Thursday, November 30, 2006

My holiday wish-list (part one):

1.) A car that, when parked, automatically fires high-energy tactical lasers at anyone within 10 feet not bearing my DNA signature.

2.) A soundproofed and nuclear-hardened library (with Internet access).

3.) A laptop computer that can download my thoughts directly into MS Word -- even when I'm asleep.

4.) An android duplicate that enjoys people, damnit.

I consider myself lucky to have grown up in a time in which constant improvement of oneself and one's society was considered not only possible, but a primary moral imperative. I consider myself even luckier not to have had that ideal corroded out of me by a cynical elite culture whose imagination is so skeletally impoverished it can find no higher justification for its existence than just getting by.

My fear? That too many decades of this sort of jaundiced pragmatism will result in a world in which mere survival really is all we can hope for.
I'm not privy to all the details -- nor do I especially want to be -- but the Jerk Across the Hall situation has escalated since the last post. It extends beyond loud "music" to threatened assault, and now, apparently, a police manhunt.

I'm not the one being threatened -- at least, not directly -- but it's bedlam here. Lots of shouting and slamming doors. Two police cars just left. Some sort of counselor is across the hall chatting with one of the Jerk's female cohorts . . . only I no longer know who the Jerk is, exactly. My impression is that the guy threatening murder (he's already busted a door) is the lease-holder's brother, in which case no one gets evicted and I'm stuck with the noise.

So if I'm lucky tensions will flare and my neighbor will try to kill someone (preferably not me) and he'll join his brother in jail right in time for Christmas . . . and then some gorgeous woman with a preference for shy, bespectacled bloggers will move in.

In the meantime, let me go on record: I hate Independence, Missouri. If you don't live here, stay away. And if you do . . . run! Run for your lives!

Note: I forgot to mention that I've been forced to endure this circus at close range because I'm snowed in. We had a small but significant ice-storm yesterday and my car is sheathed in snow.
The Jerk Across the Hall has received his written warning for ignoring his verbal warning for two consecutive nights. (Evidently this guy has a problem with the concept of cause and effect.)

All it takes now is one more complaint and he's gone. I'm pretty sure that if he gets evicted my car's going to get smashed. So I don't want him evicted; I want him to shut up -- knowing full-well he won't.

How I dearly wish I was not here.
More troops Being All That They Can Be:

And yes, I'm perfectly aware these guys are outnumbered by decent soldiers. But I'm still mad.
Just a Single Asteroid Strike Wiped out the Dinosaurs

Most scientists agree that a large asteroid strike 65 million years ago ended the dinosaurs' reign on Earth. Some think that a single strike did the trick, while others think it was multiple strikes and additional stresses that pushed the dinosaurs into extinction. New evidence from researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia supports the single impact hypothesis. They found a single layer of impact-related material in the geologic record that exactly matched marine creatures known to be contemporaries of the dinosaurs. They didn't find any other impact evidence above or below this layer, reducing the possibility of additional impacts.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Here's Portishead on, I believe, Saturday Night Live. Not the best quality, but you get the idea. Third album, please!

"Instead of looking at the screen, what I want to do is to turn around and look the other way. When we look the other way what we see is a little hole at the top of the wall with some light coming out. That's where I want to go. I want to steal the key to the projectionist's booth, and then, when everybody has gone home, I want to break in."

--Jacques Vallee

"We are part of a symbiotic relationship with something which disguises itself as an extra-terrestrial invasion so as not to alarm us."

--Terence McKenna
This planet has a bad case of the humans. Could be terminal.
Han Bing: Chinese Performance Art Engaging Life on the Margins

"My performance of walking the cabbage is conducted like a normal part of my regular life," comments Han Bing. "I want people to question the definition of 'normal practice,' and to reflect on how much of our daily lives are routines we've blindly absorbed. But we have choices about how to live. Performance art can cause us to stop and think about what we do, to ask ourselves how we should live. I don't believe that the mission of performance art is to supply answers to life's big questions, but it can certainly raise questions in public, provoking people to think."

(Via Notes from Somewhere Bizarre.)

"Walking the cabbage." Brilliant!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Can't Tell If This Guy Is Joking

Maybe we have perfected anti-gravity craft. The UFO/aliens cover is just about as perfect a scenario to keep the press and serious academia away as you could imagine. I offer this as a suggestion, not a fact, becuase I have no idea if its true. Nick Cook's book The Hunt For Zero Point makes a compelling case that anti-gravity hardware was perfected decades ago, and to me this is more plausible than captured craft stored deep in caves or hangars. Maybe we captured something and back-engineered it, just as the believers say, but at this point I have more faith in humankind's ingenuity than in an unproven belief.

Paul Kimball unveils a cool graphic from his forthcoming UFO documentary.
Stubbornly pursuing a course that is destroying the planet

In the largest sense, here is the big change of the past 50 years: For aeons, there was a shortage of people and an abundance of nature. We set up all our institutions (churches, corporations, governments, laws, courts, media, schools) to encourage population growth and economic growth (the accumulation of capital assets -- farms, factories, highways, ports, power plants, and so on). Now we find ourselves with a shortage of nature, a superabundance of people, and a glut of capital assets -- more than we know what to do with, really. Because of this fundamental shift, almost everything is different now than it was 50 years ago. But our institutions, our language, and our mental tools have not changed. As a result, we are stubbornly pursuing a course that is wrecking the future.

(Via PAG E-News.)

Ex-spy's poison on the Internet

It's one of the deadliest imaginable poisons, a radioactive substance about 100 billion times as deadly as cyanide -- and a Web site run by a physicist and flying saucer enthusiast offers to sell you a trace amount of it for $69 and send it via the U.S. Postal Service or UPS.

I hereby christen today "International Bob Lazar Appreciation Day"!
Gaia Scientist Lovelock Predicts Planetary Wipeout

Lovelock said temperature rises of up to 8C were already built in and while efforts to curb it were morally commendable, they were wasted.

"It is a bit like if your kidneys fail you can go on dialysis -- and who would refuse dialysis if death is the alternative. We should think of it in that context," he said.

"But remember that all they are doing is buying us time, no more. The problems go on," he added.
Watch closely. Pay attention.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have just seen the future.

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)

In Association with

A hearty thanks to everyone who's done their holiday book-shopping via my link (see graphic on sidebar) or via The referral fees add up, and they're appreciated.

For specific reviews arranged by topic, click here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Today's Boing Boing harvest:

The Short History of Blobsquatch

"Blobsquatch" is specifically the object in a photograph of a supposed Bigfoot or Sasquatch that has a lack of definition and detail, an illusion created by a play of light within an often unfamiliar natural environment. It is literally a "blob" (an indistinct shapeless form) that may or may not, but probably is not, a Sasquatch.

Phil in the Marketplace (Jonathan Lethem)

The writer realizes he was expecting some transformation to occur. Nothing would have shocked him. In a way, this is the most surprising result of all, that they're unchanged. If his books had been transformed into clean, new editions, given handsome, worthy jackets replete with fulsome endorsements from the critics who'd sneered at them in their first incarnation, he'd have been grateful. Or they might have grown fangs and tusks, coarse fur, batwings and claws, might have become creatures that could fend for themselves, migrate out into the world and compete with the other creatures. He wouldn't have minded that in the least. But the homely fact of the unchanged books disconcerts him.
"Dead zone" scrambles remote car-lock signals in Oakland Park

Experts say the most likely culprit is a radio transmitter operating on the same frequency as the keyless devices. But no one has been able to pinpoint the source.

