Friday, February 29, 2008

Researcher claims vast network of prehistoric civilization discovered near Lake Titicaca

Using earth orbiting satellites, acclaimed researcher David Flynn has studied the high plateau of Bolivia and found previously undiscovered unnatural patterns stretching outward from Lake Titicaca for hundreds of square miles. The geoglyphic works range from arrow straight parallel lines, enormous over lapping perfect circles and rectangles to 'labyrinth like' systems of walls and mounds extending over every feature of the terrain.

(Via The Anomalist.)

The "unnatural patterns" look like they could indeed be ruins. But are they?

Will robots replace suicide bombers?

A leading expert has issued a grim warning about how a new generation of robot weapons being developed by world powers, including India and China, imperils humankind.

"Once the new weapons are out there, they will be fairly easy to copy. How long is it going to be before the terrorists get in on the act," maybe use them in suicide missions, he warned.
Robotic hunting trophies

Hunting Trophies is a collection of 11 hunting trophies hung on the wall. They feature the most frequent species used in taxidermy for the realization of wall trophies, mainly deer and cat family. Instead of being real taxidermied animals they are chests of modified I-Cybie robots.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your Life

Spring equinox will be here in just a few weeks, and there's no better way to get ready for the seasonal change than to dig into some great science fiction books. io9 wants to help you get in the mood for transformation by offering this list of twenty science fiction novels that could change the way you see the world, and maybe even change your life.

Wait a second . . . not one Philip K. Dick title?
Eviscerated Furby dolls laying down some sick beats -- almost as entertaining as the flaming Tickle Me Elmo I posted a while back.

(Thanks: Ectoplasmosis.)
Terence McKenna: "When you shed the cultural operating system, then essentially you stand naked before the inspection of your own psyche."

I'm trying, Terence. I'm trying.

No, this isn't Photoshopped.

Yes, we're that profoundly messed up.

This isn't a matter of taking the moral high-ground. It's easy to scoff. Anyone can offer lofty, disparaging retorts about the grinning soldier in the photo. I'm not so much concerned about what she did as I am frightened by the possibility -- however slim -- that I could be that way too. After all, what really separates us, if anything?

Some people like to think that our "humanity" is in some way incorruptible and that we're largely immune to such things as giving toothy thumbs-up signs while posing next to blackening corpses.

I gave that nonsense up a long time ago.

The road to the future

Visionaries of the past, such as Harley Earl, godfather of the concept car, figured that such an automated traffic-control system would require sensors or wires embedded in the road, which also places the financial burden on an infrastructure makeover. But what if cars could do most of the work in self-navigation? We're on the verge of being able to use GPS technology on a mass scale to triangulate from inexpensive Wi-Fi hot spots where cars are located down to the inch.

That would allow vehicles to parade down the highway and in congested areas in a conga line of bumper-to-bumper traffic moving in unison. There's a safety aspect, too. If one car hits the brakes when it senses black ice or other road hazard, the other cars around it can be warned.

(Via The Speculist.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

'Silicon womb' to begin fertility trials

In standard IVF, eggs harvested from a woman are fertilised in the lab and allowed to develop in an incubator for 2 to 5 days. The healthiest embryos are chosen to be transferred into the uterus.

The new device allows embryos created in the lab to be incubated inside a perforated silicon container inserted into a woman's own womb. After a few days, the capsule is recovered and some embryos are selected for implantation in the womb (see image, top right)

Embryos incubated in the lab must have their growth medium changed every few hours to provide new nutrients and get rid of waste. The new device provides a more natural environment.

It's not an "exowomb," but it's in the neighborhood.
Terence McKenna: "You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that's being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world."

I just happened across the "news updates" portion of the excellent (unofficial) Whitley Strieber website, Beyond Communion. It's a fascinating and thorough resource; if you're curious about what Whitley's up to, this is the place.
As you can see, I've been hard at work doing UFO "field research."

Not quite as dramatic as an abduction, but it will have to do.
One more reason to love biomimetics:

Mercedes-Benz bionic car: automotive design meets modern art

First unveiled in June 2005, the Mercedes-Benz bionic car is the result of a collaboration of engineers, designers and biologists working from the template of the unusual looking, but very aerodynamic Ostracion Cubicus -- more commonly known as the boxfish. Apart from its aerodynamic attributes, the Boxfish can also withstand high pressures and survive unscathed following collisions with corals or other sea dwellers due to an outer skin consisting of hexagonal bone plates.
Fascinating sidewalk trompe l'oeil.
The Truth About Autism: Scientists Reconsider What They Think They Know

Autistics like Baggs are now leading a nascent civil rights movement. "I remember in '99," she says, "seeing a number of gay pride Web sites. I envied how many there were and wished there was something like that for autism. Now there is." The message: We're here. We're weird. Get used to it.

This movement is being fueled by a small but growing cadre of neuropsychological researchers who are taking a fresh look at the nature of autism itself. The condition, they say, shouldn't be thought of as a disease to be eradicated. It may be that the autistic brain is not defective but simply different -- an example of the variety of human development. These researchers assert that the focus on finding a cure for autism -- the disease model -- has kept science from asking fundamental questions about how autistic brains function.

NASA Takes Aim at Moon with Double Sledgehammer

Scientists are priming two spacecraft to slam into the moon's South Pole to see if the lunar double whammy reveals hidden water ice.

I call this technique "roswelling."
Hollywood's 'perfect woman': A cross between Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron and Carmen Electra

In fact, Carlizina isn't even a real woman - she's a digital combination of Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron and Carmen Electra.

Hey! eWarrior's been doing this for years!
The Ultimate Project: 10000 Year Journey

When you're thinking interstellar, long time frames are inescapable. Are we capable as a culture of planning missions that last not only longer than a single human lifetime, but longer than multiple generations? Steve Kilston (Ball Aerospace & Technologies), with help from Sven and Nancy Grenander, clearly thinks so. The three are behind the fittingly named Ultimate Project, a starship designed to carry one million humans across the light years separating us from the nearest stars, creating colonies and perhaps going on from there, a ten thousand year star journey that could turn into a trek through the galaxy lasting for millions more.

Think big!

Peter Watts: is there a case for willfully perpetuated medical ignorance?

New ESA Rover Will Look For Life On Mars

The ExoMars mission will also have an orbiter that will scan for the best landing site for the rover. The rover is slated to travel to ten different locations in 6 months. The rover will use a radar system that can scan the surface and subsurface, a drill that can dig down 1-2 meters below the surface and gather a sample that will be brought to the onboard instruments that will look for life, past or present, in the Mars landscape.

"Past or present" -- good call. Note that this is an ESA mission. I suspect NASA lacks the guts.

Blog of the day: Personal Spaceflight
Creationist Diorama-Rama

Before I arrived at the science fair, I planned to engage some of the children and parents. I wanted to ask them about creationism and education. Once I got there, however, I was overcome with a sense of pity for the children. They stood around the suburban mall, in the prime of the most awkward years of their life, being forced to preach blather.

