had intimated, the spacewomen returned for me.

This time they deigned to reveal the workings of their craft. I was justifiably fascinated by the might of their technology and the intricacies of their biology, which they explained in a series of telepathic lectures.

As I had suspected (and described in my account of my previous experience with the spacewomen), these space travelers adopt the anatomy of desirable female celebrities selected from television transmissions. In my case, the entire crew of aliens resembled either Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba or Natalie Portman. Interestingly, this distinction isn't frivolous or motivated by aesthetic sensibilities; the different personae are used both to help delegate responsibilities on board the ship (duties ranging from navigation to xenoforming) and to assist in their contacts with Earthlings (or "Terrans," as we're known among the spacewomen).

Appearance of typical spacewoman.

Most of our meeting went as the last. I toured the ship, this time permitted to observe the magnificent sky-blue propulsion crystals that allow the spacewomen's triangular craft to dart across the galaxy in mere minutes.

While snacking on otherworldly fruit (genetically engineered in vast orbital orchards tended by robots), I learned that the spacewomen had long ago mastered the science of parthogenesis and kept their species alive through an advanced form of cloning. Using such methods, a new Jessica Alba clone -- complete with artificial memories -- could be biologically manufactured in only two and a half hours, thus ensuring a never-ending flow of synthetic starlets to assist in the exploration of the known universe.

Dramatic photo of descending alien mothership.

The exact reason for the wholly unexpected return visit proved elusive. Fortunately, I gleaned valuable data about the aliens' agenda . . . information that is so devastating in scope that I hesitate to divulge it for fear of drawing the attention of the ever-vigilant military-industrial complex.

I also learned that, despite their technical prowess, the spacewomen are in some respects endearingly naive, so highly evolved that they've transcended emotion as we Terrans commonly experience it. For example, the concept of "modesty" is apparently quite foreign to the spacewomen, as I failed to note any clothes concealing my hostesses' flawless, vat-grown flesh. And when I mentioned the word "love," their faces were consumed with a rapt, curious expression.

Despite -- or perhaps because of -- my obvious incredulity, the spacewomen unanimously selected me as their unofficial "diplomat" and have promised to initiate further encounters. As a blogger, I feel it's my duty to keep you informed. And since I'm well aware that the explicitly technical nature of my encounters may well arouse the ire of the Terran military -- as well as rock the already delicate exopolitical balance -- I feel my best protection is to forego anonymity.

To be continued . . .

Friday, February 24, 2006

I can't help but think that the last couple weeks of my life deserve a soundtrack, so I've put together a partial track-list.

1.) My Life Is An Endless Succession of People Saying Goodbye (Morrissey)
2.) To Wish Impossible Things (The Cure)
3.) I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Johnny Cash)
4.) Saturn Return (R.E.M.)
5.) Space Oddity (David Bowie)
6.) Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (The Smiths)
Maybe I'm infringing on Cliff Pickover and Rita J. King's Galactic Question Center here, but I can't resist:

How soon -- if ever -- do you think physicists will arrive at a Theory of Everything? If a TOE is accomplished, do you think it will have any unexpected effects on human consciousness? If so, of what kind?

Feel free to comment or email.
I read trans-/post-humanist sites on a regular basis. Despite my general philosophical affinity, I can't help but feel alienated. Part of the problem is that the "goth" meme has infected the cyber-subculture so thoroughly that even subjective tastes seem rooted in the (paradoxical) notion that the future will be fundamentally dreary -- perhaps a "Mad Max"/"Matrix" hybrid populated exclusively by pale, heavily tattooed guys with polycarbon body armor and a predilection for anime.

Take Psymbiote. Sure, she's cool. In fact, I'd love to meet her over smart-drinks. But the punked-out vampire get-up is disconcerting; exactly what sort of future is she representing?

If the Singularity hits will I suddenly be the only human left wearing a polo shirt and jeans? Call me weird, but I don't want to live in a world of Trent Reznor look-alikes.
Mondolithic Studios' Chris Wren (I'm increasingly convinced one of us is an android duplicate of the other . . .) laments the impersonal luster the Web has taken on since the bots got smart.

70 Ways to Increase Your Brain Power

According to this article you can invigorate your brain my sniffing rosemary and basil.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the spice rack.

(Thanks to PAG E-News.)
Is our universe about to be mangled?

