Saturday, September 30, 2006

In a world teeming with unrepentant fuckwits, a little George Carlin always cheers me up.

(Found at Blues Tea-Cha.)

A couple notables on UFO UpDates have weighed in on my most recent op-ed post on the Face on Mars.

Click here for image processor Lan Fleming's take and here for optical physicist Bruce Maccabee's recommendations for future research.
Boing Boing find of the day:

Suspicious Looking Device exists to incite unease

The Suspicious Looking Device is a bright orange box with a countdown timer on the top. If you touch it, it lets out a loud siren and then scoots away on a set of hidden wheels. Its entire purpose is to look suspicious -- it has no other function.
Building glows blue with cosmic radiation

Called "Super Nova," the lighting system consists of 2,880 blue LEDs arranged in two columns spanning the height of the 18-story building’s west wall. The embedded lights are activated by sensors that detect cosmic rays. According to Takuro Osaka, the University of Tsukuba Graduate School professor who designed the system, the brightness of the blue lights fluctuates according to the intensity of the detected cosmic rays, giving the building an ever-changing magical glow.

Now all it needs is a Brian Eno soundtrack.
And while I'm posting homespun Reznor videos . . . well, it would be a crime to exclude this.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Here's one of my favorite NASA animations set to "Sunspots" by Nine Inch Nails. I've never been a Trent Reznor fan (when I'm in the mood for angst, Morrissey does just fine, thanks) but this works quite well.

And on the subject of Mars rovers:

Mars Crater Is a 'Dream Come True'

Maneuvering the robot so near a sharp drop-off is daunting, especially because it is now about 230 million miles away from Earth. But Opportunity has been programmed to be "self protective," the scientists said. While it responds to radio signals from Earth, it also can override them if its cameras and computers identify dangers in its path.

Squyres said that the terrain approaching Victoria Crater has been relatively benign, and that ultimately driving around it is plausible. NASA scientists say they expect the rover to remain at the crater for months.
Nanotech Gone Bad: Who You Gonna Call?

"We made measurements of position that are so intense - so strongly coupled - that by looking at it we can make it move," said Schwab. "Quantum mechanics requires that you cannot make a measurement of something and not perturb it. We're doing measurements that are very close to the uncertainty principle; and we can couple so strongly that by measuring the position we can see the thing move."

Spooky stuff. And Schwab wants to push things further, by building a nanomechanical device that exhibits superposition principle properties. In other words, a nano-device that can be in two places at once. "What's really neat is it looks like we should be able to do it," Schwab said. "The hope, the dream, the fantasy, is that we get that superposition and start making bigger devices and find the breakdown." Schwab's continued research on the mysteries that lie between the quantum and classical worlds is tipped to deliver significant advances in quantum computing, cooling engineering, communications and medicine. The list of applications could be unlimited.

(Via The Anomalist.)

UFOs have been observed splitting in two and merging -- as if adhering to quantum laws. Can we accomplish similar feats given a robust understanding of nanotechnology and quantum physics? Or is UFO behavior illusory, choreographed to challenge our definitions of the possible?
First HiRISE Image of Mars from Mapping Orbit: Ius Chasma, Valles Marineris

MRO's HiRISE camera captured its first image of Mars in the mapping orbit, demonstrating the full resolution capability. The image was acquired at 8:16 AM (Pacific time), and parts of the image became available to the HiRISE team at 1:30 PM. With the spacecraft at an altitude of 280 km, the image scale is 29.7 cm/pixel (about 12 inches/pixel).
Here's an impresssive short film about alien abduction (mostly animated) that examines some intriguing motifs.

Every few nights I get out my laser pointer and indulge my cats in a frenetic game of "chase." Cats are natural hunters, and they're effectively incapable of not looking at the quickly moving red dot that I project onto the carpet, walls, or any piece of furniture that happens to be in its path.

To my cats, the red dot possesses its own vitality. It exists as a distinct entity. While they may see me holding the pointer, they can't (or won't) be distracted by such things once the button is pressed and the living room is suddenly alive with luminous vermin. So they chase it. And chase it. And, if they get close enough, even take swipes at it -- in which case I make the dot "flee" or disappear in what seems like a concession of defeat (which, of course, only further arouses the cats' predatory curiosity).

All the while I'm controlling the red dot, I'm taking pains to make it behave like something intelligible. Just waving the pointer around the room wouldn't be any fun. So I make it "climb," "jump" and scuttle when cornered -- even though the laser's impervious to obstructions.

This sense of physicality seems to be the element that makes chasing the laser so engaging -- both for the cats and for me.

I can't help but be reminded of our continuing search for assumed extraterrestrial vehicles. UFO sightings demonstrate many of the same aspects of a typical feline laser hunt: mysterious disappearances, "impossible" maneuvers and a predilection for trickery -- the apparent desire to be seen despite (or because of) a technology presumed to be far in advance of our own. More than one UFO researcher has noted that UFOs behave more like projections or holograms than nuts-and-bolts craft . . . an observation that begs the nature of the intelligence doing the projecting.

According to astrophysicist Jacques Vallee, UFOs are part of a psychosocial conditioning system by which perceived "rewards" are doled out to reconcile for the dearth of irrefutable physical evidence. The phenomenon -- whatever its ultimate nature -- obstinately denies itself, thus enabling the very game it's intent on playing with us.

We see that sudden spark of red light; we pounce. This time we'll catch it for sure.
Here's the, um, authorized version of the New Frontiers Symposium print ad.

