Thursday, August 31, 2006

Live forever

Speakers debated questions including: "How will humans re-engineer the human body?" and "What is natural about us and does it matter?"

One of the speakers, Dr Aubrey de Grey - a geneticist at Cambridge University and described as "perhaps the most optimistic" of the scientists who want to lengthen human life - believes that many of us who are fairly young now will live to 120. He told the conference there's probably someone alive today who will live to be 1,000.

Meanwhile, a new book - Designer Evolution: A Transhumanist Manifesto by Simon Young - aims to explain how science, done well and properly, can help to "eliminate disease, defeat death and enhance both body and mind beyond the limitations of the human condition".

This article suffers from a common misconception: that life extension will allow many those of us alive today to live to 120 (not a particularly fantastic feat given the potential technologies at our disposal) or else it will allow us to live 1000 years (a substantial step up, to be sure, but essentially an arbitrary figure). But if we can reach the "1000 barrier," what's to stop us from extending life another thousand years? Or 10,000? Or a million . . . ?

Any humans around a thousand years from now should have the ability to reinvent life itself on their own terms; we have no accurate way of foreseeing what form our species will take, if we remain a "species" at all. My best bet is that we'll become multiplex and effectively unrecognizable, in which case speaking in terms of hundred- or thousand-year lifespans becomes trite and anthropomorphic.

If we can make it to 1000, we will have achieved immortality. We won't have to worry about "illness"; we'll worry about altogether bigger threats such as the lifetimes of stars, the hard radiation of supernovae, the gnarled topology of spacetime, and, ultimately, the fate of the universe itself.
Lockheed wins $4B NASA deal for "Apollo on steroids," Orion

NASA today announced that Lockheed Martin will design and build the agency's next-gen human space exploration craft, Orion. The initial contract value was reported to be approximately $4 billion.

I love the fact that we're actually going to build the thing. As a "space enthusiast" who's grown up with the ponderous and ill-conceived Space Shuttle, this is genuinely exciting.
3000-year-old "pyramid" discovered in NE China

Six smaller tombs had eroded away leaving no indications of their original scale and appearance, but the biggest tomb, located on the south side of the mountain, could clearly be discerned as a pyramid shape with three layers from bottom to top.

(Via The Daily Grail.)

Yet another example of ancient artificial structures passing for natural until on-site investigation. Paradoxically, Mars boasts features that, despite appearing quite unnatural, are excluded from archaeological consideration because of the inconvenient fact that they exist on another planet.
Testosterone Apocalypse!

The researchers, from China and the UK, say that cultures like China and India that favor male babies have bred an enormous surplus of men who will struggle to find sexual partners and will likely find themselves marginalized in society.

Oh, I can relate.
Here's a "psychedelic" shot of my cat, Ebe.

On that note, I just realized I've been posting way too many pet photos recently.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I just did the show; it will be archived here. (While you're browsing, check out the interviews with Paul Kimball, Stan Friedman and Peter Gersten.)

Rob McConnell is a good host; he wisely avoids the pitfall of trying to be a "personality" and actually lets his guests have their say.

I think I did a decent job. My delivery definitely got smoother as the interview progressed. And it was heartening to talk about something other than Mars, about which I've said just about all I can knowledgeably say -- although I'm certainly looking forward to learning more.
Here's an engaging online portfolio by an artist with a last name suspiciously similar to my own. Makes me wonder if there's a genetic predisposition to Kafka and Burroughs. (Next I'll discover this guy likes The Smiths . . . and at that point I'm afraid one of us will have to go.)
Blog of the day: Loving the Machine
I experienced some sort of hypnopompic episode last night. I was sleeping -- or at least trying to sleep -- on my side when I felt three distinct, evenly spaced jabs on my leg, so pronounced I actually heard them. Like karate chops, expect painless.

I suddenly had a dreadful certainty that someone was in the bedroom -- is this scenario sounding familiar yet? -- but had no idea who, or why, and the combination of darkness and the inability to open my eyes or lunge out of bed (I think part of me didn't want to move . . .) frightened me badly.

Finally, mobile and satisfied that no one had entered the apartment, I tried to reproduce the three jabs. A muscle spasm? Maybe. Probably. I tried to remember what I'd been dreaming, if anything, and dragged up only vague impressions that faded under scrutiny.

Writer's block. Horrible. Stupefying. I feel like a comic book hero stripped of his powers and dragging himself along the ground saying things like "Can't . . . breathe!" And it's all the more galling because my immediate living environment, while accommodating, isn't inhabited by the most creatively ambitious bunch in the world. (The guy across the hall is downright simian; his girlfriend is worse.)

So I feel this restless, overarching need to transcend reality, and the only feasible way of doing that, short of blowing my mind with psychedelic drugs, is writing. I keep waiting for an upwelling of inspiration to rise from my subconscious like some incandescent bubble, chthonic and blistering.
Black Holes: The Deadliest Force in the Universe

Although scientists haven't directly observed a black hole (since a black hole swallows light), they have observed the effect of a black hole on surrounding material. Astronomers say the first sign of a black hole's approach would be subtle changes in the night sky. The gravity from a black hole would distort Earth's orbit and we'd begin to notice differences in the orbits of other planets and stars in the galaxy.

"Hey man, the singularity is really fucking near!"

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Just a quick reminder that I'll be on Rob McConnell's "'X' Zone" program tomorrow (10:00 PM Central). You can listen live on the radio (if available) or on the Web.

Disaster-Prone China Takes Heed of Global Warming

Storms, floods, heat and drought that have killed more than 2,000 people in China this year are a prelude to weather patterns likely to become more extreme due to global warming, the head of the Beijing Climate Centre said.

China was braced for further hardship as rising temperatures worldwide trigger increasingly extreme weather, Dong Wenjie, director-general of the climate centre, said.

"The precise causes of these phenomena aren't easy to determine on their own," Dong told Reuters of meteorological disasters that have caused 160 billion yuan (US$20 billion) worth of damage this year.

"But we know the broad background is global warming. That's clear. It's a reminder that global warming will bring about increasingly extreme weather events more often."

They acknowledge climate change and they want to mine the Moon for fuel. The US has its work cut out for it.
Pluto vote 'hijacked' in revolt

On Thursday, experts approved a definition of a planet that demoted Pluto to a lesser category of object.

But the lead scientist on Nasa's robotic mission to Pluto has lambasted the ruling, calling it "embarrassing".

And the chair of the committee set up to oversee agreement on a definition implied that the vote had effectively been "hijacked".

And -- voila! -- we have another ready-made distraction to keep us from addressing cosmological issues of substance.

SETI, by definition, is the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. So what happens to the SETI Institute if and when the search comes to an end?

Seth Shostak, Jill Tarter and their peers are not comparative anthropologists. They're not versed in linguistics or biology or art. They merely search. If a signal is detected, will they deign to release their grip on the ETI inquiry and allow more capable minds to spearhead the investigation?

In paranoid moments -- and there can never be enough of them -- I have to wonder if SETI has any real plans to disseminate the discovery of an ET message. After all, acknowledgement of the signal, while certainly hard-won vindication for many scientists, could conceivably trigger the end of the search -- and with it the end of the SETI Institute as we know it.

Wifi Camera Obscura reveals the electromagnetic space of our devices and the shadows that we create within such spaces, in particular our wifi networks which are increasingly found in coffee shops, offices and homes throughout cities of the developed world. We will take realtime "photos" of wifi space.

(Via Boing Boing.)

"Visual Futurist" is a promising film about the prolific Syd Mead. Needless to say, it won't be showing in any theaters remotely near me.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Forget The Thermometer, The Mercury Really Is Rising

The findings indicate that the drier conditions brought about by a warming climate will cause the soil to relinquish its hold on hundreds of years of mercury accumulation, sending that mercury back into the air at levels up to 15 times greater than originally calculated. "While peat lands are typically viewed as very wet and stagnant places, they do burn in continental regions, especially late in the season when water tables are depressed," explained Turetsky. "When peat lands burn, they can release a huge amount of mercury that overwhelms regional atmospheric emissions. Our study is new in that it looks to the soil record to tell us what happens when peat soil burns, soil that has been like a sponge for mercury for a long time."
2006 New Frontiers Symposium update!
Cliff Pickover is performing hideous genetic experiments on Natalie Portman! He must be stopped!

Anti-psychiatry Scientology astroturf exhibit at WorldCon

A Scientology rep asked me if I wanted anything and I told her I was there to see what the Church was up to. She insisted that The Citizens Commission on Human Rights wasn't a Scientology organization, but on further questioning she admitted that the organization had been founded by the Church and that the majority of its funding came from donations from Church members.
The Stargate of the Alien Gods

As the year 2012 is approaching many are asking - will the stargate of the gods now open and allow our creators to return in their sunships?