(Via BB.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mind Over Computer

Using non-invasive elctroencephalography (EEG), Emotiv's neuro-headset offers unprecedented brain-to-computer interfacing without forests of electrodes, trained technicians, or thousands of dollars. Intended for consumers, the "Epoc" will hit the market later this year for just $299.

Users in virtual environments will be able to pick up and interact with items solely by imagining the act. Capable of detecting over 30 actions and emotions, the headset's uses also include more realistic real-time avatar facial expressions -- wink, and your avatar winks.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Krill Living in Water 9,800 Feet Below Antarctica Offer Hope for Life on Other Planets

Scientists think the krill learned to dive so deeply to eat algae that has fallen to the sea floor. But this discovery also reveals that life forms can be hardier than we think, and perhaps there are already creatures like these krill living in the icy seas below the ice on Jupiter's moon Europa.
Nokia's Morph - A Nanotech Concept Device

Nokia and the University of Cambridge have designed a futuristic mobile electronic device called Morph that uses nanotechnology to deliver transparent electronics, self-cleaning surfaces, and the malleability to seamlessly transform into multiple different configurations. The unit is part of the MoMA "Design and the Elastic Mind" exhibition, on view from February 24 to May 12, 2008, at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942: Wartime Jitters or UFOs? (Greg Bishop)

Gunnery officers claimed hundreds of direct hits, but no aircraft, balloons, blimps, or other things authorized to be in the air at the time were found in a tangled wreck on the ground. The next day, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox stated "as far as I know the whole raid was a false alarm and could be attributed to jittery nerves." This of course did not explain the thousands of sightings and whatever it was that trained soldiers had seen.

With rare audio clip.
Stanton Friedman waxes Saganesque on the ultimate humanitarian value of studying UFOs (or "flying saucers," as Friedman would say):

Vintage anime: Evil Mickey Mouse invasion!

"Toy Box Series, Episode 3: Picture Book 1936" (Omocha-Bako Series, Dai-3-Wa: Ehon 1936) is a 1934 propaganda-ish film about a future (1936) conflict started by a swarm of evil, bat-riding Mickey Mouse clones that descend on a tiny island inhabited by peace-loving dolls and cats (including a Felix lookalike). Overwhelmed by the attack, the desperate island residents bang on the cover of a large picture book to enlist the help of Momotaro, Urashima Taro (the Japanese version of Rip Van Winkle), and other traditional fairy tale heroes and characters.

And if you think that sounds weird, wait until you actually watch it.
The Ten Best Post-Apocalyptic Survival Vehicles

I'd trade in my necrotic Chrysler for an EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle in a heartbeat . . .

(Thanks: Boing Boing Gadgets.)

My new SETI essay, "The 'Face on Mars' and Pareidolia," has been posted.
I can imagine a future in which everything is pretty much like this: a dreary sprawl of abandoned stripmalls and megaplexes basking under a toxic sky.
Richard Hoagland on the recent satellite shoot-down. To be fair, I haven't read this one yet; maybe he's actually talking sense this time. But after reading "Dark Mission" I'm inclined to doubt it.
Prosthesis for a lost instinct

The risks we fear the most are often the ones most unlikely to be encountered. The human animal has lost its natural instinct for the real dangers. When worn directly on your skin, the Alertness Enhancing Device will act as a physical prosthesis for a lost natural instinct of the real fears and dangers that threaten us - as opposed to perceived risks that often cause a public outrage.

The idea is it stimulates goosebumps and shivers that go down your spine and make your neck hair stand up, waking up the alert animal inside. You become more alert and ready for the real dangers in life.

(Via Sentient Developments.)

Very nice indeed. The next step, I suppose, is to wire this sucker directly into your brain and have it activate when it detects troubling activity online (via RSS, I'd imagine). (Reading this particular blog might entail some major battery expenditure -- especially when I get on one of my climate change jags.)
Giant ropes of dark matter found in new sky survey

Huge filaments of dark matter have been detected in a survey of thousands of distant galaxies. The discovery supports the idea that dark matter drove the formation of galaxies and larger cosmic structures and resolves a discrepancy in previous studies about how much dark matter the universe contains.
Purported hauntings and UFO sightings in my hometown . . .
Mexico: Triangular UFO Photographed During Eclipse?

Ana Luisa Cid has sent us this photo of a possible triangular UFO taken during the recent Lunar Eclipse.

It's not a terribly impressive shot -- unless you subscribe to the elliptical notion that less-than-impressive UFO photos, by virtue of their sheer simplicity in an age of flamboyant Photoshopping, are in fact impressive.

I admit to wondering if any UFO reports would surface in the wake of the eclipse. If "real" UFOs are here to be seen, as I've argued elsewhere, what better time than an eclipse? (Alternatively, of course, more reports might surface simply because more eyes are trained on the sky.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Click here for the funniest comic about the Drake Equation you'll ever see.

(Thanks: The Keyhoe Report.)

Me killing time.

Oh, those Italians and their coffee-making robots

The robot's name is Justine, and she was only just introduced to the world as a prototype at a robotics conference in Rome on Wednesday. So far Justine can only make instant coffee, but her creators say just give it time.

Never fear; rumor has it the Nexus-Six model can pull a mean espresso shot.

Now this looks like a good time.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The "drone" meme -- still not dead!

(Thanks: The Anomalist.)
Reptilians shapeshifting live on camera (allegedly)

This video claims to show Hillary Clinton's hand shapeshifting into a Reptilian claw. The scene is looped repeatedly while the shot zooms in on her hand, as ominous music is played, which seems to be the norm in all of these videos. The hand does get blurry when the camera gets out of focus, but other than that, I don’t see any Reptilian flesh. What do you think?

(Via Technoccult.)

Aside from being the most boring YouTube video I've seen in a long while, there's absolutely nothing remarkable about it. Not that I really expected to see Hillary morph into a lizard, but still.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Arguing the Upside of Being Down

Author Eric G. Wilson has come to realize he was born to the blues, and he has made peace with his melancholy state.

[. . .]

The English professor at Wake Forest University wants to be clear that he is not "romanticizing" clinical depression and that he believes it is a serious condition that should be treated.

But he worries that today's cornucopia of antidepressants -- used to treat even what he calls "mild to moderate sadness" -- might make "sweet sorrow" a thing of the past.

"And if that happens, I wonder, what will the future hold? Will our culture become less vital? Will it become less creative?" he asks.

I share Wilson's sense of caution as well as his natural predilection for melancholy. But unlike Wilson, I don't make any particular effort to romanticize emotions. In fact, I'm not sure they serve humanity's best interest. We scoff at Mr. Spock's clinical mind-set; passion, we argue, is vital to our humanity. But who said "humanity" is the standard upon which we must judge our future selves?

I'll leave the final word to Morrissey.

Edo-period monster paintings by Sawaki Suushi

In the sophisticated popular culture of the Edo period (1603-1868), much attention was devoted to Japan's rich pantheon of traditional monsters and apparitions, known as youkai. Sometimes frightening, sometimes humorous, these compelling Japanese folk creatures were the subject of numerous artistic and literary works.