(Via The Anomalist.)

"Radio transmitter" . . . or invisible alien intruders?

Question for readers . . .

It looks as if I'll be speaking at a paranormal conference in California in December, 2007. The conference host is producing a DVD and is on the look-out for UFO images. If you're aware of any quality sources, online or otherwise, that I might not know of, drop a comment or send me an email.

Encouraging news regarding the ongoing saga of the Jerk Across the Hall: My apartment manager phoned today to let me know they'd had a chat. Better yet, I'm apparently only one of several who have been annoyed by this guy, so at least it's not just me being hypersensitive and neurotic (and I must concede that I'm probably both).

Anyway, if he keeps it up he's gone. And maybe the message is actually sinking in, because I've enjoyed almost two days of relative quiet.
Here's a short, provocative teaser for a new (?) book by theoretical physicist Bernard Haisch:

I think it's perfectly conceivable that we inhabit a "mutiverse" filled with what the video's narrator terms "worthless" universes. A multiverse may actually be quantum inevitability.

And I disagree that living in a multiverse and living in a universe "tuned" for the emergence of consciousness are mutually exclusive; if we accept the existence of some sort of formative intelligence (which Haisch -- unwisely, in my opinion -- chooses to identify with the "G"-word), who's to say a myriad universes, some without potential for life and intelligence, aren't part of the plan? Maybe it's impossible to spawn even one "self-aware" universe unless quantum fluctuations are allowed to generate many billions of universes -- perhaps even all possible universes, in which case we aren't privileged to inhabit the only universe with the existential ingredients for life, consciousness and intelligence. After all, in this scenario our Cosmos rubs shoulders with all manner of "bizarro worlds," some home to beings only faintly divorced from ourselves.

(Thanks to PAG E-News.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Oceans in crisis

For too long, marine life has been largely open for the taking by anyone possessing the means to exploit it. Rapid advances in technology have meant that the ability, reach and power of vessels and equipment used to exploit marine life now far outweigh nature's ability to maintain it. If left unchecked, this will have far reaching consequences for the marine environment and for people who depend on it.
Rebooting the Ecosystem

What's more, many greens worry that just talking about geoengineering could deflect funding and focus from the task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. They'd rather we legislate higher fuel-efficiency standards and design better photovoltaics. Enviros are right about the urgency of kicking the fossil fuel habit -- that's a no-brainer. The problem is inertia; the changes we have wrought in the atmosphere will play out over decades (or longer) whether we junk all the SUVs tomorrow or not.

That's why it makes sense to start thinking seriously about radical countermeasures.

Strangely, we may have hands-on experience with terraforming long before we get around to it on Mars.

In the face of such immensity and grandeur, it never ceases to confound me that so many of us prefer the consolation of anthropomorphic gods whose agendas and allegiances, curiously, mirror our own.

We're holding ourselves back, risking extinction, for the sake of so many virulent fables. Given the option, I'd choose to have nothing to do with such a drearily masochistic species.
More evidence that our Cosmos is fractal in nature.
Hydraulic Urinals

In an effort to handle its nighttime public urination problem, cities are considering installing urinals that disappear below street level during the day.

Beware! It's a trap! It's a trap!
On December 9 You Can Visit Marrs!

If you travel to the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Missouri on Saturday, December 9 at 3 p.m., you can hear 3 major conspiracy theorists speak in an all-day session that will curl your hair!

I hope to catch this.
Inhofe: Don't Worry About Global Warming Because 'God's Still Up There'

In an interview with Fox and Friends this morning, outgoing Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works James Inhofe (R-OK) argued that the current wave of unprecedented warming is due to "natural changes." "God's still up there," Inhofe said, and to the extent there is warming going on, it is "due to the sun."

Complete with the now-obligatory reference to "Hollywood elitists." It doesn't get much better.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What a mess. I decided against calling the police and instead called my apartment manager's pager. Let her handle this. As I was explaining my concerns, a lunkhead I'd never even seen before knocked on my door and drunkenly advised me to "chill" and "go to bed," all the while talking on a cellphone.

If I had qualms about calling the police, the manager didn't. Fifteen minutes later they came -- but by then, frustratingly enough, the party had dispersed and the music had been turned down to a tolerable level.

So now I'm pretty sure I'm a marked man. I learned from the manager that another tenant had also complained today -- after knocking on the Jerk Across the Hall's door to no avail. So, theoretically, he doesn't know for sure which one of us alerted the police. But if he has any brains whatsoever -- and I'm fully aware he might not -- he'll realize it's me.

Now I'm seriously afraid to leave my apartment (and my cats) alone unprotected. So unless he fucks up again and gets evicted (an option my manager volunteered), it's back to waking up at 3:00 in the morning to the bone-rattling fracas of first-person shooter games.
The jerk across the hall is becoming more of a problem. I got some earplugs -- the industrial kind that conform to fit the ear canal -- and I can still hear his damned rap. Moreover, when I take them out, the sound easily drowns out my own computer speakers.

So I knocked on his door, told him politely that the walls are thin and that his "music" is a nuisance. He hasn't turned it down. So that's it; I'm calling the police to report a disturbance of the peace.

Celebrity scandals aren't my usual beat, but this Michael Richards business piqued my interest. I don't think Richards is a racist. I think he's an intense person who flipped out and took out his rage in the lowest way he could -- that's how rage works. And I don't think his remorse is an act.

I just finished reading "Connections" by Beth Collings and Anna Jamerson, a book on alien abductions that caught my attention at the library across the street. I'd first read about the experiences in question in C.D.B. Bryan's "Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind." "Connections" is a prolonged but always-engaging look at the phenomenon that raises questions with finesse lacking in most other first-person "abduction" narratives; I recommend it to readers already familiar with the subject and the various competing interpretations (pro and con).

Now onto Loren Coleman's now-classic "Mysterious America."

An Economic Answer to the Fermi Paradox?

Those who ponder the Fermi Paradox might want to consider Myrhaf's solution, one based on economics. If advanced technolgical civilizations really are out there, maybe they simply can't afford to build interstellar spacecraft. Myrhaf assumes that the only realistic way to travel between the stars is via a slow generation ship, what Isaac Asimov once called a 'spome' or 'space home.' And he doubts anyone would attempt it.

SETI sympathizers are big on this one. I don't buy it. The very notion of "economics" might be foreign to an ET civilization. And, in any case, the feasibility of building interstellar craft is ultimately one of priority. Considering that we may very well be inhabiting the last century of human dominance on Earth (at least, until we get around to rebuilding), one wonders how our attitudes toward space colonization might change if we viewed our predicament as sufficiently dire to necessitate an interstellar mission.

