Friday, June 30, 2006

Jellyfish-Like Creatures May Play Major Role in Fate of Carbon Dioxide in the Ocean

One swarm covered 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles) of the sea surface. The scientists estimated that the swarm consumed up to 74 percent of microscopic carbon-containing plants from the surface water per day, and their sinking fecal pellets transported up to 4,000 tons of carbon a day to deep water.

(Via Science Blog.)

Monster waves have been on the rise

Call anything rogue or monster and it immediately assumes a thrilling unreality found in science-fiction and horror tales. And yet, as we roll into summer and another hurricane season, the talk of rogue and monster ocean waves has been gaining, with scientific researchers in England and Germany recently publishing evidence that these waves might be much larger and more frequent than previously thought.

(Via The Anomalist.)
Blog of the day: Communist Robot
Now here's a decorating idea I should consider . . .

(Thanks to Boing Boing.)

By the way, if posting falls off in the next several days it's because I'm relocating. Or because the cryptoterrestrials are onto me.
Paul Kimball managed to capture this genuinely disturbing photograph in a Subway somewhere in the vicinity of Los Angeles. The strange thing is that I remember really liking that sandwich . . .

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Senate committee cuts Bush's foreign aid request

Key paragraph:

The Commerce, Justice and State bill passed by a 393-23 vote. It contains $700 million for Mars exploration, the bulk of which would go to several unmanned missions. Bush, in January 2004, pledged that the United States would return humans to the moon by 2020 and ultimately launch manned flights to Mars and beyond.
These dizzying photographic microcosms remind me of the "brane worlds" theoretical physicists have been talking about in increasingly enamored terms.

"Mommy! Aren't they cute? I want one! Can't I have one? Please?"

(Thanks to Aberrant News.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Blogs you might like:

Tales from the Bookcase Forest

Adventures in the SF Trade (by science fiction writer Gareth Powell)
I said a lot about "cryptoterrestrials" in May. Out loud. Paul Kimball has me on film saying this:

In contrast, the cryptoterrestrial idea posits that we're dealing with an indigenous species that's been with us for a long time. It's not necessarily paranormal, it's simply that they are here - possibly nomadic, extremely stealthy and crafty in how they portray themselves. Their image is everything. They seem to adapt to our expectations of what a superior intelligence will be.

For more of the transcript, click here.
OK. I need to get this nude/cheesecake photography business under control. Henceforth, this blog will feature a "Posthuman Pin-up of the Week." (Maybe an extra one on the 23rd of each month -- just because.)

Here's this week's:

Nothing especially "posthuman," but she'll have to do.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

This compelling size comparison of the Solar System's planets has been making the rounds lately. I initially avoided linking to it because I didn't exactly relish the prospect of sending Jeff Rense any traffic, but I'm caving because, unlike so many other items on Rense's site, it's actually worth contemplating.
I've been remiss in reading tree-based books since my jaunt to LA, but I'm finally back in the groove. I'm currently reading Rudy Rucker's "The Hollow Earth," to be reissued in October. (The library near my new place has a surprising wealth of rarities.)

Look here for a forthcoming review of John Shirley's excellent cyber-horror novel, "Crawlers."

There's a trend to edit documentaries--even the more serious ones involving history and science--with editing tricks that "jolt" the viewer with suddenly-sped-up motions, deliberately wrenching cuts, abrupt switches in camera viewpoint, spastic camera motion, etc etc etc, to try and give the film a "sexy" high energy feeling. This is an expression of the film maker's assumption that you're stupid and lazy and you suffer from Attention Deficit. You don't have the attention span to watch a documentary that flows, that is rationally cut together. You need to be babied along, like someone snapping their fingers or jingling keys to get an infant's attention.

Anyone who's suffered through a typical UFO documentary (say, the ones on the Discovery Channel) will immediately know what Shirley's talking about. The rules seem to be:

1.) Assault the viewer with lots of randomly inserted stock footage from little-known 1950s sci-fi movies.

2.) Go for lots of "moody" lighting that makes speakers seem like they're tuning in from another dimension. This gives them a suitably "spaced out" appearance and helps ensure that they won't be taken seriously.

3.) Employ dumb sound effects. Whirring, beeping, humming. You know, "space" sounds!

4.) Show the archetypical "Gray" alien visage as often as possible, regardless if the documentary is actually addressing aliens. Space exploration, extraterrestrial intelligence, UFOs -- it's all the same, so who cares?
Tau Zero Foundation Announced

Last February, Centauri Dreams described the formation of a new foundation, a private nonprofit (501c3) corporation dedicated to supporting the advances in science, technology and education that may one day enable us to reach the stars. Conceived by Marc Millis, former head of NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Physics program, the foundation aims to support a carefully chosen group of researchers whose work is directed at this goal. On that occasion, I described the fledgling foundation's need for a name and asked for comments from readers. Now that the choice has been made and the necessary legal work accomplished, it's time to announce the advent of the Tau Zero Foundation.

Well, it's a start.

Monday, June 26, 2006

High Court mulls greenhouse gas regulation

President Bush has rejected calls by environmentalists and some lawmakers in Congress to regulate carbon dioxide, the leading heat-trapping "greenhouse" gas going into the atmosphere. Bush favors voluntary actions and development of new technologies to curtail such emissions.

But a dozen states argued that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping chemicals from automobile tailpipes should be treated as unhealthy pollutants. They filed a lawsuit in an effort to force the EPA to curtail such emissions just as it does cancer-causing lead and chemicals that produce smog and acid rain.
About time! (It even comes with its own USB jack!)

(Found at Aberrant News.)

Dig these engagingly hoakey photos of Edward Meier's "wedding cake" spacecraft. How lame! Not to mention an insult to real contactees like me!

(Thanks to
Bruce Sterling ponders graffiti in Belgrade:

For instance, why would a Belgrade street-tagger choose to call himself "Mitochondria"? Isn't that weird handle just a little too Paul Di Filippo ribofunk for a normal, red-blooded Serbian teenager? How does he explain that choice of cognomen to his running-buddies? 'Yeah, dudes... from now on, you can call me "Mitochondria!" See, the mitochondrion is a tiny cellular power-plant that converts organic materials into adenosine triphosphate!' Are these Belgrade street-kids, like, down with that lifestyle choice?

What do they tell each other about him? "Wow, man, 'Mitochondria' is cool! His iPod's cram-full of techno music!"
I've started moving a few things into my new apartment. I should be completely settled in -- as much as I can be "settled in" while stuck on this planet -- within a couple weeks (which, happily, means an imminent reunion with my cats, Spook and Ebe).

