Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Signs of retreat"

Huge ice chunks break away from Antarctic shelf

Researchers said the quality and frequency of the ESA satellite images have allowed them to analyze the Wilkins shelf breakup far more effectively than any previous event.

"For the first time, I think, we can really begin to see the processes that have brought about the demise of the ice shelf," Vaughan said.

He said eight ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula have shown signs of retreat over the last few decades.

"The retreat of Wilkins Ice Shelf is the latest and the largest of its kind," he said.

The Wilkins shelf, which is the size of Jamaica, lost 14 percent of its mass last year, according to scientists who are looking at whether global warming is the cause of its breakup.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The fabric of reality is going up in computational smoke.

Dead Pixel in Google Earth

Helmut Smits figured out a way to add a "dead pixel" to Google Earth. He created a 82 x 82cm burned square, the size of one pixel from an altitude of one kilometer.


Dummies and body-snatchers

Veteran UFO researcher Kevin Randle's latest post dissects the Air Force's bizarre claim that "anthropomorphic dummies" were responsible for descriptions of "alien" bodies found near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Unfortunately, Randle fails to address Nick Redfern's thesis that the alleged bodies might have had a perfectly terrestrial (if secret) origin.

Could the AF's 1997 "Case Closed" report have been drafted, in part, to distract UFO researchers who might otherwise have pursued the role of human experimentation?

I wonder.

The edge of human

George Dvorsky (Sentient Developments) poses essential questions about the slippery status of "personhood" and suggests some useful philosophical strategies:

What is a person?

Looking to the future, and as we move forward with NBIC technologies, we run the risk of denying essential basic liberties to intelligent and sentient beings should we fail to better elucidate what it means to be a person (whether they be non-human animals or artificially intelligent agents). As Glenn notes, we need to be prepared to ask, "How can we preserve our human rights and dignity despite the fact that our 'humanness' may no longer be the exclusive possession of Homo sapiens?"

Although Dvorksy is addressing animals, humans and posthuman intelligences, it's worth adding that his criteria will almost invariably discover further validity in the event that we establish contact with extraterrestrials.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The very definition of "alien"

A New World, if We Can Take It (Whitley Strieber)

In reality, the way the visitors function and what happens to people in their proximity suggests that they perceive the world very, very differently from the way we do. For example, when you are face to face with the small gray beings that form such a large part of the presence we see, and figure so extensively in its folklore, there is no sense that you are with people. Rather, it's like being with animals who are much more intelligent than you are. This is because there is absolutely no cultural familiarity at all. None.

How can officials engage with somebody whose meaning lies beyond a gap far more vast than that between us and, say, dolphins? We haven't the slightest idea what cetaceans may be saying to each other, or even what language means to them, if anything. And our visitors -- even those who appear to engage with us verbally -- are far, far more different from us than any earthly species.

"Between the Stars"

(Thanks: Ectoplasmosis.)

My pad or yours?

10 fantastic green cities of the future

Scouring the Web, we found the 10 best examples of green future cities from design visionaries, each one encompassing innovative and sustainable construction techniques, green energy technology, and creativity from your wildest dreams.

Plus one more you might have missed.

Irrationally, part of me still prefers the black, rainy streets of "Blade Runner."


This monstrous robot spider looks like one sweet ride.

Pink Tentacle brings you full coverage!

(And don't miss these dead aliens . . .)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What cloning isn't

Framing cloning - the media and genetic science (Paul Raven)

To some extent, science fiction can be blamed for misconceptions about cloning. The more serious and thoughtful books on the subject have been somewhat overshadowed by sensationalist TV and movie plots or the technophobia of writers in the Michael Crichton mould.

But that's not for want of the facts being available; as the known sf geek in my local social circle, people ask me about topics like cloning quite a bit, and I try to give them the most realistic overview of the topic I can. It rarely works. The truth is not as compelling a story as a rogue-science thriller or a riff plucked out on the heart-strings. Perhaps I'm just not a good enough storyteller.

Cue "Thus Spake Zarathustra."

More right here.

The finger pointing at the Moon is not the Moon.

