Friday, March 31, 2006

Handsets get taken to the grave

More people than ever are asking to be buried or cremated with their mobile phones when they die, say researchers.

The trend, which began in South Africa, has now spread to a number of countries, including Ireland, Australia, Ghana, and the US.

(Via Futurismic.)

I'm not sure why I found this bit of necrotic technophilia so funny -- I should have seen it coming a long time ago.

It's like a corrupted version of Rudy Rucker's "lifebox" concept, which I describe here.
I wrote the preceding essay in a coffeeshop. While about half-way through, a noxious teenage girl occupied the computer next to mine and preceded to watch country and rap music videos at full volume. This annoyed me greatly, to the point where I almost shed my usual aura of introverted calm and said something rash. But I was afraid I might start something -- you never know with these fickle, television-addled suburban types -- and smartly refrained.

I'm still sitting here. The music fan has moved on, and it's getting later.

I've reached an interesting nexus in my personal/creative life. For the moment, I no longer feel the same stinging need for companionship that colored much of my life from 2000 to 2005. I realize this is subject to change, but it's enjoyable, like emerging from the winter cold into a warm, cozy room, a room lined with bookshelves.

Eventually I'll tire of it. I'll look out the windows too many times and walk out, once again, into the blizzard, buffeted by hormones and the peculiar mandates of loneliness. But for now I'm warm, at least moderately comfortable, and easing into my own flesh like someone breaking out a long-neglected suit in preparation for some rite -- a celebration, maybe, or a funeral.
Forget the idea of "other dimensions" for a moment. Perhaps Jacques Vallee's proposed "psychic thermostat," while a well-intentioned attempt to reconcile UFO observations with their psychosocial effects, isn't needed to encompass the weirdness of alien visitation. Forget, also, the idea that aliens are necessarily from space. (Sure, some might be, but I'll deal with them another time.)

Instead, let's assume for adventure's sake that we're sharing the planet with a flesh-and-blood offshoot of the human species. As I've tried to demonstrate, the prospect isn't as absurd as it initially seems; indeed, I expect it will seem much less so when we've learned more about our world and our relatively brief tenure here. (It bears mention that eminent primatologist Jane Goodall has defended the scientific search for "Bigfoot," a cryptohominid commonly described as enormous. Assuming a gigantic and purportedly foul-smelling primate can successfully lay low, it may be substantially easier for an intelligent technical society, with a tested capacity for stealth and a full repertoire of disinformation tricks, to dodge our radar.)

Astrophysicists discern black holes -- the invisible corpses of collapsed stars -- by detecting their gravitational influence on neighboring phenomena. Similarly, the search for extrasolar life hinges on the belief that technological civilizations -- regardless how advanced -- will necessarily betray their existence via electromagnetic emissions. Freeman Dyson, for instance, has suggested hunting for alien megascale engineering by looking for its distinctive energetic signature.

We can apply the same basic principles to the search for nonhuman intelligences here on Earth. If some UFOs are indeed the work of an indigenous race, we ought to be able to detect the inevitable "signature" it's imprinted on the planet. This confirming evidence can take many forms: anomalous fossils, genetic traces, "mystery" transmissions, and even inexplicable artifacts.

Our technology-driven world is effectively shrinking at a pace that threatens to obliterate remaining wilderness areas. At the same time, we continue to map the continents and oceans (not to mention the surfaces of other planets) with ever-improving instruments. It stands to reason that the "Ultraterrestrial Hypothesis" is testable. In other words, no matter how addicted to seclusion, a parallel society will eventually betray its existence.

But maybe they don't want to be found. Maybe they'd prefer to observe from the balcony, unseen and unsuspected, while we go about our blundering affairs onstage. If so, then they've almost certainly noticed the hazard we pose to their maintained stealth. And while they might be our technological superiors, one couldn't blame them for being at least a little concerned.

Whitley Strieber has remarked that his "visitors," the subject of the best-selling "Communion" and subsequent books that delve into the ufological, accomplish their agenda largely through stealth and cunning; their technology, as enviable as it may be, is secondary. Strieber attributes the fall-back in his encounters with nonhumans to the fact that he no longer resides in his isolated New York cabin, but in the busy community of San Antonio. Apparently the "visitors" (whoever they are) are daunted by the ubiquity of modern civilization, able to exist among us for only limited periods -- and even then assisted by considerable disguise and technical savvy.

In many ways, this would be an appalling predicament for our hypothetical ultraterrestrials. For most of human history they would have enjoyed unimpeded dominance. Humans, without a global media infrastructure, would have been easier to fool (and perhaps to exploit) than we are now. (Or do I err on the side of overconfidence?)

In almost any event, the "others" would have been compelled to misdirect us in order to maintain cultural coherence. I suspect that the prevailing notion that they hail from outer space originates from an overarching disinformation campaign with roots that predate humanity as we know it. For millennia, we've interpreted them according to the disguises they adopt, each tailored to mesh with the given paradigm. Even a cursory overview of world folklore indicates that this ability is extraordinarily well-honed; it may be their most zealously guarded secret.