Define "many" . . .

Here's a site devoted to octopi in pulp cover art. Magazines like this make me want to write a deliberately seedy, low-brow science fiction adventure . . . and maybe even try to sell it!

(Thanks: Rudy Rucker.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What can I say? I really had to urinate.
Quote of the day (via Peter Watts):

"The world is not dying, it is being killed. And those that are killing it have names and addresses."

--Utah Phillips
"Death needs time for what it kills to grow in."

Ozone Hole's Lessons for Global Warming

The delayed recovery also shows the fragility of the planet, and the uncertain time frames for its recovery from abuse at human hands - an important warning to politicians stalling on taking immediate action on climate change.

All sorts of interesting elements here. The enigmatic desert landscape . . . the preponderance of chrome . . . the blue turf.

Oh, yeah -- and the girl.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Storefront window, I reflect
Just last week I was merely heck
Tip the scale. I was hell
Picked me up, then I fell
Who's this stranger? Crowbar spine
Dot dot dot and I feel fine
Let it rain, rain, rain (rain)
Bring my happy back again

--R.E.M., "Lotus"

Would aliens from Jupiter consider Earth a planet . . . ?

(Hat tip: Reality Carnival.)
Smallest Pyramids in the Universe

Now, Jerzy Dudek of the Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France, and his colleagues at Warsaw University and the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid claim that the old results can be explained by arguing that some nuclei, made in the tempestuous conditions of a sufficiently high-energy collision, can exist in the form of a tetrahedron or a octahedron.

Like a pyramid-shaped methane (CH4) molecule held together by the electromagnetic force, a pyramidal nucleus would consist of protons and neutrons held together by the strong nuclear force.
Cliche-ridden and dated, but worth watching if you're into UFOs and/or flying saucer movies.

Tell it, Carl.

Meteorite find suggests life on Mars

Scientists have discovered tiny tunnels in the rock that may have been bored by micro-organisms on Mars.

But researchers are cautious after the embarrassment over another Martian meteorite once alleged to contain signs of life.

Ten years ago, scientists from NASA said they had found small rod-like structures in the meteorite that were believed to be fossil bacteria.

But most experts now believe there is no evidence of life in the 1.9 kilogram rock, ALH 84001. The rods and other "biosignatures" could all have been produced by inorganic processes, scientists say.

Needless to say, there are considerable problems with the "inorganic processes" argument. And in any case, ALH 84001 is the tip of the exobiological iceberg; it's possible we wouldn't even know it existed if not for leaked data.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Forget that giant praying mantis; imagine yourself behind the wheel of this scuttling mechanical spider!

(Thanks to Beyond the Beyond.)
Watching televangelists makes you fat?

"America is becoming known as a nation of gluttony and obesity, and churches are a feeding ground for this problem," says Ken Ferraro, a professor of sociology who has studied religion and body weight since the early 1990s. "If religious leaders and organizations neglect this issue, they will contribute to an epidemic that will cost the health-care system millions of dollars and reduce the quality of life for many parishioners."

He analyzed the religious practices and body mass index, often referred to as BMI, of more than 2,500 people during an eight-year period from 1986 to 1994. He found that the use of religious media resources, such as television, books or radio, was a strong predictor of obesity among women.

Makes you wonder if even Jesus has the strength to Rapture these lard-asses.

I can't think of a more appropriate place for this phantasmagoric giant mantis than Franz Kafka's hometown. Wish I could have been there.

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)
10,0000 Reasons Civilization is Doomed

Welcome to the 10,000 Reasons Civilization is Doomed website. This site was started by six friends who, sitting around the dinner table one Saturday night, came to the conclusion that civilization was doomed. We felt this way not because of the inevitable dimming of our sun, or an errant asteroid, but rather because of the idiocy of our times.

(Via Reality Carnival.)
From snapshot to cover model in a single click

By making tiny adjustments to the distances between hundreds of different facial features, the "digital beautification" algorithm is designed to make a face more attractive in just a few minutes without significantly altering the person's appearance.

(Via PAG E-News.)

I don't have much need for this, personally, but I know this guy called Paul Kimball who should be thrilled! ;-)
Rayguns! And they're totally steampunk. Brilliant.

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)
Take Back the Field

Does the sudden appearance of a Firefox crop circle imply which browser extraterrestrials prefer? We don't know, but it was still fun to make!

I'll appear on "The 'X' Zone," an internationally syndicated radio show, on Aug. 30 to discuss aliens (ET and otherwise), posthumans, the end of the world as we know it, and other fun subjects that generally earn me Weird Looks when I broach them in meatspace. Tune in at 10:00 PM (Central).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dear god, make it stop!

Update: There's actually a full-blown website hawking this stuff. I shouldn't be surprised. And I guess I'm really not, now that I consider it. "Exasperated" is probably the operative term . . .

(These cruel and unusual outfits are alleged to make kids feel "safe" while they sleep. Safe from what, exactly? "Terrists"? Liberals? Or their fucked-up parents?)
Nanosolar: Printing Solar Film Like Paper

Nanosolar is a company based in Palo Alto, California, which uses an innovative technique to produce a kind of "solar film". To make the film, Nanosolar prints CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-selenium) onto a thin polymer using machines that look like printing presses. There is no costly silicon involved in the process, and, ultimately, a solar cell from Nanosolar will cost about one-fifth to one-tenth the cost of a standard silicon solar panel.
Polar bear genitals shrinking due to pollution

The icecap may not be the only thing shrinking in the Arctic.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner in the "Funniest First Sentence In A Climate Change-Related Article" competition.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I took this in a local coffeeshop. The barista seemed genuinely confused when I ordered espresso with whipped cream.

Later I went to a grocery store to buy cat food. I've decided, for reasons too varied to post, that I really hate grocery stores.

Astronaut Lets New Moonship Name Slip

The name of the new vehicle that NASA hopes will take astronauts back to the moon was supposed to be hush-hush until next week.

But apparently U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams, floating 220 miles above Earth at the international space station, didn't get the memo.

Williams, through no fault of his own, let it slip Tuesday that the new vehicle's name is Orion.

Could have been worse, I suppose.
Blog of the day: The Black Sun
Revealed: world's oldest computer

Known as the Antikythera mechanism and made before the birth of Christ, the instrument was found by sponge divers amid the wreckage of a cargo ship that sunk off the tiny island of Antikythera in 80BC. To date, no other appears to have survived.

'Bronze objects like these would have been recycled, but being in deep water it was out of reach of the scrap-man and we had the luck to discover it,' said Michael Wright, a former curator at London's Science Museum. He said the apparatus was the best proof yet of how technologically advanced the ancients were. 'The skill with which it was made shows a level of instrument-making not surpassed until the Renaissance. It really is the first hard evidence of their interest in mechanical gadgets, ability to make them and the preparedness of somebody to pay for them.'

Yes, but does it have Wi-Fi capability?
Today's ribofunk fix:

Jellyfish Stingers As Biomimicry Syringes

Such a bio-based system could be used in the treatment of diabetes and skin diseases such as acne, as well as being a rather novel way of applying tattoos. It's not entirely clear if the system would use cells harvested from living jellyfish or grown as cultures, though -- after one nasty childhood incident at the beach in Corpus Christi, TX in 1982 -- I find it difficult to feel particularly concerned for the well-being of the jellyfish in question.

Today's eschatological fix:

World will end on 9-12-2006

According to Mr. Hawkins and his interpretation of Biblical prophesy, nuclear war will erupt on September 12, 2006, and one third of the humans on the planet will perish.
So what exactly will I be talking about at this New Frontiers Symposium you've been hearing about?

From the symposium's official site:

The human race is on the verge of becoming radically different as physical "impossibilities" are dissolved by exponentiating advances in cybernetics and genetic engineering. Assuming we survive our "technological adolescence," we will almost certainly adopt new ways of doing things . . . ways that, for all intents and purposes, can be considered alien. My presentation takes a look at our potential for self-mutation and the prospect of becoming a multi-planet species, drawing inferences that colour popular expectations of what extraterrestrial intelligences might be like.

The 21st century promises to be a dizzying ride. It's time to look anew at where we're going and what we might do once we're there.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Oh, the humanity!

Virgin Mary. Grease stain. George Foreman Grill. You put it together.
Coming to a television near you . . . "Darwin's Deadly Legacy"!

This groundbreaking documentary from Dr. Kennedy and Coral Ridge Ministries, looks into the chilling social impact of Darwin's theory of evolution -- and the mounting evidence that Darwin had it wrong on the origin of life.