It looks like Chris Wren, one of my favorite bloggers, is throwing in the towel for the greener (?) pastures of Facebook. His "final thought" is worth the read:

Our creations may be fascinating and superficially exciting. They may make certain aspects of our lives more convenient, but they're never going to change who we are in any meaningful way. We can change our natures, improve ourselves and strive to create a better society. But as always, we still have to do that ourselves. That's the real meat of science fiction for me - it's not about technology changing us, it's about us having the vision to change who and what we are.

And while you're at it, be sure to take a look at Mondolithic Studios if you haven't already.

Mars and the probability of life

Life Beyond Earth in 10 Years or Less?

Peter Smith feels pretty certain we'll be finding life on Mars within the next decade.

Smith, the University of Arizona professor who led NASA's Phoenix Mars Mission, made his predictions to a spellbound audience during a lecture at the University of Delaware earlier this month, and he discussed his ideas by phone on Thursday. He carries a "sense of optimism" about finding life on Mars, he said, because of the tantalizing clues Phoenix sent to Earth.

[. . .]

"I think the next decade is a very active time for searching for signatures on Mars," he said, "and my personal belief is we'll find them."

I'll make an even bolder statement: If we haven't conclusively established the presence of life on Mars within the next decade it won't be because it's not there; it will simply indicate that we're not trying hard enough.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Are they accepting colonists yet?

Lightest exoplanet yet discovered

Well-known exoplanet researcher Michel Mayor today announced the discovery of the lightest exoplanet found so far. The planet, "e", in the famous system Gliese 581, is only about twice the mass of our Earth. The team also refined the orbit of the planet Gliese 581 d, first discovered in 2007, placing it well within the habitable zone, where liquid water oceans could exist. These amazing discoveries are the outcome of more than four years of observations using the most successful low-mass-exoplanet hunter in the world, the HARPS spectrograph attached to the 3.6-metre ESO telescope at La Silla, Chile.

Strange "helpers"

The latest illustrated anecdote from "Kartott":

I sometimes see these entities during meditation (eyes barely open, soft focus). They stand (float) about me, seeming to modulate a field of energy around me (I especially sense their hands, "combing" the energy). There always seems to be one primary entity, usually right in my face, others are more in the background. I don't get any verbal communication from them.

As the description above illustrates, the "Gray" archetype seems to possess the ability to manifest in a "visionary" manner. If so, who's responsible? We could be dealing with a hardwired neurological phenomenon, as argued by researchers like Michael Persinger and Albert Budden. Conversely, recurrent images of the Grays -- in varying stages of physicality and in a multitude of contexts -- beg the idea that they exist independently of the brain (at least temporarily).

The close encounter literature is rife with accounts in which "abductees," convinced their visitors are flesh-and-blood, encounter their assailants in apparent "out-of-body" and similarly altered states, suggesting that the Grays (and their kin) can maneuver in and out of our ontological framework at will. What might this say about the origin of our visitors (if indeed we're dealing with an externally imposed intelligence)?

Perhaps, instead of hailing from space, the "Grays" emanate from a much closer source. As Whitley Strieber suggests in "Communion," they could be an unacknowledged aspect of the human psyche and thus indistinguishable from mental aberration. As pioneering consciousness researcher Dr. Rick Strassman has shown, the aggressively psychedelic compound DMT can produce tellingly similar encounters, offering the novel idea that our brains can function as receivers or portals. (Ultimately, some of us might serve as nothing less than transportation devices for incorporeal intelligences, which might explain why some individuals seem predisposed to contact and the pageantry of strangeness that often accompanies it.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

"When you cut into the present the future leaks out."

Cut-Ups from Matti Niinimäki on Vimeo.

We shall see.

PG&E Announces Solar Power From Space By 2016

The project is expected to cost around $2 billion, which will mainly go towards the R&D of the base station and launching the satellites. SolarEn CEO Gary Spirnak has complete confidence in the concept and the company's ability to develop this system. In fact, he projects that they will be able to generate 1.2 to 4.8 gigawatts of power at a price that is comparable to other forms of renewable energy. PG&E is also committed to the idea and has entered into a 15 year contract with SolarEn to produce enough power for 250,000 homes.