I like it -- although any UFO conference buff could tell you it could benefit from some laser-spurting flying saucers and menacing Gray aliens.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

New, Tough Paper Won't Burn

When describing paper, the following probably never comes up: flame-retardant, bacteria-resistant, rewritable and pathogen-decomposing.

But those words describe the kind of unusually tough paper that researchers at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville have developed.

The product could be used in a wide range of applications, say the researchers, from reusable bacteria filters to flame-retardant wallpaper that automatically decomposes airborne toxins to rewritable, erasable, heat-resistant billboards along highways.

(Via Graham Hancock.)

You know what's coming, don't you? Well, here it is anyway: This stuff sounds a lot like the apparently unburnable material salvaged from the Roswell crash.

Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" TV series -- online in its entirety (at least for now).

This is a very good thing, as I

a.) don't have a TV


b.) haven't seen every episode, despite having once been something of a Saganite. (I suppose I still am; only now Sagan's rubbing shoulders with a much larger crowd of influences . . . and presumably enjoying it.)
One of the coolest things about life in the 21st century -- which I still somehow manage to think of as "the future" -- is watching the line between "real" and "virtual" go up in simulated (?) smoke.

(Video found at Minding the Planet.)
I'm at a coffee shop, my first solo venture "out" since the operation. I'm doing pretty good; most of the air used to inflate my abdomen has worked its way out of my arm and neck, leaving only the expected hassle with the incisions. (Fortunately I have a bottle of prescription-strength Motrin I've never used.) I have a visit with the doctor Monday and fully expect a clean bill of health.

Thanks to everyone who's written with their best wishes. They meant a lot, and I appreciate all of them.

Hope to see some of you in Halifax in a couple weeks.

I'm there.
Unbelievable. Some girl's decided she wants a blog called "Posthuman Blues," too. So she puts a hyphen between "post" and "human" and hopes people won't notice.

Here's her bio:

there's more to me than just meets the eye. i love mornings with amar and slow / slit-wrist / cut-throat / suicide music at night. i dont fancy ice-cream as much as i fancy puddings. my hair is falling off my head and my nails are brittle. i dislike wearing bras and i sleep in the nude. writing is my strength: i love writing dark poetries. i prefer showers to hot baths and eating potato chips with bread. smothered in mayo and ketchup. yum.

Nude sleeping, dark poetry and ketchup. If this is your sort of thing, take a walk on the lame side and visit "Post-Human Blues."

But don't say I didn't warn you.

Be sure to stick around for the autograph session!

(Thanks, Ray!)
'One degree and we're done for'

"Further global warming of 1 °C defines a critical threshold. Beyond that we will likely see changes that make Earth a different planet than the one we know."

So says Jim Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. Hansen and colleagues have analysed global temperature records and found that surface temperatures have been increasing by an average of 0.2 °C every decade for the past 30 years. Warming is greatest in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere, particularly in the sub-Arctic boreal forests of Siberia and North America. Here the melting of ice and snow is exposing darker surfaces that absorb more sunlight and increase warming, creating a positive feedback.

(Via Nerdshit.)
Hegemony or Survival - America's Quest For Global Dominance

Money quote:

We are entering a period of human history that may provide an answer to the question of whether it is better to be smart than stupid. The most hopeful prospect is that the question will not be answered: if it receives a definite answer, that answer can only be that humans were a kind of "biological error," using their allotted 100,000 years to destroy themselves and, in the process, much else.

The species has surely developed the capacity to do just that, and a hypothetical extraterrestrial observer might well conclude that humans have demonstrated that capacity throughout their history, dramatically in the past few hundred years, with an assault on the environment that sustains life, on the diversity of more complex organisms, and with cold and calculated savagery, on each other as well.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Much ado over the new ESA Mars Face images has centered on the odd, steeple-like protrusion seen in the image above. As the steeple, or "horn," only detracts from the Face's resemblance to a humanoid face, it would seem to be good evidence that the controversial Face mesa is indeed nothing more than a lumpy hill. But only if the horn is a genuine formation.

Mars-watchers who've followed the Cydonia controversy have seen the Face formation modeled repeatedly by computers in an attempt to assess its shape and peer at it from angles inaccessible from orbit. Interestingly, the ESA's "horned face" is the first such computer-derived image to indicate a steep conical protrusion near the purported "brow"; this invites the question of whether we're seeing actual surface topology, an error introduced by the ESA's software, or even a deliberate attempt to make the Face appear less face-like (a challenge to which JPL rose in 1998 with its infamous "catbox" release).

Curiously, a review of "shape-from-shading" images based on reliable spacecraft data fails to show a feature corresponding to the ESA's "horn." Or, for that matter, anything particularly close.

For example, the photo below (taken by the THEMIS camera aboard the Mars Odyssey), shows essentially what we expected to see from the Viking and Mars Global Surveyor images. No obvious sign of a "horn."

Here's another, perhaps less flattering, THEMIS image. Again -- where's the "horn"? The low sun-angle should all-but-ensure that we see its shadow on the Face's distorted eastern side. Alas, we don't.

Neither do we see it here, in this partial image of the Face's western half.

More tellingly, we don't see it in any of Mark Carlotto's digital models or in painstaking forensic sculpture by Kynthia.

Why not?

Because, simply, it's very likely not there. But assuming it does certainly expedites the "debunking" process.