Now Hanson, an economist who also studies physics, is taking a new approach. He argues that these multiple universes are not actually independent, as was thought, but interacting and sometimes destructive.

Quantum theory states that all universes are not created equal - each "parent" universe is much larger according to a particular quantum measure than its later descendants.

Quantum interactions between the universes were thought to be too small to really affect them, but Hanson says the interactions can be significant between universes of vastly different size.

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)

Awesome. Reminds me of the climax of Jack Womack's "Going, Going, Gone."
The High Cost of Boots on the Moon

Thanks to bureaucratic imperatives, the Terrestrial Planet Finder -- probably the most inspiring scientific instrument proposed in the history of astronomy -- is toast.

We're told it has to go to make room for renewed crewed exploration -- and eventual militarization -- of the Moon. We're asked to watch our future leeched into a brittle and joyless husk of its potential.

Ask most people about the Terrestrial Planet Finder and you'll be confronted with the empty gazes so characteristic of our century. To many, the future simply doesn't exist in any meaningful sense. We lack a sense of context. Our minds have been dulled to the point where urgency becomes virtually unthinkable.

The true history of our species will begin only if we muster the evolutionary nerve to migrate off-planet in large numbers. Right now we are confined to the womb and quietly drowning in our own feces.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Transportation Futures

The four scenarios, "Perpetual Motion," "Urban Colonies," "Tribal Trading," and "Good Intentions," give us different takes on how social attitudes and technological developments combine to shape how people travel, and why. The four futures will be familiar to any student of scenario planning -- you have the "way too-fast-paced" world, the "socially-aware but kinda boring" world, the "things fall apart/the center does not hold" world, and the "today, but worse" world. None of them would be precisely the WorldChanging world, but WorldChanging-style ideas pop up, to varying degrees, in all of them.

And while you're visiting, don't miss WorldChanging's haunting campaign video.
The Writers Blog Alliance appears to be a worthwhile reference for Net-savvy writers seeking to expand their audience.
Five more neat people with websites:

Peter Watts (author)

Kynthia (artist)

Peter A. Gersten (attorney)

Sauceruney (designer)

Paul Kimball (film-maker)

To be . . .
I'm not a big fan of "how-to" guides, especially when the creative process is involved. I'm convinced the best writing is organic, spontaneous, visceral.

Nevertheless, I sometimes catch myself browsing technical guides to sure-fire literary success, temporarily immersing myself in the fiction that it really is that easy. Here's a good example.
This evening I went to Starbucks, downed a double-shot of espresso and became immersed in Michio Kaku's "Hyperspace," a title I've been neglecting for about ten years.

Although Kaku hasn't mentioned it (yet), string theory has obvious bearing on the "implicate order" envisioned by David Bohm. A universe of sympathetically vibrating "strings" does away with such messy concepts as "energy" and "matter" -- to say nothing of awkward notions of "forces" and "fields."

Bohm postulated that the seemingly fragmented universe we experience is in fact unexpectedly coherent, but only at a deeply enfolded level beyond the scope of our meat-based brains. The concept of hyperspace promises much the same thing, proposing a seamless, unseen realm where the disparate forces that bind the universe together are one and the same phenomenon.

Perhaps an arbitrarily capable technology can transcend our present blinkered state and allow us to experience the dance of the superstrings directly. We may even find bizarre new forms of life waiting for us among the endless vibrations; ultimately, each "string" may function as a synapse in some inconceivable universal mind.
Scienists find chicken with naturally formed crocodile teeth

The team, based at the Universities of Manchester and Wisconsin, have also managed to induce teeth growth in normal chickens -- activating genes that have lain dormant for 80 million years.

Personally, I'm looking forward to hearing what the "intelligent design" crowd has to say.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A couple good peripheral exobiological stories courtesy of The Anomalist:

Scientist searches for new lifeforms

For years scientists have been excited by the exotic creatures that live in extreme heat, pressure and toxic gas at hot vents, formed at volcanic cracks deep in the ocean.

Roy wants to see if a similarly bizarre menagerie exists near so-called cold vents, where gas hydrate, formed by shifting tectonic plates, seeps through sediment and freezes at the bottom of the ocean.