(My soon-to-be neighbors apparently enjoy playing rap at maximum volume. Dear god.)
UFO / Para-science Conference in Halifax?

I've been hearing rumours for about a week now that some masochist is considering holding a UFO / para-science conference here in Halifax this fall, possibly in the first week of October. Those rumours indicate that Will Wise, Mac Tonnies, and Greg Bishop have tentatively agreed to speak, should the conference get the go-ahead.

Weird. I've been hearing the same rumors . . .

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A photo I took:

A photo I didn't take:

No sex please, robot, just clean the floor

Verruggio and his colleagues have identified key areas that include: ensuring human control of robots; preventing illegal use; protecting data acquired by robots; and establishing clear identification and traceability of the machines.

"Scientists must start analysing these kinds of questions and seeing if laws or regulations are needed to protect the citizen," said Verruggio. "Robots will develop strong intelligence, and in some ways it will be better than human intelligence."

(Via Cyborg Democracy.)

Hey, Verruggio, that's a good thing! In case you haven't noticed, we're in dire need of beings endowed with "better than human intelligence." I don't particularly care if they're carbon- or silicon-based.

Look at it this way: If we create a species of truly intelligent machines, they'll be forced to contend with many of the concerns that plague our own attempts to avoid destruction (self-induced or otherwise). So while they will indeed be "alien," I think we can correctly view them as relatives -- or, to use Moravec's term, "mind children."

What are Verruggio and his colleagues really afraid of? That superintelligent robots will enslave the human race in a cheesy cybernetic reenactment of "Planet of the Apes"? Don't count on it. The idea has proven cinematic appeal, but the overwhelming odds are that sentient robots, left to their own devices, will do what we should have a done a long time ago: take meaningful steps toward severing dependency on Earth (which, as noted by a growing chorus of scientists, promises to become less and less dependable).

No, I think Verruggio's fear is more egotistical. While well-intentioned, he doesn't like the idea of a nonhuman intelligence casually surpassing us -- which is precisely what it will do if we muster the compassion to allow it.
You know, living in the 'burbs actually has an ironic quickening effect on creativity: Since the vast majority of the people around you are witless drones, you feel compelled to escape . . . even if the only avenue of escape is escapism (a passionately creative endeavor, when done properly).
From "The Symbiosis," by Mac Tonnies:

The girl pretended not to hear. "I propose a symbiosis," she said, kneeling on the filthy ice. She began to change into a fleshy, enigmatically contoured insect, fragile-looking grappling claws crowning all six doubly jointed limbs. Her human face receded into the body with a pneumatic sigh, nose and mouth vanishing as the eyes expanded, casting a viridian glow on the ice, transforming the desolation into an emerald tapestry.

Her back became a broad shell capped by the vestigial bumps of her spinal column. Entranced, Franz watched the shell divide in two, forming a tapering slit that writhed muscularly before opening to reveal the glint of electronics. Tendrils extended from the fissure's rounded lip, beckoning with the dreamy undulations of an anemone.

Franz, bathed in green light, removed his head from his torso. Motors buzzed in protest as the skin of his neck expanded and tore, bloodless. The fragile stump of his spinal column sprayed a fine mist of lubricant into the air. It alighted on his disembodied lips, black and sour as ink.

His body sagged and fell into a twitching, bony heap on the frozen pavement. The tendrils radiating from the beetle-like shell grasped his head, hefting it as precisely and gently as an archaeologist might transfer an ancient and invaluable sculpture to a padded shipping crate. The shell closed and fused into a seamless oblate.

Tendrils plunged up Franz's nose and thrust eagerly through his ears. He reentered the urgent landscape of the sim's thoughts, his memories and desires mingling with his host's in a spontaneous neuronal tide.

The insect-like body began skittering down the street as if trying to outrun an invisible predator, clearing broken glass from its path with deftly flicking spatulate antennae.

Brittle, nascent wings detached from the insect-thing's gleaming thorax, as scintillating and elaborate as stained glass.

Through a momentary rift in the clouds, the moon glowed full and orange.
The Philip K. Dick android is still missing.
The stuff of Seth's nightmares:

The economic alien

Mr. Park and much of the SETI community tend to assume the only reason any civilization would develop space technology is to do scientific research. At some point, however, a technological civilization confined to one planet will likely be driven to look into space for energy, resources, new manufacturing opportunities in different gravity fields or in different physical environments, and more. Could off-planet economic development be accomplished using only robots in space? Perhaps. To be efficiently accomplished, however, those robots would need to be extraordinarily advanced from the start of space development activities. Otherwise, a motivated, educated member of that race would be able to do much more on site, much faster.

On a related note, I was amused to see Seth made to look like a minor idiot in "Did Aliens Build the Pyramids?," the Discovery Channel "documentary" I was to have appeared in. (The esteemed Shostak makes his requisite appearance trying to eavesdrop on interstellar chatter using a cup-and-string child's "telephone." The irony was by no means lost on me.)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hubble telescope's main camera has stopped working

The main camera on the Hubble Space Telescope, which has revolutionized astronomy with its stunning pictures of the universe, has stopped working, engineers who work on the camera said.

The Advanced Camera for Surveys, a third-generation instrument installed by a space shuttle crew in 2002, went off line Monday, and engineers are still trying to figure out what happened and how to repair it.
I'm pretty certain the near-future is going to be ugly. I'm definitely not thrilled by the prospect. I want things to be different; I desperately hope I'm wrong.

Nevertheless, we have every reason to suspect that too many "tipping points" -- both environmental and geopolitical -- will be reached in so short a period of time as to render the current milieu (already groaning under its own unattended bulk) inoperable within twenty to thirty years.

Why the pessimism? Climate change, for one. We've failed to address the issue when we could have been laying the groundwork for a sustainable infrastructure. Yes, we still would have suffered the brunt of super-hurricanes and record-breaking summer heat, but at least we could have mitigated against a future of unrelieved climatic brutality.

Instead, we've elected to cling to the sugar-sweet fictions of pundits such as Michael Crichton, for whom reality is a putty deftly twisted in the hands of power-hungry illusionists. This amounts to nothing less than collective paralysis. At the very least, it's a stinging harbinger of our willingness to turn away from the obvious.

But an environmentally ravaged future Earth is the least of our worries. Aside from the attendant mass extinctions and drowned cities, desertification promises to spawn a fierce wave of human violence. At least now we can rest assured that our enemies have enough to eat and drink and the resources to fuel their infrastructure (if only barely). The world we're creating won't be nearly as forgiving. Desperate people do desperate things -- and the worrisome proliferation of nuclear weapons recasts Cold War nightmares in a caustic new light.

