Saturday, September 30, 2006

In a world teeming with unrepentant fuckwits, a little George Carlin always cheers me up.



(Found at Blues Tea-Cha.)




A couple notables on UFO UpDates have weighed in on my most recent op-ed post on the Face on Mars.

Click here for image processor Lan Fleming's take and here for optical physicist Bruce Maccabee's recommendations for future research.
Boing Boing find of the day:

Suspicious Looking Device exists to incite unease

The Suspicious Looking Device is a bright orange box with a countdown timer on the top. If you touch it, it lets out a loud siren and then scoots away on a set of hidden wheels. Its entire purpose is to look suspicious -- it has no other function.
Building glows blue with cosmic radiation

Called "Super Nova," the lighting system consists of 2,880 blue LEDs arranged in two columns spanning the height of the 18-story building’s west wall. The embedded lights are activated by sensors that detect cosmic rays. According to Takuro Osaka, the University of Tsukuba Graduate School professor who designed the system, the brightness of the blue lights fluctuates according to the intensity of the detected cosmic rays, giving the building an ever-changing magical glow.


Now all it needs is a Brian Eno soundtrack.
And while I'm posting homespun Reznor videos . . . well, it would be a crime to exclude this.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Here's one of my favorite NASA animations set to "Sunspots" by Nine Inch Nails. I've never been a Trent Reznor fan (when I'm in the mood for angst, Morrissey does just fine, thanks) but this works quite well.



And on the subject of Mars rovers:

Mars Crater Is a 'Dream Come True'

Maneuvering the robot so near a sharp drop-off is daunting, especially because it is now about 230 million miles away from Earth. But Opportunity has been programmed to be "self protective," the scientists said. While it responds to radio signals from Earth, it also can override them if its cameras and computers identify dangers in its path.

Squyres said that the terrain approaching Victoria Crater has been relatively benign, and that ultimately driving around it is plausible. NASA scientists say they expect the rover to remain at the crater for months.
Nanotech Gone Bad: Who You Gonna Call?





"We made measurements of position that are so intense - so strongly coupled - that by looking at it we can make it move," said Schwab. "Quantum mechanics requires that you cannot make a measurement of something and not perturb it. We're doing measurements that are very close to the uncertainty principle; and we can couple so strongly that by measuring the position we can see the thing move."

Spooky stuff. And Schwab wants to push things further, by building a nanomechanical device that exhibits superposition principle properties. In other words, a nano-device that can be in two places at once. "What's really neat is it looks like we should be able to do it," Schwab said. "The hope, the dream, the fantasy, is that we get that superposition and start making bigger devices and find the breakdown." Schwab's continued research on the mysteries that lie between the quantum and classical worlds is tipped to deliver significant advances in quantum computing, cooling engineering, communications and medicine. The list of applications could be unlimited.

(Via The Anomalist.)


UFOs have been observed splitting in two and merging -- as if adhering to quantum laws. Can we accomplish similar feats given a robust understanding of nanotechnology and quantum physics? Or is UFO behavior illusory, choreographed to challenge our definitions of the possible?
First HiRISE Image of Mars from Mapping Orbit: Ius Chasma, Valles Marineris





MRO's HiRISE camera captured its first image of Mars in the mapping orbit, demonstrating the full resolution capability. The image was acquired at 8:16 AM (Pacific time), and parts of the image became available to the HiRISE team at 1:30 PM. With the spacecraft at an altitude of 280 km, the image scale is 29.7 cm/pixel (about 12 inches/pixel).
Here's an impresssive short film about alien abduction (mostly animated) that examines some intriguing motifs.

Every few nights I get out my laser pointer and indulge my cats in a frenetic game of "chase." Cats are natural hunters, and they're effectively incapable of not looking at the quickly moving red dot that I project onto the carpet, walls, or any piece of furniture that happens to be in its path.

To my cats, the red dot possesses its own vitality. It exists as a distinct entity. While they may see me holding the pointer, they can't (or won't) be distracted by such things once the button is pressed and the living room is suddenly alive with luminous vermin. So they chase it. And chase it. And, if they get close enough, even take swipes at it -- in which case I make the dot "flee" or disappear in what seems like a concession of defeat (which, of course, only further arouses the cats' predatory curiosity).





All the while I'm controlling the red dot, I'm taking pains to make it behave like something intelligible. Just waving the pointer around the room wouldn't be any fun. So I make it "climb," "jump" and scuttle when cornered -- even though the laser's impervious to obstructions.

This sense of physicality seems to be the element that makes chasing the laser so engaging -- both for the cats and for me.

I can't help but be reminded of our continuing search for assumed extraterrestrial vehicles. UFO sightings demonstrate many of the same aspects of a typical feline laser hunt: mysterious disappearances, "impossible" maneuvers and a predilection for trickery -- the apparent desire to be seen despite (or because of) a technology presumed to be far in advance of our own. More than one UFO researcher has noted that UFOs behave more like projections or holograms than nuts-and-bolts craft . . . an observation that begs the nature of the intelligence doing the projecting.

According to astrophysicist Jacques Vallee, UFOs are part of a psychosocial conditioning system by which perceived "rewards" are doled out to reconcile for the dearth of irrefutable physical evidence. The phenomenon -- whatever its ultimate nature -- obstinately denies itself, thus enabling the very game it's intent on playing with us.

We see that sudden spark of red light; we pounce. This time we'll catch it for sure.
Here's the, um, authorized version of the New Frontiers Symposium print ad.





I like it -- although any UFO conference buff could tell you it could benefit from some laser-spurting flying saucers and menacing Gray aliens.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

New, Tough Paper Won't Burn





When describing paper, the following probably never comes up: flame-retardant, bacteria-resistant, rewritable and pathogen-decomposing.

But those words describe the kind of unusually tough paper that researchers at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville have developed.

The product could be used in a wide range of applications, say the researchers, from reusable bacteria filters to flame-retardant wallpaper that automatically decomposes airborne toxins to rewritable, erasable, heat-resistant billboards along highways.

(Via Graham Hancock.)


You know what's coming, don't you? Well, here it is anyway: This stuff sounds a lot like the apparently unburnable material salvaged from the Roswell crash.




Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" TV series -- online in its entirety (at least for now).

This is a very good thing, as I

a.) don't have a TV

and

b.) haven't seen every episode, despite having once been something of a Saganite. (I suppose I still am; only now Sagan's rubbing shoulders with a much larger crowd of influences . . . and presumably enjoying it.)
One of the coolest things about life in the 21st century -- which I still somehow manage to think of as "the future" -- is watching the line between "real" and "virtual" go up in simulated (?) smoke.



(Video found at Minding the Planet.)
I'm at a coffee shop, my first solo venture "out" since the operation. I'm doing pretty good; most of the air used to inflate my abdomen has worked its way out of my arm and neck, leaving only the expected hassle with the incisions. (Fortunately I have a bottle of prescription-strength Motrin I've never used.) I have a visit with the doctor Monday and fully expect a clean bill of health.

Thanks to everyone who's written with their best wishes. They meant a lot, and I appreciate all of them.

Hope to see some of you in Halifax in a couple weeks.




I'm there.
Unbelievable. Some girl's decided she wants a blog called "Posthuman Blues," too. So she puts a hyphen between "post" and "human" and hopes people won't notice.

Here's her bio:

there's more to me than just meets the eye. i love mornings with amar and slow / slit-wrist / cut-throat / suicide music at night. i dont fancy ice-cream as much as i fancy puddings. my hair is falling off my head and my nails are brittle. i dislike wearing bras and i sleep in the nude. writing is my strength: i love writing dark poetries. i prefer showers to hot baths and eating potato chips with bread. smothered in mayo and ketchup. yum.


Nude sleeping, dark poetry and ketchup. If this is your sort of thing, take a walk on the lame side and visit "Post-Human Blues."

But don't say I didn't warn you.




Be sure to stick around for the autograph session!

(Thanks, Ray!)
'One degree and we're done for'

"Further global warming of 1 °C defines a critical threshold. Beyond that we will likely see changes that make Earth a different planet than the one we know."

So says Jim Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. Hansen and colleagues have analysed global temperature records and found that surface temperatures have been increasing by an average of 0.2 °C every decade for the past 30 years. Warming is greatest in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere, particularly in the sub-Arctic boreal forests of Siberia and North America. Here the melting of ice and snow is exposing darker surfaces that absorb more sunlight and increase warming, creating a positive feedback.

(Via Nerdshit.)
Hegemony or Survival - America's Quest For Global Dominance

Money quote:

We are entering a period of human history that may provide an answer to the question of whether it is better to be smart than stupid. The most hopeful prospect is that the question will not be answered: if it receives a definite answer, that answer can only be that humans were a kind of "biological error," using their allotted 100,000 years to destroy themselves and, in the process, much else.

The species has surely developed the capacity to do just that, and a hypothetical extraterrestrial observer might well conclude that humans have demonstrated that capacity throughout their history, dramatically in the past few hundred years, with an assault on the environment that sustains life, on the diversity of more complex organisms, and with cold and calculated savagery, on each other as well.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006





Much ado over the new ESA Mars Face images has centered on the odd, steeple-like protrusion seen in the image above. As the steeple, or "horn," only detracts from the Face's resemblance to a humanoid face, it would seem to be good evidence that the controversial Face mesa is indeed nothing more than a lumpy hill. But only if the horn is a genuine formation.





Mars-watchers who've followed the Cydonia controversy have seen the Face formation modeled repeatedly by computers in an attempt to assess its shape and peer at it from angles inaccessible from orbit. Interestingly, the ESA's "horned face" is the first such computer-derived image to indicate a steep conical protrusion near the purported "brow"; this invites the question of whether we're seeing actual surface topology, an error introduced by the ESA's software, or even a deliberate attempt to make the Face appear less face-like (a challenge to which JPL rose in 1998 with its infamous "catbox" release).





Curiously, a review of "shape-from-shading" images based on reliable spacecraft data fails to show a feature corresponding to the ESA's "horn." Or, for that matter, anything particularly close.





For example, the photo below (taken by the THEMIS camera aboard the Mars Odyssey), shows essentially what we expected to see from the Viking and Mars Global Surveyor images. No obvious sign of a "horn."





Here's another, perhaps less flattering, THEMIS image. Again -- where's the "horn"? The low sun-angle should all-but-ensure that we see its shadow on the Face's distorted eastern side. Alas, we don't.





Neither do we see it here, in this partial image of the Face's western half.





More tellingly, we don't see it in any of Mark Carlotto's digital models or in painstaking forensic sculpture by Kynthia.

Why not?





Because, simply, it's very likely not there. But assuming it does certainly expedites the "debunking" process.