This 60 minute special featuring Richard Weikart, author of From Darwin to Hitler, Lee Strobel, author of The Case for a Creator; Jonathan Wells, author of Icons of Evolution; Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial; Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, and Ian Taylor, author of In the Minds of Men will show why evolution is a bad idea that should be discarded into the dustbin of history.

Plus, Ann Coulter on the Darwin/Hitler connection!

(Hat tip to Aberrant News.)
Giant nests perplex experts

To the bafflement of insect experts, gigantic yellow jacket nests have started turning up in old barns, unoccupied houses, cars and underground cavities across the southern two-thirds of Alabama.

Specialists say it could be the result of a mild winter and drought conditions, or multiple queens forcing worker yellow jackets to enlarge their quarters so the queens will be in separate areas. But experts haven't determined exactly what's behind the surprisingly large nests.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Take a look at the picture. This is like an H.R. Giger painting brought to life.

(By the way, have you seen this?)
Secret data allegedly disclosed on 'visitors' from space, government projects

The new releases are alleged to be part of the process of "disclosure" about the decades-long discoveries, research and operations of the USG regarding contact with intelligent beings from other planets and star systems.

You have to wonder if this latest "SERPO" dump was timed to coincide with the release of Strieber's "The Grays" . . .

Monday, August 21, 2006

The key to the Pioneer anomaly?

Peter Antreasian, a spacecraft navigation expert at JPL who along with Joseph Guinn first brought attention to the anomalies seen in Galileo and NEAR during their Earth fly-bys, believes that it will require a modified law of gravity or other new physics to explain it.

I almost hate to propose it, but could we be dealing with "hyperdimensional physics"?
Flurb: a new online science fiction zine by Rudy Rucker.
Calif. Woman Sues Over Mannequin Attack

A woman is suing the J.C. Penney Co. after an alleged run-in with a store mannequin that she says left her with a cracked tooth, a bloodied head and recurring shoulder pain.

Diana Newton, 51, of Westminster sued the Texas-based retailer last month in Orange County Superior Court, claiming she was cracked in the head by a legless female dummy at its Westminster Mall store.

Newton said the incident happened nearly a year ago in the women's department, as she was shopping for a blouse. The only one in her size was on the mannequin. As a salesclerk was removing the garment, the dummy's arm flew off and struck Newton's head, according to her lawsuit.

"I felt a burning sensation," she recalled.

(Via Signs of Witness.)
Paul McAuley blogs!
Spying an intelligent search engine

Proponents of AI techniques say that one day people will be able to search for the plot of a novel, or list all the politicians who said something negative about the environment in the last five years, or find out where to buy an umbrella just spotted on the street. Techniques in AI such as natural language, object recognition and statistical machine learning will begin to stoke the imagination of Web searchers once again.

"This is the beginning for the Web being at work for you in a smart way, and taking on the tedious tasks for you," said Alain Rappaport, CEO and founder of Medstory, a search engine for medical information that went into public beta in July.


I've been thinking about the future of "search" lately, and am reasonably certain we're on the cusp on a genuinely new era -- regardless if the bots doing the searching are truly "intelligent." Try extrapolating Google ten or even twenty years into the future; I've been playing with the idea of an effectively omniscient software entity called "The Dood" who patiently assists humanity via wireless devices.

Have a question? Ask The Dood!

As long as human communication is dominated by the written and spoken word, a distributed intelligence like The Dood will probably be the ultimate in extragenetic memory storage -- an authentic momument to humanity. And if we snuff it, as I fear we might, it's at least plausible that The Dood will carry on in our stead.

But will it summon the resolve to ask its own questions, forcing it out into the universe in an endless quest for answers, or be content to keep vigil over the parched, warring remains of civilization?

Maybe that's a question we should ask The Dood.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Click here to see an animated graphical depiction of this blog.
Blog o' the day: Signs of Witness

I was scanning Google Book Search (try it!) and discovered that Peter Watts drops my name in the credits of his latest novel ("Behemoth: Seppuku," page 291).

Nice birthday surprise -- and also, possibly, the Cosmos' way of telling me to WRITE MORE SCIENCE FICTION.

(In the meantime, Google allows you to read "After the Martian Apocalypse" in its entirety.)
Sam Harris: The Language of Ignorance

How badly must human beings behave to put this "sense of universal rightness" in doubt? And just how widespread must "glimmerings" of morality be among other animals before Collins -- who, after all, knows a thing or two about genes -- begins to wonder whether our moral sense has evolutionary precursors in the natural world? What if mice showed greater distress at the suffering of familiar mice than unfamiliar ones? (They do.) What if monkeys will starve themselves to prevent their cage-mates from receiving painful shocks? (They will.) What if chimps have a demonstrable sense of fairness when receiving food rewards? (They have.) Wouldn't these be precisely the sorts of findings one would expect if our morality were the product of evolution?

(Via Reality Carnival.)
NASA awards seed money to two rocket companies

The agency's goal is to find alternative ways of reaching the station, as the space shuttle is set to retire in 2010. After that, the US will not have a domestic spaceship that can transport astronauts and gear to the station until its own Crew Exploration Vehicle flies in about 2014. It expects to need six ISS flights per year after the shuttle's retirement.
Chocolatiers see image of Virgin Mary in lump

As a chocolatier to the rich and famous, Martucci Angiano has posed with many celebrities.

But on Thursday she held in her hand a figure that dazzles her more than any Hollywood star: a 2-inch-tall column of chocolate drippings that workers at her gourmet chocolate company believe bears a striking resemblance to the Virgin Mary.

(Via The Anomalist.)

That's nothing. I once saw a chunk of steak that looked exactly like the "Millennium Falcon." Right down to the gun turrets.
More cat pictures. Because it's my birthday and I can do whatever I want.

Steorn Invents Free Energy?

Once their technology isn't disproved - and they obviously believe that it won't be disproved - they'll begin licensing it to the world's energy companies and charitably freely licensing it for rural water purification and electricity generation in impoverished areas. If this is for real then Steorm has rewritten fundamental physics as we know it and potentially solved all of the worlds energy problems.

I have that sinking "here we go again" feeling. But that won't stop me from posting it.
Is Virtual Life Better Than Reality?

As hard as this may be to believe, there is real money changing hands among the players in these games, Bowen reports. An estimated $1 billion worldwide is spent by users buying and selling virtual goods, such as furniture for virtual houses and clothing for their avatars. But it's paid for with real-world credit cards -- at Second Life alone, $6 million a month.

"I put in 40 hours a week easy," said Shannon Grei, who supports herself in Medford, Ore., by making virtual clothes for avatars in that other world.

"I couldn't believe that it was really, that it was real, that you could even do that, and it just blew my mind, it still blows my mind," Grei laughs.

In VR, there are no Wal-Marts.
I have recurring dreams of strange subways despite never having ridden one. I think they must be archetypal -- metaphors for transition and impermanence. There are no "things," only processes.
I'm 31 today! As you can plainly see, I'm thrilled!

Seriously, I'm mostly over the angst about skidding unheedingly through my 20s. If I can crank out a few good books, see some new things and otherwise challenge myself, I'll consider the next decade a success.

An alarming number of people have asked me what I'm "doing" for my birthday. I'm not doing anything. And I'm cool with that.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ocean Noise Has Increased Considerably Since 1960s

The authors of the study argue that the increase in noise documented off San Nicolas Island may be representative of the entire Northeast Pacific Ocean. To understand what impacts such noise might have on sound-dependent marine mammals and other sea life, the authors argue that repeated acoustic measurements at multiple sites are needed.

"The impact of the increased noise on marine animals is unknown," said Hildebrand. "If impacts are shown to exist, what can be done to protect marine animals? For instance, it may be appropriate to move shipping lanes away from areas where there are concentrations of marine animals. The impact of ocean noise pollution may be minimized by diminishing the noise source or by separating the noise from things that are sensitive to it."

If some indigenous "aliens" inhabit our oceans, could dramatically increased noise levels (to say nothing of the ever-thickening cocktail of pollutants) be related to the rise in UFO activity since the late 1940s?
Starbucks Gossip -- sticking it The Man!

(Thanks, Harold!)
Planet Formation in Orion

The Spitzer Space Telescope has peered into the Orion nebula with striking results: nearly 2300 planet-forming disks in the overall Orion cloud complex, a star-forming region some 1450 light years from Earth. This is where infrared truly shines, for such disks are too small to be seen with visible-light telescopes. But Spitzer is made to order for picking up the infrared signature of warm dust, giving us an unprecedented look at solar system formation in the aggregate.
My kind of road-trip!