Ice worms: They're real, and they're hot

Thriving in conditions that would turn most living things to Popsicles, these inch-long earthworm cousins inhabit glaciers and snowfields in the coastal ranges of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. They move through seemingly solid ice with ease and are at their liveliest near the freezing point of water. Warm them up slightly and they dissolve into goo.

Their life cycle remains a mystery.
Mystery blob eating downtown

About 200 residents were forced to flee as a hazardous materials team and dozens of firefighters worked throughout the day to identify what was first deemed "a black tarry substance" and later morphed into a "watery mud."

(Via Aberrant News.)
Anti-aging Drugs on Horizon

Because anti-aging drugs are likely to be highly expensive they may well be available to only the richest, leading to huge differences in life span both across and within nations.

"In Africa we can't even agree how to allow people to make drugs available more cheaply when it comes to AIDS, so we have almost no chance of doing it with anti-aging therapies," said Professor Tuljapurkar.

For a revealing glimpse into a possible quasi-immortalist "gerontocratic" society, I recommend Bruce Sterling's "Holy Fire."
Here's the trailer for "A Scanner Darkly," Richard Linklater's envisioning of the infinitely disturbing (and darkly humorous) novel by Philip K. Dick.

"Scanner" was the first PKD novel I read (after a failed attempt to find "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" in my local library system). Judging from the preview, Linklater's film promises to be the most unique adaptation of a Dick novel since Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner." I like the slick, hallucinatory sheen and the casual reliance on cool but not-too-distant technology.
Nick Redfern ("Body Snatchers in the Desert") has a new book out: "On the Trail of the Saucer Spies," published by Anomalist Books. This is decidedly good news; not only am I eager to hear Redfern's take on weird phenomena, I'm a fan of Anomalist Books (in my opinion, the single best publisher of esoteric nonfiction to appear in a long time).

This kind of says it all right now.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Culture of Fear

The fear that actions like inventing new medicines, chemicals, and energy sources might have unknowable, irreversible, and ultimately catastrophic effects in the future leads to Furedi's third factor. Even as more people are living longer and healthier lives, life is perceived as a very dangerous thing. The boundary between analysis and speculation is eroded as worst case scenarios proliferate. What if an asteroid hits us; what if biotech wheat gets out of control; what if Iraq is giving weapons of mass destruction to terrorists? Worst case thinking decreases our cultural capacity to deal with uncertainty. Risk becomes something to avoid, not an opportunity to be seized.

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)
Robot goes missing

"We can't find Phil," said Steve Prilliman of Dallas-based Hanson Robotics, which created the futuristic robot with the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis, the Automation and Robotics Research Institute at the University of Texas at Arlington and Dick's friend Paul Williams.

"We're very worried because it's been a few weeks now," said Prilliman. "We're pressing hard to find Phil."

Well, I most certainly don't have him. Why are you looking at me like that? I said I don't have him!
Behold! I've once again changed the look of the www.mactonnies.com start-page!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

"The Abyss" was on the Sci-Fi Channel tonight. I watched with a true sense of wonder, realizing that while a sufficiently advanced technology may indeed be indistinguishable from magic, absolute stealth could remain a grave concern even for technologically accomplished species. The oceans are the obvious refuge for ETs who'd prefer to inhabit our planet in relative privacy, and it's probably no coincidence that so many UFOs are reported near large bodies of water.

Given the vast resources of space itself, one eventually wonders why aliens are here at all (assuming they are). After all, a robust civilization could remain comfortably hidden drifting among the asteroids, esconced in cometary ice or buried beneath the lunar surface. So despite the obvious anthropocentric objections, I suspect the aliens (for lack of a better term) are insatiably curious about us, possibly driven to distraction by our presence. Perhaps we shouldn't be overly surprised to find that their world, as foreign as it promises to be, virtually revolves around our own.

I've waded through hundreds of books about the alleged alien presence on our planet and come away largely convinced that we're sharing our world with an advanced form of intelligence. While not necessarily extraterrestrial, this intelligence is certainly not human in any normal sense. Yet it interacts with us in a manner that, at times, seems comprehensible -- which isn't what one would expect of dispassionate observers or mere extraterrestrial anthropologists.

That we've seen traces of its existence at all alludes to either its technological fallibility or its concerted desire to be seen. Both possibilities are disturbing from conventional exobiological and ufological perspectives.

