Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Forget black holes, could the LHC trigger a "Bose supernova"?

Nobody is exactly sure how these explosions proceed which is a tad worrying for the following reason: some clever clogs has pointed out that superfluid helium is a BEC and that the LHC is swimming in 700,000 litres of the stuff. Not only that but the entire thing is bathed in some of the most powerful magnetic fields on the planet.

So is the LHC a timebomb waiting to go off? Not according to Malcolm Fairbairn and Bob McElrath at CERN who have filled the back of a few envelopes in calculating that we’re still safe. To be doubly sure, they also checked that no other superfluid helium facilities have mysteriously blown themselves to kingdom come.

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)
Science Non-Fiction for the Star Wars Fan

SpaceX Successfully Launches Falcon 1 to Orbit

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announces that Flight 4 of the Falcon 1 launch vehicle has successfully launched and achieved Earth orbit. With this key milestone, Falcon 1 becomes the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth.

(Via Futurismic.)
This video warms my heart.

(Thanks to David Biedny.)
Project Mogul takes yet another hit.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bayes, Moravec and the LHC: Quantum Suicide, Subjective Probability and Conspiracies

The recent transformer trouble at the LHC has got many commenters to remember the somewhat playful scenario in Hans Moravec's Mind Children (1988): a new accelerator is about to be tested when it suffers a fault (a capacitor blows, say). After fixing it, another fault (a power outage) stops the testing. Then a third fault, completely independent of the others. Every time it is about to turn on something happens that prevents it from being used. Eventually some scientists realize that sufficiently high energy collisions would produce a vacuum collapse, destroying the universe. Hence the only observable outcome of the experiment occurs when the accelerator fails, all other branches in the many-worlds universe are now empty.

(Via Sentient Developments.)
Illusionist Derren Brown achieves unsettling results with a staring contest. Any idea how he does it?

China hails spacewalk 'heroes' and sets eyes on moon

"We still do not have an exact timetable for a manned mission to the moon, but I believe a Chinese (astronaut) will set foot on the moon in the not too distant future," an unnamed official told the Communist Party mouthpiece.

It followed remarks Sunday by Wang Zhaoyao, spokesman for the manned space programme, who said it was "necessary" for China to put a man on the moon.

"We believe that as long as we can make further progress in science and technology, we can achieve the dream of a manned space flight to the moon in the near future," he told reporters.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

For rent: Reversible Destiny Lofts (w/ video)

To NY-based architect-poets and "reversible destiny" philosophers Arakawa & Gins, comfort deserves only a limited role in the home. In their vision, a home that keeps its inhabitants young and healthy should provide perpetual challenges. A tentative relationship with your environment, they argue, is key to "reversing the downhill course of human life."
The Bittersweet Art of Cutting Up Books

Even Burroughs didn't take it this far.
Found Image #19

Underwater exoskeletons mimic dolphins and penguins

The University of West Florida's Institute of Human and Machine Cognition has released designs of biologically inspired aquatic exoskeletons – robotic suits that enhance the user's strength and allow them to mimic the efficient swimming styles of penguins, dolphins and turtles.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Carbon dioxide output jumps to record level in 2007

The world pumped up its pollution of the chief man-made global warming gas last year, setting a course that could push beyond leading scientists' projected worst-case scenario, international researchers said Thursday.

The new numbers, called "scary" by some, were a surprise because scientists thought an economic downturn would slow energy use. Instead, carbon dioxide output jumped 3 percent from 2006 to 2007.

Minority Report Reality: 'Pre-Crime' Detector Shows Promise

Last year, New Scientist revealed that the US Department of Homeland Security is developing a system designed to detect "hostile thoughts" in people walking through border posts, airports and public places. The DHS says recent tests prove it works.

Well, if the DHS says so it's good enough for me.
Fake Disney movie trailer for the Sarah Palin story

This spoof doesn't miss a beat.

Rudy Rucker on sex and science fiction.

I like it.
io9 on the conceptual illustration of B. Börkur Eiríksson:

Welcome to Your New City, Where You Will Live in Stacked Boxes
"It is 900 years after the Great Nuke and the roles of women have changed dramatically, much to the displeasure of men and mutants."

Chris Wren has seen the light!

Space exploration is an arrogant extension of patriarchal imperialism, a relic of the cold war and a squandering of dwindling resources that distracts us from the exploration of our inner selves. Once we all become vegans and practice mass voluntary sterlization, we'll be at peace with the earth and won't feel this insane need to rape the cosmos.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Apparently all you need to massacre star-hopping aliens is some farm machinery (although I suspect the country music alone would do the trick).

(Thanks to Katie at Flobbergobber.)
Chinese Say They're Building 'Impossible' Space Drive

Shawyer stands by his theoretical work. His company, Satellite Propulsion Research (SPR), has constructed demonstration engines, which he says produce thrust using a tapering resonant cavity filled with microwaves. He is adamant that this is not a perpetual motion machine, and does not violate the law of conservation of momentum because different reference frames apply to the drive and the waves within it. Shawyer's big challenge, he says, has been getting people who will actually look into his claims rather than simply dismissing them.