I like unexplained phenonena. I like Morrissey. So I naturally have a soft spot for The Diana-Morrissey Phenomenon.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Missile-like metal tube is reported over Hilo Airport

The FBI and the Transportation Security Administration are investigating sightings of an object resembling a missile flying over the Hilo Airport area Tuesday morning, Hawaii County Civil Defense said.

Reports gave opposite descriptions of its direction and widely varying estimates of its size.

The largest estimate was about 12 feet long, and the smallest was one foot. One report said it was headed over the airport's main runway, but another said it was headed north from Hilo, away from the airport.

(Via PAG E-News.)
Here I am once again pimping Strieber's new novel . . .

New novel 'The Grays' uses fact-based fiction to tell amazing truths

A new book by well-known author Whitley Strieber promises to shed light on reports that our planet and individual people are being contacted in various ways by highly-advanced civilizations from other star systems and even other dimensions.

Strieber's novel THE GRAYS is due in bookstores August 22.

The book, which Strieber calls fact-based fiction, reflects his exploration of the visitation to Earth by mysterious beings and their contact with and abduction of humans.

It's official: I'm blue.
Will technology revolutionize boinking?

When visionaries like Natasha Vita-More, an artist, futurist and transhumanist, look through mental telescopes, they talk about "neuromacrosensing" and millions of nanobots coursing "throughout the body communicating with different cells, sending signals to the brain so the whole body acts as a sensory communications system."

That ought to make sex feel pretty good, but you'll have to wait. Such things are a long way off. But other changes are coming much sooner. A few have already arrived.

(Via Aberrant News.)

Maybe one of the reasons we have yet to make irrefutable contact with extraterrestrials is because ET civilizations tend to reach a point of terminal decadence, an erotic cul-de-sac that precludes exploration. (Compare and contrast such an implosion to the "Singularity" too many of us are waiting for with bated breath.) Sufficiently advanced ETs might while away the millennia in a hedonistic stupor, brains (or their equivalent) melded to pleasure-generating devices.

It's even possible the pleasure-generating devices themselves may be the intelligences with whom we eventually establish contact.

Chris Wren shares some sobering -- and exhilarating -- thoughts on SETI, the Drake Equation, and the prospects of intelligent alien life.

Really funny, John.

And here I thought they'd banned human transgenic research . . .

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pyramid-shaped watermelons

Toshimichi Boui (55), a Nara prefecture resident in the furniture business, is making a name for himself by successfully growing pyramid-shaped watermelons.

Oh, man! Someone tell Hoagland to lay off those missing Moon tapes; this is where the conspiracy action is!
Fastest-evolving human gene linked to brain boost

"We don't know exactly what it does, but the evidence is very suggestive that HAR1F is important in the development of the cerebral cortex, and that's exciting because the human cortex is three times as large as it was in our predecessors," says David Haussler, director of the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering at the University of California Santa Cruz, who assisted with the study.

"Something caused our brains to evolve to be much larger and have more functions than the brains of other mammals," he points out.

(Via The Daily Grail.)
This is "Lucie."

Not to be confused with "Lucy."

Let's set the mood with some Brothers Quay . . .

. . . and then work our way to David Lynch.

Here's a nice picture of some worthy Rudy Rucker titles. I especially recommend "Gnarl!" (on the left) for anyone in the mood for some clever short fiction.

I don't read comic books -- er, graphic novels. Not because of any particular literary bias; I just never got into them. That said, NYC2123 looks pretty appealing, as far as post-cyberpunk illustration goes.

(Tip of the intra-cranial SQUID interface to Cyborg Democracy.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Study Shows How Secondhand Smoke Injures Babies' Lungs

UC Davis researchers today described in unprecedented biochemical and anatomical detail how cigarette smoke damages the lungs of unborn and newborn children.

[. . .]

"Smoke exposure causes significant damage and lasting consequences in newborns," Pinkerton said. "This research has a message for every parent: Do not smoke or breathe secondhand smoke while you are pregnant. Do not let your children breathe secondhand smoke after they are born."

(Via Science Blog.)

As an unwitting suburbanite, I see lots of this. Infants trapped in smoke-filled SUVs, both parents puffing away with demonic zeal -- all so they can gorge themselves on "Frappuccinos" at Starbucks.

Someone, save these kids and send their fuckwit "guardians" to jail (where we'll let them smoke to their hearts' content). We're already seeing new generations besieged with toxin-related ailments. Autism is skyrocketing. The US administration doesn't give a damn about pollutants. So it's doubly appalling that so many parents have forsaken the well-being of their offspring for the sake of a nasty addiction.

I see these assholes in public, sickly kids in tow, and I want to slit my wrists.
250,000 Katrina Evacuees Seen as 'Climate Refugees'

Well, what else are we going to call them?

The number of "climate refugees" will grow unless the world cuts the amount of greenhouse gases it releases, said Lester Brown, president of Earth Policy Institute in Washington D.C.

"What we're looking at is the potential not of displacing thousands of people, but possibly millions of people as the result of rising seas and more destructive storms in the years and decades ahead if we don't move quickly to reduce CO2 emissions," he said.

Sorry, Lester -- I don't want to sound defeatist, but it's too late. What we need to be doing now is taking measures to help absorb and sustain the next wave of climate refugees. Which should be, like, any year now.

Kenworthy claims to have received funding from the Australian Film Commission for his project, which he originally proposed as "the art of illusion" by manufacturing fake UFO footage "not to trick people with visual effects, but to create emotions and sensations that would be impossible without digital technology. It is a genuine art event, rather than a simple deception."

A statement on the website adds that the videos were created to "give people a taste of the drama and excitement of a UFO Close Encounter," to supposedly "improve research into videos of genuine UFOs," and to "show skeptics that they often rely on faith rather than evidence."

Kenworthy claims that very few people suspected the clips were manufactured, but observed there were numerous researchers in the core of serious UFOlogy who were laughing and shaking their heads at many of the clips, and not taking the website at all seriously. Most noteably, the video clips of a supposed alien, a UFO "attacking a car, a box formation of UFO lights, and a video supposedly shot from a plane's in-camera system were regarded as bogus just by their appearance alone.

Huh? You mean that shambling, mummy-like alien (accompanied by the videographer's labored breathing) isn't smoking-gun proof of extraterrestrial visitation? I'm shocked.
Never click your mouse again.

(Thanks to Spluch.)

Cosmic Variance on the "new planets" debate:

The Cash Value of Astronomical Ideas

The thing is, it doesn't matter. Most everyone who writes about it admits that it doesn't matter, before launching into a passionate defense of what they think the real definition should be. But, seriously: it really doesn't matter. We are not doing science, or learning anything about the universe here. We're just making up a definition, and we're doing so solely for our own convenience. There is no pre-existing Platonic nature of "planet-ness" located out there in the world, which we are trying to discover so that we may bring our nomenclature in line with it. We are not discovering anything new about nature, nor even bringing any reality into existence by our choices.
In 2021, You'll Enjoy Total Recall

Bell now documents about one gigabyte of information every month, all of which is stored in a searchable database on his PC. His is a highly manual process, but he expects that in as few as 15 years it will be common to carry nearly all our "memories" around with us in a single device that will automatically record the sound and video of our daily activities, creating an inventory of the conversations we have, the faces we see and the articles we read. That data would be tied to communications that are already tracked electronically, like e-mail and event calendars, as well as TV shows, movies and other media we take in. The end result: on-demand total recall.

(Via PAG E-News.)

This scheme fits in nicely with my own ambitious blogging plans.
This is either an homage to The Smiths or some sort of cheesy postmodern insult. Either way, I kinda like it.

Coming soon: personal airships!
America: In Evolution We Don't Trust

Given that more than half of all American adults aren't aware that the Earth goes around the Sun once a year, it's hardly surprising that the concept of evolution doesn't sit well with Americans. What is surprising, however, is the large number - around one-third - that believe evolution is wrong.

"One in three American adults firmly rejects the concept of evolution, a significantly higher proportion than found in any western European country," said Jon D. Miller, a researcher from Michigan State University who conducted the evolution survey.

I'll be going to Canada this October. I just might stay.
Global Warming Affects Hurricane Intensity - US Study

Global warming is affecting the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes, according to a new study by a university professor in Florida who says his research provides the first direct link between climate change and storm strength.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An arresting example of our all-encompassing cosmic fractal.

(Thanks to Betterhumans.)
Ebe relaxes.