Welcome to the AlloSphere.

This first thing that struck me while watching this video is that the AlloSphere resembles the hyperspace transport device depicted in "Contact." But the comparison doesn't end there; the AlloSphere is perhaps the closest humans have come to devising a vehicle for exploring exotic worlds at the very edges of physics.

Ashes to ashes

Ancient Solar Systems Found Around Dead Stars

A team of astronomers have found evidence that between 1-3 percent of white dwarf stars are orbited by rocky planets and asteroids, suggesting these objects once hosted solar systems similar to our own. White dwarf stars are the compact, hot remnants left behind when stars like our Sun reach the end of their lives. Using data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, an international team of astronomers have determined that asteroids are found in orbit around a large number of white dwarfs, perhaps as many as 5 million in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Recreating Stonehenge

(Thanks to Paranormal Musings.)

The art of Fernando Vicente

I sense more than a little Ballard in Vicente's morbid eroticism.

Goodbye, J.G. Ballard.

J.G. Ballard, one of my favorite writers, has died. (The frightening prospect is that his apocalyptic legacy might be just beginning.)

Here's an interview with me about Ballard's influence on my own ideas.

To share your own Ballard remembrances, visit Ballardian.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back-up strategy

Don't Wait for the Lifeboat: A Response to Geoengineering

What's wrong is that we have no real reason to believe that he can, in fact, build a working lifeboat from scratch in time -- or that we can, in fact, intervene in the planet's climate on a vast scale without disastrous consequences -- yet right now, those benefiting from inaction are already using the idea of possible lifeboats as an argument against fighting the fire, so to speak, with the idea being that since cutting emissions is "unrealistic" it's good we have a back-up strategy.

This is not good science, and it's not good science policy. At very least, serious proponents of geoengineering need to acknowledge the severe limitations on our actual knowledge of geoengineering, and point out that emissions reductions are a far more certain and safe approach.


From the official Tweenbots site:

But of more interest to me was the fact that this ad-hoc crowdsourcing was driven primarily by human empathy for an anthropomorphized object. The journey the Tweenbots take each time they are released in the city becomes a story of people's willingness to engage with a creature that mirrors human characteristics of vulnerability, of being lost, and of having intention without the means of achieving its goal alone.

(Thanks again to Michael Garrett!)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Coming to an epidermis near you

Conductive bodypaint

The material allows users to create custom electronics and interact with technology through intuitive gesture. It also allows information to be sent on the surface of the skin from person to person or person to object.

The formulation is carbon based and water-soluble: skin-safe and non-invasive. It may be applied in a number of ways including brushing on, stamping or spraying and has future potential for use with conventional printing processes on the body.

I'm reminded of the (still-conceptual) animated tattoos depicted here.

New photos

I took some new photos on a walk today. (It was a short walk, as I'm still recuperating from a nasty virus.)


You can find the rest on my Flickr stream.

As a special bonus, I've included rare, never-before seen footage of my cats (above).

Didn't you know? I'm a Rastafarian now.

The bald thing was getting old.

Today Cliff Pickover blogged an image of a "human bookshelf."

So I'm upping the stakes with this photo of Salvador Dali's desk.

(To see the bookshelf, click here.)

Straight out of Cronenberg's "Crash"

It's My Scar: One Of A Kind Jewelry Tells Your Story

Scars can fade, but the memories of what we went through when they were caused live on. It's My Scar memorializes each individual's journey by recreating their scar as a pendant on a necklace, a ring, or another form of wearable art; so while the scars may fade, the memories are always able to visibly live on.

(Via Grinding.)

Impressive. Now what about emotional scarring?

The art of Alexey Andreev

For more, click here (or here, if you're down with Cyrillic).

(Hat tip: Justin Pasieka.)

Ready to get sleazy?

Then what are you waiting for?

(Thanks to Michael Garrett for the tip.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"We will not apologize for our way of life."