(For more images of the Face formation -- none of them suggesting the ESA's mysterious "horn" -- click here.)
Future Hi - Future Goodbye

Selfishness, greed, thirst for power and whatever other strange and dark Machievellian fantasies they might be entertaining, mean jack squat at this point. The state of the world is crumbling. We are dying. Civilization is on it's last legs. This charade called market capitalism has taken us to the brink. Every long-term and intelligent strategic maneuver that could have shifted things toward a sustainable growth vector have been scrapped in favor of this batshit crazy neo-con global zero-sum end-game. Stupid, stupid, and more stupid.


Another victim of the blues?
Richard Dawkins brings it on.



From my own case for agnosticism:

The notion of "God" can be a comforting and reassuring one, and our society invests little time questioning its validity. But just because something seems just or consoling doesn't grant it reality. The humility religions teach devotees to experience when faced with God is reproduced (albeit in a fundamentally different way) when faced with the absence of a perceivable God. I experience it when I consider the magnitude of time, or the depthless black between stars. Or, faced with the knowledge of my own self-awareness, wondering how such a magnificent and intangible faculty came to be.

What of the human spirit? If "spirituality" is defined as something transcending spacetime, then I suppose that I am a decidedly unspiritual person. But if spirituality can be equated to such familiar traits as intellect, emotion, foresight and empathy, then it's quite possible that even the most unreligious among us are capable of impressive feats of spirituality. In contrast, the visions of deities cranked out and perpetuated by generations of mystics appear dull and uninspiring: lazy caricatures that strip the universe of wonder not by explaining it, but by rendering it so suspiciously familiar.
Spirituality & The Brain

Shakti uses magnetic fields to create altered states. These carry signals derived from the human brain. These allow it to 'target' specific brain structures known to be involved with spirituality and to induce altered states of consciousness.


Oh, the fun I could have with one of these . . .
Paul Kimball on the Face on Mars and ufology.




I've been blogrolled by Ballardian! (Among us postmodern eco-dystopian sci-fi types, that's quite an honor.)
Aging angler swears there's nothing better than feel of invisible mountain skyfish

Skyfish are mysterious, paranormal objects that fly through the skies or swim in water at speeds so incredibly fast they're invisible to the human eye, but are regularly captured on video camera. And Japan is home to one of the world's most adept skyfish anglers, according to Cyzo (October).

Incredibly, Kozo Ichikawa, a 64-year-old tangerine farmer from a rustic part of Shizuoka Prefecture, claims he can catch the skyfish - also referred to as Unidentified Marine Animals -- with his bare hands.
Tech's experts predict future: We may become pets of robots, Pew survey says





Only a handful predicted a doomsday scenario. But Saffo, of the Institute for the Future, offered this in his response: "Fear of enslavement by our creations is an old fear. But I fear something worse and much more likely -- that sometime after 2020 our machines will become intelligent, evolve rapidly, and end up treating us as pets."


Scary stuff -- but highly unlikely. Saffo doesn't understand that the ascendancy of machines is indistinguishable from our own transhuman evolution. The machine-human dichotomy is largely illusory; we need each other -- to the point where it becomes useless trying to differentiate between "us" and "them."

If intelligent machines are indeed in our future, we're liable to exist with them symbiotically. What ultimately emerges from this fusion is quite beyond our ability to predict.
Cliff Pickover has a new book out. Again. It looks like a winner, too:

A Beginner's Guide to Immortality

Going beyond the intriguing individuals, many of the concepts in the book encourage lateral thinking, and grab ideas from many fields such as mathematics, philosophy, zoology, and entertainment. We'll tackle quantum resurrection, the religious implications of mosquito evolution, simulated Matrix realities, the brain's own marijuana, and the mathematics of the apocalypse. If each area of human knowledge is likened to a spider web that glimmers in the sunlight, then these special topics come with unexpected connecting strands that unite the webs in a vast, sparkling fabric.
"Mac's Favorite Music Day" continues -- albeit belatedly -- with the uncut version of Sade's "Smooth Operator."



Awesome video. I've had a deep crush on Sade since at least junior high.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006





You Should Rule Mercury

Close to sun, Mercury has very long days - and is rarely visible to the rest of the solar system.

You are perfect to rule Mercury, because you live for the present - and can truly enjoy a day that goes on forever.
Like Mercury, you are quick and elusive. Your wit is outstanding, and you can win any verbal sparring match.

Some people see you as superficial, but in truth, you just play many roles and have many interests.
A great manipulator, you usually get what you want from people. And they're happy to give it to you.


But I already rule Mercury, having assumed power after overthrowing the Hive Occupation back in 2056 . . .
Is there anybody out there? How the men from the ministry hid the hunt for UFOs





The files were made public following FOI requests by David Clarke, a lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University and his colleague Andy Roberts.

"These documents don't tell us anything about UFOs but they do show how desperate the MoD have been to conceal the interest which the intelligence services had in the subject," said Dr Clarke.
I took these pictures the night before the operation. I was restless and went walking; it was a clear night, and the sky seemed oddly right for a UFO display.





As I was taking pictures, a car pulled up. I assumed it was the police, or someone sent to hassle me for trespassing. But it was only a Goth couple scouting locations for a zombie movie. The girl had copious tattoos and an endearing ring through her nose; I almost asked to take a picture, but her friend's stony demeanor made me think better of it. I wished them luck and sauntered home.





Speaking of digital photos: I got an email from Sprint. My tech "ambassadorship" ends on Oct. 3, drawing unconditional use of my free Samsung to an unceremonious halt.





I've become pretty addicted over the last six months. Not to the phone, which I don't use that much, but to the camera, Web browser and multimedia frills. I might have to cough up some actual money for a service plan, if for no other reason than the luxury of catching up with email on the fly. Or I might go back to my super-cheap Virgin Mobile pre-pay phone.

(I might be able to keep using the Samsung's digicam despite not having access to Picture Mail. They sent me an adaptor, which I haven't really looked at yet.)
Earth May Be at Warmest Point in 1 Million Years





Earth may be close to the warmest it has been in the last million years, especially in the part of the Pacific Ocean where potentially violent El Nino weather patterns are born, climate scientists reported on Monday.

This doesn't necessarily mean there will be more frequent El Ninos -- which can disrupt normal weather around the world -- but could well mean that these wild patterns will be stronger when they occur, said James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.


BLAME CLINTON.
Oooooh!
You Are From Neptune

You are dreamy and mystical, with a natural psychic ability.
You love music, poetry, dance, and (most of all) the open sea.
Your soul is filled with possibilities, and your heart overflows with compassion.
You can be in a room full of friendly people and feel all alone.
If you don't get carried away with one idea, your spiritual nature will see you through anything.


I would have guessed another planet. You know, the fourth one from the Sun. But Neptune works.
While I'm busy recovering, guess who's living it up? Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling, that's who. It ain't fair.

(Check out Sterling's Flickr photostream. Great stuff.)




I'm back home after a brief stay in the hospital, aching but thankfully bladderless. Apparently Dr. Leir was hustled out of the OR shortly after the surgery began, having brought a variety of unconventional surgical instruments onto the premises.





Also, he insisted on wearing a disturbing latex mask made to resemble an archetypal "Gray" alien. Fortunately another surgeon was on call and was able to complete the gall bladder removal in a more orthodox manner.

With the exception of Leir, everyone was helpful and understanding . . . although I was annoyed when my request to keep the disenfranchised gall bladder was dismissed because of recently enacted OSHA regulations. I remarked lamely that this refusal to my own body part -- moreover, one I had every intention of proudly displaying in my living room near the ruddy glow of my lava lamp -- was "totalitarian," but let it go.





After coming to in the recovery room I enjoyed ice cream and Coke. Then proceeded to pass out in the bathroom, where I was lifted to my feet by giftedly strong nurses and escorted back to my bed, where I whiled away a few hours looking at my new scars -- four of them, all surprisingly small -- and plucking away EKG 'trodes before falling asleep.

Right now at least 40% of the pain is from my shoulder and neck (!), where the air used to inflate my abdomen for surgery is in the process of escaping the fleshy balloon of my dauntingly vulnerable carbon-based physique. (Imagine a really bad toothache. Now imagine that the tooth is your arm. That's what it's like.) So I'm walking mincingly around my apartment drinking Gatorade and waiting to regain equilibrium, afraid to sleep too much but not at all keen on going "out."

Somehow, online seems the best "place" for me now.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

So you don't get bored while I'm under the knife tomorrow:

Lunar Photo of the Day

The Methuselah Foundation

Yummy Wakame

K-Punk

Linkfilter.net

Loving the Machine

Flickrbabes
Space Ads

Russian space agency started offering commercials placement on the body of space rockets and on the launch facility complex around the rocket, same way as it's done on the sport matches etc.

(Via Futurismic.)


Imagine a fully NASCAR-ized space program. Ideally without the attendant riffraff in loathsome T-shirts and acrylic caps.
Ten more science fiction novels you've never read . . .





1.) And the Angel with Television Eyes (John Shirley)
2.) The End of the Dream (Philip Wylie)
3.) Virgin Planet (Poul Anderson)
4.) World Without Men (Charles Eric Maine)
5.) The Dosadi Experiment (Frank Herbert)
6.) Thorns (Robert Silverberg)
7.) The Hormone Jungle (Robert Reed)
8.) Blade Runner: A Movie (William S. Burroughs)
9.) Deus X (Norman Spinrad)
10.) In the Drift (Michael Swanwick)
"Mac's Favorite Music Day" continues with this riveting version of "Wandering Stars" by Portishead.

Grow Your Own Limbs

In response to the hundreds of soldiers coming home from war with missing arms or legs, Darpa is spending millions of dollars to help scientists learn how people might one day regenerate their own limbs.

Prosthetics are getting better all the time, but they will never be as good as the limbs we were born with. So two teams of scientists at 10 institutions across the country are competing to regrow the first mammalian limb.
Relativity drive: The end of wings and wheels?

Of course, any crackpot can rough out plans for a warp drive. What they never show you is evidence that it works. Shawyer is different. He has built a working prototype to test his ideas, and as a respected spacecraft engineer he has persuaded the British government to fund his work. Now organisations from other parts of the world, including the US air force and the Chinese government, are beating a path to his tiny company.

The device that has sparked their interest is an engine that generates thrust purely from electromagnetic radiation - microwaves to be precise - by exploiting the strange properties of relativity. It has no moving parts, and releases no exhaust or noxious emissions. Potentially, it could pack the punch of a rocket in a box the size of a suitcase. It could one day replace the engines on almost any spacecraft. More advanced versions might allow cars to lift from the ground and hover. It could even lead to aircraft that will not need wings at all.

