Sunday, August 31, 2008

What's a tabloid news-week without a case of religious pareidolia, complete with weeping onlookers?

Bark if you see Mary

An uncanny likeness of the Virgin Mary formed into the bark of a Scarborough tree has left dumbfounded residents wondering if their neighbourhood has been divinely blessed.

(Via Aberrant News.)
NASA Has Its Closest Look at Geysers on Saturn Moon

Since the discovery of the jets in 2005, the moon, Enceladus, has jumped to near the top of the list of potential places for life in the solar system. A warm spot near Enceladus's south pole powers the jets and may also melt below-surface ice into water, a necessity for living organisms.

On Monday, the NASA spacecraft Cassini made its latest flyby of Enceladus (pronounced en-SELL-ah-dus), passing 30 miles above the moon’s surface at 40,000 miles an hour.

Despite the high speed, Cassini was able to take razor-sharp images that, at seven meters per pixel, offer a resolution 10 times greater than earlier views.

Mark Bryan is today's featured artist.
What are we seeing here?

My money is on a a mass of tethered balloons, but the object seems just unusual enough to warrant a closer look.

For more information, click here.

(Thanks to William Michael Mott for the heads-up!)
Gustav is being Twittered. has moved! The site previously known as can now be reached at

My blog is intact.
Mandatory evacuations to begin Sunday morning in New Orleans

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city beginning 8 a.m. Sunday but urged residents to consider escaping "the mother of all storms" before then.

"You need to be scared," Nagin said of the Category 4 hurricane tearing along Cuba's western coast. "You need to be concerned, and you need to get your butts moving out of New Orleans right now. This is the storm of the century."

"You Need To Be Scared": the mantra of the new century.

Mars Rover On the Road Again (Gallery)

Opportunity used its own entry tracks from nearly a year ago as the path for a drive of 6.8 meters (22 feet) bringing the rover out over the top of the inner slope and through a sand ripple at the lip of Victoria Crater. The exit drive, conducted late Thursday, completed a series of drives covering 50 meters (164 feet) since the rover team decided about a month ago that it had completed its scientific investigations inside the crater.

In Tucson I met the Vatican Observatory's Chris Corbally (seen here being prepped for audio) . . .

. . . and astrobiologist Neville Woolf, with whom I had a fun chat. I managed to keep my discussion with Woolf fairly seamless; other interviews were relatively clunky or burdened with self-inflicted pauses as I concentrated on pointedly ignoring the ever-present camera.

Television's an inherently illusory medium: the final product is a polished sliver of the actual process. Fortunately, as "investigator," my role was about as glamorous as I could expect; the bulk of my "technical" duties involved helping to carry a tripod.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cicada shell cosplay

The streets may not be ready for Shokotan's "cicada shell" look, but that doesn't stop the multi-talented entertainer from decking herself out on occasion.

Shokotan, who talked about her fascination with cicada molts and showed off part of her collection in a television appearance last year, showed up at a recent concert wearing the insect shells on her head. According to this article on Excite News, the crowd went wild at the end of her performance when she tossed the crispy shells into the front row.

Forget what "the streets" find palatable; I find this genuinely fetching. And what better way to bring the wonders of entomology to the masses?
Because Twitter is so 2007 . . .

Today's featured artist is Phil Noto.
Thanks to this hypnotic video I'm now deathly afraid of trap-jaw ants.

Neanderthals were not 'stupid,' says new research

Neanderthals were not as stupid as they have been portrayed, according to new research Tuesday showing their stone tools were as good as those made by the early ancestors of modern humans, Homo sapiens.

The findings by a team of scientists at British and US universities challenge the assumption that the ancestors of people living today drove Neanderthals into extinction by producing better tools.

Another reason to read and savor Robert J. Sawyer's "Hominids."

(Thanks to Nick Redfern.)

Global warming time bomb trapped in Arctic soil: study

Previous estimates of the Arctic carbon pool relied heavily on a relative handful of measurements conducted outside of the Arctic, and only to a depth of 40 centimetres (15.5 inches).

The study, published in the British journal Nature Geoscience, found that the stock of organic carbon "is considerably higher than previously thought" -- 60 percent more than the previously estimated.

This is roughly equivalent of one sixth of the entire carbon content in the atmosphere.

And that is just for North America.
Immersive 3D: 'Please touch' coming soon?

The ability to touch and manipulate 3D images is key to the future of interactive entertainment, not to mention every other episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now two UC-Santa Barbara researchers say they've built a prototype room-sized 3D display using projectors, a user-tracking system, and two FogScreens, which produce 2D images using microscopic water droplets and ultrasound.
Random photos:

Just when you thought NASA couldn't get more utterly dysfunctional . . .