This could well be our final century. But I agree with Stephen Hawking: If we can begin to migrate into space -- and reap the rewards waiting for us there -- we will have ensured a certain immortality. And there's real reason to hope we can create a "back-up," whether on the strange gray shores of the Moon, the mysterious wastes of Mars, or both. Indeed, stark environmental realities, exacerbated by a surging population, have made space migration imperative for a long-term human future.
Sexual Success And The Schizoid Factor

Neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran's musings on savants, who display exceptional skills in a very specific field, is illuminating in this respect, as he "unashamedly speculates" that a savant's talents may stem from an enlarged section of the brain called the angular gyrus. "You can imagine an explosion of talent resulting from this simple but 'anomalous' increase in brain volume," says Ramachandran, adding: "The same argument might hold for drawing, music, language, indeed any human trait." Ramachandran explains that this theory is at least in part testable, and points to examples where damage to the right parietal cortex "can profoundly disrupt artistic skills, just as damage to the left disrupts calculation." Ramachandran also considers possible the idea that these esoteric human traits can be attractive to mates in the way that a male peacock's plume is attractive, as exceptional ability in music, poetry or drawing may be an "externally visible signature of a giant brain."

Alas, this ambiguously good news comes too late; I've already opted out of the Darwinian saga. I won't go so far as to proclaim myself celibate for life, but for the time-being I'm quite OK with it. Mentally, I'm in a decidedly better place than I was when I felt that establishing a relationship with a member of the opposite sex was somehow imperative. Better still, I'm more productive.

This probably isn't sustainable, but -- so far -- it seems to be working. And I'm not just saying that.
I highly recommend watching this computer-rendered animation of Earth getting completely fucking demolished by an asteroid collision. Forget "Deep Impact." This is hard-core.

(Found at Boing Boing.)
UFO Research: Findings vs. Facts

NARCAP has made the case that some of these phenomena have unusual electromagnetic properties. Therefore, they could disrupt microprocessors and adversely effect avionic systems, Roe explained, and that for those reasons and others UAP should be considered a hazard to safe aviation.

"It is likely that either conclusion will fly in the face of the general assertion that UAP are not real and that there are no undocumented phenomena in our atmosphere," Roe continued. That should open the door, he said, to the realization that there's no good reason to discard outright the possibility that extraterrestrial visitation has occurred and may be occurring.

"Physics is leading to new and potentially paradigm shifting understandings about the nature of our universe and its physical properties," Roe said. "These understandings may point the way towards an acceptance of the probability of interstellar travel and communication by spacefaring races."

Unfortunately, the rest of the article is so much uninspired muchness from the obligatory "skeptics." You know who they are.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Paul Kimball (Redstar Films) interviews Stuart Miller (publisher of UFO Review):

The Other Side of . . . Stuart Miller

Well, it's now generally accepted folklore that there's a strong chance that five hundred years ago when people were seeing fairies, and someone was taken off to see the fairie Queen, and was forced to have sex with her for two days, you can transfer that to modern-day abductions. Again, you come back to the same point - if there is a greater intelligence out there, an intangible thing, is it manifesting itself, is it presenting itself, in a culturally accepted manner to us in our present day and time?
Memepunks: yet another cool blog added to the sidebar.
The Huge Entity takes on the nature of a "living" Internet.
I always like reading what other people think about my writing (especially the people who like my writing). For example, take this:

Mac Tonnies has been writing muchly on what he calls the "Cryptos." His evolving Crypto manifesto draws on several antecedents, but Tonnies' spin is unique and contains many startlingly original flourishes. He is the natural heir to Keel and Vallee - no light praise. If he publishes a book on the topic, it will likely become an instant must-have. Tonnies is a powerful wordsmith. More significantly, he has an agile mind that seems to access things that exist at the margins of normal consciousness. I suspect that many surprises await us.

Holy cow. Now I've got some serious standards to live up to!

(Hey, editors! You reading this?)
I was with Canadian photographer Findlay Muir when he took some of these. I had a good time sharing shots on the too-small screens of our respective cameras (if one can properly call my cellphone a "camera"). With practice, I hope to improve the quality of the shots that occasionally illustrate this blog.

Photography is a lot like blogging; both require a sense of composition and a willingness to commit perceptions to posterity.

I saw an "anomalous video phenomenon" at work today (yes, I have a "day job"). We have a black-and-white monitor linked to two cameras, both trained on separate stretches of concrete; the view on the monitor automatically switches back and forth between cameras. In one view I noticed what looked like an odd rectangular shadow, which I assumed might be a defect in the screen (similar to the "phosphor burn" that afflicts aging stand-alone video-games) if not for appearing in only one field of coverage.

I pointed it out to a co-worker, who suggested something was on the lens. A squashed bug, maybe. Within seconds the "shadow" disappeared; someone else joked that we'd scared it off.

I'm reasonably sure the "apparition" was a defect of some sort. Not knowing much about the insides of TVs, I can't offer a technical explanation (although I'm positive there is one). Mundane explanations aside, I found the phenomenon interesting. Is consciousness as temperamental and error-prone as our omnipresent technological devices? Could a nonhuman intelligence exploit perceptual weaknesses to go about its business unnoticed?

Conversely, could ubiquitous TV surveillance inadvertantly help reveal the goings-on of mysterious beings?


Our grip on reality is slim

The study found that the areas activated while remembering whether an event really happened or was imagined in healthy subjects are the very same areas that are dysfunctional in people who experience hallucinations.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

One of the tenets of my Indigenous Hypothesis is that cryptoterrestrials have developed a "technology of consciousness" (to borrow a phrase from Whitley Strieber) that, in many practical respects, rivals our own technological prowess. One outcome of a fully realized technology of the mind is the ability to inhabit and shed bodies at will, much like a scientist "inhabiting" the sensorium of a far-flung robot.

Science fiction writers continue to debate what methods we'll use when colonizing a planet such as Mars. Ultimately, we might choose to terraform the world into a facsimile of our own. But we could just as easily decide to modify ourselves to tolerate inclimate conditions. A posthuman civilization could take up residence in orbit and populate the surface with lifelike, semi-autonomous drones. Visiting another locale could be as easy as logging into another body stationed elsewhere on the planet. Two or more personae might even elect to inhabit the same body for the sake of economy.

Such a civilization may seem remote, but the general concept is already in practice; if our telerobotic probes continue to increase in sophistication and brain-power, they'll eventually become indistinguishable from living creatures, at which point we will have effectively achieved the "Singularity" advocated by technoprogressives such as roboticist Hans Moravec and inventor Ray Kurzweil.