Put simply, a civilization committed to interstellar exploration isn't going to give a rat's ass about cost. When survival is at stake, "cost" evaporates; saddling hypothetical ETs with all-too-human economic principles is inexcusable anthropomorphism.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I sometimes find I'm unable to resist silly cat pictures.
With a cover like this, how can the book fail to be excellent?
Um . . . a self-proclaimed "sexy realtor" is linking to me. Whatever it takes to sell houses, I guess.
Squid and nothing but squid!
I just did a fun interview for The Paracast, which will air sometime in December. Many thanks to Gene Steinberg and David Biedny.
I've been YouTubed!

This was filmed back in May. For more, click here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I think I may have shaken off the "blues" enough to focus my concentration on finishing "The Cryptoterrestrials" -- that is, if my neighbor can cool it on the high-volume rap music.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, "The Cryptoterrestrials" is a book I'm writing about our continuing search for aliens in all the wrong places. It has a publisher, but I'm reluctant to send it off until I'm satisfied with it. So don't be too surprised if activity on this blog falls off while I'm hard at "work."

(Yes, I know I've made similar warnings in the past, all to no real avail. Ignore those.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How serenely Ballardian . . .

Scientists Try to Make Robots More Human

How should a robot look? There's debate on that. On one extreme are the stroke-therapy robots of MIT scientists Neville Hogan and Hermano Igo Krebs. Those look like exercise machines with video game screens. They guide the arms and legs of paralyzed stroke patients through physical therapy, and the patients don't even realize they are robots.

On the other end of the spectrum are David Hanson of Dallas and Osaka University's professor Hiroshi Ishiguro whose robots look creepily human. Ishiguro's robot Geminoid looks just like Ishiguro.

Such uncanny resemblances have led roboticists to coin the term "uncanny valley" syndrome. It suggests that people respond better to robots the closer they resemble humans - up to a point. If the resemblance is too good, people "are weirded out," Sidner said.

Time to add another blog to the sidebar. This time it's Biology in Science Fiction.

I don't know if any of this is real. (Frankly, whenever I see the Disclosure Project's name I tend to wince and move on.) But if nothing else it's a welcome springboard for speculation: If there are ET artifacts on the Moon, what does this tell us about life in the Cosmos and, perhaps more pertinently, the ostensibly scientific nature of our space program?

And if there aren't ET artifacts on the Moon (or elsewhere in the solar neighborhood), why not? Remember Carl Sagan's estimate for visiting civilizations, throw in what we're learning about the preponderance of planets in extrasolar star systems and the prospect of confronting a Solar System utterly devoid of ET presence, whether in the form of ruins or automated facilities of some kind, begins to seem absurd.
Brilliant Minds Forecast the Next 50 Years

What will be the biggest breakthrough of the next 50 years? As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations we asked over 70 of the world's most brilliant scientists for their ideas.

In coming decades will we: discover that we are not alone in the universe? Unravel the physiological basis for consciousness? Routinely have false memories implanted in our minds? Begin to evolve in new directions? And will physicists finally hit upon a universal theory of everything? In fact, if the revelations of the last 50 years are anything to go on - the internet and the human genome for example - we probably have not even thought up the exciting advances that lay ahead of us.

I admit: I haven't read all of this yet, so this post is a reminder to myself as much as it is blog fodder.

Happy holiday, everybody.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I think it's in my best interests to move. Not right away, but within the next three years. Eventually, I'd like to ditch the Kansas City scene entirely; I feel confined, albeit for reasons probably more psychological than geographical.

Two recent, high-profile disaster warnings outline the sudden urgency of our dilemma. First, in October, a global warming report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern predicted that climate change will lead to the most massive and widest-ranging market failure the world has ever seen. Soon after, a major study published in the journal Science forecast the near-total collapse of global fisheries within 40 years.

Kalle Lasn, co-founder of the Adbusters Media Foundation, which was responsible for turning Buy Nothing Day into an international annual event, said, "Our headlong plunge into ecological collapse requires a profound shift in the way we see things. Driving hybrid cars and limiting industrial emissions is great, but they are band-aid solutions if we don't address the core problem: we have to consume less. This is the message of Buy Nothing Day."
Israel developing anti-militant "bionic hornet"

Israel is using nanotechnology to try to create a robot no bigger than a hornet that would be able to chase, photograph and kill its targets, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday.

The flying robot, nicknamed the "bionic hornet", would be able to navigate its way down narrow alleyways to target otherwise unreachable enemies such as rocket launchers, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth said.

It is one of several weapons being developed by scientists to combat militants, it said. Others include super gloves that would give the user the strength of a "bionic man" and miniature sensors to detect suicide bombers.

(Via Communist Robot.)

UFOs are quantum

The UFO phenomenon represents macro-quantum, which seems antithetical to the general theoretical reality of quantum, which is microcosmic in nature and essence.

Via The Anomalist.

Here are some PB essays arguing for a related interpretation:

Liminal UFOs and the alien raison d'etre

Alien visitation: a global quantum event?

NASA's Mars Global Surveyor May Be at Mission's End

"Mars Global Surveyor has surpassed all expectations," said Michael Meyer, NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "It has already been the most productive science mission to Mars, and it will yield more discoveries as the treasury of observations it has made continues to be analyzed for years to come." Its camera has returned more than 240,000 images to Earth.
Atrocious apostrophe's and "quotation" "mark" "abuse" photo galleries

Here are a couple of Flickr pools with photos of signs that have words in quotations for no reason, and non-possessive plurals with apostrophes (also known as the "grocer's apostrophe.")

My personal favorite, "Work fom 'Home'," isn't pictured.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I need to lay off the generic Cap'n Crunch -- it's abrading my gums to the point of actual pain. Strange that they don't mention that on the box . . .
Bubbles as pixels

The Bubble Screen is a project that has been 2 years in the making. Even though there are other bubble display screens around (see below), the latest version of this organic display creates perfect bubbles in any size and speed and uses them as pixels to write texts or make drawings into the liquid.
More Czech stop-motion surrealism:

(Found at Reality Carnival.)
Dekotora photo galleries

They're big. They're bad. They're dekotora ("decoration trucks").

Infantile, yet cryptically alluring . . .
Synesthetic art and interpretation

While neurotypicals are able to perceive and appreciate synesthetic art, their subjective interpretation of these works may not be entirely complete or accurate. Some synesthetes create art to convey the synesthetic experience, while others use their condition simply to create novel works of art that can only really be fully appreciated by themselves or other synesthetes. In this sense, their condition can be construed as a cognitive gift allowing for multi-sensory and cross-sensory artistic expression and interpretation. It is not inconceivable that future neurotechnologies may endow some willing neurotypicals with synesthete like capabilities so that they may partake in this type of art.

When I was a child it seemed inconceivable to me that music and sounds didn't evoke colorful abstract patterns in the minds of all who heard them. It made perfect sense that I should be able to draw music that others could readily decipher, or expect my mom to understand what I meant when I described a singer's voice as resembling a carrot.

Twenty years later and I'm still trying to figure out the neurotypicals.

Bruce Sterling on the Balkans:

The Balkans are the Graveyard of Empires. Organized ways of life that make perfect sense elsewhere, they don't seem to get much traction here.

There's plenty of raw human vitality. Every once in a while, you get a strong hint that if the variegated Balkan peoples could overcome their conundrums, and stay out of trouble for just a little while, they'd accomplish something amazing.