(Via Science Blog.)
Sauceruney invites you to compare his 2001 synthetic perspective image of the Face on Mars with the new "horned" version released by the ESA, seen here.

(At least the Discovery caption concedes that the Face has a "strange" shape and qualifies its geological verdict with "probably" -- by far the most honest journalism on this contentious issue I've seen from a "mainstream" source.)
Today is "Mac's Favorite Music Day." At least it is right now; I might completely forget about it after a good night's rest.

Anyway, let's start this thing on a good note with "Lovesong" by The Cure.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pa. farm discovers a 4-legged chicken

Brendle's 13-year-old daughter, Ashley, named the chicken Henrietta after the discovery Thursday. The bird has two normal front legs and, behind those, two more feet. They are of a similar size to her front legs but don't function. The chicken drags her extra feet behind her.

In 30 years of farming, Brendle said, he's never before seen a chicken with four legs.

(Via The Anomalist.)


Black-ops genetic engineers will stop at nothing to create a race of neurologically accelerated uber-chickens! We must foil their noxious ambitions! Fight! While there's still time!
Mars 'Face' Clearer Than Ever

Garvin, for his part, doesn't want to discourage anyone from coming up with their own explanations.

"Please realize that as a scientist of Martian landscapes, my position is that of a traditional scientist, and requires that I utilize the paradigms associated with multiple-working hypotheses grounded in the physics of landscape development," he said. "Other opinions on the basis of other approaches are of course welcome and encouraged."


While Garvin's tone might sound patronizing to some advocates of the Artificiality Hypothesis, it's the most lucid, sensible statement about Cydonia yet offered by NASA. I consider it a veritable invitation to proponents of planetary SETI -- and one that shouldn't go unacknowledged.





Of course we need "hypotheses grounded in the physics of landscape development." But if we're to take the possibility of ET ruins seriously, we also need to bring the tools of archaeology, architecture and even art to bear on this lingering enigma.
What is the Hubble Deep Field and why should you care?



This brief movie helps encapsulate the sense of the numinous that is our species' birthright.

(Thanks to OddThings.)
Brain stimulation produces creepy shadow feeling





Stimulating a certain area of the brain can produce a creepy feeling that someone is watching you when no one is, scientists said on Wednesday.


[. . .]

"Our findings may be a step toward understanding the mechanisms behind psychiatric manifestations such as paranoia, persecution and alien control," said Olaf Blanke, of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in the journal Nature.
David Bowie: "Is there life on Mars?"

It's all coming together . . .

Robot beauty goes skin-deep

The artificial skin developed by Kao and Keio mimics the feel of human skin with a 1-cm thick "dermis" of elastic silicone covered by a 0.2-mm thick "epidermis" of firm urethane. Countless tiny hexagonal indentations etched into the urethane epidermis provide it with a very realistic texture.

In a series of unscientific tests, 10 out of 12 people who touched the skin thought it felt like human skin, while equipment designed to measure the mechanical properties of skin confirmed the artificial skin had characteristics resembling human skin.


Nexus-Six, here we come.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Google (fiction by Bruce Sterling)

Okay, sure: I know I sound pretty depressed. Us teenage poets depress easily. You know what they tell me whenever I rant like this? "Get a hobby." Play imaginary fantasy computer games! That is allowed me! Wow, thanks! When she nursed me as a baby, my Mom dropped me right on my head to play Wonder-World of Witchcraft. I sure know where that story goes. If "religion is the opiate of the people", then immersive multiplayer 3D virtual worlds are hard-core Afghani heroin. My Mom will never make it back into the labor force: Mom's way too busy building herself up to 146th-level SuperMasonic Tolkien-Fantasy Ultra-Elf Queen. Like that helps!


I'd love to hear Sterling read this aloud. Maybe there's a podcast . . .

(If you're a Morrissey fan you're likely to catch the "Suedehead" parody at the end.)


I think we should treat religion like any other virus: Isolate all vectors.




FutureMe.org lets you send email to your future self . . . assuming, of course, that

a.) you're still alive

and

b.) the Net's still around ten or twenty years from now. Maybe we'll have graduated to exclusively pheromonal communication or telepathy of some sort, all safe in the omnipotent hands of The Dood.

Conversely, the planet might be a greenhouse hell where people spend free moments cannibalizing the carcasses of obsolete computers to make better water extractors.
An hour or so ago I found myself in a Taco Bell parking lot with an idea for a decent science fiction story: What if "reality" is an immersive computer environment designed by humans to keep tedium at bay during some unspecified interim period (say, aboard a world-size "generation ark" as it drifts between solar systems)?





And what if it's gone awry not because of any malevolent intent (a la "The Matrix") but because the operating system has been accidentally damaged, maybe by cosmic radiation? How might the population react if this became public knowledge? Would "authorities" keep the facts to themselves and perhaps even attempt to benefit from them? Or would humanity "storm the reality studio" in grand fashion just to find out what lies beneath the bit-rot?
War price on U.S. lives equal to 9/11

The latest milestone for a country at war comes without commemoration. It also may well come without the precision of knowing who is the 2,973rd man or woman of arms to die in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, or just when it happens. The terrorist attacks killed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Not for the first time, war that was started to answer death has resulted in at least as much death for the country that was first attacked, quite apart from the higher numbers of enemy and civilians killed.


And it's only just started.
Newsflash!

On Monday, Sep. 25 at app. 1:00 (Central), a trained medical professional will be removing my gall bladder. (His name is Roger Leir. And while we only discussed the operation tangentially, he seemed competent and at least marginally familiar with the tools of the trade.)

Anyway, this might have an effect on regularly scheduled programming here at Posthuman Blues. Or it might not. Just letting you know. (Fortunately, it won't interfere with my scheduled jaunt to Nova Scotia next month, as I'd become concerned it might.)

I'll be auctioning my gall bladder on eBay for those of you interested in medical curiosities, so get those wallets ready!
Oh, jeez. Something interesting happens on the Martian front and you-know-who weighs in with this.
Pale Blue Orb

Not since NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft saw our home as a pale blue dot from beyond the orbit of Neptune has Earth been imaged in color from the outer solar system. Now, Cassini casts powerful eyes on our home planet, and captures Earth, a pale blue orb -- and a faint suggestion of our moon -- among the glories of the Saturn system.

(Via Remote Central.)




Tunguska event an actual UFO crash site

The blast felled an estimated 60 million trees causing damage 400 miles away, and was heard even further. Even the heat that came out from the explosion was felt hundreds of miles away. For several nights all over northern Europe, the sky glowed enough to light the street of London.

The 1927 investigation expedition could not locate any bits of meteorite which puzzled the researchers looking for evidence. Another puzzle for the expedition was the way the tress were felled in an outward motion and that in the center trees were still standing, although all their bark and branches have been destroyed.

(Via The Anomalist.)


Meteor or UFO, the Tunguska event plays a role in Thomas Pynchon's new novel: more than enough reason to pick up a copy, in my opinion. (Tunguska also figures into "Storming the Cosmos," a short-story by Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker that I suppose I should reread.)





Meanwhile, on the nonfiction front, I'm reading Oliver Morton's "Mapping Mars," an evocative chronicle of the psyche's role in planetary exploration.
Approval for 'flying saucer' art

The "Halo" is to be installed on the hills of Haslingden and will feature a 25m-diameter, circular steel structure, raised off the ground on a tripod, housing a solar array, self-powered cameras and lighting.

The structure will be clad in white photo-reflective material to ensure that it can be seen from miles around.


Reminds me of Donald Keyhoe's "Project Lure," a proposed full-scale mock-up of landed UFOs intended to spur the interest of inquisitive aliens.
Misleading text from the ESA Face on Mars release:

One of these visible remnant massifs became famous as the 'Face on Mars' in an image taken on 25 July 1976 by the American Viking 1 Orbiter.

A few days later, on 31 July 1976, a NASA press release said the formation "resembles a human head." However, NASA scientists had already correctly interpreted the image as an optical illusion caused by the illumination angle of the Sun, the formation's surface morphology and the resulting shadows, giving the impression of eyes, nose and mouth.






This is a stark historical inaccuracy. The Face, discovered by Tobias Owen, was presented to the public by the late Gerry Soffen, who assured the media that a second image of the Face, supposedly taken a few hours later, demonstrated that the face-like qualities in the original Viking frame were illusory.

Embarrassingly for NASA, this second, incriminating image never existed. Worse, the Viking orbiter was busily photographing the other side of the Martian globe at the time arbitrarily offered by Soffen; there was no way it could have taken a disillusioning image of the Face even if JPL had wanted it to.





Interestingly, Viking did manage to capture another image of the Face, but only days later. It was never publicized, perhaps for understandable reasons. Taken at a more revealing sun-angle than its predecessor, Viking frame 70A13 not only confirmed the salient facial resemblance noted by Owen and Soffen, but showed a continuation of the "mouth" feature and, despite apparent odds, a second "eye."

In any case, NASA had never "correctly interpreted the image as an optical illusion caused by the illumination angle of the Sun," having never investigated. And if the facial likeness was merely an illusion, why does it persist in more recent images? One would rightly expect a natural surface formation to look less like a face when seen in high resolution.





While the Face (natural or otherwise) exhibits the erosion and degradation expected of a mile-long morphology -- especially on the eastern side, which appears to have collapsed inward under a hefty layer of accumulated debris -- it features secondary facial detail consistent with the impression of an artificial construction. Most notably, the western "brow" shelters an anatomically correct "iris," properly positioned within a unique almond-shaped basin. And at least one "nostril" -- never actually visible in the original Viking image -- is plain to be seen; while its origin remains an unanswered question, flatly refuting its existence smacks of a deliberate attempt to "make the Face go away" in the public mind. The ESA's latest offering isn't the first such effort, underscoring the Face's obstinate tendency to look like a face -- regardless of the will to debunk.

The ESA release continues:

Nonetheless, the 'Face on Mars' was the subject of widespread speculation on the possible origins and purpose of artificial structures on the Red Planet, with the face being the most talked-about formation.

The array of nearby structures has been interpreted by some space enthusiasts as artificial landscapes, such as potential pyramids and even a disintegrated city. The idea that the planet might have once been home to intelligent beings has since inspired the imagination of many Mars fans, and has been expressed in numerous, more-or-less serious, newspaper articles as well as in science-fiction literature and on many Web pages.


The references to "enthusiasts" and "fans" suggests the idea of artificial construction is confined to a population of untrained Web-surfers. This is a drearily typical "debunking" myth. Since its appearance on the cover of the esteemed journal "Applied Optics," the Face (and related enigmas) have received much attention from qualified scientists and researchers, including Mark Carlotto, Stan McDaniel and Horace Crater of the Society for Planetary SETI Research.