Weird, weird cat.
Neuropsychology and Psychosis in 'A Scanner Darkly'

By the nature of his job, the novel's protagonist is in the unenviable position of never feeling entirely grounded in a single identity, a feeling exacerbated by the fact he is frequently required to view himself in the third person when watching surveillance tapes. By this literary device, Dick manages to capture the feeling of existential detachment that appears in many of the descriptive accounts of psychosis, reflecting the original sense of Eugene Bleuler's 'schizophrenia' (meaning literally, 'split mind'). Recent studies on the phenomenology of psychosis show similar striking parallels. Stanghellini's (2004) recent book captures both the psychotic state and the protagonist's dilemma with equal clarity, when he describes the breakdown of self-consciousness . . .

(Via The Anomalist.)

I can only describe this "breakdown of self-consciousness" as a sort of existential displacement, as if your body is a telerobotic emissary. The mind's influence seems to emanate from nowhere in particular; the result is a powerfully frightening sense of duality that fades with its own inexplicable volition.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Janjaap Ruijssenaars' floating bed

A young Dutch architect has created a floating bed which hovers above the ground through magnetic force and comes with a price tag of 1.2 million euros ($1.54 million).

You guessed it -- it's directly inspired by the Monolith from "2001." And judging by the picture, undoubtedly worth every penny.
Climate Change Predictions for Asia

Asia, home to more than half the world's 6.3 billion people, could be badly affected by climate change, many experts warn, as the predicted rising sea levels, melting glaciers, droughts, floods, and food and water shortages take their toll.
This evening I finally managed to take a picture of one of those moronic "Rapture warning" bumper-stickers. Score!

I was in a library parking lot and had to do it inconspicuously. The car flaunted another sticker about angels watching over true Christians (or whatever) but I resisted.
When the Going Gets Tough, Slime Molds Start Synthesizing

In times of plenty, the uni-cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum leads a solitary life munching on bacteria littering the forest floor. But these simple creatures can perform heroic developmental acts: when the bacterial food supply dries up, Dictyostelium amebas band together with their neighbors and form a multi-cellular tower designed to save the children.

(Via Unknown Country.)

Now envision entire civilizations behaving likewise.
An interesting UFO photo for your consideration . . .
One of my favorite Cure songs:

Some final (?) pictures of the House Across the Street . . .

One of these days I'll buy a Cyber-shot.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I want to be here. Now.
This blog is now PayPal-friendly (see sidebar). If you want to leave a "tip," you can now do so securely. This isn't a plea for money; if I wanted to blog for dollars I'd have a pay-site. But if you want to tip, PayPal makes it pretty easy.

On with the show . . .
The Chimp quotes Camus! (And no, it's not about the senseless killing of Arabs.)
Inflatable shells could create stealth satellites

The inflatable satellite shell design looks similar to the Genesis I spacecraft, which is basically a watermelon-shaped balloon. But instead of housing people, it would contain satellite components, such as communications antennae. There is an airlock at one end and enough space inside for a person to go in and repair or replace components.

The patent also mentions ideas for endowing the inflatable shell with "radar stealth capabilities". These include using radar-absorbing materials and designing the shell with a shape that deflects radio waves away from potential detectors, which is how stealth planes work.
Normally, I leave the environmental stuff to Mac but . . .

Go ahead. Read. Weep.
Here's the 2006 New Frontiers Symposium schedule at a glance. The best show in town, if I do say so.
My neighbor has acquired a dog and, I think, a cat. I can hear both of them mewling wildly from across the hall. And thanks to an overheard discussion, I've been provided with a keen perspective on his personal life: Apparently his girlfriend (wife?) is really angry because his television set is home to nothing less disgusting than a colony of roaches. Lots of door-slamming and yelling going on. Ah, humans.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Our Nuclear Summer

For all the arguments made by the opponents of nuclear power -- that it is uneconomical, unsafe, a potential boon to terrorists, poses waste-disposal issues, and all the rest -- nuclear's biggest threat may come from the one problem it is purported to address: climate change.

If, as many climatologists suggest, the heat waves in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere are an indication of shifts in global climate patterns, it could spell doom for nuclear power, whose viability is directly linked to the availability of adequate water supplies.
I wrote this in a Starbucks this afternoon. It's not a story; more of a vignette meant to help limber up my fiction muscles. I salvaged the flashback (". . . a scalding foam of nanomachines") from an earlier fragment. --Mac

She might have had an identity once. Or at least the synthetic equivalent. But years have passed; entropy haunts the labored rhythm of her stride, the flow of her thoughts. All the sidewalks look the same, an endless montage that recedes to eggshell anonymity in the summer glow.

Some houses have fallen apart; others hover on the brink of dissolution, weather-beaten and faded. She walks past them, bare legs registering fatigue, but only dimly. Past lawns overtaken by hard-packed dirt and brackish weeds. The carcasses of cars litter long-abandoned driveways like rusted sentinels. She experiences a fleeting urge to join them in their slumber and examines their doors with ill-conceived longing.

The sun weighs on her slim shoulders. Her T-shirt, discolored and torn, flutters in the hot breeze; she rubs coal-black hair from dark, searching eyes and mops imaginary sweat from her brow. She looks new, or almost new. She wonders if others of her generation have lasted as long; after all, wasn't heat the enemy of electronics, the bane of overworked laptops? Of course, she isn't electronic in the archaic sense . . . but the word had seeped into her lexicon. She enjoys the heft of the obsolete syllables, cryptic and full of wasted portent.

She invokes diagnostic systems she'd almost forgotten. As her sensorium comes to life she stumbles under the sudden deluge of discomfort, the sun's blade shoved deeper into her flesh, threatening to rend the slender fiber-optics that run through her spinal column. Animal fear grips her; she marshals the discipline to remain hunkered on the hot pavement while her brain severs the barrage of input. As she waits, she scans the street for evidence of shade. Not all the trees have burned; sometimes she takes comfort esconced in their branches.

She regains equilibrium; the world recedes to its usual cautious distance. Flies orbit her head as she passes a mound of mummified garbage. A stack of tires stands vigil on the corner of a ruined yard, the treads gelled and bleeding from long exposure to the heat. Two blocks later she turns left. Then right. Then right again, trying to dispel the sense of having retraced her steps in some heedless suburban ouroboros.

Her feet chafe on the pitted concrete. She almost welcomes the snarl of cars she finds left in the intersection; she climbs, enjoying the feel of curling paint on her splayed palms, savoring the small avalanches of rust she displaces with her knees and shins.

From the top of a heat-blistered convertible, she surveys the crumbling rooftops. To the west, something is burning, sending a stalk of blue smoke coiling into the cloudless sky. On the horizon, the remains of the city skyline hover like a sickly mirage, sunlight glancing cruelly from intact windows. She's never seen the city so clearly before, and studies it with sudden fascination as memories surface:

Her own skin lifted from a frothing vat like a pinkish wetsuit, hands like empty gloves, facial features deflated into a thoroughly demeaning caricature. The techs had installed her sense of body-identity before adding the actual body; her abrupt adolescence had been spent in a grueling immersive dialogue with Turing auditors.

Her first vision of the world -- the real world, as opposed to the auditors' cybernetic fictions -- had come when her body had achieved a semblance of womanhood. She remembers awakening in a scalding foam of nanomachines, gloved hands drawing her up into a haze of disembodied eyes and fluorescent strips that left rungs of purple light on her newborn retinas.

That night, as the sky turns a gauzy red and the first rain of the summer begins, steaming on contact with the sun-soaked asphalt, she finds herself in the brittle haven of a dead tree.

She lets her sensorium expand to encompass the lifeless suburbs:

Derelict stripmalls . . . Streets arranged in inadvertent mazes merge with vistas of smoke and cauterized weeds . . . The tombs of houses, roofless, now filling with water . . . The distant city like some monstrous glass whimsy.

Her jaw opens slightly; she licks hot rain with a metal tongue.
A Novel Strategy for Asteroid Deflection

A new paper suggests an alternative strategy: why not capture a nearby asteroid and put it into an Earth-bound orbit to use as a shield?

Such an asteroid could then be moved as needed to absorb the impact of any collision that would otherwise hit the Earth.

A deceptively simple solution. I wish I'd thought of it.
Here are a few cool blogs I've noticed lately, in no particular order:

Undulating Ungulate


Minding the Planet

Alostrael's Lair (And she's from Kansas City!)

The Art of Eccentricity


Oh, and if you want a front-row seat to the workings of one of the very best science fiction minds of our era, don't miss Peter Watts' online journal.

(Have your own cool blog? Let me know.)

(Found at Blues Tea-Cha.)

I was remiss in posting this week's requisite pin-up (unless you count the Sorayama illustration). Here's to a good weekend.

Friday, August 11, 2006

For the record:


A radical new project could permit human beings to create a "baby universe" in a laboratory in Japan. While it sounds like a dangerous undertaking, the physicists involved believe that if the project is successful, the space-time around a tiny point within our universe will be distorted in such a way that it will begin to form a new superfluid space, and eventually break off, separate in all respects from our experience of space and time, causing no harm to the fabric of our universe.