Then you stroll off for a look around town, nice autumn day, and, whoa, just across the river, a large, impressive fire is blackly gushing toxic smoke... The sky is full of ravens... Another day in paradise. New World Disorder, that's the same-old same-old, 'round here.

Sterling is one of the few contemporary writers who's keenly, deliciously aware of living in The Future.

New Exhibit Teaches 'Science Of Aliens'

A new exhibit on the science of alien life has landed at a Miami museum.

The notorious "alien autopsy" film is part of the exhibit at the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium, along with figures of extra-terrestrials from popular science fiction movies.

Who made the dummy?
Annan Warns of "Catastrophic" Biotech Danger

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that potential dangers from the rapidly growing biotechnology industry were increasing exponentially and urged creating global safeguards.

Annan, speaking on Saturday in the Swiss university town, warned of "catastrophic" results if recent advances in biotechnology, including gene manipulation and work with viruses, fell into the wrong hands.

"As biological research expands, and technologies become increasingly accessible, this potential for accidental or intentional harm grows exponentially," he said in the text of a speech.

"Even novices working in small laboratories will be able to carry out gene manipulation."
The Truth about Orbs?

One common perception of orbs relates to the idea that 'some orbs' are caused by airborne particles and 'some orbs' are not. There is little hope for theorists who make no distinction between the appearance of these apparently different 'types' of orbs. If airborne particles can produce one appearance of an orb, how can paranormal forces produce the same type of orb?

(Via The Anomalist.)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Nemo 33: The World's Deepest Pool

Nemo 33, a diving school in Brussels, operates the world's deepest pool which goes to a depth of over 33 meters.

I feel redeemed in the presence of large numbers of books. After the bombs fall -- or the genetically engineered viruses strike (or whatever) -- I can envision myself living comfortably in an abandoned Borders.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Space mirrors could create Earth-like haven on Mars

Scientists and science-fiction authors have long dreamed of turning Mars into a more Earth-like planet for future human colonists. The process, called terraforming, involves thickening Mars's atmosphere and increasing its temperature. But schemes to transform the entire planet would take centuries and would require enormous resources.

Now, Rigel Woida, an engineering student at the University of Arizona in Tucson, US, is investigating the possibility of "terraforming" just a small patch of the planet's surface by focusing sunlight on it from orbiting mirrors.

I wish I'd thought of that.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Leading Brazil UFO Investigator Claims Contact to be Soon

A prominent UFO investigator is claiming that open contact will soon take place between humans and extraterrestrials. Such claims have been made regularly since the 1950s, but never with any actual results, and never before by an investigator with a reputation for accurate research. Jan Val Ellam, a Brazilian UFO investigator claims that the open appearance of UFOs worldwide should take place any time between November 16, 2006 and April 30, 2007.

When will ufology learn? The sense of "imminent contact," often accompanied by supposedly incipient governmental disclosure, has helped marginalize the subject for decades. From UMMO to MJ-12 to Heaven's Gate to Serpo, we're caught in a sociological cul-de-sac, forcing the phenomenon into anthropomorphic molds that it stubbornly refuses to fit.

(Portrait and words by eWarrior.)
Scientists create giant mechanical Sea-Monkey!

(Hat tip: Communist Robot.)
Oh, man. This is funny. Really funny. (I like the way the mannequins sound like bowling pins when they bite the dust.)

This should be declared a national sport immediately.

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)
Hitachi: Commercial Mind-Machine Interface by 2011

Mind-machine interfacing isn't unheard of: just weeks ago, a young patient was given a chance to play Space Invaders through the power of thought. And this all comes hot on the heels of a revolution in microsurgery, allowing artificial limbs to be wired to the brain by reusing existing nerves.

The difference this time is that Hitachi's system doesn't invasively co-opt the nervous sytem, instead using a topographic modelling system to measure blood flow in the brain, translating the images into signals that are sent to the controller. So far, this new technique only allows for simple switching decisions, but Hitachi aims to commercialize it within five years for use by paralyzed patients and those undergoing "cognitive rehabilitation."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Climate change sceptics 'out of step, out of arguments and out of time'

Climate change must be taken as seriously as the issues that have traditionally monopolized first-order political attention such as conflict, poverty and the proliferation of deadly weapons, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a United Nations conference on the issue in Nairobi today.

"Instead of being economically defensive, let us start being more politically courageous," he said. "The Nairobi conference must send a clear, credible signal that the world's political leaders take climate change seriously. The question is not whether climate change is happening, but whether, in the face of this emergency, we ourselves can change fast enough."
R.E.M.: "Talk About the Passion"

Humans almost identical to Neanderthals

A full blueprint of Neanderthal DNA - due to be produced in two years' time - could provide information on eye colour and hair colour, intelligence and language.

The partial sequencing completed so far has confirmed the theory that humans and Neanderthals split from their common ancestor between 400,000 and 500,000 years ago, studies published in the journals Nature and Science report.

(Via The Anomalist.)
Wireless Power

Tesla never quite pulled it off, but a group of contemporary physicists are developing wireless energy transmission using "'resonance,' a phenomenon that causes an object to vibrate when energy of a certain frequency is applied."
Here's Richard Hoagland's latest. This one's interesting regardless of potential artificiality -- and this early in the game I wouldn't rule out an artificial origin, especially given the interesting "heel" shape of the main anomaly in question; it's one of those features that, if photographed on Earth, would probably arouse at least some interest among archaeologists.

In any case, it's a great deal more compelling than disembodied robot heads.
While I'm quite sure every blogger in the world will post this, I'm posting it anyway:

Did this cat breed with a dog?

Brazilian Cassia Aparecida de Souza, 18, says three of the cat’s six offspring, which were born three months after Mimi mated with a neighbour’s dog, have canine traits.

A geneticist from the Passo Fundo University plans to take blood samples from the animals to verify the claim.

An obvious question arises (assuming the offspring are unlikely hybrids): Do we call them "kuppies" or "pittens"?

Wow -- check out the new look at the site formerly known as The Electric Warrior.
I want one of these. Bad.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

If I had an iPod, this would be on it.

(Found at: My Boring Life.)
Charles Darwin apparition in a tree

Janice says: "I got up this morning, and looked out the window I look out for hours every day. I looked up at the birdfeeder to the spot where a limb was chopped off and saw Charles Darwin."
If You Were Born in 2893...

Your Name Would Be: Ala Cho

And You Would Be: An Alien Anthropologist

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

BAE goes big on 'green' weapons

Reduced-lead bullets and recyclable explosives are among the developments being put forward by arms manufacturer British Aerospace (BAE) as part of a major investment in ecologically-sound weaponry.

(Via Variable Gravitas Content.)

Now you can blow away Evil-Doers and help the environment . . . at the same time! Hey, let's start a war right now!
I was frozen to improve my health

In Poland cryotherapy has become a popular treatment for rejuvenating and revitalising the body. It is also widely used by eastern European athletes as an alternative to the 'ice bath' to aid post-training recovery.

But it seems there could be also serious medical uses for the treatment. Some experts claim it can alleviate the painful symptoms of everything from rheumatism and osteoporosis to multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome and depression, and even suggest it as an anti-cellulite and skin-firming treatment.

