Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Paul Kimball's posted a few photos from the New Frontiers Symposium, damningly titled "A Night on the Town with Generation NOW."
It's official: I'm signed up for cryonics

I put my MedicAlert bracelet on for the first time yesterday, and at first it felt slightly odd. Some of the initial feelings that arose were the same as those depicted in my story of being frozen alive; loneliness and isolation. I felt this way largely because so few people I know are signed up for cryonics, so, should it work, they would not be there upon my reanimation.

But I've since grown more comfortable with this symbol of my decision, and with the decision itself. To me, cryonics is a rational choice if you want to do everything possible to create, relate, experience, learn, love and grow as much and as long as possible in this world. So now I look at my bracelet as a symbol of personal empowerment; this is just one of many steps I plan to take on a journey towards a better future for me and the world.

(Via Sentient Developments.)
Opec Says British Climate Change Report "Unfounded"

A hard-hitting report on climate change published by the British government on Monday has no basis in science or economics, OPEC's Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo said on Tuesday.


Overnight in the sleep-pipes

Austria's relatively new dasparkhotel is an inn "constructed from repurposed, incredibly robust drain pipes."

Each pipe's Zen-like "external simplicity," we're told, "surrounds an unexpectedly comfortable interior -- full headroom, double bed, storage, light, power, woolly blanket and light cotton sleeping bag. All other hotelery devices (toilets, showers, minibar, cafe, etc) are supplied by the surrounding public space."
Oh, wow. Just look at this. Now imagine it teeming with Soviet bureaucrats.

(Hat tip to the omniscient Boing Boing.)
I wish I'd made this. No, I wish I could make this.

(Found at Reality Carnival.)
Stealing Prison Items In Order To Escape

Civilization, the most colossal, immoral, unreformable mistake ever made by human beings, is a prison. I naturally wish to escape this prison. But it's a diabolical prison! Its walls are composed of my inability to survive outside it. Civilization says, "What was once easy to procure, like your food and shelter and clothing, is now under lock and key. You must sell your life to civilization in return for what was once free to everyone. You must comply with this system because you are no longer capable of entering the wilderness and procuring your own free food, shelter, and clothing. If you do not comply, you are doomed to die. But don't fret, we know it seems like a rotten deal, but you get American Idol and Cool Ranch Doritos, so it's not that bad."
I'm down with the flu this Halloween; posting may be scarce.

Have a fun holiday!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Advertisement: Let's Go To the Colonies!

Are YOU finding it difficult to leapfrog to the head of the dole queue? Sick of rubbing shoulders with billions of other citizens on Earth? Tired of breathing in disgusting pollution? Clothes shredded and skin raw from acid rain?
Cool robot vehicle transports man around Tokyo

Just outside Harajuku station today I saw the craziest/funniest/most dumbfounding thing I've seen in Japan to date. The machine containing this man was fully mobile and powerful enough to get up and down the curbs with ease, not to mention immaculately put together.

But it's the discrete radiation trefoil that makes this contraption truly cool.
UN Sees 'Far More Robust' Global Warming Evidence

In its last assessment in 2001, the IPCC said there was "new and stronger evidence" that gases linked to human activities, mainly from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars, were the main cause of global warming.

Its next report, the first chapter of which will be launched in Paris on Feb. 2, will group research by about 2,000 scientists on the drivers of climate change and its impacts on weather, disease, ecology and water supply.

Marked strengthening in the IPCC conclusions might pressure the United States -- which pulled out of the emissions-cutting UN Kyoto Protocol in 2001 -- to toughen its policies.

I had a multiple-witness saucer sighting while in Halifax. Greg Bishop shares his recollection:

Breakfast at "The Triangle" Halifax N.S. 10/15/06. Mac Tonnies orders steamed mussels and has a flying saucer sighting. Mac is overcome by the spiritual nature of the encounter (note golden halo which mysteriously appeared around his head.)

I don't know if the steamed mussels came in peace or not; I ate them before they had a chance to communicate.

By the way, Tim Binnall has me pegged as a "should-be" Coast to Coast AM guest:

Considered by many to be one of the "next big things" in esoterica, Tonnies is quickly gaining a following in the blogosphere. His book on the much discussed anomalies on Mars has drawn widespread critical acclaim. Tonnies could bring a fresh, open-minded, but thankfully grounded, look at the C2C stalwart that is Mars.

While I'm not sure I see a C2C guest spot happening (late-night radio politics being what they are), I appreciate the vote of confidence. In any case, it's not inconceivable that I'll make an appearance on Tim's own show.

Early problems with voting machines are starting to show up, and they seem to be rather more serious than a few glitches. A glitch is when I'm not sure if I kicked the voting machine unplugged by accident. When my vote flips from the candidate of my choice to the opposing candidate all by itself, that's more than just a little glitch.

Paper ballots and Pencils: superior technology.
Silken celluloid
an autumnal effluvium
of bitmapped memories
consiged to Mandelbrot branches
and fossil roots;
inverted iterations
like pale music
China Makes a Sexy, Slutty Robot

This "Dion" robot from China can both "sing" (in Chinese) and look sexy. Yes, simultaneously. That's two more than Britney Spears can currently do.

(Via PAG E-News.)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

If you know what a "replicant" is without resorting to Google, don't miss "On the Edge of Blade Runner."
Clever Raven

Some ravens in Japan come up with a clever way to eat food that they naturally wouldn't be able to. Sir David Attenborough narrates.

(Via Feral Intelligence.)

File under "Endearingly Hitchcockian."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Top 50 Cryptids From Around The World (Loren Coleman)

In my book, Cryptozoology A to Z, I detailed several of the well-known and lesser-known but technically unknown alleged animals from around the world that are of interest to cryptozoologists. From that 1999 work, my earlier lists, and later research and fieldwork, here’s my list of the top fifty picks of these hopefully soon-to-be-found animals, which are actively being pursued today.

(Via The Anomalist.)
Mars Rover Beginning To Hate Mars

But as the winter lingered, Spirit began producing thousands of pages of sometimes rambling and dubious data, ranging from complaints that the Martian surface was made up almost entirely of the same basalt, to long-winded rants questioning the exorbitant cost and scientific relevance of the mission.

"Granted, Spirit has been extraordinarily useful to our work," Callas said. "Last week, however, we received three straight days of images of the same rock with the message 'HAPPY NOW?'"
Jack Chick meets H.P. Lovecraft!

(Thanks: Utility Fog.)
Hitch hike to Mars inside an asteroid

A small population of asteroids pass by both the Earth and Mars in their orbits. So the idea is that a spacecraft containing Mars-bound astronauts could rendezvous with one of these objects as it goes by the Earth and travel with it until it nears the Red Planet.

In one version of the idea, the astronauts would actually dig a hole in the asteroid, put the spacecraft inside and cover it over with material from the asteroid. Within this protective burrow, the spacecraft would be shielded from cosmic rays during the six- to 10- month journey to Mars.

(Via Futurismic.)

Could someone have already done this? And is Mars' moon Phobos evidence?
New Planet Hunter Prepares for Launch

A powerful new instrument for finding extrasolar planets is about to launch: COROT (Convection Rotation and planetary Transits). Developed by the European Space Agency, COROT will search for planets using the transit method; it will be able to detect the slight drop in brightness as a planet moves in front of its parent star. If the observatory performs as expected, it should be able to detect rocky worlds just a few times larger than the Earth. COROT is scheduled to launch in December, 2006.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Protopanpsychism and the consciousness conundrum, or why we shouldn't assume uploads

If a quantum computer comprised of biological matter could arise through autonomous evolutionary processes, then I would have to think that intelligences like our own will eventually come to figure it out. If this is the case, then it may be possible to engineer subjectivity outside of our grey matter. Quantum computers could also be useful for running simulations of quantum mechanics, an idea that goes back to Richard Feynman; he observed that there is no known algorithm for simulating quantum systems on a classical computer and suggested to study the use of a quantum computer for this purpose. One has to wonder if the same logic applies to the potential for quantum computers to run consciousness simulations.