Fred Astaire in the White House

It's true that unlike the previous inhabitant of the White House (remember him?), Barack Obama is sane, intelligent, and mature. He's responsive to what others think. He hopes to institute real change in education, health care, the environment.

But even with his great charisma and silver tongue, he's a proper soldier for the system which is ravishing the planet. As he said in his inauguration speech in January, already aware of the huge financial mess he was inheriting, "We will not apologize for our way of life."

What do these words mean? They mean that the mall-i-zation of the planet will continue. They mean that the commercialization of all of life will not stop. They mean that our massive so-called footprint will never be substantially downsized.

And they mean that the force which has erased indigenous cultures and plant and animal species, which has sullied our air and soil and water, will essentially not be called into question, no matter how many of its most glaring excesses may be curbed.

"A Life Connected"

Update: I find the sentiments espoused by the above video genuinely inspiring and worth striving for. I wish I could claim to embody them in their entirety. As Mike Clelland asks in the comments, what do I feed my cats? And aren't I sometimes seen wearing a leather jacket?

(Tip of the hat to The Teleomorph.)

The hunt is on.

Planet-Hunting Spacecraft Beams Home First Images

The planet-seeking Kepler spacecraft has beamed home its first images of a patch of the sky where NASA hopes to find Earth-like planets circling distant, alien stars.

Some 14 million stars are estimated to lurk within the first views from Kepler, which NASA released Thursday. The images reveal a swath of stars between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra that fill an expansive area of our Milky Way galaxy which, when seen from Earth, is about the size of human hand held up against the night sky at arm's length.


HAL exoskeleton can boost strength 10 times

The suit's "voluntary control system" works by capturing bio-electrical signals detected on the surface of the skin, before the muscles actually move. The system analyzes these signals to determine how much power the wearer intends to generate and calculates how much power assist must be generated by which power units. The power units then generate the necessary torque and the limbs move. All this takes place a split second before the muscles start moving, allowing the relevant robotic joints to move in unison with the wearer's muscles.

I'm not sure calling this thing "HAL" was the best marketing decision. I don't envy the person whose exoskeleton decides it has better things to do than, say, lift bricks.

Part of me sincerely hopes this isn't a hoax.

But the other part is rather insistent that it must be.

Sir Ken Robinson on creativity

A must-see for anyone who's been dragged, kicking and screaming, through a compulsory schooling system governed by soulless morons. I'm 33 years old and I still resent my brush with formal education, up to and including my involvement with classes ostensibly designed for the "creatively talented." We need the revolution Robinson discusses and we need it now.


Won't you stay a while?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bruce Sterling: ufologist?

I've been on sick leave and hope to be back up to speed shortly.

In the meantime, this photo of cyberpunk hero Bruce Sterling is worth a look.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Faded star

Evidently Russia's Star City has devolved into a sort of Ballardian theme-park in which Kafka might have felt quite at home:

Russia's cosmonauts prepare for letdown

Designed by Soviet secret-keepers in the depths of the Cold War, Star City lies deep in the pine and birch forests on Moscow's edge, and even now you can't find it on many maps. The men at the gates and checkpoints ask for your documents, and when you get inside the legendary cosmonaut training center, you expect to find something splendid -- a glimmer of the cosmos, a flash of eternal striving.

[. . .]

But the hushed fields and deep woods have an eerie, deserted feel. Between research buildings, stray dogs pick at frozen mud scabbing the snow. Here and there, retired engineers in fur-lined hats stroll unsteadily among the buildings of the compound, a cross between a village and an industrial park.

[. . .]

In front of a bank of control panels and computers, two middle-aged women discuss methods of cooking potatoes and sausages. There are some men too, one of them in camouflage. Except for the cosmonauts in their bright blue jumpsuits, you can't tell what any of them are doing, and you are not supposed to ask.

Think you know the Easter Bunny? Think again.

The original's right here if you're curious.

Now even turtles are going cyborg.

Uni-flipper turtle gets it straight with swimsuit

The fin on the suit, which resembles a wetsuit covering about three-quarters of her body, acts like a rudder and gives her stability. Allison can change direction by varying the strokes of her front right flipper, the lone survivor in what rescuers believe was a shark attack.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

Rock and read

This is way better than the jury-rigged domestic generator in "Soylent Green."