If my hypothetical indigenous humanoids practice telepresence at the neurological level -- perhaps by manipulating the electromagnetic fields that constitute "consciousness" -- the implications are far more disturbing than one might think. The ability to transfer "souls" entails the possibility of "possession." It also allows for "Walk-Ins" and "Wanderers," New Age terms for alleged noncorporeal aliens who take command of human bodies.

Taken to its logical extreme, "biological telepresence" offers an expansive -- if tentative -- explanation for myriad "occult" phenomena. It potentially explains why we seldom see the cryptoterrestrials in the flesh: If they've mastered the technique of projecting themselves into our world from the safety of their enclaves, they'd have little reason to "mingle" with us unless compelled by an important purpose. (Displays of apparent technological superiority, for example, might demand the use of physical hardware -- although we can't dismiss the possibility that some UFO sightings, while seemingly physical events, might be enacted on a psychological level. Our own neurological dabbling demonstrates that such techniques are less exotic than some may expect; indeed, if Michael Persinger is correct, radiation emitted from natural phenomena can sometimes result in convincing hallucinations.)

This psychotronic interpretation suggests the cryptoterrestrial influence is virtually omnipotent, each of us functioning as a potential node in a sort of planetary Internet. A resource of such scope would be dotingly maintained -- and fiercely protected against any would-be "hackers."
Terra Incognita: Graffiti Magic and the Urban Landscape

When one picks up the bulky marker, or can of paint, and sets it against the drollness of modern homogenized landscapes, something changes in the mind of the implementer. Suddenly the world becomes a much more fantastic place. Seemingly bland urban landscapes become the playground of a hidden illicit art world. Everything becomes vast, and inspiring, while at the same time personalized. Blurred lines scrawled clandestinely all over the place become sigil gateways into a hidden, yet omnipresent world.

(Via Technoccult.)
High Confidence in Surface Temp Reconstructions Since A.D. 1600

There is sufficient evidence from tree rings, retreating glaciers, and other "proxies" to say with confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years, according to a new National Research Council report. There is less confidence in reconstructions of surface temperatures from 1600 back to A.D. 900, and very little confidence in findings on average temperatures before then.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Lioness in zoo kills man who invoked God

A man shouting that God would keep him safe was mauled to death by a lioness in Kiev zoo after he crept into the animal's enclosure, a zoo official said on Monday.

"The man shouted 'God will save me, if he exists', lowered himself by a rope into the enclosure, took his shoes off and went up to the lions," the official said.

"A lioness went straight for him, knocked him down and severed his carotid artery."

(Via Chapel Perilous.)

This is almost as funny as that kid who died from lead poisoning after gnawing his "WWJD?" bracelet.* What bothers me here isn't the element of human tragedy -- there is none -- but the possibility that zoo officials might have been compelled to "put down" the lioness to placate spectators.

Stephen Hawking Warns About Global Warming

Asked about the environment, Hawking, who suffers from a degenerative disease, uses a wheelchair and speaks through a computerized voice synthesizer, said he was "very worried about global warming."

He said he was afraid that Earth "might end up like Venus, at 250 degrees centigrade and raining sulfuric acid."

The comment is a pointed one for China - which is the second largest emitter of the greenhouse gases that are blamed for global warming, after the United States. Experts warn that if emissions aren't reduced the world's glaciers could melt, threatening cities and triggering droughts and other environmental disasters.

Hawking's turning into quite the futurist -- a good thing, because people take notice.

(Of course, this is the same "genius" who denounced the possibility of UFOs being ET visitors because aliens would, of course, land for all to see. Don't get me started on that bit of egotistical insanity.)
A Burroughsian cut-up:

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Groovy chicks dig Vespas!

(Thanks to PCL LinkDump.)

I'm basically sick of movies. I simply no longer have any urge to see them, on the big screen or otherwise. Nonetheless, there are a few exceptions, and "Future by Design" is one of them (alongside "A Scanner Darkly" and -- possibly -- "An Inconvenient Truth").
I must have these!

(Found at Boing Boing.)
Slow-frozen People? Latest Research Supports Possibility Of Cyropreservation

"It may seem fantastic, but the fact that in aqueous solution, [the] water component can be slowly supercooled to the glassy state and warmed back without the crystallization implies that, in principle, if the suitable cyroprotectant is created, cells in plants and living matter could withstand a large supercooling and survive," Bogdan explained. In present cyropreservation, the cells being preserved are often damaged due to freezing of water either on cooling or subsequent warming to room temperature.

(Via Betterhumans.)

Ironically enough, "Singularitarianism" has been mostly ambivalent to cryonics. The reasoning seems to be that since immortality is imminent, the use of cryogenic technology as a temporal ambulance is, at best, dated -- and, worse, an outright admission of defeat.

Of course, it's neither of these things. Cryonics remains a viable prospect for research with the capacity to yield some helpful surprises. Certainly we should strive to conquer the aging process in our own lifetimes -- but we must concede the possibility of failure, despite the stark disappointment this is likely to sow among a transhumanist community increasingly self-convinced that a Kurzweilian future is only twenty years away.
Blog of the day: Hitler Cats!

(Found at Aberrant News.)

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

--Jiddu Krishnamurti

By this standard, I'm the very picture of health.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Home from England, Paul Kimball unveils his top next-generation ufologist . . .

Ufology's Generation NOW - #1, Nick Pope

Nick Pope is the most articulate spokesperson for the reality of the UFO phenomenon around today. Unlike some people, he isn't burdened by an affiliation with a particular theory - he is therefore well-positioned to make the case to the mainstream. Of all of the people I have interviewed about the UFO phenomenon, including Stan Friedman, Nick is the best at understanding how to make the case to the media, and through them the general public.
Airship Observatories Could Give the Best View

When it comes to astronomy, large telescopes rule. But if you can get your instrument into space, you bypass the atmosphere that blurs sensitive data. Unfortunately, the cost of launching observatories into space is beyond the budget of most researchers. One possible strategy is to install powerful observatories instruments onto high altitude airships, which can float above most of obscuring atmosphere. The view from the high atmosphere is almost as good as actually being in orbit, and it can be had for a fraction of the price of flying a telescope into orbit.

I love this idea.

Monday, June 19, 2006

This blog has a new "mascot" (see sidebar). The creation of Araqinta (also responsible for the newly reinstated techo-gothic masthead), the portrait is an impression of a cryptoterrestrial hybrid. Although I've never seen one in the flesh (well, maybe I have, but that can wait for another post), the artist seems to have captured some of the salient traits familiar from UFO "occupant" encounter reports: large eyes and head, thin lips, and small nose.