(Via The Anomalist.)
My car was vandalized again tonight. Same parking lot. This time the guy (assuming it's the same person) almost tore my passenger-side rear-view mirror loose. Fortunately he must have lost interest because I was able to snap it back into place.

This kind of thing shouldn't leave me exasperated -- but it does.

Diseases Appear on Rise With Temperature

A warmer world already seems to be producing a sicker world, health experts reported Tuesday, citing surges in Kenya, China and Europe of such diseases as malaria, heart ailments and dengue fever.

"Climate affects some of the most important diseases afflicting the world," said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum of the World Health Organization. "The impacts may already be significant."

Kristie L. Ebi, an American public health consultant for the agency, warned "climate change could overwhelm public health services."

Well, duh.
Astronomer tells Athens audience: E.T. liable to phone any day

"The bottom line is we will find E.T. in the next two dozen years," Shostak said. "I'll bet you all a cup of Starbucks on that."

Yeah? Well, I'll bet you a "Venti" half-caf quad soy cafe mocha with four packets of Splenda and a pump of almond syrup that we won't.

(Not that ETI isn't out there, mind you.)
Searching for 'our alien origins'

All this has convinced Professor Wickramasinghe that the red rain is a form of alien life.

"Before I came I had grave doubts as to whether the red rain was really an indication of life coming from space; new life coming from space," he said.

"But on reflection and after talking to Godfrey, I think I would now fairly firmly believe that it did represent an invasion of microbes from space."

Let's face it: If you write about lofty, exciting (but dauntingly strange) ideas, you're going to need straw men. Why? To keep your readers alert to the fact that you know of what you speak, obviously. But more importantly, to keep your own ego afloat. It's a weird universe out there; even on the best of days, answers are elusive. Unless you dose yourself with the illusion of intellectual omnipotence, things get out of hand . . . but of course you know this already.

Which is why I come to you with a offer you can't refuse. Make no mistake: You're going to need it. Because when you write about seemingly remote and inaccessible subjects, there are always a few readers who don't buy it. And they take out their consternation by insinuating that your grip on reality has in some way slackened (when you know perfectly well that it hasn't).

Naturally, you can only take so much of this. After all, you know you're right. You know your paradigm will prevail. You need to strike back, let off some steam, give yourself a much-needed -- if utterly undeserved -- chance to indulge in some therapeutic gloating and smug laughter. Yes, it's short-lived and never really amounts to anything -- but if it wins you some brittle camaraderie it's more than served its designated purpose.

Anyway, I sense your impatience. You want the goods, and I'm happy to assist. Here's what you're after: UFOs.

You're probably wondering what UFOs have to do with anything. How can they can help you in your quest to seem all-knowing and ever-prescient?

Here's how it works: Most people don't know a damned thing about UFOs. They've never heard of the Condon Report, let alone taken the time to familiarize themselves with the likes of Jacques Vallee and J. Allen Hynek. Their awareness of the UFO phenomenon is limited to pop culture.

For example, they've likely seen "The X-Files." They may even qualify as "enthusiasts," having read a few sensational titles about altruistic visitors from the Pleiades or the diabolical threat posed by the "Grays," who hail from a dying world and need our DNA to survive. And no doubt they've thrilled to one or two Hollywood treatments of the UFO theme, cementing their illusory sense of expertise. Broadly speaking, it's fair to say that their comprehension of the subject is limited to knee-jerk references to government cover-ups, crashed saucers and human-ET treaties deep below the unassuming surface of Area 51.

If this sounds rather pathetic, don't let it get you down -- because you need these people.

Of course, that's not to infer that everyone's knowledge of the subject is confined to the fringe. Many scientists, including NASA's Paul Hill and esteemed theoretical physicist Bernard Haisch, have expressed a keen interest in the phenomenon, availed themselves of the data compiled by trained observers, and arrived at provocative conclusions.

Granted, you don't care what scientists and researchers have to say. That's fine. Because, for the most part, neither does anyone else. Your job isn't to relate factual information or even to concede that there's a mystery. Quite the opposite: For you, UFOs are something to be laughed at -- not because the core phenomenon is in any way laughable, but because attempting to grasp the subject's complexity is so daunting and unfashionable that the notion of taking any of it seriously -- even as a mental exercise -- virtually guarantees that you can rely on others' ignorance.

The fragile associations that accompany the very mention of unidentified flying objects ensure an easy idealogical victory at little or no personal expense. All it takes is the willingness to condescend. And, just maybe, a small piece of your self-respect -- but certainly that's a small price to pay when there are arguments to be won.
Space elevators: 'First floor, deadly radiation!'

At the equator, the most dangerous part of the radiation belts extends from about 1000 to 20,000 kilometres in altitude. The region did not hurt the Apollo astronauts in the 1960s and 1970s because their rockets delivered them swiftly through it.

For a space elevator travelling at the current proposed speed of 200 kilometres per hour, however, passengers might spend half a week in the belts. That would hit them with 200 times the radiation experienced by the Apollo astronauts.

(Via Unknown Country.)
What was it Anne Frank wrote? "Despite everything, I think people are really good at heart"?

Between you and me, I think Anne Frank was out of her damned gourd.
I just told my neighbor to turn his fucking music down or die. Not in those words, of course, but I think my message was clear enough.

The aftermath should be interesting. While he did, indeed, turn his music down (in fact, it seems to be mercifully silenced as of this writing), I can't imagine he's taking this well. As a garden-variety jerk, he's going to want to have the final word -- you know, to show me who the alpha-male is.

I fully expect to wake up to find my tires slashed.

George Dvorsky gets it wrong on UFOs. Again.

Citing the outrageously headlined Daily Mail story about former MoD UFO project head Nick Pope ('Aliens could attack at any time' warns former MoD chief), the Sentient Developments blogger writes: "I would be remiss to pass up this post: The former British Minister of Defence, Nick Pope, is warning his fellow Brits that extraterrestrials may 'attack at any time.'"

A neat trick, since Pope says nothing of the sort. Ignoring the sensationalized headline and actually reading the story, we find Pope urging investigatory caution in the face of what he's come to identify as a potentially intelligent unknown. It's pretty obvious that Pope uses the prospect of an alien "attack" (a word he never uses) as a rhetorical device, especially given his insistence that there's no evidence UFOs pose such a hazard in the first place.

Dvorsky revels in what what he likely considers proof that even "serious" UFO investigators are fear-mongering nitwits -- an admittedly easy thing to do if you limit your research to a cursory scan of mainstream "paranormal" coverage. To my mind, the disingenuous take on ufology served up by Sentient Developments (and other ostensible bastions of rationality) is far more disturbing than any illusory alien menace.

Let's conclude with Pope's own words, studiously excluded from both the Daily Mail's headline and Dvorsky's condescending attempt to smear what he doesn't understand unless couched in the comfortably familiar language of true believers and "X-Files" buffs:

"Every [report] is a piece of a puzzle but no one takes it seriously. There needs to be more resources and people who are prepared to look past the philosophical issues, look at the reports and investigate them properly."