However, I suggest that our abrupt transformation into a global, intricately networked society poses a grave challenge to what has traditionally been a routine effort. We may be on the threshold of some oblique form of contact; alternatively, this contact may have begun in modern times, marked by the emergence of the contemporary UFO phenomenon and the equally alarming epidemic of so-called "alien abductions."

Jacques Vallee has remarked, somewhat famously, about the possible futility of trying to look behind the curtain; what might we be confronted with? Given the opportunity, could we even comprehend what we're seeing?

Like the origin of the "aliens" themselves, this sense of existential humility may prove to be a clever construct designed to limit our perceptions.
I've been getting email from someone in Russia who purports to be female and more than a little enamored of me, despite our having never met (or pronounced unlikelihood of ever meeting). Of course, this is nothing new; being familiar with all sorts of online scams, I'm not sure whether to be mildly flattered or just wary.

Anyway, I happened to look at the latest picture she sent -- of herself -- and burst out laughing when I saw a framed portrait of me placed strategically on top of the dresser in the background.

If she's a fraud baiting me so I'll send her money, I have to concede that this is a rather effort-intensive step to take.

My question: Has anyone else encountered this sort of romantic buttering up while swapping email with an international woman of mystery?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Pentagon Plans Explosion at Nevada Site

"I don't want to sound glib here, but it's the first time in Nevada that you'll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons," James Tegnelia, director of the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency, told a small group of reporters.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Oh, this is encouraging.

Today I experienced some of the freakiest weather I can remember: intermittent gales of wind and horizontally pounding rain like something from Ballard's "The Wind From Nowhere." Absolutely amazing and cinematic -- a grim foretaste of the Midwest's climatic future somehow made all the more troubling because of its transience . . .

Bruce Sterling designs bumper-stickers! And they're funny as hell!

(I'd kill for this gig.)
Paul Kimball and I are having a friendly showdown over the relative merits of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis and my idea that some "aliens" might not be as alien as they seem. He has excellent points, too. (He's wrong, of course, but excellent points nonetheless . . .)

See his latest post:


To me, the people who seem to gravitate to the EDH are motivated by an inability to comprehend why an ET race would behave in the manner that some seem to, according to reports. Assuming those reports are true (a big assumption, but...), all I can say is "so, what makes it unlikely that they are ET?" After all, we know nothing about how an ET civilization would be structured - their social order, their behaviour, their concept of morality (if they even have one), their beliefs, etc. To assume that they would behave anything like us is the height of cultural hubris.

(By the way, readers of Paul's blog may be wondering just what the hell I have in common with Gillian Anderson, Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, and Jeri Ryan. For that matter, so am I. The mystery uravels, appropriately, on April Fools Day.)
Site of the day: Stonehenge Tour at Dawn, Wiltshire Virtual Reality Image

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The mother of all mandalas?

On Sunday, April 9 at 1:00 (US Central) I'll be taking questions regarding Mars anomalies at Hope to see you there.
My recent post on alleged extraterrestrials has aroused some (deserved) skepticism. Advocates of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis argue, for instance, that the UFO evidence supports the existence of an advanced, presumably spacefaring technology. Superficially, at least, this seems more congruent with flesh-and-blood space visitors than trans-mythical interlopers from the Great Beyond.

In defense of "ultraterrestrials" (which I'll broadly define as unconventional humanoids from Earth or variations thereof), I suggest that the high-performance flight characteristics commonly associated with UFOs don't necessarily imply ET origin (although I wouldn't be in the least surprised if the parade of close encounters that fall under the ufological rubric include at least some genuine visits from advanced interstellar societies).

Although perhaps unlikely, I think it's perfectly conceivable that a technically superior civilization could have arisen on Earth in the distant past. This civilization needn't be particularly large nor would its technology have to be centuries or millennia ahead of our own; the rate of technological change in the Western world, as students of the "Singularity" are fond of reminding us, is exponential, rendering accurate forecasts of the future effectively impossible.

(Within two centuries -- certainly a blip on an evolutionary time-scale -- we've harnessed electromagnetism and nuclear energy, events largely unforeseeable by the preceding zeitgeist. If certain rumors can be accepted at face value, an element within the military is actively experimenting with electrogravitic propulsion, in which case we may be encroaching on a functioning theory of quantum gravity.)

If an ultraterrestrial offshoot of the human species is indeed operating in our midst, we can reasonably expect it to have made huge technological advances given the time it would have had to develop (perhaps in tandem with our own technical progression). "Alien" UFOs, while undoubtedly remarkable from today's engineering perspective, may only be a century or so more advanced than earthly technology. Unfortunately, to my mind, we've become accustomed to thinking of aliens as being from far-away star systems, which in turn tends to make ufologists and SETI pundits alike think in terms of hundreds of thousands -- if not billions -- of years.