The aliens -- whatever they are -- aren't simply visiting. They've quietly taken up residence.
Statement Acknowledges Some Government Scientists See Link to Global Warming

Amid a growing outcry from climate researchers in its own ranks, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration backed away from a statement it released after last year's powerful hurricane season that discounted any link to global warming.

A corrected statement, which says some NOAA researchers disagree with that view, was posted to NOAA's Web site yesterday.

The change is part of a high-stakes fight over the issue of global warming, and what some scientists complain is a widening gap between what their research shows and White House climate policy.

Somewhere, Michael Crichton is glaring in disapproval.
Site of the day: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

(Thanks to Robert J. Sawyer.)

Strange I never noticed this before. Assuming the image isn't Photoshopped, could the builders of Machu Picchu have purposefully incorporated their city into a naturally occurring facial likeness? Or did they have a hand in fashioning the mountains into a facial profile in the first place?

(Thanks to Psychbloke!)
Astronomer announces shortlist of stellar candidates for habitable worlds

Margaret Turnbull, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, has devoted herself to the painstaking search for candidate stars that may harbor zones of habitability where life -- primitive or otherwise -- might thrive. Turnbull announced her shortlist of so-called "habstars" at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in St. Louis.
Newsome Wants Electrode In Own Brain

Stanford Neuroscientist Bill Newsome wants to implant an electrode in his own brain to study consciousness in ways that would be difficult with volunteer human subjects.

When considered alongside the story of Kevin Warwick who had a 100-electrode array implanted in his arm in 2002 in order to study electrical signals from his hand, one must wonder: is this a starting trend?
Added to sidebar:



Saturday, February 18, 2006

Blogger has been digesting updates to this site. Evidently a system-wide "hiccup" or something, since I'm not the only one who's had problems. I'm going to leave this message online to see if it disappears. Assuming you can read this, maybe I'm in the clear. Stay tuned, and sorry for the inconvenience.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More on the "alien in the attic":

Alien crash lands in the attic

But what would be the point of producing this dummy? Why would someone be making aliens like this in the 1940s?

[. . .]

"If it is a hoax, it is very well done and was clearly done some time ago," says Sci-Fi Channel spokesperson, Lawrence Hall. "There are signs of degradation on its upper and lower left arm, it is cracking."

I have to admit: I'm intrigued.

Here's Asimo serving coffee. I love his weird, mincing stride. (Found at Accelerating Technology.)
Five more . . .

Nick Redfern (author, researcher)

Sauceruney (designer)

William Gibson (author)

Joe Firmage (entrepreneur)

Zakas (musician, producer)

To be . . .
Space-elevator tether climbs a mile high

The company's lofty objective will sound familiar to followers of NASA's Centennial Challenges programme. The desired outcome is a 62,000-mile (99,779 km) tether that robotic lifters -- powered by laser beams from Earth -- can climb, ferrying cargo, satellites and eventually people into space.

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tabletop nuclear fusion device developed

The device is essentially a tabletop particle accelerator. At its heart are two opposing "pyroelectric" crystals that create a strong electric field when heated or cooled. The device is filled with deuterium gas -- a more massive cousin of hydrogen with an extra neutron in its nucleus. The electric field rips electrons from the gas, creating deuterium ions and accelerating them into a deuterium target on one of the crystals. When the particles smash into the target, neutrons are emitted, which is the telltale sign that nuclear fusion has occurred, according to Danon.
I wrote this a few days ago:

Encrypted celestial banter
Punishing rays
Microbial pilgrimage
RFID biosphere
Nerves wither

What's it about? I'm not telling.
I had a recurrence of my near-nightly dream, which put a spell over the morning. The dream is so cinematic, so perfect in construction, that it's like a needle in the brain. I wake up and want revenge and realize with mounting annoyance that I can't have it.

I just got back from the coffee shop across the street. Instead of reading -- or, heaven forbid, getting some substantial writing done -- I monkeyed with my cellphone, finding all sorts of arcane functions buried within submenus. I wish it had word-processing capability. (Technically, I can use the text messaging menu to jot down notes to myself, but it's time-consuming and frustrating. Alternatively, I could use the voice-recorder -- I'm still keen on podcasting -- but without a USB jack to export sound files it's really not much use; I'm better off using a pad of paper.)

