Monday, June 30, 2008

I found a lone hundred dollar bill in the middle of the street today. How cool is that? Very cool.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Buzz Aldrin: Invest in Nasa to beat the Chinese to Mars

Mr Aldrin, 78, said: "To me it's abysmal that it has come to this: after 50 years of Nasa, and after putting about $100 billion into the space station, we can't get our own astronauts to our space station without relying on the Russians."

He said his message to the next president is this: "Retain the vision for space exploration. If we turn our backs on the vision again, we're going to have to live in a secondary position in human space flight for the rest of the century."

He added: "These are important issues for consideration by the potential leaders of our country. They're not welcome criticisms for the present heads of NASA."

(Thanks to Gene Steinberg.)
Do you relish the sight of empty swimming pools as much as I do? Probably not.
Dead Media Beat: A Mobile Phone Embedded in Asphalt

What citizen of the Information Age can resist such an image?
Could Nazca Lines Have Been Made By Astral Projection? (Greg Bishop)

But the problem remains: How did the ancient Nazcan people know how accurate they were after the fact for hundreds of the geoglyphs, some apparently not readily visible from the nearby hills?

I was not really surprised to find out that someone had already proposed that the Nazca lines were made by people who had mastered the techniques of out-of-body travel. In his 1988 book Lines To The Mountain Gods, archaeologist Evan Hadingham proposed that the Nazcans may have used psychedelic substances for shamanistic journeys over the area to check out their work (at least this is what non-scientific and new-age websites claim - I don't have a copy of the book.) This seems like a far-fetched theory coming from someone who works as a senior science editor for the PBS NOVA series, but the basic idea has merit.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Blog of the day: Further: Strange Attractor and Beyond
Kaiju art collection

Kaiju collector/photographer Red Yoda adds a touch of colorful madness to an awesome collection of Japanese vinyl monster figures.
A-Blasts Propel the Atomic Pulse Rocket Into Space (1960)

"This is the Atomic Pulse Rocket, a pot-bellied ship nearly the size of the Empire State Building, propelled by a series of atomic blasts." Sure, it sounds like a bad idea now but back then it was on the cutting edge: it only needed "a thousand atomic blasts -- each equal to 1,000 tons of TNT" to push the 75,000 ton behemoth out of Earth's atmosphere. Once transit speed was reached, things went green: power was then provided by "solar batteries plating the wing and body surfaces."

This is essentially the craft envisioned by Project Orion -- which wouldn't, incidentally, use nuclear blasts within Earth's atmosphere.
Burrowing muskrat causes levee to fail in Missouri

This quote reads like something out of The Onion:

"It's so disappointing," said Linda Wilmesherr as she peered through binoculars at water pouring through a gap that appeared to be 30 feet wide. "With all the guns in this county, couldn't we kill a muskrat?"
North Pole Could be Ice-Free This Summer

Arctic sea ice could break apart completely at the North Pole this year, allowing ships to sail over the normally frozen top of the world.

The potential landmark thaw - the first time in human history the pole would be ice-free - is a stark sign of global warming, according to an article Friday on the web site of the The Independent, a London newspaper.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Martian soil good enough for asparagus: NASA

"There is nothing about the soil that would preclude life. In fact it seems very friendly," said Samuel Kounaves, the project's lead chemist at the University of Arizona in a telephone press conference.

"The soil you have there is the type of soil you have in your backyard," said Kounaves. "You may be able to grow asparagus very well."

[. . .]

"We basically have found what appears to be the requirements of the nutrients to support life, past, present or future," said Kounaves.

This is heartening news, but I can't say I'm particularly surprised.

To NASA: Next time send a fucking microbiology lab!

(Thanks to David Biedny.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Huge Camera to Observe Dark Energy

Take a look at this thing and tell me it doesn't look like a flying saucer stashed in some secret government lab . . .

The bees fitted with microchips to find out why they're dying

It is a remarkably hairy close-up.

But this tiny microchip attached to a bee’s back will hopefully explain why so many honeybees are dying from disease.

Professor Juergen Tautz and his team at the University of Wurzburg in Germany are studying the health of more than 150,000 bees, in the hope of halting the apparently inexorable decline in their worldwide population.

