Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Left Behind Christian sf novels turned into bigoted video-game

The people behind the kooky Christian "Left-Behind" science fiction novels (about the futuristic battles on earth after the Rapture takes all the good Bible-bashers to heaven) have produced a violent, bigoted video-game version of their stories.

Perversely enough, I'd love to play it.
Mystery cave in Israel reveals bizarre ecosystem

The cave, which has been dubbed the Ayalon Cave, is "unique in the world," said Prof. Amos Frumkin of the Hebrew University Department of Geography. This is due mainly to its isolation from the outside world, since the cave's surface is situated under a layer of chalk that is impenetrable to water. The cave, with its branches, extends over some 2½ kilometers, making it Israel's second largest limestone cave. It is to remain closed to the public to permit further scientific research.
3D printed Google Earth Buildings

When you mash this software up with Google Earth, planners or architects (or anyone for that matter) gain the ability to create 3D printouts of chunks of land or clusters of buildings. Their NYC 3D prints have generated models of Ground Zero and Columbus Circle, and could do any other area, with great precision. The software is free and open, produced by EyeBeam, a R&D lab which "is focused entirely on incubating experimental technologies and media that directly enrich the public domain."

Has anyone thought to apply this technique to Mars?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Paul Kimball replies to my post on mind-uploading:

Borg . . . or Highlanders?

What is the "soul" anyway (or, for the non-religiously inclined, "consciousness")? Beond this plane of existence, who knows, for sure? In the here and now, however, isn't it the sum of our experiences that matters? What harm in transferring that to another body, i.e. a clone, or perhaps a cyborg, should our technology someday allow it? I don't think we're defined by the outer shell - indeed, any religion that I know of views the body as a mere vessel. It's what's inside that counts, and I see no reason why that couldn't be transferred, whole, to another vessel (well, no non-technological reason, at any rate).

Will Wise responds to Paul Kimball's response to my post on mind-uploading:

Response to Paul Kimball's Ruminations on Mac Tonnies Thoughts (Borg . . . or Highlanders?)

It should also be pointed out that Kurzweil's logic also has implications for Ufology. For one, if Kurzweil is correct and humans are only 50 years away from creating the Singularity it stands to reason that any advanced ET life traveling between stars to visit our planet will have already passed through the "singularity" phase of their evolution. As a result, they will probably NOT be biological organisms (humanoid or otherwise) but technological beings. It’s quite hard to say what this might look like although it is quite possible that they could instantiate bodies appropriate to the audience with which they are trying to communicate if they were so inclined.
I just dashed out a modified proposal for my cryptoterrestrial book. (Apparently I have the same agent as Whitley Strieber, which is heartening as "Communion" garnered a seven-figure advance.) Of course, things are up in the air right now. I see no way, for example, that my ruminations on indigenous humanoids are going to make me a millionaire. But I do think I have something worth saying, if for no other reason than the interest the subject's provoked here at Posthuman Blues.

It also looks like I'll be moving into a new place soon. Nothing fancy, but at least I'll have a proper office. And my cats, who my former girlfriend has been gracious enough to take care of.

I've all but lost my voice, which doesn't bode particularly well for my radio appearance on the 3rd. So I'm drinking hot tea and sucking lozenges like there's no tomorrow -- and since I work tomorrow, I suppose there really isn't.
My first street-level view of LA:

On the way home and not looking especially happy about it:

Mystery woman at LAX:

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sex theme park to open in London

The theme park will include life-sized silicone-made models which visitors can touch to discover erogenous zones.

People will also be able to build their ideal partner from a series of body parts and there will be instructions on how best to kiss and how to talk more sexily.

(Via Gravity Lens.)

Why go through the hassle of designing your own partner when all you have to do is press the "Jessica Alba" button?
Meet Twinkle!
Here I am valiantly carrying a tripod up a hill in an affluent suburb of LA. No business like show business.
While in California I phoned an author acquaintance to say hi. We ended up talking about Kurzweilian life extension, which my friend thought indicated an unhealthy fear of death. I offered that, without definitive proof that there is an afterlife, radical life extension -- perhaps via mind-uploading -- is both sensible and justified. My friend, the author of a nonfiction book dealing with spiritual matters, countered that one can achieve subjective validation that consciousness is more than epiphenomenal. In other words, some aspect of our awareness persists after biological death -- but, so far at least, it's impossible to prove this to anyone who hasn't experienced his own sense of cosmic rapport. Fair enough.

So how to experience consciousness as an abiding energy (if such it is) and not merely as the output of millions of synchronized synapses? Drugs, perhaps -- although I've been warned that the "tripping" experience is confused and noisy, leading to false positives and replete with neurological static. Meditation seems a better, safer route. Still, how does one know that a moment's spiritual insight is anything more than an experience cooked up by the brain as a way of appeasing our incredibly deep-seated fear of death and obliteration? Not having experienced any deep insight into the nature of consciousness, I have no choice but to remain agnostic.

Even if awareness transcends death, how does life-extension obstruct spirituality (for lack of a better term)? It seems to me that a longer, better life can help facilitate a more intimate understanding of consciousness and its ultimate role. It's been argued that an upload isn't the same as the original mind, rendering the point moot. I'm not convinced. Just as a person with prosthetic limbs and artificial organs is still a human, a person whose brain architecture has been methodically supplanted with newer, more durable components is still the same entity -- just less vulnerable to the threats that routinely kill or incapacitate meat-based humans.

Rather than hindering development of "soul wisdom," a machine substrate just might provide the processing power needed to realize the mind's true potential. If so, "posthumans" may be richly more endowed than their predecessors. Instead of the shambling caricatures encountered on board "Star Trek's" Borg (or other cinematic attempts to grapple with the posthuman condition) our machine-based descendants may be unexpectedly sagely, free of the biological clutter that contemporary gurus spend their lives attempting to jettison.

"Spiritual" arguments against transhumanist technologies (and especially attempts to equate life-extension with simple fear of dying) strike me as suspiciously hollow, no matter how well-intentioned. I don't think the medium matters; the process is what we should seek to preserve if we choose to remain at least partially true to our brief, embodied tenure as Earth's dominant species.

Update: This essay has spawned a small online discussion.
Photos of naked people in trees: tantalizing, gnarly, and bursting with "biopunk" science fiction potential.

(Found at Reality Carnival.)

Speaking of science fiction: This weekend I was to have attended ConQuest, Kansas City's premiere (and only) science fiction convention. I shirked my duty as a guest panelist as I suspected I probably would. I can't say I'm overwhelmed with regret -- too many of the fans that show up are like rancid hobbits -- but I do feel kind of bad about missing out on the dealers' room, which is always stocked with great, seldom-encountered titles (and hand-made armor, if that's your bag).

If I ever do hit the big time writing science fiction, and I like thinking it's at least possible, I fear I'll become the genre's Salinger, lurking in my hotel suite listening to the raucous goings-on of con groupies in the hall outside.

Of 'Braneworlds' and Nearby Black Holes

For the braneworld model would have notable consequences. The hypothesis predicts that small black holes from the early universe -- with a mass similar to that of a small asteroid -- would have survived to the present. Such objects would be part of the dark matter that seems to pervade the universe, exerting gravitational force but reflecting or emitting no light. General Relativity says that such primordial black holes would have evaporated away by now, so finding them would make the braneworld hypothesis tenable.

It would also change our view of nearby space. For remarkably, if such black holes do exist, they may be close.

Think about that for a minute.
Mars robots to get smart upgrade

Quite why we need to look at pictures of clouds, when there are prefectly good craft orbiting Mars that can better analyse them, is anyone's guess, but the dust-storms will be of interest, as it is these that are thought to be responsible for clearing the dust and debris from the Rovers' solar panels, thus greatly extending their operational lives.

On the downside, this new upgrade to the Rovers' software might mean they miss other photo opportunities on the ground - after all, in the event of coming across anomalous surface features, how is a Rover to image them if its cameras are constantly pointed up at the sky?

A good question indeed.
Exploratory Mission No. 7 - Report #1

Here is a photo of Earthman Tonnies and I at a place called Newport Beach, California.

I was hopeful that I might run acrosss earthwoman Carmen Electra while there, but no such luck.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Malibu . . .

Mysterious glowing clouds targeted by NASA

Glowing, silvery blue clouds that have been spreading around the world and brightening mysteriously in recent years will soon be studied in unprecedented detail by a NASA spacecraft.

The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission will be the first satellite dedicated to studying this enigmatic phenomenon. Due to launch in late 2006, it should reveal whether the clouds are caused by global warming, as many scientists believe.

(Via The Anomalist.)

UFOs and global warming in the same post! Not bad!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

More LA pictures

While the Good Nite Inn features comfortable beds, I'm not sure they're worth permanent chromosomal damage.

I like the bald, purple woman clinging to the rather unsavory-looking dude in this advertisement. Somehow she sums up the whole Los Angeles zeitgeist.

I ate out tonight. Paper tablecloths and crayons were on the house.