It's worth nothing that few, if any, credentialed proponents of the "Artificiality Hypothesis" are adamant that Cydonia is home to extraterrestrial ruins. But their pooled research reveals an enigma deeper and far more compelling than that mentioned by the ESA.

Despite all this, the formal scientific interpretation has never changed: the face remains a figment of human imagination in a heavily eroded surface.

It took until April 1998, and confirmation with additional data from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, before popular speculation waned. More data from the same orbiter in 2001 further confirmed this conclusion.


Neither of the images cited has confirmed either conclusion except for those unable to conscience the specter of archaeological sites on another planet. The 1998 image received justified scorn and skepticism from the Mars anomaly "invisible college," having been needlessly subjected to a high-pass filter that served only to suppress detail -- precisely reflecting JPL's stated intent to "scotch this thing for good."





Wary of JPL's verdict, Lan Fleming, an imaging specialist contracted to Johnson Space Flight Center, went so far as to try to deliberately reproduce the 1998 image . . . only to find that he was unable to match JPL's apparent incompetence despite access to sophisticated software. This strongly argues that JPL's treatment of the controversy has more to do with PR than science. This conclusion is made almost palpable by the space agency's continued "bungling," including showing an unprepared public a false-color rendering of an upside-down Face, ostensibly to highlight the capabilities of the Mars Global Surveyor's laser altimeter.

Later:

In fact, in addition to the well-known 'face' and 'pyramids,' a naturally skull-shaped structure also appears in some of the Mars Express images.


The "skull" appears to be a red herring invented by the ESA in order to illustrate the human brain's alleged predisposition to see faces. Given its dubious value as a simulacrum, I'm distinctly unsurprised that I've never encountered it in my research.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Umbrella shows a Flickr stream on the inside surfaces

A project in the handle of the Pileus umbrella paints the brolly's interior with a series of wirelessly-fetched Flickr photos while a camera in its tip lets you document your day.


Now that's cyberpunk!
Here's another bullshit article about the new Face image.





Why BS? Because, simply, it doesn't even pretend to let proponents of the Artificiality Hypothesis have any say -- and I'm not talking about Richard Hoagland. Instead we get references to "conspiracy theories" and allusions to something on Mars that, according to Space.com, looks like a "skull."

This is a shame because the imagery is excellent and offers a basis for legitimate, objective assessment -- which the current space science milieu will not allow.
Theories of telepathy and afterlife cause uproar at top science forum

"Work in this field is a complete waste of time," said Peter Atkins, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford. "Although it is politically incorrect to dismiss ideas out of hand, in this case there is absolutely no reason to suppose that telepathy is anything more than a charlatan's fantasy."


Proving telepathic communication or nonlocal consciousness poses unique challenges. The sad part is that the biggest ones are guys like Atkins.




I'm a total sucker for pictures of abandoned cities. Chernobyl will do nicely, thank you.

(Tip of the mildly radioactive hat to Mondolithic Sketchbook.)
Cydonia - the face on Mars





After multiple attempts to image the Cydonia region from April 2004 until July 2006 were frustrated by altitude and atmospheric dust and haze, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board Mars Express finally obtained, on 22 July, a series of images that show the famous 'face' on Mars in unprecedented detail.


These are some of the best images yet, full of complex and intriguing detail. Unfortunately, the accompanying article merely reiterates pop-science myths that will likely not survive archaeological appraisal.

The ESA provides factual misrepresentations (such as the demonstrably inaccurate portrayal of the Face as a trick of light) and pointedly refuses to mention other, perhaps more illuminating, anomalies -- including the D&M Pyramid and Cliff, both plainly visible in the Mars Express data.

Time permitting, I'll post a more detailed refutation at the Cydonian Imperative.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Living inside the Hollow Earth

Hollow Earth theories come in different flavours. One states that the inside of our planet is hollow and another is that we actually live inside the concavity of another world. Italian author Umberto Eco commented recently on the hollow Earth for the New York Times.

The theory has also cropped up in science fiction on occasion, such as Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth or Edgar Rice Burroughs' At the Earth's Core. Even some Nazis believed in the theory.
Watch this now.





A Galaxy Alive with Civilizations

The paper thus makes a contribution to the growing field of what might be called 'advanced SETI,' the study of which involves methods like Shechtman's and goes well beyond current efforts that are limited to eavesdropping for signals in radio and optical frequencies. If a change to SETI outlook is needed, as Milan Ćirković and others have argued for some time now, then developing the analytical tools to apply to future SETI efforts could teach us much about life's potential for altering natural processes that might otherwise seem ineluctable.


Fascinating post. One idea worth consideration is that advanced "postsingular" intelligences harness the immense computational prowess of the Cosmos itself, as suggested by Rudy Rucker. In that case, "they" might be effectively hidden, embedded in the universe's very fabric.
Library on the moon





The moon might be a good place for a massive storehouse of digital information, sort of a Lunar Library of Alexandria (that hopefully won't burn down). That's the idea proposed by NASA scientist David McKay, who ten years ago led the team that announced that a Mars meteorite contained evidence of life. According to the New Scientist blog, McKay says the lunar library could be stored on computers buried in the ground, placed inside craters, or located in hollow lava tubes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Researchers Offer a New Date for Neanderthals' Last Stand

An international team of scientists thinks it has solved the ultimate mystery of the Neanderthals: where and when they made their last stand before extinction. It was at Gibraltar 28,000 years ago, the scientists say, about 2,000 years more recently than previously thought.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Arctic summer ice anomaly shocks scientists

"If this anomaly trend continues, the North-East Passage or 'Northern Sea Route' between Europe and Asia will be open over longer intervals of time, and it is conceivable we might see attempts at sailing around the world directly across the summer Arctic Ocean within the next 10-20 years."


This isn't an "anomaly." This is an eventuality.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Here's an engagingly incoherent "analysis" of a most intriguing piece of footage.

(If the body on the gurney doesn't look familiar, it should.)
Blog o' the day: 3pointD.com (commentary on the realization of the virtual and the virtualization of the real)
Oh, this is sweet! (And it's compatible with my interior design philosophy!)




I've got that shaky sense of controlling my body from a distance. Stress and anxiety can bring it on -- or, more specifically, make me aware of it. I suspect it's endemic to my particular sliver of the human experience.

I look at my limbs and sense no pronounced affinity.

Om.
And to think I actually thought there was a chance "they" might remove it today . . .

Another scan tomorrow. Then a consultation with a surgeon on Friday.

To make a long, boring story merely short and boring: I won't be posting anymore about the Great Gall Bladder Fiasco of 2006 unless something truly interesting happens.
"You rationalize . . . You defend. You reject unpalatable truths, and if you can't reject them outright you trivialize them . . . evidence is never enough for you. Temperatures rise, glaciers melt -- species die -- and you blame sunspots and volcanoes. Everyone is like this, but you most of all. You turn incomprehension into mathematics . . ."

--Peter Watts, "Blindsight"





"Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment. Humanity is in 'final exam' as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in the Universe."

--Buckminister Fuller
Hearing Voices: Some People Like It

But studies by Dutch researchers that began in the 1990s found that some healthy people also regularly hear voices. The scientists ran a program on Dutch television asking for volunteers who heard voices, and they got a surprising response. Many of the people who contacted them did not find the voices disruptive and had never felt the need to consult mental health services. Some even said they found the experience to be positive or inspirational.

(Via Unknown Country.)


I've never "heard voices," per se. But for as long as I can remember I've been aware of a kind of oceanic presence in my mind which I can tune in only under special circumstances. When I was little I used to draw lots of pictures. One of the reasons I enjoyed drawing was the cryptic murmur that accompanied the process; it's as if creative activity numbs the censoring mechanism of the brain that usually dampens communion with our subconscious.

I still attempt to "listen" to my mind. While I'm aware of something that isn't "me" (or at least the "me" doing the listening), I don't experience any sense of duality. I never feel as if I'm in contact with something distinct from myself -- and suspect that if I did I'd quickly seek psychiatric help.

My overall impression is that the brain is a massively distributed system, a hologram of mentation that phase-shifts too rapidly for the ego to take note.

Given that consciousness is likely a quantum function, deeply entangled with the rest of the Cosmos, is it unreasonable to seek out traces of the "alien" among us? Maybe the signal SETI astronomers await will emanate from the depths of Self, cunningly disguised as human.
I took this picture today on a random (?) impulse. Suburban desolation. Unsustainable, moribund architecture like the set for a J.G. Ballard novel. We're seeing the apotheosis of early 21st century America, the cruel gray shores where dreams beach themselves to die unremarked deaths.





It won't last. Hell, it's already used up, a shadow of commercial vitality. And if you think the impact on the environment is lamentable, consider the swaths of distorted terrain it leaves on the psyche.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Interview with Mac Tonnies





I've never made a conscious distinction between various, supposedly disparate, forms of weirdness. So I cultivated a hybrid -- and decidedly unfashionable -- fascination with such things as extraterrestrial intelligence, archaeology, genetic engineering, etc.

Too often, fields like this are treated in a very specialized context, whereas I see them as aspects of a central abiding enigma. If I have any particular asset to bring to bear on the "unknown," it's probably my complete disdain for keeping anomalies isolated and hermetically sealed. I like to see what happens when they collide and fuse.
Awakened by dreams of interrogation. William Burroughs' "intergalactic bureaucrat."
U.S. war prisons legal vacuum for 14,000

In the few short years since the first shackled Afghan shuffled off to Guantanamo, the U.S. military has created a global network of overseas prisons, its islands of high security keeping 14,000 detainees beyond the reach of established law.

Disclosures of torture and long-term arbitrary detentions have won rebuke from leading voices including the U.N. secretary-general and the U.S. Supreme Court. But the bitterest words come from inside the system, the size of several major U.S. penitentiaries.

"It was hard to believe I'd get out," Baghdad shopkeeper Amjad Qassim al-Aliyawi told The Associated Press after his release -- without charge -- last month. "I lived with the Americans for one year and eight months as if I was living in hell."

Captured on battlefields, pulled from beds at midnight, grabbed off streets as suspected insurgents, tens of thousands now have passed through U.S. detention, the vast majority in Iraq.

Many say they were caught up in U.S. military sweeps, often interrogated around the clock, then released months or years later without apology, compensation or any word on why they were taken. Seventy to 90 percent of the Iraq detentions in 2003 were "mistakes," U.S. officers once told the international Red Cross.


No pithy blurbs for this one.
I want this surgery over with. Insurance allowing, I might even go under the knife tomorrow; I'll know soon enough.