You just have to see 'em.
The Daily Grail dissects James Randi's $1 million challenge.
Taxidermie mécanique

Steampunk meets taxidermy. I suppose it was only a matter of time.
Electronic tattoo display runs on blood

Jim Mielke's wireless blood-fueled display is a true merging of technology and body art. At the recent Greener Gadgets Design Competition, the engineer demonstrated a subcutaneously implanted touch-screen that operates as a cell phone display, with the potential for 3G video calls that are visible just underneath the skin.

(Via Sentient Developments.)

For a tantalizing glimpse of what technology like this might have in store, click here.
A future-sexy Brigitte Bardot becomes entranced by the miasmic "cybernetic art" of the late Nicolas Schöffer:

And just in case you missed Raquel Welch strutting her stuff in mock-astronaut garb, click here. Like crazy, man!

(Hat tip to Dark Roasted Blend.)
Theory Of Evolution Of Cities Links Science, Fractal Geometry

Professor Batty argues that planning's reliance on the imposition of idealised geometric plans upon cities is rooted in the nineteenth century attitude which viewed cities as chaotic, sprawling and dirty. Instead, he reports research that suggests beneath the apparent chaos, there is a strong order: "Cities are the example par excellence of complex systems: emergent, far from equilibrium, requiring enormous energies to maintain themselves, displaying patterns of inequality spawned through agglomeration and intense competition for space, and saturated flow systems that use capacity in what appear to be barely sustainable but paradoxically resilient networks."
This Java chessboard visualizes the computer's "thought" processes. Wouldn't it be swell if people were as transparent?

(Thanks: Reality Carnival.)

Redefining SETI: The Case for Martian Archaeology

Although not as corrosive as Earth, the Red Planet boasts scars that hint at a geologically active past; anything constructed during Mars' tenure as a "living" planet is likely to have endured many of the same processes that have sculpted the planet into the wasteland we see today. If so, how tenable are NASA's casual dismissals of potential Martian artifacts?
"Alien Worlds" editor Stuart Miller sent me a hardcopy of the debut issue containing my cryptoterrestrial interview. The interview was conducted via phone, so there are unavoidable misheard words (entirely my fault for neglecting to ferret them out when given the chance to edit the transcript). Frankly, I sound a bit kooky. My advice: when reading the interview, imagine that you're listening to me talking. And if you don't know what I sound like (and you're certainly not missing much), try listening to one of the archived interviews listed on the Mac FAQ.

The magazine itself is a blast: lots of good content blessed by a sense of humor and some irreverent visuals. (Some "trade" publications treat the iconic "Gray" alien with a sort of puritanical reverence; Miller sees it as the pliant bit of memestuff it is and subjects it to all manner of distortion.)

Thanks for the ish, Stuart, and keep up the fine work!
"Replay," a parable of the near-future:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Get Ready For Antigravity! And Other Pieces of Sadly Incorrect Futurism

This piece from the 1930s shows scientists trying to come up with antigravity -- now it's more than 50 years later and we're still waiting on hoverpads and floating grav-lifts. This poster is part of a series of eight that all showcase futures we should have had by now, like fish bowl swimming pools, flapwing flycars, and mining on the moon.
UFO Provocateur(s)? UFO Loser(s)

The RRR Group has founded yet another allegedly UFO-related blog, this time called the UFO Provocateur(s). In their first post they blather on again about how ufologists are all idiots and so forth - you know, the usual.

They also use an unattributed picture me of me drinking a beer. What can I say? They've nailed me. I mean, I'm not going to be able to live this down. Even my cats refuse to acknowledge my presence. Damn you, UFO Provocateurs!
File under "Vaguely Reminiscent of Roswell Crash Debris":

Self-healing rubber bounces back

A material that is able to self-repair even when it is sliced in two has been invented by French researchers.

The as-yet-unnamed material - a form of artificial rubber - is made from vegetable oil and a component of urine.

The substance, described in the journal Nature, produces surfaces when cut that retain a strong chemical attraction to each other.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Just a quick note that my third essay (the first in a series examining archaeological strategies for Mars exploration) will appear tomorrow.

While I wield complete control over the content of my SETI posts, I don't decide when to post them; in general, expect two every week.

In other writing news, I'm happy to announce that I'll appear in a forthcoming anthology devoted to ufology, technology and the paranormal. But more on that later.

Ebe the cat lounges next to a vintage Royal typewriter I rescued from impending dumpster-hood.
Valley firefighters get trained for UFO, alien contact

Whatever your beliefs, it's hard to dismiss how life-changing alien contact could be.

It would literally change everything, and because of that, Valley emergency teams are taking it all seriously.

Firefighters are getting trained for that contact, learning what to do and how to handle the situation if it ever turns into reality.

"They're emerging from the spacecraft! This is the moment we've trained for! Ready? Let's hose them down!"
An inspiring proof-of-concept for any aspiring exo-archaeologists:

Spy Satellite Spots Lost Mayan Cities

Ancient Mayan astronomers aligned their soaring temples with the stars and now modern archeologists have found the ruins of hidden cities in the Guatemalan jungle by peering down from space.
Heads up: Nick Redfern is blogging the apocalypse!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Next plague likeliest to emerge from poor tropical countries

Scores of infectious diseases have emerged to threaten humans in the past decades as viruses leap the species barrier from wild animals and bacteria mutate into antibiotic-resistant strains, scientists reported on Wednesday.

Presenting the first-ever map of "hotspots" of new infectious diseases, they predict that the next pandemic is likeliest to come out of poor tropical countries, where burgeoning human populations come into contact with wildlife.

[. . .]

The emergence of new diseases have roughly quadrupled over the past 50 years, says the study, appearing in the British journal Nature.

Sixty percent of them are so-called zoonoses, or diseases that have been transmitted from animals to humans.

As Nuclear Waste Languishes, Expense to U.S. Rises

Forgotten but not gone, the waste from more than 100 nuclear reactors that the federal government was supposed to start accepting for burial 10 years ago is still at the reactor sites, at least 20 years behind schedule.
Military says missile hit spy satellite

A missile launched from a Navy ship struck a dying U.S. spy satellite passing 130 miles over the Pacific on Wednesday, the Pentagon said. It was not clear whether the operation succeeded in its main goal of destroying a tank aboard the satellite that carried a toxic fuel that U.S. officials said could pose a hazard to humans if it landed in a populated area.

"Confirmation that the fuel tank has been fragmented should be available within 24 hours," the Pentagon said in a written statement.

Petition to put Carl Sagan on a stamp

The Sagan Appreciation Society is petitioning for the US Postal Service to issue a postage stamp honoring astronomer and science writer Carl Sagan.

I'm all for it, just as long as they ditch the profoundly creepy design under consideration.
Yow! Ufological legend James Moseley, editor of the funny and incisive "Saucer Smear," likes Posthuman Blues -- and he's willing to admit it! To hear Moseley in a thoroughly entertaining interview with David Biedny and Gene Steinberg, don't miss the Feb. 17 edition of The Paracast.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hard-wired for love

Not everyone embraces Levy's vision of a future where humanoids guarantee satisfaction in bed along with pre-programmed post-coital conversation. But many agree it is on the cards, given exponential leaps in computer power, progress in mimicking human muscles and movements, and headway in artificial intelligence (AI) software to replicate emotions and personality.