The "Ultraterrestrial Hypothesis," as presented here, hinges on what we know of our species' genetic and social history. Bluntly: Could we be sharing our world with virtual aliens and not even know it? My answer, equally blunt: Why not? As our scientific instruments improve, we discover mounting evidence that the popularly accepted history of homo sapiens sapiens is incomplete. (The recent discovery of the Flores "hobbits," for example, was unexpected enough to temporarily fuse the disciplines of cryptozoology and paleoanthropology, especially when it became clear that there existed a rich oral tradition of small, hairy people among the local population. Intriguingly, these hairy people were said to kidnap infants -- a trend that recurs explicitly in both fairy lore and contemporary accounts of fetus-snatching Gray aliens.)

In addition to gaps in terrestrial history, we're confronted by the possible existence of parallel universes, a theme that's attracted the attention of mainstream cosmologists who no longer speak of reality in terms of a singular "universe," but as a bewildering amalgam dubbed the "multiverse." (Ufologists will immediately seize on Jacques Vallee's use of the same term, as recounted in his iconoclastic study "Dimensions.")

As theoretical physicists narrow their search for a Theory of Everything, calculating the quantum wave function of our entire universe (as opposed to those of single elementary particles), new vistas of exploration appear, unbidden, like a froth of bubbles set loose from a bottle of well-shaken Perrier.

Could these realms -- so seemingly intangible -- harbor clues to the reality of some of our unlikely visitors?
Wikipedia on "Otherkin":

Otherkin is a subculture made up of people who describe themselves as being non-human in some way, usually believing themselves to be mythological or legendary creatures. The word is a neologism primarily used by members of that subculture, and is somewhat fluid in definition, and in its broadest sense includes those who consider themselves to be animals, aliens, extradimensional beings, and any other non-human entities.

(Via Reality Carnival.)
Ocean 'dead zones' trigger sex changes in fish, posing extinction threat

Oxygen depletion in the world's oceans, primarily caused by agricultural run-off and pollution, could spark the development of far more male fish than female, thereby threatening some species with extinction, according to a study published today on the Web site of the American Chemical Society journal, Environmental Science & Technology. The study is scheduled to appear in the May 1 print issue of the journal.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Global warming: Your chance to change the climate

In The Independent today, their leader, Colin Challen, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group, sets out the case for abandoning the "business as usual" pursuit of economic growth, which has been the basis of Western economic policy for two hundred years. Instead, he says, we must concentrate our efforts on putting a limit on the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from power stations and motor vehicles that are causing the atmosphere to warm.

To do this, Mr Challen and his colleagues believe, carbon will have to be rationed, for companies, individuals and, eventually, for countries. And only a full cross-party consensus would allow such a departure to be implemented without being destroyed by the political process.

The people in Britain are so weird. I mean, they actually discuss climate change.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The more I research the history and morphology of "alien" contact, the more I'm convinced the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis is profoundly lacking. But even the most lucid opponents of the EH, aside from offering vague (albeit endlessly enticing) references to "other dimensions" and "parallel universes," seem dumbstruck by the phenomenon's absurdity; I have yet to read of a plausible means by which the "aliens'" home world could intersect our own, allowing a steady stream of ufonauts.

We typically assume interdimensional travel must involve arcane cosmological machinery such as a wormhole or "stargate." But, increasingly, I'm drawn to the idea that our visitors' method of travel is less flashy (from a technical perspective) and more understandable in terms of quantum neurology -- a field we humans have barely skimmed, let alone utilized.

This leads to my suspicion that the "aliens" are less technologically advanced than they lead us to believe. In fact, I think a case can be made that we're dealing with a surprisingly vulnerable intelligence that relies largely on subterfuge and disinformation to achieve its goals.

And as outlandish as it may seem, I've been forced to wrestle with the notion that our relationship with these "others" is far more widespread and intimate than even paranoid dramatizations of the UFO spectacle would have us believe.

These dawning suspicions are borne out, at least in part, by world folklore (with its preoccupation with "little people" in our midst) as well as by recent discoveries that suggest the history of our species is more enigmatic than we'd like to admit. We may well share our planet with cryptohominids that have mastered the art of camouflage in order to coexist with us. More portentously, their agenda may be within our ability to grasp. But to do so, we must suspend the assumption that we're dealing with something as quaint as ET astronauts.

The truth, unnervingly, seems much closer to home, threatening to displace our sense of self in a most unexpected manner.
Tactile 3D -- The 3D interface for your windows computer

Think of Tactile as a 3D file explorer with the ability to organize in a 3D space by exploiting useful visual and audible cues. The design of the interface is based on our remarkable ability to recall the placement of a virtually unlimited number of stationary objects. Quick! Where's your camera? What drawer are your blue socks in? Tactile 3D effectively identifies files, directories, and drives by using various 3D models. Organizing your data in a more visual way alleviates the current necessity to remember cryptic file and path names to get what you want.

(Via Future Feeder.)

Wow. This amounts to turning your computer into something very much resembling a Gibsonian cyberpace deck. I might have to give this a whirl.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first taker on my super-cheap advertising program! (See sidebar.)