Given the extreme computational power and speed of quantum computers, I can't even become to fathom what a conscious agent would do within such an architecture.

All bets are off once a conscious superintelligence starts to engage in selective decoherence.

I've yet to discover a compelling reason why consciousness can't be substrate-independent -- provided that the substrate is "quantum compatible."
"Humming" by Portishead

Mountain looks like an Indian listening to an iPod

Truly one of the best profile simulacra I've seen.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Testosterone Levels in Men Decline Over Past Two Decades, Study Shows

Testosterone levels in American men have been declining steadily over the past two decades, a new study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism concludes.

The reasons for this decline are unclear; the study suggests that neither aging nor changes in certain health factors, such as obesity or smoking, can completely explain the phenomenon.

Maybe there's hope for humanity after all.
'McMurdo' Panorama from Spirit's 'Winter Haven'

Oct. 26, 2006, marks Spirit's 1,000th sol of what was planned as a 90-sol mission. (A sol is a Martian day, which lasts 24 hours, 39 minutes, 35 seconds). The rover has lived through the most challenging part of its second Martian winter. Its solar power levels are rising again. Spring in the southern hemisphere of Mars will begin in early 2007. Before that, the rover team hopes to start driving Spirit again toward scientifically interesting places in the "Inner Basin" and "Columbia Hills" inside Gusev crater. The McMurdo panorama is providing team members with key pieces of scientific and topographic information for choosing where to continue Spirit's exploration adventure.

Uh-oh . . . Cliff Pickover's discovered the "glass tubes/worms" of Mars.
Top 10: Controversial pieces of evidence for extraterrestrial life

Undeniably fascinating stuff . . . but of course the UFO phenomenon isn't even mentioned. I predict science historians will look back on this omission with bafflement and dismay.

(Thanks again, Mondolithic!)
Humans Living Far Beyond Planet's Means - WWF

Humans are stripping nature at an unprecedented rate and will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year by 2050 on current trends, the WWF conservation group said on Tuesday.

[. . .]

"If everyone around the world lived as those in America, we would need five planets to support us," Leape, an American, said in Beijing.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Our Polar Impacts

In the 1990s the world successfully addressed the ozone hole by agreeing to phase out ozone destroying chemicals. Its now a waiting game as the hole will continue to fluctuate while slowly healing over the course of the next 50 years. It is a vivid yet disturbing lesson about the time frame of planetary recovery as we continue to play Russian roullete with the world's climate by failing to act with the urgency the problem warrants.

The reasons for this are myriad, but a major one is quite literally in our view of the problem. Unlike the ozone hole we have no shared image of global warming. We see receding glaciers and drying lakes, but nothing that uniquely captures the novelty and urgency of the problem we are now facing.
Blog of the day: The Space Elevator Reference
What are the chances of aliens sniffing us out?

Beaming signals into space to find ET could potentially be risky for Earth and its inhabitants. So researchers are developing a Richter-like scale to assess the chance that extraterrestrials could detect -- and potentially react to -- such signals.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Close encounter witnesses almost invariably describe electromagnetic anomalies both in the presence of UFOs/entities and in mundane surroundings. I'm drawn to the possibility that some abductions are energetic intrusions of some sort, a hypothesis that "nuts and bolts" pundits are likely to deride. Perhaps instead of focusing on recovering memories of events occluded by "missing time," researchers should attempt a comprehensive electrical profile of the witness' nervous system and vicinity.

To my knowledge, the only researcher to undertake a rigorous survey of the electromagnetic environment's impact on the experiencer is Albert Budden, who has come to accept that alien visitation and "hauntings" alike can be attributed to EM "hotspots" interacting with the human brain. Budden's model hinges on the human brain's ability to conjure convincing hallucinatory states. And while there's no doubt the brain can be remotely stimulated to produce otherwordly imagery (through both EM and chemical means), laboratory tests have thus far failed to produce anything comparable to an archetypal "abduction" experience.

This frustrating lack of repeatability in a clinical environment invites the possibility that we're dealing with an external phenomenon of considerable power and complexity; we may, in fact, be dealing with a form of nonhuman consciousness that takes the form of plasma.
Oh, the angst!

(Photo: Greg Bishop.)
Greg Bishop took a bunch of good pictures in Halifax (posted here in proper high-resolution). Here are three selected favorites.

The first one looks like a quintessential band promo shot, like we've just released an EP and are trying to hit it big with a new single. Nick Redfern truly looks the part. I'm wearing black leather, so I suppose I qualify -- although I don't envision myself doing anything overly visible; I'd probably be the "concept manager" or something -- like Brian Eno except without the musical ability. Will Wise (third from right) looks appropriately angsty. And Lisa looks charming. Maybe she's the lead singer.

Here I am with Paul Kimball and Nick in Paul's office. Paul actually did play in a band; I think I'm holding a T-shirt from a benefit he played in 1996.

And here's a final (?) shot of me at the mic talking about something or other. Space elevators, maybe. Or decrypting ET personae.

This gives an idea of what futurists mean about when they talk about progress going nonlinear.

Monday, October 23, 2006

It's common knowledge that ufologists know how to party. Throw a token transhumanist into the mix and look out.

As far as I could tell, none of us actually got drunk that night. But I certainly look impaired.

(Photo courtesy of symposium attendee Jezzie.)
Here's a mesmerizing video of shape-shifting rovers in action, via Communist Robot:

Like watching origami come to life . . .
Want your own pet "rod"? Master anglers tell how to catch elusive "skyfish"! Impress your friends!

(Thanks to Pink Tentacle.)
Cydonia's 'Face on Mars' in 3D animation

The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) science team have produced a dramatic 3D animation that beautifully simulates a flight over the Cydonia 'Face on Mars', one of the most famous surface features on the planet.

I suppose it makes no difference that the ESA's rendition of the Face on Mars is demonstrably inaccurate. The "debunking" effort clanks predictably forward.
Dawkins: Why There Almost Certainly Is No God

Ignorant and absolutist attacks on stem cell research are just the tip of an iceberg. What we have here is nothing less than a global assault on rationality, and the Enlightenment values that inspired the founding of this first and greatest of secular republics. Science education - and hence the whole future of science in this country - is under threat. Temporarily beaten back in a Pennsylvania court, the 'breathtaking inanity' (Judge John Jones's immortal phrase) of 'intelligent design' continually flares up in local bush-fires. Dowsing them is a time-consuming but important responsibility, and scientists are finally being jolted out of their complacency. For years they quietly got on with their science, lamentably underestimating the creationists who, being neither competent nor interested in science, attended to the serious political business of subverting local school boards. Scientists, and intellectuals generally, are now waking up to the threat from the American Taliban.

The erudite Greg Bishop, author of "Project Beta" and a fellow speaker at the New Frontiers Symposium, now has a blog. I took the photo above in his LA studio. If you want to talk intelligently about UFOs and their social significance, Greg's your guy.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

More Halifax photos . . .

Paul had printed off posters for all of the speakers. This collage was one of the first indications of weirdness as you entered the auditorium, followed by a merchandise table staffed intermittently by Stan Friedman and Robert Zimmerman.

(I bought an aged copy of "The Zeta Reticuli Incident," a commentary on the Betty Hill "star map" controversy, and the new 2-disc edition of "Do You Believe in Majic?", Paul's MJ-12 documentary.)

Halifax has a sense of history that's all-too lacking in the Midwest. The photo below was taken at the perimeter of a colonial citadel with a fantastic view of the city.

Here I am with Will Wise and actress Veronica Reynolds, who I met in Los Angeles in May.

We ate at a pub that served fish and chips, which necessitated breaking my vegetarian vows. Fortunately, my newly gall bladder-less digestive system didn't give me any problems.

While I've been hanging out in Nova Scotia talking about mind-uploading, friend and editor Patrick Huyghe has been taking in the Fortean scene in Paris.
Another "Mac-wiki."
Some interesting Google Earth sleuthing . . .