I think the being in the portrait can be described in the context of mythological "little people" as easily as it elicits comparison to the Grays of abduction infamy. Though androgynous, the composite reminds me of the seductress described by Brazilian abductee Antonio Villas-Boas.
Enigmatic object baffles supernova team

Astronomers can only speculate on what the object is. "It could be some galactic variable [star], a supernova or a quasar. But none of those makes any sense," Dawson says.

The object's behaviour doesn't match any known quasar. The team is not convinced the object is outside our galaxy, but nothing like it is known inside the galaxy. Furthermore, the region of Bootes is a largely empty area of the sky far from the plane of the Milky Way.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Another candidate for ET megascale engineering?

"Mac's Law": Any sufficiently advanced cosmological artifact will likely be interpreted by Earthlings as some little-understood natural phenomenon.
Looking to buy esoteric literature? Panlives is the place.
Sharing their near-death experiences

More than 1,500 delegates including people who claim to have had NDEs are attending the one-day conference, which aims to take stock of the disputed phenomenon in the most scientific way possible.

(Via Unknown Country.)

As someone frequently pegged for a hard-core transhumanist, I'm unimpressed by attempts to expunge nonlocal consciousness from the realm of possibility. If pressed, I'd argue that some form of awareness can indeed survive biological death -- a concept that's nothing less that heretical to the reigning "Singularitarian" school of thought. Intead of a mystical impediment, I see this as a potential boon for future technologies -- albeit one that existing paradigms are largely incapable of recognizing, let alone dealing with in a meaningful way.

Mars needs bloggers!

(Thanks to Space Archaeology.)
Meet Feral Cheryl!

This 34 cm vinyl doll runs barefoot, dreadlocks her hair with coloured braids and beads, wears simple rainbow clothes, has piercings and a range of tattoos, and even a bit of natural body hair.

[. . .]

In contrast to the 'fashion doll' mentality, Feral Cheryl does not have an extensive wardrobe, or high heels, or swimsuit, or gym gear, or wedding dress or cheerleader outfit. She needs no sports car or hairdressing salon, no disco stage or shopping mall.

Her motto is "Live Simply, Run Wild". Her only accessories: a bag of home grown herbs, a sense of humour and a social conscience.

(Via Feral Intelligence.)

This plastic vixen is having more fun than I am!

Rudy Rucker: "I've always thought of science fiction as an extension of Beat literature."
Arctic seed bank readied for 'doomsday' scenario

Norway will begin construction of a "doomsday vault", a vast top-security seed bank in a mountain near the North Pole to ensure food supplies in the event of environmental catastrophe or nuclear war.

Built with Fort Knox-type security, the $A4 million depository will preserve around two million seeds at sub-zero temperatures, representing all known varieties of the world's crops.

(Via Aberrant News.)

Also to be housed in the vault is a hardback copy of Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity Is Near."
Mixing Animal, Human Cells Gets Exotic

Such work has triggered protests from social conservatives and others who fear the blurring of species lines, invoking the image of the chimera of Greek mythology, a monstrous mix of lion, goat and serpent.

During his State of the Union speech in January, President Bush called for a ban on "human cloning in all its forms" and "human-animal hybrids," labeling it one of the "most egregious abuses of medical research."

He didn't elaborate, but scientists working in the field believe that by "hybrids," the president meant creating living animals with human traits - something they say they aren't doing.

I've speculated that the diverse humanoid forms encountered by "abductees" and UFO witnesses might be best understood in terms of a "hive society," replete with "drones" engineered to perform specialized tasks. Given the current state of (known) transgenic research, it's certainly tempting to wonder if the "cryptoterrestrials" I've been blogging about have been using similar techniques for ages. (The "hairy dwarves" of South America might be attempts to fuse humanoid and primate DNA; likewise, the mantis-like beings described presiding over the ubiquitous Grays might literally be insectile.)

Which invites the obvious question: Who or what came first?
Two new blogs for you to explore:

Dispatches from Blogistan

Feral Intelligence

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Russian mission to Mars in 2009: official

A sample-return mission to Phobos, no less!

Russia plans to send up a space exploration capsule to analyse the surface of Mars and collect test samples from one of the red planet's moons in 2009, Russia's space agency said Friday.

"The launch of the 'Phobos-Grunt' space capsule is scheduled for October 2009. The expedition will take three years," Roskosmos said in a written statement.

The first stage of the project "will be bringing back to Earth samples of soil from its natural satellite planet Phobos for detailed research in laboratory conditions," the statement said.

What's this? A website about me? More of a collaborative venture, actually. More to come!
NASA, Despite Dissent, Sets Shuttle Date

NASA managers on Saturday picked July 1 to launch the first space shuttle in almost a year, despite recommendations against a liftoff attempt by the space agency's chief engineer and safety offices.

Here we go again.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Karl Pflock's Official Obituary
Please welcome Fight Aging! to the sidebar.

(And if you must blame someone for the recent plague of mystery women posted here, blame Cliff Pickover, from whom I adopted the practice.)

Bare butt of woman writer stirs readers up

First of all, I think we can all agree on the utter vapidity of the headline. (In case you're wondering, I cite the illustrious China Daily.)

Posting pictures of her naked buttocks and back alongside a copy of her romantic novel, Qin, who claims to be the Chinese Kafka, has brought about some strong reactions from online critics, who either love her, or hate her.

Flaunting her works as pure and profound, Qin believes that she and Kafka "have so much in common. I just feel the urge to let flow my deep-rooted joy and freedom. Nothing can stop us from loving." She does not elaborate on how she is similar to the Czech writer who is famous for his political commentary and elusory style.

"She can't say how she's like Kafka at all. He was a great writer and had nothing to do with nude ass," one post reads. "Qin just wants to make a name for herself by stripping."

But the question remains: What would Franz think?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Gerald T. (of Mars Relay Station infamy) is, if not my soul-brother, then at least competing for the title.

A Smiths lyric somes to mind -- doesn't one always?:

"And if I seem a little strange, well, that's because I am."

It's kind of dismaying to realize that Bruce Sterling's recommended cyberpunk canon is almost exactly ten years old. What's even more dismaying is that there are still a few I haven't read.
"Flying donut" photographed fom space! (A Posthuman Blues ufological exclusive!)
Miracle Mamma

Pilgrims from all over the world are flocking to Plattsburgh, NY to witness the mammafestation hanging from the ceiling of Café Onion.

"It is the sacred teat of Gaea," proclaims new ager Kat Krystal.

But not all agree.