Want your own linked banner-ad? At a buck a month, half a year's advertising costs as much as a modest soy latte. Let me know if you're game.
Spray on dress

Manel Torres has developed Fabrican, a cotton-fabric that comes in a can. Once sprayed onto your body, the pressurised liquid turns instantly into a fabric. Each squirt from the can sends thousands of cotton fibers splattering against your skin. The fibers then bend together to form a disposable garment that peels away when you undress. Since the fibres are delivered in a diffused form, other elements can easily be added, like perfumes, pigments or treatments.

I guess I always assumed spray-on clothing would be skin-tight, rubbery and way too "fetish" for my taste. I was wrong.
Researchers Create Pigs that Produce Heart-Healthy Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Researchers report they have created pigs that produce omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to improve heart function and help reduce the risks for heart disease, representing the first cloned, transgenic livestock in the world that can make the beneficial compound. The research could be a boost to both farmers and health-conscious consumers seeking an alternative and safer source of omega-3 fatty acids. Currently, the only way for humans to realize the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is by taking dietary supplements or by eating certain types of fish that also contain high levels of mercury.

Yeah? We'll, I'm still vegetarian.
Your host holds forth on science fiction and politics at Meme Therapy:

Should contemporary SF *always* be politically oriented? Heaven forbid. SF is many things, and attempting to force it to become an instrument of political change -- as opposed to philosophical transformation or existential shock -- is futile. The genre wants to be free, and so do its authors.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I located a superior alternative to Starbucks tonight and began reading Nick Pope's "The Uninvited." No blaring music. Just board games, Wi-Fi and coffee.

Pope's book is off to a good start. British ufology seems largely immune to the United States' dogmatic adherence to the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis and narrow-minded take on the "abduction" enigma.

Earlier today I finished Michio Kaku's "Hyperspace": incredibly informative but, as far as ETI is concerned, content to retread familiar concepts. (Although, in Kaku's defense, the book hails from the early 90s -- a distant era by practically any measure. Given Kaku's recent advocacy of disciplined UFO research -- however cautious -- I expect his latest book, "Parallel Worlds," to delve into the prospect of alien contact with more confidence.)

The closing chapters of "Hyperspace" anticipate "Singularitarianism" with an overview of exponential technological growth and a nod to Freeman Dyson's "Astrochicken" approach to space industrialization.

Interestingly, no reference to David Bohm.
A compelling, explicit introduction to the art and science of Japanese simulacra:

Apparently there is an uncanny valley in Japan, too.

The modern Japanese doll culture, however, is anything but traditional. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the ningyo tradition was exported to make toys for the West (previously featured on MeFi), and has culminated in popular Barbie-type dolls such as Superdollfie and others. Contemporary artists have transformed the Japanese doll tradition into something else entirely . . .

Saturday, March 25, 2006

UFOs are everywhere!

Tiny Tunnels in Mars Rock Hint at Possibility of Life

That being the case, there are two likely scenarios.

"One is that there is an abiotic [non-living] way to create those tunnels in rock on Earth, and we just haven't found it yet," Fisk said. "The second possibility is that the tunnels on Martian rocks are indeed biological in nature, but the conditions are such on Mars that the DNA was not preserved."

I'm going with the second possibility.

"Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man! Look at those cavemen go
It's the freakiest show
Take a look at the Lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know
He's in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?"

--David Bowie, "Life on Mars?"
Site of the day: The Red Pill (open-source weirdness!)
Dear Starbucks,

Why the music?

Oh, I know why. It's hip, trendy, and helps sell the ubiquitous compilation CDs that compete for space among the laughably overpriced espresso machines and ergonomic thermos mugs. But it's too loud. And it seems to be getting worse.

Tonight I bought a grande Sumatran, sat down to read and, reluctantly, had to leave. You were playing your satellite radio station at full-on dance club volume. Needless to say, concentration -- or even conversation, judging by the shouting and pained expressions I observed at neighboring tables -- was effectively impossible.

You call your music label "Hear Music," which is quite appropriate. Because I can hear it from the damned parking lot.

I fondly remember the evenings I spent sipping joe in your stores while reading or writing. The music was there, but it was ambient and unobtrusive, even enjoyable. Now you seem intent on punishing your customers with it, like some vacuous teenager out to impress his friends with the oversized subwoofers in the back of his modified Honda Civic.

Please explain this behavior to me. Or let me write the text for one of your "The Way I See It" paper cups -- I'd be happy to contribute a short meditation on the solace that accompanies common-sense discretion.

Or simply turn down the music, because it's banished one of the last refuges left to me in this dizzying sprawl of appliance stores, "neighborhood" sports-bars, franchise barber shops, Wal-Marts, and megaplexes.

Sincerely yours,
Mac Tonnies, author
How to get published at Boing Boing and influence people

I scan Boing Boing, on average, once every three days. And I've come to a conclusion that regular readers of the massively popular culture/technology blog might agree with. Simply: BB posts lots of items devoted to

a.) Legos


b.) video game icons.