Pyramids in China

Since many years already in the popular scientific community and in publications there are many announcements and contentions of gigantic pyramids in China. The puzzle around the look-up seems final after new discoveries. With the help of Google Earth, the objects are to be seen impressively. It can not be maintained longer, there might be no pyramids in China.
I tried downloading Second Life last night and was told my video card wasn't quite up to the task. Perhaps this is the Cosmos' way of telling me to get a first life!
Application of Transcerebral, Weak Complex Magnetic Fields and Mystical Experiences: Are They Generated by Field-Induced DMT Release from the Pineal Organ?

During the last 15 years weak, complex magnetic fields have been applied across the two cerebral hemispheres at the level of the temporoparietal lobes of more than 500 volunteers. Most of these subjects have reported visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive sensations as well as experiences of detachments from the body of 'sentient being'. Similar but more intense experiences were reported by Strassman in 2001 for volunteers who were injected with N,n-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a compound St[r]assman hypothesized as the primary mediator of these experiences. If this speculation is valid, then subjects who are exposed to a very weak, complex field known to elicit similar experiences should display significant increases in the metabolites of this compound within their blood.

A couple quick observations:

Here in Kansas City, I've been noticing yard signs condemning the new stem cell proposal. I'm considering running them down with my car.

And while I typically abhor political mud-flinging, I've seen Talent up close and in person -- and he's an asshole.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Oy . . . the latest idiocy from Richard Hoagland is enough to make any sensible person cringe.

Click here for your daily weirdness fix. Quite possibly NSFW.

Wow. This Iraqi sandstorm is positively Martian. And, if the last shot is any indication, filled with "orbs"!

(Thanks: Mondolithic Sketchbook.)
This island in Halifax caught my attention; it had been landscaped and gave the general impression of an upwards-staring eye (although it's hard to discern in this reduced-size version).

I couldn't help but think of this:

(By the way, that's Nick Redfern over on the right.)
Loss of species that pollinate is cause for global alarm, researchers say

Birds, bees, bats and other species that pollinate North American plant life are losing population, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Research Council. This "demonstrably downward" trend could damage dozens of commercially important crops, scientists warned, because three-fourths of all flowering plants depend on pollinators for fertilization.

Can you pimp an inflatable sex doll?

We should explain that, according to news site Chosun.com, Korean punters have developed a taste for "doll experience rooms", paying 25,000 won per hour (a tad over 14 quid, by our reckoning) for use of bed, computer, and pneumatic hussy. The market for the latter apparently took off after the Special Law on Prostitution came into effect in 2004, banning the sale of real flesh for purposes of sexual gratification.

(Via Aberrant News.)

Deep exploration of Earth's biosphere raises excitement about the potential for life on Mars

Researchers from Indiana University Bloomington and eight collaborating institutions report in this week's Science a self-sustaining community of bacteria that live in rocks 2.8 kilometers below Earth's surface. Think that's weird? The bacteria rely on radioactive uranium to convert water molecules to useable energy.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The "Cliffs Notes" version of my presentation, courtesy of Chris and Kenn at Mondolithic Sketchbook.

Patterson-Gimlin Footage: 39 Years Ago

For me, all of the above combine into the virtual and visible vortex of the best pieces of evidence for the existence of Bigfoot.

(Via The Anomalist.)
so alone into the cold new year without another word from her
i wrote to ask if we could maybe meet again before the spring
but weeks went by with no reply until once more my birthday came
and with it my surprise but this time nothing was the same . . .

"i'm sorry - blame infatuation - blame imagination -
i was sure you'd be the one but i was wrong -
it seems reality destroys our dreams - i won't forget you - blossom"
faded red inside a tiny book of old goodbyes . . .

--The Cure, "Strange Attraction"
Rudy Rucker and John Shirley -- united! That kind of creative synergy is enough to power a small city.
Hands-down blog of the day: Brass Goggles
Here I am "wising up the marks" in Halifax. Feel free to Photoshop your own word-balloon.

And here's the whole panel doing a Q&A. Nick Redfern looks quite forlorn. (Stalking chupacabras will do that.)

Both pictures by Jezzie, whose two-part post-symposium wrap-up can be found here and here.
Antarctic Ozone Hole Biggest on Record, US Reports

This year's ozone hole over Antarctica is bigger and deeper than any other on record, US scientists reported on Thursday.

The ozone layer shields Earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, and the layer thins out over the South Pole each year, primarily because human-made compounds release ozone-eating chlorine and bromine gases into the stratosphere.

"From September 21 to 30, the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles (27.4 square kilometres)," said Paul Newman of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center outside Washington.

I think her name was "Natalie" something . . .

Thursday, October 19, 2006

More symposium coverage:

Symposium asks: What if Earth is a penal colony for aliens?

"We have to look at things in the right way," [Friedman] said, adding that since humans had achieved success in technologies such as nuclear fission, advanced civilizations could have harnessed the power of nuclear fusion, an energy that could get their ships to Earth, since it can be found in any star.

But Friedman also speculated that this planet could be some extra-terrestrial society's version of Australia, or a dumping ground for prisoners, as he considered human civilization to be caught up in "tribal warfare." If that were the case, he said, aliens are probably hanging around to make sure we don’t leave the solar system.

"If there's a galactic federation out there, it's probably thumbs down to Earth," he said.
Is The Face On Mars Horny?

Skip forward thirty years and we have new images, published in September 2006 by the European Space Agency (ESA). These images prove once and for all that the formation is just a lumpy hill, skeptics say, pointing to a steeple-like horn near the brow which doesn't look very humanoid at all. Case closed, right? Apparently it seems that the horn actually gives you a reason to be skeptical of the skeptic's proof. The horn doesn't appear in earlier images of the Face. Marc [sic] Tonnies at Posthuman Blues sums up the controversy by pointing out that those following the story "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."

US shows signs of net addiction

A typical addict is a single, white college-educated male in his 30s, who spends more than 30 hours a week on "non-essential" computer use, it found.

I've been profiled!
Shape-shifting rovers

The minimalist device consists of an adjustable frame joined together at key points called nodes. The thin struts connect to the round nodes to form a tetrahedral shape, with another "payload node" at the center to hold the computer systems and sensors. The robot moves by extending or contracting its struts to change its configuration and shift its center of gravity until it tumbles over, then begins the process again. Depending on the terrain, its overall shape can change from tetrahedral to cubic to nearly spherical or flattened out. Ultimately, it should be able to negotiate its way across deep crevasses and climb steep cliffs by shifting its shape as needed.

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)

A tetrahedral shape, you say? Hmmm . . .

OK, drop whatever you're doing and watch this. Right now. You'll thank me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Halifax photos 2

Despite intermittent correspondence and having read his books, I'd never actually seen Stan Friedman in person until the Symposium. It was worth the wait. Stan's a virtuoso speaker and makes a provocative case against both the "SETI cultists" (his term -- and an apt one) and the "noisy negativists" who deride the possibility that some UFOs could very well be extraterrestrial craft. Regardless of your take on the Roswell incident, one of Friedman's pet cases, there are few, if any, rational arguments against his modest proposition that technological progress comes from doing things in unexpected ways.

Nick Redfern and Greg Bishop. Greg had a hilarious T-shirt emblazoned with the head of Heaven's Gate cult leader Marshall Applewhite and the slogan "Follow Me" . . . not to mention one of the coolest iPod libraries on the planet. We stayed up late the night before departure listening to trippy Theremin music. I laughed myself hoarse while Greg checked his hellokitty.com email.

One of Halifax's many virtues is its preponderance of indie coffee shops. We sampled one while waiting for Paul to finish a deserved nap at his office. The woman in the back is Will's awesome wife Lisa, who kindly indulged my craving for snapshots.