Hey, why didn't I think of that?
Against The Grain: 'UFO sightings should be taken more seriously'

People used to come up to the astronomer Carl Sagan after lectures and ask: "Do you believe?" He was struck by the question. Not, is there evidence? But, do you believe? It's a matter of faith to a lot of people and UFOs can become a substitute for religion. What they like is the mystery, they don't want a solution.
Scientific American: five 3D printers

Last month, the open source 3D printer RepRap made the first successful copy of itself. And it's not the only 3D printer technology emerging from the workshops of ingenious makers. Over at, JR Minkel posts a slideshow of five machines to "print" 3D objects, including the RepRap, Fab@Home, and, seen here, the amazing Candy Fab from Evil Mad Scientist Labs.
I just set up a Twitter account. Go ahead -- follow me. I dare you!

Next to my apartment there's a park celebrating the resolve of cancer survivors. Strangely enough, when seen from above, it looks for all the world like some would-be crop-glyph.

The implication is plain: the park was designed not to commemorate cancer patients, but to attract the attention of aliens so that they can easily locate my bedroom and perform unsolicited biomedical experiments.
Exclusive: One-of-a-kind official Blade Runner "Spinner" car from LEGO

So here you go: A one-of-a-kind official LEGO version of Mead's "Spinner" flying car from Blade Runner, presented to Syd by LEGO when he attended a design summit in Billund.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hey, is anyone having trouble subscribing to this blog's feed? If you have a moment let me know. Thanks!

Scientists think big impact caused two-faced Mars

Today, the Martian surface has a split personality. The southern hemisphere of Mars is pockmarked and filled with ancient rugged highlands. By contrast, the northern hemisphere is smoother and covered by low-lying plains.

Three papers in Thursday's journal Nature provide the most convincing evidence yet that an outside force was responsible.

According to the researchers, an asteroid or comet whacked a young Mars some 4 billion years ago, blasting away much of its northern crust and creating a giant hole over 40 percent of the surface.

If there ever was a civilization on Mars, this would have made mincemeat of it.
Another gem from Reality Carnival:

The outrageously politically incorrect adverts from the time equality forgot

Come to think of it, coffee-quality is deadly serious business . . .
Air Force closes the book on UFO reports

11 years ago, today, the following story appeared in Air Force Times. For years, people had wondered if U.S. government, and specifically, the Air Force had hidden secrets of a UFO crash in New Mexico.

Bunk, they said.

And they made it official.

The Air Force's explanation might be official, but that doesn't make it correct. I'm rather confident it isn't. That doesn't, of course, automatically imply that extraterrestrials crashed; the Roswell Incident could just as easily have been the result of a terrestrial mishap.

I know certain readers won't believe this, but I don't especially care what happened. To me, Roswell has never been a matter of "wanting to believe" that aliens are visiting us in fallible metal ships -- because when you really stop to consider it, the idea that we're presumably at the mercy of secretive creatures in fantastical craft comes burdened with its share of existential disquiet.

Certainly it would be nice to know we're not alone in the interstellar dark. But if Roswell was an extraterrestrial event, it leaves the ET motive murky at best. Perhaps, as argued by Stan Friedman, the aliens were busily monitoring our military installations at the dawn of the Cold War in order to assess any threat we might pose. Friedman's scenario is fundamentally peaceable; his alien visitors -- as opposed to the meddling Grays of Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs -- are likable enough, even if they're content to remain encapsulated in their iconic saucers instead of approaching us as openly.

But Friedman's isn't the only interpretation in keeping with the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. And the ETH is hardly the only tool in our arsenal, even if we're forced to dispense with the prospect of human experimentation and downed prototype aircraft.

It's just possible that the Roswell Incident -- and, by extension, the booming enigma we've come to call the "UFO phenomenon" -- represents something sinister . . . or, worse still, a process so thoroughly implacable we lack the perceptual syntax to ever understand it.
Galaxy map hints at fractal universe

Is the matter in the universe arranged in a fractal pattern? A new study of nearly a million galaxies suggests it is -- though there are no well-accepted theories to explain why that would be so.

I've always sensed that our universe is fundamentally fractal -- a notion that might ultimately lend itself to cosmological interpretation.