Such extravagant claims are usually associated with self-taught, backyard inventors claiming Einstein got it all wrong. But Shawyer is a scientist who has worked with radar and communication systems and was a program manager at European space company EADS Astrium; his work rests entirely on Einstein being right. The thrust is the result of a relativistic effect and would not occur under simple Newtonian physics.
Colliding Worlds: The Ultimate Extinction Event

Now we learn about a 'when worlds collide' scenario that seems to have involved two mature, Earth-sized planets in a distant Solar System. The system in question is BD+20 307, originally thought to be a single star with a massive, warm dust disk, but now known to be a close binary orbiting the common center of mass every 3.42 days. Both stars are similar to the Sun in mass, temperature and size. Moreover, the system seems to have an age comparable to our own Sun, and the sheer amount of dust at roughly Venus to Earth distance is quite interesting.
China Launches Space Walk Mission

The three-day mission is part of Project 921, China’s ambitious manned space program, and was expected to include the country’s first attempt at a space walk, which would make China only the third country to accomplish the feat, after Russia and the United States.
World's fastest production car to go electric -- with "several years between charging

Two new blogs that have caught my attention: Nomadnomo and Space Angels.

OK, very nice. But damnit, I want to see that bot get off the bike! (And maybe make some espresso or something.)
Scientists explore what happened before the universe's theoretical beginning

Respected scientists have proposed a flock of theories to describe what might have happened before the birth of our familiar universe of space and time.

The concepts have fanciful names such as "the big bounce," "the multiverse," "the cyclic theory," "parallel worlds," even "soap bubbles." Some propose the existence of multiple universes. Others hold that there's one universe that recycles itself endlessly, rather as Buddhists believe. Judeo-Christian theologians may have difficulty accepting any of these notions.

Most of the hypotheses are variations on an older idea that the universe has no beginning and no end, contrary to the big-bang theory, which says that our universe originated at a specific point and will end sometime in the distant future.

Although divine creation makes an appearance, the Simulation Argument gets no mention at all.
Exclusive: The methane time bomb

The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.

[. . .]

Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.

The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth.
Top 50 Hottest Sci-Fi Girls

I confess: while I'm an avid science fiction fan, I never watch TV and rarely watch movies, so I I'm only aware of a handful of the women featured here (and then often only peripherally).

One complaint, however, rises instantly to the fore: How on earth did the editors neglect Linda Harrison, who played "Nova" in the first two "Planet of the Apes" movies?
Drop whatever you're doing and give Tag Galaxy a whirl. As an increasingly avid Flickr user, I think this just might be the coolest photo visualization out there.

In my new column I decide to brave the gauntlet of public derision and come clean with simple yet jarring message: I am an alien contactee.
Blue sky thinking: The 'skyscraper' farms that could be feeding millions by 2050

Not put off, Despommier, has pushed for city planners in America to take his project seriously.

'Vertical farming practised on a large scale in urban centres has great potential to supply enough food in a sustainable fashion to comfortably feed all of humankind for the foreseeable future,' he said.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The interiors of Verner Panton are like participatory cosmological phenomena. I can't get enough.
Found Image #18

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

MAVEN: NASA's post-Phoenix Mars probe

The craft, modeled on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey, will arrive at Mars in September 2014, where it will have one (Earth) year to carry out its investigations. MAVEN will enter an elliptical http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellipse orbit around the planet, ranging from 90 to 3,870 miles above its surface, and dipping to 80 miles in order to sample the upper atmosphere.

At this pace we will simply never make it to the Red Planet in person. As in "ever." The present Mars exploration paradigm screams for reinvention.
File under "Perilously Close to Steampunk."

Pinhole Camera Fashioned From 150 Year-Old Skull

Wayne Martin Bleger makes pinhole cameras using a variety of materials including precious stones, metals, human organs, and bone. This piece, entitled Third Eye, features many of these materials, all constructed around the 150 year-old skull of a 13 year-old girl.
Feeling bleak and existential? Meet Henri.

Disgruntled by National Geographic's distinctly unflattering rendering of "Wilma," a supposedly typical Neanderthal woman, conscientious Posthuman Blues reader Michael Garrett has produced a relatively blemish-free version:

She's still no Brooke Burke, but at least now she looks human -- which, being Neanderthal, she's not . . .

On the other hand, the "new" Wilma still looks a lot more appealing than this unsightly chimera, produced by John Fenderson:

My latest from aboutSETI.com:

The "Silent Invasion" Mythos

It was supposed to work like this: the aliens would furnish the government with a list of their human abductees, never going over quota. But soon the horrible truth became apparent: the aliens were abducting more than their legal share of unwitting humans. And to top it off, they were performing grotesque biological experiments with cattle and leaving their handiwork in plain view. Moreover, some of the abductees weren't coming back . . .
6 Brainwashing Techniques They're Using On You Right Now

(Thanks: No Touch Monkey!)
On the subject of UFO kooks . . .
"Walk Unafraid" (R.E.M.):

City Places Orange Traffic Cones Around Space-Time Portal (audio)

Turn your computer monitor into a dream machine.

Back from the grave

If human consciousness can really leave the body and operate without a brain then everything we know in neuroscience has to be questioned. If people could really gain paranormal knowledge then much of physics needs to be rewritten. This is what is at stake. Add to that the fact that most people in the population believe in some kind of life after death, and many desperately want it to be true, then you have a strong case for this research -- even if the chances of success are vanishingly small.