(For more images of the Face formation -- none of them suggesting the ESA's mysterious "horn" -- click here.)
Future Hi - Future Goodbye

Selfishness, greed, thirst for power and whatever other strange and dark Machievellian fantasies they might be entertaining, mean jack squat at this point. The state of the world is crumbling. We are dying. Civilization is on it's last legs. This charade called market capitalism has taken us to the brink. Every long-term and intelligent strategic maneuver that could have shifted things toward a sustainable growth vector have been scrapped in favor of this batshit crazy neo-con global zero-sum end-game. Stupid, stupid, and more stupid.

Another victim of the blues?
Richard Dawkins brings it on.

From my own case for agnosticism:

The notion of "God" can be a comforting and reassuring one, and our society invests little time questioning its validity. But just because something seems just or consoling doesn't grant it reality. The humility religions teach devotees to experience when faced with God is reproduced (albeit in a fundamentally different way) when faced with the absence of a perceivable God. I experience it when I consider the magnitude of time, or the depthless black between stars. Or, faced with the knowledge of my own self-awareness, wondering how such a magnificent and intangible faculty came to be.

What of the human spirit? If "spirituality" is defined as something transcending spacetime, then I suppose that I am a decidedly unspiritual person. But if spirituality can be equated to such familiar traits as intellect, emotion, foresight and empathy, then it's quite possible that even the most unreligious among us are capable of impressive feats of spirituality. In contrast, the visions of deities cranked out and perpetuated by generations of mystics appear dull and uninspiring: lazy caricatures that strip the universe of wonder not by explaining it, but by rendering it so suspiciously familiar.
Spirituality & The Brain

Shakti uses magnetic fields to create altered states. These carry signals derived from the human brain. These allow it to 'target' specific brain structures known to be involved with spirituality and to induce altered states of consciousness.

Oh, the fun I could have with one of these . . .
Paul Kimball on the Face on Mars and ufology.

I've been blogrolled by Ballardian! (Among us postmodern eco-dystopian sci-fi types, that's quite an honor.)
Aging angler swears there's nothing better than feel of invisible mountain skyfish

Skyfish are mysterious, paranormal objects that fly through the skies or swim in water at speeds so incredibly fast they're invisible to the human eye, but are regularly captured on video camera. And Japan is home to one of the world's most adept skyfish anglers, according to Cyzo (October).

Incredibly, Kozo Ichikawa, a 64-year-old tangerine farmer from a rustic part of Shizuoka Prefecture, claims he can catch the skyfish - also referred to as Unidentified Marine Animals -- with his bare hands.
Tech's experts predict future: We may become pets of robots, Pew survey says

Only a handful predicted a doomsday scenario. But Saffo, of the Institute for the Future, offered this in his response: "Fear of enslavement by our creations is an old fear. But I fear something worse and much more likely -- that sometime after 2020 our machines will become intelligent, evolve rapidly, and end up treating us as pets."

Scary stuff -- but highly unlikely. Saffo doesn't understand that the ascendancy of machines is indistinguishable from our own transhuman evolution. The machine-human dichotomy is largely illusory; we need each other -- to the point where it becomes useless trying to differentiate between "us" and "them."

If intelligent machines are indeed in our future, we're liable to exist with them symbiotically. What ultimately emerges from this fusion is quite beyond our ability to predict.
Cliff Pickover has a new book out. Again. It looks like a winner, too:

A Beginner's Guide to Immortality

Going beyond the intriguing individuals, many of the concepts in the book encourage lateral thinking, and grab ideas from many fields such as mathematics, philosophy, zoology, and entertainment. We'll tackle quantum resurrection, the religious implications of mosquito evolution, simulated Matrix realities, the brain's own marijuana, and the mathematics of the apocalypse. If each area of human knowledge is likened to a spider web that glimmers in the sunlight, then these special topics come with unexpected connecting strands that unite the webs in a vast, sparkling fabric.
"Mac's Favorite Music Day" continues -- albeit belatedly -- with the uncut version of Sade's "Smooth Operator."

Awesome video. I've had a deep crush on Sade since at least junior high.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You Should Rule Mercury

Close to sun, Mercury has very long days - and is rarely visible to the rest of the solar system.

You are perfect to rule Mercury, because you live for the present - and can truly enjoy a day that goes on forever.
Like Mercury, you are quick and elusive. Your wit is outstanding, and you can win any verbal sparring match.

Some people see you as superficial, but in truth, you just play many roles and have many interests.
A great manipulator, you usually get what you want from people. And they're happy to give it to you.

But I already rule Mercury, having assumed power after overthrowing the Hive Occupation back in 2056 . . .
Is there anybody out there? How the men from the ministry hid the hunt for UFOs

The files were made public following FOI requests by David Clarke, a lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University and his colleague Andy Roberts.

"These documents don't tell us anything about UFOs but they do show how desperate the MoD have been to conceal the interest which the intelligence services had in the subject," said Dr Clarke.
I took these pictures the night before the operation. I was restless and went walking; it was a clear night, and the sky seemed oddly right for a UFO display.

As I was taking pictures, a car pulled up. I assumed it was the police, or someone sent to hassle me for trespassing. But it was only a Goth couple scouting locations for a zombie movie. The girl had copious tattoos and an endearing ring through her nose; I almost asked to take a picture, but her friend's stony demeanor made me think better of it. I wished them luck and sauntered home.