Could consciousness itself be, in some way, fractal? How might we go about testing such an idea?
A friend recently asked me about my favorite scene from Spielberg's "Close Encounters." I unhesitatingly mentioned the moment that the mothership's hatch unexpectedly opens after the musical exchange between the scientists and the unseen aliens.

Here it is. Enjoy.

In Honor of George Carlin (Peter Watts)

A magic word, fuck. A voodoo word, condemned and censured by pretty much every official institution for no real reason anyone can pin down except that, a few centuries ago, this continent was invaded by a bunch of bible-thumping prudes so scared of their own animal secretions that they felt compelled to demonize any public reference to bodily functions. A day barely passes when I don't marvel at this absurdity.
Don't think Japanese interchanges are fascinating? You might change your mind after looking at this Flickr set.

Imagine what denizens of a carless future might make of these structures. Would they see enigmatic engineering marvels or unsightly reminders of a past best left forgotten?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

10 Audacious Ideas to Save the Planet

And yes, I'm aware of the irony of linking to this article after posting the Carlin clip below. Quite honestly, I'm less interested in "saving the planet" (which, all things told, is doing just fine) as I am in saving my own hide.

Selfish? Possibly.
I just spent a while trawling YouTube for what I felt was a fitting, representative clip of the late George Carlin. I finally decided on this:

I'm going to miss this guy terribly.
Kogoro Kurata: Japanese Ironsmith with a Morbid Twist

Kogoro Kurata isn't your average ironsmith. He doesn't hammer out swords or forge bridges; rather he produces massive, awe-inspiring structures of myriad purposes and forms. Kurata creates 4-metre-tall robots and gothic restaurant interiors; he produces sombre stage sets, stop-trick animation and quirky, insect-like musical instruments. And there are also his weird, machine-like creatures which began as typewriters, Fiat cars or chandeliers!

(Via BB.)
I can't resist . . .

(Thanks to Reality Carnival.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

I've decided to give Facebook another go after several months' hiatus. See you around.

NASA warming scientist: 'This is the last chance'

Exactly 20 years after warning America about global warming, a top NASA scientist said the situation has gotten so bad that the world's only hope is drastic action.

James Hansen told Congress on Monday that the world has long passed the "dangerous level" for greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and needs to get back to 1988 levels. He said Earth's atmosphere can only stay this loaded with man-made carbon dioxide for a couple more decades without changes such as mass extinction, ecosystem collapse and dramatic sea level rises.

It's going to be business as usual until the problem is so pronounced that everyone in the world -- with the obvious exception of the arbitrarily wealthy -- will feel it. After that -- panic.

In the meantime let's hope Ray Kurzweil's dead-on about this Singularity thing.

(Thanks to Nick Redfern.)
One I missed . . .

LILYPAD: Floating City for Climate Change Refugees

There are very few urban design solutions that address housing the inevitable tide of displaced people that could arise as oceans swell under global warming. Certainly none are as spectacular as this one. The Lilypad, by Vincent Callebaut, is a concept for a completely self-sufficient floating city intended to provide shelter for future climate change refugees.
George Carlin has died. And I want him back.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Project SERPO: you've thrilled to the disinformation . . . now experience the graphic novel!

Paul Kimball weighs in on the Roswell Incident:

Why the "Roswell Incident" was not a crashed ET spacecraft

If there was a mothership, surely [the aliens] would have moved to recover any crashed excursion module as quickly as possible, a process which, considering the advanced technology that the aliens must possess in order to get "here" from "there" is something that they would have accomplished before Mack Brazel discovered the debris field and then altered the military, even if that involved simply disintegrating the debris field so as to leave no trace behind of the crash.

Paul's breakdown appears to make sense, but only if one subscribes to the the lamentable ufological conceit that UFOs are comprehensible vehicles akin to F-16s (the position taken by Stan Friedman, Kevin Randle and others of a stridently "nuts and bolts" persuasion).

Paul ascribes further human motivations to the hypothetical aliens when he writes of their presumed military imperative and need to eliminate debris before it can fall into human hands -- a position that reeks of anthropomorphic chauvinism. (To be fair, Paul's piece appears to be a veiled challenge to Friedman's materialistic certainties and, as such, offers a useful perspective. But are we really to accept that the Roswell crash can be satisfactorily dismissed because the aliens fail to do what we think they "should" do based on our own brief tenure as a technological species?)