I drew one of my signature aliens and, instead of eliciting the usual mystified (or, worse, condescending) looks from television-soaked suburbanites, actually struck up a brief conversation about UFOs with a waiter who seemed to know what he was talking about.
Top-secret photos of Greg Bishop's KILL Radio studio:

Make Your Own Flame Thrower

Like any red-blooded, masculine man of the male gender, I love PVC weaponry. You should too. If the concept of heading on down to the local Home Depot and transforming $100 worth of random pipe bits into a killing machine doesn't appeal to you, you're a frikkin' pansy.

(Via Aberrant News.)

Not only does it impress women, it's a great deterrent when unexpectedly faced with hordes of probe-wielding Grays.
This just in from Psychonaut:

With Posthuman Blues I'm in for a UFO buffet, topped with techno-information and an occasional sociological on the mark comment from a down to earth fellow.

Down-to-earth? Well, that's open to some debate . . .
Prospecting the Moon and Mars for Supplies

On the Moon, for instance, mission planners hope to find water frozen in the dark recesses of polar craters. Water can be split into hydrogen for rocket fuel and oxygen for breathing. Water is also good for drinking and as a bonus it is one of the best known radiation shields. "In many ways," notes Beaty, "water is key to a sustained human presence." Ice mining on the Moon could become a big industry.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Radio host Joshua Warren's put a nice link to my site on the "Speaking of Strange" website. I'll be talking on the 3rd.

What have we learned from all the recent Mars data? Is it realistic that advanced life once existed there, and maybe still remains? Has NASA covered up significant information? Mac Tonnies, author of After the Martian Apocalypse, will join us with his views.

After "Radio Misterioso" I'm more confident about interviews. Sometimes I come across as pretty monotone and humorless, which isn't an accurate reflection of my personality -- at least not all the time.

By the way, my agent has met with tentative success re. my new book, "The Cryptoterrestrials" (title subject to change). A major publisher is reportedly "very interested" and eager to check out some sample chapters. Needless to say, I'm happy to oblige.
Unidentified facelike object peeks out from duck X-ray at wild bird rescue center

Ducks sometimes eat grain or even gravel and use it as a kind of internal grinding mechanism when they are digesting food, Holcomb explained. An autopsy Thursday revealed some grain in the bird's stomach, but nothing else out of the ordinary.

Come to think of it, anthropomorphic duckshit is just about the only explanation for the Face on Mars NASA hasn't offered.

Amateur Team Finds an Extrasolar Planet

An international team of professional and amateur astronomers, using simple off-the-shelf equipment to trawl the skies for planets outside our solar system, has hauled in its first "catch."

The astronomers discovered a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting a Sun-like star 600 light-years from Earth in the constellation Corona Borealis.

I don't anticipate any shortage of extrasolar planets for at least the next, say, few thousand years.
So many "weird news" items and so little time!

Here are a couple I found via Peter Gersten's newsletter:

Animations Show Global Warming's Potential Effects on Coastal Cities

The animations below show the flooding we can anticipate in major cities as global warming raises sea levels and leads to stronger hurricanes. They show that as sea levels rise, even relatively weak storms will be able to do a great deal of damage.

With memories of the ocean fresh in my mind (photos forthcoming!), I have a renewed interest in climate change and coastal inundation. And a new outlook: Bring it on! I can't wait to hit the beach in Missouri!

Who Built the Moon?

Christopher Knight:

The Moon is not only extremely odd in its construction; it also behaves in a way that is nothing less than miraculous. It is exactly four hundred times smaller than the Sun but four hundred times closer to the Earth so that both the Sun and the Moon appear to be precisely the same size in the sky -- which gives us the phenomenon we call a total eclipse. Whilst we take this for granted it has been called the biggest coincidence in the universe.

The Moon/Sun "coincidence" has interested me for a long time. I tend to invoke a weak version of the Anthropic Principle, in which if the Moon and the Sun weren't seemingly fine-tuned with each other we'd never have evolved to comment on the oddity.

But that's not to say I reject the idea that our solar system's been modified . . .

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mingling with the natives in the City of Angels:

Drinking substandard coffee while waiting for a room in Camarillo:

Special bonus picture of Veronica Reynolds:

Paul and I appeared on "Radio Misterioso," a program hosted by author/paranormalist Greg Bishop ("Project Beta"). Hands down the most fun I've ever had on a radio show. (The interview will be available as a podcast, so keep an eye on the Excluded Middle website.)

After talking UFOs for two hours we had dinner with Greg and his girlfriend. I rode to the restaurant -- a goth joint with chairs made from car seats -- in Greg's blue hybrid listening to MP3s of 1950s flying saucer ballads. It was rainy and dark, and I felt as if I'd been teleported into the universe of "Blade Runner" -- a feeling I first experienced listening to the strident masculine voice at LAX, uncannily like that of the announcer overheard advertising life in the off-world colonies.

The previous evening I drank martinis (well, one martini . . .) with actress Veronica Reynolds, soon to make her Hollywood debut. She's been taking acting classes and hanging out with Al Pacino.

She assured me I'd make a good character actor. If true, maybe I'll give the writing thing a rest, buy a place in Malibu and throw wild parties.

Prior to Greg's show, Paul, Findlay and I perused a deliciously seedy store hawking cheap women's clothing. Mannequins, in various states of undress, greeted customers on the sidewalk like decapitated prostitutes.

Findlay took the photo above. I'm seriously considering using it for my new author photo.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Two days before I left for LA, film-maker/blogger Paul Kimball and photographer/videographer Findlay Muir stopped in Kansas City to shoot some footage of me for a film project. We had coffee and ate at Buca di Beppo, a chain restaurant with an exquisitely irreverent Pope-themed dining room.

Here's Paul enjoying the ambiance:

And Findlay:

Lots of kitschy statuary at Buca:

The shoot went well. At least I think I made my point -- and if not, I guess I can always be edited.

The filming attracted the attention of a nearby couple who had been making out in relative peace until we showed up.

I don't think they knew I'd taken their picture, but I'm sure they wouldn't mind.

Next: Photos from LA.
I'm back from Los Angeles with strange tales to tell.

It may take a few days for me to regroup, but rest assured Posthuman Blues will resume in its normal capacity (but not after some photos from my trip).

In the meantime, thanks for your patience!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Bathsheba Grossman:

Welcome. I'm an artist exploring how math, science and sculpture meet, and this is my gallery and storefront. My work is about life in three dimensions, symmetry and balance, and always finding beauty in geometry.

Here you'll find my signature designs in metal, along with 3D laser-etched glass designs including the Milky Way Galaxy and protein structures.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I can't wait.
Rudy Rucker holds forth on Ray Kurzweil's brand of Singularity-mania.

Personally, I'm evenly split between the sort of cosmic all-at-onceness Rucker espouses (even though I've never done LSD) and Kurzweil's chomping-at-the-bit transhumanism. Like Rucker, I'm a little wary of "The Singularity Is Near." Not because I fear I won't enjoy it (I thought highly "The Age of Spiritual Machines") but because I fear Kurzweil's consummate punditry. It's great fun to wonder what the postsingular future holds in store, but Kurzweil (and many others of the same general outlook) seem to have overlooked William Gibson's observation that the future's arrival is seldom evenly distributed.

Yes, a singularity (note the lower-case "s") is most likely inevitable; it may even be imminent. But I'm extraordinarily wary of the "Rapture" mentality that's taken over the debate, reducing technological forecasts to little more than jargon-heavy quasi-religious screeds. Spare me, please.

That said, I sympathize with -- and share -- Kurzweil's disdain for death. I've never seen the need to romanticize what amounts to a biological system failure, and I see no reason why we should accept less than immortality as long as there's a viable alternative. (Rucker writes somewhat disparagingly of cryonics, but I think of it as a sensible precaution. Advocating cryonics doesn't entail a soul-consuming fear of death any more than paying for medical insurance indicates a fatalistic personality.)

And yet I'm drawn to the idea that life is more than an endlessly prolonged system upgrade. Ultimately, all is one; we are the universe staring back at itself in wonder and fear. Provided we can preserve that sense of awe, why not live forever?
My literary agent emailed. She's attending a book expo tomorrow and requested a synopsis of my "crypto" tome so she could pitch it to some bigger publishers. I'm certainly not counting on anything, but . . .
Britain may tow icebergs to solve water shortage

Britain's biggest water supplier, Thames Water, is seriously considering towing icebergs from the Arctic to London to solve what could be the worst shortage in a century, a newspaper says.

"We have to look at any possible alternative, including towing icebergs from the Arctic and seeding rain clouds," The Times quoted Richard Aylard, of Thames Water in London.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

Icebergs? Get 'em while you can, I guess . . .
I leave for the West Coast tomorrow afternoon, so I have some welcome time on my hands. What better way to spend it than blogging from the comfort of a coffeeshop with Fiona Apple playing on satellite radio?

I spent yesterday making the scene (insofar as Kansas City has a "scene") with film-maker Paul Kimball, who filmed me prattling on about cryptoterrestrials from the comfort of a park bench. If the footage makes the final cut -- and, frankly, I could have been a lot less comprehensible -- it will wind up in a forthcoming documentary exploring some of the most compelling UFO cases on record.