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Will You Be Here Tomorrow?"

Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin assures us that "[t]his is not a parody of a workplace safety video. This is an actual workplace safety video."

Real or fake, this had me howling with laughter.


Robot killers might be allowed to fire on their own

Arkin contends that a properly designed robot could behave with greater restraint than human soldiers in the heat of battle and cause fewer casualties.

"Robots can be built that do not exhibit fear, anger, frustration or revenge, and that ultimately behave in a more humane manner than even human beings in these harsh circumstances," he wrote.

(Via Sentient Developments.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Recommended reads

Looking for a dose of sanity? Chris Wren's blog is for you.

Elsewhere, Mike Clelland articulates some of my own suspicions and wonders if the Internet (and its attendant telecommunications apparatus) has the potential for sentience:

Is there an evolving giant life form of synaptic fibers emerging within cyberspace? Is it a new set of neurotransmitters, allowing and encouraging an alternative web of synchronistic happenings?

Incidentally, Web-based consciousness is the premise of "Wake," the new novel by Robert J. Sawyer (who hosts "Supernatural Investigator").

A world on ice

LPSC 2009: Little asteroids on Mars lead to ice

But the gist of the work is worth repeating: members of the MRO HiRise team are using fresh impact craters as probes of the subsurface, and are finding ice farther south than anyone has thought possible.

[. . .]

The authors watched the ice sublimate away over subsequent weeks, and used calculations from that to show that this ice is solid and nearly pure, not just a little bit of pore ice mixed in with the soil. And since these craters lie around 45 degrees north, it means that the subsurface ice that Mars Odyssey spotted (providing the raison d'etre for Phoenix) extends further south than previously thought.


DNA analysis may be done on Mars for first time

Chemical signs of life can be ambiguous, but Ruvkun and his team hope to find its unequivocal signature by sending a DNA amplifier and sequencer to Mars in the next decade. They're betting that any life on the Red Planet shares an evolutionary heritage with life on Earth, and therefore contains a similar genetic code -- a requirement that other scientists say is too narrowly focused, since Martian life may have evolved independently and therefore may have very different chemistry.

Triptych #10

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

My new "Loving the Alien" column is live.

Why I'm looking forward to 2012

On December 21st, 2012, the world ends -- and begins anew, like a PC rebooted after yet another Windows software patch. Or at least that's the general idea. Like the Y2K phenomenon before it, the 2012 meme is only fractionally tolerant of agnosticism: either one accepts that Earth will undergo some vaguely defined transformation or one does not.

I take a cautious middle ground, choosing to view the end of time (or, rather, the ancient Mayans' conception of it) as a useful temporal rallying point, a juncture not unlike a hyperlink leading to some dodgy -- if tantalizing -- FTP site.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Coincidence? Synchronicity? None of the above?

I just realized that the hand in this illustration resembles the "hand" in this telescope image. It's a fairly superficial resemblance, I suppose, but for some reason I felt compelled to blog it.

A face only a mother could love

CB2 baby robot developing social skills (Pink Tentacle)

Comprised of robotics engineers, brain specialists, psychologists and other experts, the research team has been teaching the android to think like a baby by having it evaluate facial expressions and classify them into basic categories, such as happiness and sadness.


Reincarnation from Memo Akten on Vimeo.

Kevin Randle weighs in on the Morristown UFO hoax.

Morristown UFO Hoax

On the compilation of video clips made by the perpetrators to prove their point, the second was of a breathless reporter who was all set to believe in aliens and flying saucers and who seemed to know very little about it. Unfortunately, she worked for a FOX affiliate so the interviews she conducted were used by FOX News on several of their reports. It was the reporter, in talking to witnesses, who often introduced the idea of UFOs, meaning alien craft rather than lights in the night sky.

But what she didn’t seem to get, nor did either Russo or Rudy, was that the descriptions offered by the witnesses were often accurate. It was the interpretation put on those observations by the media and others that took it from what we’d call nocturnal lights into the realm of alien spacecraft.