Yesterday I checked out Robert Sawyer's "Mindscan" from the library. The library has a self-check-out scanner, neatly eliminating the need to interact with librarians. It's essentially the same system I use at the grocery store: the play of laser light over bar-codes, the unavoidable wait for the receipt to print (always tinged by the fear that something inside the machine will jam, necessitating messy human intervention).

I currently have two movies replaying through my mind: "Brazil" and "The Man Who Fell to Earth." For whatever reason, these movies have taken it upon themselves to hound my subconscious. When I'm edgy or depressed the world actually seems bisected by the plight of Sam Lowry or David Bowie's alien, an assault on consensus reality as exacting and dire as Kafka's or Philip K. Dick's.
The Flying Luxury Hotel

This is not a Blimp. It's a sort of flying Queen Mary 2 that could change the way you think about air travel. It's the Aeroscraft, and when it's completed, it will ferry pampered passengers across continents and oceans as they stroll leisurely about the one-acre cabin or relax in their well-appointed staterooms.

(Via Boing Boing.)
In pictures: New Abu Ghraib images

These previously unpublished images show apparent US abuse of prisoners in Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail in 2003.

(Via American Samizdat.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Fifteen (count 'em) more interesting people with websites:

Bernard Haisch (theoretical physicist)

Robert J. Sawyer (author)

Jane Goodall (primatologist, activist)

Paolo Soleri (architect)

Kenn Brown and Chris Wren* (illustrators)

Patrick Huyghe (author, editor)

eWarrior (Web designer)

Ray Caesar (artist)

Bill Griffith (cartoonist)

Syd Mead (visual futurist)

H.R. Giger (artist)

Jimmy Descant (artist)

Mary Anne Mohanraj (author)

Cory Doctorow (author, activist)

Rita J. King (columnist)

To be continued . . .

*OK, so actually that makes it sixteen.
Here's the long-awaited video to "God's Black Space," a song I assisted with a while back. Words fail to properly describe this seething, frenetic multimedia extravaganza. Not only is it fun to watch, it pimps my book!

Be sure to pay a visit to musician/producer Zakas' website, where you'll find similarly inspired Space Age delirium.
Future Hi: Tired - Transhumanism, Wired - Clowns!

OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Future Hi is no longer aligning itself with transhumanists, because their point of view has become a dead end, a spiritually vacant empty shell of heartlessness and banality. It has nothing to offer but more tiresomely arrogant attempts to convert everything to materialist descriptions and computational metaphors- eliminating everything else that doesn't fit them.

The transhumanist outlook is only grim and depressing if you want it to be. Personally, I don't take much stock in any one person's definition of the term; I think the future is too important for trite labels. So while the term "transhumanist" appeals to me in a general sense, I share Future Hi's reservation.
Robot moved by a slime mould's fears

Physarum polycephalum is a large single-celled organism that responds to food sources, such as bacteria and fungi, by moving towards and engulfing it. It also moves away from light and favours humid, moist places to inhabit. The mould uses a network of tiny tubes filled with cytoplasm to both sense its environment and decide how to respond to it. Zauner's team decided to harness this simple control mechanism to direct a small six-legged (hexapod) walking bot.

(Via Exploding Aardvark.)

Slime and robots in one news story! You can bet I'm blogging that!
Global Warming by the Numbers

Ah, um . . . What's on TV tonight?
Five more people to "meet" online:

Shen Wei (choreographer)

Margot Knight (artist)

Clifford Pickover (theoretical physicist)

Rudy Rucker (author, mathematician)

Cap'n Marrrrk (everyday avatar)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Holland launches Fun Burials

Dutch entertainer Eddy Daams, from Eexterveenschekanaal, is behind the idea which he calls Fun Burials.

He said: "After bunjee jumping, this will become the new extreme kick. It is very safe, nothing can go wrong.

"If the person in the coffin is having a panic attack, he can push the panic button to heave off the block."

(Via Technoccult.)


For a large sum, LifeGem will extract the carbon from your loved one's ashes and craft a nifty-looking diamond from it. (Found at Reality Carnival.)
I enjoy checking in on Cliff Pickover's The Six Thousand and thought I'd launch a similar effort here at Posthuman Blues. So from time to time I'll name-drop some people who warrant "visiting" online, limiting my round-up of hipsters and visionaries to those who maintain their own websites.