Maybe it's just me, but Pope sounds pretty sensible for a crank.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Blog of the day: Table of Malcontents
Homemade Wooden Skyscraper

This is almost more folk art than folk technology, but it is way extreme. Sent in by Michael Krakovskiy, it shows a 12-15 story skyscraper built of wood built by Nikolai Sutyagin in Archanglesk, Russia, shown here. Called a Izba, in smaller sizes it is a traditional Russian wooden dwelling.

I haven't seen a movie in almost a year. But I might have to catch this . . .
Mild electric currents aid memory

One plausible theory, according to Dr Born, is that electrical currents of a particular frequency can make brain cells resonate. This strengthens connections between networks of cells, which are the physical representations of memories in the brain.

(Via FuturePundit.)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Experts: Global warming threatens ruins

From ancient ruins in Thailand to a 12th-century settlement off Africa's eastern coast, prized sites around the world have withstood centuries of wars, looting and natural disasters. But experts say they might not survive a more recent menace: a swiftly warming planet.

"Our world is changing, there is no going back," Tom Downing of the Stockholm Environment Institute said Tuesday at the U.N. climate conference, where he released a report on threats to archaeological sites, coastal areas and other treasures.

(Via Graham Hancock.)
Today's must-see: Robots star in a reenactment from "Pulp Fiction."

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Professor's Bigfoot Research Criticized

"Is the theory of exploration dead?" he asked. "I'm not out to proselytize that Bigfoot exists. I place legend under scrutiny and my conclusion is, absolutely, Bigfoot exists."

(Via Science Blog.)
I love The Smiths but I'm not too big on their videos. "How Soon Is Now?" is an exception; I like the looped footage, the smokestacks and the anonymous model, who captures some rare filmic mystique.

'Aliens could attack at any time' warns former MoD chief

And while Mr Pope says that there is no evidence of hostile intent, he insists it cannot be ruled out.

"There has got to be the potential for that and one is left with the uneasy feeling that if it turned out to be so, there is very little we could do about it," he said.

"If you believe these things are extra terrestrial craft then you cannot rule out that what is happening is some kind of covert reconnaissance."

Who writes these idiotic headlines? Because they deserve to be beheaded. Or at least smacked around a little.
Ever changing Underwater Sculpture Exhibition

By creating an artificial reef of sculptures which depict Grenadian people and their history, the project fulfills its dual purpose of protecting the marine environment and illustrating the richness of Grenada.

How wonderfully Atlantean!
I've spent the last couple days flattened by depression. Fortunately I worked up the nerve to get out this evening and suffer the spectacle of weekend suburbia -- which can be endured provided I envision myself as a tourist with no real emotional stake in my surroundings. Playing the tourist role isn't hard; I've always felt a bit alien. That's why I like airports and hotels: They're transitional zones that actively require you to transform into an emotional nomad.

Barring a life on the road -- which simply isn't practical, or I'd do it -- the best I can do is try to attune myself to the unfettered flow of my own mind, becoming a sort of vagrant in the process.

I've inevitably begun wondering if there's some sort of Darwinian utility to be scavenged from depressive states. Neurologists have begun to wonder if autism and sociopathy are adaptations instead of illnesses; why not depression?
Dover's Demon lives on in local lore

Twenty-nine years later, William Bartlett stands by his story of what he saw on Farm Street that night. It was an eerie human-like creature, he said, about 4 feet tall with glowing orange eyes and no nose or mouth in a watermelon-shaped head.

I first encountered the story of the Dover Demon in elementary school. In retrospect, the alleged being's superficial resemblance to a "Gray" should have been obvious.

If Albert Budden is right and the image of the big-eyed Gray can be attributed to altered states induced by electromagnetism (a la Michael Persinger's geo-electric hypothesis), it's worth scoping out the Dover area for any potentially hallucinogenic AM "hotspots."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Radiohead: "Creep"

I couldn't have said it better.
"You have not been paying attention."

More Bowie . . .

Conspiracy-mongers, start your engines!

NASA struggles to contact lost Mars probe

An unexpected break in communications has NASA struggling to restore contact with its Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft. If communication cannot be restored soon, NASA may try to diagnose the problem by having another spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, take pictures of MGS.

Problems for Mars Global Surveyor orbiter

Engineers are striving to restore full communications with NASA's Mars Global Surveyor on the 10th anniversary of the spacecraft's Nov. 7, 1996, launch.

The orbiter is the oldest of five NASA spacecraft currently active at the red planet. Its original mission was to examine Mars for a full Martian year, roughly two Earth years. Once that period elapsed, considering the string of discoveries, NASA extended the mission repeatedly, most recently on Oct. 1 of this year.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Scientists Say Millions Could Flee Rising Seas

Nations must make plans to help tens of millions of "sea level refugees" if climate change continues to ravage the world's oceans, German researchers said on Thursday.

Waters are rising and warming, increasing the destructive power of storms, they said, and seas are becoming more acidic, threatening to throw entire food chains into chaos.

"In the long run, sea level rises are going to be the most severe impact of global warming on human society," said Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, presenting a report by German scientists at a major United Nations climate change meeting.

Here's briefly what I think's going to happen over the next 75 years:

We're going to run out of food, for one. The oceans are heating up, and they're spotted with what scientists aptly call "dead zones." It's only a matter of time until some crucial link in the food-chain is severed, leading to large-scale ecological collapse. Famines -- and attendant wars -- will occupy the resources of poorer nations. Factor in a deluge of climate refugees and territorial conflicts promise to antagonize an already tenuous geopolitical milieu.

One of the many dangers of population displacement is the proliferation of viruses. Climate change promises to provide new and unpredictable vectors. The abandoned and hurricane-battered coasts will serve up novel contagions -- even the least of which, given the disheveled state of emergency relief, will take a massive toll.

And it will be hot -- very hot. Crops will fail, infrastructures will collapse and political regimes will dissolve, unremembered. Entire continents will fall victim to what ecologist James Lovelock has termed a "morbid fever."

But ultimately the fever will have run its course, leaving the Earth irrevocably changed. Humans will be fewer, their resources diminished. For all intents and purposes, the planet will be alien, its landscapes scarred by maverick climate, unruly pathogens and bitter conflict.

But the worst part? We'll look back and realize we had it coming.

Probing Distant Atmospheres for Life

Inevitably, the hunt for extraterrestrial life looks first for the kind of life we find on Earth. But we may have to widen that view, and the key is to make as few assumptions as possible. For if we've learned one thing from the 200+ extrasolar planets found thus far, it's that solar systems around other stars can be utterly different from anything we had imagined.

Even if humanity ultimately takes the dirtnap, the discovery of a living extrasolar planet seems almost inevitable. I wonder what our response will be, gazing at some tantalizing and alien world orbiting another star. What will we have done to ourselves -- and how might our collective predicament color our reception of a confirmed extraterrestrial biosphere?

Although real enough, the new Earth will also play a formative role in our imaginations; it promises to be a liminal frontier as well as an astrobiological focal point -- the locus of new myths, an imaginal haven forged of memes old and new, a distant and beckoning mirror.
Indian scientists favour manned space mission

Top scientists and technologists here today strongly favoured a proposal to undertake a manned mission into space that would catapult India into a select group of nations with such a capability.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Africa's Nobel Laureate Says Plant a Billion Trees

Kenya's Wangari Maathai, who in 2004 became the first African woman and first "green" activist to win the Nobel Peace Prize, urged people from the United States to Uganda to plant trees to combat global warming and to make a long-term commitment.