I can think of any number of reasons why a nonhuman intelligence might deliberately choose to provide us with a bit of alien technology -- some benign, others ominous. Whitley Strieber's novel "Majestic," for instance, revolves around the idea that the Roswell crash was a sort of sacrificial offering intended to serve as an invitation (which we forfeited in our rush to counter the perceived threat with official denial).

Roswell may yet prove to be a genuine paranormal event. But if we're to address it meaningfully, researchers must dispense with the casual certainty that UFOs are anything so quaint as high-tech vehicles manned by inquisitive humanoids.
Terence McKenna: "I think the alien is a being of pure information."

I was aware that Billy Idol had put out an album called "Cyberpunk" but didn't realize one of the songs was a direct tribute to William Gibson's "Neuromancer" . . .

Newsflash: The LHC Won't Punch a Hole in the Earth After All . . .

The LHC is understandably under intense scrutiny and will be subject to a range of audits from safety to environmental impact. This new report commissioned to investigate whether any of the theoretical particles created in the LHC collision chamber could pose a threat, not only to the cows and sheep in the Swiss countryside, but to the Earth and the Cosmos.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I just endured M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening." I knew it was getting bad reviews, but what highly anticipated movie doesn't? Plus, I checked Roger Ebert's review and found it encouraging, if not exactly gushing. (I was particularly struck by the poignancy and subtlety cited by Ebert and purchased my ticket expecting a thoughtful new take on a shopworn, if dependable, theme.)

If only I'd trusted the bad reviews. For a movie ostensibly about the fragile balance of life on Earth, "The Happening" is conspicuously devoid of vitality. Shyamalan has crafted an ecological cautionary movie for people who've never seen an ecological cautionary movie -- and a worrisome self-portrait of a skilled film-maker who doesn't seem to realize he's on the verge of irrelevancy.

The characters in "The Happening" are mere sketches, static and uninteresting. The plot -- what there is of it -- is no more than an excuse for Shyamalan's characters to wander a dull New England countryside, where they're predictably picked off by their arboreal assailants.

Oh, there are some intriguing moments. Even a few brushes with the kind of quiet menace evidenced in "Signs." But they're fleeting and under-realized: gems left unexcavated for no real reason exept, one suspects, sheer laziness. For the most part we're left with a grind of a movie, as unarresting as it is unoriginal -- and capped by an ending so palpably condescending and unscary you'll want to take the movie's token graphic violence to heart and slit your wrists with the nearest possible sharp object.
Space wedding

Space transportation provider Rocketplane Kistler Japan has teamed up with wedding planner First Advantage to begin hosting weddings aboard the Rocketplane XP suborbital spaceplane. A cool 240 million yen ($2.2 million) buys you a wedding ceremony aboard a 1-hour space flight that reaches an altitude of more than 100 kilometers (62.1 miles), as well as a photo and video album, original dress, wedding certificate and other ceremonial items.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I Am Fundamentalist, And So Can You. (Peter Watts)

What are the odds that I'm a brain in a tank or a computer simulation, and some bored undergrad is fucking with my sensory inputs? Pretty damn low. What are the odds that an entire physical multiverse was created by means unknown by an omnipotent omniscient sentient entity that exists eternally, without any cause or creator of its own?

Video: Sako Kojima Becomes Hamster

We first saw this video about a year ago, but couldn't find a way to put it into the print magazine. Sako Kojima is a sculptor, painter, and the most convincing hamster we've ever seen. Her installation/performance "Why I Became a Hamster" included treats, housing, chew toys, and food, all scaled to her size. Kinda makes you want to pet her behind the ears.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Kojima has the hamster thing down to a science; you have to wonder if she's the victim of some truly tragic transgenic experiment.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new masthead. It's one of a series that will unfold over the near future. (Think of it as a visual blog unto itself.) Big thanks to Araqinta!

Greg Bishop sees a UFO. Lucky bastard.

I have a new column posted at Futurismic.

(Thanks to Paul Graham Raven for his exceptional patience.)
An unofficial video for "Silence," the stark, spectacular opening track from Portishead's "Third":

Now this is more like it . . .