It's always fun to meet Net-based friends in "meatspace," and Paul (duly accompanied by extraterrestrial sidekick Zorgrot) was no exception. I don't think I've ever met anyone so equally well-versed in history and comic-book esoterica. I actually started jonesing for a "Batman" fix.

Photos forthcoming.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

London: the climate crisis (Bruce Sterling)

"Sunshine Garden," an adorable euphemism for the fact that Britons can no longer plant the same things in their gardens that their parents did. Why? No rain. No irrigation, either. "Sunshine." Lots of that. Perhaps the Sahara could be re-dubbed the "Sunshine District."
Fabled equatorial African icecaps to disappear

"Considering the continent's negligible contribution to global greenhouse-gas emissions, it is a terrible irony that Africa, according to current predictions, will be most affected by climate change," added Taylor. "Furthermore, the rise in air temperature is consistent with other regional studies that show how dramatic increases in malaria in the East African Highlands may arise, in part, from warmer temperatures, as mosquitoes are able to colonize previously inhospitable highland areas."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Brief hiatus

Since I'll be out-of-state beginning on the 19th, there's a strong possibility I won't be blogging until I get back (although if I should happen across any public computers with Net access while in LA I might not be able to resist).

Just a notice in case activity here falls off sharply in the next several days.
Biggest map of universe reveals colossal structures

Both teams were able to identify mathematical patterns in the distribution of galaxies throughout the universe indicating the presence of large structures. "This is one of the first detections of structures that are so large," Padmanabhan says. "The only other place that they have been detected is in the cosmic microwave background", the afterglow of the big bang.


Looking for aliens on the Moon

Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, says the possibility of such an interesting payoff for little additional cost makes the idea of looking for artefacts worth considering.

"On the Moon, I think it's certainly worthwhile taking a couple hundred square feet or so of material and looking it over," he says. But SETI researchers "probably wouldn't bet their mortgages on finding anything".

Isn't that great, folks? Self-styled alien expert and media darling Seth Shostak grants us permission to look for artifacts on the Moon -- although I doubt his generosity extends to other planetary bodies.

Why a "couple hundred square feet?" Well, Seth's a scientist, so I suppose he must have arrived at that figure through some painstaking statistical survey. The bit about researchers "betting their mortgages" is interesting, too. Perhaps the chances of finding ET relics are slim, but certainly no slimmer than detecting pi via radio signals.

In any case, Seth has spoken! Let the search begin!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Tony speaks the truth. Especially about buying my book.

I'm running out of hokey analogies for "out of this world" and the amazing ass photos that Mac from Post Human Blues is posting but the point is that you should buy his book and read his blog because the guy is brilliant and we can all agree that we love boobies no matter what our opinions are on extraterrestrial life or the paranormal.

On June 3 I'll be interviewed about "After the Martian Apocalypse" on Joshua Warren's "Speaking of Strange" radio program. You can tune in with an old-fashioned radio if you're within broadcast range or listen in via the Web. More information TBA.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Damnit, where's Richard Hoagland when you need him?
I love steam-powered machines. I guess "The Difference Engine" is to blame.

I suppose I need to commit to a reading list. Here's what I've got my eye on, in no particular order:

1.) "Anansi Boys" (Neil Gaiman)

2.) Something -- anything! -- by Cory Doctorow. I feel so unhip and out of it.

3.) "Visionary In Residence," Bruce Sterling's new story collection.

4.) "Mathematicians In Love" by Rudy Rucker (not yet published). In the meantime, "The Hollow Earth" and maybe "As Above, So Below."

5.) "Newton's Wake" (Ken MacLeod)

And many, many others . . .
It often seems as if the cryptoterrestrials maintain a genetic caste system not entirely unlike that in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." Accounts of UFO occupants are replete with insect-like overseers, diminutive Grays and, most intriguingly, human-looking "Nordics." Who's in charge?

Although the Grays have become synonymous with "aliens," I find them all-too-terrestrial in appearance; if we had a DNA sample, I suspect it would register as predominantly human. Like Huxley's remedial working caste, the Grays are consistently observed in menial roles. They comprise an army of compliant troopers, standing ready to restrain (or assist) abductees, deal with technical minutiae and carry out routines associated with the quintessential "on-board medical examination." Their atrophied appearance conveys a severe functionality, the sort of anatomical design NASA scientists might choose if able to construct a being suited for the rigors of spaceflight.

Ufologist Leonard Stringfield is probably best well-known for his meticulous harvest of alleged crash-retrieval cases, including detailed reports of autopsies on alien corpses. While his canon is plagued with the "anonymous sources" that have become the bane of "nuts and bolts" UFO research, the reports display an intriguing commonality.

Of course, proponents of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis would have us believe the Grays are an alien species that has, despite all odds, evolved into a caricature of the human body-plan. But given the Grays' unsettling similarity to ourselves, it's more probable we share a common ancestor. A thorough reading of close encounter lore veritably begs that we consider that they're a genetically engineered servant race -- in effect, biological robots that can be utilized at will by beings higher up the cryptoterrestrial chain of command. Indeed, some exotic reports depict seemingly lifeless Gray bodies coming to life like autonomous devices.

Whitley Strieber, for instance, has come to think that our "visitors" have learned how to manipulate consciousness, even able to transplant "souls" from body to body as casually as humans don specialized worksuits. Although he readily admits that this interpretation may simply be how his mind has chosen to decipher a phenomenon beyond human comprehension, others' experiences with nonhumans argues for an equally strange explanation.

Bruce Rux, in "Architects of the Underworld," posits that the UFO enigma can be explained if the aliens are actually robots under remote control. He cites cases in which humanoids of various descriptions display conspicuously mechanical characteristics, such as the reported posse of goblin-like creatures that assaulted a rural home in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. When shot, the "creatures" would rebound from the impact -- hardly behavior expected of flesh-and-blood entities. (Unfortunately, Rux fails to consider that the siege of goblins was a cryptoterrestrial psy-ops display, which eliminates the need for cumbersome robotic invaders.)

In the end, we're left with a pageant of unlikely humanoids operating in stealthy liaison. While this can be interpreted as members of some sort of "galactic UN" working together for the common good, a more promising hypothesis is that we're observing facets of the same intelligence. (The purported ability to "swap" bodies, if true, introduces a host of fascinating possibilities and may even help explain the role of altered states and apparent out-of-body experiences associated with the abduction phenomenon.)

Abductees' frequent allusions to insects (and suspiciously similar depictions offered by DMT trippers) may suggest a literal "hive mind" at work -- a concept that receives circumstantial support from recent breakthroughs with quantum "entanglement." Tellingly, dialogue aboard UFOs is usually reported to be telepathic -- a fact that speaks potential volumes about the CTs' culture and society (if they have one in any distinguishable sense). The CTs may well have a communications infrastructure, but of a sort we don't recognize until we find ourselves snared in its web.
Blog of the day: Interactive Architecture Dot Org

Saturday, May 13, 2006

You're getting very sleepy . . .

If the "cryptoterrestrials" I've been blogging about are real and indeed "living among us" (or at least secluded in enclaves), they must have a sense of ethics, a guiding morality. Or at least it's comforting to think so.

The simple fact that they haven't taken over the planet could be proof that they harbor no genocidal grudge. But it could just as easily mean that they need us, either for our genes or for esoteric reasons. But this kicks up its own share of questions.

If they're underpopulated and need humans to refresh their gene-pool, forsaking secrecy and claiming the planet on their own terms would allow their population to expand to viable proportions. We'd no longer be needed. So why are we allowed to continue to exist? By almost any ecological standard, we're terrible neighbors. Do they feel sorry for us? Are they convinced that, through careful psychological engineering, they can improve our "relationship" (albeit without our consent), thus steering the biosphere from the brink of collapse?

Or are they even now eyeing our endeavors with mounting alarm and suspicion? Will there ever come a point that brings the CTs out of hiding -- if only to turn the tables on their uneasy truce with our civilization?

Perhaps they'd like to but can't. The evidence suggests they're accomplished illusionists and insidiously clever strategists endowed with abilities once ascribed to the domain of magic. But they give little indication of violence, at least in a military sense. Perhaps their technology, remarkable as it is, isn't conducive to the kind of effort required to invade and conquer; indeed, with our nuclear missiles and arsenal of "black ops" aircraft, we might pose a considerable threat to them. Like the vampires in Whitley Strieber's "The Hunger," the CTs might be a race in decline. Stealth, it seems, comes with a price: the lack of infrastructure we take for granted.

Maybe the CTs have no real plans for overt colonization. We tend to project our own tendencies onto "aliens"; if we were in their place, we'd inevitably feel subjugated, even claustrophobic. Inevitably, at least some of us would choose to fight back, even if our efforts were desperate and feeble. But the CTs remain strangely pacifist. Either they really are at the mercy of our omnipresent postindustrial society or they have plans in store that we have yet to discern.

In "The Threat," David Jacobs argues that alien hybrids will ultimately reign, with humans reduced to a secondary role. One could reasonably argue that the CTs are waging a long-term war of attrition, slowly but methodically creating an army of hybrids to inherit and transform the human world. But folkloric evidence begs us to look in other directions. If "they" merely wanted the planet they could have taken it from us long ago, before the invention of doomsday weapons and modern surveillance technology. Instead, they seem to have left us to take our own route -- or at least leave us with this impression.