Anyway, I'm blog-surfing in a possibly futile attempt to calm down after a day of (largely unwarranted) stress and general loathing of the whole suburban milieu . . .
You are a

Social Liberal
(88% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(23% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat




Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test


I took the Dating Persona Test too, but the results were too disturbing to post.
A stark montage from "THX-1138," my personal favorite George Lucas movie.

I offer this 1991 video of Morrissey attempting to perform "Everyday Is Like Sunday" as a taste of what you can expect at the New Frontiers Symposium . . .

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Here we have Jesse Marcel posing with ostensible crash debris from the infamous "Roswell Incident" of 1947.





And here's a model "wearing" a crumpled metallic substance not unlike that in the image above.





Coincidence?
Dalai Lama Challenges the Idea of Neurologically Situated Consciousness In New Book





While it is certainly true that mainstream science insists that there must be a physical explanation for consciousness, the empirical evidence supporting this view is tenuous. Since scientists have devised objective means of measuring all kinds of physical phenomena, it is remarkable that no scientific instruments can detect whether or not consciousness is present in inorganic matter (e.g., computers or robots), in plants (e.g., insect-eating plants), or in animals (e.g., single cells, insects, human fetuses, or normal human adults). Given that consciousness is invisible to all known means of scientific measurement--unlike all other kinds of physical phenomena--the burden of proof for the physical status of consciousness should be on those who make this assertion, not on those who question it.
Ray Kurzweil and nanotech on The Daily Show. Hilarious.

SLIders & the Streetlight Phenomenon

The phenomenon is known as street lamp interference, or SLI, and it possibly is a psychic event that is just beginning to be recognized and studied. Like most phenomena of this type, the evidence is almost exclusively anecdotal. I have received several stories like the one above from readers.

Typically, a person who has this effect on streetlights - also known as a SLIder - finds that the light switches on or off when he or she walks or drives beneath it. Obviously, this could happen occasionally by chance with a faulty streetlight (you've probably noticed that it's happened to you once in a while), but SLIders claim that it happens to them on a regular basis.

(Via The Anomalist.)


I might be a "SLIder." I've seen quite a few steetlights die when I'm approximately below them. But is there a causal basis or is it statistically inevitable?

To date, I've had only two witness. Peter A. Gersten and a friend saw a lamp wink out above me while I was leaving my motel to deliver a talk about Cydonia (in Sedona, AZ of all places). Which proves nothing, of course, but it piqued my interest.

(I recall the lamp being motion-sensitive. But in that case, it should have stayed on when I was walking beneath it. Maybe if I return to Sedona I'll drop by the Super 8 and have another look.)
I'm not making this up: Was the Next Ten Years Predicted by the novel "THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH" . . . in 1963?
Her irises are haven to luminous mushroom clouds that repeat endlessly, the same hue as her ruddy, wind-chafed cheekbones. I look past her at the desert, barely visible through the murkily polarized window.
No matter where I am, I can't stem my craving for bling. It doesn't matter what form it takes: fancy watches, jewelry, hubcaps, cellphone accessories. Purpose is irrelevant. I routinely walk out of stores with pockets bulging with the shiny stuff, unable to remember where, specifically, I managed to acquire it.

So I concoct crude rationalizations for what's obviously become an obsession. "Oh, they must have been free gifts. Promotional giveaways." That sort of thing. Later, considering how easily my mind adopts these lame fictions as authentic events leaves me worried. As I sit fondling the day's loot, I find myself light-headed, nervous. As if my memory harbors events it would rather not share. Not that I dare tempt it.

Bling, baby. It's all about the bling.

(Note: The events recounted in this post are fictitious.)

Friday, September 15, 2006

"Without fuel they were nothing. They'd built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche."



The world of "Mad Max" and "The Road Warrior" haunted me as a kid. Until my family got cable TV, the most I saw of the actual movies were scenes glimpsed in hotel rooms. I think viewing them out of sequence only accentuated their brutality, the stark despair that colors the franchise. They were movies I'd ponder endlessly and, perversely, attempt to recreate in my imagination, if only involuntarily.

I had a related bout of "Mad Max" fear during the recent heatwave. It was 103 degrees or so and I was driving down a street, windows open, taking in the weathered stripmalls, aging fast-food restaurants and ubiquitous Hummers. Max's universe suddenly became palpable. I was actually inhabiting it -- a nightmarish fiction become real.

The feeling passed (or at least abated) when I got inside. But I still felt detached, hovering at the schism between celluloid meltdown and oppressive post-millennial suburban reality . . .
Bono reads from Gibson's "Neuromancer." Gibson responds.

Finding Biomarkers in an Alien Atmosphere

Kaltenegger (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and Wesley Traub (JPL and CfA) are looking closely at the history of Earth’s atmosphere to understand what happens in the various stages of planetary evolution. The development of life is one of many factors that changed the atmosphere in the past 4.5 billion years. When the day comes that we have spectroscopic data from exoplanets as small as Earth, we’ll be able to study the signatures of the gases there to learn something about conditions on the surface.
First Woman Gets Bionic Arm

Thanks to the efforts of researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, supported by nearly $50 million in funding from DARPA, Claudia Mitchell has become the fourth person and first woman to get outfitted with a bionic arm, which allows her to perform functions simply by thinking about them.


A promising step, yet somehow not as sci-fi cool as one of these.
Strange New Planet Baffles Astronomers

"We could be looking at an entirely new class of planets," said Gaspar Bakos, a Hubble fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Bakos designed and built the HAT network and is lead author of a paper submitted to the Astrophysical Journal describing the discovery.

With a radius about 1.38 times Jupiter's, HAT-P-1 is the largest known planet. In spite of its huge size, its mass is only half that of Jupiter.
One more time: Too good to be true . . . ?
My doctor just called. They want to cut me open.





I have "gall bladder sludge," a painful build-up of material that my guts are either unable or just plain insolently unwilling to break down. Apparently if I let this go it could evolve into something much, much worse that what I'm experiencing now.

I'm basically enthusiastic and relieved that they actually found something wrong with me. On the other hand, it's a little galling (pun intended); I'm 6'2", 175 lbs. I eat sparingly; I consider a Coke "dessert." I think the last time I ate meat was 10 years ago. Couldn't this have happened to someone else? Then again, I've been lucky on the surgical front . . . come to think of it, I've never had surgery, so at least this will be a novel experience. And one I'll be sure to blog.
J G Ballard: The comforts of madness

Ballard's drowned cities, parched landscapes and concrete jungles have come to seem remarkably prophetic. Whether conjuring primeval swamps or deluxe tower blocks with regressing residents, Ballard recognises our appetite for psychic and physical disintegration and warns about what may lie ahead. If his plots sometimes creak and his characters come from stock (architects, doctors, psychiatrists), his cool prose includes almost narcotically beautiful images while bursting with unsettling ideas.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

My ultrasound scan was actually enjoyable. The woman who scanned me was friendly and we chatted; she claimed my liver was one of the "prettiest" she'd seen, and obligingly let me watch the action on the monitor. (I enjoyed watching my guts quivering and pulsating in real-time, reminiscent of some far-flung cosmological phenomenon as viewed by a space telescope.) I was expecting the procedure to be cold and clinical -- akin to an alien abduction, I suppose -- but the gel was pre-warmed to body temperature and felt strangely pleasant against my skin.

I'm waiting for a verdict from radiology. I asked the scan-lady if anything looked amiss on the screen and she said my gall bladder might be causing the problem.

To be continued . . .
NASA Sees Rapid Changes in Arctic Sea Ice

NASA data show that Arctic perennial sea ice, which normally survives the summer melt season and remains year-round, shrunk abruptly by 14 percent between 2004 and 2005. According to researchers, the loss of perennial ice in the East Arctic Ocean was even higher, nearing 50 percent during that time as some of the ice moved from the East Arctic to the West.

(Via Universe Today.)






Study Acquits Sun of Climate Change, Blames Humans

Researchers from Germany, Switzerland and the United States found that the sun's brightness varied by only 0.07 percent over 11-year sunspot cycles, far too little to account for the rise in temperatures since the Industrial Revolution.

"Our results imply that over the past century climate change due to human influences must far outweigh the effects of changes in the sun's brightness," said Tom Wigley of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Reaches Final Orbit





NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter fired its main thrusters for 12.5 minutes on Monday, adjusting the spacecraft into its final orbit around the Red Planet. Its altitude now ranges between 250 kilometers (155 miles) to 316 kilometers (196 miles) above the Martian surface - its final science orbit. The spacecraft will still need to deploy the large antenna for the Shallow Subsurface Radar instrument, and remove the lens cap from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer, which will map the surface of Mars for minerals.


Hooray!
The Church of Google





We at The Church Of Google believe a convincing argument can be made stating that the search engine Google is the closest mankind has ever come to experiencing an actual Deity. It is the ultimate bridge between people and information.

(Via Chapel Perilous.)


Remember what I was saying about The Dood?
A Run on Terror

Terror, like ecstasy, tends to magnify perceptions. Just as affection becomes adoration in the physical act of love, so too does vigilance sometimes become morbid obsession in the face of spectacular violence. To be effective, this normal function of survival must also be temporary. It is now more than two years since our own national incident of spectacular violence, however, and although the United States remains obsessed, it is not unfair, or even insensitive, to begin considering the events of September 11 from a more detached perspective.

(Via American Samizdat.)


Read on. Now this is terrifying.
Climate Change Seen Pushing Plants to the Brink

Thousands of plant species are being pushed to the brink of extinction by global warming, and those already at the extremes are in the greatest danger, a leading botanist said on Tuesday.

Paul Smith, head of Britain's Millennium Seed Bank, said the drylands of the world which cover 40 percent of the earth's surface and are home to more than one-third of the population faced the bleakest future.


Only one-third? Well, in that case we should be just fine.
Paul ("The Other Side of Truth") Kimball's been working on a publicity poster for the Symposium. His first effort, while superficially striking, needed some work. So I helped him out a bit and he came up with something considerably more effective:





Feel free to print this out (preferably in color) and hand out to the unsaved. (Want the full-size version? Who can blame you?)

;-)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

UFO Film Maker Paul Kimball Interviewed

This is the first of a number of Book of THoTH interviews with the speakers at the Symposium Conference 2006 . The first being the organiser of the conference Mr Paul Kimball. Questions by THoTH and Oddthings.

We will be interviewing Stanton Friedman, Robert Zimmerman, Mac Tonnies and Greg Bishop so far. If you've not read the details of the Symposium, it is strongly recommended that you do. This is not an event to be missed, so many good speakers talking about things that effect all of us.