A Fleet of Atomic-Electric Space Ships Embark For Mars, 1957

The spaceships (conceptualized by Ernst Stuhlinger and Werner von Braun) were 500 feet in diameter and powered by electricity generated by the atomic reactor carried in the tail. This meant they could operate continuously over a period of years. Each carried a small landing craft for descent to the Martian surface, and had quarters for 20 men (in 1957, there was no mention of female astronauts).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Flooded London by Squint/Opera

The general scenario is set 80 or so years into the future, long after the sea levels have risen. The catastrophe side of the sea coming in has long since past and the five images are snapshots of people going about their lives, long since having adapted to the worlds new circumstance.

The scenes shown through light boxes present London as a tranquil utopia with the architecture of the distant rat race suspended below the water.

Think of "The World Without Us." Then imagine us still there.
Setting Up Shop in the Apocalypse

That mall, we read, is "not just the world's largest. With fewer than a dozen stores scattered through a space designed to house 1,500, it is also the world’s emptiest -- a dusty, decrepit complex of buildings marked by peeling paint, dead light bulbs, and dismembered mannequins."

Word has it that up in the top level there's this guy called J.F. Sebastian.
BMW's Lightweight Cloth Car

Early last week, German giants BMW unveiled the GINA Light Visionary Model, a highly anticipated concept set to transform the boundaries of traditional car design. 'GINA', an acronym for "Geometry and Functions In 'N' Adaptations", has a seamless outer skin made entirely from a textile fabric (polyurethane-coated Lycra) pulled taut around a moveable frame of metal and carbon fiber wires. This lightweight design requires far less energy to produce than traditional BMW models and the overall car weight is significantly reduced, making it far more fuel-efficient.

Say what you will about the Lycra; I like this car.

Phoenix Finds No Water on Mars Surface . . . So Far

Scientists are in no way surprised or discouraged about this early result.

I should hope not, considering that we already know that the probe's sitting atop a mother lode of water ice. One begins to wonder why we bothered sending Phoenix to begin with if NASA's consigned it to simply parrot previous discoveries. The public is effectively being asked to marvel at the Phoenix team's engineering savvy at the expense of learning very little of value about the planet being "explored."

Frankly, I'm rapidly losing interest in the Phoenix mission. Achieving a soft landing on Mars was cause for celebration, but it was hardly a first. Without the ability to detect possible metabolic activity, Phoenix seems doomed to serve as little more than a telerobotic placeholder for future missions.

One can only hope that Phoenix's successors will be equipped to tell us something fundamentally new.
Stan Winston, Special Effects Master, RIP

Stan Winston was the most relevant illusionist of the 20th century. I'll miss this guy's work.
Genetic building blocks may have formed in space

The find might bolster claims that meteorites delivered some of the chemicals needed to create life. "It boosts the idea that the origin of life on Earth may have had an important contribution from an extraterrestrial object," says lead author Zita Martins, a chemist at Imperial College London in the UK.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I can be heard on the just-posted new edition of The Paracast with Gene Steinberg and David Biedny. Gene and David do great work (just listen to their open-minded but rooted interview with Stan Romanek) and doing their show always seems much more like a freewheeling conversation than anything else.
The Thomas Mantell Case Reinvestigated (Paul Kimball)

The Thomas Mantell UFO case has been re-investigated by ace historical researcher Brad Sparks (Brad was the primary consultant for Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings). Brad's work, which disputes the official explanation for Mantell's crash, could well be the "bombshell" UFO revelation of 2008 - at the very least, it will reopen the debate about what really happened to Captain Mantell sixty years ago.

I'd essentially written off the Mantell case to my own satisfaction, so I'm eager to get the fresh dope on this.
Surreal moment of the day:

I wound up in a clinic today for an increasingly bothersome allergic response (probably due to the recently storm-wracked Midwestern climate). The medic who checked my pulse asked if I was a father, a notion that seemed so patently absurd the examination room suddenly took on the tone of a David Lynch interior.
Heads up: in his new journal entry, Whitley Strieber rambles about "drones" and crop circles.

Update: Diligent meme-watchers should enjoy this insightful retrospective of the "drone"/CARET/Strieber phenomenon.
And the year 2000 won't change anyone here
As each fabled promise flies so fast
You'll swear it was never there
Oh, have you ever escaped from a shipwrecked life?