Given that they're content to remain marginal, we must consider that we're more than a reserve of DNA. The CTs must have other, less pragmatic, motives. Witness accounts offer tantalizing hints that the CTs are at least as intrigued by our minds as they are dependent on our genes. If so, we could be more than we think we are.

The CTs could be reaping an invisible harvest grown in the fertile soil of Mind itself. Limited to short-term agendas and materialistic obsessions, we wouldn't necessarily notice. But if the CTs' penchant for psychodrama persists through the next century -- and so far it shows no signs of stopping -- we just might catch a more expansive look at their goals.

But will we like what we see?
'Brazilian Stonehenge' discovered

Brazilian archaeologists have found an ancient stone structure in a remote corner of the Amazon that may cast new light on the region's past.

The site, thought to be an observatory or place of worship, pre-dates European colonisation and is said to suggest a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy.

I have the feeling we're going to keep on finding things like this; ultimately, such discoveries will prove to have less relevance to our past than to our future.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Study: Women Can Tell a Potential Mate By Looking At His Face

According to the study, evolution has practically programmed women to recognize which men would be interested in becoming fathers.

The study also concluded that women can look at men's faces and instantly figure out which men have the highest levels of testosterone. Those men are rated the most masculine and tend to be the kind of guys they favor for a more short-term relationship or a fling.

This makes you wonder what else women can determine about prospective mates. For all I know they can access your memories at a glance, perform a thorough neuropsych-evaluation in the time it takes to remove a breath-mint from a purse, extrapolate your income bracket by divining the contours of your nostrils.

Women are aliens, I tell you!
VR in the news:

My Day umbrella brings sunshine to a rainy day

There's no way to change the weather, but the next time it rains, your My Day umbrella will let you look up and see sunshine. Confused? My Day's fabric is made from ePaper, so the umbrella can display any of six different images on its underside, and it'll add to the effect by playing some corresponding ambient music.

(Via Gravity Lens.)

Iowa State To Have The Most Realistic Virtual Reality Room in the World

More than $4 million in equipment upgrades will shine 100 million pixels on Iowa State University's six-sided virtual reality room. That's twice the number of pixels lighting up any virtual reality room in the world and 16 times the pixels now projected on Iowa State's C6, a 10-foot by 10-foot virtual reality room that surrounds users with computer-generated 3-D images. That means the C6 will produce virtual reality at the world's highest resolution.

(Via The Speculist.)

Any bets on how long until this feat is made to seem downright lackluster?

When you think about it, the universe isn't a terribly exciting place. After a million years of civilization, all those gas giants and nebulae must start to look the same. When you've seen one desolate windswept rocky terrestrial covered with fungi, you've pretty much seen them all. Truly advanced civilizations might not have any particular interest in exploring the universe after a certain point. They won't even need to, because their technology will enable them to build and explore better universes.

I admit being a little troubled by the idea that we might already be inhabiting one of these "better" universes.
Space Colony Art from the 1970s

A couple of space colony summer studies were conducted at NASA Ames in the 1970s. Colonies housing about 10,000 people were designed. A number of artistic renderings of the concepts were made. These have been converted to jpegs and are available as thumbnails, quarter page, full screen and publication quality images.

(Via Boing Boing.)

I distinctly remember coming across some of these illustrations in my childhood -- back when such ideas were still being half-seriously considered (thanks to thinkers like Gerard O'Neill, whose manifesto I wouldn't read until out of college) -- and absolutely yearning. That torch hasn't completely died. Thanks to plausible devices like carbon nanotube space elevators, we're in a position to realize some of O'Neill's visions; it's not impossible that I'll wind up living in an ecologically lavish space colony . . . especially if medical science can prolong my lifespan to a healthy 150 years or more.

Of course, there are darker prospects to consider. Assuming we eventually build space habitats capable of housing many thousands, how fun will it be if the Earth is a toxic cinder? O'Neill's "high frontier" may turn out to be more like an orbital refugee camp, inundated with the victims of contamination and swelling coastlines.
I just made hotel reservations for my jaunt to LA. Fate must have been gazing in the other direction because I didn't have any trouble finding rooms. I'm going to be really close to the ocean, fortunately. Giddyup!

Here's an impressive visualization of the Huygens probe's descent through the Titanian atmosphere based on telemetry and photographic data. I find glimpses like this eerie and riveting, worthy of a soundtrack by Vangelis or Brian Eno.
Weird disease outbreak of the day:

Doctors puzzled over bizarre infection surfacing in South Texas

"These people will have like beads of sweat but it's black, black and tarry," said Ginger Savely, a nurse practioner in Austin who treats a majority of these patients.

Patients get lesions that never heal.

"Sometimes little black specks that come out of the lesions and sometimes little fibers," said Stephanie Bailey, Morgellons patient.

Patients say that's the worst symptom -- strange fibers that pop out of your skin in different colors.

"He'd have attacks and fibers would come out of his hands and fingers, white, black and sometimes red. Very, very painful," said Lisa Wilson, whose son Travis had Morgellon's disease.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Save the Net!

Toynbee tiles update: My pal Cap'n Marrrrk appears on local television to wise up the marks.
What did this kid eat?

New Deep Sea Species

An expedition by the Census of Marine Zooplankton has just returned from the Sargasso Sea with a large sampling of sea creatures, many of them microscopic. Onboard DNA sequencing has allowed a team of scientists from over 14 countries to classify 220 of the species at sea. The following photos of these tiny animals are courtesy of the Census of Marine Zooplankton.

(Via The Huge Entity.)
Electronic smog

Invisible "smog", created by the electricity that powers our civilisation, is giving children cancer, causing miscarriages and suicides and making some people allergic to modern life, new scientific evidence reveals.

The evidence - which is being taken seriously by national and international bodies and authorities - suggests that almost everyone is being exposed to a new form of pollution with countless sources in daily use in every home.

I swear I hadn't read this when I wrote the previous post. Needless to say, it comes as no particular surprise.
I find broadcast towers oddly frightening. Maybe they're not tinfoil-hat scary, but they sound a quiet alarm. We seldom take the time to look up and actually see these things -- which is perhaps understandable, since they're everywhere: anonymous spurs skewering the clouds and filling the sky with unknown chatter.

If we're evolving faster to meet the demands of an increasingly compromised planet, I suppose it's not out of the realm of possibility that our brains are being forced to adapt to the ubiquitous electromagnetic fog spawned by the telecommunications industry. Maybe some UFOs are a way our minds have developed to make sense of the onslaught of radio and microwave radiation that permeates modern culture. Radio inundation might be ripping holes in the collective unconscious, leaving conspicuous voids to be filled.

(Albert Budden -- a probable source behind the "secret" UK report on plasma and UFOs -- has speculated along similar lines; he describes "abductions" as the psyche's way of maintaining identity when faced with acute allergic distress.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I'm thinking of experimenting with some subtle henna tattoos. Nothing obvious or distracting -- just something interesting. Most of the tattoos I see are lame or else laughable; I think I could do better.
Air From Moonrocks

When astronauts return to the Moon, to explore and eventually build a moon base, they're going to need oxygen... and lots of it. Fortunately lunar soil - or regolith - is almost half oxygen. NASA researchers are using a technique called vacuum pyrolysis, where the regolith is heated until it releases oxygen. Light from the Sun was focused by a lens to heat lunar soil to 2,500 degrees C. As much as 20% of the soil was converted to free oxygen, and the leftover slag could be used for bricks, radiation shielding or pavement.
Jacqueline Roumeguere, 78, a Masai in Heart and Mind, Dies

Jacqueline Roumeguere-Eberhardt, a French anthropologist perhaps best known for her marriage to an illiterate Masai warrior and for a controversial theory that prehistoric beings still live in Africa, died on March 29 in Nairobi. She was 78.

[. . .]

The author of numerous anthropological treatises, she won notoriety in 1978 when she said that a group of creatures -- "X's," which appear similar to prehistoric humans -- were living in the Kenyan bush.

Perhaps not all cryptoterrestrials are created equal.
I have the feeling everyone and their brother has blogged this already, but I can't resist:

Halliburton Solves Global Warming

At today's conference, Wolf and a colleague demonstrated three SurvivaBall mockups, and described how the units will sustainably protect managers from natural or cultural disturbances of any intensity or duration. The devices - looking like huge inflatable orbs - will include sophisticated communications systems, nutrient gathering capacities, onboard medical facilities, and a daunting defense infrastructure to ensure that the corporate mission will not go unfulfilled even when most human life is rendered impossible by catastrophes or the consequent epidemics and armed conflicts.

"It's essentially a gated community for one," said Wolf.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

Don't miss the photo gallery!
Robo-roach could betray real cockroaches

The tiny robot smells and acts just like a roach, fooling the real insects into accepting it as one of their own. Through its behaviour, the robot can persuade a group of cockroaches to venture out into the light despite their normal preference for the dark, for example.