The first five, in no particular order:

Hans Moravec (roboticist)

Michio Kaku (theoretical physicist)

Jacques Vallee (astronomer, ufologist)

Neil Gaiman (author)

John Shirley (author, musician)
New Orleans 'risks extinction'

"New Orleans' future is very hard to predict," said Professor Van Heerden. "The big unknown is global warming. If sea level rises come up by another metre in the next 50 to 60 years, if we see far more of these major hurricanes, we could well reach a point where we see we need to abandon these cities like New Orleans."
What are you waiting for? Download your own cellular automata laboratory!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

You Are a Henna Gaijin!

You're not Japanese, but you wish you were!
You can use chopsticks with your eyes closed, and you've memorized hundreds of Kanji.
You even answer your phone "moshi moshi."
While the number of anime videos you've seen is way higher than the number of dates you've been on, there's hope.
Play the sexy, mysterous gaijin, and you'll have plenty of Japanese meat.

Man, I've never even seen "Akira"! (Although I do occasionally find myself leafing through Giant Robot . . .)
Now this is fashion I can relate to.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Car crash porn

Here is a video collage of car crashes recorded on a tunnel cam and set to music. I found it uncomfortably engaging. JG Ballard, your meme is ready.
Spirit Mars Rover Reaches 'Home Plate': Formation Has Researchers Puzzled

"Is Home Plate cool or what?", said Larry Crumpler, Research Curator, Volcanology and Space Sciences at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As a Mars rover science team member, Crumpler said deliberations within the team about what they are viewing "have been the closest thing to passionate debate that I have seen yet."

For his part, Crumpler said that he refuses to accept one spectacular interpretation: "Namely, that it is a volcanic vent structure."

Crumpler said more detailed rover images are needed.

Crumpler's got that right. "Home Plate" is downright psychedelic.

I was fortunate to meet Crumpler in person during my August Discovery Channel trip to New Mexico. We talked about (what else?) the rovers, of which Crumpler was one of the original "drivers."
I finally caved and purchased a cellphone. I still hate the things, but I'd reached the point where the annoyance of not having one eclipsed the hassle of dealing with airtime fees, silly ringtones, text messaging, and voicemail service.

Anyway, here's what it looks like:

As you can plainly see, it's not very fancy. Bare bones, in fact. I think of it as my way of sticking it to The Man.

(By the way, I found the image on Google; that's not my hand.)

In other technology news, I recently installed Mozilla's Firefox Web browser after a negative experience with Microsoft's new IE beta. I recommend it; the advantages are subtle, but the overall ease-of-use is worth the download. (Sticking it to The Man, baby!)

(Thanks to Death's Door!)

Friday, February 10, 2006


I've got four pristine left-over copies of the rare advance review copy of my 2004 book, "After the Martian Apocalypse," on my windowsill. I'm selling them for $30 each (includes postage). If you want a signed copy for your esoteric book collection, send me an email.
Great balls of lightning

If you have ever seen a mysterious ball of lightning chasing a cow or flying through your window during a thunderstorm, take comfort from the fact that you have witnessed a very rare phenomenon. Indeed, ball lightning -- a slow-moving ball of light that is occasionally seen at ground level during storms -- has puzzled scientists for centuries. Now, however, researchers in Israel have built a system that can create lightning balls in the lab. The work may not only help us to understand ball lightning but could even lead to practical applications that make use of these artificial balls (Phys. Rev. Lett. 96 045002).

(Via The Anomalist.)

UFO debunkers have long seized on ball lightning as an "explanation" for sightings, essentially explaining an unknown by substituting another. Ufologists would be well-served to study the behavior and duration of artificial ball lightning in an effort to decrease "false positives" and address the "skeptics" armed with solid understanding of an until-now elusive phenomenon.
An Interview with Jacques Vallee

Jacques Vallee:

When you begin to study this phenomenon the first-degree ET hypothesis, (namely the idea that we are visited by aliens from another planet in our galaxy that have just discovered us), seems like the best one. With the passage of time and the accumulation of reports, including those from people reported psychic effects, it becomes clear that it is too limited to explain the facts. As always in science, when such a situation presents itself, you must go back to basics and re-examine the data. We need to open the full spectrum of potential hypotheses instead of simply selecting data that fit our preconceptions.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Our Baryonic Nature

by Mac Tonnies

Astronomers are learning that the vast majority of the universe's matter takes a form that eludes casual analysis. We've found that we're an anomaly; if there's such a thing as a "galactic federation" or universal hive-mind, our baryonic nature might preclude membership.

