Saturday, March 31, 2007

My tinnitus has abated dramatically in the last week. It's not gone, nor do I expect it to fully go away, but if it stays at its present level I'll be, if not overjoyed, then at least content.

What made it fade? I don't know for sure, although I think a fortuitous change of medication may have played a role. Of course, it could come back -- but at least now I know it has the potential to go away, whereas before I was afraid I was condemned to a life of incessant noise (as many sufferers are).

Given that the pharmaceutical industry is hauling in big dollars for something called "Restless Leg Syndrome," I can't help but think that the medical establishment can beat tinnitus if it really tried.
It's Marilyn Einstein!

Are They Coming and If So, What Do We Do? (Whitley Strieber)

It is possible that the visitors are about to show up. I am not saying that this will happen, but only that this is a time when it could happen, and there are some indications that it may be about to happen.

The indications are these: First, the large number of UFO sightings around the world, capped most recently by a report that there is an active UFO on the ground in southern Somalia. Is this report true? So far, it has not been possible to follow up, and probably the only way to get confirmation would be from a US military satellite, and we can forget that. Second, the sudden upsurge in official and semi-official statements, with the latest being Gov. Fife Symington's reiteration on Good Morning America this morning that he had seen a UFO.

So, all of the activity and public pronouncement suggest change.

Strieber should know better.

One of the relatively few writers who sometimes seems to grasp the human dynamic of the UFO experience, he nevertheless falls victim to the illusion of incipient disclosure. If the UFO phenomenon has taught us anything, it's that it resolutely eschews open contact; as Terence McKenna noted, we're instead asked to recognize what's already in front of us.

The UFO intelligence may taunt us occasionally -- indeed, it might be doing so now -- but its seeming promises invariably evaporate.

As Strieber concedes at the end of his essay, it's up to us, not the "aliens," to take the next step.
"You may smile at this, but hopefully you'll never forget it."

Yeah, I realize poking fun at Creationists is neither productive nor edifying. But sometimes it's pretty damned hard to resist.

(Hat tip: Boing Boing.)

Friday, March 30, 2007

NTT's eye-tracking system monitors pupil size, blinking

The NTT Group has unveiled technology that analyzes the interest level of TV viewers and web surfers by monitoring their eye movement, pupil size and blinking.

Is it just me or is this reminiscent of the Voight-Kampff test in "Blade Runner"?

Video: Army Flying Saucer

The U.S. Army would like to have a fleet of robotic flying saucers -- and it's given a British company a contract to try to build some UFO-like prototypes.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Noisy damned things.
Wild Hogs

Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has been raising and tattooing pigs at his Art Farm in China for quite some time. Bearing designs ranging from Louis Viutton logos to Walt Disney characters, the live and dead versions of his inked subjects have been showcased worldwide.

Currently, the stuffed and skinned versions of Delvoye's pigs are on view at the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris until May 12th.

Congratulations to Peter Watts: his harrowing fourth novel, "Blindsight," is a Hugo Award finalist. Although I read "Blindsight" in fitful bursts, it never came close to losing my interest. It's a story the reader inhabits. For my money, "Blindsight" is one of the most intriguing novels of the new millennium. And one of the scariest.
What if Humans were Designed to Last?

In the absence of planned form and designed function, what we have is a living machine that appears well thought out, but which fails when operated beyond its biological warranty period. Some anatomic fixes could make a difference in aging populations: Most men older than age 50 can attest that the prostate gland has the functional plan of an apprentice's first effort rather than the end result of intelligent design. Anyone who understands how time takes its toll on the body and mind, however, will recognize that designing a human body built to last requires far more substantive changes than meddling with simple anatomy.

(Via Betterhumans.)

Roy Batty from "Blade Runner" said it succinctly: "I want more life, fucker."

What have I done? I just (gulp) created a Facebook account! And a group called -- you guessed it -- "Posthuman Blues"!

Anyway, feel free to drop by and say hi.
I just discovered that Steve Erickson, one of my favorite living writers, has a cool website. I'm currently reading "Our Ecstatic Days."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Enigmatic "black triangles" have been seen for a while now, but not until recently have they had a whole blog exclusively devoted to them.
Scientists Say Antarctic Ice Sheet is Thinning

A Texas-sized piece of the Antarctic ice sheet is thinning, possibly due to global warming, and could cause the world's oceans to rise significantly, polar ice experts said on Wednesday.

They said "surprisingly rapid changes" were occurring in Antarctica's Amundsen Sea Embayment, which faces the southern Pacific Ocean, but that more study was needed to know how fast it was melting and how much it could cause the sea level to rise.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I just ran across this at Boing Boing:

Geometric whirlpools revealed

Bizarre geometric shapes that appear at the centre of swirling vortices in planetary atmospheres might be explained by a simple experiment with a bucket of water.

Hmmm . . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Global Warming Forecasts Creation, Loss of Climate Zones

"We want to identify the regions of the world where climate change will result in climates unlike any today," Williams says. "These are the areas beyond our map."

The most severely affected parts of the world span both heavily populated regions, including the southeastern United States, southeastern Asia and parts of Africa, and known hotspots of biodiversity, such as the Amazonian rainforest and African and South American mountain ranges. The changes predicted by the new study anticipate dramatic ecological shifts, with unknown but probably extensive effects on large segments of the Earth's population.

(Via Unknown Country.)

And lest you think 2100 is reassuringly distant, think again. Hell, I hope to be alive in 2100 -- and with a little genetic tweaking it could happen.

Strange Hexagon Seen on Saturn

One of the most bizarre weather patterns known has been photographed at Saturn, where astronomers have spotted a huge, six-sided feature circling the north pole.