In fact, a near-surefire way to join Boing's hallowed archives seems to be this: Build something unlikely and/or inordinately time-consuming out of Legos. (Or butter, or cheese, or toothpicks, or circus peanuts, or whatever bizarre medium you can dream up.) The BB editors -- who I really like, by the way -- eat this stuff up. I daresay they're fairly jonesing for it.

If making BB's cut is flatly imperative and you want absolute, unconditional assurance that your effort will be posted, try this: Build a detailed replica of, say, Nintendo's Mario out of an unconventional substance. (I'd recommend Legos, but it's been done.) If 3-D construction isn't your bag, try embroidery; BB is enraptured by "retro" geek-culture icons repurposed for today's cyber-nostalgic milieu.

There you have it -- the Posthuman Blues guide to getting published at Boing Boing. So get to work. Cory Doctorow will thank you.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Today I received some . . . disheartening news regarding my graduate school plans. Despite a carefully crafted portfolio emphasizing my publishing history and academic ambitions, I was denied acceptance. The English Department deigned to convey the news via a form letter; to add further insult to injury, my name was misspelled. (If anyone asks, I'm Mr. "Toonies.")

Fucking Midwestern hick universities.

Anyway, I now have no choice but to search for a better school. This wasn't on the agenda -- but then again, very little that happens to me is.

"So when you slam down the hammer
Can you see it in your heart?
Can you delve so low?"

--Morrissey, "Speedway"

I've been a Bruce Sterling fan for a long time, devouring his science fiction novels alongside his thoughts on "blobjects" and "spimes." Interestingly, this "vlog" post marks the first time I've ever actually seen (or heard) him talk.

The MRO is returning pictures!

For more, click here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I thought there was something decidedly moody and existential about these chess players at Starbucks. I think Edward Hopper would have agreed.

Your ad here!

Since this weblog has been getting a fair number of hits I've decided to try selling ad space. I'm thinking of making ads quite cheap, both to turn a small profit and to increase Posthuman Blues' reach to similarly minded sites.

If you're interested, inquire within. I'm thinking $1.00 could cover a month's hosting of a hyperlinked graphic of your choice.

Feedback welcome.

Update: To keep the sidebar layout consistent, ads should be 230 pixels in width and 100 in height. Animated GIFs are acceptable provided they fit the size requirements. If you have any questions/suggestions, let me know.
Remember the "hovering car" in Australia? Well, it's becoming a trend. Whatever this is -- or isn't -- I can't help but wonder if Google Earth devotees will eventually discover something so flatly inexplicable and unearthly that it challenges our assumed role as the planet's dominant species.

(I wish Google Earth had been in full swing when I wrote "After the Martian Apocalypse." The parallels between the addiction to desktop terrestrial sight-seeing and the ceaseless canvassing of Mars Global Surveyor imagery are pronounced. We humans are puzzle solvers, and we unhesitatingly eschew isolated anomalies in favor of mysteries of assumed planetary scope.)

(Thanks to The Anomalist.)

Simply put, today was angst-ridden and miserable. But I'm better after a trip to the library.

Happily, I struck on a pretty good short-story idea on the drive home from work. And I've decided to write a short essay addressing Richard Hoagland's latest Face on Mars claims especially for my oft-neglected Mars site.

Thank god tomorrow is Friday.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Thanks to Sprint's sending me a free multimedia phone (with unlimited airtime and downloads) I've become pleasantly addicted; I don't know if I can go back to a boring gray LCD screen after my role as technology ambassador expires. I'm especially hooked on EarthCam Mobile, a feature that lets me see the world in real-time via webcams. I spend my breaks at work eavesdropping on a certain stretch of sidewalk in Times Square and bar-hopping in Fort Lauderdale.

To be sure, many, if not most, of the applications available to download are uninspired novelties. I still can't fathom the logic of downloading a screensaver -- moreover, a screensaver that you can't even see until you've committed to a purchase -- that expires in three months. Ditto for ringtones.

And although the phone is Web-ready (turning me into a one-man Wi-Fi hotspot in the process), it's far from blog-friendly. So while I can download role-playing games and bikini model animations galore, I don't have ready access to so much as an RSS newsreader.

And I'm disappointed that the phone's repertoire is dominated by sports/entertainment. For a device crammed with software, the phone's conspicuously bereft of creative tools; using the phone to listen to Sirius radio and watch VH1 is well and good, but I find Sprint's working assumption that its customers are compliant drones eager to fork over credit for the latest celebrity gossip oddly demeaning.
Simulaphobia: The Evolution of Technology and the Transhumanist Utopia

I have become fascinated recently by the continued simulation of our world out of existence. The word 'technology' is usually proceeded by thoughts of mechanical machines, digital processes and automated activity, but the borders encompassing technology stretch far wider than this day to day conception. It has always been an ability of mankind to absorb technologies into their being without so much as a cultural flinch, the human world is replete with 10,000 year old tools so intermingled with our perception of ourselves as to make them indistinguishable from our supposed 'natural' capacities.
Happy birthday, Rudy Rucker!
How my castration relates to singulatarianism.