(Via Reality Carnival.)
Japan Prepares to Board the Space Elevator

When you finally take that lunar vacation, you may find yourself traveling not by space shuttle, but by elevator. Space elevators may be our best bet for establishing colonies on the moon, potentially able to transport people and materials more far cheaply and efficiently than propulsion-based spacecraft. The actual construction of such an elevator doesn't appear on NASA's roadmap until 2200, but a Japanese group reports that we could be lifting cargo and people to the moon in just a few decades.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The spacewomen have arrived!
DNA-Based Neanderthal Face Unveiled

Meet Wilma -- named for the redheaded Flintstones character -- the first model of a Neanderthal based in part on ancient DNA evidence.

Artists and scientists created Wilma (shown in a photo released yesterday) using analysis of DNA from 43,000-year-old bones that had been cannibalized. Announced in October 2007, the findings had suggested that at least some Neanderthals would have had red hair, pale skin, and possibly freckles.

(Via Aberrant News.)
World's common birds 'declining'

The populations of the world's common birds are declining as a result of continued habitat loss, a global assessment has warned.

The survey by BirdLife International found that 45% of Europe's common birds had seen numbers fall, as had more than 80% of Australia's wading species.

The study's authors said governments were failing to fund their promises to halt biodiversity loss by 2010.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)
Gospelr: it's Twitter for fuckwits.
Whenever I travel I find myself possessed to madly jot down what, upon reflection, reads like beatnik poetry.

Here's a recent sample:

Nomads of transitional space;
a flux of flesh and
personal electronics, Wi-Fi
like the strident hiss
of tinnitus

Antennae and cacti mingling
in an uninhibited display
of steel and chlorophyll
Greg Bishop is alive and well in Nova Scotia, where I'll be returning shortly to finish work on an astrobiology/SETI documentary.
Things That Look Like Flying Saucers has been updated.
Found Image #17

Chimp Study On Human Response To Feces-Hurling Nears Completion (audio)
Hey, it's on the Internet. It must be true!

Kal Korff has pioneered original concepts and techniques in several fields of study. These include archaeology, artificial intelligence, computing, criminology, forensics, graphical user interfaces, historical research, human interface design, hypermedia, multimedia, nanotechnology, physics, and weaponry.

But seriously -- can you think of anyone in the known history of mankind with a resume even remotely comparable to this? I can't. Bucky Fuller and Arthur C. Clarke don't even come close.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Japanese Girl Sensation: Virtual Boyfriends (Webkare)

The site is a huge hit over here. Girls sign up and become members of a social network but also users of a dating simulation in cartoon style. They have to try to hook up with one of four male Anime characters (who are the "stars" of the site) through "conversations" and must collaborate with other Webkare members in order to move on in the game. Eventually they conquer the heart of the chosen cartoon boy.

It's pretty weird but clever. Dating simulations have been popular in Japan for quite a while now, but Webkare marks the first time the concept has been brought online and combined with social networking functionality.

Bruce Sterling sez: "I wonder why anyone thinks that William Gibson, author of 'Idoru,' is anything other than a hardboiled realist."
Grow Your Own Treehouse, Using Only Air

Plantware's vision melds arborsculpture with architecture, giving us a whole new spin on green technology. What's in it for the trees? Well, they get to survive in our fast-growing industrialized world, and we get to lie back in their sheltering arms and enjoy our wind-powered laptops.

When Atheists Attack (Sam Harris)

However badly she may stumble during the remaining weeks of this campaign, her supporters will focus their outrage upon the journalist who caused her to break stride, upon the camera operator who happened to capture her fall, upon the television network that broadcast the good lady's misfortune -- and, above all, upon the "liberal elites" with their highfalutin assumption that, in the 21st century, only a reasonably well-educated person should be given command of our nuclear arsenal.
Here's a surprise: the Eurythmics cover The Smiths' "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Planet is running out of clean water, new film warns

Water-related problems aren't restricted to the developing world. A harmful pesticide, banned by many European countries, remains widely used in the United States, where it runs into rivers and streams.

And one expert estimates California's water supply will run out in 20 years.

These sobering statistics come from "FLOW," a new documentary film about the world's dwindling water supply. The filmmakers and their sources argue a combination of factors, including drought and skyrocketing demand, have created a looming global crisis that threatens the long-term survival of the human race.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)
Rudy Rucker muses on the existential implications of quantum mechanics:

My sense is that if time really branches, then you wholeheartedly go into each branch; you're conscious in each of them, and there's no single "lit-up by the searchlight of the mind" that zigzags up through the time-tree to limn the path that you "really" take. The whole tree is lit. You really and truly think you're in each branch that something like you is in.

Restating my logical feeling in terms of the more static Hilbert space view, I'm saying that a version of my mind should be psychologically present in each of the possible worlds that contains a copy of someone like me—and that there should not be any single narrative thread of bright points marking the privileged sequence of possible worlds which I "really and truly" inhabit.
The Official Larva Art Appreciation Page

For some reason, I just love artistic photos of insects and other larvae, and art that is literally created by living larvae. Do you? The larvae call to me. The images tell me something about art, technology, and the wonderful panoply of nature. Images of larvae remind us of the intricacy of evolution and the awesome biological universe in which we live.
3D Virtual Reality Environment Developed at UC San Diego Helps Scientists Innovate

"When you're inside the StarCAVE the quality of the image is stunning," said Thomas A. DeFanti, director of visualization at Calit2 and one of the pioneers of VR systems. "The StarCAVE supports 20/40 vision and the images are very high contrast, thanks to the room's unique shape and special screens that allow viewers to use 3D polarizing glasses. You can fly over a strand of DNA and look in front, behind and below you, or navigate through the superstructure of a building to detect where damage from an earthquake may have occurred."

[. . .]