Rather than the normally sinuous cloud structures seen on all planets that have atmospheres, this thing is a hexagon.


Click here for more.
There's a wealth of provocative paranormal-tinged information at Dream's End, including this fascinating post on Whitley Strieber.

(Thanks to Carol for the tip.)

Don't laugh. It's actually better than that Australian alien video that was making the rounds not long ago. (Does anyone speak Finnish?)

(Thanks, Anonymous!)
Paul Kimball writes:

One question that doesn't get asked enough by ufology is this: if the UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin, with all of the advanced technology that this would involve (memo to the ETHers: it isn't as easy as you think it is to travel between the stars), why do they allow themselves to be seen, as surely they must, given their technological prowess?

The fact that the UFO phenomenon is so rampant argues against extraterrestrial origin and favors an intelligence with a penchant for theater. While it's possible to argue that a visiting ET civilization could be staging sightings as part of some sort of long-term social experiment (or even as an acclimatization program), it's at least as tempting to discard the ETH entirely. But the remaining options infringe deeply on our collective sense of self, making the ETH a comforting -- if unwieldy -- recourse.

Genuine ET visitors would probably have little need for the conspicuous maneuvers and trace evidence that form the backbone of the ETH. In the event of alien visitation, it's likely we'd never see objects resembling recognizable craft -- let alone vehicles encumbered with attention-grabbing lights and adorned with portholes.

Our own technological trajectory suggests that a full-scale planetary reconnaissance could be achieved using incredibly small devices. A nanotech "smart dust," for instance, could infiltrate and reap a vast real-time harvest of information -- all without our knowing. As we prepare to use such technologies to study our own planet (and its inhabitants) in ever-increasing detail, we're forced to question prevailing ufological assumptions. While scintillating "spaceships" and irradiated landing sites are certainly cause for wonder and scientific concern, they appear suspiciously mired in the science fantasies of the previous century.

Where are the real alien technologies? Hidden, perhaps, behind the subterfuge of "motherships" that have haunted our skies since at least the 1950s? If a civilization wanted to keep us preoccupied with bogus sightings, the modern UFO spectacle would certainly seem elaborate enough to do the job. But it's difficult to imagine why ETs would bother, in turn suggesting an intelligence much closer to home.

To Jacques Vallee, the answer was a "multiverse" of interpermeable realities: the "ufonauts" engaged our sense of mythology because they hailed from an aspect of space-time ever-so-slightly removed from our own. To John Keel, both UFO displays and "monster" sightings were psychic distractions enforced by an unseen intelligence.

Both ideas, while attractive, ask that we shed the ETH in favor of something with more immediate existential consequences. More damningly (from a research perspective), both the multiverse and Keel's "superspectrum" beg for nothing less than a redefinition of the physical universe.

It's hardly surprising that "mainstream" ufologists greeted such ideas with mixed reactions; after all, the phenomenon had repeatedly demonstrated physical characteristics amenable to empirical science. Ufologists, already burdened by the omnipresent giggle factor, had long since ceased to speculate about the origin and purpose of UFOs in favor of obtaining physical "proof."

In hindsight, perhaps this was the phenomenon's intention all along.
Much ado has been made about former Arizona governor Fife Symington's recent claim to have seen an "inexplicable" object over Phoenix in 1997. While I think it's probably a sincere admission, I doubt it will have any discernible effect on the study of UFOs. Neither does Greg Bishop.
Now scientists create a sheep that's 15% human

Animal rights activists fear that if the cells get mixed together, they could end up with cellular fusion, creating a hybrid which would have the features and characteristics of both man and sheep. But Prof Zanjani said: "Transplanting the cells into foetal sheep at this early stage does not result in fusion at all."

(Via Boing Boing.)

Fifteen percent isn't anything to sneeze at, never mind the lack of human characteristics. I wonder what will happen when we reach 25%? Or 50%? Science fiction writer Paul Di Filippo (with whom I'm honored to appear in the upcoming issue of FLURB) arrives at some playful yet disturbing answers in his short story collection "Ribofunk."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Although I've been unapologetically skeptical of the Singularity, I continue to be fascinated by it. (Maybe that's what it wants . . .) In any case, Blogging the Singularity weighs in as today's featured blog.
The Elephant is Stampeding in the Living Room (Whitley Strieber)

We do not know what this intelligence is. Of course, it could be aliens from another planet or planets, but it could also be something very different. This is a big, immeasurably old and complex universe, consisting largely of what we call 'dark matter' which we have never even detected. In this universe, it may be possible to travel across time. It may be possible to move among very physical realities that coexist in the same space.

In short, what we are seeing could be almost anything. It could be something completely inconceivable to us now. Or it could be that we are the target of attention from another world right here in this universe, and it's all fairly straightforward--if anything about it could be considered straightforward.
I very stupidly alarmed some good friends, online and otherwise, with my last post. I was vague when I should have been explicit, ominous when I should have just explained the situation -- which is less than dramatic.

So here's what's up:

As I've mentioned, I've been bothered by a pronounced case of tinnitus. At times it's been pretty intolerable. I've seen a couple doctors and there's nothing structurally wrong with my ear. Likewise, a CT scan showed no nerve inflammation inside my head -- a distinct relief on one hand, but on the other a kick in the shins because evidently there's nothing they can do. And when you have what sounds for all the world like microphone feedback squalling in your left ear for most of the day you want the doctors to find something wrong so they can fix it. No such luck.

Finally, approaching wit's end, I abruptly stopped taking a medicine I've been taking for nearly half my life in the hope that it was contributing to the sourceless noise. Initially, this seemed to relieve the tinnitus. (In fact, as I write it's the most tolerable it's been in many weeks.) But then I crashed. Not messily, but badly enough to plunge me into a depressive stupor and wrack me with dizzy spells, which I'm still fending off (mostly by sitting down and gulping herbal tea while jamming to Talking Heads MP3s).