Speaking of digital photos: I got an email from Sprint. My tech "ambassadorship" ends on Oct. 3, drawing unconditional use of my free Samsung to an unceremonious halt.

I've become pretty addicted over the last six months. Not to the phone, which I don't use that much, but to the camera, Web browser and multimedia frills. I might have to cough up some actual money for a service plan, if for no other reason than the luxury of catching up with email on the fly. Or I might go back to my super-cheap Virgin Mobile pre-pay phone.

(I might be able to keep using the Samsung's digicam despite not having access to Picture Mail. They sent me an adaptor, which I haven't really looked at yet.)
Earth May Be at Warmest Point in 1 Million Years

Earth may be close to the warmest it has been in the last million years, especially in the part of the Pacific Ocean where potentially violent El Nino weather patterns are born, climate scientists reported on Monday.

This doesn't necessarily mean there will be more frequent El Ninos -- which can disrupt normal weather around the world -- but could well mean that these wild patterns will be stronger when they occur, said James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

You Are From Neptune

You are dreamy and mystical, with a natural psychic ability.
You love music, poetry, dance, and (most of all) the open sea.
Your soul is filled with possibilities, and your heart overflows with compassion.
You can be in a room full of friendly people and feel all alone.
If you don't get carried away with one idea, your spiritual nature will see you through anything.

I would have guessed another planet. You know, the fourth one from the Sun. But Neptune works.
While I'm busy recovering, guess who's living it up? Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling, that's who. It ain't fair.

(Check out Sterling's Flickr photostream. Great stuff.)

I'm back home after a brief stay in the hospital, aching but thankfully bladderless. Apparently Dr. Leir was hustled out of the OR shortly after the surgery began, having brought a variety of unconventional surgical instruments onto the premises.

Also, he insisted on wearing a disturbing latex mask made to resemble an archetypal "Gray" alien. Fortunately another surgeon was on call and was able to complete the gall bladder removal in a more orthodox manner.

With the exception of Leir, everyone was helpful and understanding . . . although I was annoyed when my request to keep the disenfranchised gall bladder was dismissed because of recently enacted OSHA regulations. I remarked lamely that this refusal to my own body part -- moreover, one I had every intention of proudly displaying in my living room near the ruddy glow of my lava lamp -- was "totalitarian," but let it go.

After coming to in the recovery room I enjoyed ice cream and Coke. Then proceeded to pass out in the bathroom, where I was lifted to my feet by giftedly strong nurses and escorted back to my bed, where I whiled away a few hours looking at my new scars -- four of them, all surprisingly small -- and plucking away EKG 'trodes before falling asleep.

Right now at least 40% of the pain is from my shoulder and neck (!), where the air used to inflate my abdomen for surgery is in the process of escaping the fleshy balloon of my dauntingly vulnerable carbon-based physique. (Imagine a really bad toothache. Now imagine that the tooth is your arm. That's what it's like.) So I'm walking mincingly around my apartment drinking Gatorade and waiting to regain equilibrium, afraid to sleep too much but not at all keen on going "out."

Somehow, online seems the best "place" for me now.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

So you don't get bored while I'm under the knife tomorrow:

Lunar Photo of the Day

The Methuselah Foundation

Yummy Wakame


Loving the Machine

Space Ads

Russian space agency started offering commercials placement on the body of space rockets and on the launch facility complex around the rocket, same way as it's done on the sport matches etc.

(Via Futurismic.)

Imagine a fully NASCAR-ized space program. Ideally without the attendant riffraff in loathsome T-shirts and acrylic caps.
Ten more science fiction novels you've never read . . .

1.) And the Angel with Television Eyes (John Shirley)
2.) The End of the Dream (Philip Wylie)
3.) Virgin Planet (Poul Anderson)
4.) World Without Men (Charles Eric Maine)
5.) The Dosadi Experiment (Frank Herbert)
6.) Thorns (Robert Silverberg)
7.) The Hormone Jungle (Robert Reed)
8.) Blade Runner: A Movie (William S. Burroughs)
9.) Deus X (Norman Spinrad)
10.) In the Drift (Michael Swanwick)
"Mac's Favorite Music Day" continues with this riveting version of "Wandering Stars" by Portishead.

Grow Your Own Limbs

In response to the hundreds of soldiers coming home from war with missing arms or legs, Darpa is spending millions of dollars to help scientists learn how people might one day regenerate their own limbs.

Prosthetics are getting better all the time, but they will never be as good as the limbs we were born with. So two teams of scientists at 10 institutions across the country are competing to regrow the first mammalian limb.
Relativity drive: The end of wings and wheels?

Of course, any crackpot can rough out plans for a warp drive. What they never show you is evidence that it works. Shawyer is different. He has built a working prototype to test his ideas, and as a respected spacecraft engineer he has persuaded the British government to fund his work. Now organisations from other parts of the world, including the US air force and the Chinese government, are beating a path to his tiny company.

The device that has sparked their interest is an engine that generates thrust purely from electromagnetic radiation - microwaves to be precise - by exploiting the strange properties of relativity. It has no moving parts, and releases no exhaust or noxious emissions. Potentially, it could pack the punch of a rocket in a box the size of a suitcase. It could one day replace the engines on almost any spacecraft. More advanced versions might allow cars to lift from the ground and hover. It could even lead to aircraft that will not need wings at all.

(Via Science Blog.)
Sauceruney invites you to compare his 2001 synthetic perspective image of the Face on Mars with the new "horned" version released by the ESA, seen here.