If I'd only known. My last apartment was located on the ninth floor and experienced some truly grotesque leak-related decay over the years. At one point I had several of these "mammary" formations sprouting out of my wall -- and I never once thought to alert the local news. Looking back, I bet I could have paid at least a month's rent by hawking passes to slack-jawed nitwits like Kat Krystal.

The "sacred teat of Gaea"?

Update: Looks like the joke's on me. I actually read the full article -- more than enough evidence to convince even the "Kat Krystals" of the world that this is a spoof.

It bothers me that Ray, of Ray's X-Blog, made this up and I was too humorless to "get" it. But in a world of cheese sandwich Virgin Marys can you really blame me?
I turn 31 in August. I'll officially be in my thirties, something I can rightfully deny right now, since being 30 is no more "in my thirties" than 2000 was the "turn of the millennium." I'm a little disheartened by aging, not because of getting older but because I feel even less part of the human continuum, which has always proven elusive. It's like being an android who sees itself in danger of obsolescence; there are plenty of newer models on my heels, all eager to partake of the very experiences I've shunned or, more often, simply ignored. Cue Morrissey.

Paradoxically, I don't feel that bad. I'm not particularly depressed, just a little angry -- at myself, I suppose -- and prone to moodiness (some of which is a good thing, although surprisingly difficult to decipher).

Help Protect Polar Bears from Extinction

The scientific evidence is now clear and overwhelming that the polar bear is facing extinction in the wild by the end of this century as a result of global warming. Over the past three decades, more than a million square miles of sea ice -- an area the size of Norway, Denmark and Sweden combined -- have disappeared. As a result, polar bears are starving and drowning. Sign the petition calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the polar bear by listing it as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

It's not just the bears. In a few decades, that's us starving and drowning.
Kenn Brown and Chris Wren have been blogging about the freaky subculture of "bug hunters" -- men who seek out the HIV virus (and, apparently, others) as part of a terminal erotic fix. It's sick behavior, but what makes it so interesting -- aside from the psychology of its participants -- is the way the virus itself has effectively appropriated the Internet, deftly breaching the substrate barrier. This is a revolutionarily strange concept and a grim foretaste of a future in which "alive" is merely a state of mind.
I'm totally for signs like this. We need more. Like "'Clever' Bumper-Stickers Are Symptomatic of Low Self-Esteem" and "No One's Impressed By Your 'Patriotism.'"

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Can't wait!
I'm running a virus scan on my computer as I type this. So far no problem. In the meantime, here are a couple random shots.

Portraits taken from above make me look sort of like a Gray alien, which is cool, and accentuate my bad hairline, which isn't.

Yep -- new shoes.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I did some quick calculations and determined that the books on my to-read list, if stacked, would pose a small but significant threat to commercial aviation. Nevertheless, let me add one more title to the apex of that already-precarious tower . . .

I unsubscribed from the ever-entertaining UFO UpDates email list when I left for LA and only resubscribed today. Thankfully, Kyle King's excellent UFO Reflections is helping me get up to speed.

Interestingly, it looks as if one of ufology's "standby" photographic cases is in danger of going down in simulated smoke:

Heflin case . . . HOAX??

Well, might we have a solution for the Heflin photo case? According to an anonymous post to UFO Updates, the object is in fact a model train wheel, and the smoke ring in the final Heflin image is from an airshow. Let's take a look, shall we?

Dyson Shells and the Astrobiological Imperative

Finding evidence of large-scale 'macro-engineering' projects around other stars may be our best chance of detecting other civilizations. So says Milan Ćirković (Astronomical Observatory of Belgrade) in a paper discussed here yesterday. But what would make us think such structures exist? Recent microlensing projects have found evidence of objects around distant stars -- we can detect their lensing effect and separate it from that of the parent star. We naturally assume these are planets, but could they be artificial habitats or other system-wide engineering projects?

I think some of them almost certainly are. Unfortunately, excluding communication with their inhabitants, we simply won't know for sure until we arrive at "their" level.
Grow Your Own Treehouse and other thoughts on Ecological Architecture

The Fab Tree Hab -- a home literally made from trees, using an ancient technique called pleaching (the art of weaving (and sometimes grafting) trees together to form structures) -- was one of the design entries for the Index: awards, emerging from the genius of a crew including MIT architect Mitchell Joachim and our friend, Javier Arbona of Archinect. The project description emphasized consideration of whole systems (and ecosystems) in creating a truly sustainable built environment, rather than a piecemeal approach that could yield uncertain longterm outcomes.

The rectangle is an endangered species. Future architecture promises to be more plastic and conducive to creative tinkering. Today's monochrome skylines may give way to a riot of biomorphism; buildings might look more like tumors than constructions as we know them.

"Pleaching" is only the start. Before long we should be able to grow simple structures on demand. As usual, technologies invented for practical use on Earth will have decided bearing on our expansion into the Solar System. When we terraform another planet, we may shun the plastic-and-metal sprawl of conventional space habitats in favor of self-directing organic architecture. We could seed Mars, for instance, and return to find it pocked with gourd-like homes held together by a fledgling infrastructure of engineered vines.
Hawking Says Space Colonies Needed

The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there's an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy the Earth, world-renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said Tuesday.

Humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years, the British scientist told a news conference.

[. . .]

He added that if humans can avoid killing themselves in the next 100 years, they should have space settlements that can continue without support from Earth.

Hawking continues to stick to his guns on the issue of human sustainability, and rightly so. I find it interesting that the time-frame he proposes coincides, if only roughly, with the assumed technological "Singularity" many readers of this blog are doubtlessly tired of hearing about. On first take, at least, this seems to be a compelling coincidence.

And once again I wonder if we're living in a simulation, an evolutionary stress-test conducted by some postsingular intelligence who watches our attempts to cope from behind a curtain of computation.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bosnia "Pyramid" Is Not Human-Made, U.K. Expert Says

Bosnian-American pyramid buff Semir "Sam" Osmanagic claims a four-sided hill in the town of Visoko is Europe's first known pyramid, larger than any ever built in Egypt.

But in the latest salvo in this battle, the president of the European Association of Archaeologists said on Friday that he had visited the 700-foot (213-meter) hill and saw no evidence that it was human-made.

(Via The Anomalist.)
More from Whitley:

A Fine Birthday Present

All of this, and still the arrogance continues, and the stupidity, as the culture at large throws out the magnificent chance we have been given to gather knowledge from whoever the visitors are, be they from another planet, from another dimension, from the land of the dead or our own souls--whatever they are, they are the most valuable thing that has happened to humankind since we harnessed fire, and if ever there was any act that signaled our coming ruin, it is our denial of them, our foolish, prideful and extraordinarily stupid turning away from the treasure house of new knowledge that they have on offer.