(Via Futurismic.)
A gem from Dark Roasted Blend:

Barbarella & Other Ladies in Space

A woman may have been created from Adam's rib down on planet Earth, but her charms will certainly follow man into outer space, making her the most utterly irresistible creature in this Galaxy and beyond (some alien monstrosities may disagree).

With lots of pictures!
Disappearing bees threaten ice cream sellers

Let's just say if the worst thing to come out of Colony Collapse Disorder is the death of the gourmet ice cream industry then I'll be distinctively relieved.

(Thanks again, Nick!)
Cabinet of Wonders does justice to Whitley Strieber's new essay in this revealing post.

I've noticed that many critics try to shoot Strieber down because they assume his "contact" descriptions are unique. Few within the ufological community attempt to place his narratives in perspective because doing so would tend to undermine the assumptions that govern acceptance of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis.

Of course, this censoring effect is hardly limited to Strieber. Budd Hopkins, for instance, "screens" potential abductees based on whether their stories jibe with the conventional "nuts and bolts" view. The result is a stream of fascinating testimony -- but what about the stories that didn't make the cut?

We'll likely never know what the neglected data has to tell us about the contact experience until ufology is elevated from its present "ghetto" status . . . and, sadly, very few nonconformist researchers are holding their breath.
Obesity 'requires climate plan'

Professor James, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, was speaking in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

He commented: "This is a community epidemic that is actually a response to all the wonderful apparent industrial and economic development changes that we've seen, with a collapse in the need for physical activity, and now a targeting of children to make profits by big industry in food and drink.

"We have to change that, and it will not come unless we have a coherent government-led strategy. The issue is: have we got the political will?"
Mysteries of computer from 65BC are solved

A 2,000-year-old mechanical computer salvaged from a Roman shipwreck has astounded scientists who have finally unravelled the secrets of how the sophisticated device works.

[. . .]

Since its discovery, scientists have been trying to reconstruct the device, which is now known to be an astronomical calendar capable of tracking with remarkable precision the position of the sun, several heavenly bodies and the phases of the moon. Experts believe it to be the earliest-known device to use gear wheels and by far the most sophisticated object to be found from the ancient and medieval periods.
True story: for the last couple days a white van advertising a bakery called "The Flying Saucer" has been parked outside my apartment building. My guess is that the van's been decommissioned; the decals are peeling away and it doesn't seem to be making any delivery runs.

Since I just purchased a new cameraphone I'll see if I can take a picture --- hopefully not arousing the ire of any MIBs in the process.
A Second Earth in Our Solar System

Traveling to another Earth-like world just got a lot easier. It turns out that there may be many other dirt-and-water planets lurking at the edges of our solar system in places like the Oort Cloud. These planets, which could be roughly the size of our own, would contain all the elements we need for life. They're just sitting in a cold, dimly-lit part of the solar system, waiting to be defrosted and colonized.

Finally! I'm off to pack my things and hail a passing UFO.

Monday, February 18, 2008

From Whitley Strieber's new "journal" entry:

The object that was placed in my left ear in 1989 has begun to work in a very focused and clear manner. What happens now is that I hear a faint sound of a gong in the ear, about ten times a minute, for a period of half an hour or so, generally in the early mornings when things are quiet. When this is happening, I am able to see and interact with a certain group of people, including reading books and papers, and participating in life with them almost as if it was entirely physical. I have come to know some of these people. They are aware of me, and they look entirely human. That said, the way they live -- in small cabins in a dense woodland -- suggests that they are not of our world or perhaps not of this time, or perhaps their lives are unfolding in a parallel universe.
My new SETI essay has been posted. More on the way . . .

In Defense of Scientology (Peter Watts)

You think the Hubbardheads have political power? There's a word for the electoral chances of any political candidate who admits to being a Scientologist: "negligible". By an odd coincidence, the same word describes the prospects of any political candidate who doesn't admit -- nay, proclaim -- that they're a Christian.
Feeling amorous? How about a dose of hard-core slug porn?

(Thanks: Reality Carnival.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Today's meme: "cognitively modified organisms." It's not actually all that new, but it packs a syllabic punch.
I prefer to lay off videos of cute critters doing funny things around here, but this dancing cockatoo warrants an exception.

(Thanks, Steve.)
China concerned by U.S. satellite missile plan

China is concerned by U.S. plans to shoot down an ailing spy satellite and is considering what "preventative measures" to take, the Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.

"The Chinese government is paying close attention to how the situation develops and demands the U.S. side fulfill its international obligations and avoids causing damage to security in outer space and of other countries," spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

And so the saber-rattling begins in earnest.

According to Communist Robot, "[t]he Sleep Waking robot acts as a way to play-back dreams by using recorded brainwave activity and eye movements during REM sleep to determine robot behaviors and head positions."

Unless I misunderstand, we're watching nothing less than the debut of robotic interpretive dance.

UFO at Roswell - Sgt. Earl Fulford. - A new credible 'debris field' witness comes forward

Sgt. Fulford is clear about one thing - the material he saw all had "geometric shapes". There were no tears, splits or jagged edges - all the material had completely straight edges. This is important information - not only does this show that the material was not 'balloon material' or 'mylar' (not invented then) - but there is an intriguing aspect to the material having 'geometric shapes' ("there were no curved edges") - does this suggest something about the inherent nature and structure of the strange material itself?

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

Early Mars 'too salty' for life

The Red Planet was too salty to sustain life for much of its history, according to the latest evidence gathered by one of the US rovers on Mars' surface.

High concentration of minerals in water on early Mars would have made it inhospitable to even the toughest microbes, a leading Nasa expert says.

We shall see . . .
I have Alice In Wonderland syndrome

It wasn't long, however, before I started experiencing more extreme spatial distortions. Floors either curved or dipped, and when I tried walking on them, it felt as though I was staggering on sponges. When I lay in bed and looked at my hands, my fingers stretched off half a mile into the distance.

(Via The Anomalist.)

This is fairly embarrassing to admit, but I've experienced a somewhat less pronounced version of "Alice In Wonderland Syndrome." The article above marks the first time I've seen it described; I certainly had no idea there was a name for it. Fortunately I haven't experienced an episode in recent memory.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Here's the brand-new ad for my blog. Nothing says "extraterrestrial" like a pale bald guy surrounded by stars.

To read the blog, click here. (And just in case you're wondering, I fully intend to expand on the introductory post in forthcoming essays.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

New solar system boosts possibility of alien life

Keith Horne, Professor of Astronomy at St Andrews University, said: "Here we have a system where the two largest planets are similar to the two largest in our own system.

"This is something of a surprise. It may indicate that planetary systems like our own are relatively common."
Total human impact on oceans mapped for the first time

"This project allows us to finally start to see the big picture of how humans are affecting the oceans," said Ben Halpern, assistant research scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led the research. "Our results show that when these and other individual impacts are summed up, the big picture looks much worse than I imagine most people expected. It was certainly a surprise to me."