(At least the Discovery caption concedes that the Face has a "strange" shape and qualifies its geological verdict with "probably" -- by far the most honest journalism on this contentious issue I've seen from a "mainstream" source.)
Today is "Mac's Favorite Music Day." At least it is right now; I might completely forget about it after a good night's rest.

Anyway, let's start this thing on a good note with "Lovesong" by The Cure.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pa. farm discovers a 4-legged chicken

Brendle's 13-year-old daughter, Ashley, named the chicken Henrietta after the discovery Thursday. The bird has two normal front legs and, behind those, two more feet. They are of a similar size to her front legs but don't function. The chicken drags her extra feet behind her.

In 30 years of farming, Brendle said, he's never before seen a chicken with four legs.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Black-ops genetic engineers will stop at nothing to create a race of neurologically accelerated uber-chickens! We must foil their noxious ambitions! Fight! While there's still time!
Mars 'Face' Clearer Than Ever

Garvin, for his part, doesn't want to discourage anyone from coming up with their own explanations.

"Please realize that as a scientist of Martian landscapes, my position is that of a traditional scientist, and requires that I utilize the paradigms associated with multiple-working hypotheses grounded in the physics of landscape development," he said. "Other opinions on the basis of other approaches are of course welcome and encouraged."

While Garvin's tone might sound patronizing to some advocates of the Artificiality Hypothesis, it's the most lucid, sensible statement about Cydonia yet offered by NASA. I consider it a veritable invitation to proponents of planetary SETI -- and one that shouldn't go unacknowledged.

Of course we need "hypotheses grounded in the physics of landscape development." But if we're to take the possibility of ET ruins seriously, we also need to bring the tools of archaeology, architecture and even art to bear on this lingering enigma.
What is the Hubble Deep Field and why should you care?

This brief movie helps encapsulate the sense of the numinous that is our species' birthright.

(Thanks to OddThings.)
Brain stimulation produces creepy shadow feeling

Stimulating a certain area of the brain can produce a creepy feeling that someone is watching you when no one is, scientists said on Wednesday.

[. . .]

"Our findings may be a step toward understanding the mechanisms behind psychiatric manifestations such as paranoia, persecution and alien control," said Olaf Blanke, of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in the journal Nature.
David Bowie: "Is there life on Mars?"

It's all coming together . . .

Robot beauty goes skin-deep

The artificial skin developed by Kao and Keio mimics the feel of human skin with a 1-cm thick "dermis" of elastic silicone covered by a 0.2-mm thick "epidermis" of firm urethane. Countless tiny hexagonal indentations etched into the urethane epidermis provide it with a very realistic texture.

In a series of unscientific tests, 10 out of 12 people who touched the skin thought it felt like human skin, while equipment designed to measure the mechanical properties of skin confirmed the artificial skin had characteristics resembling human skin.

Nexus-Six, here we come.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Google (fiction by Bruce Sterling)

Okay, sure: I know I sound pretty depressed. Us teenage poets depress easily. You know what they tell me whenever I rant like this? "Get a hobby." Play imaginary fantasy computer games! That is allowed me! Wow, thanks! When she nursed me as a baby, my Mom dropped me right on my head to play Wonder-World of Witchcraft. I sure know where that story goes. If "religion is the opiate of the people", then immersive multiplayer 3D virtual worlds are hard-core Afghani heroin. My Mom will never make it back into the labor force: Mom's way too busy building herself up to 146th-level SuperMasonic Tolkien-Fantasy Ultra-Elf Queen. Like that helps!

I'd love to hear Sterling read this aloud. Maybe there's a podcast . . .

(If you're a Morrissey fan you're likely to catch the "Suedehead" parody at the end.)

I think we should treat religion like any other virus: Isolate all vectors. lets you send email to your future self . . . assuming, of course, that

a.) you're still alive


b.) the Net's still around ten or twenty years from now. Maybe we'll have graduated to exclusively pheromonal communication or telepathy of some sort, all safe in the omnipotent hands of The Dood.

Conversely, the planet might be a greenhouse hell where people spend free moments cannibalizing the carcasses of obsolete computers to make better water extractors.
An hour or so ago I found myself in a Taco Bell parking lot with an idea for a decent science fiction story: What if "reality" is an immersive computer environment designed by humans to keep tedium at bay during some unspecified interim period (say, aboard a world-size "generation ark" as it drifts between solar systems)?

And what if it's gone awry not because of any malevolent intent (a la "The Matrix") but because the operating system has been accidentally damaged, maybe by cosmic radiation? How might the population react if this became public knowledge? Would "authorities" keep the facts to themselves and perhaps even attempt to benefit from them? Or would humanity "storm the reality studio" in grand fashion just to find out what lies beneath the bit-rot?
War price on U.S. lives equal to 9/11

The latest milestone for a country at war comes without commemoration. It also may well come without the precision of knowing who is the 2,973rd man or woman of arms to die in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, or just when it happens. The terrorist attacks killed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Not for the first time, war that was started to answer death has resulted in at least as much death for the country that was first attacked, quite apart from the higher numbers of enemy and civilians killed.

And it's only just started.

On Monday, Sep. 25 at app. 1:00 (Central), a trained medical professional will be removing my gall bladder. (His name is Roger Leir. And while we only discussed the operation tangentially, he seemed competent and at least marginally familiar with the tools of the trade.)