Brilliant! The next step is to build a mechanical alien to root out any Grays lurking in our midst . . . unless, of course, the aliens are already constructing synthetic humans.

(Huh. I think I might have just channeled Philip K. Dick.)
Mushroom Cloud Blast in Nevada Delayed

The lawsuit, filed April 20 by Reno-based lawyer Bob Hager, accuses the government of skipping public comment and failing to complete required environmental studies before picking a date and place for the explosion.

It claims the planned 700-ton ammonium nitrate and fuel oil bomb will kick up radioactive fallout left from nuclear weapons tests conducted from 1951 to 1992 at the Nevada Test Site and irreparably desecrate land that members of the Western Shoshone tribe have never acknowledged turning over to the U.S.

The blast, some 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is expected to generate a 10,000-foot mushroom cloud and a shock wave that officials say will probably be felt in Indian Springs, about 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The federal Defense Threat Reduction Agency claims the explosion will help design a weapon to penetrate hardened and deeply buried targets. Critics have called it a surrogate for a low-yield nuclear "bunker-buster" bomb.

I hadn't thought of the possibility of the blast unleashing radiation from 1950s nuclear tests . . . there might be a real danger there. But no matter; W will get to play with his new toy soon enough.

Some pointed and sensible literary commentary by Rudy Rucker:

Thought experiments are a very powerful technique of philosophical investigation. In practice, it's intractably difficult to visualize the side effects of new technological developments. In order to tease out the subtler consequences of current trends, a complex science-fictional simulation is necessary; inspired narration is a more powerful tool than logical analysis. If I want to imagine, for instance, what our world would be like if ordinary objects were conscious, then the best way to make progress is to fictionally simulate a person discovering this. Here again I make a distinction. Freestyle thought experiments are quite different in intent and in execution from merely futurological investigations. Freestylists aren't interested in making useful predictions that businessmen can use. We don't care about what might "really happen" in someone's limited notion of the mundane world. The point is to see what could happen in an emotionally meaningful world of if.
UFO mind-melting in government report

The MoD document compiles UFO sightings reported to the ministry over previous decades. But the top-secret nature of the project meant that none of the UFO witnesses were questioned further about their experience. "That's the weakness of the report," says Ian Ridpath, an astronomy writer and UFO-debunker from Brentford, UK, who was a guest speaker at Clarke's press conference on 8 May. No scientists were directly consulted, and the author relied instead on literature searches, says Clarke. It even appears to rely on some pretty "dodgy" theories put about in UFO folklore, he adds.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Here's where my "cryptoterrestrial" thought experiment starts getting weird:

Although accounts of "little people" imply a nonhuman civilization parallel to our own, the "others" generally have a recognizably human-like appearance, suggesting a common ancestry. If so, where did we originate? On Earth? Possibly. But it's imperative that we examine more far-flung real-estate, if only to cover all bases and rule out red herrings. I'm particularly attracted to Mars, a planet that boasts some unlikely formations that may be archaeological sites.

If Mars is indeed a piece of the puzzle, the cryptoterrestrials with whom we share the planet may retain a collective memory of their ancestral world. Meawhile, our scientific mainstream has accustomed itself to scoffing dismissal -- or, at best, lukewarm assurances that anomalies such as the Face, located in the Cydonia Mensae region, are simply geological oddities that prey on our inclination to seek meaning in the unfamiliar.

The prospect of a common Martian ancestry is appealing, in part, because it's testable. While telerobotic spacecraft may fail to return a definitive verdict (assuming they're steered toward potential archaeological sites in the first place), at least they will help prepare astronauts for eventual crewed exploration of the Red Planet.

It's all-too-tempting to speculate that the CTs are well aware of our plans to "invade" Mars. Anticipating the revelations in store, they may treat the issue with the same doting care intelligence agencies lavish on disinformation campaigns, determined to throw us off the trail without sacrificing their virtual invisibility.

Alternatively, they might attempt to actively hasten Mars exploration. In this scenario, they want to be found out -- at least in part -- but only if disclosure remains on their terms. After all, we live on an increasingly crowded planet. Eventual contact may be inevitable. Martian ruins or not, the cryptoterrestrial agenda is likely stocked with contingency plans, some of which may have already gone into effect.

For example, there's evidence to suggest crashed "alien" hardware. If our own governments should ever pierce the "extraterrestrial" smokescreen -- assuming they already haven't -- the CTs might reasonably expect increased surveillance or even infiltration. How they would deal with such unwanted curiosity is anyone's guess, but perhaps they might choose to "leak" their own existence in strategic piecemeal fashion.

Such clues could lead the human race on an unsettling (but ultimately enlightening) ride -- but only if we're wise enough to recognize the offer.
Good news: I will be flying to Los Angeles later this month. I must have caught Fate on an off-day.

Never having been to California, I'm pretty excited. After all, "Blade Runner" takes place in LA. And there's this actress my host wants me to meet, and this stuffed duck, and . . . well, it's a long story.

The important thing is that I'm getting out of the Midwest, which has been grating on my nerves lately. Nothing against Kansas City, which I like, but too long in the same place produces what fellow Missourian William Burroughs aptly termed "stasis horrors": the bugs-under-the-skin feeling of dying a prolonged geographical death.
There Goes the Neighborhood

The upside of global warming is that it's bound to create a whole lot of new beachfront property (albeit at the expense of existing waterfront parcels). To help you get a handle on the future of coastal real estate, this Google Maps hack shows you what the earth will look like when the sea levels rise up to 14 meters. In this image, San Francisco's SOMA district, most of downtown Oakland and the entire island of Alameda are submerged by a 14-meter rise in the water level.

Yes, yes, very nice. But I love that coffee-table!
This is cool -- an RSS-enabled gizmo that tracks your own personal "lightcone" (a term that may register with devout pop-sci readers and Charles Stross fans).

(Found at Boing Boing.)
Fate permitting, I might be making an expense-paid trip to Los Angeles later this month. Sort of a paranormal gonzo journalism gig. The problem, as always, is making sure this jaunt is compatible with my schedule, which means attempting to negotiate with Fate. Unfortunately, Fate's not too keen on me; he/she/it takes a generally dim view of my endeavors and seems to genuinely enjoy grinding me into the mud whenever possible. You might say Fate has some major unresolved issues.

So I'm contemplating the unthinkable. I'm considering leaving Fate behind, keeping he/she/it out of the loop. After all, I'm sure Fate's got a busy agenda -- perhaps busy enough for me to slip under its radar. Just this once.

Monday, May 08, 2006

If you're at all interested in the current state of "expert" UFO/alien research, I recommend reading Stanton Friedman's less-than-favorable review of Susan Clancy's "Abducted."

If even some of the distortions and wrong-headed cliches cited by Friedman are actually present in Clancy's much-publicized book, then her take on UFOs and abductions promises to be one of the absolute worst treatments of its kind. So bad, in fact, that it's going to require some mettle on my part to actually sit down and read the thing -- and I make a point to read UFO debunking literature, some of which is quite valuable. Karl Pflock's "Roswell," for instance, is a studious, reflective effort, while Curtis Peebles' "Watch the Skies!" amounts to little more than shrill, by-the-numbers bickering.

(Click here to reach my UFO book review page.)
I picked up Rucker's "The Hollow Earth" and John Shirley's "Crawlers" at the library. I flipped a mental coin and started "Crawlers," which is at least as good as anything Shirley's written. If you see this in a bookstore, take ten minutes or so to savor the first chapter; the odds are you'll buy the book. (In "Crawlers," the Singularity has a serious attitude problem and a taste for blood.)

(Click here for more Rucker and here for more Shirley . . .)
Here's me, courtesy of a sympathetic tourist. I'm not sure I can account for that deceptively serene expression.

And here I am in my usual role as merciless cybernetic psycho killer. Sorry about the blur.

More garden pictures:

I really like this garden and try to make the occasional pilgrimage. Refreshingly Zen, especially after prolonged exposure to the damned suburbs.

The last time I was here Rocky, the resident cat, was slumming in the greenhouse. No sign of him this time -- not even a burlap mouse. I hope he's OK.

I experimented with making short movie clips with my cameraphone. Of statues, of all things.

Speaking of greenhouse effects . . .

I have a light work-week, so I'm going to hit the library. I'm in the mood for "The Hollow Earth," a Rudy Rucker novel I began several years ago but never finished -- although lately I've found it difficult to sit down and read others' work because of my allegiance to the cryptoterrestrial book.

Yesterday I visited my cats, presently in the custody of my former girlfriend while I get my "meatspace" existence back in order. On the way home I stopped by a garden and took pictures, which the network just now let me email to myself. I'll post them later. Right now I'm once again taking advantage of -- er, using -- the computers at a coffeeshop where I find myself spending entirely too much time.

Anyway, the day is still young. I'm gettin' out of here, me.

Listening to: Enya, Vangelis, U2, R.E.M., Moby, David Bowie

Song of the day: "Life Is A Pigsty" (Morrissey)
Blog of the day: the audaciously original and relevant Gallery of the Absurd

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More Royo:

I like the ambiguity here: the weird spiked halo, the drowning architecture.
I'm now officially a member of the Xenoarchaeological Society. (Note to self: Update resume immediately!)