"Anybody can dig a hole, anybody can put a tree in that hole and water it. And everybody can make sure that the tree they plant survives," she said on the sidelines of a UN meeting on climate change in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Plant trees? Yeah, like that leaves a lot of room left over for Starbucks and Wal-Mart.
I can't keep up with Paul Kimball. One minute it's the chilling effects of "exopolitics" and the next it's theater reviews, for god's sake. The man is omnipresent!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Another reason why Portishead are one of the best groups of all time.

I found this gem at Information Aesthetics.

The flow along this conveyor belt represents the rate at which babies are being born on the planet, the flow of coffins represents deaths.

You'll notice a disturbing trend: There are way more babies bring born than people dying; we're waging an imbecilic war of attrition on our own planet. This can't last, and it won't last.

How will it end? That's up to us.

OK, I'm going to attempt a far-from-comprehensive list of the very best science fiction writers working today, emphasizing talents you might not have heard of. I know I'm leaving deserving authors out, but that's just because I haven't read them yet.

In alphabetical order:

Richard Calder
Greg Egan
Ken MacLeod
China Mieville
Richard K. Morgan
Alastair Reynolds
Michael Marshall Smith
Charles Stross
Peter Watts
Robert Charles Wilson
Jack Womack
Proof the New Age has not been remiss in anticipating the Singularity:

The White Hole in Time

But as far as planet Earth is concerned we are very significant indeed. Here, in this minute corner of the Universe, a bud is on the verge of flowering. Here, after billions of years, a creature has arisen that has transcended biological evolution. It is our minds, not our bodies, that are evolving. We are a species that can explore and study its world. A species that looks for meaning and understanding. A species aware of its own consciousness. A most creative and ingenious species.

And we have the potential to be much much more. We could be on the threshold an evolutionary climax far more profound than most of us have ever dared imagine.

Will humanity make that shift? Only time will tell. But it would be a pity to have struggled so hard and come so far, and then miss what could be our crowning glory.

(Via PAG E-News.)
Dolphin May Have 'Remains' of Legs

Japanese researchers said Sunday that a bottlenose dolphin captured last month has an extra set of fins that could be the remains of hind legs, a discovery that may provide further evidence that ocean-dwelling mammals once lived on land.

(Via Unknown Country.)

For humankind's sake, it's probably a good think they "chose" the ocean. I have the feeling they would have outsmarted us while we were still swinging in the trees.

(Interesting alternate world premise there. The dinosaur what-if thing has already been done, of course, but I don't know any techno-industrial cetacean stories . . .)
Last night I felt compelled to document how I felt for reasons more practical than self-pitying; for better or worse, this blog has become a way of sorting through thoughts that may only be tangentially related to standard tropes. (Alien visitation, anybody? Or how about a nice steaming bowl of greenhouse apocalypse?)

Today's been . . . better. At least in the sense that I think I know where I stand. I no longer feel that placating automatic response to choose ersatz happiness over emotional honesty -- or at least I'd like to think so. Time will tell.

Truthfully, I felt slightly guilty even posting yesterday's despairing tirade. The bit about watching the walls, while true enough, was unsettlingly personal. And I didn't want to alarm anyone, because as dejected as I feel I'm not on the verge of complete apathetic abandon . . . although sometimes it can feel that way, and I may have very well given the impression that I viewed my continued existence as a write-off.

More to the point, I want to thank everyone for the unexpected show of support and advice. Not to mention for putting up with the erratic content: Angsty confessionals make for bad blogs.

Now on with the show.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Now reading:

I'm having a difficult time adjusting to the fact that I don't like where I am right now -- both geographically and psychologically. It's one of those truths that, with my own reluctant cooperation, manages to camouflage itself . . . and when detected, it expertly belies its presence with the mentational equivalent of radar chaff.

Thus I rebound from a state of what would likely become stark depression to one of merely bothersome self-loathing. So I drink more espresso, check a few more books out from the library and resume staring at the walls. (I've been doing quite a lot of that lately: literally staring at the walls and vaguely hoping it would all just go away.)

The act of driving across town has become a rite of dull agony. Other people have become gibbering caricatures to be endured. (Which isn't entirely aberrational; most of them really are walking turds.)

Not that I don't have moments of what seem deceptively like inner calm. But they're too easily shattered; I rebound into a world of abject loneliness that I can kill only with sleep and sickly self-assurances that tend to wither under inspection.

To some degree or another, this has been going on for at least ten years. More, counting college -- but I prefer to operate under the plausible fiction that college counted for nothing.

I'm transmitting from a space station that, neglected, is running perilously low on oxygen. I've ignored the flashing red LEDs and the entreaties from mission control. Now a strange clutching darkness has descended as if from nowhere.

Life in the Stars

Given that the mainstream scientific community can't even agree if the poor orbiting mass called Pluto is a planet, it may seem a strange time to ask people to consider whether or not extraterrestrial life has visited our troubled planet-especially since the mere mention of unidentified flying objects conjures stereotypes, reinforced in the media, that undermine credibility.

It's hard to imagine, however, that even the most hardened of cynics wouldn't be compelled by information published on the subject over the past 10 years. Sometimes raising as many unsettling questions as it answers, this serious research not only deserves notice, it demands consideration.

A promising start. Credibility plummets, however, when the author cites Philip Corso and Steven Greer.

Monday, November 06, 2006

An MP3 of my "Strange Days . . . Indeed" appearance has been posted.

(Thanks to Errol Bruce-Knapp.)
1959 UFO contactee book

In the 1950s, two sisters named Helen and Betty Mitchell claimed to have met humanoid creatures from outer space in a St. Louis, Missouri coffee shop.

Hey, I've met aliens in coffee shops too!
Plastic Trash Vortex Menaces Pacific Sealife - Study

This swirling vortex, which can grow to be about the size of Texas, is not far from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, designated as a protected US national monument in June by President George W. Bush.

The Greenpeace report, "Plastic Debris in the World's Oceans" said at least 267 species -- including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales and fish -- are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris.

'Silent aircraft': How it works

Engineers from the University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have unveiled a radical design for a "silent aircraft".

The team says any noise from the concept aircraft, known as the SAX-40, would be "imperceptible" beyond the boundaries of an airport. It would also burn far less fuel than conventional planes.

Could technology of this sort explain some reports of massive, silent "flying triangles"?

(Hat tip: Mondolithic Sketchbook.)
I found this stunning video on YouTube using the search phrase "Franz Kafka."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"God is an American."

Remembering Camille Flammarion

"What intelligent being, what being capable of responding emotionally to a beautiful sight, can look at the jagged, silvery lunar crescent trembling in the azure sky, even through the weakest of telescopes, and not be struck by it in an intensely pleasurable way, not feel cut off from everyday life here on Earth and transported toward that first stop on celestial journeys?"
The idiots across the hall are playing their TV so loud I can hear every word. I can't think. My world is ceaseless canned laughter and blaring political advertisements. I'd knock on the door and ask them to turn it down but I'm afraid I'd suffer reprisal -- if not me, personally, then my apartment. Or my car.