I find myself thinking of transhumanism a lot more. Not in that it will restore libido virtually, just in that my mind isn't distracted. For me, it's not about life extension either. I give things a 32 year or so timeline, which means I'm not doing this to extend my life until the singularity. So do it or not. The singularity will make my choice moot. But I rarely have regrets.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Don't look now, but Richard Hoagland is at it again . . .

(I rag on him for what I feel are legitimate reasons, but he rarely fails to entertain.)
Every single page of "Gravity's Rainbow"? Good god!

(Link found at The Six Thousand.)
Australian Cyclone Worst in Decades

The most powerful storm to hit Australia in decades laid waste to its northeastern coast on Monday, mowing down sugar and banana plantations and leaving possibly thousands of people homeless.

I find this distinctly unsurprising.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The requisite self-portrait:

I like gray things.

It's interesting how the ceiling at my local Starbucks resembles the Hubble Deep Field when seen through a blue filter. (The blue would suggest the "galaxies" are rushing toward a Big Crunch, which isn't terribly likely.)

Sometimes I think I could subsist almost entirely on overpriced coffee and speculative cosmology.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"And when they haul me down the hall
And when they kick me down the stairs
I see the faces all lined up before me
Of teachers and of parents and bosses
Who all share a point of view
You are a loser
You are a loser

Friday, Friday mourning
Dressed in black
I won't be coming back"

--Morrissey, "Friday Mourning"
Nuclear Bunker Buster Bombs against Iran: This Way Lies Madness

Firing der Bush's bunker busters in Iran, or anywhere else for that matter, will vaporize hundreds of thousands of tons of earth, water and rock and send this radioactive soup downwind to kill and sicken whole populations. Those immediately downwind will die quickly, in hours or days. Those further downwind will take longer. The global incidences of cancers and disease will again rise markedly. The land downwind will remain contaminated and unusable for generations.
Will China through nanotech research supplant the U.S. as a great military/economic power?

In the excellent book, "Nanofuture," by J. Storrs Hall, the author describes a possible future scenario where the United States and the West fall seriously behind China in nanotech development.

Nasa to put man on far side of moon

The scale of the missions is much larger than the earlier Apollo programme, which is why Nasa will need two separate rockets to take the mother ship and crew into space.

Some missions will also see manned spacecraft landing in unexplored areas such as the lunar mountains and on the moon's south and north poles.

John Connolly, manager of Nasa's lunar lander project, said the system was designed to carry crews to almost every part of the moon's surface.

"The samples they collect and the research they carry out will help solve many mysteries about the origins and composition of the moon and its suitability as a base," he said.

(Via The Anomalist.)


Will There Still Be a Moon Man in the Future?

The Moon is in synchronous rotation with regard to the Earth, meaning that we see the same face turned to the Earth at all times. We might be able to prevail upon these countries to sign an agreement to scoop up moon dust only from the backside of the moon, which is never seen from the Earth. However, a look at history tells us that it's inevitable that at least one of these countries will get greedy and start taking dust from the "wrong" side.

Hot coffee, mind you. Not that cold stuff most truck stops serve.
I was just reading over PB posts from three years ago. Ouch. I don't think I fully understood the medium; my writing is pretentious, vain and needlessly elaborate. Worse, I spend way too much time bemoaning the Iraq war and taking elitist potshots at W -- the blogging antithesis of originality. Embarrassing.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I've been circling the coffeeshop like a planet tidally locked around a caffeinated star. The same ritual as always, only now I have Web access (unencumbered by hourly fees). I've filled my phone's memory with MP3s; now I'm deleting songs to make room for the new, hoping to achieve some Platonic musical ideal.

I asked a stranger to take my picture. This is the result. His damned finger was in the way and he managed to blur it, but I suppose it's better than nothing. (Note the disembodied foot to my left.)

As you can plainly see, I'm hard at "work."

The network is engorged with digital traffic, so emailing myself hi-rez photos is next to impossible; I need to buy an adapter so I can download directly to my computer.

Wreathed in pixels
Plasmic avatars beckoning from greenhouse skies
Watch. Listen. Learn.

(Found at Boing Boing.)
Waltropolis: City In A Box

Waltropolis optimizes the distribution of goods to its population of 100,000 people. Eleven kilometres (7 miles) long by 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) wide and 90 metres (300 feet) high, the 10 levels of Waltropolis locates the retail, civic, educational, and cultural program within the efficiency of a box, now free of conventional development patterns that limit the big-box to a stand-alone entity. Repetition of the same unit occurs on separate sites. Residential tract housing is located on the roof deck, the seven square miles optimized to provide the suburban-style living Americans have come to expect.

What a fantastically morose vision of the future. This is Arcosanti gone awry, the American Dream manifested in soulless bomb-shelter practicality, the stuff of nightmares. Brilliant.
I dreamed about nuclear war last night; I should have written sooner when the memory was fresh. I was walking through a virtual reality representing the after-effects of a nuclear detonation. The odd part was that the people appeared to be made out of papier mache or origami; radioactive ash lodged in the crevasses and folds of their white "skin" as they sullenly evacuated their homes, anonymous and seemingly mummified.