But what if no one's out there at all?

My jaw almost dropped when I read this part:

One idea - to be outlined by Dr Ian Crawford of Birkbeck College, London - involves using Nasa's next manned missions to the moon to search its surface for space debris from alien civilisations. 'We are not talking about digging up monoliths like those in 2001: A Space Odyssey,' he said. 'The idea is to look for microscopic fragments of alien spacecraft.'

Russian scientists have calculated that a civilisation capable of space travel would produce massive amounts of debris, like the space junk - old rocket boosters, lens caps dropped by astronauts - that is building up around Earth today. This alien detritus, which would include microscopic particles shorn from spacecraft, could have drifted across space for billion of years, eventually becoming embedded on our moon and ready for astronauts to dig them up. Crawford proposed the idea to Nasa at a special meeting on lunar science earlier this month.

(Via The Anomalist.)

I like how the idea is being touted as something radical when we should have been doing this all along as a matter of course. Instead, establishment SETI is just now thawing to the prospect after being forced to acknowledge that reality is impartial to its tidy equations and anthropomorphic biases.

And isn't it cute how Crawford dutifully dismisses the possibility of finding intact ET artifacts by citing a science fiction film?
Mars Spacesuit Prototype Trials Underway in North Dakota

A spacesuit prototype designed for Mars exploration is bounding across the North Dakota badlands this week in a series of field tests to check its mobility and performance.

Engineers and university students are putting their North Dakota Experimental Planetary Space Suit through a series of challenges, including mock-Martian hikes, sample collections and -- this Saturday -- a simulated sandstorm.

The Mars spacesuit is the culmination of 14 months of work by faculty and students with the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium, which received $100,000 from NASA to develop the prototype.

(Via Aberrant News.)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Bosnian Pyramids: Great Discovery or Colossal Hoax?

The pyramids could be upwards of 12,000 years old, Osmanagic has deduced, based on geological knowledge of the area. That is a main point of contention for specialists concerned with the archaeology in the Balkan region.

"Europe was in the late Upper Paleolithic at this point and no one was building anything except flimsy huts," Harding said.

(Via Unknown Country.)
Council for a Positive Future

Almost all astronauts attest to the wonder of seeing the Earth in full detailed reality, against that black backdrop. The new space entrepreneurs promise to take thousands of ordinary people into that realm as space tourists, perhaps starting as early as next year. How many will come back changed and inspired, ready to make a positive difference for the future?

Send me! Send me!

Developing sustainable space settlements requires the most stringent recycling requirements imaginable, to minimize the need to keep importing materials from Earth, or the waste of energy within the colony. The people here working on space elevators are inspiring developments in nanotechnology, robotics, and wireless power transmission. Solar power gathered directly in space has long held enormous promise, if we could get launch costs, solar panel costs, and those wireless transmission costs down to reasonable levels. Each of these developments promises vast benefits well beyond the immediate application.

For the love of god, send me!
I had one of my Giant Shopping Mall of the Future dreams last night. "Blade Runner" meets "Mad Max" as directed by Romero, with me as the unwitting star. (I was searching for my cats.)

Epic mounds of detritus, cannibalized machinery, meandering hordes of suburban nomads in search of an obscure fix. As always, a feeling of detachment and loss; a whole millennium dashed upon unfriendly concrete shores as the population cowers from a sky it's never seen, oddly content among the crowded memories of a derelict century.

I'm watching from the meticulously stripped-down carriage of an elevator, camera in hand, filming the spectacle floor by floor. Strangers pass like silhouettes consigned to Celluloid purgatory, just out of reach. And I descend into the hive's very guts, enamored of the darkness.
What the world needs now is T-shirt surrealism.

(Thanks to Sauceruney.)
Korean Scientists Develop Female Android

Standing 1.6 meters tall and weighing about 50 kilograms, she can understand others, speak, blink with her eyes and makes several facial expressions.

But she is not human, rather an android developed by a team of South Korean scientists. It is only the second time in the world that an android has been developed -- Japan made the first one.

I especially like the picture of the kids touching "her" face in obvious wonderment.

I'm intensely curious how the world will change if and when androids cease to be oddities trotted out at technology conventions and become commonplace. I think android receptionists will probably be one of the first applications. Or baristas -- I'd gladly pay $10 for a cup of good coffee to see it made by a convincing artificial human. (Not every time, mind you, but at least once.)

And I know I've harped on this before, but I think it's near-inevitable that androids will play an important role in the sex industry within the next 20-30 years. (And yes, I'm well aware that it sounds like a prurient obsession.)
Driving to a coffeeshop this afternoon, I saw a bunch of forbidding green military vehicles parked at the local Conoco. Like something out of "Red Dawn."

This blog has its first semi-official comic, courtesy of Dia Sobin. Drawn in stark black and white, "Fear of Living" predates -- and in many ways anticipates -- Bill Barker's "Schwa," a mainstay of the 1990s zine scene. For more "Fear of Living," visit Dia's website.
Luis Royo furnishes today's pin-up . . .

I love the drowned, presumably toxic, city. Royo is great at envisioning dark futures where the Singularity has gone horrifically awry, reducing humans to fetishistic props. (Paradoxically, the women in his illustrations seem basically immune to their blighted surroundings -- mirage-like sirens lying in wait for unwary tourists.)

(Click here to read an old essay I wrote about Royo's science fiction art.)
NASA Announces Lunar Lander Analog Competition Agreement

"NASA's Centennial Challenge program is using the tool of prize competitions, so successfully demonstrated by the X-PRIZE, to plant the seeds for future space commercial activities," Dale said. "We're confident the Lunar Lander Analog Competition will stimulate the development of the kinds of rockets and landing systems that NASA needs to return to the moon, while also accelerating the development of the private sub-orbital space flight industry."

Friday, May 05, 2006

One thread that's difficult to entirely ignore while researching "cryptoterrestrials" is the large body of encounters with nonhuman beings reported by children. It's as if young people are more receptive to phenomena adults, oddly enough, fail to notice. It's as tempting to speculate an actual neurophysiological basis for this discrepancy as it is to ascribe all childhood encounters to overactive imagination.

If children are, in fact, more prone to seeing the inexplicable (a trend that encompasses the Fatima "miracle"), two immediate options come to mind:

1.) Children possess some form of psychical sensitivity that atrophies in later life.

2.) Children aren't "psychic," but simply more receptive to strange phenomena because they've been spared much of the conditioning associated with adulthood. It follows that even an intelligent and open-minded adult, having learned to perceive the world in a narrowly focused sense, could experience an encounter with nonhumans and not necessarily recognize it as anything exceptionally weird.

Have you had any puzzling or remarkable childhood experiences that seem incompatible with how you "know" the world functions?
The Largest Biological Experiment

The gist of the message is that the use of mobile/cell phones poses such a great risk to our brains and overall well-being, that we should all stop using them immediately, which may well be the case, but such is reliance on these gadgets in everyday life, that getting people to cease using them would be well-nigh impossible. However, you don't even need to have a phone to be prone to the harmful microwave radiation that's emitted into our brains, apparently causing actual physiological damage, as the numerous relay towers and masts that punctuate the skyscape, are also constantly dowsing us with irradiating harm.

I'm actually more interested in the esoteric neurological effects of EM exposure. One of the most original UFO books of the last two decades is "UFOs: Psychic Close Encounters -- The Electromagnetic Indictment" by Albert Budden, who hypothesizes that EM "hotspots" can result in a variety of troubling "paranormal" experiences, including evident "hauntings" and -- you guessed it -- alien abduction. (It's worth remembering that ufologist Jacques Vallee has credited genuine UFOs with emitting microwaves, which may play a similar hallucinogenic role in some close encounters. And debunkers are fond of citing the work of Dr. Michael Persinger, whose experiments with EM fields and human subjects suggest a link between the "sense of presence" associated with altered states of consciousness and seismic stress.)

Given that radiation like that used by cellphones can infringe on human consciousness -- and I think it's very probable it can -- we have to question our role in this emerging electronic ecology. If John Keel is correct, and we share the planet with "ultraterrestrials" who occupy higher realms of an unseen "superspectrum," one wonders if we could be upsetting the superspectral hierarchy by marinating our world in a stew of microwaves.

Conversely, maybe the advent of widespread cell communication is analogous to the role of fungi according to Terence McKenna. Instead of viewing ubiquitous cell towers as intrusive and harmful, maybe we should look at them as totems through which we might communicate with unseen intelligences. (I've always thought it interesting that so many UFO sightings have been witnessed over military installations with advanced radar technology; some alleged UFO occupants have even ventured the idea that radar somehow interferes with the operation of their craft -- one possible explanation for the Roswell incident.)

In any case, there appears to be a link between artificial radiation and "alien" visitors. And since some UFOs possess documented microwave properties, we're left with the possibility that we're only now (inadvertently) acknowledging their arrival. What this means in the long-term is anyone's guess. Maybe, by inundating the skies with our collective voice, we're offering the "ultraterrestrials" a sort of Trojan Horse -- a technological substrate through which they can penetrate our reality with unprecedented ease.
Iraqi police 'killed 14-year-old boy for being homosexual'

Ahmed Khalil was shot at point-blank range after being accosted by men in police uniforms, according to his neighbours in the al-Dura area of Baghdad.