What a remarkable thing to be surrounded by people who dig cryptozoology, the subtleties of the Contactee Movement, Project Blue Book, and transhumanism.
No-Fly lists even dumber than suspected

If you've been paying attention, you already know that the TSA's No-Fly list and secondary screening lists are a joke, but even so, this excellent investigative piece from CBS News will blow your mind. The TSA's lists contain people who are dead. They contain the presidents of foreign countries. They contain incredibly common names like "Robert Johnson." These farcical lists are supposed to secure the skies, and the way they're supposed to do it is by denying air travel to thousands of innocent people (without catching a guilty person smart enough to use a fake ID). Even worse, because the gargantuan lists have to be widely circulated, the CIA won't allow the names of actual terrorist suspects to be added to them -- in other words, the No Fly lists only contain the names of people who aren't under any serious suspicion.

Having recently endured an international flight, I'm not the least bit surprised. As far as commercial air travel is concerned, this is not a "War on Terror." It's a war on convenience, decency and common sense.

On a sunnier note, here's a positive independent review of the New Frontiers Symposium:

Afternoon at the Symposium

Saint Mary's University hosted the 2006 New Frontiers Symposium on Extraterrestrial Life, Space Exploration, & The Future. Numerous speakers gave talks on subjects ranging from Project Blue Book, to contact with aliens and the science of spaceflight.
Halifax photos 1

I have many interests aside from writing. One is sailing. The high seas just call to me.

Here's Nick Redfern, who approaches a broad spectrum of Forteana with insight, humor and humility. And he's easily one of the nicest people I've ever met; aside from being fun to hang out with, he kindly mailed me some interesting declassified documents that suggest the Air Force may have once taken my "Indigenous Hypothesis" at least somewhat seriously. I hope to see him again when he hits Kansas City this December.

And let's face it -- the jacket is cool.

And here's UFO researcher Don Ledger, who attended the conference. Nice guy; unfortunately, we didn't have a lot of time to talk. A few years ago I'd read his "Dark Object," a book about the perplexing Shag Harbour UFO crash.

Below: Conference organizer Paul ("Hetero Kool") Kimball with keynote speaker Robert Zimmerman, space historian. I got to talk at some length with Zimmerman at the hotel. While -- inexplicably -- I haven't read his award-winning history of the Russian and American space programs ("Leaving Earth") you can bet it's jumped way up on my to-read list.

Want to "support our troops"? Quit buying magnets and start backing research like this.

(Hat tip: Mondolithic Sketchbook.)
Crikey! I'm gone for a few days and I miss this:

Humanity to evolve 'goblin' underclass

Mankind's future will be split between a beautiful 'genetic elite' and an underclass of 'goblin' creatures, an expert has predicted.

Dr Oliver Curry, who has spent two months studying the ascent and descent of Man over the next 100 millennia, thinks the upper class will be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative.

But he forecasts an underclass evolved into dim-witted, ugly and squat people, the report said.

Dr Curry said that science and technology could create an ideal human habitat over the next 1,000 years which may spark a "monumental genetic hangover" in the subsequent millennia.

On a purely speculative note, what if the "Blondes" reported by many alleged abductees represent an elite of sorts while the Grays -- truly goblin-like in many respects -- hail from a lower genetic tier?
Quick note: I'm still working my way through a lot of email. If you're waiting for a reply, it might take a few days. Thanks!
The fab five!

From left to right: Fortean extraordinaire Nick Redfern, po-mo UFO researcher Greg Bishop, film-maker Paul Kimball, archivist/programmer Will Wise, me.

(Click here for the full-size version. Thanks, Paul.)
Here's how Paul Kimball remembers it:

The final speaker of the morning was author and essayist Mac Tonnies. A native of Independence, Missouri, Mac tells it like it is, much like another (more) famous Independence native, Harry S. Truman (of MJ-12 fame, and apparently also a former President - who knew??). Mac spoke on the subject of Transhumanism, i.e. what the near future holds for the development of humanity. His lecture, however, was more than a simple recitation of Kurzweil-ian predictions - if there is a philosopher amongst those who research and write about the paranormal, it is Tonnies. He makes people think, and challenges their perceptions and beliefs. His presentation was as much a fireside chat as a lecture, a thoughtful and at times cryptic appeal to those in the audience to take the future seriously, and to make a difference before it's too late.

Although to be fair, my presentation probably garnered mixed reviews. I rambled a bit, but it was arguably better than a "straight" approach. And if it was a "fireside chat," it was a rather nervous one -- at first, anyway.

I actually got some reassuring feedback from the audience; the highlight was a woman who claimed I'd induced "intellectual whiplash." And a couple people asked to buy my Mars book, which I hadn't brought along. (So much for the insidious Face on Mars "cottage industry" I keep hearing about from Michael Shermer wannabes.)
I'm back in Kansas City messily readjusting to suburbia after a canceled flight from Newark International, a development that shot my circadian rhythms to hell after a night of angsty pacing (and more-furious-than-usual espresso consumption).

The symposium was a lot of fun, though. More about that later.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

OK, this time I really am signing off.
Anders Sandberg has posted some great hazard stickers for plausible tomorrows. They're conceptual but eminently relevant. (I wonder if my car qualifies as an "existential threat" . . .)

(Found at Sentient Developments, which has wisely avoided UFOs for the last several days.)
Symbolism of the Veil

That the veil "disturbs" British politicians is proof that Islam isn't going to fizzle away anytime soon. Instead, it's adapting itself to modernity by imposing a powerful symbolic language on a society whose wealth and power have rendered it spoiled and apathetic. Like the hidden goddesses of the ancient world, a veiled woman attention simply by being there because she proclaims her feminine mystique - her status as something Unknowable and Secret.
Epsilon Eridani Planet Confirmed

Now we have a confirmed planet and a debris disk around the same star, compelling evidence that planets do indeed form out of such disks. The really exciting part? Hubble has a fighting chance to get an image of this planet in 2007, and so do other space-based cameras and even ground observatories.
They start off with cool tricks like this . . .

. . . but their goal is conquest and destruction! Beware the robot!

(Found at -- you guessed it -- Boing Boing.)
Red Spot Jr. is Getting Stronger

Jupiter's newly formed Red Spot Jr. is increasing in strength, according to new observations from the Hubble Space Telescope. These latest measurements clock its windspeeds at 640 kph (400 mph); almost double the speeds recorded by the Voyager spacecraft when it observed one of the spot's parent storms in 1979. The increased windspeed probably dredged up deeper material from the planet, changing its colour from white to red, similar to the Great Red Spot.

I'm just waiting for some oil industry flunkie to use this to argue that storms are getting worse everywhere and that it's Not Our Fault.
Symposium press:

Halifax ventures into New Frontiers

The 2006 New Frontiers Symposium brings seven researchers and authors to Saint Mary’s University in Halifax on Saturday to talk about extraterrestrial life, space exploration, cryptozoology and transhumanism.

Award-winning Halifax filmmaker Paul Kimball (Fields of Fear), will base his talk on his upcoming documentary for Space, Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Cases.

The lineup also includes: Washington, D.C.'s Robert Zimmerman, an award-winning historian of space exploration (Leaving Earth); Fredericton nuclear physicist and UFO researcher and author Stanton T. Friedman (Crash at Corona), the original investigator of the Roswell incident; bestselling British author Nick Redfern (Saucer Spies); Los Angeles radio host and author Greg Bishop (Project Beta); Kansas City author Mac Tonnies (After the Martian Apocalypse) and Norfok, Virginia software engineer and Project Blue Book archivist William Wise.

Here's another one . . .

Although I'll probably post a few more times today, I'm putting this blog on "standby" until I return and get back to a normal schedule (although, honestly, my schedule is never exactly "normal").

I've got an early flight tomorrow morning (Friday the 13th!), which gives me a day to chill out before the "gig."

Expect a full report.
A cute kitten plays on top of a keyboard. Go on. Watch.

I'd like to see cartoon animation software designed along similar principles.

(Thanks to Cosmic Variance.)
Is autism a "disorder"? Is psychopathy a "disease"?