The room operates at a combined resolution of over 68 million pixels -- 34 million per eye -- distributed over 15 rear-projected walls and two floor screens. Each side of the pentagon-shaped room has three stacked screens, with the bottom and top screens titled inward by 15 degrees to increase the feeling of immersion (while also reducing the ghosting, or 'seeing double', that bedevils VR systems).

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)

And just think of the, er, "recreational" applications!
Action-blindsight in healthy subjects after transcranial magnetic stimulation

Clinical cases of blindsight have shown that visually guided movements can be accomplished without conscious visual perception. Here, we show that blindsight can be induced in healthy subjects by using transcranial magnetic stimulation over the visual cortex. Transcranial magnetic stimulation blocked the conscious perception of a visual stimulus, but subjects still corrected an ongoing reaching movement in response to the stimulus. The data show that correction of reaching movements does not require conscious perception of a visual target stimulus, even in healthy people. Our results support previous results suggesting that an efference copy is involved in movement correction, and this mechanism seems to be consistent even for movement correction without perception.

(Via No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons.)
Absorbing Orbs (Daniel Pinchbeck)

In my talk on the orbs, I downplayed the question of the orbs' authenticity to take a sociological approach. A postmodern phenomenon, the orbs only appeared in our world due to new technology, digital media, and social networks like Flickr, or blogs where people share orb images. As our evolving social technologies keep bringing us together in unexpected ways, Bloom's transmission about "group consciousness" is thought provoking. As media theorist Clay Shirky explores in Here Comes Everybody, new social tools are making it possible for previously unconnected groups of people to suddenly behave like a "cloud or a flock," when their interests coincide.

As I write, Pinchbeck's "2012" remains unread on my shelf (albeit closely guarded by figurines depicting the Flatwoods Monster and Mothman, respectively). While I've heard some decidedly mixed critiques of Pinchbeck's books, I have to admit to an affinity for the speculative short essays that grace Reality Sandwich.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Quote of the day: "Yes, some über-geeks (Mac Tonnies) still pursue the enigma, but not with the intensity or wherewithal that the ufological ancients invested in it."

I believe Morrissey has aptly encapsulated the self-stated UFO Iconoclasts' strange infatuation with me:

You hiss and groan and you constantly moan
But you don't ever go away
That's because
All you need is me

You roll your eyes up to the skies
Mock horrified
But you're still here
All you need is me

I get letters. Oh, do I ever. Usually the crank emails are innocuous enough, but sometimes they pretend to a cheesy sense of malevolence, like communiques from an "X-Files" out-take.

Take, for example, the most recent:

There is a very sophisticated CI program in process.

I could name many names. It isn't healthy to do so.
Do you really understand? I doubt it but I'll give it a try.
(I received a warning concerning mention of some topics)

This CI Program, base on criteria that are not entirely explicable , has turned and recruited several well known
names in the field. Names once I respected.

The CI operatives have a list and an agenda. This list
is the shaping and directing of those on this list.
You are on such a list. I can't imagine the need in fact,
You confuse and travel down false trails without help
How much you have been mentored maliciously is unknown.

Several of your travels were not accidental .
You, and a coterie, are recipients of this CI effort.
An operative lives in AZ.

The message is said with plausible deniability.
None of this is true. it is all mind games.
Or is it?

You will find the truth by carefully going through
experiences. Go into a quiet room and examine fresh
all your experiences regarding those who have taken
time to mentor and influence.

This is either raving nonsense or a vital step in
understanding what is going on.

Your choice. Your comprehension.
The full reality, however large you think it is
is bigger than you can imagine.
A fortuitous accident "random" error
of a CI op informed.

You have a mind leash. Go find it.

Believe none of this, Examine mentors.
Someone else sent this.

It's not that I lack a tough skin, but when criticism (however disjointed) takes on the creepy, obsessional vibe evidenced by the ramblings above, you can be sure the sender's address goes into my kill-file.

(Speaking of UFO kookdom, it appears things aren't going terribly well in the world of Colonel Capslock.)
Palin: average isn't good enough (Sam Harris)

Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the "Who would you like to have a beer with?" poll question in 2004, and won reelection.

This is one of the many points at which narcissism becomes indistinguishable from masochism. Let me put it plainly: If you want someone just like you to be president of the United States, or even vice president, you deserve whatever dysfunctional society you get. You deserve to be poor, to see the environment despoiled, to watch your children receive a fourth-rate education and to suffer as this country wages -- and loses -- both necessary and unnecessary wars.
Is it just me or does the grasshopper on top of this work of genius look like it was designed by H.G. Giger?

And yes, I'm posting this in spite of my renewed vow to expunge Posthuman Blues of all things steampunk. Some things are just too cool to pass up.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Found Image #16

Fascinating images of the Large Hadron Collider . . .
Dumping Someone Is Hard, Even if That Someone Is a Sex Doll

Here's a tip: when disposing of a very lifelike sex doll, leaving it in a shallow grave bound up and wrapped in a sleeping bag is not the best way to do so. You know, because someone might stumble upon a sleeping bag with hair coming out of one end and feet coming out of the other and jump to a conclusion other than that you got sick of humping an inanimate object. In fact, that's just what happened to a would-be silicone heartbreaker in Japan.
Exoplanet 'circles normal star'

The star and its companion lie about 500 light-years from Earth.

"This is the first time we have directly seen a planetary mass object in a likely orbit around a star like our Sun," said lead author David Lafreniere.