Campaign groups have warned of a surge in homophobic killings by state security services and religious militias following an anti-gay and anti-lesbian fatwa issued by Iraq's most prominent Shia leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

(Via Unknown Country.)

Why homophobia? I mean, really -- what's going on? We see plenty of bumper-stickers rightfully condemning it, yet it reigns nonetheless, like some super-resilient psychoactive virus. Sometimes I think "straight" activists who speak out against gay-bashing do so for reasons more ego-driven than compassionate. We all like to look good; we all want to be seen saying the right thing. This certainly doesn't invalidate the mainstream's fight against homophobia, but it makes me scope out the landscape with amplified cynicism -- partly, I guess, because I'm too often steeped in my own very private universe (which is seldom welcoming to strangers of any sexual orientation).

Pundits who decry transhumanism -- and their numbers are increasing -- prefer a static future governed by the same inexplicable prejudices that have plagued attempts to subvert the status quo for centuries. We're implicitly asked to accept the very concept of prejudice as something contemptible but all-too-human. As prejudice (racial, sexual or otherwise) shows absolutely no sign of going anywhere, I feel it's incumbent upon us to edit it out of our psychological repertoire. What better way to do this than forego humanity as we know it in favor of something better?

If nothing else, the mutable, chimeric nature of a posthuman future promises to make establishing prejudices inherently difficult; with a galaxy waiting to be explored, we may ultimately just get bored with the whole thing. And it will be about time.
Chris Wren lobs a much-needed glass of cold water in the face of the "Miserable, Angst-Ridden Artist" cliche.

It's true -- creativity isn't synonymous with depression. I'm probably guilty of helping perpetuate this myth. After all, I'm frequently angry and given to bouts of unbridled misanthropy. But it's not because of my creative life; if anything, the prospect of losing myself in a creative project (whether writing or reading a book -- and I consider the very act of reading an important co-creative endeavor) makes life bearable. It's not without its share of frustrations, but what isn't?

It's true, incidentally, that society isn't especially kind or forgiving when it comes to artists and intellectuals. This is indeed alienating, even daunting -- but somehow never as daunting as facing a blank sheet of paper (or, more often than not, the eggshell glow of a blank Microsoft Word template).

Fortunately, I relish the possibility of writing as often as possible. I'm working -- slowly -- on a new nonfiction book that continues to pique my enthusiasm. And I love blogging -- what a perfect venue for recreational narcissism. I take issue with those who dismiss it as a mere time-sink.

I think the key to creative success isn't so much surrounding oneself with like minds (which, unfortunately, can prove flatly impossible despite the best of intentions) but the ability to expunge all the nitwits who clutter our daily lives. Leave them to their televisions and churches. Stop hating them and learn to ignore them. (I have yet to conquer this skill. Nevertheless, I'm working on it -- because otherwise they've won, and the blight of mediocrity we inherit will be our own damned fault.)
'Cyclic universe' can explain cosmological constant

According to Steinhardt and Turok, today's universe is part of an endless cycle of big bangs and big crunches, with each cycle lasting about a trillion years. At every big bang, the amount of matter and radiation in the universe is reset, but the cosmological constant is not. Instead, the cosmological constant gradually diminishes over many cycles to the small value observed today.

The physicists' calculations show that the cosmological constant decreases in steps, through a series of quantum transitions. Crucially, the higher the value of the constant, the more rapid the transitions, says Turok. But as the constant reaches lower levels, it changes more slowly, lingering on the lowest positive value for an extremely long time. That means that today's universe is most likely to have a small cosmological constant, just as we currently observe, says Turok.


This model makes intuitive sense. It compliments how I've come to feel about the perennial ebb and flow of life and order from my vantage-point as an individual confined to an average planet in an average solar system in an average galaxy. That doesn't, of course, make it true; to many, the idea that the Sun revolves around the Earth instills a sense of harmony.

I wonder -- will the cosmological constant ever decline so markedly that "Big Crunch"-style contraction becomes impossible? If so, what if we're living in that ultimate end state, confronted with endless expansion and the eventual exhaustion of energy resources as stars fade and the galaxies cease glowing like unplugged Christmas decorations? What are the odds that we've been saddled with the futility of a terminally ill Cosmos?

And do I have a right to feel a tinge of despair, a pang of envy?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Wilderness in a Warming World

The most serious threat to biodiversity posed by climate change, the study's authors point out, is that biological "hotspots" -- critical ecosystems like certain rainforests and coral reefs -- which cover only 1% of the Earth's surface but hold 44% of its biodiversity, are being transformed so rapidly that even if they are preserved from habitat destruction, they may not be able to provide a home for the plants and animals who live there now.

But the implications here extend to any piece of ground or water we care about. We are now re-engineering the entire planet, though we're doing it blindly and carelessly. If we're serious about preserving the diversity of life on Earth, we need to make climate foresight central to essentially all conservation biology efforts.
Titan Descent Data Movie with Bells and Whistles

This movie, built with data collected during the European Space Agency's Huygens probe on Jan. 14, 2005, shows the operation of the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer camera during its descent and after touchdown. The camera was funded by NASA.

The almost four-hour-long operation of the camera is shown in less than five minutes. That's 40 times the actual speed up to landing and 100 times the actual speed thereafter.

(Via Boing Boing.)
I happened across this surprisingly well-rounded post via Rudy Rucker's blog. Titled "Top 10 Evidence for Extraterrestrial Intelligence," it contains items not commonly found in sanitized mainstream texts on ETI.

For example:

Pulsars have a strong frequency and also fine grain modulations within that frequency. It has been postulated that these modulations may encode information. The possibility remains that pulsars may be artificially created communication beacons. In his book, The Talk of the Galaxy, Dr. Paul LaViolette shows how new high-resolution recordings of pulsar signals reveal features that are inconsistent with the long-standing "neutron star lighthouse" pulsar model. He has even proposed that the position of certain powerful pulsars may encode the mathematical constant Pi, indicating that pulsars have been created by super-advanced ETIs.

Such possibilities are not, of course, in the best interests of the reigning cult of "alien experts."

Here's another notion worth considering:

Some fungi is know to produce states where we can directly communicate with seemingly alien intelligences (for example the 'self-transforming machine elves' associated with DMT). Terence McKenna has proposed that hallucinogenic fungi may be an alien technology, "seeded" on Earth by non-human intelligence, as part of a "biological communication strategy", in order to alter the perceptive processes of the human mind so that it may receive messages being transmitted to us. It is also conceivable that fungi is in itself intelligent, meaning that ETIs are living among us undetected right now.

The methods nonhuman intelligences -- indigenous or otherworldly -- might use to contact us constitute nothing less than forbidden knowledge. I maintain that the next generation of alien-hunters should expand SETI's dogmatic approach to include all scientifically testable scenarios. In effect, we need to reclaim SETI, as the effort is as likely to tell us as much about our heritage as it promises to invent new ways of perceiving our long-term future.
I love stuff like this . . .

Whisper[s] is a collaborative project involving artists (dance, sculpture, music), designers (of visuals, objects & textiles), computer scientists and hardware/ software engineers. We are developing technology and communications metaphors that enable networked wearable devices to communicate affective states in a continuous manner.

(Via Ollapodrida.)

From an evolutionary perspective, we may be on the cusp of transcending spoken language and graduating to a more intimate -- possibly even telepathic -- venue for everyday communication. To many, words are already beginning to verge on cumbersome, gradually usurped by animation, emoticons and avatars whose "personalities" can be made to rival their owners'.

Imagine a future you can feel. Spared the interface of text, interpersonal reality becomes an intensely sensual experience. How intense? Well, that depends on the peripherals . . .
I watched Stephen Colbert roast The Chimp, which was both funny and refreshing. Could Colbert be reinventing protest? If so, he's set an important precedent.
Gary Coleman is very disappointed in you.
Now you see it, now you don't: cloaking device is not just sci-fi

The cloaking device relies on recently discovered materials used to make superlenses that make light behave in a highly unusual way. Instead of having a positive refractive index - the property which makes light bend as it passes through a prism or water - the materials have a negative refractive index, which effectively makes light travel backwards. It's light, but not as we know it.


Grist for the cryptoterrestrial mill . . .

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Will the pin-ups never cease?
Need a writer?

I'm seeking freelance markets, such as magazines and newspapers, interested in paying me for a regular editorial column devoted to a dynamic, skeptical and -- above all -- engaging take on phenomena the mainstream typically shuns or categorizes as "weird." Topics for such a column include technological ventures with potential impact on human physiology, mind-expanding discoveries in astronomy and cosmology, and the impact of unexplained phenomena on individuals and society. (If you read this blog with any regularity, you may already have a decent idea of what subjects tend to catch my interest.)

Let me know if you're interested. (Payment rates negotiable.)

For biographical information and publication credits, click here.
If someone gave me this house I'd very likely never come out.