Are people with autism disfunctional? Are psychopaths genetically adapted to survive by exploiting the rest of us?

CBC's Quirks and Quarks, my favorite science radio program, has run a couple of pieces recently about the idea that some of what we think of as "disorders" in human behavior can be more usefully treated as speciation -- a different kind of human.
Urban Grids / Respiratory Oases

In direct response to the 2005 EU Clean Air Strategy, a London- and Berlin-based design firm called Elegant Embellishments has developed "a decorative, three-dimensional architectural tile" that can reduce vehicular air pollution, including nitrous oxide and ground-level ozone. The tiles -- algorithmically designed and modular in assembly -- can thus "rapidly improve urban environments in terms of air quality and visual appeal."

(Via Mondolithic Sketchbook.)

Almost as cool as printable toast!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Once I've succeeded in upgrading ufology for the new millennium, there's only one logical thing to do -- return to my science fiction "roots." One of my aspirations is to appear in an annual "best of" anthology like one of these.

You just watch.
Cliff Pickover does YouTube!

Time capsule to be beamed from Mexican pyramid

Mexico's Teotihuacan, once the center of a sprawling pre-Hispanic empire, is set to become the launch pad for an attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial life.

Starting on Tuesday, enthusiasts from around the world will have a chance to submit text, images, video and sounds that reflect human nature to be included in the message.

I actually agree with the SETI Institute's Seth Shostak on what we should transmit to potential ET civilizations: Send the whole Internet. No more picking and choosing. No more putting on a good face for an intelligence that, in all probability, already knows damned well what we're really like. Maybe by seriously facing the prospect of others we'll finally achieve the nerve to face ourselves.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

NS Filmmaker Hosts Leading UFO experts at Halifax seminar

Halifax moviemaker Paul Kimball - and head of the local motion picture production company Redstar Films - is hosting a one-day international UFO conference at St. Mary's University on Saturday, October 14th.

Called The New Frontiers Symposium, it will consist of several globally-known UFO specialists giving presentations, along with question-and-answer sessions with conference attendees.

The presenters will include Greg Bishop (who will speak on the Contactee Movement), Stanton T. Friedman (on Flying Saucers and Physics), William Wise (Project Blue Book), Nick Redfern (Chasing Strange Creatures), Mac Tonnes (Towards A Post Human Future) and Robert Zimmerman (Stories From Space).

Kimball himself will make a presentation entitled Best Evidence: The Top Ten UFO Cases, which is also the subject of his latest film for the Space Channel.

They spelled my name wrong -- nothing new, believe me. But that's OK, because now I can flaunt the title of "Globally-Known UFO Specialist." And don't think I won't!
Print Lovin' On Your Toast

This conceptual toaster printer burns black and white pictures onto pieces of toast. It can mount on any wall, and is automatically activated when you slide in a slice of bread.

Unfortunately, it only prints abstract pictures held in its memory, but Adam says he would like to see it do some toast messaging.

Sometimes my faith in humanity really plummets. But then I see things like this and, somehow, I know we're gonna make it after all.
When You Smell Sulfur, Is SOMETHING ELSE Going on?

In close encounters and UFO sightings (and some Bigfoot sightings), people have reported the smell of sulfur (a rotten eggs smell). Now scientists have learned that that hydrogen sulfide, which produces this odor, can alter consciousness without causing physical harm, by causing a state of suspended animation. This could also be a clue to the phenomenon known as missing time.

Paging John Keel . . .
A little David Bowie to get Tuesday off to a good start . . .

Monday, October 09, 2006

Jake and Dinos Chapman

Often the subject of controversy, the Chapman brothers are famous for making sculptures based on the theme of anatomical alteration with a series of mannequins of children, sometimes fused together, with genitalia in place of facial features.

David Cronenberg would be proud.
THE DEEP DWELLERS: Subsurface Inhabitants in Folklore, Myth, and Literature

When reading and studying the available fiction which touches upon the topic of a subterranean world, many similarities come to light, which is interesting insofar as the various writers were not necessarily familiar with one anothers' works. It is obvious that many of them drew upon folktales and mythology, as well as the latest scientific findings and theories of the day, drawing indeed upon a huge matrix of archetypes and forms with which to work. Religious traditions have also been a major influence on the development of fiction about subterranean worlds and inhabitants, and some brave souls have shared accounts of what they have believed to be their own encounters with the denizens that dwell within the Earth's crust. In this work all of these aspects of underworld studies, and more, will come under careful examination, but this is not so much an examination of the underworlds as it is of their inhabitants.
It's like Survival Research Labs meets "The Chronicles of Narnia."

(Found at Boing Boing.)
Bush quietly releases major new space policy

With an almost a sneak-it-under-the-door approach, the Bush Administration has quietly announced a major new national space policy, one that promotes a Moon, Mars and beyond agenda, and addresses what is says is the need for intelligence-gathering both outside and within the U.S. Don't go looking for it on the White House web site, or even on NASA.com. But at its heart, the policy says no one should get in the way of U.S. space assets as they carry out their future missions (*cough* China *cough*) declaring "freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power."

"Operation Martian Freedom"?
North Korea says nuclear test successful

North Korea said Monday it had conducted its first nuclear weapons test, setting off an underground blast in defiance of international warnings and intense diplomatic activity aimed at heading off such a move.

U.S. and South Korean officials could not immediately confirm the North Korean report but the U.S. Geological Survey said it recorded a seismic event with a preliminary magnitude of 4.2 in northeastern North Korea that coincided with the country's announced nuclear test.

I do tend to be a little suspicious of the idea that String Theory MUST be true because it points a possible way to a Grand Unified Theory of Everything - and there MUST be a Grand Unified Theory of Everything - because that would be elegant.

In fact, there doesn't have to be a Grand Unified Theory of anything, and it's perfectly possible that the universe isn't ultimately reducible to a single simple formula. Maybe it is - but if it is, it's not because nature has a proclivity for neatness and symmetry. We want it to, but only because we're hard-wired to find harmony and patterns in everything. The universe isn't required to conform to our esthetic preference for elegance, and I think we should be deeply skeptical of any line of inquiry that begins with the assumption that an elegant solution is just waiting to be found.
World Hits Annual Sustainable Resource "Overshoot"

The world went into the ecological red on Monday -- meaning that for the rest of the year mankind will be living beyond its environmental means, scientists said.

Ecological Debt Day or Overshoot Day, measures the point at which the consumption of resources exceeds the ability of the planet to replace them -- and it gets earlier every year.

"The fact that this year, ecological debt day falls on Oct. 9, only three quarters of the way through the year, means that we are living well beyond our environmental means," said the New Economics Foundation (NEF) think-tank.
A Six-Fingered Alien in Florida, 1992

Frankovich said that they finally came to a kind of tunnel that was formed from densely growing vines on the dead trees. "He darted right into it and disappeared. The moment he entered that tunnel -- I was still in motion, running with him -- I hit a wall of stench like I have never hit in my life. It was a combination of sulphuric acid and formaldehyde. It was so strong that it actually burned the lining of my nose. It was like running into a concrete wall, that strong.

[. . .]

Linda Howe asked Frankovich if she went back to that spot later. She said that she and the dogs went back the next day and had a different kind of encounter.

"I had my dogs, was running them, and low and behold, here comes this black car, right at me in the grove. Government plates. It pulled up next to me. Two fellows sitting in the front seats, both had on black suits. The one sitting nearest to me on the passenger side said, 'Have you ever seen anything strange in this grove?' And I wasn't about to tell him or anybody else what I'd seen.'"

Frankovich said that the man gave her a business card that had a raised gold emblem of the White House on it, but no other information that would connect them to a particular agency. After a brief conversation, they drove away. Frankovich was left with the impression that these men already knew about the beings and were mainly trying to determine if she knew anything.