I've since reinstated the medicine, which I probably should never have stopped taking in the first place. Hopefully this will allay the dizziness. I suspect my mood will improve as well. And I'm seeking an apartment in downtown Kansas City, so it looks like my grotesquely distended tenure in the suburbs might be winding down -- and that can only be a good thing.

So, aside from the usual sense of existential futility, I'm not doing as bad as I could. And while I'll be taking it relatively easy, I'll more than likely keep blogging; a change of routine is one thing, but masochistically denying myself simple pleasures is another matter.

At least now I'm clear-headed enough to grasp the distinction.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I'm again tentatively putting this blog on hold, this time due to health concerns. I'll return when I have something to say -- and, more importantly, the energy to say it.

Thanks to everyone who's dropped by over the years. Hopefully I can exhume Posthuman Blues in the near-future.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Top Ten Cybernetic Upgrades Everyone Will Want

Transhumanists are philosophers who believe that one day, cybernetic upgrades will be so powerful, elegant, and inexpensive that everyone will want them. This page lists ten major upgrades that I think will be adopted by 2050.

(Via Biosingularity.)

Although this is a fun bit of speculative futurism, I disagree with the statement that "transhumanists are philosophers." While some transhumanists are indeed thinkers, the vast majority are parrots content to sing the praises of the imminent Singularity.

Just as undue fascination with the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis threatens to capsize serious UFO research, inordinate faith in an all-changing technological Singularity poses a formidable if alluring obstacle to the study of the world to come.

France opens secret UFO files covering 50 years

The online archives, which will be updated as new cases are reported, catalogues in minute detail cases ranging from the easily dismissed to a handful that continue to perplex even hard-nosed scientists.

"It is a world first," said Jacques Patenet, the aeronautical engineer who heads the office for the study of "non-identified aerospatial phenomena."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Here's a haunting set of photos originally intended to accompany the release of Natalie Merchant's "Motherland." Soundtrack included.
These Boots Were Made for 22 M.P.H.

Mr. Gordeyev, a specialist in airplane piston engines, sweated it out with everyone else, running laps in lumbering heavy boots in this town in the foothills of the Ural Mountains.

He vowed to find an easier way. Eventually, he found one -- or at least came close. Mr. Gordeyev invented a gasoline-powered boot that looks like pogo sticks that strap to your shins, and they work on the same principle as the air-cushioned basketball shoe.

(Via Gizmag.)

Almost 30 years later, police say the case remains open and unsolved.

Bob told officers that he had found the craft - a metal sphere, about 20ft across - in Dechmont Woods, Livingston, West Lothian.

As he approached it, two smaller spheres, each about 3ft wide and with metal spikes sticking from them, dropped down.

He said the smaller spheres rolled towards him and attached themselves to his trousers.

Bob described an acrid smell before collapsing unconscious on the ground.

When he came round 20 minutes later, he said his head was pounding and he was unable to talk or walk.

I don't know what this guy saw. But I'm personally satisfied that he saw something exceptionally strange.
Creature that has not had sex for 100m years

I object to being called a "creature."

(Thanks: The Anomalist.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Radio SETI take note:

ESA takes steps toward quantum communications

A team of European scientists has proved within an ESA study that the weird quantum effect called entanglement remains intact over a distance of 144 kilometres.

The experiment allows ESA to take a step closer to exploiting entanglement as a way of communicating with satellites with total security.

(Via Centauri Dreams.)
Study details catastrophic impact of nuclear attack on US cities

The study, which the authors said was the most advanced and detailed simulation published in open scientific literature, highlights the inability of the nation's current medical system to handle casualties from a nuclear attack. It also suggests what the authors said are much needed yet relatively simple interventions that could save tens of thousands of lives.

"The likelihood of a nuclear weapon attack in an American city is steadily increasing, and the consequences will be overwhelming" said Cham Dallas, CMADD director and professor in the UGA College of Pharmacy. "So we need to substantially increase our preparation."

Great science fiction pulp illustration by Ron Turner. I particularly like his bulbous space-helmets.

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)
Rudy Rucker and R.U. Sirius discuss the aesthetics of parallel universes (video).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Flood Maps: inundating a virtual coastline near you.

(Hat tip: Blues Tea-Cha.)
Penn & Teller - Masters Of Deception (Greg Bishop)

Taking the sometimes unscientific methods of CSICOP one step further, Penn & Teller (P&T) use their pay-TV pulpit to smear and denigrate those who dare to dabble in the fields of Ufology, cryptozoology, remote viewing, and other arcane areas. To be sure, there are many charlatans, liars, addle-headed believers and worse in these fields of inquiry, and P&T are right to point them out for ridicule.

These magicians have been deceiving people for most of their lives -- it's part of their act and they revel in it. The problem with this attitude is that P&T assume that anyone who is trying to promote or investigate subjects outside the realm of 19th century science is doing the same thing. Like the high-priests of CSICOP, their minds are made up before the study begins.
Here's a stunning VR immersion that simulates standing on the Martian surface. Possibly the next-best thing to telepresence.

(Thanks: Spluch.)
The Monday night YouTube film-fest continues with "Charlie the Unicorn." I think I happened across this gem at Table of Malcontents a while back.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Will a New Study Force Changes in Drug Law?

Indeed, it would be a fine start if Americans could simply begin the sort of rational, thoughtful debate on drug policy that the British seem to be having. If we could manage such a thing, we might start changing illogical and unscientific laws that now lead to more U.S. arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined.
Natural Disasters Will Increase - UN Meteorologists

Global warming is likely to bring more tidal waves, floods and hurricanes, leading meteorologists said on Monday.