"Sanity" in this society is a brittle veneer. Most people secretly hate themselves; the most they can do is hope to numb the pain. But the facade invariably cracks and barbarism comes seething through the fissure in an eager red tide.

The dead walk.
I went to Starbucks tonight, where I finished Strieber's "The Grays." Later, in the parking lot, a teenager informed me that he'd watched someone key and ram my car, apparently under the impression that I'd infringed on his parking territory. The account was enraging; I tend to avoid nice people, let alone indulge morons in vehicular turf-wars.

I scoped out the damage, which seems confined to a couple scrapes on the hood. I stopped by a gas station on the way home and checked the tires, which look OK. At least, no obvious punctures.

I hate the fucking suburbs.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Spacewear fashion show: looking fly in zero-g

Winners of the contest, which is organized by Tokyo-based fashion designer Eri Matsui with the support of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and many others, will help design the clothes for use on Rocketplane’s space tourism flights set to begin in 2008.
New Frontiers Symposium Diary - The Day After (Greg Bishop)

Allowed to sleep until after noon, I did. When I rolled over and looked at the clock, it was 1:15PM. Still on west coast time, I guess. Lobby assembly time was 1:30. Will and Lisa Wise and Nick were already lounging about when I arrived. We had to call Mac's room to get him out the door.

This was embarrassing. I hadn't forgotten the time or anything. Had I fallen back to sleep? I can't remember what the problem was. "Missing time"?
The Fate of Gaia

As much as I like the Gaian Hypothesis, I don't like the conclusions many have drawn from it. I like to take a different view of the matter, one that was hinted at by the author of The Millennial Project, and one expressed by many other space enthusiasts and space activists. What if humans were evolved for a purpose? As much destruction as we have caused, Gaia might have evolved humanity to become agents of its creation. If Gaia is a living organism, then we should expect that it will do what all organisms do. Gaia will die whether or not humans are the cause of its demise. It may happen tomorrow, or maybe not for billions of years. The only way to "escape" it is to reproduce. That is the idea of the Pregnent Mother Earth metaphor. By evolving an intelligent and "handy" species, Gaia has evolved a reproduction system. As it stands, humanity is the only species with the ability to travel from Earth and into space, and is thus the only means for the transmission of life into space.
OOPARTS and Tubal Cain

Here is something else from outside the UFO field (and that I wouldn’t have known if it hadn’t been for access to the Internet), Tubal Cain is a secret Masonic phrase, and something that certainly wasn’t well known in 1852. So now the question becomes is this tale of a metallic vessel found in solid rock true or does it have some significance to the Masons and the use of Tubal Cain is the clue. I confess that I don’t know. I am more than a little disturbed to learn of the history of Tubal Cain and the reference to it, or him, in this particular article. There is no reason for those other writers to have made anything out of the reference, unless they themselves were Masons and knew the code.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Got a craving for space? Take a look at Space Feeds, a blog that, well, feeds you space. And lots of it!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Here's a video of a strangely shaped object over (I think) Nellis AFB. It's unclear (to me) if this footage was taken from the ground or from the air. Interestingly, the "lobed" configuration has been observed -- and videotaped -- elsewhere.

Hoax? Experimental technology? Or something else?
Send your name to Mars. Gloat about it to strangers. Receive weird looks.
Vote for the 2006 Zorgy Awards

If you read this blog and are at all interested in the paranormal, it's your duty.
R.E.M. in a great live rendition of "The One I Love":

U.N. says 2005 set greenhouse gas record

Heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2005 and are still increasing, the U.N. weather agency said Friday.

The measurements coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization show that the global average concentrations of carbon dioxide, or CO2, and nitrous oxide, or N2O, reached record levels last year and are expected to increase even further this year, said Geir Braathen, a climate specialist at the Geneva-based agency.

"There is no sign that N2O and CO2 are starting to level off," Braathen said at the global body's European headquarters. "It looks like it will just continue like this for the foreseeable future."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A friend in Toronto FedExed me "Art of Imagination," a sprawling look at science fiction and fantasy illustration dating back to early pulps such as "Weird Tales" and continuing to the present.

Not only is it a perfect coffee table book, it's big enough to be a coffee table.

Ocean Fish, Seafood Could Collapse By 2048 - Study

"Whether we looked at tide pools or studies over the entire world's ocean, we saw the same picture emerging," Worm said in a statement. "In losing species we lose the productivity and stability of entire ecosystems. I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are -- beyond anything we suspected."
Viral Fossil Brought Back to Life

In a controversial study, researchers have resurrected a retrovirus that infected our ancestors millions of years ago and now sits frozen in the human genome. Published online by Genome Research this week, the study may shed new light on the history of these genomic intruders, as well as their role in tumors. Although this particular virus, dubbed Phoenix, is a wimpy one, some argue that resuscitating any ancient virus is inherently risky and that the study should have undergone stricter reviews.

"Phoenix." How lame. How about . . . Behemoth?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Biomimetic Ocean Power

BioPower says the BioWAVE (kelp-like) generator captures the widest and deepest swath of wave energy of any device that does not require a huge rigid structure. It also rotates freely, so it automatically orients itself to the wave direction to maximize output. In storms, it can also lay itself flat on the ocean floor to avoid the extreme forces which would rip apart a rigid generator.
This flu's still not finished with me. I've spent the last two days confined to my apartment, drinking coffee, napping, alphabetizing my hate-mail, and having long philosophical conversations with my cats.

Halloween was without incident, although I considered zapping trick-or-treaters through my window with my laser-pointer; what's a few burned retinas in the name of fun?
Very Short Stories

We'll be brief: Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.") and is said to have called it his best work. So we asked sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers from the realms of books, TV, movies, and games to take a shot themselves.

A couple of my favorites:

Epitaph: Foolish humans, never escaped Earth.
--Vernor Vinge

It cost too much, staying human.
--Bruce Sterling
Hammering Shells Into E[s]presso Machines

"The shells were dropped in Ethiopia during the war with Eritrea," Mr Azmeraw says. He uses old mortar shells, which stand about one metre high, to make his coffee machines.

Think of it this way: Iraq has a promising future in the homespun coffee machine industry.
Study Shows Rich People Kill The Poor With Status Alone

They offer two possible explanations: poor people living in rich areas may have to pay more for housing and other services, magnifying the effect of poverty; alternatively, their health may suffer from stress caused by continually being reminded that they are at the bottom of the economic pile. "I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive," says team member Catherine Cubbin, now at the University of California, San Francisco.

Reconsidering Viking on Mars

Now a new paper argues that the Viking methodology was flawed. In fact, similar experiments don't even find organic molecules in the Atacama Desert between Chile and Peru, where dry conditions seem conspicuously Mars like, and where experiments on remote life detection have continued at a robust pace. Yet updated testing reveals carbon at these sites.

And Rafael Navarro-González (National Autonomous University, Mexico) says in the new study that if the Viking scientists had known these results thirty years ago, they would have interpreted Viking's work differently.