The guy really needs to keep a proper blog . . .
It hurts because it's true: The "Mock 10" Signs of Blog Addiction

Bruce Sterling discovered this before I did. Damn him! ;-)
Wheels turn on Mars rover project

The engineers hope their work will be incorporated into a robot vehicle called ExoMars which the European Space Agency will launch to the Red Planet in 2011.

Roughly the size of a go-kart, the Astrium chassis is a gleaming six-wheeled device that embodies Europe's best hope so far of making a landing on Mars, and of unearthing evidence to answer the generations-old question, "was or is there life up there?"

Of course, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers were hyped as part of NASA's "search for life on Mars" despite a conspicuous lack of any life detection science packages. We can only hope the Astrium, being built by the ESA, might actually carry the proper tools for the job.
Of gorillas and cyborgs: This thread at Betterhumans addresses the link between the welfare of the great apes and future transhumanist legislation.
Quick -- which one's real?

Oh, what the hell . . .

Monday, June 12, 2006

NASA shelves climate satellites

The space agency has shelved a $200 million satellite mission headed by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor that was designed to measure soil moisture -- a key factor in helping scientists understand the impact of global warming and predict droughts and floods. The Deep Space Climate Observatory, intended to observe climate factors such as solar radiation, ozone, clouds, and water vapor more comprehensively than existing satellites, also has been canceled.

It's called "killing the messenger." Now, after we lose another city to a super-hurricane, W will be able to legitimately proclaim that there was no way of knowing in advance.
Native Americans recorded supernova explosion

Prehistoric Native Americans may have carved a record of a supernova explosion that appeared in the skies a millennium ago into a rock in Arizona, US.

John Barentine, an astronomer at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, came across the carving while hiking in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park in Arizona.

It depicts a scorpion and an eight-pointed star. "I had just been reading about the supernova of AD 1006 and I knew it appeared in the constellation Scorpius, so the connection flashed into my mind."

(Via PAG E-News.)

In my opinion, some of the configurations on Mars are consistent with megascale commemorations of celestial phenomena. The Tholus in Cydonia, for example, is accompanied by an unusual "satellite": a representation of a planet orbited by a moon?

The idea that beleaguered Martians -- native to Mars or from elsewhere -- would record their astronomical history in the form of geoglyphs discernible from orbit carries a certain Bradburian appeal. Could they have been trying to warn us of something, such as the doomsday comet featured in Graham Hancock's "The Mars Mystery"? If so, how did they know we might be coming?
Cheap Drinking Water from the Ocean

The new membranes, developed by researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), could reduce the cost of desalination by 75 percent, compared to reverse osmosis methods used today, the researchers say. The membranes, which sort molecules by size and with electrostatic forces, could also separate various gases, perhaps leading to economical ways to capture carbon dioxide emitted from power plants, to prevent it from entering the atmosphere.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

If this works as advertised, it's certainly good news for humans here on Earth. But something this potent has got to have some impressive off-world applications as well.

My prediction? Look for carbon nanotubes to lead the way to the Moon and Mars . . . and to keep us alive and kicking once we decide to stay.
On July 1st I'm moving into a new (cat-friendly) apartment in Independence, Missouri. It's modest but appealing, with lots of shelf-space and a corner bedroom. I can't wait to decorate! Luckily, I'm right across the street from the Vaile Mansion, a local Victorian landmark that could easily be a prop from a Tim Burton movie.
Sedona 'Vortex'

After attending the Monroe Institute in 2000, one of the other participants in their LifeLine program living in southern Arizona sent me this real film photograph she took while on a visit to Sedona, Arizona. Vortexes are commonly spoken of in Sedona, but here is a real scanned non-digital photograph of one!

Fake or authentic, this image looks what I can realistically imagine one of the area's famed "vortices" looking like.
Bishop, Kimball, Tonnies on the Radio

I recently had a chance to listen to an installment of Greg Bishop's Radio Misterioso featuring Paul Kimball and Mac Tonnies.

What a revelation. All three of these guys are phenomenal thinkers, differentiating themselves from the more well-known UFO researchers in one very important way: they have ideas.

To listen, click here.

Now where did that come from? I was trying to post about artificial intelligence and its implications for climate change and that picture just appears out of nowhere. That's it -- I'm writing to Blogger tech support!
I got a friendly email from researcher Lloyd Pye today. I was aware of his work with the so-called Starchild skull, but didn't realize he has a great website dealing with other matters. Or maybe it just slid past my perceptual filter because the subject matter didn't seem applicable at the time. In any case, Lloyd's site looks like a potentially valuable resource for aspiring "cryptoterrestriologists." Take a look.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Mary Mattingly has seen the future. Or at least one of them.
Earth's "milky seas" are visible from space

Scientists have taken satellite images of a mysterious phenomenon called a "milky sea."

(Via The Anomalist.)

Fortunately, Ivan Sanderson's overlooked minor classic "Invisible Residents," containing various reports of weird glows beneath the surface of the ocean, has been reprinted. No doubt some debunkers will seize on microbial "milky seas" to dismiss Sanderson's catalogue of unexplained aquatic lights just as the already-notorious Condign report seeks to explain UFO sightings in terms of atmospheric plasma.

But how do amorphic phosphorescent seas (see photo in article) account for rotating spoked formations? Aside from hinting at intelligent structure, the latter phenomenon shares parallels with some UFO reports. Once again I'm drawn to the uncharted depths of our own planet and the possibility that our seas are home -- or at least a temporary base -- to some form of nonhuman intelligence.

If my "cryptoterrestrials" are members of a hive society with access to genetic engineering, I can't help but wonder how they'd go about colonizing the oceans and what, precisely, they might be doing there. If the Sumerian Oannes myth is a true account of interspecies contact -- and it bears mentioning that no less a scientific personage than Carl Sagan defended the possibility -- then perhaps they really are our benefactors intent on steering us closer to our full potential. (Although some would argue, not entirely without justification, that hunter-gatherer societies are fundamentally healthier and less environmentally abusive than the urban communities that debuted in Mesopotamia.)

The burning question, to my mind, is why an advanced nonhuman intelligence would expend considerable resources to hasten our development. Maybe they're effectively vampires using human for our genes -- a notion in keeping with the "reptilian agenda" promoted by conspiracy extremists. (The alleged aliens described by Bob Lazar supposedly viewed humans as "containers," but whether this term denoted DNA or something transcendent was never satisfactorily explained. Whitley Strieber would argue, compellingly, that the "visitors" cherish us as repositories of what we can only call "souls"; alternatively, Budd Hopkins would insist, perhaps just as compellingly, that we're being harvested to serve a long-term hybridization program.)
I've begun losing weight for no readily apparent reason. I was never in any danger of being overweight, but suddenly I'm in need of extra belts to hold my pants up. I can't pinpoint any abrupt change in my diet -- it's essentially the same as it's been for the last ten years: no meat, lots of coffee, and the occasional dose of cereal before going to bed.