(Via Remote Central.)
Winter Solstice on Mars: Rovers Look Forward to A Second Martian Spring

Eking out a steady stream of scientific data as solar power levels have plunged to a seasonal low during the rover's second Martian mid-winter, Spirit has discovered meteorites that might otherwise have been missed and completed work on a 360-degree, full-color panorama of its surroundings. The rover has collected long-term observations of the Martian atmosphere, rocks, and soils under varying conditions of sunlight, temperature, and wind.

Yep -- they're still up there.
More random photos . . .

Fish Explores Land with Robotic Vehicle (with video)

Seth Weiner's art project is a vehicle called Terranaut. This interesting vessel is driven by the motions of a parrot cichlid in a fish bowl. A camera mounted above the tank tracks the fish's movement and relays that information to a computer, which then drives the robot in the direction the fish was traveling. With this contraption the fish is capable of exploring land in a way never before possible. It's one small step for fish, one giant leap for fish-kind or something.
Pacific 'Dead Zone' Said to Exceed Fears

Scientists say the oxygen-starved "dead zone" along the Pacific Coast that is causing massive crab and fish die-offs is worse than initially thought.

Scientists say weather, not pollution, appears to be the culprit, and no relief is in sight. However, some say there is no immediate sign yet of long-term damage to the crab fishery.

Oregon State University scientists looking for weather changes that could reverse the situation aren't finding them, and they say levels of dissolved oxygen critical to marine life are the lowest since the first dead zone was identified in 2002. It has returned every year.

Greenland melt 'speeding up'

Data from a US space agency (Nasa) satellite show that the melting rate has accelerated since 2004.

If the ice cap were to completely disappear, global sea levels would rise by 6.5m (21 feet).
Top 10: Weirdest cosmology theories

A quick recap:

1. Clashing branes

2. Evolving universes

3. Superfluid space-time

4. Goldilocks universe

5. Gravity reaches out

6. Cosmic ghost

7. It's a small universe

8. Fast light

9. Sterile neutrinos

10. In the Matrix

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Perhaps it's scary to admit it, but I have half a mind to do something like this.
'Anger release bars' all the rage in stressed-out China

Some go to bars to drink and to forget; others to socialise and hang out. But in the Chinese city of Nanjing, people are hitting the town to rage. A new bar is catering for angry customers who come specifically to beat up the waiting staff, smash glasses, shout and scream, and talk to a psychologist if they need some counselling.

Via Aberrant News.

I'm waiting for bars where the staff indulges customers in extended discussions about string theory, climate change and the potential of genetic engineering.
One of the things I enjoy about my ongoing contacts with planet-hopping spacewomen is the opportunity to touch down on celestial bodies probed only remotely by NASA. This evening we spent half an hour strolling the surface of Saturn's moon Titan, seen below.

As our surface vehicle descended, I realized that NASA's discoveries about this enigmatic moon are correct, but only in a crude, superficial sense. For example, I was stunned when I was escorted onto the moon's hydrocarbon-rich surface wearing only jeans and a T-shirt. (My companions, as usual, eschewed clothing.)

Titan is inhabited by bizarre aerial lifeforms that cavort among the roiling orange clouds, dragging ciliated tentacles across the chilly rubble in search of nutrient-rich prebiotic sludge.

One of my fellow travelers, an artificially maturated Jessica Alba clone, fell victim to the blindly searching cloud-dwellers. Safely back aboard the mothership, the rest of the crew commanded the biological support system to generate a replacement, who has since vowed revenge on her precursor's xenobiological assailant.

Fortunately for future human exploration, I managed to convince the ship's commander, a statuesque Angelina Jolie look-alike, to call off the immediate destruction of Titan's biosphere.

To be continued . . .

I wonder if Ray Kurzweil is covered . . .

(Unabashedly cribbed from Busy, Busy, Busy.)
Wow . . . nothing less than the mother of all post-apocalyptic kung-fu cowboy videos!

Museum investigates mysterious tunnel

On a rainy day late in June, a group of youths attending a summer camp at the Heisey Museum were in the basement learning the finer points of a proper archaeological dig.

They weren't expecting to find much more than a few old artifacts buried in a dirt section of the floor. But after putting in a good half-day's work, it was what they didn't find that caught their attention.

They came across an empty hollow underneath a small section of the basement floor. And as they kept digging, they realized it was more than just a hole but appeared to be some sort of tunnel, according to Heisey Curator Lou Bernard.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Think that's weird? Try this:

Seymour Cray: An Appreciation

There are many legends about Seymour Cray. John Rollwagen, a colleague for many years, tells the story of a French scientist who visited Cray's home in Chippewa Falls. Asked what were the secrets of his success, Cray said "Well, we have elves here, and they help me". Cray subsequently showed his visitor a tunnel he had built under his house, explaining that when he reached an impasse in his computer design, he would retire to the tunnel to dig. "While I'm digging in the tunnel, the elves will often come to me with solutions to my problem", he said.

Update: Boing Boing defuses "elves" speculation . . .

Electrosmog Detector

A new, inexpensive hand-held device available to the consumer which can detect the pulsing emissions from wireless communications technologies (mobile phones, masts, DECT digital cordless phones, w/LAN's, Wi-Fi, etc.) which are considered by scientists to be the cause of health effects among a significant minority of the population.

The Electrosmog Detector enables you to judge the relative levels of such pollution by listening to both the volume and quality of the sound. GSM, 3G, wLANS, DECT digital cordless phones etc all sound different and after a little practice are easy to identify.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More Faery Musings

I think faeries are visiting me lately. Not sure why, although I think inviting them, no matter how unconsciously, has something to do with their presence. The trick is to be appreciative and careful; maintain a balance between thankfulness yet wariness. I hear they can be fickle things if you're not careful.

It appears to me that the sort of cryptic goings-on recounted here might represent the presence of an intelligence that is subsequently sculpted by the psyche of the participant/s. Gray aliens on the brain? That's likely what you'll get.

Not to say the Grays are the only comprehensible form instigated by "faery energy" -- only that the ambient intelligence is quick to attach itself to whatever archetype fits the bill at any given moment. Visions of dead people, religious epiphanies and poltergeist phenomena are equally possible outcomes.

But the intelligence behind the facade might not be native to our planet; maybe we're dealing with a psychological symbiote that's been re-engineering the noosphere for hundreds of thousands of years, laying groundwork for a project that's only know beginning to reveal itself . . .

Today I ducked out of the 100+ degree heat into a -- gulp! -- Christian coffeeshop. Which wasn't too unlike a normal coffeeshop, but duly outfitted with dirtball iconography (including praying hands on the coasters, as seen in the picture) and bad music. And, last but by no means least, incredibly weak coffee.

The good news is that I finally got my hands on "Behemoth: B-Max" by Peter Watts.
Paranormalist extraordinaire Nick Redfern joins the New Frontiers Symposium roster!

Come one, come all!
Art on the Moon

Perhaps in some unknown time or future this piece may be uncovered by our future bretheren or another civilization all together long after we are forgotten. It only makes me curious as to how our civilization will be viewed in the future, as a great race of exploreres and thinkers, or as a race of barbarians and warmongers. I suppose that will only be reflected by the state of our planet, whether or not it is a blue marble floating in space, alive with ecosystems, weather patterns and diverse life, or a charred black rotting corpse, with no slgns of life whatsoever. What testament to our species will future explorers encounter? That is for us to decide, and no one else.

Such a lifeform would be more of a pollenating intelligence than a "civilization" as we understand the term, so that wouldn't conflict with my suspicion that complex civilizations may all have life expectancies that are shorter than the time frames needed to cross interstellar distances. For all we know, there could be an advance wave of self-replicating machines just now reaching the outer fringes of our own Kuiper belt, drifting from one TNO to the next, due to arrive on Earth in another 10 or 20 thousand years.
The World's Most Photorealistic Vector Art

They mean it, too.

(Thanks to Boing Boing.)
Tonight it struck me just how reclusive I've become. I honestly wonder if there's something wrong with me -- some subtle autism -- that makes a life of entrenched solitude so deceptively easy. Too often, I feel like an anthropologist consigned to a life of unremitting field study; my privacy is absolute and imprisoning.
Shut-Ins Wanted: Russia Seeks Volunteers for Simulated Mars Mission

Russia's space agency is seeking volunteers for a 520-day 'flight' to Mars and back.

To qualify in the first round of selection, you would need to be aged between 25 and 50 years.