Greg Bishop on one of my all-time favorite UFO encounters:

Don't Believe Too Much

The being addressed him, asking "Are you the watchman of this place?" Schirmer said sure, and after assurances that he wouldn't shoot at the ship, they took him on a short tour of the interior. The Ufonauts all wore tight-fitting uniforms with fabric that covered their heads. On the right breast of their clothing, there was a patch or embroidery depicting a winged serpent.

An image of a winged serpent? On an extraterrestrial? Readers of my "cryptoterrestrial" posts probably understand my reservations.
Baby detained, dies in Honolulu airport

The baby had been flown to Honolulu for emergency heart surgery. He died while detained inside a customs' room at the Honolulu airport with his mother and a nurse.

Enduring the horrors of modern bureaucracy can be draining enough. Losing a life to it beggars my imagination.
Ray (of Ray's X-Blog) relates his mysteriously failed attempt to contact renowned UFO researcher James Moseley. (Have the dreaded reptilians infiltrated the US postal system?)

Ray also mentions my own experiences with the meddling incompetents formally known as the Dep't of Homeland Security. In what I can only interpret as a positive development, Homeland Security has ceased opening my international mail, if my last two packages from Canada are any indication. I never had anything to hide (except, perhaps, an odd taste in books), but the regular sight of bright yellow tape on my FedEx deliveries had become both tiresome and ominous.

Am I off their list, assuming they had one? I guess. And I hope it stays that way.
I'm looking forward to the new "Indiana Jones" movie, in part because -- ready for this? -- it involves the Roswell crash. If you don't believe me, watch the trailer below.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Britain may send astronauts to the Moon, Mars and beyond

Britain could send astronauts into space, the Government said yesterday.

For decades the UK has focused on unmanned missions and developing robotic technology.

But Science Minister Ian Pearson said the world was "on the cusp of a wave of new space exploration" and Britain had to take full advantage.

"What we want to do is review the situation to make sure the UK does not get left behind," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

(Hat tip to the indefatigable Nick Redfern.)
Russia could aim rockets at European missile shield - Putin

Russia may have to retarget some of its rockets at the missile defenses that the U.S. is planning to deploy in Central Europe, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

"Our experts believe the system threatens our national security," Putin said at his final annual news conference in the Kremlin. "If it appears, we will be forced to respond appropriately - we will have to retarget part of our systems against those missiles."

If you need me, I'll be huddled under my car humming "99 Red Balloons."
Risky Chemical Found In US Hurricane Trailers

Tens of thousands of people lost homes in Katrina in 2005 and many have been living for about two years in trailers bought by the government for temporary housing. Some residents have attributed health problems to formaldehyde exposure.

The CDC conducted indoor air-quality tests for formaldehyde between Dec. 21 and Jan. 23, 2008 on a random sample of 519 travel trailers and mobile homes in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Formaldehyde is a chemical used widely in the manufacture of building materials. It also is used in embalming fluid. It can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat, and high levels of exposure may cause some types of cancers.

Not surreal enough for you? Try this:

Pentagon Plans To Shoot Down Disabled Satellite

The Pentagon plans to shoot down a disabled US spy satellite before it enters the atmosphere to prevent a potentially deadly leak of toxic gas from the vehicle's fuel tank, officials said on Thursday.

President George W. Bush decided to have the Navy shoot the 5,000-pound (2,270 kg) minivan-sized satellite with a modified tactical missile, after security advisers suggested its reentry could lead to a loss of life.
Real-Time Solar Storm Warning Now Operational, Protecting Astronauts and Satellites

The Comprehensive Suprathermal and Energetic Particle Analyzer (COSTEP) instrument onboard SOHO has provided data about highly energetic particles since 1995, but it's never been in real-time. Now, using a new technique, solar scientists are able to receive particle data with an hour warning of an impending storm of energetic ions.

[. . .]

This is obviously good news for any astronaut in Earth orbit, but generally they are protected from intermediate solar storms as they are within the protective shield of the magnetosphere. This system will be most useful for the future colonists of the Moon and any long-haul manned missions to Mars.
Pssst! Decrepit Jesus simulacrum for sale on eBay!

Philip K. Dick would have loved this.
Who wants to live for ever? A scientific breakthrough could mean humans live for hundreds of years

A genetically engineered organism that lives 10 times longer than normal has been created by scientists in California. It is the greatest extension of longevity yet achieved by researchers investigating the scientific nature of ageing.

If this work could ever be translated into humans, it would mean that we might one day see people living for 800 years. But is this ever going to be a realistic possibility?

Valter Longo is one of the small but influential group of specialists in this area who believes that an 800-year life isn't just possible, it is inevitable.

I've sometimes found myself in the preposterous position of "defending" my desire to live, if not forever, then as long as scientifically possible.

So, why do I want to live forever?

Easy -- for the same reason that I want to wake up tomorrow. There's nothing especially disturbing about negligible senescence unless one approaches the idea with at least some degree of emotional bias. And to be fair, we've been forced to grow used to the seeming inevitability of death in much the same way that our ancestors were forced to accommodate plagues instigated by an inability to understand germs.

But to make it short: there's a lot I want to see and do . . . but, unfortunately, not much of it's on Earth. Barring the abrupt invention of practical interstellar flight, my best chance of experiencing the Cosmos is by surviving the temporal gulf between "now" and "then."

And who knows? Maybe I can make myself useful in the process.
For whatever it's worth, Nick Redfern's cryptozoology blog, There's Something in the Woods, has been hit by the same "crammed" formatting glitch I recently bemoaned. (See Nick's comments here.)

I'm hoping Blogger takes note of the problem before I decide to migrate PB to a new template.
Fiber-based nanotechnology in clothing could harvest energy from physical movement

Nanotechnology researchers are developing the perfect complement to the power tie: a "power shirt" able to generate electricity to power small electronic devices for soldiers in the field, hikers and others whose physical motion could be harnessed and converted to electrical energy.

And you thought that knee-mounted generator was cool.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Device mimics black hole event horizon

Black holes, the remains of collapsed stars, are the most extraordinary objects in the universe, where the pull of gravity is so intense that light is sucked in if it strays beyond a boundary called the event horizon.

Now it seems these horizons can be mimicked using a table-top device that harnesses lasers to create an artificial black hole, according to a study by Prof Ulf Leonhardt of the University of St Andrews that could help win a Nobel prize for the world's best known physicist, Prof Stephen Hawking.

(Via J. Orlin Grabbe.)

I don't want a simulation on my desktop. I want the real thing!
Ectomorph: Tentacle Implants

The trend among body-mod enthusiasts to implant chunks of shaped silicon under the skin is one that never sat well with me. From a purely aesthetic standpoint the implants rarely seem to take on a well defined shape. From a personal standpoint the idea of having a piece of plastic shoved under a flap of skin, all without the benefit of anesthetic, has simply never appealed to me. I make no judgements on the people that do choose to get these implants, but never considered it for myself. Until now.
She's "Li'l J" -- and she means business!

I found this at Boing Boing today. The first time I watched it I found it appallingly sad. The second time I found myself giggling. Now I want to make it my cellphone ringtone.
Arrested, caged and DNA tested - for using MP3

A commuter was arrested at gunpoint and had his DNA and fingerprints taken simply for listening to his MP3 player while waiting for a bus.