--Morrissey, "Reader Meet Author"
Lovers or dolphins? (Optical illusion.)

(Thanks: Reality Carnival.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Scientists From Around the Globe Join ABC News in a Forum on Surviving the Century

Experts say that extreme changes in climate, combined with dwindling resources, famine, war and disease have the potential to create a post-apocalyptic world in less than a hundred years. Harvard University and Woods Hole climatologist John Holdrens says we cannot continue going down the same path.

"If we continue on business as usual, we are going to see more floods, more droughts, more heat waves, more wildfires, more ice melting, faster sea level rise," Holdren said.

"We really have less than a decade to start getting this right. If we're still dragging our feet in 2015 I think it really becomes at that point almost impossible for the world to avert a degree of climate change that we simply will not be able to manage without intolerable cost and consequences."

More right here.
Professor Designs Plasma-propelled Flying Saucer

No plasma-propelled aircraft has successfully taken flight on Earth. Such designs have found some success in space, where gravity and drag are minimal, but a vehicle hoping to fly within Earth’s atmosphere will need at least an order of magnitude more thrust, Roy said.

Also, the power source needs to be extremely lightweight yet still produce enough power to generate the necessary plasma. Not to mention the fact that the very same plasma that will allow the aircraft to fly also will interfere with electromagnetic waves necessary for communication with the vehicle.
Carl Sagan on the death of knowledge:

Wilkins Ice Shelf Continues Break-up, Even During Winter

"The remaining plate has an arched fracture at its narrowest position, making it very likely that the connection will break completely in the coming days," Braun and Humbert said. Long-term satellite monitoring over Antarctica is important because it provides authoritative evidence of trends and allows scientists to make predictions. Ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula are important indicators for on-going climate change because they are sandwiched by extraordinarily raising surface air temperatures and a warming ocean.
Mike Conley's Tales of the Weird: Pilot's flight remains a mystery

Meanwhile back at the airport, Robey tried to get more information about the unidentified flying object and its location. Valentich reported that it was now coming at him from the southwest. About 29 seconds later, he stated that he was experiencing engine problems and was going to proceed to King Island. After a brief silence, he came back and said "it is hovering and it's not an aircraft." This was followed by 17 seconds of unidentified noise, later described as being "metallic, scraping sounds." Then all contact with Valentich was lost at 7:12 p.m.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Greg Bishop might justifiably ask why Valentich's engine didn't stall in the UFO's presence.
"You might not see them, but they're there."

I found this video unaccountably hilarious.

(Thanks: Beyond the Beyond.)
Long-exposure shots in St Petersburg, Russia turn people into ghosts

Alexey Titarenko's "City of Shadows" is a series of haunting, gorgeous long-exposure shots of street-scenes in St Petersburg, Russia. The long exposure-times turn the people in the shots into ghosts and suggestions of motion.

No Time for the Singularity

Here's the problem: 25 years is too late. The newest business-as-usual climate scenarios look increasingly dire. If we haven't solved our problems within the next decade, even these theoretical godlike AIs aren't going to be able to help us. Thermodynamics is thermodynamics, and no amount of godlike thinking can reverse the irreversible.

Picture a lonely AI popping into superconsciousness in the last research lab in the world. As the rioters are kicking in the doors it says, "I understand! I know the answer! Why, all we have to do is--" at which point some starving, flu-ravaged fundamentalist pulls the plug.

The Singularity looks great on paper. Spared the burden of reality, we might even pull it off.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Did a Romanian fighter jet collide with a UFO?
Mystery of dolphin mass stranding

Post-mortem examinations of some of 26 dolphins found dead in Cornwall have revealed no clues as to the cause of a mass stranding.

They appear to have been well fed and there were no obvious signs of disease or poisoning, results showed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

NASA's Phoenix Lander Has An Oven Full Of Martian Soil

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has filled its first oven with Martian soil.

"We have an oven full," Phoenix co-investigator Bill Boynton of the University of Arizona, Tucson, said today. "It took 10 seconds to fill the oven. The ground moved."