Now that I think of it, I have been eating fish semi-regularly for the first time in many years. Could that be it? In the end, I guess I really don't care.
Two blogs to check out:

Sex in Art

Planet Earth Under Threat

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Corkscrew Asteroid

News flash: Earth has a "second moon." Asteroid 2003 YN107 is looping around our planet once a year. Measuring only 20 meters across, the asteroid is too small to see with the unaided eye -- but it is there.

This news, believe it or not, is seven years old.

"2003 YN107 arrived in 1999," says Paul Chodas of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at JPL, "and it's been corkscrewing around Earth ever since." Because the asteroid is so small and poses no threat, it has attracted little public attention. But Chodas and other experts have been monitoring it. "It's a very curious object," he says.

Calling Central Services . . .

Brazil's Piping Has Taken Over the Restaurants!

Zephyrin_xirdal has a terrific cyberpunked living post on Xirdalium where he highlights the similiarities of every day building interiors with Brazil - specifically our restaurants. In Gilliam's Brazil, ventilation pipes are the symbol for technology run rampant. There's something disturbing about noticing how omnipresent these things are in our restaurants. So, um, next time you check out your favorite restaurant, don't look up!!!

"You do the work, we do the pleasure!"
These things should be everywhere.
My favorite from Wired's postsingular bookshelf? "The End of History: This Time For Sure" by Francis Fukuyama.

(Tip of the cranial interface to Boing Boing.)

Record meteorite hit Norway

"This is simply exceptional. I cannot imagine that we have had such a powerful meteorite impact in Norway in modern times. If the meteorite was as large as it seems to have been, we can compare it to the Hiroshima bomb. Of course the meteorite is not radioactive, but in explosive force we may be able to compare it to the (atomic) bomb," Røed Ødegaard said.

(Via Unknown Country.)

Friday, June 09, 2006

"Post" magic?

The wars, the slaughters, the abuse -- it is incoherent to me in a very specific way. I was explaining this earlier. To me, it's not a kind of not-sense that is in fact just "not agreeing with."

Like when I say "that hair style makes no sense to me." You have to understand it to say that. By "no sense" you are instead questioning their taste.

But this isn't an aesthetic lack of understanding. The kind of "not-sense" that makes many of the modern cultures and the behaviors that follow from them opaque to me is of a different category. It'’s like staring at a blank wall, and someone asks you, "what do you think of those tulips there?"

I can grok this.

Song of the day: "I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now"
Vancouver-based digital illustrators Kenn Brown and Chris Wren envision gnarly biomorphic starships.
Predict the future, enhance the past

Steven Feiner can recreate virtual life-sized archeological digs in his Columbia University office. His students, decked out in high-tech devices pluck 2-D images from computer screens and turn them into floating 3-D artifacts that can be rotated and manipulated.

Chris Barrett creates large-scale simulations of deadly viruses. His model tracks hidden paths of infection and sheds light on how best to contain an outbreak once it has begun.

(Via Variable Gravitas Content.)
Assume that something very much like the "Singularity" we've been hearing so much about has already happened.

Unfortunately, depending on one's perspective, it happened in secret, perpetrated by an unacknowledged offshoot of our species that has its own plans for the future of the planet. It's conceivable to me that this "stealth singularity" might have happened tens of thousands of years ago -- more than enough time for the beneficiaries to become almost incalculably strange; we could be dealing with an intelligence exponentially more advanced than ourselves. Needless to say, we're effectively at its mercy.

If I'm right, a postsingular indigenous intelligence would eschew formal contact for the simple reason that such disclosure would destabilize us, possibly to the brink of existential obliteration. Theorists have attacked the trite assumptions of mainstream SETI for the same reason. If our own history is any example, technologically robust civilizations inevitably subsume less sophisticated cultures, not merely by violently dismantling them, but by introducing a virulent strain of apathy. (The infamous Brookings report to NASA, recommending that the discovery of extraterrestrial artifacts be covered up for fear of paralyzing research/development enterprises, stands as perhaps most explicit elucidation of this idea.)

The UFO/"alien" phenomenon described by Jacques Vallee, John Keel and Whitley Strieber is alarmingly congruent with the Indigenous Hypothesis. We appear to be interacting with an exceptionally patient intelligence which, despite its advantages over terrestrial science, seems limited by a steadfast refusal to make itself widely known. (Whether this indicates a guiding morality or pragmatic necessity remains to be seen.) Contrary to mainstream expectations, our visitors have opted for a much more gradual form of contact, evidenced both by the often theatrical nature of the apparent vehicles in our skies and by the behavior of the presumed occupants (who seem to enjoy letting us assume they hail from outer space).

I propose that this intelligence has played a significant role in occasionally hastening our species' development as well as keeping us in a periodic "standby" state, rendering us less likely to destroy ourselves. In a way, the human legacy has been scripted to conform to an alien template about which we know little or nothing. But the available historical, mythological and experiential evidence tends to support a largely benevolent raison d'etre. Perhaps we're being groomed in preparation for our own Singularity, after which the "others" could have no choice but to deal with us as equals.
Congressman concerned about superintelligence becoming self-aware

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said at a House Science Committe meeting Wednesday that based on the opinions of experts, there is reason to believe that in about 25 years a supercomputer will be built that "exceeds human intelligence," Inside Higher Ed reports.

Sherman said he hopes that some of the future researchers that the bills would cultivate will be steered toward the potentially emerging field of making sure that the super-intelligent computers "avoid self-awareness . . . and ambition."

First the Soviets. Then the terrorists. Now the AIs.
Misc. California pictures

The first thing I did after checking into my hotel was eat at "Del Taco," evidently a prevalent franchise on the West Coast. We don't have fish tacos in the Midwest, so I considered it a treat.

I managed to wrangle a window seat on the flight home. It was the first flight I'd been on with "open seating," and the guy sitting next to me preferred the aisle.

I didn't stay in this hotel, but after admiring the view of LA from one of its balconies I sort of wished I had.

Helpful fact: If you're ever in a bar that boasts a painting of amorous primates and the waiter says he'll put a drink on the house if you can tell him what "H.M.S." stands for, the answer is "Hot Monkey Sex."

Tell him Mac sent you. He won't remember me, but there's a chance he'll remember the actress I was sitting with.