Darren Nixon was surrounded by armed police after his music player was mistaken for a gun.

When a passer-by saw the 28-year-old get out his black Philips machine to change tracks, she panicked and dialled 999.

(Via Night of the Living Jackboots.)
Titan's surface organics surpass oil reserves on Earth

Saturn's orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new Cassini data. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes.

The new findings from the study led by Ralph Lorenz, Cassini radar team member from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, USA, are reported in the 29 January 2008 issue of the Geophysical Research Letters.

"Titan is just covered in carbon-bearing material -- it's a giant factory of organic chemicals," said Lorenz. "This vast carbon inventory is an important window into the geology and climate history of Titan."

Here I am with artist Nancy Hwang yesterday. I'm looking up into the camera, hence the weird "bobblehead" effect.
This video is hypnotic.

My only complaint is that I wish the videographer had snuck in the cover illustration for Whitley Strieber's "Communion" just to see if we were paying attention.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Human bodies turn up the heat

A new environmentally friendly building to be built in Stockholm, Sweden, will harness human body heat from commuters at the neighboring railway station. The idea is to harness the heat generated by the 250,000 people who pass through Central Station each day using heat exchangers in the ventilation system.
Climate Change May Kill Thousands In UK By 2017

There is a 25 percent chance that a severe heat wave will strike England and kill more than 6,000 people before 2017 if no action is taken to deal with the health effects of climate change, a report said on Tuesday.

The report for Britain's Department of Health estimated more than 3,000 people could die in an intense summer hot spell in southeast England, with just as many more dying from heat-related deaths over the summer.

Until 2012, when London stages the summer Olympic Games, the odds of thousands dying in summer heat each year will be 1 in 40, the report said, and thousands more could die each year as a result of other effects of global warming and air pollution.

Las Vegas Water Source Could Run Dry By 2021 - Study

Chances are about even that Lake Mead, the prime source of water for the desert city of Las Vegas, will run dry in 13 years if usage is not cut back, according to study released on Tuesday.

The finding is the latest warning about water woes threatening the future of the fast-growing US casino capital and comes amid a sustained drought in the American West.
Is it just me or are the "posted by" and "labels" lines suddenly crammed together at the bottom of each post? I suspect Blogger's at fault, but there's always the possibility it's my computer.

Well, that didn't take long: the Meier-esque "UFO" photo I just blogged has been debunked, as expected.
Did I snap a UFO in the fog?

'I didn't notice it when I took the picture,' said Mr Rahman, 28, of London Road, North End. 'But then I looked a bit closer and zoomed in. It's a bit weird really, it's quite freaky.'

(Via The Anomalist.)

Sadly, the photo in the article is too small to be of much use. But what's visible looks suspiciously like one of Billy Meier's "beamships."

Just a heads-up that my first post, "Redefining SETI," has been published. Take a look and feel free to comment.

Today I chatted with conceptual artist Nancy Hwang, who's doing a show at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. She's the sort of naturally sweet, unprepossessing person you'd feel completely comfortable welcoming into your home; if she ever decided to quit the art biz, she'd probably make a killer shrink.
This one's been making the rounds, but it's worth posting:

Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor

Variation in the colour of the eyes from brown to green can all be explained by the amount of melanin in the iris, but blue-eyed individuals only have a small degree of variation in the amount of melanin in their eyes. "From this we can conclude that all blue-eyed individuals are linked to the same ancestor," says Professor Eiberg. "They have all inherited the same switch at exactly the same spot in their DNA."

I'm honestly not sure how to characterize my own eye-color. Grayish blue-green? Greenish gray?
Hydro-Net by IwamotoScott

Hydro-Net proposes a new, underground network of tunnels for hydrogen-powered, hovering vehicles plus a forest of new towers sprouting from lowland areas inundated by rising sea levels.
Rearranging Stars to Communicate with Aliens

This month I seriously propose that we begin the process of repositioning the sun and other nearby stars in order to send signals to aliens, and that we begin the search for signs that aliens might have done the same for our benefit.

(Via Reality Carnival.)

Now we're talking!
Return of the blackout: Crime fear as councils switch off streetlights to save the planet

The council claims the scheme will save £100,000 and nearly 600 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

But the Government-backed blackouts have provoked anger from police leaders and motoring organisations.

Derek Barnett, of the Police Superintendents' Association, said: "Good street lighting reduces crime, it makes the public feel safe and it reduces the risk of road traffic accidents.

"I would need to feel confident that the environmental savings were being balanced against the impact on local crime."

The latest move is the most draconian rationing of street lighting since the power cuts of the 1970s.

(Thanks to Nick for the heads-up.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Roy Scheider, Actor in 'Jaws,' Dies at 75

Roy Scheider, a stage actor with a background in the classics who became one of the leading figures in the American film renaissance of the 1970s, died on Sunday afternoon in Little Rock, Ark. He was 75 and lived in Sag Harbor, N.Y.

I'll best remember Scheider from his role in "2010," an imperfect but memorable film I saw while still in elementary school. In case you need a refresher, here's a scene involving two cool concepts: aerobraking and conspicuously attractive female cosmonauts in need of physical affection:

Two eye-catching items from the always-interesting Reality Sandwich:

Broadcasting the Third Kind

For the past 60 years, UFOs have invaded our culture through the speculation of conspiracy theorists and the fantasies of Hollywood cinema. Yet under the rationalist constructs of a post-Enlightenment world, an avowed belief in alien life is generally regarded with snide contempt. Such things are the stuff of idle entertainment, goes the dominant view, and do not warrant serious discussion.

This view, however, is suddenly changing.

Zombie Apocalypse

The zombie trend is a celebration of fear -- a way to paradoxically act out the suffocating effect that the blanket of information noise has in our Westernized, late capitalist existence. When you're dead there aren't any more expectations -- there aren't any more goals, just endless in-between time spent hanging out and eating. While online one just "sits there," doing nothing. There's definitely a punk rock aspect to zombies -- an anarchistic refusal to work or follow rules.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Morrissey's new single, "That's How People Grow Up," is out. I'm afraid that saying I identify with the lyrics is a gross understatement.

Aware that not everyone reading is a Moz fan, I'll leave you with the draft trailer for Paul Kimball's "Best Evidence," a documentary in which I briefly appear.

JAXA testing space solar power system

For decades, scientists have explored the possibility of using space-based solar cells to power the Earth. Some see orbiting power stations as a clean and stable energy source that promises to slow global warming, while others dismiss the idea as an expensive and impractical solution to the world's energy problems. While the discussion goes on, researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have begun to develop the hardware.
Centauri Dreams on the Large Hadron Collider's possible utility as a time-machine:

But as to the argument that the LHC's operations could establish Year Zero for time travelers (creating the needed first instance of a time machine to which future travelers would be able to return), I'll take a pass. Surely if massive energies are what it takes to establish such a wormhole (itself a purely theoretical concept, and one that requires yet another theoretical idea -- phantom energy -- to hold it open), then the universe has supplied us with previous instances of 'closed time-like curves' in highly energetic events reaching back to the Big Bang. Does that mean a time traveler could only travel back 13.7 billion years? If so, that's plenty of temporal territory to play in, but the Fermi question equivalent for time travelers is, where are they?