"What we know is that global warming is very likely to lead in the future to more frequent tidal waves," the secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) told a news conference ahead of a meeting in Madrid on Monday.
Someday I'll have a website as cool as this.

(Thanks: Aberrant News.)

I just checked Amazon to see where "After the Martian Apocalypse" stood in sales rankings. Here's what I saw:

"Availability: Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this title will be in stock again."

Oh, well. It's time to get a new book published anyway.

Amen, brother.

You know the Singularity is just around the corner when bots start handing out Kleenex.

(Thanks: Communist Robot.)
I've read a couple books by Kal Korff. Though poorly written, his condemnation of the Billy Meier "contacts" at least served a purpose. His subsequent treatise on the Roswell crash is perhaps the worst on the subject, pro or con, that I've encountered; for those looking for a full-bodied skeptical treatment of the Roswell mystery, I recommend the late Karl Pflock's "Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe."

But it's Korff's website that really steals the show. I'm honestly not sure what to make of it. Paul Kimball, who's been plagued by Korff since questioning his alleged role as an "expert witness" for the O.J. Simpon trial on live radio, has generously speculated that Korff's engaged in a sort of long-winded practical joke.

But it's increasingly apparent that Korff's for real -- or unreal, as the case may be. We seem to be watching an inordinately messy case of online identity crisis, a descent into wishful thinking so pronounced it attains the status of comedy. (I'm reminded of Napolean Dynamite breathlessly defending his claim to have spent his vacation hunting wolverines to smirking classmates.)

The latest additions to Korff's blog take the form of vaguely threatening messages from sexy female Czech journalists (one of whom, aside from bearing a curious resemblance to Lara Croft, proves mysteriously invisible to Google). The alarming thing is that you know it's Korff writing this stuff -- but what's more disconcerting is the possibility that he expects anyone to take it seriously.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The second part of my interview with Tim Binnall is online. Tune in to hear me decry the present state of ufology, pimp the Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis and more. (Featuring the music of Portishead.)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Arctic sea ice decline may trigger climate change cascade

"When the ice thins to a vulnerable state, the bottom will drop out and we may quickly move into a new, seasonally ice-free state of the Arctic," Serreze said. "I think there is some evidence that we may have reached that tipping point, and the impacts will not be confined to the Arctic region."

The musical preview for my next Binnall of America Audio appearance is online. Good god -- two uninterrupted hours of me talking about UFOs.
'Cave entrances' spotted on Mars

The caves may be the only natural structures capable of protecting primitive life forms from micrometeoroids, UV radiation, solar flares and high energy particles that bombard the planet's surface.

The spacecraft spotted what seemed to be vertical "skylight" entrances to caves below the surface.

The odds are these features are natural, but I'd recommend taking a careful look.
Is "time" a perceptual artifact?

(Thanks: Drop My Straw.)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Here's an elaboration on the possibility that consciousness emerges at the quantum level, potentially demolishing dreams of uploading minds into a computer substrate.

The argument that consciousness is pervasive and not "merely" a phenomenon confined to one's nervous system appeals to me; somehow, it seems suitably "cosmic" in scope, making us part of something vastly stranger than Newtonian models would lead us to believe.

If valid, I'd suggest that the "ego" as we know it is an evolutionary dead end to be transcended either by physical death or (preferably) access to "psychedelic" technologies.

While some might embrace a quantum mechanical model of consciousness as justification for religious ideology, I suspect a nonlocal state of being could actually prove gravely damaging to conventional expectations of the "afterlife."

(Lead: Mondolithic Sketchbook.)
Many UFO occupant incidents have a surreal flavor that initially seems to contradict the phenomenon's physicality. If some run-ins with ufonauts are staged events engineered to encourage belief in (and subsequent dismissal of) the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH), "they" perhaps couldn't have done a better job than the 1955 Hopkinsville "invasion."

Arthur C. Clarke's maxim notwithstanding, the Hopkinsville "goblins" are an intriguing fusion of the "real" and the "magical." Their abilities seem calculated to tarnish an empirical approach to the ETH by introducing elements of the fantastic; indeed, these same elements would eventually be used as ammunition by would-be skeptics determined to denounce the account.

For example, the diminutive "goblins" reportedly levitated and proved immune to gunfire. While not necessarily out of the realm of possibility for genuine ETs, the entities' goblin-like appearance argues for an origin in keeping with folklore. If they were "real," then their reality might not be as amenable to the ETH as researchers would like. Conversely, the desire to debunk the Sutton family's claim appears little more than a protest against the episode's surreal nature.

UFO researchers like their aliens to abide by 20th century preconceptions of what alien beings should look like; entities like those observed in Hopkinsville comprise a kind of viral assault on conformist ufology by insinuating themselves into reigning conceits and quietly subverting ETH dogma. Ultimately, their existence is marginalized and becomes less ufological than "fortean." We're asked, in effect, to consider the Hopkinsville visitors and their like as somehow separate and distinct from "hardcore" case-files that more readily suggest extraterrestrial visitation. We do so at our peril.

Even UFO cases central to advocates of the ETH sometimes betray a psychosocial agenda. ("Dogfights" and radar-visual engagements with UFOs, while impressive evidence that the phenomenon is anything but simply visionary, also present the specter of an inexplicably "playful" disposition; this clashes with dogmatic assurances that extrasolar aliens would refrain from such childish behavior.)

Encounters with "Hopkinsville-type" beings demonstrate an undeniable commonality with both folkoric sources and the contemporary UFO phenomenon. Taken together, these inconvenient similarities force us to question the easy certainties that prevailed in the 1950s, when visiting space aliens seemed all-but-inevitable. "Limbo" cases like Hopkinsville allow us to assess the phenomenon in a brighter, less sullied light.