Anyway, this might have an effect on regularly scheduled programming here at Posthuman Blues. Or it might not. Just letting you know. (Fortunately, it won't interfere with my scheduled jaunt to Nova Scotia next month, as I'd become concerned it might.)

I'll be auctioning my gall bladder on eBay for those of you interested in medical curiosities, so get those wallets ready!
Oh, jeez. Something interesting happens on the Martian front and you-know-who weighs in with this.
Pale Blue Orb

Not since NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft saw our home as a pale blue dot from beyond the orbit of Neptune has Earth been imaged in color from the outer solar system. Now, Cassini casts powerful eyes on our home planet, and captures Earth, a pale blue orb -- and a faint suggestion of our moon -- among the glories of the Saturn system.

(Via Remote Central.)

Tunguska event an actual UFO crash site

The blast felled an estimated 60 million trees causing damage 400 miles away, and was heard even further. Even the heat that came out from the explosion was felt hundreds of miles away. For several nights all over northern Europe, the sky glowed enough to light the street of London.

The 1927 investigation expedition could not locate any bits of meteorite which puzzled the researchers looking for evidence. Another puzzle for the expedition was the way the tress were felled in an outward motion and that in the center trees were still standing, although all their bark and branches have been destroyed.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Meteor or UFO, the Tunguska event plays a role in Thomas Pynchon's new novel: more than enough reason to pick up a copy, in my opinion. (Tunguska also figures into "Storming the Cosmos," a short-story by Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker that I suppose I should reread.)

Meanwhile, on the nonfiction front, I'm reading Oliver Morton's "Mapping Mars," an evocative chronicle of the psyche's role in planetary exploration.
Approval for 'flying saucer' art

The "Halo" is to be installed on the hills of Haslingden and will feature a 25m-diameter, circular steel structure, raised off the ground on a tripod, housing a solar array, self-powered cameras and lighting.

The structure will be clad in white photo-reflective material to ensure that it can be seen from miles around.

Reminds me of Donald Keyhoe's "Project Lure," a proposed full-scale mock-up of landed UFOs intended to spur the interest of inquisitive aliens.
Misleading text from the ESA Face on Mars release:

One of these visible remnant massifs became famous as the 'Face on Mars' in an image taken on 25 July 1976 by the American Viking 1 Orbiter.

A few days later, on 31 July 1976, a NASA press release said the formation "resembles a human head." However, NASA scientists had already correctly interpreted the image as an optical illusion caused by the illumination angle of the Sun, the formation's surface morphology and the resulting shadows, giving the impression of eyes, nose and mouth.

This is a stark historical inaccuracy. The Face, discovered by Tobias Owen, was presented to the public by the late Gerry Soffen, who assured the media that a second image of the Face, supposedly taken a few hours later, demonstrated that the face-like qualities in the original Viking frame were illusory.

Embarrassingly for NASA, this second, incriminating image never existed. Worse, the Viking orbiter was busily photographing the other side of the Martian globe at the time arbitrarily offered by Soffen; there was no way it could have taken a disillusioning image of the Face even if JPL had wanted it to.

Interestingly, Viking did manage to capture another image of the Face, but only days later. It was never publicized, perhaps for understandable reasons. Taken at a more revealing sun-angle than its predecessor, Viking frame 70A13 not only confirmed the salient facial resemblance noted by Owen and Soffen, but showed a continuation of the "mouth" feature and, despite apparent odds, a second "eye."

In any case, NASA had never "correctly interpreted the image as an optical illusion caused by the illumination angle of the Sun," having never investigated. And if the facial likeness was merely an illusion, why does it persist in more recent images? One would rightly expect a natural surface formation to look less like a face when seen in high resolution.

While the Face (natural or otherwise) exhibits the erosion and degradation expected of a mile-long morphology -- especially on the eastern side, which appears to have collapsed inward under a hefty layer of accumulated debris -- it features secondary facial detail consistent with the impression of an artificial construction. Most notably, the western "brow" shelters an anatomically correct "iris," properly positioned within a unique almond-shaped basin. And at least one "nostril" -- never actually visible in the original Viking image -- is plain to be seen; while its origin remains an unanswered question, flatly refuting its existence smacks of a deliberate attempt to "make the Face go away" in the public mind. The ESA's latest offering isn't the first such effort, underscoring the Face's obstinate tendency to look like a face -- regardless of the will to debunk.

The ESA release continues:

Nonetheless, the 'Face on Mars' was the subject of widespread speculation on the possible origins and purpose of artificial structures on the Red Planet, with the face being the most talked-about formation.

The array of nearby structures has been interpreted by some space enthusiasts as artificial landscapes, such as potential pyramids and even a disintegrated city. The idea that the planet might have once been home to intelligent beings has since inspired the imagination of many Mars fans, and has been expressed in numerous, more-or-less serious, newspaper articles as well as in science-fiction literature and on many Web pages.

The references to "enthusiasts" and "fans" suggests the idea of artificial construction is confined to a population of untrained Web-surfers. This is a drearily typical "debunking" myth. Since its appearance on the cover of the esteemed journal "Applied Optics," the Face (and related enigmas) have received much attention from qualified scientists and researchers, including Mark Carlotto, Stan McDaniel and Horace Crater of the Society for Planetary SETI Research.