Stephen Hawking has used the same argument. If time travel is possible, he maintains, we should see a steady influx of "tourists" from our own future. This reasoning is easily as limited as the assumption that ET visitors will "land on the White House lawn" if they happen to visit.
Huge rise in British UFO sightings

Last year the MoD released details of UFO sightings for the first time, including an archive back to 1998. Previously, details of classified reports were kept secret for 30 years. Discs, formations, white or orange lights, triangular shaped craft and pipe-like objects were all spotted buzzing around the sky in 2007.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Hey, you know those unmarked black helicopters said to trail UFO witnesses? If you happen to see one, listen for the sound of violins.

Cloud City airships to float New Yorkers above post-apocalyptic maelstrom

What if New York City were totally trashed in a disaster? That was the premise for a design competition that spawned this Cloud City idea by Studio Lindfors. It was one the Selected Entries in the "What if New York City . . ." design competition, where designers dreamed up this concept where New Yorkers are lifted above the rubble in blimp houses, staying together as a community while crews clear away the mess below.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)
South Korean Robots to Build High-Rises by 2010

The South Korean Construction and Transportation Ministry is preparing to employ robots in the construction of high rise buildings.

"The ministry says it is going ahead with the process of applying the technology to nuts-and-bolts building projects. It will create a construction process almost totally automated, taking advantage of 12 high-tech patents including so-called "intelligent" cranes and the world's first bolt-tightening robots.

"Not surprisingly, the robot-led system is expected to cut labor costs by up to one-third and start-to-finish project time by around 15 percent. Add it all up and experts say it will boost overall productivity by an impressive 25 percent."
Speaking of "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" . . .

Here's the original trailer. Note the scene with the "orb," possibly based upon pilot encounters with "foo fighters" during World War II.

In an interesting departure from most "invaders from beyond" flicks, humans start the fight in "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" (unless I'm totally misremembering it). The aliens seem congenial enough until we start shooting at them. Then, of course, all hell breaks loose.

The aliens are eventually defeated using some kind of high-tech acoustic ray, which brings to mind rumors that radar interferes with the propulsion systems of "real" UFOs. According to early abductee Herbert Schirmer, an alien told him as much . . . along with much else that goes roundly ignored by "serious" ufologists.

(I'll now pass the mic to Greg Bishop.)
The Cure will be in Kansas City next month. I haven't been to a concert since R.E.M. in 2003; I'm thinking I should go to this . . .
Here's an enticing ad for Frank Scully's classic "Behind the Flying Saucers," an engagingly naive and much-maligned expose of the UFO phenomenon. Written in the 1950s, "Behind the Flying Saucers" launched the "crashed disk" meme decades before the Roswell case was rediscovered and brought to attention by Stanton Friedman and others.

While Scully appears to have been duped, there are suggestions that his book might have served as disinformation -- or possibly as an attempt to acclimate the public to the ideas of downed UFOs and alien occupants in case of an unforeseen need for disclosure (such as the crash of a UFO in or near a major city).

Once one allows for the possibility that the Roswell incident involved a nonhuman craft, the idea isn't nearly as paranoid as it might seem.

Note the reference to saucers constricted of an "extremely light, almost impenetrable metal alloy that we have not been able to duplicate." If that sounds familiar, it should. In a videotaped interview, Brig. Gen. Arthur Exon discussed his limited knowledge of the Roswell debris, which was flown to Wright Field (later Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) for inspection in 1947. Echoing descriptions offered by witnesses in Roswell, Exon emphasized his understanding that the Roswell material was remarkably lightweight and durable, consistent with an extraterrestrial interpretation.

Could Scully (or his sources) have arrived at the same description independently? It's not impossible, although I find the parallels conspicuous. Some skeptics might even suggest that Exon's testimony was colored by exposure to Scully's book or "flying saucer" movies that expound on the characteristics of alien metals. In "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers," for example, scientists examining an alien helmet take pains to note its light weight and unusual strength.

Of course, the pointed description in "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" could have been part of the same hypothetical "contingency plan" responsible for Scully's book. In "Architects of the Underworld" (a wonderfully offbeat ET/conspiracy romp) Bruce Rux argues that "The Thing," an enduring genre favorite, unfolds in a tellingly Roswell-esque manner, from the sudden acquisition of a crashed saucer to the threat posed by a human-like alien presence.

Have works of fiction been seeded with "insider" knowledge as part of a far-reaching effort to educate a complacent public? Or has our own postwar fiction somehow guided the action and appearance of a nonhuman intelligence quite beyond our perceptual vocabulary?

Friday, February 08, 2008


They're real, you know: I just saw five or six standing post at a busy intersection brandishing placards and handing out cartoon tracts. Not the behavior of typical Hollywood zombies, I must admit, but virtually everything else about their behavior emphatically belied their origin:

Their halting approach, almost human but nonetheless a sad facsimile of vitality.

The blithering oration, so obviously a symptom of some unspeakable cerebral necrosis.

I was able to walk past their ranks with a single hissed "buzz off," but what I really wanted was a gun. According to the movies, one well-aimed shot to the head generally does the trick.
This is why I'd consider moving to Dubai . . .

(Thanks to Cliff Pickover's Reality Carnival.)
'A new phase in the arms race is unfolding' says Putin

Vladimir Putin has used one of the last major speeches of his presidency to deliver a defiant message to the West, accusing it of unleashing a new arms race that left Moscow no choice but to retaliate in kind. Less than a month before presidential elections that his hand-picked successor is almost certain to win, the speech removed any lingering doubts that Russian foreign policy might become less aggressive after Mr Putin steps down.
Winning entries from the Space Settlement 2009 Calendar Art Contest are online. And they're killer.
I'm in the debut issue of Alien Worlds Magazine:

One of the most original thinkers within the mystical and UFOlogical realms, Mac Tonnies gets verbally beaten up from time to time for daring to voice well constructed theories that fall outside the boundaries of accepted explanations for the unusual.

Well, someone has to pay for those espresso shots.

That's what you get for thinking outside the box. His first book, After the Martian Apocalypse, was an adroit and imaginative attempt to posit the existence of a previous, intelligent and now extinct civilization on Mars. The book drew attention to his writing and thinking earned him acknowledgement as an innovative and original theorist.

Unfortunately, it's also fucking out of print.

A committed transhumanist, like many before him he has started to look away from the heavens for an explanation for the anomalous and instead has turned his gaze inwards. In this interview, he reveals his thinking about a hidden presence among us; a parallel existence hamstrung by our dominance of this planet and wary of our actions. A presence that interacts, manipulates, and responds to what we do.

Coming to a newsstand near you! Demand it!

Deep Impact Begins Searching for Extrasolar Planets

NASA recently announced that they had extended Deep Impact's mission to fly past another comet. This time it'll be Comet Hartley 2 on October 11, 2010. Just like the previous mission, Deep Impact - now renamed EPOXI - will be studying the surface of the comet with its suite of scientific instruments.

But between now and then, the spacecraft has some time to kill. So astronomers searching for extrasolar planets are calling it into service.