"If we confirm that this object is indeed gravitationally tied to the star, it will be a major step forward."
Simple, yet oh-so-cool:

(Found at Beyond the Beyond.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bluetooth, Steampunk-style

Nicrosin's amazing Victorian-style mechanical confections deserve to be made real. As it is, he made them from sculpey and watch parts, lining with leather for comfort.
UFO humor informs this hilarious South African breath mint commercial.

Would Fear of Alien Invasion Trigger Mass Psychogenic Illness?

One might wonder about unintended consequences of revealing our world has been visited by an extraterrestrial presence -- perhaps there should be a psychogenic/extraterrestrial threat assessment division at the Department of Homeland Security! (We were contacted by someone affiliated with DHS who expressed an interest in UFO-related phenomena, but assumed this was merely a personal inquiry.)

Is the fear of an alien invasion be enough to trigger a mass psychogenic illness?

(Thanks to Blues Tea-Cha.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Blog of the day: Environmental Graffiti
Is Alien Contact Imminent?

You tell me.

I've been walking around taking pictures with my new camera. Click here to see more.
Ugandan children cover Bjork's "All is Full of Love." It's every bit as good as those Belgian girls singing Radiohead.
Pope: Accept death "at the hour chosen by God'

While several European countries permit euthanasia, the Vatican vehemently maintains that life must continue to its natural end. The pope said in his homily that the ill should pray to find "the grace to accept, without fear or bitterness, to leave this world at the hour chosen by God."

If God's the one responsible for lives lost from cancer and AIDS and malnutrition, then, quite frankly, fuck God . . . or, more precisely, his costumed representative. Speaking for myself -- which, of course, is veritable anathema to religion -- I intend to go when I'm good and ready, thanks. (And if I'm lucky enough to be around when the fabled Singularity thing hits, maybe not even then . . . although, strangely enough, I get the feeling cybernetic immortality would piss off His Holiness at least as much as a dignified, relatively pain-free death. After all, the Vatican's nothing if not inconsistent, which should come as no surprise to anyone who's so much as glanced at that insipid book it's so fond of.)

On a related note, I can't help but think that perhaps even someone as deeply out-of-touch as the Pope might experience a change of heart -- one might even call it an epiphany -- if he was forced to spend his final years immersed in the grueling agony of chemotherapy in some dodgy nursing home . . . but that's probably too much to hope for.

Take it away, Pat!

I just watched "Maybe Logic," a heartfelt and gleefully mind-expanding documentary on the ideas and philosophy of the late Robert Anton Wilson.

I heartily recommend this to anyone seeking a witty, intelligent discourse on the perplexing experience we all-too-casually call "consciousness."
Flying saucers -- they're everywhere!

(This reminder brought to you by Things That Look Like Flying Saucers, a blog devoted to "Close Encounters of the Mundane Kind.")
Pedophilia in a Pill (Peter Watts)

I would be willing to bet, though, that most people would not think more kindly of pedophiles after performing this thought experiment, and in fact most people would vilify and shout down anyone who dared to make excuses for these monsters. Anything to do with kids is, by definition, a motherhood issue; and motherhood issues by definition turn us into irrational idiots.

But our legal systems generally define culpability in terms of whether offenders know that their acts are against the law, and by that standard I guess some kind of punishment is called for. Still. Let's at least be consistent about it, shall we?
Hubble Finds Unidentified Object in Space, Scientists Puzzled

The object also appeared out of nowhere. It just wasn't there before. In fact, they don't even know where it is exactly located because it didn't behave like anything they know. Apparently, it can't be closer than 130 light-years but it can be as far as 11 billion light-years away. It's not in any known galaxy either. And they have ruled out a supernova too. It's something that they have never encountered before. In other words: they don't have a single clue about where or what the heck this thing is.

Your guess is as good as mine.
India's use of brain scans in courts dismays critics

The software tries to detect whether, when the crime's details are recited, the brain lights up in specific regions -- the areas that, according to the technology's inventors, show measurable changes when experiences are relived, their smells and sounds summoned back to consciousness. The inventors of the technology claim the system can distinguish between peoples' memories of events they witnessed and between deeds they committed.

Theoretically, one could apply a very similar technique to gauge the veracity of alleged alien abductees. Confabulated memories, for example, could be revealed as such while memories of objectively real events could be vindicated in a laboratory setting. The implications for paranormal research shouldn't be understated.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Every once in a while I post a cat video here on Posthuman Blues.

Why? Because I can.
A Fetid, Devastated Galveston - NYTimes.com
Did evolution come before life?

A rudimentary form of natural selection likely existed in prebiotic molecules even before life arose on Earth, making the eventual arrival of life much more probable, according to models by mathematical biologists at Harvard University suggest.
More UFO cut-ups! Watch this space . . .

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Farewell, David Foster Wallace

The literary world was hit with the shocking news this weekend of the passing of a writer of rare brilliance. Widely respected author David Foster Wallace committed suicide at his home in Claremont, California, on Friday night.

And I still hadn't read "Infinite Jest."

Taxi drivers 'have brain sat-nav'

Earlier studies had shown that taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus - a region of the brain that plays an important role in navigation.

Their brains even "grow on the job" as they build up detailed information needed to find their way around London's labyrinth of streets - information famously referred to as "The Knowledge".