While one can argue endlessly in favor of a literal extraterrestrial interpretation, a holistic approach leads us to consider that the UFO intelligence not only wants to perpetuate itself via dramatic encounters with ostensible "occupants," but intends to discredit its own machinations: it stages exciting UFO events that infect both the research community and the popular imagination, knowing that the phenomenon's inherent absurdity will eventually undermine attempts to arrive at an indictment.

We're thus conditioned to accept the ETH one moment only to succumb to the "giggle factor" the next, never peering past the curtain to see the agenda behind the special effects. We're kept in a sort of amnesiac stupor, occasionally graced by visits from what can only be structured ET craft . . . and then deflated by the latest bizarre "occupant" report or account of "missing time."

Our infatuation with the unknown is systematically provoked and dismantled by a memetic campaign that's never less than astute in its grasp of human belief.
Abundant toy robots for your amusement and edification.

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More high-budget geo-engineering schemes:

Could Crazy Technology Save the Planet?

"Of course it's desperation," said Stanford University professor Stephen Schneider. "It's planetary methadone for our planetary heroin addiction. It does come out of the pessimism of any realist that says this planet can't be trusted to do the right thing."
Is EM radiation to blame for the ongoing bee dieback?

(Thanks: Reality Carnival.)

Pierre Matter's biomechanical sculpture is gleefully surreal. Take a look.

(More links here.)
Immense ice deposits found at south pole of Mars

A spacecraft orbiting Mars has scanned huge deposits of water ice at its south pole so plentiful they would blanket the planet in 36 feet of water if they were liquid, scientists said on Thursday.

The scientists used a joint NASA-Italian Space Agency radar instrument on the European Space Agency Mars Express spacecraft to gauge the thickness and volume of ice deposits at the Martian south pole covering an area larger than Texas.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Beware the Air-Kraken!
How we'll return to the Moon (in a nutshell):

(Thanks: The Other Side of Truth.)
Wipe out a single memory

LeDoux's team also confirms the idea that a part of the brain called the amygdala is central to this process - communication between neurons in this part of the brain usually increases when a fearful memory forms, but it decreases in the treated rats. This shows that the fearful memory is actually deleted, rather than simply breaking the link between the memory and a fearful response.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Imagine a drug therapy that renders beneficiaries into willful amnesiacs. The possibilities are both promising (I would argue that there are some memories that deserve to be forgotten) and chilling.

Excuse me while I add this to my teetering heap of science fiction story ideas.
The Hole Story

What's going on? Wasn't the 1987 United Nations Montreal Protocol -- an international agreement that set limits on the emission of ozone-eating compounds like chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs -- supposed to shrink Earth's life-threatening atmospheric bald spot?

(Via PAG E-News.)

You thought the ozone hole was healing, didn't you?

Bailey on Fukuyama's 'eugenics'

These regulatory precedents are dangerously constrictive. It is Fukuyama, after all, who has made it painfully clear that he is opposed to not just human enhancement, but life extending technologies as well.

As Bailey points out in his article, these regulatory bodies often function as bureaucratic obstructions to research and development. Moreover, when given too much political clout, and if guided by anachronistic notions of human reproduction and biology, these agencies may also act in a way that's reminiscent of 20th century eugenics.

Ultimately, Fukuyama's agency will work to enforce a preconceived, non-normative and state imposed vision of human reproduction and health in general.

Praying Mantis Ice Sculpture

Junichi Nakamura and Peter Slavin sculptured this ice sculpture of a praying mantis from a single ice block. It was created as an entry for the World Ice Championships in Fairbanks in Alaska.

Wow -- enough to make Edward Scissorhands envious.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

John Shirley instructs writers online. Lord knows he could teach me a thing or two.
Cassini Spacecraft Images Seas on Saturn's Moon Titan

Instruments on NASA's Cassini spacecraft have found evidence for seas, likely filled with liquid methane or ethane, in the high northern latitudes of Saturn's moon Titan. One such feature is larger than any of the Great Lakes of North America and is about the same size as several seas on Earth.

Surf's up!
Chuck Bonnet and the Hallucinations

For those stricken with Charles Bonnet Syndrome, the world is occasionally adorned with vivid yet unreal images. Some see surfaces covered in non-existent patterns such as brickwork or tiles, while others see phantom objects in astonishing detail, including people, animals, buildings, or whatever else their minds may conjure. These images linger for as little as several seconds or for as much as several hours, appearing and vanishing abruptly. They may consist of commonplace items such as bottles or hats, or brain-bending nonsense such as dancing children with giant flowers for heads.

(Via PAG E-News.)

Some good news: Rudy Rucker's accepted one of my short-stories for the next edition of FLURB, his online science fiction zine. Past contributors include notables Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, John Shirley, and a bunch of others; it will be interesting to see how I fare swimming with some of the genre's big fish instead of lurking in small-press obscurity.

(Read Rucker's latest blog entry here.)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Here's a photo of an alleged alien. Yeah, it's probably a hoax. But for some reason I'm not writing this off quite yet. Perhaps it's because the "alien" is so unlike the dreary parade of bug-eyed "Grays" we've been conditioned to expect, or because of the figure's comical gait (both of which, strangely enough, argue against blatant fraud). If it's a fake -- which it probably is -- then at least it's an interesting one.

(Note: The "alien" in the photo bears a vague resemblance to the "Hopkinsville goblins." Greg Bishop knows what I'm talking about.)