This report is worth reading in its entirety not because it proves anything (it doesn't), but because of the being's striking correspondence to the cadaver in the so-called "alien autopsy" video and hasty retreat into a "tunnel" -- implying a terrestrial origin.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Wit and Wisdom of the 21st-Century Printing and Packaging Biz

"We're in the business of putting goo on a substrate."

But really -- what business isn't?

I like this one, too:

"You can't take on the Silicon Gorilla face to face."

Truer words never spoken.
Laughter all part of the mind, researcher says

Ms Hale says laughter is essential because it provides a cognitive respite.

"Laughter offers a temporary respite from the everyday clutter of thought. It's a different sort of consciousness with is uncluttered by the everyday 'shoulds' and 'buts'," she said.

Ms Hale believes laughter is a uniquely human talent that operates within a cultural context but also transcends culture.

"It's a kind of perception, a recognition," she said.

(Via The Daily Grail.)

Maybe the Turing test will only be passed once AIs learn how to laugh.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Oh no, not Steely Dan again

I had already come to terms with the idea that the iPod version of shuffling creates a sufficiently unbiased distribution to earn the casual appellation of "random". What was bothering me was now something even deeper. Yes, the bothersome clusters of certain artists are within the bounds of randomness. But that made me realise that the seemingly magical effects of the shuffle function - a spooky just-rightness, even brilliance, that comes from great song juxtapositions - were also consequences of randomness.

And, in its own way, that was much more disturbing.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Interesting article. Coincidentally (?), Steely Dan took its name from a sex toy in William S. Burroughs' "Naked Lunch"; Burroughs, of course, is famous for drawing on random juxtapositions of text for inspiration.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Morrissey: "There Is A Place in Hell for Me and My Friends"

Attack of the killer prototype robots

"Rather than look at a 3D model on a CAD (computer-aided design) program, a physical model would be manifested on your desk," said Babu Pillai, who, along with Jason Campbell, is heading up the project. "The material would change shape under software control."

The trick is that the fabric would not be a continuous piece of material. Instead, it would be composed of millions of independent silicon spheres covered in electronic actuators--half-capacitors or electromagnets. By applying charges to different actuators, different points on the sphere would be repelled or attracted to similar points on other spheres. The coordinated movement of the spheres would then cause the fabric to assume a shape.

(Via KurzweilAI.net).

Of course, if you're a character in a certain John Shirley novel, then this amazing stuff starts swarming through the nearest orifice it can find and hijacking your central nervous system . . .
Huge 'launch ring' to fling satellites into orbit

Aside from microsatellites, the launch ring would be ideal for delivering supplies to support human spaceflight, such as food and water, which are not sensitive to such high accelerations, Fiske says. "Nearly all of this materiel could be shipped via launch rings, resulting in major reductions in the cost of manned space activities," he told New Scientist.

(Via KurzweilAI.net.)
Saturday night I'll be chatting with Errol Bruce-Knapp on "Strange Days . . . Indeed." Greg Bishop will also be on; I think we're both doing half-hour spots. I'll be talking about . . . hmmm. It just occurred to me that I don't know exactly what I'll be talking about, although it's a safe bet it will concern weird things.

Speaking of which, the New Frontiers Symposium is fast-approaching. If you're not planning on coming . . . man, what's wrong with you?
Lazarus Microbe's Immortality Secret Revealed

Although the basic mechanism behind Deinococcus' hardiness is understood, many mysteries still remain. For one, proteins are needed for DNA repair and synthesis, but proteins can be damaged by radiation, too. It's one thing to piece together a broken genome, but how does Deinococcus do it with broken tools?

"That's still a mystery," Radman told LiveScience. "How, after months of desiccation and burning from UV sunlight in the desert, is there still sufficient protein activity to start reconstituting DNA? We don't know."
My "ambassadorship" with Sprint expired. No more cool high-end cellphone. (I get to keep the phone, just not the service. Unless, of course, I want to pay for it, which I don't.) So I tried to reactivate my old Nokia through Virgin Mobile. After two days of wasting entirely too much time dealing with sheer unapologetic incompetence, I figured it would be easier to get a new phone -- so I wound up with the Kyocera Oystr, a phone that's so laughably un-rugged and minimal that it's almost endearing. But it's a hell of a lot better than beating a path to a payphone when I'm in an airport.
NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Image: 'Victoria Crater' at Meridiani Planum

This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows "Victoria crater," an impact crater at Meridiani Planum, near the equator of Mars. The crater is approximately 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter. It has a distinctive scalloped shape to its rim, caused by erosion and downhill movement of crater wall material. Layered sedimentary rocks are exposed along the inner wall of the crater, and boulders that have fallen from the crater wall are visible on the crater floor. The floor of the crater is occupied by a striking field of sand dunes.

Be sure to take in the high-resolution version of the photo, complete with rover tracks in the sand. This sort of clarity is astonishing.
Actroid DER2 fembot loves Hello Kitty (with video)

Kokoro, a Sanrio Group company specializing in the design and manufacture of robots, unveiled its new Actroid DER2 feminine guide robot at Sanrio headquarters in Tokyo on October 4.

Actroid DER2 is an upgraded version of Kokoro’s previous fembot, Actroid DER, who has made quite a name for herself by providing services at a number of events, including the 2005 World Expo.

(Via Boing Boing.)

We've still got a long way to go . . . but I think we'll get there soon.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Take a close look at this robot. Those eyes are unmistakable.

They are among us!
Looks like I might be appearing on "Strange Days . . . Indeed" this Saturday. More TBA.
Hubble Finds Extrasolar Planets Far Across Galaxy

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered 16 extrasolar planet candidates orbiting a variety of distant stars in the central region of our Milky Way galaxy.

The planet bonanza was uncovered during a Hubble survey, called the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS). Hubble looked farther than has ever successfully been searched for extrasolar planets. Hubble peered at 180,000 stars in the crowded central bulge of our galaxy 26,000 light-years away.

(Via Universe Today.)
I've been harboring a strange urge to write a posthuman sword-and-sorcery novel . . .
A few months ago I posted a brief list of UFO occupant cases that I felt had special bearing on the Indigenous Hypothesis, the subject of a book I'm in the process of writing. Somehow I managed to neglect mentioning the strange case of police officer Herbert Schirmer, whose "alien" captors offer a textbook example of the sort of subterfuge expected of a terrestrially based intelligence intent on deception.

I've read a (very) little bit of Whitley Strieber's new novel, "The Grays." So far I'm disappointed. Its arguable prequel, "Majestic" -- published in the 1980s -- succeeded because of its eerie sense of the alien. (Ironically, while Strieber has gone on to become synonymous with "alien abduction," the zeitgeist was still relatively new to the concept when "Majestic" hit shelves, regardless of the commercial success of "Communion." Consequently "Majestic's" depiction of Strieber's "visitors" was engagingly fresh, untainted by the innumerable abduction narratives to emerge in the next ten years.)

Now, of course, alien abduction is a consumer touchstone. Most of us have been trained -- via television specials, movies and books -- what to expect from a typical abduction. (The fact that the ostensibly "standard" run-in with probe-wielding Grays reflects only a shallow, cinematic understanding of the phenomenon is almost universally ignored.)

In "The Grays," Strieber's sense of the "other" seems to have faded. In the first chapter we're treated to a dismayingly conventional abduction scenario that could have been penned by anyone even peripherally familiar with ufological cliches. That's not to say "The Grays" is a bad book, but from its opening pages it almost seems to actively avoid expressing the nuances one might expect from contact with nonhumans.

But I'm still way too early in the game to know for sure. At the very least, I expect a competent thriller. I'll let you know.
Tough time trying to sleep last night; if my dreams were anymore uneasy I would have awoke to find myself transformed into a gigantic insect (or "monstrous vermin," depending on the translation).


My mom introduces me to a cute piglet which, evidently, she's adopted as a pet.

Shortly thereafter I find the piglet in the kitchen feeding on the severed head of a full-grown pig -- which is somehow still alive, listing from side to side and making strange shapes with its mouth.

I pretend to ignore it and ask my mom the piglet's name.