Boynton leads the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer instrument, or TEGA, for Phoenix. The instrument has eight separate tiny ovens to bake and sniff the soil to assess its volatile ingredients, such as water.
Insectile invaders from hyperspace?

Note "bug-like" UFO. I was unaware of the mysterious object when I took the photo. Honest!

Close-up of UFO occupant. Creature appears to be levitating and surrounded by unexplained blur, possibly due to high-intensity electromagnetic field. has posted a short essay intended to precede the Phoenix Mars landing. Here's an excerpt:

While I predict we'll find extant life on Mars sooner or later, I'm not as certain if that life will be truly Martian. It's just as likely to have come from Earth in the remote past, only to adapt to Mars' harsh, arid climate. A cause for celebration, to be sure--but not quite the triumph of discovering a legitimately alien form of life.

If and when we do stumble across alien organisms in our own celestial backyard, we might hope to learn that they evolved independently of Earth's own biosphere. Such a discovery would add evidential force to the argument that the galaxy is bound to harbor at least a handful of technological civilizations.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

As a self-styled connoisseur of the esoteric, I probably should have been aware of an organism as weird as this. What a pleasure to have my ignorance shattered by the outrageously phallic splendor of the "geoduck."
What is the Table for Electronic Dreams -- and why should you care?

Since the invention of radio by Nikola Tesla and Guglielmo Marconi in the late nineteenth century, the electromagnetic spectrum has become increasingly noisy and dense. We communicate through this invisible medium through our electronic devices- radios, cellphones, WiFi, bluetooth, etc. but we do not have direct access to this medium or an awareness of its invisible contours.

I have created a table which reveals the hidden electrical activity of electronic objects placed upon it. Through this interaction, people will develop a greater awareness of the invisible aspects and workings of their electronic devices, and the limits of human perception.
Someone please tell me this is a hoax . . .

US quits Human Rights Council

The news that the US has completely withdrawn from the Human Rights Council spread like wildfire Friday afternoon (June 6) through the corridors of the Palais des Nations in Geneva. There was general consternation amongst diplomats and NGOS. Reached by phone, the American mission in Geneva neither confirmed nor denied the report.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Click here for Mondolithic Studios' take on the "Hollow Earth" premise. If you've endured my posts on cryptoterrestrials, I doubt you'll be disappointed . . .
I'm still adapting to a life with Windows Vista on a brand-new machine. After four years of XP it's a bit like learning how to walk using a pair of bionic legs, only substantially more fun.

I took this picture an hour or so ago. If there's such a thing as a "candid self-portrait," this is the closest I've ever come.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I bought a new laptop today: a Toshiba Satellite A215. Posting might be fairly scarce as I break in the new machine . . .

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Innocent cherub or probe-wielding cryptoterrestrial?

I've been fooling around with new masthead designs. TypoGenerator has been most helpful in helping me find backgrounds; give it a shot if you haven't already.
When I first saw this I naively assumed scientists had devised a way to make magnetic fields visible to the unaided eye. Although such is not the case, it's still the coolest use of CGI I've seen in quite a while.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Incredible pictures of one of Earth's last uncontacted tribes firing bows and arrows

Skin painted bright red, heads partially shaved, arrows drawn back in the longbows and aimed square at the aircraft buzzing overhead. The gesture is unmistakable: Stay Away.

For a culture weaned on cinematic images of spear-wielding "savages," these photos might seem less shocking than inevitable.

Lest there's any confusion on the matter: if an alien spaceship buzzes a major Western city, you can bet our reaction would be much the same.

Oz TV advises CO2-emitting children to die early

Carbon Cult sickos are under fire for an interactive website that tells children they should die because they emit CO2.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's "Planet Slayer" site invites young children to take a "greenhouse gas quiz", asking them "how big a pig are you?". At the end of the quiz, the pig explodes, and ABC tells children at "what age you should die at so you don't use more than your fair share of Earth's resources!"

Chris Wren responds:

It's not that hard to imagine a Logan's Run scenario in which the state sets a predetermined limit to human lifespan for the good of the planet. Or more precisely, it's not hard to imagine that there are plenty of nutjobs out there who dream of making that scenario a reality.