(Lead: The Anomalist.)
UFO Memories are NOT Repressed

Contrary to conventional thought dating back to Freud, victims of traumatic events do not subconsciously repress the memories but rather recall them with a clarity reminiscent of reality. In fact, people have more trouble remembering pleasant experiences than unpleasant ones. This startling finding comes from a five-year-study conducted by Canadian psychologist Steve Porter, who has discovered that people have much more difficulty recalling pleasant memories than they do unpleasant ones.
Sensor Being Developed to Check for Life on Mars

The instrument, called Urey: Mars Organic and Oxidant Detector, has already shown its capabilities in one of the most barren climes on Earth, the Atacama Desert in Chile. The European Space Agency has chosen this tool from the United States as part of the science payload for the ExoMars rover planned for launch in 2013.
Scientist Says Sea Level Rise Could Accelerate

Sea levels, rising at 1 millimetre a year before the industrial revolution, are now rising by 3 millimetres a year because of a combination of global warming, polar ice-melting and long natural cycles of sea level change.

"All indications are that it's going to get faster," said Eric Lindstrom, head of oceanography at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), told Reuters on the sidelines of a global oceans conference in Hobart.
Paul Kimball should like this -- Siouxsie of Siouxsie and the Banshees in an excellent duet with Morrissey.

Can pop music get any better?
"Is it live or is it Memorex?"

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Can you find Jesus?

(Hat tip: Aberrant News.)

What's not to like?
The Binnall of America interview is posted. I'm getting ready to listen to it. (I'm a bit disappointed in The Anomalist; they have me billed as a believer in the great NASA Mars "conspiracy" I keep hearing about. If you want to find out what I really think, listen to the interview.)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Awesome J.G. Ballard cover art! Lots of it!

Katie emailed me this video. She thought it would be right up my alley. She was right.

The imagery is derived from the Millennium Simulation, which shows the distribution of galaxies in our universe. I'm intrigued by how organic this all looks when seen from a distance; it's like peering at some perfectly inconceivable brain -- and perhaps in some sense it is.
IBM search tool targets flying saucers, ghosts and goblins

With UFO sightings seemingly on the rise, Big Blue is teaming with The Anomalies Network to offer UFO Crawler, a new search engine specifically tuned to search for information about the paranormal, unexplained or just plain bizarre.
Today's Web-toy, courtesy of Reality Carnival.

Scientists say nerves use sound, not electricity

The common view that nerves transmit impulses through electricity is wrong and they really transmit sound, according to a team of Danish scientists.

The Copenhagen University researchers argue that biology and medical textbooks that say nerves relay electrical impulses from the brain to the rest of the body are incorrect.

"For us as physicists, this cannot be the explanation," said Thomas Heimburg, an associate professor at the university's Niels Bohr Institute. "The physical laws of thermodynamics tell us that electrical impulses must produce heat as they travel along the nerve, but experiments find that no such heat is produced."

This immediately reminded me of my ongoing bout of tinnitus. Speaking of which, I have a hunch this site might be onto something:

The striking similarities between the Tinnitus sounds and the sound produced by positive feedback in electronic circuits processing audio signals suggest that Tinnitus sounds are caused by positive feedback between neurons in the auditory neural system in the brain by inappropriate axon connections.

There's definitely an "electronic" aspect to what I'm experiencing. It can range from a sort of hiss to a high-frequency whine that recalls microphone feedback. I woke up one morning and actually thought an insect had crawled into my ear.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Omega-3s may affect mood and behavior

Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with increased gray matter volume in areas of the brain commonly linked to mood and behavior, according to a University of Pittsburgh study.

The researchers discovered that participants who had high levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake had higher volumes of gray matter in areas of the brain associated with emotional arousal and regulation -- the bilateral anterior cingulate cortex, the right amygdala and the right hippocampus.

I guess it's time to hit the fish-oil supplements again.

Despite the lurid "UFO WARNING" banner that underscores this interview, former MoD UFO investigator Nick Pope manages to address the topic with a commendable degree of finesse and skepticism.

(Thanks: The Other Side of Truth.)
Global warming or not, CO2 levels threaten marine life

Like a piece of chalk dissolving in vinegar, marine life with hard shells is in danger of being dissolved by increasing acidity in the oceans.

Ocean acidity is rising as sea water absorbs more carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from power plants and automobiles. The higher acidity threatens marine life, including corals and shellfish, which may become extinct later this century from the chemical effects of carbon dioxide, even if the planet warms less than expected.
Smog is changing the face of Earth's water cycle

Smog may be having dramatic effects on the planet's water cycles, and in ways not previously apparent, researchers have warned. Revealing one aspect of this, they have shown that urban pollution and other aerosols have significantly reduced rainfall over hills in central China.

"Pollution is reducing rainfall in the areas where people need it most," says Daniel Rosenfeld, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. "Communities in semi-arid regions rely on the water from rain and snow that fall on mountains, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away. But the combination of the hills and the air pollution emitted by the same people means that the some of moisture in the clouds is evaporating before it ever hits the ground."

Holy cryptozoological cow! It appears Universal plans on making a movie out of Nick Redfern's "Three Men Seeking Monsters."

Congratulations, Nick!

(Lead: The Anomalist.)

The Society for Planetary SETI Research has posted a stinging, informed rebuttal to the European Space Agency's (presumably deliberate) misrepresentation of the Face on Mars.

Go to SPSR's site and click on "SPSR News" (top link in left-hand side-bar) to read "The Two Faces of ESA."
Yet another clip of me talking about indigenous ufonauts:

For commentary by Paul Kimball, click here.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

There's a critical yet overlooked distinction between toleration and resignation.
Climate is big issue for U.S. hunters, anglers

Trout like cold water and become stressed on hot summer days, because water levels are lower and temperatures are higher than would have been the case if the run-off came at more traditional times from April to June.