What will those folks at Skynet come up with next?


Puma: GM and Segway take a swing at a small car

Take two companies whose products are sort of a joke, slap them together, and here's the result: The P.U.M.A., a sort of giant, two-person Segway that is designed for commuters, with a 35-mile range from its lithium-ion batteries. It has a top speed of 35 MPH, which is plenty for city cruising.

Say what you will about the P.U.M.A.'s practicality, but I happen to like it. At the very least I hope it makes a strategic appearance in some quasi-cyberpunk movie.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Richard Hoagland, eat your heart out.

Matt Webb delivers a rapid-fire monologue about worlds that never were (yet sort of are), complete with a description of the hollow Earth and the postbiological hive-mind that inhabits Jupiter. (His reference to the ancient Greeks' concept of a terrestrial twin sharing Earth's orbit yet occluded by the Sun echoes the premise of John Norman's notorious "Gor" series.)

(Thanks to Beyond the Beyond.)

Do vegans worship Cthulhu?

Eldritch horror?

This murky visage adorned my table at a local vegan restaurant (located in an old church basement, of all places). It resembles, at least to some extent, a certain H.P. Lovecraft character. Make of this what you will.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Epidermits, meet LoveLump.

Scariest Toy Concept Ever: The Epidermits Thing

Oh, this is much worse than you think. The Epidermits toy is the Karten Design firm's bizarro, conceptual end of several current trends in the toy/gadget industry, like personalization, fuel cell engineering, and animatronics. It is the scariest concept design I've ever seen.

The scariest, you say? Obviously, you've never encountered the LoveLump, pictured below.

The language of the future

Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction

I have a deep, lurking suspicion there are a hell of a lot more where these came from. "Cyborg" springs to mind as a possible candidate.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

That sound you're hearing is the deafening clatter of saber-rattling.

North Korea Threatens War if Rocket is Shot Down

Tensions are understandably high ahead of the launch, and some sources suggest that could be as early as Saturday (April 4th) as there are indications that fuelling activities are being carried out by Pyongyang. Spy satellite images appear to show there is indeed a satellite attached to the rocket, but the US and regional allies are under no illusions that such a launch would also test ballistic missile technology, violating the UN resolution passed in 2006 in response to the underground nuclear test and repeated missile launches. North Korea can expect severe treatment by the international community should this launch go ahead.

Update: Looks like the games have begun.

Talking flowers and other denizens of the imaginal realm

At Paranormal Musings, Mike MacDonald recounts a disturbing image he attributes to a jarring early childhood dream:

I am standing in a cave. Sitting before me, on a throne fashioned out of the rock, is what I can only describe as a very large pansy flower. The kind of flower that looks like it has a face with large slanted eyes (I know, when I saw the Communion book cover 20 years ago I almost had a cow.)

Although the flower creature did not speak to me, I could feel that it was communicating to me somehow in a form of extreme condescension and intelligence. Like it was implying to me that it was in total command. Not necessarily in a malevolent way, but in a way of true authority.

I like the shamanistic sensibility of this encounter with the "Other." Ironically, while our conception of the alien has been subject to endless modification by a mass media eager to capitalize on our fascination with the nonhuman, we rarely encounter non-humanoid forms. Mike's description, suggesting nothing less than a sentient plant, recalls the beings encountered by ethnologists who experiment with naturally occurring hallucinogens. (The "large slanted eyes" are an interesting twist. Could the prominent eyes now readily associated with the "Grays" be hardwired in the human brain, destined to recur regardless of the appearance of the being looking out of them?)

Mike might be describing a brush with what psychologist Kenneth Ring has termed the "imaginal realm," a state suspended between waking consciousness and the enigmatic turf of dreams. William S. Burroughs, for instance, described seeing green reindeer and diminutive gray men in his childhood. He later emphasized his concern that the decimation of the ecosphere constituted a sort of lobotomization of the collective unconscious, strip-mining the fertile soil of Ring's world of the imaginal as surely as a fleet of bulldozers set loose in the Amazonian rain-forests.