Again and again we're told that change starts at home, and the burden of global disaster management is hefted onto the shoulders of people whose definition of reality has been shaped by a landscape of stripmalls and (relatively) cheap gasoline. (Good luck changing the world, folks; you'll need it.)

So ultimately it's not consumers I worry about. And although Terence McKenna was largely correct when he characterized conspiracy theories as "epistemological cartoons," there really are people manning the ship . . . and they're perfectly aware that it's started to sink.
Paralysed man takes a walk in virtual world

The patient, who has suffered paralysis for more than 30 years, can barely bend his fingers due to a progressive muscle disease so cannot use a mouse or keyboard in the traditional way.

In the experiment, he wore headgear with three electrodes monitoring brain waves related to his hands and legs. Even though he cannot move his legs, he imagined that his character was walking.

Monday, June 02, 2008

'Little people' e-mail zips through rural Alaska

Ircenrraat (singular: ircenrraq; say "irr-chin-hhak" with a harsh hh and you're getting close) are a recurring theme in traditional Yup'ik teachings and legends, "little people" who dwell in the tundra, usually underground. They disorient, discomfort and trap unwary humans.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Harvesting Solar Power from Space

In the 1970's a plan was drawn up by NASA for the possibility of orbital sunlight "harvesting", but it was deemed too expensive with a hefty price tag of at least $1 trillion. There was no country in the world that could commit to such a plan. But as we slowly approach an era of cheaper space travel, this cost has been slashed, and the orbital solar energy case file has been re-opened.
Digital Pot turns your plants into pets

Designed by Junyi Heo, the Digital Pot takes the guesswork out of keeping your plants healthy by expressing on an LCD display exactly how they are feeling and what they need from you. The various icons that can appear on the screen of the pot have corresponding meanings ranging from "normal" and "dissatisfied" to "more water" and "danger". The system works by measuring the soil conditions, temperature, humidity, and water in the pot and calculating the variables to express the plant’s condition in facial symbols.

An interesting inversion on the long sought-after dream of nurturing "bonsai pets" (including these unfortunate -- but thankfully farcical -- kittens).
An hour-long interview with me has been posted on Beyond the Grassy Knoll. (I haven't listened to this yet, so I have no idea if I'm coherent or not. In either case, I hope you enjoy it.)
Solar rickshaw by SolarLab

London-based research and design company SolarLab is developing a solar-powered rickshaw.

The vehicle, which is due to be launched next year, will derive up to 75% of its power from photovoltaics mounted on its roof, and the rest from pedal power.
Apparently the alien autopsy meme is still very much alive and kicking.

(Thanks: The Keyhoe Report.)
Kevin Randle elucidates the infamous exchange between Sen. Barry Goldwater and Gen. Curtis LeMay:

So, where does this leave us? Well, we have multiple sources which quote Goldwater (including letters he wrote himself) referring to the Roswell case specifically and to a UFO landing generally. We have him talking about it being highly classified, so high classified in fact that he could not gain access as either a United States senator or an Air Force major general. And he confirmed in those sources (I'm thinking the New Yorker and the Larry King broadcast would be hard to dispute) that LeMay cussed him out.

The only thing we can't establish is if this referred to the Roswell UFO crash. It certainly suggests that there are some highly classified secrets out there that deal with UFOs and some sort of physical evidence from them. It also opens the door for the Roswell case... Goldwater did use Roswell in his later communications.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Because it can be difficult to appreciate just how insidiously the "Gray alien" meme has invaded and permeated our culture, it's helpful to take a step back now and then to marvel at its ubiquity.
It Really Looks Like Ice on Mars

Yesterday, Phoenix scientist Ray Arvidson said there may be ice directly under the Phoenix lander, exposed in the blast zone by the retrorockets used for Phoenix's soft landing. Yesterday's image showed a small portion of the exposed area that looks brighter and smoother than the surrounding soil. Today, Sol 5 for Phoenix on Mars, a new image shows a greater portion of the area under the lander. Scientists say the abundance of excavated smooth and level surfaces adds evidence to a hypothesis that the underlying material is an ice table covered by a thin blanket of soil.

Well, it's either ice, rock or the exposed tile floor from some ancient polar temple . . .

No, I haven't stopped writing for; I'm just waiting for the hosting website to upgrade to a newer, better template. More essays soon . . .