"We are finding a lot of concern among anglers and hunters about climate change. These people value traditions and their family and it will affect their children and their ability to enjoy these kinds of outdoor experience," Williams said.

Yes, you read that correctly: hunters don't like global warming not because it signals the biosphere's ultimate collapse but because it threatens their valued "traditions" (which, of course, is a tactful euphemism for "killing things").

(Compare and contrast to this post about ocean-loving coast-dwellers who simply won't tolerate unsightly wind turbines.)

(Thanks, Nick.)

Robotic age poses ethical dilemma

The new guidelines could reflect the three laws of robotics put forward by author Isaac Asimov in his short story Runaround in 1942, she said.

Key considerations would include ensuring human control over robots, protecting data acquired by robots and preventing illegal use.

Other bodies are also thinking about the robotic future. Last year a UK government study predicted that in the next 50 years robots could demand the same rights as human beings.

The European Robotics Research Network is also drawing up a set of guidelines on the use of robots.

This ethical roadmap has been assembled by researchers who believe that robotics will soon come under the same scrutiny as disciplines such as nuclear physics and Bioengineering.


I'll be on Binnall of America Audio this Friday. Tune in!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

NASA can't pay for killer asteroid hunt

NASA officials say the space agency is capable of finding nearly all the asteroids that might pose a devastating hit to Earth, but there isn't enough money to pay for the task so it won't get done.

The cost to find at least 90 percent of the 20,000 potentially hazardous asteroids and comets by 2020 would be about $1 billion, according to a report NASA will release later this week. The report was previewed Monday at a Planetary Defense Conference in Washington.


Approximate cost of the Iraq war (so far): $406 billion.
The Best in the Biz (Paul Kimball)

If you are even remotely interested in UFOs, or the paranormal, then here are some sites / blogs you should be checking every day.

I second Paul's recommendations. Here are a (very) few others worth perusing on a regular, if not positively obsessive, basis:

1.) Always skeptical, inspiring and forward-thinking, Mondolithic Sketchbook is perhaps the futurology blog, beautifully crafted by a couple of the best digital artists in the world.

2.) I'm an unrepentant Boing Boing addict. The definitive guide to geek-chic doo-dads and cultural curiosities.

3.) Updated daily, The Anomalist is a miasma of strange phenomena and unexpected discoveries -- sort of a fortean Boing Boing for scholars of the strange and curious bystanders alike.

4.) Centauri Dreams may not take you to the stars, but its meticulous approach, eye for notable space-science developments and penchant for speculation make it the best blog of its genre.

5.) A lot of the time I don't think humanity has a chance. I like World Changing because it tirelessly attempts to prove me wrong.
'Flying' in your sleep may be a paralysis

During sleep paralysis, people experience a kind of breakdown between states of consciousness which takes place on the fringe of sleep, either when falling asleep or waking. Because the brain turns off the body's ability to move during dreaming, muscles can lose their tone, or tension, causing paralysis.

(Via The Anomalist.)

OK, OK, we get it already!
Here's a comprehensive list of science fiction and fantasy authors with blogs. They've got me in pretty nice company!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Marijuana, the wonder drug

A new study in the journal Neurology is being hailed as unassailable proof that marijuana is a valuable medicine. It is a sad commentary on the state of modern medicine that we still need "proof" of something that medicine has known for 5,000 years.

[. . .]

If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug.

(Via Sentient Developments.)

My favorite artist of the moment is Jacek Yerka. His paintings manage to echo both Dali and Escher. And I appreciate his whimsical spin on Giger's "biomechanical" sensibility.
I finally saw "Napolean Dynamite." Here's a scene I liked:

Oy -- Nick Redfern's gone MySpace!

Monday, March 05, 2007

While ego-surfing, I discovered an album called "Post Human Blues." It's by a group called Trancendental Anarchists and sounds right up my alley.

And no, I'm not bothered by the Anarchists' use of the P-word; to my chagrin, a writer named Will Wilkinson beat me to the punch with this 2002 post (which I didn't know about until after christening this blog in a gesture of abortive originality).

That said, I do find it a bit suspicious that the Anarchists' cover art bears an unnerving resemblance to the Face on Mars.

Lesson: It's weird out there. You have to think fast.
A must-see:

Edo-period kappa sketches

Although kappa are typically about the size of a child and greenish in color, they can vary widely in appearance. They frequently have a turtle-like shell and scaly skin, but sometimes their skin is moist and slick, or coated in fur. Most walk upright on their hind legs, but they are occasionally seen on all fours. Regardless of body type, the top of the kappa's head usually features a bowl-shaped depression containing water. The water inside this bowl is the source of the kappa's power.

Incidentally, this account of a UFO-like boat (complete with mysterious occupant) dates to the same period. Are we looking at the historical equivalent to Weekly World News? If so, the similarities to beings allegedly seen today are uncommonly striking.

(Big thanks to Pink Tentacle.)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The celestial real-estate gimmick takes a quantum leap.

(Thanks, Reality Carnival!)
Active Hurricane Season Risk Grows - Meteorologists

The likelihood of an above-average Atlantic hurricane season is growing as a Pacific Ocean El Nino system, which drove storms away from the Gulf Coast in 2006, ended in the past few weeks, meteorologists said on Thursday.

Even worse for oil and natural gas interests along the U.S. Gulf Coast is the possible formation of a La Nina system in the Pacific. More than normal Atlantic hurricanes are usually seen during La Nina events, meteorologists said.

Ice age coming, ice age coming
Let me hear both sides
Let me hear both sides

Veteran author/cryptozoologist Loren Coleman needs money. And he deserves it. More here.