Perhaps we're the outcasts, cosmic untouchables whiling away the millennia in the stale galactic margins.

So I write from a perspective of profound isolation -- existing, but only barely. And hoping the dark matter gods deign to materialize in our skies . . .

For more perspectives on why we don't exist visit The Huge Entity.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative

Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors."

[. . .]

"For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority," the statement said. "Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough."

Forgive my cynicism, but I can't help but doubt the motivation here. It's likely that many evangelicals really do see global warming as the threat that it most certainly is. But what are they really concerned about? Has the usual gay-bashing and campaigning against evolution finally become tiresome and in need of replacement?

I doubt it.

Remember that preaching the gospel promises to be difficult in a climatologically decimated future. Climate refugees aren't very likely to become followers if they're courted by organizations who deny the very existence of their plight; better for evangelical Christians to go on record with a little prudent scare-mongering lest they lose all credibility after the Gulf Coast is pummelled by the next round of super-hurricanes.

So, will the near future be hot, eco-impoverished and awash with true believers? Stay tuned.
You might have noticed "Mac's media picks" lurking in the sidebar. These are personal favorites that I think readers of this blog will appreciate. I'll keep the selections in rotation.

To purchase items from Amazon (often at incredibly cheap prices), all you have to do is click. And if you do make a purchase -- whether one of my picks or something else -- I get a small but significant referral.
BREAKING NEWS: George Deutsch Did Not Graduate From Texas A & M University

At this point, while I am unaware of whether Deutsch graduated from college at all, it is clear that he did not graduate from A&M, and he may have intentionally misled people to believe that he did. The idea that NASA let a 24-year-old journalism major, with no experience in science or technology, other than writing a few articles about video games, determine what scientists were able to communicate to the public was pretty bad. The fact that he was censoring scientific information on global warming and the big bang made things more interesting, especially since he was a political appointee doing this to prevent challenges to the Bush administration's policies.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised by this sort of thing anymore.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Watch this space . . .
The Growing Habitable Zone: Locations for Life Abound

Beginning in the latter half of the 20th century, new information began to emerge that challenged the traditional view. Scientists on Earth began finding rugged organisms thriving in harsh conditions that were off-limits to most other creatures. Meanwhile, images beamed back by robotic probes in space revealed that other moons within our solar system were much more interesting geologically -- and perhaps biologically -- than our own.

However, beginning a decade ago, planets discovered around other stars began to reveal a diversity of planetary systems that was beyond expectations.

A few near-future predictions:

We will find extant life on Mars.

We will discover life among the moons of gas giants. Likely candidates include, but are by no means limited to, Europa and Titan.

Within fifty years (barring cataclysm), we will have catalogued at least one terrestrial exoplanet with an active biosphere.
Has BYU prof found AIDS cure?

Researchers, including a BYU scientist, believe they have found a new compound that could finally kill the HIV/AIDS virus, not just slow it down as current treatments do.
Now reading:

Optimum Population Trust

The World Population Clock is ticking. We are rapidly destabilising our climate and destroying the natural world on which we depend for future life.
OK, this one I can deal with . . .

Who Should Paint You: Andy Warhol

You've got an interested edge that would be reflected in any portrait
You don't need any fancy paint techniques to stand out from the crowd!

US serial number gives clue to mystery of the alien in the attic

"The easy thing to do is dismiss it all and say it's a hoax. It may be or may not be," said Prof Roberts. "The fact that it was found near a US air base suggests there may be a military component to it."

I wonder if eBay is in this little guy's future.

(Via The Anomalist.)
The future of wind-power?

(Found at Future Feeder.)

NASA assesses strategies to 'turn off the heat' in New York City

"We need to help public officials find the most successful ways to reduce the heat island effect in New York. With ever-increasing urban populations around the world, the heat island effect will become even more significant in the future," said Stuart Gaffin, an associate research scientist at Columbia University, New York, and a co-author of the new NASA study. "The summertime impacts are especially intense with the deterioration of air quality, because higher air temperatures increase ozone. That has health effects for everyone. We also run an increased risk of major heat waves and blackouts as the heat island effect raises demand for electricity."

"Urban heat island": five syllables we'll be hearing a lot more in the next few years.