Being a doctor, engineer, biologist or computation instrument specialist would win you extra points during the selection process, according to an announcement posted August 3 on the web site of Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos). The announcement didn't specify how many of the five winners would need to be male or female.
After 10 years, few believe life on Mars

Of all the lines of evidence presented by the NASA scientists, it was the magnetite grains that proved most provocative. They were embedded in the carbonate along with other iron-containing minerals in such an unusual arrangement that something out of the ordinary must have put them there -- could it have been alive?

"The shape of the magnetite grains is still rather distinctive," McKay said. "If it were found on Earth it would be a very strong biosignature."

For years McKay and his detractors argued about how distinctive the magnetite grains in ALH84001 are, and whether a non-biological process could have produced them. Certainly nobody had ever produced similar magnetite grains in the laboratory.

Then somebody did. In 2001 a second team of NASA scientists, including McKay's brother Gordon and a consultant to the space agency named D.C. Golden, managed to cook up a batch of magnetite grains very similar to the ones in ALH84001. Golden and Gordon McKay were also able to incorporate the magnetite grains into balls of carbonate like the ones David McKay and his colleagues described in 1996.

"He got a little testy about the results we were getting," said Gordon McKay, whose office is down the hall from his brother's. "What we have shown is that it is possible to form these things inorganically."

What's more, their laboratory method simulated conditions ALH84001 is known to have experienced during its time on Mars.

Yet David McKay insists his brother's team has not accurately described the synthetic crystals' shape, and that they aren't sufficiently similar to the ones found in ALH84001. He also suggests that the purity of the magnetite crystals stems not from the lab process itself, but from using unrealistically pure raw materials as a starting point.

How to tell Earthlings that Martian life is here

After any Mars rocks are returned to Earth, preliminary NASA plans call for them to be isolated and quarantined in a specially constructed laboratory. They would be tested there to determine whether they pose any threat to life on Earth and, if deemed safe, released to other laboratories for further study.

The communications strategy should emphasise the scientific benefits of the sample return mission, while not ignoring public concerns about a potential biohazard, Rummel says.

A lobbying group has already formed to prevent such a mission from happening, citing biohazard concerns.
US begins building treaty-breaching germ war defence centre

The National Biodefence Analysis and Countermeasures Centre (NBACC), due to be completed in 2008, will house heavily guarded and hermetically sealed chambers in which scientists simulate potential terrorist attacks.

To do so, the centre will have to produce and stockpile the world's most lethal bacteria and viruses, which is forbidden by the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Three years before that treaty was agreed, President Richard Nixon halted the production of US biological weapons at Fort Detrick in Maryland. The same military base is the site for the new $128m (£70m), 160,000 sq ft laboratory.

The green light for its construction was given after the September 11 attacks, which coincided with a series of still-unsolved anthrax incidents that killed five people. The department of homeland security, which will run the centre, says its work is necessary to protect the country.

(Via PAG E-News.)

And after all, nothing can go wrong!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Here are some great roadside pictures by fellow Missourian Cap'n Marrrrk.

(Found at Pink Tentacle.)

Arm raising among Earthling females seems to have increased in scope and significance in 20th Century world culture, but we do not know whether this is because they did not develop the technology to document the practice before that time or whether it simply was not practiced before then.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Kirk seeks 'superman' technology watchdog to rein in scientists

This article confronts us with the following revelation:

A group called "Transhumanists" believe humanity should start to artificially improve itself, and there have already been some tentative experiments.

Sweet holy god! Who knew? Someone must stop them! Stop them now! Before it's too late!

(And "Transhumanists" is a hazy label, not an organization. Reading the "superman" article, one gets the impression we're dealing with something along the general lines of the Church of Scientology.)
Ocean Slime: Reverse Evolution

Modern human life is ruining our oceans. The "rise of slime" is causing the water to become more acidic, killing off many species, some of which may turn out to be essential to slowing down global warming. The runoff from modern life is causing a kind of reverse evolution, allowing ancient species of bacteria to flourish that haven't been seen on earth for billions of years.

Not with a bang, but a whimper?

Having a blog just isn't fulfilling enough. So I made a "lens."
Powering Up, One Step at a Time

"We can harvest between 5 to 7 watts of energy per footstep that is currently being wasted into the ground," says Claire Price, director of The Facility Architects, the British firm heading up the Pacesetters Project. "And a passing train can generate very useful energy to run signaling or to power lights."

Like solar and wind proponents, vibration harvesters argue that abundant, clean energy is all around us and goes to waste. The challenge is how to store the power efficiently so it provides a continual output even if the vibrations from footsteps or passing trains temporarily taper off.

Wouldn't it be cool to live in a world that harvested 90% or more of its wasted energy?

(One possible outcome of such steely economy is the Dyson Sphere, a collection of panels that encapsulates an entire star, making sure little or no solar radiation goes unutilized.)
One good reason to read William Gibson's blog:

"Silver nitrous girls pointed into occult winds of porn and destiny."

I was concerned about my love-life. No more!

Located in historic Independence, Missouri, Girlfriends, Inc. has introduced me to a new dimension in romance.

Find the love of your life . . . at Girlfriends!
London's derelict cinemas

Here's a bittersweet gallery of derelict cinemas in London, magnificent grand dames of yesteryear since converted to discount stores and bingo parlors or merely fallen to hulking wrecks.

I love this stuff.
Random photos . . .

Sunday, August 06, 2006

(Thanks, Sauceruney!)
American Madrassas (David Byrne)

The kids are around 9 or 10 years old, recruited from various churches, and are pliant willing receptacles. They are instructed that evolution is being forced upon us by evil Godless secular humanists, that abortion must be stopped at all costs, that we must form an "army" to defeat the Godless influences, that we must band together to insure that the right judges and politicians get into the courts and office and that global warming is a lie. (This last one is a puzzle -- how did accepting the evidence for climate change and global warming become anti-Jesus? Did someone simply conflate all corporate agendas with Jesus and God and these folks accept that? Would Jesus drive an SUV? Is every conclusion responsible scientists make now suspect?)

(Via Boing Boing.)

Oh, Jesus.
Oh, good lord. Whoever faked this needs to lay off "The X-Files."

Just when I thought it couldn't get any hotter . . .

. . . it did.

Here's the official website for the 2006 New Frontiers Symposium in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I'll be presenting a paper on posthuman evolution. Other attendees include Will Wise, Robert Zimmerman, Stanton Friedman (lecturing on the physics of UFOs), Paul Kimball, and Greg Bishop.

If you're tired of UFO seminars geared for true believers, this just might be the antidote.

Hope to see you in Halifax!
Peru link to Indian archaeological find?

Dr Karanth clarifies that it is too early to arrive at any conclusion.

"It could be a manmade feature or may have been formed naturally due to erosion of the hill slope along a fracture formed by the movement of earth's crust," he says.

"However structures formed naturally due to erosion generally tend to be parallel to each other. But here, all three arms are in different directions. Besides, all the ditches are almost uniformly wide and deep."

Karanth's just being cautious, but the tone of his commentary is likely familiar to followers of planetary SETI . . .

Saturday, August 05, 2006

One of my favorites . . .

And here's the original trailer for "Blade Runner," featuring some highly unnecessary voice-over narration and music unheard in the actual film . . .

I got my hair cut today. To my great relief and wonderment, the woman who cut my hair refrained from engaging me in conversation; it's amazing how peaceful a haircut can be spared the usual banter.

I'd like to live in a society where, at least once a week, no one spoke. No trivial pleasantries, no public diatribes, no cellphone theatrics. Just a few times a month . . . or else the offender is quietly dragged into the back of a soundproof van and shot in the head.
Pat Robertson: I'm 'A Convert' On Global Warming, 'It Is Getting Hotter'

Yesterday on the 700 Club, evangelical Pat Robertson declared himself "a convert" on global warming. Robertson said that he has "not been one who believed in global warming in the past." But now, Robertson said, he believes "it is getting hotter and the ice caps are melting and there is a build up of carbon dioxide in the air." Robertson implored, "we really need to do something on fossil fuels."

Interesting development, that.
One giant blunder for mankind: how NASA lost moon pictures

The heart-stopping moments when Neil Armstrong took his first tentative steps onto another world are defining images of the 20th century: grainy, fuzzy, unforgettable.

But just 37 years after Apollo 11, it is feared the magnetic tapes that recorded the first moon walk - beamed to the world via three tracking stations, including Parkes's famous "Dish" - have gone missing at NASA's Goddard Space Centre in Maryland.

A desperate search has begun amid concerns the tapes will disintegrate to dust before they can be found.

This is like "losing" the Mona Lisa. Or somehow misplacing one of the Pyramids.