The spacecraft will be focusing its largest telescope at five stars, hoping to catch a glimpse of a planetary transit.
Knee dynamo taps 'people power'

A stroll around the park may soon be enough to charge the raft of batteries needed in today's power-hungry gadgets.

US and Canadian scientists have built a novel device that effortlessly harvests energy from human movements.

The adapted knee brace, outlined in the journal Science, can generate enough energy to power a mobile phone for 30 minutes from one minute of walking.

I can't help wondering how much human-power could be harnessed without rendering workaday life unbearable. Could becoming a carbon-based bipedal battery even become fashionable, given time? With the right combination of unobtrusive technology, I don't see why not.
Rat kings

Seen here is an example of a purported rat king, a giant rat beast created when many rats get their tails tangled together. Legend has it that the rats then grow together into a single creepy entity. This mummified "rat king" was discovered in 1828 in Buchheim, Germany and is currently on display at the museum Mauritianum in Altenburg, Germany.
DNA Found to Have "Impossible" Telepathic Properties

Scientists are reporting evidence that contrary to our current beliefs about what is possible, intact double-stranded DNA has the "amazing" ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands from a distance. Somehow they are able to identify one another, and the tiny bits of genetic material tend to congregate with similar DNA. The recognition of similar sequences in DNA's chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

We Should Take the 'Posthuman' Era Seriously (Martin Rees)

Humanity will soon itself be malleable, to an extent that's qualitatively new in the history of our species. New drugs (and perhaps even implants into our brains) could change human character; the cyberworld has potential that is both exhilarating and frightening. We can't confidently guess lifestyles, attitudes, social structures, or population sizes a century hence. Indeed, it's not even clear for how long our descendants would remain distinctively 'human'. Darwin himself noted that "not one living species will transmit its unaltered likeness to a distant futurity". Our own species will surely change and diversify faster than any predecessor -- via human-induced modifications (whether intelligently-controlled or unintended), not by natural selection alone. Just how fast this could happen is disputed by experts, but the post-human era may be only centuries away.
In this clip, Jacques Vallee notes the global nature of the UFO phenomenon and its enticing parallels with world folklore.

"These Days" (Nico):

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Blog of the day: Monster Brains

Nick Redfern comments on the long-extinct British TV drama "UFO":

Oh, yes, I almost forgot: in one of the episodes an autopsy is undertaken on one of the aliens by the secret government group that is tasked with defeating them. At one point during the autopsy, the medical team removes a "contact lens" from the alien's eye that eerily parallels the similar scene in the infamous Alien Autopsy film that Ray Santilli thrust upon an unsuspecting world in the mid-1990s. Hmmm . . .

10 Sci-Fi Techs We Could Build If They Weren't So Damn Expensive

Includes floating cities and android armies!
Earth's climate will slip past "tipping point" within 100 years

Nine key geographical factors have been highlighted as Earth's critical climate controllers most at risk of slipping past their "tipping points". This means that once damage reaches a certain point, there can be no recovery; the damage will continue in a downward spiral, amplifying global warming and environmental damage on historic scales. And as if climate news couldn't get any worse, one such tipping point is only a year away . . .
I've added an "Art and Design" link-list to the sidebar. Am I missing anything crucial?
Wormhole sighted in Hollywood!
Post-Optimal Objects (POO)

Soni-Pill® - these easy to swallow little pills actually prove that your internal body movements have a music of their own! Just take one of these tiny, FDA approved pills, turn on your Bluetooth-compatible computer and be amazed as they convert your digestive habits into melodious music to your ears! The music changes with your diet and their position in your digestive tract! Pills stay in your system for approx. 1 day, then come out the other end for easy disposal in your toilet. Safe for flushing!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Turning physics on its ear

Zahn is a leading expert on electromagnetic and electronic systems. In a rare move for any reputable academic, he has agreed to give Heins' creation an open-minded look rather than greet it with outright dismissal.

It's a pivotal moment. The invention, at its very least, could moderately improve the efficiency of induction motors, used in everything from electric cars to ceiling fans. At best it means a way of tapping the mysterious powers of electromagnetic fields to produce more work out of less effort, seemingly creating electricity from nothing.

Such an unbelievable invention would challenge the laws of physics, a no-no in the rigid world of serious science. Imagine a battery system in an all-electric car that can be recharged almost exclusively by braking and accelerating, or what Heins calls "regenerative acceleration."

(Via RCU.)
"We are in a world that is becoming increasingly atomized . . ."

Today's obligatory Anomalist selection:

Plasma Life Forms - Aliens from a Parallel Earth

According to plasma metaphysics (Jay Alfred, Our Invisible Bodies, 2006), the physical-dense Earth is gravitationally coupled to a counterpart dark matter Earth composed of low density plasma. This "sister" Earth was co-accreted with the physical-dense Earth about 4.6 billion years ago from dark matter components in the embryonic Solar System. Plasma life forms evolved on this counterpart Earth, just like it did on the visible planet. These life forms were as varied in scale, structure and intelligence as carbon-based life forms - as different as a microbe from a whale; a mosquito from a tiger; a giraffe from a crocodile; an ant from a human being. Their degrees of intelligence and awareness were as different as a centipede's awareness to the awareness and intelligence of homo sapiens. Homo sapiens evolved carbon-based bodies that formed symbiotic relationships with some of these plasma life forms (indicating a type of symbio-genesis). Some of these plasma life forms have interacted with us in the past (intentionally or unintentionally).

I've read weirder ideas.
The world's rubbish dump: a garbage tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan

A "plastic soup" of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.

Yes, dear readers, you read that correctly.

The vast expanse of debris -- in effect the world's largest rubbish dump -- is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.
Alien Beings in Classic Art Poses

On this site, we present a range of famous paintings with the added twist of replacing the main characters with an alien art theme. We also have some erotic art originals again populated by alien beings.

Nice idea, but I'm disappointed in the execution.

(Thanks: io9.)
Psychology at Depth

Originally published by Science and Mechanics, in November 1931, the depthscraper was proposed as a residential engineering solution for surviving earthquakes in Japan.

The structure, "whose frame resembles that of a 35-story skyscraper of the type familiar in American large cities," would actually be constructed "in a mammoth excavation beneath the ground."
A random scene from Woody Allen's "Sleeper":

Robots in Arts

This is the kind of creativity that can be practiced virtually anywhere, given the tools and a some personal space for tinkering (minus the annoying calls from upstairs to take care of the garbage). The artists' choice of materials might even come from the same garbage, originally, but soon the parts are transformed into coolest little mechanisms, a veritable shiny zoo of "robots and such". As we admire their work, we can't help but ask ourselves, if the stuff lying around our own house could be similarly recycled.
Terrestrial Worlds May Be Common

But the broader picture growing out of the work of Meyer's team is that terrestrial planets may be common around Sun-like stars, an assumption most everyone connected with the exoplanet hunt would be delighted to see confirmed. Not only would it be striking evidence that the formation mechanisms for Earth-like planets are becoming better understood, but it would strengthen the hope for living worlds around stars for which the conditions of life may not be so rare after all.