"Ham," she says.
Scientists teleport two different objects

The experiment involved for the first time a macroscopic atomic object containing thousands of billions of atoms. They also teleported the information a distance of half a meter but believe it can be extended further.

"Teleportation between two single atoms had been done two years ago by two teams but this was done at a distance of a fraction of a millimeter," Polzik, of the Danish National Research Foundation Center for Quantum Optics, explained.

"Our method allows teleportation to be taken over longer distances because it involves light as the carrier of entanglement," he added.

Quantum entanglement involves entwining two or more particles without physical contact.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Warning: Article includes requisite "Star Trek" references.
The Finkbuilt drawbot

The overtalented Steve Lodefink made a drawing robot for his kids out of a paper cup, a toy motor, a battery, felt pens, and duct tape. The video of the drawbot in action is a joy to behold.

The concept is almost ridiculously simple; I'd like to see an industrial-scale version set loose in a major city with an arsenal of giant airbrushes and chalk-dusters!
Invisible drone

The so-called Phantom Sentinel aircraft is Y-shaped, consisting of a single long wing attached to two short aerodynamic extensions which each end in a propeller. And the weight is carefully balanced so that the centre of mass is positioned between the two extensions. When the motors are running, the solid part of the aircraft spins around this centre of mass, and the longer wing generates lift. The whole thing moves so fast that persistence of vision turns it into a single blur.

(Via Unknown Country.)

Watching a video of the Phantom Sentinel in flight, I was struck by just how closely it resembles some UFOs, particularly when seen edge-on. Further, attaching a single light to the rotor would produce an illuminated "ring" that would increase the craft's resemblance to the archetypal flying saucer . . .

I take it for granted that many honest UFO reports actually describe secret drone aircraft. And I suspect that the military capitalizes on the public's interest in UFOs by furthering this misidentification, perhaps even sowing "extraterrestrial" memes to discourage attention.

Perhaps careful analysis of archived UFO videotape can determine whether or not UFO behavior is consistent with "invisible drone" technology.
In its haste to "debunk" the Face on Mars, the ESA chose to flaunt a computer-generated illustration of the Face in which a prominent, previously unnoticed "horn" is seen protruding from the unusual feature's "brow."

Interestingly, the ESA produced a second synthetic-perspective view of the Face which I managed to miss. This "alternate" Face lacks the conspicuous horn.

This time there's really no argument -- natural or otherwise, it looks spookily face-like.

But which image most accurately reflects the actual Martian surface? Comparison with photos for which the source imagery is publicly available suggests the markedly less-publicized image (above) is a more faithful portrayal.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

US Northeast Could Warm Drastically by 2100 - Study

For those who love New England's mild summer weather, scientists have some advice: enjoy it while you can.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current course, Massachusetts may feel more like sultry South Carolina by century's end, researchers said on Wednesday in a report on clear signs of global warming in the US Northeast.

I think it's amusing how, to many, 2100 seems hopelessly remote. Immersed in a mainstream addicted to "major issues" like fleeting political scandals, I suppose it's all-too-easy to regard the end of the 21st century as a distant future of no practical importance.

But 2100 is just around the corner, less than a human lifetime away -- and we're living longer.

It's fashionable for climate change researchers to point out that it's our moral imperative to make the planet livable for our children and grandchildren. And they're right. But what about those of us alive right now? It's not at all inconceivable that someone reading this post in 2006 could be around to experience the brave new world of the 22nd century -- if not the 23rd, if we make predicted strides in genetic therapy and molecular nanotechnology. I can even reasonably hope to be that someone, even if that entails taking on a new form.

So if the idea of saving the planet doesn't stir you -- if you think of tackling global warming as a task suited for unspecified "future generations" -- think twice. Because the clock's ticking faster than ever.

What the fuck is a Transhuman??

Not a bad question, really. (Click here.)
Ray (Ray's X-Blog) joins the Mac Tonnies UFO Defense League.

(Join now and receive free official merchandise!)
That Twinkling Star Could Be E.T. Calling

As computing power grows, so will the search. "If we're scanning 100,000 channels this year, we'll be scanning a million next year. If we're scanning a million next year, it will be 10 million the year after that," Horowitz said. A massive new array of radio telescopes, bankrolled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, will be able to scan the entire relevant range of radio frequencies, from 0.5 to 11.2 gigahertz. Construction of the Allen Telescope Array should finish around 2008.
World scrambles for response to NKorea nuclear threat

Jittery nations have warned North Korea to abandon plans to test an atom bomb after the reclusive state again unnerved world leaders with a shock announcement on its nuclear capabilities. The UN Security Council was to meet in New York Wednesday to try to forge a unified international response after Pyongyang said Tuesday it would test the bomb to deter what it called the US threat of nuclear war. North Korea gave no date for the test and some analysts saw the announcement as an effort to gain leverage with the United States, but nations said they were taking immediate action and that the threat was serious.

(Via Signs of Witness.)

A few words from Bernard Haisch (UFOSkeptic.org):

One should be skeptical of both the believers and the scoffers. The negative claims of pseudo-skeptics who offer facile explanations must themselves be subject to criticism. If a competent witness reports having seen something tens of degrees of arc in size (as happens) and the scoffer -- who of course was not there -- offers Venus or a high altitude weather balloon as an explanation, the requirement of extraordinary proof for an extraordinary claim falls on the proffered negative claim as well. That kind of approach is also pseudo-science. Moreover just being a scientist confers neither necessary expertise nor sufficient knowledge. (I wish it did, sigh.) Any scientist who has not read a few serious books and articles presenting actual UFO evidence should out of intellectual honesty refrain from making scientific pronouncements. To look at the evidence and go away unconvinced is one thing. To not look at the evidence and be convinced against it nonetheless is another.

Not exactly an original sentiment, but one that bears near-constant repetition in the face of a scientific community that's willfully compromised its own intellectual integrity for fear of social reprisal.
The century of drought

It is one of the most dire forecasts so far of the potential effects of rising temperatures around the world - yet it may be an underestimation, the scientists involved said yesterday.

The findings, released at the Climate Clinic at the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth, drew astonished and dismayed reactions from aid agencies and development specialists, who fear that the poor of developing countries will be worst hit.

"This is genuinely terrifying," said Andrew Pendleton of Christian Aid. "It is a death sentence for many millions of people. It will mean migration off the land at levels we have not seen before, and at levels poor countries cannot cope with."

(Via Professor Hex.)

Transhumanism vs. UFOs

I'm a bit concerned about the New Frontiers Symposium.

I consider myself a serious person (history degree, law degree, professional filmmaker, Capricorn), and I think Stan Friedman (M.Sc. in physics), Bob Zimmerman (award-winning historian), Nick Redfern and Greg Bishop (published authors), and William Wise (software engineer, archivist) are serious people too.

And they'll be talking about serious subjects - history, physics, space exploration, evidence for the objective reality of the UFO phenomenon.

So what's to worry about?

Well, here's my concern - Mac Tonnies.

You see, I'm not sure we want to be associated with him.

Story of my life.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Here's a brand-new interview with Peter Watts, not only one of my favorite SF writers but a Posthuman Blues reader to boot. (No kidding. He says so in the interview.)

You can find a couple of my reviews of Watts' novels here (more forthcoming).
When transhumanists attack:

Unidentified flying idiots

And I also know that Mac Tonnies over at Posthuman Blues links to my articles from time-to-time. Posthuman Blues often deals with transhumanist and other future issues, but Tonnies's legitimate content is offset by his misguided focus on UFOlogy. As a result, the transhumanist movement may have a harder time gaining public acceptance and support with this kind of negative association.

My first reaction upon reading this was an urge to defend myself. But "defend" what? The ability to suspend conclusions in the face of a legitimate unknown? The intellectual rewards of honest speculation?