Things like this make me wonder if perhaps some sort of "Fortean help fund" is feasible.
The 911 Script and the Age of Terror (Whitley Strieber)

But the BBC reporter is clearly seen reading from a teleprompter. Obviously, she was reading something written on it, and not making up what would have then seemed to be a wild tale. In other words, she was reading a script, and that script had been put up on her teleprompter early. Not only that, she was sitting in front of a live image of the still-intact Building 7.

Somebody wrote that script and did so while Building 7 was still standing. How could they know that it would collapse, even if it was unstable, even if there was a fire in the cellars?

No, the author of the script did not think the building had collapsed. He knew that it would, and the statement was read early as a miscue.

If the BBC had not lost the video of that entire day, it would be easier to believe that this was some sort of a mistake. But the idea that an organization like the BBC, which prides itself on the record it keeps, would lose an entire day of some of the most historic footage it has ever shot is just very difficult to believe. It seems more likely that there was something on that footage that they wanted to bury.

As, indeed, there was.

The video in question is indeed a puzzle. I've been trying to come up with explanations that exclude "conspiracy" . . . and the scenarios that emerge are strained. I'd really like to know what's going on here.

Scientists assess DNA Hair sample from Human being apparently not from Earth

Suddenly, he bolted wide awake and sat up. There "were two humanoid females sitting on the bed, both entirely naked," says Peter Khoury.

"These two women looked human in nearly every way. They had well proportioned adult bodies. One looked somewhat Asian, with straight dark shoulder-length hair and dark eyes. The other looked "perhaps Scandinavian-like", with light-coloured ("maybe bluish") eyes and long blond hair that fell half-way down her back."

We should all be so lucky.
Finally -- proof that eco-friendly cars needn't be soulless pods.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

This morning I picked up a bottle of homeopathic tinnitus medicine. I'm skeptical but more than willing to give it a chance.

I'm in somewhat better spirits. This evening I brought a sketch pad to Barnes & Noble and drew for a couple hours while listening to my MP3 player. It's uniquely empowering to have the better part of my CD collection stored in a device the size of a cigarette lighter.
Rudy Rucker has posted a grab-bag of links to cool sites, including Stuck In Customs, a blog devoted to High Dynamic Range photography. I find this technique fascinating; it somehow manages to make the real even more real. (For my all-time favorite example, refer to this HDR photo of Tokyo.)

Friday, March 02, 2007

The aerostats hovered over the horizon as we made our way through the wastes. Their lights, already tenuous, played weakly across the ground, accentuating the heaped ash and leaving curved rungs of light dangling in my vision like baubles. I'd never adapted to the aerostats' presence. Even their shape seemed implacably wrong, as if they'd been snatched from some higher dimensional space and squeezed until they fit the contours of the known. As they moved they stirred up vast clouds of black dust that occluded the stars.

I mopped sweat from my brow with a peeling concert T-shirt and took a sip of ancient Gatorade from one of the bottles we'd taken from a convenience store somewhere outside St. Louis.
All this slide-show of smashed bugs needs is a Depeche Mode soundtrack.

(Hat tip: Boing Boing and Table of Malcontents.)
Paranormal Book Competition Results Near!

The Book of THoTH will shortly be announcing the winners of the competition held last year. The competition allowed previously unpublished writers a chance to get their work featured in a forthcoming new book entitled "The Book of THoTH - Wisdom of the Ages".

The response to the competition has been overwhelming, and the judges have had no easy task choosing which articles should appear in the new book, out of so many.
Longest underground river found

Cave divers in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula have discovered what may be the world's longest underground river, connecting two cave systems with a waterway at least 95 miles long.

A group of foreign divers exploring the area near the Caribbean beach resort of Playa del Carmen have yet to name the stretch, but believe it could be connected to two other major systems, adding more than 125 miles to its length.

I'm filing this under "cryptoterrestrials." Just because.

SMART-1 views the edge of Luna Incognita: Mars on the Moon?

SMART-1 has investigated lunar areas at the edge of Luna Incognita. This area near the lunar poles can be used for lunar science studies, or even to prepare for human bases on the Moon and on Mars.

Mankind did not see the land called Luna Incognita, until the first probes sent images of the lunar farside.
Strange and Violent Weather Around the World

From an unprecedented locust swarm in southern Mexico to fearsome hailstorms in Australia to one of the deadliest winters in United States and European histories, world weather continues in a state of extreme violence.

I grew up hoping to live in an Arthur C. Clarke novel only to find myself inhabiting something out of Philip K. Dick. But never fear -- it looks like the future is J.G. Ballard all the way.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Here's one I want to read: "Biocosm" by James Gardner. Click here for reviews, etc.

More here.
Here's a truly grisly Nike shoe rendered in actual human flesh. Aside from its (presumed) attendant social statement, it looks vaguely c-punkish, like something grown in a vat.

Rudy Rucker now has an online gallery of original paintings. Wacky stuff for cyberpunks who refuse to take themselves too seriously.
Climate Change as Dangerous as War - UN Chief Ban

"The majority of the United Nations work still focuses on preventing and ending conflict," Ban said. "But the danger posed by war to all of humanity and to our planet is at least matched by the climate crisis and global warming."

"In coming decades, changes in our environment and the resulting upheavals from droughts to inundated coastal areas to loss of arable land are likely to become a major driver of war and conflict," Ban told an international UN school conference on global warming, meeting in the UN General Assembly hall.


Even as Bigelow Aerospace gears up for launching its second prototype space station into orbit, the company has set its sights on something much, much bigger: a project to assemble full-blown space villages at a work site between Earth and the moon, then drop them to the lunar surface, ready for immediate move-in.
"In the Future When All's Well" (Morrissey)