Friday, March 17, 2006

I'm not too big on video games. I like 'em simple, like "Galaga" and "Centipede." "Spore" strikes me as an elegant return to simplicity of concept.

Here's a good article on introversion, found at Mondolithic Sketchbook. It's always nice to be reassured I'm not alone -- and, moreover, not mentally ill. I once took a personality test and registered anomalously deep into the "introverted" category; supposedly I share my basic personality type with 2% of the population or something like that.

For better or worse, I function pretty adequately in day-to-day social interactions. But often I find the effort tiring and oddly unclean. I feel a pervasive need to decontaminate, let my brain regain its own usual tidal rhythm, if there is such a thing. I've found that going to a library or a bookstore and reading is a surprisingly potent form of meditation; I can feel my mind clicking back into gear and shedding the ugly patina it acquires from workaday banality.
Blog of the day: Meme Therapy

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I spent the evening in Starbucks plucking MP3s from the ether and filing them on my new phone. I can download as many as I want and it doesn't cost a dime. I canvassed the territory, then hit the usual suspects: Bowie, R.E.M., Depeche Mode, and, of course, Morrissey.

I took a few pictures -- nothing good, but at least they capture something of the stripmall milieu.

Here's one of those typical parking complexes. Yes, that's a "Bed, Bath & Beyond" in the background.

And here's a random shot of some patrons exiting the store into the aforementioned parking complex. Probably off to Barnes & Noble. Or Kohl's. Ah, suburbia.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sprint selected me to beta test a new multimedia phone (after coming across this blog). I only have three months of free airtime, but I plan on making the most of it.

I'm not a huge "gadget" person, but I love this thing: It has a camera, access to satellite radio, etc. Better yet, it has a fully functional Web browser, so I can post updates from the road should the urge strike. Tomorrow I'll give it its first "field test."
Cosmic 'DNA': Double Helix Spotted in Space

Magnetic forces at the center of the galaxy have twisted a nebula into the shape of DNA, a new study reveals.

The double helix shape is commonly seen inside living organisms, but this is the first time it has been observed in the cosmos.

"Nobody has ever seen anything like that before in the cosmic realm," said the study's lead author Mark Morris of UCLA. "Most nebulae are either spiral galaxies full of stars or formless amorphous conglomerations of dust and gas -- space weather. What we see indicates a high degree of order."

I'm not saying this monstrous representation is intentional. But . . .
Aliens. And more aliens.
Supercomputer builds a virus

One of the world's most powerful supercomputers has conjured a fleeting moment in the life of a virus. The researchers say the simulation is the first to capture a whole biological organism in such intricate molecular detail.

The simulation pushes today's computing power to the limit. But it is only a first step. In future researchers hope that bigger, longer simulations will reveal details about how viruses invade cells and cause disease.


It would be interesting if this followed an exponentiating trend. In a few years we might be doing mice; a few years after that, a human; ultimately, a society.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Super Earths Might Be Common

Nearly all the extrasolar planets discovered have been Jupiter-sized or larger. But astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics think that super-earths - rocky planets several times larger that our planet - might actually be much more common. Based on the recent discovery of a super-earth around a red dwarf star 9,000 light-years away, the research team calculated that there are probably 3 times as many of these planets than the larger gas giants.
Satellite closes in on Noah's Ark mystery

Images taken by aircraft, intelligence-gathering satellites and commercial remote-sensing spacecraft are fueling an intensive study of the intriguing oddity. But whether the anomaly is some geological quirk of nature, playful shadows, a human-made structure of some sort, or simply nothing at all remains to be seen.

My first inclination is to write this off as the wishful thinking of Fundamentalists. After all, I think we can be reasonably certain that the ark described in the Bible is allegorical, at most a bit of mythology recycled from truly ancient times. But my skepticism doesn't stand in my way of wanting to know what the "Ararat anomaly" really is. If it's a giant ark, let's see it; I like to think that I'm intellectually flexible enough to roll with the evidential punches, regardless how unseemly they might appear.

Of course, if the anomaly is a man-made craft of some kind, it doesn't necessarily follow that Noah built it, which I suspect has become a neglected point by commentators on both sides of the debate.

By all means, let's take a closer look. Oh, and while we're at it, there's this region on Mars called Cydonia . . .

Monday, March 13, 2006

I, Nanobot

"A nanobiotechnology device that is smart enough to circulate through the body hunting viruses or cancer cells is, by definition, smart enough to exchange information with that human body. This means, under the right conditions, the 'device' could evolve beyond its original function."
Secret Weather Report

The upcoming climate change in England could effectively destroy that country, so they are more concerned than the rest of the world. A group of UK scientists recently visited the White House to try to get the Bush administration to pay attention to global warming.

Symons says, "This administration is ignoring the evidence in order to placate a handful of large energy and oil companies." But can Bush ignore the Pentagon? The Observer asks this question and we do too.

I guess I can't exactly blame Strieber for "recycling" this particular item from 2004; news this unapologetically dire deserves to be repeated.