(Via Boing Boing.)
Why would any sane person put a Level 4 biodefense lab in Galveston?
Spirits of the Dead will Twitter from the Afterlife by 2075

By 2075, Twitter will be used by disembodied sprits (e.g. dead people) to send messages to the living. These "spirits" will be the minds of uploaded people who have died, live in "Afterlife Chips," and who will want quick convenient communication paths to the "living."

Hey, when Cliff Pickover speaks, I listen.
All of my vegetarian preconceptions have just been turned upside-down.

(Thanks: Next Nature.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

VIDEO: Robots "Express Themselves"

Nick Redfern taunts us with tales of the legendary Mongolian Death-Worm.
Someone at a coffeeshop mentioned this to me because he thought I might be interested. My reputation proceeds me.

NASA Looks at Fission Reactors for Power on the Moon

"Our goal is to build a technology demonstration unit with all the major components of a fission surface power system and conduct non-nuclear, integrated system testing in a ground-based space simulation facility," said Mason. "Our long-term goal is to demonstrate technical readiness early in the next decade, when NASA is expected to decide on the type of power system to be used on the lunar surface."
I've tentatively launched a new collaborative photo-blog, Things That Look Like Flying Saucers. It's pretty self-explanatory. Spread the meme.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Information on the Condon Committee (Brad Sparks)

Two stunning new revelations have emerged from the collection of 1,200 pages of files copied by MUFON's Project Pandora from the files of the late Roy Craig, a physical chemist who was a key investigator for the University of Colorado's UFO study. One, it turns out that late in the study a project scientist wrote a memo admitting that more than 50% of their cases had turned out to be unexplained. Two, proof has now been found that project director Edward Condon had not in fact read his own report before writing up the report's "Conclusions and Recommendations," the opening chapter in the front of the report.

As you read this, keep in mind that, to a very large degree, this is where the UFO "laughter curtain" originated. Without the bogus conclusions of the Condon Committee, the scientific arena would likely be a quite different place, with the condescension that typifies the work of Shermer, Shostak, Randi, et al eclipsed by a healthy respect for a genuine scientific unknown.

That the Condon Committee was never intended to treat the UFO subject as anything but an annoyance is certainly nothing new to UFO researchers. But even the disgust voiced by project scientists, it seems, failed to reflect the severity of Edward Condon's neglect.

In this clip, film-maker Paul Kimball articulately dismantles the obstruction Condon deliberately set out to construct:

The Condon Report constitutes nothing less than an intellectual Chernobyl, a sort of Fortean 9/11. Worse, now that the UFO subject has been marginalized (thanks in no small part to a cottage industry of self-proclaimed "skeptics") there's little to stop a similar scientific failure from recurring.
Long-distance demonstration of solar-powered wireless power transmission achieved

John C. Mankins, former manager of NASA's Exploration Systems Research and Technology Program, and a foremost expert on space solar power, will describe a demonstration project for long-distance, solar-powered wireless power transmission between two Hawaiian islands 148 kilometers apart.

The project will also be featured in an hour-long special Friday evening on Discovery Channel as part of PROJECT EARTH, an eight-part Discovery channel series on the most ambitious geo-engineering ideas to tackle global climate change and the need for new and sustainable energy sources.

Greg Bishop and I have been making UFO cut-ups. I second Greg's idea that randomizing text might prove useful in exposing our unspoken ufological biases.

Update: I just rummaged in the archives and uncovered additional Fortean cut-ups from 2003, 2005 and 2006.
PassiveAggressiveNotes.com is right up there with the indispensably funny "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.

UFO spam hides a Trojan horse

Security experts have warned that emails claiming to contain a video from the CNN news organisation reporting contact with extra-terrestrials should be ignored.

The video attached to the email actually contains a Trojan horse rather than the promised report on aliens sending 'cartoon' messages to humanity, said Trend Micro.

(Thanks to John Shirley for the heads-up.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

NASA's Phoenix Lander Sees, Feels Martian Whirlwinds In Action

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has photographed several dust devils dancing across the arctic plain this week and sensed a dip in air pressure as one passed near the lander.

These dust-lofting whirlwinds had been expected in the area, but none had been detected in earlier Phoenix images.

I saw my first (terrestrial) dust devils while in Colorado and Wyoming several weeks ago. They move with such eerie deliberation that one feels they're almost alive in some rudimentary sense.

Today's featured artist: Alex Schomburg.

(Pun fully intended.)

More photos right here.
Watch on thumbnail for Timex

Watch on thumbnail TX54 is futuristic gadget: you can wear it on your thumbnail! While its translucency makes it blend seamlessly with the hand, a selection of text color options and a glow feature that activates on command make it easy to read.

Very cyberpunk. But I don't know if I'd feel comfortable surrendering the streamlined hunk of chrome that presently adorns my wrist.
Found Image #15

The embarrassing thing is that I've actually read this novel -- and it's not bad at all.
You've probably already seen this one on Boing Boing. If not . . .

As a vegetarian and squirrel-lover, I must say I find the proceedings in the above clip distinctly revolting. But the absurdity factor is so high that I can't help but look on in fascination.
Seeing through the skin

"Some people have claimed that they possess the ability to see with their skin," says Prof. Yaroslavsky. Though biologists usually dismiss the possibility, there is probably a reasonable scientific explanation for "skin vision." Once understood, he believes, skin vision could lead to new therapies for helping the blind regain sight and even read.