A good interview. I look forward to the others.
Fantasy Island

Joan Sinclair, a 22-year-old photographer, was working as an English teacher in Tokyo when a friend dragged her to the city's infamous Kabukicho red-light district, a neon-drenched enclave packed with 5,000 sex shops that cater to an impressively specific array of sexual fantasies and fetishes. She was hooked. Eight years later, she returned with a camera and set out to document Japan's $20 billion sex-services industry, befriending hundreds of budding sex workers and their businessman clients.

(Via Boing Boing.)


I certainly don't see it happening in the Midwest, but sooner or later this sort of thing is going to go at least relatively mainstream. Just imagine the weird fetishes incubating in the Western psyche. Somehow I see Starbucks leading the pack. ("Barista." "Bare-ista." Hmmm.)
Diary: Siberia and climate change (David Shukman)





I have had the chance, and the impact of the warming is becoming very noticeable to local people. In the regional capital, Yakutsk, I saw huge holes torn in major roads where the permafrost had melted.

I also saw an urgent effort to shore up a large office block in danger of collapse. Many other buildings have not been saved.


"The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet."

--William Gibson
I bought this cube at Target this evening and nailed it to my wall.





My interior design philosophy: You can never have enough space for plastic aliens and tin rocketships.
Remains from Jet Chasing UFO?

On November 23, 1953, an F-89 Scorpion jet was scrambled from Kinross AFB in Michigan to intercept a UFO. The fighter was observed on radar to merge with the UFO. It then disappeared from radar. In 1968, parts that might have come from the plane were found on the Canadian side of Lake Superior. Now the Great Lakes Dive Company believes that it has not only found the jet, but also possibly part of the object it was pursuing.
Went to the doctor today. I was futilely hoping for a quick, definitive explanation; instead, I'm having an ultrasound scan tomorrow. Maybe I'm pregnant! That might explain it . . .
Researchers link human activities to rising ocean temperatures in hurricane formation regions

New research shows that rising sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in hurricane "breeding grounds" of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are unlikely to be purely natural in origin. These findings complement earlier work that uncovered compelling scientific evidence of a link between warming SSTs and increases in hurricane intensity.

(Via Universe Today.)
Grisly mermaid mummies for sale

Juan Cabana manufactures and sells fake mummified mermaids based on the Feejee hoax-mummies of yore.
Too good to be true?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Book of THoTH has posted a very nice article about the New Frontiers Symposium next month. Can't wait!
The World Below Us

There exists the distinct possibility that advanced life forms could exist deep under the crust of our planet earth. This assumes a completely different species of sorts, which has adapted through the course of evolution to the different environment of subterranean life. These adaptations would give them more of a thin, insect-like or even a reptilian look, and would give them features which would seem quite alien to humans. If such intelligent life existed below the surface of the earth, one could assume that if they did in fact develop a form of travel above the surface, and if it was through flight, it is very likely it would involve use of the earth's geomagnetic energies which this particular species would be much more in "tune" with than surface dwellers.






This article proposes that the "Grays" originate underground. While I can readily imagine a subterranean civilization of nonhumans, I find the idea that intelligent beings could evolve there unlikely. Secluding themselves in underground "bases" might be a relatively recent event, timed to avoid a mutually catastrophic run-in with homo sapiens.

Caverns and tunnels repeatedly crop up in the alien contact literature. Witnesses sometimes describe lavish below-ground installations teeming with beings that may or may not be related to humans. This is certainly compatible with the idea that our "visitors" have been here at least as long as recorded history, spared the toxic excesses of known civilization. In effect, they could inhabit an immense fallout shelter, having foreseen our own demise and taken elaborate precautions.

The apparent need for genetic material might indicate the creation of an interim "occupying force" of passable hybrids, a scenario explored in David Jacobs' "The Threat."
Dark Days Shelters in Subways

The urban legend about cities of homeless living underground in the neglected corridors of New York City's subways was partly true. For about a decade in the 80s, a colony of extremely resourceful hobos built shelters in an underground section of Penn-Central railroad beneath New York. They had stolen electricity and a few even had cold running water; many worked outside as can collectors or street vendors, and rifled garbage for uneaten restaurant food.
GREER: 'IRWIN'S DEATH WAS ANIMAL WORLD'S REVENGE'

Feminist icon GERMAINE GREER has sensationally blasted naturalist STEVE IRWIN's death an apt "revenge" by the animal world. Irwin died yesterday (04SEP06) after being stung in the chest by a stingray while diving on the Great Barrier Reef. However, the Australian author has little sympathy for his untimely demise, insisting the CROCODILE HUNTER star's cruelty to animals deserved a violent retribution.

(Via The Anomalist.)


Let me get this straight. The animal world wants to exact revenge -- and it picks the Crocodile Hunter? What about the companies busily toxifying the oceans? What about the W administration's strident anti-science goons? What about Exxon? Hell, what about the fast-food industry? Or Michael Crichton?

The list of humans doing harm to animals (and ultimately, of course, to themselves) is endless. But no -- Mother Nature has a vendetta against Steve Irwin.

One can only hope that was just a warm-up.
Ancient Ocean Released a Torrent of Methane

New research indicates that periods of global warming in the past triggered the release of vast quantities of methane stored beneath the oceans. These reserves are generated over long periods of time by bacteria and other organisms, but is chemically frozen into the sea floor. Methane is powerful greenhouse gas, and contributes to the general effect of global warming. The emissions peaked 16,000-14,000 years ago, and then again 11,000-10,000 years ago, and could happen again if ocean temperatures rise above some unknown level.


This is the kind of thing James Lovelock's talking about when he alerts us to the extremely inconvenient fact that Earth is on the verge of a morbid fever that will decimate humanity.




Here are some illuminating out-takes from "Future by Design." The world needs more Jacques Frescos -- and it needs them now.
I've been enduring stomach pains for most of the last week; consequently I haven't been going "out" much, and therefore not eating as well as I probably should. (Unless soda crackers and jam qualify as "eating well"; in that case I'm the very picture of health.)

I'm reluctant to see a doctor because I've had this problem before and honestly expect it to go away. I halfway suspect it's stress-related. Hell, maybe it's just in my head.

In the meantime, I've been fatigue-prone, neither my body nor my mind functioning to design specifications. And because of that I find myself having slept most of the day, which always wreaks havoc with my circadian rhythms.

On that sunny note, here's "Daysleeper" by R.E.M.

Humans Affect Sea Warming in Hurricane Zones - Study

Hurricanes feed on warm water, and a study released on Monday shows a link between warmer ocean temperatures and human use of fossil fuels, challenging skeptics who blame them on natural climate cycles.

"Our paper suggests that it's human-induced burning of fossil fuels that have altered the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that have led to this warming in regions where Atlantic and Pacific hurricanes form," said Benjamin Santer, a climate scientist and co-author of an article in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
White? Uncool? No problem! Anyone can sound like a bad-ass with the Samuel L. Jackson Soundboard!

(I wish they made a portable version of this; it's got a deft retort to just about any attempt at human interaction than I can think of. Alas, it's profoundly unsafe for work.)

Monday, September 11, 2006





Here's my Saucer Smear appearance. It appears the Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis just might be "shockingly close to the truth!"

Supreme Commander James Moseley writes: "We feel that it is a really thought-provoking rant. Tonnies has said what we are trying to say, but he says it better."

Note: Technically, the excerpt about the CTH isn't a "Web rant," as it's described in the Smear -- it's a transcript of me actually talking (in front of a camera, no less!), making it a good old-fashioned rant. But I've got tons of Web-based rants if you want 'em.
MySpace And The Dumbing Down Of Friendship

According to some worrying new studies, people who invest their time developing online relationships in social networking websites like Myspace and Facebook are becoming increasingly less aware of their real offline friends and family. And it's not just the Internet that's distracting us from our respective social milieus. Mobile phones, iPods, Palm Pilots and game consoles all suck-up precious face-to-face time in a culture that was already television obsessed to begin with.

As far as technologies go, communications is a biggy. From cave paintings and maps to the written word, the printing press, radio and television, human communication has continually, fundamentally and permanently changed the way in which we interact. But the changes are not all positive, and we increasingly find that the benefit of greater connectivity, speed and access to information has come at a cost.


For as much time as I spend online, seeking out exclusively electronic "relationships" has never appealed to me. Having said that, I've fortuitously made several friends online, some of whom I've gone on to see in "meatspace" -- in all cases finding the person on the other side of the screen completely recognizable and familiar.
Must-see dancing robot video:



(Found at Reality Carnival.)
To Defeat Frailty

Viewpoints on aging - on therapies, what aging is, and how much can be done to stop it - continue to change for the better. From the San Franciso Chronicle: "Researchers are finding that frailty may not be the inevitable result of aging but rather is a preventable and perhaps treatable condition. The muscle weakness, exhaustion, and weight loss typical of frailty were until recently considered just byproducts of diseases and the general loss of vitality during one's advanced years. Now scientists are studying the condition in its own right." The article looks at very early first steps, both in opinions of aging and medical science. In the years ahead, we will be able to do far more to prevent aspects of age-related degeneration and thus extend healthy life span - but only if a foundation of widespread support and understanding for scientific longevity research is set down now.
European Robot Taxis

The automated taxis will be used to connect Heathrow's Terminal 5 with a parking lot. The technology, which has been named "ULTra," has been developed by the British firm ATS and is already being tested. The driverless vehicles pick up passengers after they are ordered and deliver them to their destination. Magnets or sensors on the ground direct the vehicles along their route. In Rome, driverless "cyber cars" will pick up visitors at a parking lot or the nearby train station and take them to a new exhibition center. And in the Spanish city of Castellon, a new driverless bus will be tested that can travel through the city center on a specially designated lane.
Special 9-11 post!

The Chimp in action!

And here's an audacious Italian fashion spread featuring super-models trying to break into an airport. If only more Evil Doers looked like this.

(Both items found at Boing Boing.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006





Last night I couldn't sleep. So I thought about split-brain experiments. I wondered how it would feel to have the left and right hemispheres of my brain detached and hooked up to different bodies, producing, in effect, two different people for the price of one . . .

This thought experiment seemed to serve me well until I realized, belatedly, that it wasn't helping me fall to sleep at all.
Top 25 Censored Stories of 2007

This year's hits include "Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran," "Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger" and more.

Read 'em and weep. Or drink heavily. Or stare blankly into space. Whatever works for you.




Cyberpunk Artist Interview: Chad Michael Ward

Wow!
Why death sucks . . .
The Ultimate Secure Home





Strategically located in the awesome San Juan mountains of Southwest Colorado, this patented steel-reinforced concrete earth home was built to withstand almost any natural or man-made disaster you can name. It is more secure, safe, and functional than any conventional house could ever be, yet still has a level of comfort that one might not expect to find in an underground home.

(Via Boing Boing.)