Related: Check out this interactive disaster map I found at Beyond the Beyond.

Finally -- Google Mars! (Try typing in "face.")

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sometimes I get the feeling my readers think I'm pretty single-minded, unable to write about anything except aliens, Martian archaeology and technological esoterica.

Here's proof they're mistaken.
While searching Google, I ran across this helpful round-up of transhumanist-oriented weblogs. (And yes, Posthuman Blues is included.)

Girl to Ghost

For the finale of Alexander McQueen's runway show last week, Kate Moss appeared as a hologram: "Inside an empty glass pyramid, a mysterious puff of white smoke appeared from nowhere and spun in midair, slowly resolving itself into the moving, twisting shape of a woman enveloped in the billowing folds of a white dress. It was Kate Moss, her blonde hair and pale arms trailing in a dream-like apparition of fragility and beauty that danced for a few seconds, then shrank and dematerialized into the ether."

(Via Boing Boing.)

Truly an "Idoru" moment.
New Face on Mars

Is it a message from aliens, or the coincidental drill marks of a robust NASA rover? Bet your money on the latter.

How ironic. Now we're making our own faces on Mars.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Here's a photostream devoted to the Ballardian (or is that Cronenbergian?) fusion of eroticism and PC innards. Inevitable, really.
Jotted down during this evening's pilgrimage to Starbucks:

Curvature of space-time
Anonymous curves of pixel hips
Rendered in vacuum diagrams

And . . .

Mounds of fossil light
defining excavations at the edge of time
The afterglow diffuse like
the weave of synapses
through a cosmology of meat
Katrina Stirs Up Issue of Lead Levels in Soil

"That is sediment that came from the contaminated industrial canal," said Pam Dashiell, a neighborhood activist and long-time resident of the Lower Ninth Ward. "The sediments in the industrial canal were absolutely contaminated. Our neighborhood association had a study done (before Katrina) that found all kinds of toxic sediments, heavy metals -- arsenic lead -- far above the standards of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. And post Katrina all of those chemicals were found in the soil."

Quite a planet we've made for ourselves here. I probably wouldn't believe it if I wasn't a resident.
A Force More Powerful

Can a computer game teach how to fight real-world adversaries -- dictators, military occupiers and corrupt rulers, using methods that have succeeded in actual conflicts -- not with laser rays or AK47s, but with non-military strategies and nonviolent weapons? Such a game, A Force More Powerful (AFMP), is now available. A unique collaboration of experts on nonviolent conflict working with veteran game designers has developed a simulation game that teaches the strategy of nonviolent conflict.

(Via Future Feeder.)

It's only a matter of time until some enterprising geek releases the "World of Warcraft" mash-up.

Tonight I began reading "UFOs and Abductions: Challenging the Borders of Knowledge," a scholarly examination of the UFO controversy edited by historian David Jacobs (probably better known for his books "Secret Life" and "The Threat").

The first two essays, focusing on the academic bias against scientific ufology, are exceptionally promising. I disagree with many of Jacobs' conclusions regarding his work with "abductees," but he seems to have done a good job of fashioning an even-handed introduction to the field.
Five more interesting people with websites worth checking out:

Colin Bennett (scholar)

Stanton Friedman (ufologist)

Kara (aka Spacetramp) (blogger)

David Deutsch (physicist)

Michael Marshall Smith (author)
Rudy Rucker: The "Blade Runner"-ish info-deluge of Times Square as metaphor for the postsingular "orphidnet"

Bruce Sterling: Okay, wait a minute, what planet was this, exactly?

(The critter in question looks like something dreamed up by the team that concocted the fauna for that Discovery Channel "Alien Planet" special.)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Make that a posthuman espresso macchiato!

What do John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Madonna and Mac Tonnies have in common?

We can all be found adorning the walls of a certain Starbucks (!) in California. Artist eWarrior informs me my portrait is located next to the entrance; if that's not appropriate, I don't know what is.

For more information, click here.
NASA probe achieves Mars orbit

Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena erupted in cheers when the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which left Earth in August, signalled that it had achieved orbit around a planet that has defeated two-thirds of the probes sent there.

What a delicious excuse to revive the Cydonian Imperative.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Thanks, Paul.

As wild fowl spread avian flu over continents, UN preps for human pandemic

With wild birds spreading the avian flu virus further into Africa and Europe, the United Nations system was stepping up assistance to countries in their efforts to contain the virus in birds and conducting simulation exercises to prepare strategies for quick action on a human future pandemic, the official in charge of the effort said today.

In case you haven't heard . . .


"We realize that this is a radical conclusion - that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms."

The real excitement hasn't even begun.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"12 Monkeys," here we come:

Biowar for Dummies

Making DNA turns out to be easy if you have the right hardware. The critical piece of gear is a DNA synthesizer. Brent already has one, a yellowing plastic machine the size of an office printer, called an ABI 394. "So, what kind of authorization do I need to buy this equipment?" I ask.

"I suggest you start by typing 'used DNA synthesizer' into Google," Brent says.


Site o' the day: Spacesounds