Skin vision is not uncommon in nature. Plants orient themselves to light, and some animals -- such as pit vipers, who use infrared vision, and reptiles, who possess skin sensors -- can "see" without the use of eyes. Skin vision in humans is likely a natural atavistic ability involving light-sensitive cells in our skin connected to neuro-machinery in the body and in the brain, explains Prof. Yaroslavsky.
Arlington Institute asks for precognitive dreamers

Superstar: A Mobile Chinatown by MAD

Equally important to what this neo-community contains is how it operates. Superstar: A Mobile China Town is a benevolent virus that releases unknown energy in between unprincipled changes and principled steadiness. It can land at every corner of the world, exchanging the new Chinese energy with the environment where it stays. It’s self-sustaining: it grows its own food, requires no resources from the host city, and recycles all of its waste. And it’s a living place, with authentic Chinese nature, health resorts, sports facilities and drinking water lakes. There’s even a digital cemetery, to remember the dead. The Superstar is a dream that’s home to 15,000 people: there is no hierarchy, no hyponymy, but a fusion of technology and nature, future and humanity.

Move over, Paolo Soleri!
Please tell me you haven't already seen this.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Scientists beaming after test of big atom smasher

The beams will gradually be filled with more protons and fired at near the speed of light in opposite directions around the tunnel, making 11,000 circuits a second. They will travel down the middle of two tubes about the width of fire hoses, speeding through a vacuum that is colder than outer space. At four points in the tunnel, the scientist will use giant magnets to cross the beams and cause protons to collide. The collider's two largest detectors -- essentially huge digital cameras weighing thousands of tons -- are capable of taking millions of snapshots a second.

It is likely to be several weeks before the first significant collisions.

Several weeks for LHC physicists to perfect their plans to annihilate the planet!
Found Image #14

"Going to a Town" (Rufus Wainwright):

William S. Burroughs demonstrates his famous literary "cut-ups":

Here's a sample cut-up of my own writing (de)constructed by an online generator:

But while disclosure of alien visitation is eagerly awaited -- even expected -- encourage belief that Grays are flesh-and-blood ET anthropologists. Their antics, while horrifying, may be as bogus as But I doubt that that "something" is genetic material in the usual sense; it seems more likely spacecraft and diminutive occupants who seem to have stepped out of there's the equally appealing possibility that manifesting in terms comprehensible to witnesses reflects the vocabulary with which to understand it. Or maybe it won't, content to let us project our own unspoken semi-straight faces.

Meanwhile, the enigma persists--as always, seemingly just beyond our comprehension. And we have the nerve is both trickster and trigger -- indisputably real, but real in a way "explain" the phenomenon's intricacies to a wary public (often in the guise of would-be political discourse), an aerial object of unknown origin.)

Am I a it seems more likely to me that encounters with hybrid children and distressingly intimate "exams" are attempts Their antics, while horrifying, may be as bogus as the it should be thoroughly familiar with us and able to like this, with Fortean forces hovering at the fringes of our perception. I don't is) between cautious advocates of the Extraterrestrrial Hypothesis and know-nothing science popularizers who seem genuinely incapable of considering limited expectations of the witness. Thus we have a pageant of fantastic beings of all descriptions: robot-like monsters, winged entities need to "explain" the phenomenon's intricacies to a wary public (often in the guise if tantalizing, comments by insiders both real and imaginary) has been repeatedly enacted over the last by physical effects on the environment), demand a level of unconscious participation on behalf pass the burden of their arrival onto our collective shoulders.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Jennifer Rodgers is today's featured artist.
Philip K. Dick's Reality (Tessa Dick)

The time travelers, or time meddlers, sometimes enter our reality to observe us, and they appeared quite shocked whenever they realized that Phil could see them. They did occasionally communicate with him. They claimed to come from a time that is neither the past nor the future, but outside of our time. Phil most often thought that they were humans, not aliens, but genetically altered in some way.
'Galactic internet' proposed

Firing a high-energy neutrino beam into a Cepheid could heat its core and brighten the star early -- "just as an electric pulse to the heart can make it skip a beat," Learned says.

The neutrinos could be made by blasting a proton beam at a target -- sapphire, carbon or tungsten would work, says Learned. The target produces subatomic particles, mostly pions, which decay to produce neutrinos.

The normal and shortened pulses could be used to encode data, to form what the researchers call a 'galactic Internet' in a paper posted to the arXiv preprint server.

An operatic version of David Cronenberg's "The Fly"? Yes!

(Thanks: BB.)
If spiders creep you out, I emphatically recommend not clicking here.
One I missed:

Stanford's 'autonomous' helicopters teach themselves to fly

Stanford computer scientists have developed an artificial intelligence system that enables robotic helicopters to teach themselves to fly difficult stunts by watching other helicopters perform the same maneuvers. The result is an autonomous helicopter than can perform a complete airshow of complex tricks on its own.

(Hat tip to Elan.)

Electronic smog 'is disrupting nature on a massive scale'

Dr Ulrich Warnke – who has been researching the effects of man-made electrical fields on wildlife for more than 30 years – will tell the conference, organised by the Radiation Research Trust at the Royal Society in London, that "an unprecedented dense mesh of artificial magnetic, electrical and electromagnetic fields" has been generated, overwhelming the "natural system of information" on which the species rely.

He believes this could be responsible for the disappearance of bees in Europe and the US in what is known as colony collapse disorder, for the decline of the house sparrow, whose numbers have fallen by half in Britain over the past 30 years, and that it could also interfere with bird migration.