Yes, but will it keep the fuckwits away?
Wake-up call: The Singularity has already happened . . . in 1940!



Note how the announcer repeatedly mispronounces "robot" as "robit."




Word on the street is that I'm featured in the lead article of the new "Saucer Smear," a publication I admire. I haven't seen a copy yet, but those who have tell me I'm given a nod for my Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis. (And yes, work continues on the book . . .)

In any case, the issue will eventually go online.
Vampire Domestication: Taming Yesterday's Nightmares for a Better Tomorrow

Watch. Learn.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Modern humans, not Neandertals, may be evolution's 'odd man out'

New research published in the August, 2006 journal Current Anthropology by Neandertal and early modern human expert, Erik Trinkaus, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, suggests that rather than the standard straight line from chimps to early humans to us with Neandertals off on a side graph, it's equally valid, perhaps more valid based on what the fossils tell us, that the straight line should be from the common ancestor to the Neandertals, and the Modern Humans should be the branch off that.


[. . .]

"I wanted to see to what extent Neandertals are derived, that is distinct, from the ancestral form. I also wanted to see the extent to which modern humans are derived relative to the ancestral form," Trinkaus says. "What I came up with is that modern humans have about twice as many uniquely derived traits than do the Neandertals."
Robotic Frisbees of Death

The US Air Force has just awarded a grant to military contractor Triton Systems to develop a "Lethal Frisbee UAV," which can be launched from a device like a skeet launcher and operated by remote control or autonomously.

These disks, known as "Modular Disc-Wing Urban Cruise Munitions," can be armed with a series of MEFP (Multiple Explosively Formed Penetrator) armor-piercing explosives capable of firing a single large fragment for bunker busting or spraying an area with smaller jets of molten metal for the decimation of unprotected infantry or light utility vehicles.


And each one comes with a warning sticker: "Not to be used for playing 'catch' with your dog."
You've probably already seen this, but . . .



Almost "scramble suit"-like, huh?
Future Be Warned: Keep Out!





A half-mile below the surface of the New Mexico desert, the federal government is interring thousands of tons of monstrously dangerous leftovers from its nuclear weapons program -- plutonium-infested clothing, tools and chemical sludge that will remain potentially lethal for thousands of years to come.

It may be safely secured now, but how to keep our descendants centuries in the future from accidentally unearthing it?

That's the question posed by the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the nation’s only underground repository for military-generated radioactive waste.

To address it, the Department of Energy convened a conclave of scientists, linguists, anthropologists and sci-fi thinkers to develop an elaborate system intended to shout "Danger!" to any human being for the next 10,000 years -- regardless of what language they speak or technology they use.

(Via Information Aesthetics.)


This is assuming, of course, that we have a future to warn.
Always on the lookout for possible historical "cryptoterrestrial" encounters, I was most intrigued to find this:

Edo-period UFO (with illustrations)

The document recounts the stories of Japanese sailors who find themselves in foreign lands after becoming lost at sea, as well as castaway foreigners washed ashore on the beaches of Japan. To the Japanese people, who at the time had been living in a prolonged period of national isolation, these exotic tales must have seemed very fantastic.

Among these stories is the account of a wrecked ship with a very mysterious appearance.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Senate: Saddam saw al-Qaida as threat

Saddam Hussein regarded al-Qaida as a threat rather than a possible ally, a Senate report says, contradicting assertions President Bush has used to build support for the war in Iraq.


I've never pretended to know a whole lot about Mid-East geopolitics, but I thought this was self-evident. And while I can't stand The Chimp, I think he's exactly what the US deserves (elected or not).

I grew up reading science fiction about corrupt regimes overthrown by the intelligent minority. In the books, the people cared if the ruling technocracy fucked with their lives. They even got mad.

But that was fiction, and this is reality, or at least what passes for it.




I braved the throngs of empty-headed teenagers* at Barnes & Noble this evening and picked up my reserved copy of "The Grays," which I might just start tonight.

*All in ready-made "punk" gear and requisite "goth" haircuts. They never actually read anything, mind you. Many never actually enter the store; those that do gravitate to the lobby, where their body-piercings can be more readily seen by unsuspecting patrons.

I long for a real bookstore in my part of town. Somewhere with soft music, lots of dog-eared out-of-print titles and an espresso machine. If and when we develop full-immersion VR in which the user can construct his universe to comply to every aesthetic whim, that's where I'm going. (Occasional sex would be nice, too.)
One thing I hate about being solitary is the shoddy treatment I get in public places. I ate at a restaurant the other night -- not a "nice" restaurant, but a decent one -- and the ever-cordial hostess (or whatever you call them now) promptly escorted me to my seat . . . in the back corner. Next to the kitchen. Where, presumably, I wouldn't be seen by normal, sociable folk despite the restaurant being virtually empty.

But the food was OK.
Yet another movie that won't be showing anywhere near me:

Sharp, funny view of a stupid future

"Idiocracy" is a movie that looks stupid, but only in the service of astute commentary. As a prologue explains, smart people are getting outnumbered. While the intelligent tend to be careful about their breeding, a lot of morons are not; too boneheaded to think about birth control or sensible family size, they're cranking out more dumb babies every day.

So when soldier Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson) wakes up 500 years in the future, the result of a botched hibernation experiment, he finds the country hopelessly dense and incapable of solving the most basic problems. Buildings are teetering and collapsing. Garbage towers high in the streets. Farm fields are barren because a sponsor pumps salty energy drink into every place water used to be -- including the irrigation systems.

Most everyone in 2505 is a mouth-breathing lout, barely capable of forming a sentence. They've elected as president the guy who seems cool to them, a loudmouthed porn-star wrestler (unfailingly funny Terry Crews, the dad from "Everybody Hates Chris"). They pass their days consuming, defecating, fornicating and gawking at anything that goes boom. Then consuming some more. And because they don't know any better, they've let themselves be co-opted by corporate marketers, taking brands ("Frito") for names and wearing disposable clothes covered with ads.

(Via Boing Boing.)


I don't find the premise at all "out there." We're effectively there already.
The End of Eden

A lean, white-haired gentleman in a blue wool sweater and khakis beckons you inside his whitewashed cottage. We sit beside a stone hearth as his wife, Sandy, an elegant blonde, sets out scones and tea. James Lovelock fixes his mind's eye on what's to come.

"It's going too fast," he says softly. "We will burn."

Why is that?

"Our global furnace is out of control. By 2020, 2025, you will be able to sail a sailboat to the North Pole. The Amazon will become a desert, and the forests of Siberia will burn and release more methane and plagues will return."

(Via PAG E-News.)
Let's start Friday on a fun note . . .

Global Warming Taking Earth Back to Dinosaur Era

Global warming over the coming century could mean a return of temperatures last seen in the age of the dinosaur and lead to the extinction of up to half of all species, a scientist said on Thursday.

Not only will carbon dioxide levels be at the highest levels for 24 million years, but global average temperatures will be higher than for up to 10 million years, said Chris Thomas of the University of York.

Between 10 and 99 percent of species will be faced with atmospheric conditions that last existed before they evolved, and as a result from 10-50 percent of them could disappear.

"We may very well already be on the breaking edge of a wave of mass extinctions," Thomas told the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Thursday, September 07, 2006





Livable worlds abound, simulations find

The simulations found the opposite: as they travel inward, Hot Jupiters fling rocky debris outward, where it easily clumps into Earth-like planets. Meanwhile, turbulence in clouds slows down small, icy bodies orbiting far off, so they spiral inward and dump water on the young worlds. These can eventually accumulate oceans miles deep and settle into a life-friendly "habitable zone."
The best Marian apparition yet:

Mother of God! Icons are making virtual visits

"... my religious beliefs (or lack thereof) changed drastically today while building a pre-fab in S[econd] L[ife]," explains Saluko in the description of the digital icon on the classifieds site SLExchange. "Upon rezzing a standard cube, suddenly and to my astonishment, what appeared to be the image of the Virgin Mary appeared on side 0! Clear as day on a .5x.5x.5 cube you can see the mother of Jesus!"

And she's right. If you stare at the computer-generated grains, you can see the holy mother clear as day. Better still, Saluko is willing to give you this piece of religious idolatry for only $100 of real money. It truly is a small price to pay.

(Via The Anomalist.)




Chris Wren puts "transhumanism" in perspective.
SMART-1 Ends in a Flash and Puff of Dust

Through infrared observations with its newly installed infra-red mosaic camera WIRCam, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope offered a stunning image of the crash of the European spacecraft Smart-1, a very bright flash on the low-contrast landscape lit by earthshine, an image that was made available to the European Space Agency moments after Smart-1 radio-silence had made clear that the mission had ended.

Beyond the media impact of visual "confirmation" of the crash, the image allowed to pinpoint the location of the crash, actually very accurately predicted by the Smart-1 team after the ultimate orbit maneuver a few orbits before the impact.


Cool . . . our very own lunar Roswell.
The Intelligent Universe: AI, ET, and the Emerging Mind of the Cosmos

Gardner envisions a final state of the cosmos in which a highly evolved form of group intelligence--a cosmic community--marshals the assets of matter and energy bequeathed by the Big Bang and engineers a cosmic renewal: the birth of a new baby universe endowed with the same life-giving propensity that our cosmos enjoys.

"My first book, Biocosm, was one long argument that the cosmos possesses a utility function (i.e., some value or outcome that is being maximized) and that the specific utility function of our cosmos is propagation of baby universes exhibiting the same life-friendly physical qualities as their parent-universe, a sort of cosmic reproductive organ," Gardner told KurzweilAI.net.


I'm drawn to the concept that the universe needs consciousness, either to succeed in some "utility function" or simply to keep itself intact. If so, could it also need directed awareness in the form of technology?

Singularitarians rejoice: The very fabric of reality could be inherently transhumanist.
OK, enough with the fat guys in swimming pools . . .



Ten of the best science fiction/fantasy novels you've never read . . .

1.) Quicksand (John Brunner)
2.) Photographing Fairies (Steve Szilagyi)
3.) We (Yevgeny Zamyatin)
4.) Metrophage (Richard Kadrey)
5.) Random Acts of Senseless Violence (Jack Womack)
6.) Drinking Sapphire Wine (Tanith Lee)
7.) Infernal Devices (K.W. Jeter)
8.) Walk to the End of the World (Suzy McKee Charnas)
9.) Silicon Embrace (John Shirley)
10.) Titus Groan (Mervyn Peake)
Dreams have their own geography. Not merely a participatory sense of place, but a palpable topology . . . an underlying spatial structure that challenges dogmatic concepts of "reality." As I revisit the locales in my psyche, I'm tempted to ascribe them to genuine places only half-seen (if at all) while waking.