I'll continue to read and enjoy Sentient Developments; it's a good blog that makes intelligent points. Unfortunately, this latest potshot isn't one of them.
Giant Radio Telescope May Go to Australia or Africa

The SKA will be a set of thousands of antennas, not a single giant instrument, spread over 3000 kilometres, but with half of the antennas located in a central region 5 kilometres across. The SKA will be 50 times more sensitive than the most powerful radio telescopes we now have. It will peer deep into the cosmos to pick up signs of the first stars and galaxies to form after the Big Bang; it will trace the effects of the mysterious Dark Energy that is driving the Universe apart at an ever increasing speed; and it will map out the influence of magnetic fields on the development of stars and galaxies. Observations of pulsars will allow the SKA to look for the effects of gravitational waves from merging massive black-holes at the centres of other galaxies. If there are extra-terrestrial intelligences out there in the Milky Way with airport or ionospheric radars, the SKA will detect them.
One of my daily reads, Mondolithic Sketchbook, just got a face-lift. Take a look -- and read some posts while you're there.
And now a couple really good videos:

"Mysteries" by Portishead's Beth Gibbons (with Rustin Man) . . .

and "Overcome" by Tricky.

Robert Anton Wilson Needs Our Help (Douglas Rushkoff)

I hope people I've inspired with my work would band together to help me out in my later years if I needed it. Which is at least part of the reason why I'm sending what I can to support cosmic thinking patriarch Robert Anton Wilson, whose infirmity and depleted finances have put him in the precarious position of not being able to meet next month's rent.

Yet more evidence that our society needs to get its priorities straight.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Australian researchers back hobbit claims

In a new paper, ANU researchers reject claims that the skeleton of a hobbit-like species was simply a very short human with a rare brain disease.

ANU Professor Colin Groves says after analysing the evidence, he has no doubt the discovery represents a new species of human.

"What is particularly interesting about it is it survived in isolation through those two-million-years or so in eastern Indonesia and its existence was quite unsuspected until very recently," he said.

Professor Groves says the evidence speaks for itself.

"Aspects of the shape of the skull are completely outside modern humans," he said.

Top Ten Worst Kinds Of Nazis

They're everywhere!
I might as well be honest: my long-term outlook is colored by a case of lukewarm depression. Or impotent fury; I'll leave you to decide which is more debilitating.

I'm naturally solitary and I don't sense anything inherently wrong with that. Nevertheless, I'm sometimes overcome with a crushing mammalian sense of loneliness. And everything suddenly seems remote, like watching a crudely pixelated disaster unfold on a video monitor.

Paradoxically, this very sense of detachment catalyzes my interest in undermining the definition of "human" -- because, frankly, I'm sick to death of being human. Either "humanness" has failed me or I've failed it; in either case, I'm left disillusioned, like a tourist with someone else's luggage and only a fuzzy sense of the local geography. And it never quite goes away. The most I can do is douse it in caffeine and bury it under mounds of preemptive disgust.

I crave mutation -- but I want to be in control. Naturally, one of my pressing concerns is staying alive long enough that future science can help reconcile the schism between the fragile construct that passes for my identity and the laughable exhibition that passes for civilization.

I'm not asking for a quick fix. I'm not dodging personal responsibility. I just want a more concrete sense of why I'm enduring this spectacle. And I don't think for one minute that I'm unique in that sense.
I pulled into the library parking lot this evening and immediately sighted a copy of Dawkins' "The God Delusion" in the passenger seat of the car next to mine. It didn't look like a library copy, either -- I think the car's driver had actually purchased it. Finding this vaguely heartening, I scanned the back of the car for Jesus fish decals. None. Not even a NASCAR sticker.

I've maintained for some time that religion is the single-most threatening obstacle to the continued survival of our species. Either we grow out of it -- which seems unlikely -- or we choke to death in the womb. Maybe not in 20 years, although the seeds are most definitely germinating, but certainly within 150. It's become a race -- and an unfair race at that, because practitioners of tribal religiosity have access to the same exponentiating technology as those who are at least marginally "enlightened."

I'll be donning my "optimist" persona at the New Frontiers Symposium. I pretty much have to, if for no other reason than talking about exciting, progressive ventures is vastly more fun than considering that we're in the midst of a century-long end-game.

But once I've elaborated on humanity's potential for greatness I'll probably assume a less glamorous outlook: one in which intelligence -- human, posthuman or otherwise -- doesn't have much of a say. Because we'll be gone, our presence reduced to a scribbling of curious fossils and a varnish of chemicals.
Paul Kimball (The Other Side of Truth) keeps cranking out posters for the New Frontiers Symposium. Here's the final (?) print ad. And here's a special bonus Mac-specific poster featuring my soon-to-be deactivated cameraphone.

Keep an eye on Paul's blog; more speaker-specific posters are on the way.
Tired Sci-Fi Tropes That Must Be Retired!

This blogger has declared war on the genre -- and I mean that in a good way.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Geoengineering Option

Here's the good scenario: we have maybe a decade, fifteen years on the outside, before we need start seeing a significant and sustained global reduction of greenhouse gases if we are to avoid absolutely catastrophic environmental results. You know the litany by now: unstoppable sea level rise, famine from loss of agricultural land, countless deaths around the world from the heat and opportunistic diseases, extinctions galore, and on and on. Ten years is enough time to implement significant improvements in our transportation and energy technologies, our consumption patterns, and the design of our communities. We know the pieces that we need to put into place, it's just a question of getting them assembled in time.

Here's the not-so-good scenario: you know that decade we thought we had? It's more like a year or two. Good luck.

Should SETI Turn Active?

We are only beginning to have some understanding of how many planetary systems are out there and to learn about the properties of their largest planets. Knowing what we know now about the tenacity of life on Earth even in the most extreme environments, and knowing that there may well be Earth-like worlds in solar systems throughout the galaxy, we face the real possibility of alerting other civilizations to our presence before we know anything whatsoever about them. This may or may not prove dangerous, but it seems like something that deserves wide discussion.

Attempts to enact "METI" are essentially political gestures; for all intents and purposes, the Earth has already "gone active."

I would be very surprised if any advanced interstellar neighbors don't know we're here. But I enthusiastically second Centauri Dreams' suggestion to include science fiction writers in the debate. As abstract as it may seem, the possibility of contact with ETI in the near future demands the attention of all of us; contact, if it occurs, should be a cocreative venture, not the turf of well-intentioned but intellectually limited technocrats.

Today I noticed that the kitschy "Face On Mars" comic-book popularized by you-know-who features a Martian visage with a distinct "horn" between the eyes . . .

There's an extraordinarily lame conspiracy theory here. I can feel it.
Protecting our children from the god delusion

The world is complicated enough for children without feeding them fantastically bizarre stories about gods, demi-gods, heaven and hell. At the same time we as parents are responsible for nurturing a sense of right and wrong behaviour in our children without blackmailing them via the idea that their negative actions will result in reprisals from Beyond. People should act in a moral manner not because an ancient book tells them to, or because of a fear of a delusional God, but because it feels right in both heart and mind.

Indeed, as Richard Dawkins notes in his new book, teaching religion to children borders on abuse. On this point I agree. I can't help but feel that parents who proselytize their children are acting pathetically -- targeting those members of society who cannot yet formulate their own opinions or methodological frameworks that help them make sense of their world and existence. Religion deserves an R rating.


Swedes to launch face-recognition search engine

The Malmö, Sweden, based company Polar Rose. will soon be introducing a Web-based search engine that can find photographs of people by analyzing pictures and identifying faces. The search engine­-which will be the first of its kind in the world­-is the result of research carried out by Jan Erik Solem at Technology and Society, Malmö University College.

The Dood is coming! The Dood is coming!
My cousin Kate emailed today with a slew of photos from Ghana, where she spent the summer. (That's her on the right.)

To say this waterfall is "scenic" is like calling astrophysics an "interesting" field of research.

And here's a rather xenomorphic jellyfish that caught my eye.

This barely qualifies as a sampler. Is a Flickr photostream in Kate's future? I hope so.

(And man, do I need a better digital camera . . .)