For more, click here.
Biologists on the Verge of Creating New Form of Life

Szostak's protocells are built from fatty molecules that can trap bits of nucleic acids that contain the source code for replication. Combined with a process that harnesses external energy from the sun or chemical reactions, they could form a self-replicating, evolving system that satisfies the conditions of life, but isn't anything like life on earth now, but might represent life as it began or could exist elsewhere in the universe.

Water on Mars Was Prolonged, Study Shows

"Our results argue for liquid water being stable at the surface of Mars for prolonged periods in the past," said Charles Barnhart, a graduate student in Earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "Precipitation on Mars lasted a long time -- it wasn't a brief interval of massive deluges."
The Wildcats of Foreclosure

Repurposed McMansions, emptied of their human inhabitants, are filled in later by a troupe of mountain lions.

I sense a children's film here.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Water bears survive open space

Microbiologists from the Institute of Aerospace Medicine sent tardigrades into orbit last September and exposed them to the cosmic radiation and deep vacuum of space. They returned alive.
What should I read next?
Real live Pokemon auctions for $925 million

We capture each one after your order, so we guarantee its health! These are Pikachus plucked straight from the natural Pikachu forest, so they're of much higher quality than ones you'd get from a breeder or in other regions.

A feat of Japanese genetic engineering? Your call!
Blog of the day: Kontrast Blog
Will the world end on Wednesday?

If you think it's unlikely that we will all be sucked into a giant black hole that will swallow the world, as German chemistry professor Otto Rössler of the University of Tübingen posits, and so carry on with your life as normal, only to find out that it's true, you'll be a bit miffed, won't you?

On the other hand, perhaps an insatiable artificial black hole is the only thing capable of averting a McCain presidency.
Cloud-seeding ships could combat climate change

This cloud-seeding proposal is one of a number of ideas put forward by scientists in recent years to "geoengineer" the Earth in response to climate change rather than, or as well as, deal with the causes of the change.
"Zippy" has been my favorite comic strip since junior high, and I feel a sort of psychic kinship with cartoonist Bill Griffith, seen here coyly explaining his work to the uninitiated.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Scientists get death threats over Large Hadron Collider

The head of public relations, James Gillies, says he gets tearful phone calls, pleading for the £4.5 billion machine to stop.

"They phone me and say: "I am seriously worried. Please tell me that my children are safe," said Gillies.

Emails also arrive every day that beg for reassurance that the world will not end, he explained.

Others are more aggressive. "There are a number who say: "You are evil and dangerous and you are going to destroy the world."

(Via Futurismic.)

Neal Stephenson Explains What's Wrong with Mobile Phones

What's intriguing is that Stephenson is saying mobiles suck not just because of their interfaces, but because of how people act when they use mobiles. Of course, how people act with cell phones has everything to do with the interface. You have to stick them against your face, or put some weirdass Cyberman-looking thing in your ear. So your body language, when you're on a mobile, makes you immediately seem rude to anyone around you.

Plus, most people still use audible ringers (as opposed to vibration), so it is essentially impossible to have a mobile without inviting a noisy, irritating interruption. What that means is your mobile doesn't just interrupt your train of thought or conversation -- it interrupts everyone's within earshot. So the mobile as we know it is perhaps one of the worst attention-shattering devices imaginable.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Found Image #13

I've created a new poll (located on the sidebar). You may select more than one answer.
Bruce Sterling on the aesthetic merits of ferrofluid.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Robert Anton Wilson explains quantum physics . . .

(Thanks, Elan!)
"Swarmbots" are in their infancy, but it doesn't take an incredible amount of imagination to envision the sorts of reality-altering technologies that might arise from their successors.

More swarmbots here.

(Thanks to Robotic Nation Evidence.)
"Man-Sized Wreath" (R.E.M.):

Your Cameraphone: a Harbinger of a Massive Social Transformation

You may not be aware of it, but the cameraphone in your pocket is the harbinger of a massive social transformation, one already underway.

This transformation could be at least as big as the ones triggered by television and by computers, as the base technology -- mobile phones -- fills a new niche, different from both of these earlier technologies.

I use my cellphone's camera far more regularly than I use the actual phone.
The Most Alien-Looking Place on Earth

Well worth the click!

Greg Bishop poses a most interesting question:

Was The "Father Gill" Sighting A Classified Aircraft?

Gill's own account stresses the almost mundane nature of the encounter. There were no high-G or other strange movements made by the object. It apparently hovered over the small church complex and then slowly disappeared into the clouds. (There were two sightings on subsequent evenings.) During the second event, Gill went inside before the craft had left. While some investigators have expressed surprise that anyone would leave in the middle of such an extraordinary sight, Gill and his companions had been looking at the UFO for over four hours just the night before.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

19-square-mile ice sheet breaks loose in Canada

A 19-square-mile ice shelf in Canada's northern Arctic has broken away from Ellesmere Island, surprising scientists who say the floating ice shelf is another dramatic indication of how warmer temperatures are changing the polar frontier.

Dr. Derek Mueller, an Arctic ice shelf specialist at Trent University in Ontario, said Wednesday that the 4,500-year-old Markham Ice Shelf separated in early August and is now drifting into the Arctic Ocean.

Well, at least we can rest easy knowing that this is undoubtedly part of "God's will."
It gets worse:

Palin: Iraq war 'a task that is from God'

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a "task that is from God."

In an address last June, the Republican vice presidential candidate also urged ministry students to pray for a plan to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state, calling it "God's will."

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I've published some new photos on Flickr.