Our "normal" lives are flimsy, incomplete. We should fully engage the dreaming self instead of denying or deriding it; illusions are endemic to perception -- sleeping, waking or inhabiting that barely remembered interzone that straddles the border.
Oh man, this is a gem!



And if you don't like R.E.M. . . . too damned bad.
Scorecard for the War on Terror

With President Bush today conceding that the CIA ran secret prisons overseas, news that 14 key figures will be transferred from CIA custody to Guantanamo Bay, and revised guidelines on detainee torture, now seems a good time to review security expert Bruce Schneier's post, "Scorecard from the War on Terror."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Explorations Among Apple-Like Objects in the Reality Carnival

As we embark on this journey that we call "life," we sometimes encounter people with whom we will never speak. We'll never know their names, never understand if they are happy. Nor will we ever share their hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

Who is this woman? What is that rectangular patch on her coat bearing the year "2004." Why does she stand in front of a sign reading "Large Gala Apples: $1.19," which also contains an oval beneath the price?

Why the predominance of apple-like objects in the background?

Why does her pocketbook have a piano keyboard? Perhaps she is a musician. Perhaps she is a physicist exploring the awesome mysteries of gluons, photons, and W and Z bosons -- the force carrier particles that are responsible for strong, electromagnetic, and weak interactions respectively. Perhaps she is an expert on both the Punic and Peloponnesian wars.

We are likely never to know whom she is, whom she will marry, and even the first letter of her name. For now, as the stars descend, we can only study her photo and temporarily dream that she is Melissa, Tracy, or Gwendolyn.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006





Brilliant!

(Thanks to Geisha Asobi, "link site which is introduce funny, crazy and interesting site.")
Take a long look; maybe it will help lessen the shock when the suburbs start dying.

(Hat tip to Boing Boing.)
Since that last YouTube clip of the big guy in the pool made such an unexpected impression, I thought I'd push my luck and treat you to this.
I'm in awe of this guy.
Phone calls to extraterrestrial civilizations return no response

The first telephone line for calling outer space was brought into operation in the United States on February 27th, 2005. Anybody who feels like calling aliens can dial 1-900-226-0300 and talk as much as he can at $3.39 a minute. A powerful transmitter will relay the call to space via a parabolic satellite dish, which is 3.5 meters in diameter.

Thousands of telephone calls have been transmitted to space since the day when the line became operative. The average duration of a call was about three minutes. The system providers intend to widen a range of services in the future. The users would be able to send to space their amateur movies, e-mail messages and digital pictures.

(Via The Anomalist.)


"No response"? Au contraire! I've been yakking it up with gorgeous spacewomen since the line went live!

No, wait . . . I'm thinking of a different 1-900 number. Sorry about that.
Multiple copies of a mystery gene may make us human

A newly discovered mystery gene may have helped build the modern human brain, researchers report today.

Scientists don't know what the gene does. But they do know that humans have more copies of it than chimpanzees, monkeys, rats and mice. And they know that the gene makes a protein that is found in the human brain. That suggests that it may help to give the human brain its unique ability to think and reason, they say.
Big Bang Brouhaha Brewing





The UAH data shows a shadow effect of about one-quarter of what was predicted - an amount roughly equal in strength to natural variations previously seen in the microwave background across the entire sky. "Either it [the microwave background] isn't coming from behind the clusters, which means the Big Bang is blown away, or... there is something else going on," said Lieu. "One possibility is to say the clusters themselves are microwave emitting sources, either from an embedded point source or from a halo of microwave-emitting material that is part of the cluster environment. Based on all that we know about radiation sources and halos around clusters, however, you wouldn't expect to see this kind of emission. And it would be implausible to suggest that several clusters could all emit microwaves at just the right frequency and intensity to match the cosmic background radiation."




New attempts to crack Saturn's 'walnut' moon

The mysterious equatorial ridge on Saturn's moon Iapetus is either a fossil ring system that fell to the surface, or a pile up of crustal rocks formed as the satellite changed its shape. These are the latest theories from planetary scientists.

The ridge, revealed by the Cassini probe, is unlike anything else in the solar system. It is up to 20 kilometres high and stretches 1300 km along the moon's equator, resembling the ridge on a walnut.


Despite its sheer "fringiness," I have to confess to a certain affinity for Richard Hoagland's idea that the ridge is an artificial construction.
A large, shirtless man in a pool tells us about the Singularity.



I hope to do a lot better than this at the New Frontiers Symposium . . .

Monday, September 04, 2006

Gaza doctors encounter 'unexplained injuries'

Beside especially severe burning "down to the bones", the doctors say that, in other cases, internal organs have been ruptured without any obvious sign of shrapnel wounds.

While a report from the Hamas-run Ministry of Health said the injuries raised the possibility Israel could be using "unprecedented" projectiles with "radiant" substances, the medics acknowledge that there is no proof so far of their claims. They also admit that the difficulty of establishing the exact cause of death is greatly exacerbated by the reluctance of most bereaved Palestinian families to allow autopsies.

(Via Unknown Country.)


Microwave lasers?
"Blade Runner" and Massive Attack: a no-lose combination.

Climate Change Raises Europe Infectious Disease Threat





Diseases not normally seen in Europe are now starting to appear because of the world's changing climate, a scientist said on Monday.

Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia in England, told a British science conference that erratic weather that will cause flooding and drought will also lead to changes in the incidence of infectious disease.

"There are already significant indications of disease burden occurring in Europe as a result of climate change," he told the conference.
The Fembot Mystique





But what is it about curvaceous cyborgs that stirs the imagination? To some, fembots represent the perfect male fantasy: They're sexy and submissive and have more techie features than the Xbox 360. But they also have a dangerous side that can reduce walls to rubble and make an army retreat. Perhaps the fembot's allure resides in her ability to walk the line between total obedience and unfathomable power.

(Via Notes From Somewhere Bizarre.)
They're Wi-Fi-enabled! They're huggable! They're chumbys! And no two are the same!

Dig it:

Introducing chumby, a compact device that can act like a clock radio, but is way more flexible and fun. It uses the wireless internet connection you already have to fetch cool stuff from the web: music, the latest news, box scores, animations, celebrity gossip...whatever you choose. And a chumby can exchange photos and messages with your friends. Since it's always on, you'll never miss anything.


In other words, it's a real-life instant messenger. And it wants to be your friend.

(Rudy Rucker envisioned a very similar device in his Ware books; the earlier, chumby-like incarnations were called "wuvvees," if I remember correctly.)

(Hat tip: Sauceruney.)

Update: Rudy Rucker emails with the following clarification . . .

"My devices were called uvvies, singular uvvy. Also disccused in SAUCER WISDOM. The name is an analgoue of TV, it's from UV, for Universal Viewer.

"People often want to pronounce it Ooo-vee, but I mean it to sound
like uuuuuh-vee. lovey dovey with your uvvy."
If you're a budding anomalist and would like to see your work in print, consider the competition advertised at The Book of THoTH (top of page). I just might go for this myself.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The German Mission to Mars, 1910





In Daibers' books we encounter Martians called 'Marsites' who live in a scientific utopia. And where certain rumours have it that in 1944 or 1945, towards the end of World War 2 a secret German SS mission to Mars was actually undertaken in a 74 meter diameter Haunebu 3 flight disc, in Daiber's book the journey to Mars is started in 1942. The names of the seven world sailors, German scholars and professors, all begin with the same Letters. Thus we have a Paracelcus Piller, A Bombastus Brumhuber and so forth. The main protagonist, the leader of the expedition and its spritual father is named Siegried Stiller, or, SS.
A quietly haunting video for one of my favorite R.E.M. songs . . .


Greed:Medium
 
Gluttony:High
 
Wrath:Very Low
 
Sloth:High
 
Envy:Medium
 
Lust:Medium
 
Pride:Very Low
 


Take the Seven Deadly Sins Quiz

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Gene-altered flies testify to global warming





Populations of fruit flies on three separate continents have independently evolved identical gene changes within just two decades, apparently to cope with global warming.

"What we're showing is that global warming is leaving its imprint on genes," says Raymond Huey at the University of Washington in Seattle, US, who made the discovery with colleagues. "For this to happen in such a short time-frame in so many parts of the world is rather disturbing," he says.
Symposium hype goes viral . . .

Friday, September 01, 2006

Remember the android vignette I posted a couple weeks ago? It's been illustrated!





Big thanks to Dia Sobin.
Rich Nations' Greenhouse Gases Up, Despite Kyoto

Industrialised nations' emissions of greenhouse gases edged up to the highest level in more than a decade in 2004 despite curbs meant to fight global warming, data compiled by Reuters showed on Thursday.

The figures, based on national submissions to the UN Climate Secretariat in Bonn, indicate many countries will have to do more to meet 2012 goals set by the UN's Kyoto Protocol for cutting emissions of gases from fossil fuels.

Emissions from 40 industrial nations climbed 1.6 percent overall to 17.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide -- mainly from power plants, factories and cars -- in 2004 from in 2003 even though oil prices were surging.


Yeah, but who really killed JonBenet?




Your turn!
A new empirical approach in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Astrobiological nonlocality at the cosmological level





Over a period of several decades a concerted effort has been made to determine whether intelligent life exists outside of our solar system, known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence or SETI. This has been based primarily upon attempting to intercept possible radio transmissions at different frequencies with arrays of radio telescopes. In addition, astrophysical observations have also been undertaken to see if other worlds or solar systems exist with similar conditions such as ours, which might be conducive to life. And, numerous papers have been written exploring different possibilities for the existence of life or why we have not observed it as of yet, since none of these approaches have been successful. It may now be possible to explore this issue from another standpoint. Recent theoretical and experimental results in the field of biophysics appear to indicate the possibility of quantum entanglement and nonlocality at the biological level, between spatially separated pairs of human subjects and also between basins containing neurons derived from human neural stem cells. If this research continues to be upheld in a more replicable fashion, this could have very important implications in the area of controllable superluminal communication. Experiments are proposed in an attempt to address the issue of whether controllable superluminal communication is possible and, if it is, to utilize it in an attempt to determine if extraterrestrial intelligence really exists, within the framework of astrobiological nonlocality.


More on this soon . . .
This Machine is Alive! Microscopic Motor Runs on Microbes

Scientists have yoked bacteria to power rotary motors, the first microscopic mechanical devices to successfully incorporate living microbes together with inorganic parts.

"In far future plans, we would like to make micro-robots driven by biological motors," researcher Yuichi Hiratsuka, a nanobiotechnologist now at the University of Tokyo, told LiveScience.


The distinction between the mechanical and the biological has always been a matter of perception . . .
"Go forward! Move ahead!"



". . . the serious moonlight."