It's worth nothing that few, if any, credentialed proponents of the "Artificiality Hypothesis" are adamant that Cydonia is home to extraterrestrial ruins. But their pooled research reveals an enigma deeper and far more compelling than that mentioned by the ESA.

Despite all this, the formal scientific interpretation has never changed: the face remains a figment of human imagination in a heavily eroded surface.

It took until April 1998, and confirmation with additional data from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, before popular speculation waned. More data from the same orbiter in 2001 further confirmed this conclusion.

Neither of the images cited has confirmed either conclusion except for those unable to conscience the specter of archaeological sites on another planet. The 1998 image received justified scorn and skepticism from the Mars anomaly "invisible college," having been needlessly subjected to a high-pass filter that served only to suppress detail -- precisely reflecting JPL's stated intent to "scotch this thing for good."

Wary of JPL's verdict, Lan Fleming, an imaging specialist contracted to Johnson Space Flight Center, went so far as to try to deliberately reproduce the 1998 image . . . only to find that he was unable to match JPL's apparent incompetence despite access to sophisticated software. This strongly argues that JPL's treatment of the controversy has more to do with PR than science. This conclusion is made almost palpable by the space agency's continued "bungling," including showing an unprepared public a false-color rendering of an upside-down Face, ostensibly to highlight the capabilities of the Mars Global Surveyor's laser altimeter.


In fact, in addition to the well-known 'face' and 'pyramids,' a naturally skull-shaped structure also appears in some of the Mars Express images.

The "skull" appears to be a red herring invented by the ESA in order to illustrate the human brain's alleged predisposition to see faces. Given its dubious value as a simulacrum, I'm distinctly unsurprised that I've never encountered it in my research.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Umbrella shows a Flickr stream on the inside surfaces

A project in the handle of the Pileus umbrella paints the brolly's interior with a series of wirelessly-fetched Flickr photos while a camera in its tip lets you document your day.

Now that's cyberpunk!
Here's another bullshit article about the new Face image.

Why BS? Because, simply, it doesn't even pretend to let proponents of the Artificiality Hypothesis have any say -- and I'm not talking about Richard Hoagland. Instead we get references to "conspiracy theories" and allusions to something on Mars that, according to, looks like a "skull."

This is a shame because the imagery is excellent and offers a basis for legitimate, objective assessment -- which the current space science milieu will not allow.
Theories of telepathy and afterlife cause uproar at top science forum

"Work in this field is a complete waste of time," said Peter Atkins, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford. "Although it is politically incorrect to dismiss ideas out of hand, in this case there is absolutely no reason to suppose that telepathy is anything more than a charlatan's fantasy."

Proving telepathic communication or nonlocal consciousness poses unique challenges. The sad part is that the biggest ones are guys like Atkins.

I'm a total sucker for pictures of abandoned cities. Chernobyl will do nicely, thank you.

(Tip of the mildly radioactive hat to Mondolithic Sketchbook.)
Cydonia - the face on Mars

After multiple attempts to image the Cydonia region from April 2004 until July 2006 were frustrated by altitude and atmospheric dust and haze, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board Mars Express finally obtained, on 22 July, a series of images that show the famous 'face' on Mars in unprecedented detail.

These are some of the best images yet, full of complex and intriguing detail. Unfortunately, the accompanying article merely reiterates pop-science myths that will likely not survive archaeological appraisal.

The ESA provides factual misrepresentations (such as the demonstrably inaccurate portrayal of the Face as a trick of light) and pointedly refuses to mention other, perhaps more illuminating, anomalies -- including the D&M Pyramid and Cliff, both plainly visible in the Mars Express data.

Time permitting, I'll post a more detailed refutation at the Cydonian Imperative.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Living inside the Hollow Earth

Hollow Earth theories come in different flavours. One states that the inside of our planet is hollow and another is that we actually live inside the concavity of another world. Italian author Umberto Eco commented recently on the hollow Earth for the New York Times.

The theory has also cropped up in science fiction on occasion, such as Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth or Edgar Rice Burroughs' At the Earth's Core. Even some Nazis believed in the theory.
Watch this now.

A Galaxy Alive with Civilizations

The paper thus makes a contribution to the growing field of what might be called 'advanced SETI,' the study of which involves methods like Shechtman's and goes well beyond current efforts that are limited to eavesdropping for signals in radio and optical frequencies. If a change to SETI outlook is needed, as Milan Ćirković and others have argued for some time now, then developing the analytical tools to apply to future SETI efforts could teach us much about life's potential for altering natural processes that might otherwise seem ineluctable.

Fascinating post. One idea worth consideration is that advanced "postsingular" intelligences harness the immense computational prowess of the Cosmos itself, as suggested by Rudy Rucker. In that case, "they" might be effectively hidden, embedded in the universe's very fabric.
Library on the moon

The moon might be a good place for a massive storehouse of digital information, sort of a Lunar Library of Alexandria (that hopefully won't burn down). That's the idea proposed by NASA scientist David McKay, who ten years ago led the team that announced that a Mars meteorite contained evidence of life. According to the New Scientist blog, McKay says the lunar library could be stored on computers buried in the ground, placed inside craters, or located in hollow lava tubes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Researchers Offer a New Date for Neanderthals' Last Stand

An international team of scientists thinks it has solved the ultimate mystery of the Neanderthals: where and when they made their last stand before extinction. It was at Gibraltar 28,000 years ago, the scientists say, about 2,000 years more recently than previously thought.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Arctic summer ice anomaly shocks scientists

"If this anomaly trend continues, the North-East Passage or 'Northern Sea Route' between Europe and Asia will be open over longer intervals of time, and it is conceivable we might see attempts at sailing around the world directly across the summer Arctic Ocean within the next 10-20 years."