A reader emailed me the other day to ask what motto I would affix to the hull of my starship, if I had one. I've decided that I don't need any catchy slogans to advertise myself to the Cosmos; I think the vehicle itself should serve as the message. So I propose constructing a starship in the shape of a DNA molecule. Aside from its molecular symbolism, I think a double-helix configuration might even be practical in terms of engineering and propulsion.

Assuming no one's already tried to envision such a craft, I'd love to see what any designers out there might come up with.
Gawkers Flock to See Blaine

Blaine entered the sphere on Monday. He will stay there until May 8 when he will remove his breathing tube and attempt to hold his breath for nine minutes, breaking the world record of 8 minutes, 58 seconds. He will be handcuffed to 150 pounds of chain and try to free himself during the final stunt, which will air in an ABC television special.

(Via UFO Reflections.)

Sounds like astronaut training to me. Come to think of it, it seems this guy might even be trying to beat me to the title of "first human on Mars." I need to get my act together and do something weirder and even more strenuous! Any ideas? I'll stop at nothing!
By the way, I'm "over" the Discovery Channel thing. I was angry, but now that I think about it, I'm actually quite glad I wasn't included, as I almost certainly would have been portrayed as a complete chowderhead. Plus, I got a nice free trip to New Mexico out of the deal. I saw a lot of cool things and met some interesting people -- which doesn't happen often enough . . .
Last night I half-watched "Veronica Mars" while Web-surfing, then promptly collapsed into bed. I experienced a fleeting episode of sleep paralysis in which an "alien" seemed to lift my fingers to its mouth and lingeringly kiss them. (We swapped some sort of garbled telepathic dialogue which, at the time, I thought was marginally interesting and perhaps blog-worthy, but now I can't remember what was "said.")

The "alien" left quickly, and I tried to turn my head to watch it depart through my bedroom door. I honestly don't know if I "saw" anything or not, but my impression was that the being was pale -- possibly luminous -- and taller than the gray, drone-like beings that feature in so many accounts.

Rest assured this "encounter" was pure hynopompic cinema, not an actual visitation. I more or less knew this when it was happening, and it's abundantly clear now. So here I am playing "debunker" again, describing an event that I insist never really happened except on a semi-conscious level. Yet -- and this is critical -- I'm not about to claim that all reported alien visitations are neurochemical anomalies. For all I know, some are all-too-real.

In a bittersweet sense, I wish last night's episode had been the real thing; the idea of an (evidently) friendly alien darting into my room to give me a quick display of affection, unencumbered by forbidding probes and weird lights, isn't entirely unpleasant.
Morrissey performs "Everyday Is Like Sunday," one of my all-time favorites.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The next best thing to holograms?

(Thanks to Reality Carnival.)
Scientists study hundreds of dead dolphins

The animals may have been disturbed by some unknown factor, or poisoned, before they became stranded in shallow waters and died, said Narriman Jiddawi, a marine biologist at the Institute of Marine Science of the University of Dar es Salaam.

Experts planned to examine the dolphins' heads to assess whether they had been affected by military sonar.

(Via PAG E-News.)
I can't help but admire the exquisite timing demonstrated in this video of an unknown motorist running a red light. The sheer reckless audacity transforms what might initially be perceived as a traffic violation into an authentic statement.
I may be a nonperson to the Discovery Channel (let's see if I ever buy from their store again!), but film-maker Paul Kimball has promised me Gillian Anderson. I'm holding him to it, too. He comes to Kansas City later this month, and he'd better deliver . . .
I watched "Did Aliens Build the Pyramids?"

Guess what? I'm not in it!

Plenty of true believers, including a woman who "channels" a sagely alien chick named Sasha, but not a second of the footage taken of me last August in New Mexico.

Instead, we're treated to scads of stock footage from cheesy 50s saucer flicks. More disconcerting, lots of close-ups of David Hatcher Childress trying to look thoughtful and the obligatory pop-in by Seth Shostak. "Did Aliens Build the Pyramids?" isn't a badly produced bit of fluff, but fluff it is.

And while I don't know why I wasn't included, I suspect it's because I refused to make any sweeping, declarative statements. Once again, rote dismissal and eager belief steal the show, leaving the viewer with no indication that the issue of planetary SETI is infinitely more nuanced than what the typical television viewer has been trained to expect.

That's entertainment.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Michael Cremo, eat your heart out!

(Thanks to Xenoarchaeology.)

Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff has written a great essay on the absurdity of belief, pointedly titled Faith = Illness: Why I've had it with religious tolerance.

Here are some excerpts I especially liked:

Maybe I'm just getting old, but I no longer see the real value in being tolerant of other people's beliefs. Sure, when beliefs are relegated to the realm of pure entertainment, they pose no real danger. So, a kid believes U2 is really a supergroup on par with The Beatles or The Who. That's *his* problem, and it doesn't really do a lot of harm to anyone except those of us who still stop by MTV occasionally to see what might be playing.

Actually, I think pretty highly of U2 . . . But carry on!

Like any other public health crisis, the belief in religion must now be treated as a sickness. It is an epidemic, paralyzing our nation's ability to behave in a rational way, and - given our weapons capabilities - posing an increasingly grave threat to the rest of the world.

Finally someone just fucking says it: Belief is a disease that is killing us. No meticulously qualified apologies, no lukewarm caveats, no backtracking. Thank you.

Add to that the more reliable polls finding that 35% of Americans say they are "born again" - a particularly modern phenomenon that came only after the charlatan rabble-rousers during the Great Depression - and you get a picture of a nation hoodwinked into a passive, childlike, yet dogmatic relationship to the myths that were originally written to sustain them, spur their motivation to social justice, and encourage continuing evolution.

[. . .]

But true believers don't have this freedom. Whether it's because they need the Bible to prove a real estate claim in the Middle East, because they don't know how to relate something that didn't really happen, or because they require the threat of an angry super-being who sees all in order behave like good children, true believers - what we now call fundamentalists - are not in a position to appreciate the truth and beauty of the Holy Scriptures. No, the multi-dimensional document we call the Bible is not available to them because, for them, all those stories have to be accepted as historical truth.

Go, Doug!

(Found at Boing Boing.)
I'm fascinated by ruinous architecture, and Russian rocket scaffolding is no exception. Lots of pungently Ballardian moments here.

(Thanks to Mondolithic Sketchbook.)
You know, I hadn't even considered this, but the Face on Mars is rapidly approaching its 30th "birthday."

The Viking orbiter that took the first picture was launched on Aug. 20, 1975 -- my birthday. How's that for synchronicity?
The Heat is On -- What Can We Do About It?

CBC News reports that 90 of Canada's climatologists have sent an open letter to the prime minister, warning that global warming is happening right now and the government needs to do something about it. In politics, Canada often follows our lead, and the government just cancelled 15 programs that were designed to help control global warming. The letter read, in part: "We urge you and your government to develop an effective national strategy to deal with the many important aspects of climate that will affect both Canada and the rest of the world in the near future."
More news on my Discovery appearance:

A new envelope came in the mail today. This time it contained an actual CD labeled "The World's Strangest UFO Stories - Did Aliens Build the Pyramids?"

Given the horrific title, I haven't been able to bring myself to watch it. Nevertheless, I Googled it and found this description:

Did "ancient astronauts" build Egypt's magnificent pyramids, Britain's mystical Stonehenge and the giant "moai" heads on Easter Island? In the absence of man-made proof to the contrary, some UFO theorists find this idea very compelling. In addition to these awesome but inanimate objects, this episode also challenges religious and evolutionary doctrine to suggest that humanity itself is the product of alien design.

Pyramid-building aliens? An ET "explanation" for the Stonehenge heads? Good god! This turf is so thoroughly chewed that I simply can't imagine the show (one of a series) being any good, let alone insightful. And who knows how I come across. I imagine they felt it necessary to cast me as a "believer" or a "skeptic," in which case I've probably been edited to sound like a credulous drone parroting von-Danikenesque cliches. Assuming I can muster the courage, I'll watch the CD later and find out.

Oh, and so much for the production team letting me know in advance when the show aired. It was on April 28 at 8:00 (ET).

If by some chance there's something worth salvaging, I might post a clip here on my blog. But don't count on it.
Can it possibly get much cooler than this? David Bowie and William Burroughs in the same picture!

Both of these guys have played an influential role in my life. Although I'm nowhere close to them in terms of stature, I feel indebted to them. Seeing Burroughs in person was a genuine high point; having read most of his books (and letters and diaries), I feel a sense of connection, a strange affinity -- as if, in some parallel universe, we used to hang out and swap wry observations. I still have dreams that I run into him at libraries and bookstores, apparently having forgotten that he was scheduled to die in 1996.

While I share many of Burroughs' attitudes and literary inclinations, I'm less certain why I feel a commonality with Bowie. Maybe because of his performance in "The Man Who Fell To Earth"; I feel an instinctual rapport with "aliens" of all sorts. It may be that Bowie is the closest thing to a genuine extraterrestrial that I'm likely to meet in this lifetime. (And to think I missed his Reality Tour stop in Kansas City. Never again.)