The pronounced authoritarian demeanor of the flower-like entity offers some support for Burroughs' intuitive sense that nature is angry at humanity's transgressions and more than capable of letting its displeasure be known. It's worth remembering that a hallmark of the archetypal "alien abduction" is a graphic ecological warning, suggesting that perceived ETs harbor a stalwart interest in Earth's environmental sustainability.

Indeed, students of shamanism might argue that the Grays are thought-forms generated by the Earth itself as a means of communication. And at least a few UFO researchers have taken note of their apparent vegetable nature; as the memetic ancestors of the archetypal "little green men," the Grays can be viewed as chilly avatars of our fragile biosphere -- bent on revenge, enlightenment or perhaps a curious fusion of both.

Nor is Mike's memory of encountering a potent nonhuman intelligence within a cave without precedent. Contemporary "abductees" describe their nocturnal journeys to caverns with earthen walls, leading to the natural assumption that they've been transported to underground alien installations. But just as unannounced encounters with bizarre nonhuman beings are far from a modern phenomenon, rock-walled caverns populated by strange beings and bewildering technology enjoy a lively role in world mythology. For example, folklorists have pointed out suggestive parallels between "alien" dwellings and the subterranean domain said to await victims of lustful faeries (whose behavior, more often than not, mirrors that of today's ufonauts).

As Jacques Vallee has noted, we seem to be dealing with a phenomenon that adapts to the reigning symbolism of any given era. That said, perhaps the idea that we're dealing with something fundamentally "other" is a ploy enacted by a planetary mind of which we're inextricably entangled.

I realize the whole ironic Lovecraft thing is pretty much played . . .

. . . but occasionally an exception emerges from the tenebrous mire of the collective digital unconscious to elicit big laughs.

I might as well take this opportunity to remind loyal readers that I share my birthday (Aug. 20) with Lovecraft. Neat, huh?

(Thanks again to Justin!)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Greg Bishop on the Morristown hoax

UFO Skeptics Caught, Admit to Hoax

Two self-admitted skeptics who rigged highway flares to weather balloons to create a UFO hoax are now facing misdemeanor charges in Morristown, New Jersey for endangering public and air traffic safety.

[. . .]

Fundie skeptics nearly always lump all UFO cases together, as if anything unknown in the sky is representative of all cases throughout history, especially from the 20th century to the present. To this mindset, the lack of hard evidence for one is enough to throw the rest of the UFO reports out with the bathwater. This is a classic CSICOP ploy: Find the easiest case to debunk, and frame it as representative of all issues associated with it. at least by their definition. Believers, for the most part, ignore normal explanations because it detracts from their case for unidentifieds, and the "only answer," which has to be extraterrestrials.

Meanwhile, film-maker (and pilot) Mike MacDonald has this to say.

Terence McKenna and artificial intelligence

"This is a medium so permeating, so inclusive of what we are, that its agenda, in a sense, supervenes the agenda of organic evolution and organic biology."

(Once again, tip of the hat to Dedroidify.)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A rare look behind the scenes of Posthuman Blues world headquarters

OK, so I lied.

Going nowhere

Staying Put on Earth, Taking a Step to Mars

"It is really like a real space flight without the weightlessness and the danger to our lives," said Sergei N. Ryazansky, a cosmonaut-in-training who will lead the mission. "On the inside, we will have a lack of incoming information, so it's the science of sensory deprivation."

Called Mars-500, the Russian-led project based at the Institute for Biomedical Problems here will culminate in a 520-day simulation beginning early next year of a complete manned mission to the planet -- a time frame that incorporates launching to Mars touchdown and back -- that scientists hope will edge humanity a little closer to that next giant leap.

I don't know about you, but if I had to stare at tacky wood-grain decor for 520 days it's a fair bet I'd need psychiatric counseling.

"If you can't get away with it it ain't real."

A few moments with Robert Anton Wilson:

(Thanks: Dedroidify.)

Shaking it

Missing out on this almost compensates for not having a moon base by now.

The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis

In the following essay, Paul Kimball laments the dogmatic insistence that UFOs are "merely" the vehicles of inquisitive extraterrestrials. I share his reticence.