This isn't an "anomaly." This is an eventuality.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Here's an engagingly incoherent "analysis" of a most intriguing piece of footage.

(If the body on the gurney doesn't look familiar, it should.)
Blog o' the day: (commentary on the realization of the virtual and the virtualization of the real)
Oh, this is sweet! (And it's compatible with my interior design philosophy!)

I've got that shaky sense of controlling my body from a distance. Stress and anxiety can bring it on -- or, more specifically, make me aware of it. I suspect it's endemic to my particular sliver of the human experience.

I look at my limbs and sense no pronounced affinity.

And to think I actually thought there was a chance "they" might remove it today . . .

Another scan tomorrow. Then a consultation with a surgeon on Friday.

To make a long, boring story merely short and boring: I won't be posting anymore about the Great Gall Bladder Fiasco of 2006 unless something truly interesting happens.
"You rationalize . . . You defend. You reject unpalatable truths, and if you can't reject them outright you trivialize them . . . evidence is never enough for you. Temperatures rise, glaciers melt -- species die -- and you blame sunspots and volcanoes. Everyone is like this, but you most of all. You turn incomprehension into mathematics . . ."

--Peter Watts, "Blindsight"

"Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment. Humanity is in 'final exam' as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in the Universe."

--Buckminister Fuller
Hearing Voices: Some People Like It

But studies by Dutch researchers that began in the 1990s found that some healthy people also regularly hear voices. The scientists ran a program on Dutch television asking for volunteers who heard voices, and they got a surprising response. Many of the people who contacted them did not find the voices disruptive and had never felt the need to consult mental health services. Some even said they found the experience to be positive or inspirational.

(Via Unknown Country.)

I've never "heard voices," per se. But for as long as I can remember I've been aware of a kind of oceanic presence in my mind which I can tune in only under special circumstances. When I was little I used to draw lots of pictures. One of the reasons I enjoyed drawing was the cryptic murmur that accompanied the process; it's as if creative activity numbs the censoring mechanism of the brain that usually dampens communion with our subconscious.

I still attempt to "listen" to my mind. While I'm aware of something that isn't "me" (or at least the "me" doing the listening), I don't experience any sense of duality. I never feel as if I'm in contact with something distinct from myself -- and suspect that if I did I'd quickly seek psychiatric help.

My overall impression is that the brain is a massively distributed system, a hologram of mentation that phase-shifts too rapidly for the ego to take note.

Given that consciousness is likely a quantum function, deeply entangled with the rest of the Cosmos, is it unreasonable to seek out traces of the "alien" among us? Maybe the signal SETI astronomers await will emanate from the depths of Self, cunningly disguised as human.
I took this picture today on a random (?) impulse. Suburban desolation. Unsustainable, moribund architecture like the set for a J.G. Ballard novel. We're seeing the apotheosis of early 21st century America, the cruel gray shores where dreams beach themselves to die unremarked deaths.

It won't last. Hell, it's already used up, a shadow of commercial vitality. And if you think the impact on the environment is lamentable, consider the swaths of distorted terrain it leaves on the psyche.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Interview with Mac Tonnies

I've never made a conscious distinction between various, supposedly disparate, forms of weirdness. So I cultivated a hybrid -- and decidedly unfashionable -- fascination with such things as extraterrestrial intelligence, archaeology, genetic engineering, etc.

Too often, fields like this are treated in a very specialized context, whereas I see them as aspects of a central abiding enigma. If I have any particular asset to bring to bear on the "unknown," it's probably my complete disdain for keeping anomalies isolated and hermetically sealed. I like to see what happens when they collide and fuse.
Awakened by dreams of interrogation. William Burroughs' "intergalactic bureaucrat."
U.S. war prisons legal vacuum for 14,000

In the few short years since the first shackled Afghan shuffled off to Guantanamo, the U.S. military has created a global network of overseas prisons, its islands of high security keeping 14,000 detainees beyond the reach of established law.

Disclosures of torture and long-term arbitrary detentions have won rebuke from leading voices including the U.N. secretary-general and the U.S. Supreme Court. But the bitterest words come from inside the system, the size of several major U.S. penitentiaries.

"It was hard to believe I'd get out," Baghdad shopkeeper Amjad Qassim al-Aliyawi told The Associated Press after his release -- without charge -- last month. "I lived with the Americans for one year and eight months as if I was living in hell."

Captured on battlefields, pulled from beds at midnight, grabbed off streets as suspected insurgents, tens of thousands now have passed through U.S. detention, the vast majority in Iraq.

Many say they were caught up in U.S. military sweeps, often interrogated around the clock, then released months or years later without apology, compensation or any word on why they were taken. Seventy to 90 percent of the Iraq detentions in 2003 were "mistakes," U.S. officers once told the international Red Cross.

No pithy blurbs for this one.
I want this surgery over with. Insurance allowing, I might even go under the knife tomorrow; I'll know soon enough.

Anyway, I'm blog-surfing in a possibly futile attempt to calm down after a day of (largely unwarranted) stress and general loathing of the whole suburban milieu . . .
You are a

Social Liberal
(88% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(23% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

I took the Dating Persona Test too, but the results were too disturbing to post.