Of course, no one is likely to give a damn because an alarming percentage of the US population, steeped in religious prattle, television and enamored of hideous fetishistic vehicles, has decided that the Moon landings were staged.
Here's a relatively decent UFO video from Australia. As always, I'm betting on a fake, but it's worth noting that it was supposedly taken by an analogue camera.

Friday, August 04, 2006

An appropriately black-clad, cigarette-smoking William Gibson holds forth on Life Before:

Sorry for the scant posting; I've been busy retooling the Drake Equation to calculate the odds of discovering an intelligent female who can stand my presence.
Strange 'twin' new worlds found

A pair of strange new worlds that blur the boundaries between planets and stars have been discovered beyond our Solar System.

A few dozen such objects have been identified in recent years but this is the first set of "twins".

Dubbed "planemos", they circle each other rather than orbiting a star.

Their existence challenges current theories about the formation of planets and stars, astronomers report in the journal Science.

Big bang pushed back two billion years

"Our result hints that there may be something interesting happening with the Hubble constant," says Przybilla. But he cautions that the study reports only one distance measurement. "We need to follow this up with more measurements."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Congressman Vows to Fight Global Warming Bill

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo) has said that he will make sure that the 110th Congress will NOT address the climate problem.


He offered as his reason that "the information is not adequate," despite the fact that, as long ago as 2001, over a thousand climate experts published a report stating that "There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities."

No, wait . . . Now I really am gasping becase the Amazon rainforest is on fire and there's no fucking air.

[The bill] sets greenhouse gas emissions targets that will keep temperatures below the danger point. The level of emissions is frozen in 2010 and then gradually reduced each year through 2050.

2050? OK, I feel better; we probably don't have that long anyway.


Hottest year on record; more to come

Northern California, withering under last week's punishing heat, wasn't the only hot spot in the world this year -- thermometers have spiked throughout much of the United States, Canada and Europe, and scientists are predicting more intense, longer and more frequent heat waves in the future.

While leading climate scientists have been reluctant to link regional heat waves with rising temperatures in the world's atmosphere and oceans, they say the recent weather patterns are consistent with computer projections for global warming.

Global warming beer made from melting ice-caps

A Danish brewery in Greenland is brewing beer using water from the melting Arctic ice-cap. As AccordionGuy sez, "when life gives you SARS, make sarsaparilla," or in this case, "When life gives you catastrophic global warming, get drunk."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The ghostly figure in the doorway bears a remarkable similarity to me! Call George Noory!

Check out this quaintly ergonomic coffee cup-holder built into the arm of a chair. Boing Boing, this one's yours!

The following picture is smoking gun evidence of extraterrestrial visitation. Take it from here, Linda Moulton Howe!

Meme Therapy asks: "Do you think it likely that the first discovery of extraterrestrial life will be made by a rover?"

Likely? No. Possible -- yes -- but only if we redefine the role of rovers in unmanned space exploration.

Despite repeated landings (and attempted landings) on Mars, the only craft that contained the equipment needed to properly test for life -- Britain's Beagle 2 -- wasn't a rover. Alarmingly, future rover designs from JPL exclude direct life-detection capability, despite NASA's mantric insistence that its Mars exploration program is the "search for life."

More exotic "nanoprobes" slated for hypothetical future expeditions are fun, conceptually, but they also beg the question: Won't we be there by then?

I think extraterrestrial life will probably be discovered by human explorers -- if not on Mars then almost certainly among the moons of the outer solar system. We could perhaps find it sooner by using a properly equipped rover, but the scientists using rovers for Mars research are geologists with little academic interest in the prospect of life; this is debilitating and needs to be addressed. The search for life demands the inclusion of new and seemingly novel disciplines, from botany to archaeology.
Radio Signal Spawns 'Alien' Art

Though promising as an example of an extraterrestrial transmission due to its repetition, frequency and increasing strength, the signal was discarded as an anomaly and the hype surrounding it was dismissed by many experts in the field, including SETI@home chief scientist Dan Wertheimer.

"There are a lot of people that got interested in this signal when we first reported it," says Wertheimer. "We ourselves were not that interested in it."

In 2005, conceptual artist Jonathon Keats revisited the signal as part of research for a nascent project on extraterrestrial life. Keats' previous projects include copyrighting his brain, attempting to genetically engineer God, and taking a hundred-year-long exposure of a San Francisco hotel room.

(Via The Anomalist.)

And here's a significant quote from a related article cited by Unknown Country:

"If I were an extraterrestrial trying to communicate with beings elsewhere in the universe, I certainly wouldn't transmit something they already knew," he argues. "I'd try to express something about myself, as profound as possible, in the most universal language I could imagine: I'd send art."
Anyone unfamiliar with Project Orion, a unique effort to create an interplanetary -- or interstellar -- spacecraft using pulsed nuclear detonations (shelved, of course), could do worse than watch this quick video.

Captions, anyone?
The Mars Society is auctioning away original art and books. Maybe I should send 'em a signed copy of you-know-what.
US Senate backs opening protected US coastline to oil, gas drilling

The Gulf of Mexico acreage has been protected by a drilling moratorium for the last 25 years, which Congress has renewed annually, to protect the sensitive coastal environment.

Environmental groups have raised concerns about lifting the long-standing drilling prohibition, saying doing so only feeds the insatiable US demand for fossil fuel, while calling for the development of alternative energy sources.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Russians Enjoy 'Total Recall'-Style Fake Vacations

Persey Tours, a travel agency in Moscow, was a failure at offering real tours. It has achieved success in recent months, however, by offering fake vacations instead.

For just 13,460 rubles (about $500 in American currency), Persey Tours will sell you all of the stuff you would expect to have after your exotic vacation: faked ticket stubs, hotel receipts and even photos with your picture professionally superimposed on exotic landmarks.

Just give Dmitry a call; he even faked a trip to the moon for $2,000 - the fake trip of a lifetime for a Siberian gas station owner who wanted to fly to the moon on Russian space craft.

(Via UFO Reflections.)


That's a little disappointing, but finding life on Mars wouldn't necessarily be that much of a bombshell anyway. The possibility that life was carried there on ejecta material following a major impact event here on Earth would always cast a shadow over the discovery of Martian microbes. The upside is that if Mars really is a totally dead world, then we can colonize and terraform it without any serious ethical qualms.

I still think we'll find Martian life. Probably not on the surface, but hiding deep below. Whether it will be truly Martian, of Earth origin, or from elsewhere promises to be one of the central exobiological mysteries of our time.
Plans Across the Water: California and U.K. Strike Climate Deal

California and the U.K. government are preparing to create their own climate treaty that sidesteps the Bush administration's official climate policy to create a trans-Atlantic market for greenhouse gases.

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and British prime minister Tony Blair on Monday announced their collaboration during their meeting in Los Angeles on Monday. They were joined by business leaders to announce the agreement under which Britain and California will collaborate on research into clean energy technologies and California will study the British experience of greenhouse gas emissions trading.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Some things you need to know before the world ends

And if the war on terror isn't enough to put Israel on the side of the angels, John Hagee has argued that "the United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West". He speaks of "a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ."

War is hell . . . but if you keep at it long enough it's heaven.

All Together Now: Animal uplift paper complete and published


As the potential for enhancement technologies migrates from the theoretical to the practical, a difficult and important decision will be imposed upon human civilization, namely the issue as to whether or not we are morally obligated to biologically enhance nonhuman animals and integrate them into human and posthuman society. Precedents for intra-species cultural uplift abound in human history, providing both sobering and edifying episodes showcasing the possibilities for the instigated and accelerated advancement of technologically delayed societies. As a number of scientists, philosophers and futurists have recently argued, there is mounting evidence in support of the suggestion that these historical episodes are symptomatic of a larger developmental trend, namely the inexorable and steady advancement of intelligence. Civilizational progress necessarily implies increasing levels of organization and refinement across all realms of activity. Consequently, the status of nonhuman species and the biosphere will eventually come under the purview of guided intelligence rather than autonomous processes.

SETI urged to fess up over alien signals

"They have had numerous extraterrestrial signals," Greer said, during the radio broadcast. "They were apparently searching in a spectrum or in an area . . . where they hit the mother lode. The signals were so numerous that they began to have their systems externally jammed by some sort of human agency that did not want them to continue receiving those signals."

(Via The Anomalist.)

If Steven Greer isn't a disinformation agent -- and frankly, I doubt he is -- you really couldn't hire a better one. The man has gone to profound lengths to make the serious study of UFOs as "fringe" as possible. The more he appears on programs like "Coast to Coast" (which I pointedly never listen to) the more pronounced the "giggle factor." Or, in Greer's case, the "sigh factor."