Unlike Paul, I've come to disagree with the prevailing Fortean conceit that the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis is the best hypothesis for "real" UFO reports; I view the phenomenon as a manifestation of consciousness that we have no way of fully understanding until we dispense with the misguided hope of remaining objective observers. In my opinion, the UFO phenomenon is but one facet of an overarching enigma with implications that promise to dwarf the question of ET visitation, perhaps even dealing a blow to the underpinnings of Western thought.

That said, I think Paul and I agree on more than a little when it comes to the heavily mythologized certainties handed down from ufology's dubious "Golden Age."

The Myth of the ETH as ETFact

However, it's critical to remember that the key letter in ETH is the "H" - it's still just a hypothesis, and anyone who tells you that they can prove that aliens have visited Earth beyond a reasonable doubt, or even on the balance of probabilities, is putting the cart well before the horse.

[. . .]

This is what I call "Keyhoe-ian" ufology, because it is based directly on the way of thinking that Major Donald Keyhoe first put forward in the 1950s. It is out-of-date, and badly out-of-touch with modern science. It presumes that aliens are only a few decades, or maybe one or two hundred years or so more advanced than us, which is highly unlikely. It presumes that the aliens are preoccupied with us, and that we are somehow important to them, which is also highly unlikely. In short, it is a point of view that is based on what people who grew up in the pioneering days of sci-fi and the space race expect of their aliens, and not the point-of-view that modern physicists and astrobiologists take.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Humans may be losers if technological nature replaces the real thing

Modern technology increasingly is encroaching into human connections with the natural world and University of Washington psychologists believe this intrusion may emerge as one of the central psychological problems of our times.

"We are a technological species, but we also need a deep connection with nature in our lives," said Peter Kahn, a UW developmental psychologist and lead author of a new study exploring how humans connect with nature and technological nature.

Writing in the current issue of the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, Kahn and two of his UW graduate students, Rachel Severson and Jolina Ruckert, look at the psychological effects of interacting with various forms of technological nature and explore humanity's growing estrangement from nature.

Ah Pook returns

"Ah Pook is Here": Unseen William S Burroughs Graphic Novel Art Show

Originally conceived as a graphic novel in the pictographic format of the surviving Mayan codices, the project -- eight years in the making -- consisted of over 100 illustrations by Malcolm McNeill, 30 in full color and about 50 pages of text. "Ah Pook is Here" would have been prohibitively expensive to publish at the time. As Burroughs wrote "over the years of our collaboration Malcolm McNeill produced more than a hundred pages of artwork. However, owing partly to the expense of full color reproduction, and because the book falls into neither the category of the conventional illustrated book, nor that of a comix publication, there have been difficulties with the arrangements for the complete work."

This is some serious surrealism, as savagely hallucinatory as Burroughs' best fiction. Click here if you dare.


Neuroscientists propose project to comprehensively map mammalian brain circuits

Mitra and his co-authors therefore advocate for "a concerted effort" to complete a first-draft circuit map of the entire mouse brain within two to three years, as a first step to mapping vertebrate brain architecture across species. The proposed project would ideally be pursued simultaneously by neuroscientists at multiple institutions according to standardized protocols. "In this respect," says Jason Bohland, Ph.D., a postdoctoral neuroscience researcher at CSHL and the paper's lead author, "it would be analogous to the multi-institution effort to sequence the human genome, with the important distinction that our brain-circuit map could be completed much more rapidly and would cost a small fraction of the genome project - as little as a few million dollars ranging up to perhaps $20 million, depending on the redundancy in coverage that we commit to."

Our last best hope?

NIF scientists set the controls for nuclear fusion

The goal is to find a way to achieve controlled, sustained nuclear fusion and energy gain in a lab. According to the director of the facility, Dr. Ed Moses, "When all NIF lasers are fired at full energy, they will deliver 1.8 megajoules of ultraviolet energy to the target." Lasting just a few nanoseconds, the system is capable of generation 500 trillion watts of power -- more than the peak electrical generating power of the entire United States. Significant results are expected sometime between 2010 and 2012.