NASA is Making Preliminary Plans to Extend Shuttle Launches Beyond 2010

This news may come as a surprise to many, especially since Michael Griffin's remarks that to extend the life of the Shuttle fleet could put astronauts in danger and cripple the agency's fledgling Constellation program. However, there has been mounting political pressure on NASA to find an alternative to depending on the Russian space agency's Soyuz spacecraft to access the International Space Station in the five years before the brand new Constellation Program is scheduled to launch by 2015.
What the hell. A couple group shots . . .

With Jennifer Adcock and Greg Hemmings in Tucson.

With Mike MacDonald and Greg in San Fransisco.
Think you're hip? Take a look at what William Gibson's listening to.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I plugged the USB cable into my new camera and downloaded the photos I took on my trip. The resolution and color are so beyond anything I've ever used before that it's actually sort of startling.

I've begun the rather tedious process of uploading my favorites to Flickr; I've begun a new set devoted entirely to high-resolution shots, where I'll publish most of my new photos (although I'll occasionally post resized versions here on the blog).

I'm excited at my new ability to "film" brief movies. The more I think about it, a Posthuman Blues YouTube channel of some kind strikes me as a good idea, although I should probably wait until I learn some basic video editing.

The pictures in this post were taken in Tucson and San Fransisco. I had an especially great time traipsing Haight-Ashbury with my hosts Mike MacDonald and Greg Hemmings. Hippie culture, with its ubiquitous specialty shops and panhandlers, was a strange and welcome surprise.

From some travel notes jotted on hotel notepad: "Dreadlocked hunchbacks cowering under anonymous smoke and fickle neon. Landscapes of commerce and graffiti, ghosts of hippie gods resplendent and reiterated."

I sometimes wonder if I could live more or less perpetually "on the road," given a plausible excuse. I'm leaning toward "yes."
I'm a somewhat jaded Fortean and I'd never so much as heard about "BEKs" until happening across the following.

Black Eyed Kids: Another Look

I suspect that BEKs appear as children because they want to be trusted; they attempt to appeal to human compassion and the natural desire to help a child. The average person is much more likely to let a strange child into their house than a strange adult. If we theorize that BEKs appear as children because they want to appear as children, we must then ask ourselves: why the black eyes? why the fear? Both seem counterproductive to the goal of the targeted person letting them in.

I have a theory; a hypothesis, and although I am going out on the proverbial limb here, I hope that you will stay with me and that it will make sense when I am done.

BEKs have a common feature with another entity that is often reported in the modern world: "grey" aliens. There is little difference between the large black eyes of the typical grey and the eyes of a BEK; some witnesses of BEKs also note that their eyes seem to be "too big" as well as being all-black. Greys are usually reported as being 4 - 5 feet tall, or about the same size as a young boy.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Update: Greg Bishop comments.
The evolution of mobile phones, from the impossibly archaic to the mouth-wateringly exotic:

Changing the way we think

Carr believes that the style of searching and exploration of links encouraged by search engines such as Google is changing the way heavy users think, reflecting that "over the past few years I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn't going - so far as I can tell - but it's changing. I'm not thinking the way I used to think".

(Via Reality Carnival.)
Mark Carlotto has a revised edition of "The Cydonia Controversy" on the way. Here's a teaser video.

Found Image #13

Peugeot 888 future car is a concept done right: shape-shifting and green

The Peugeot 888 is billed as the "personal vehicle for the future Metropolis." For designer Oskar Johansen from Norway, that means a car with space for two with room for luggage, as well as a nifty shape-shifting body. On the highway, the Peugeot 888 stretches itself out flat so that it's stable and aerodynamic. In the city, however, it scrunches up for easier parking and taking up less of the road in general.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blog of the day: CleanTechnica
Ancient Mayan underworld discovered in Mexico

Archeologists in Mexico think they might have discovered Xibalba, a mythical Mayan underworld also known as the "place of fear." After some serious scuba diving and inching across deeply submerged underwater tunnels near the Yucatan peninsula, investigators reached an entrance to a bunch of dry chambers with the stone ruins of eleven sacred temples and a 330-foot long road. There were also lots and lots of human bones.
How To Save the World From Asteroid Impact: Plastic Wrap

D'Souza's paper was titled "A Body Solar Sail Concept for the Deflection of 99942 Apophis." Her concept involves using a satellite orbiting Apophis to wrap it with ribbons of reflective Mylar sheeting. Covering just half of the asteroid would change its surface from dull to reflective, possibly enough to allow solar pressure to change the asteroid's trajectory.
Very Long-Term Backup

As durable as paper is, its inherent limitations in storing digital data are clear. Pity the person who would need to find something if the only backup of the web was a paper printout that filled several airline hangers. What we need are media that have the durability of paper and the accessibility of a floppy disk (or better!).
Images of the Arctic Ocean as We Will Know It

With the Arctic Ocean ice melting rapidly -- in fact, this summer it's already at the second-lowest level on record, and still shrinking -- it's time for us to start imagining what life will be like in the Arctic Circle when all the ice is gone. Some scientists predict that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free as soon as September, but more likely it will be ice-free all summer by 2030 or 2050. What will that look like?
Hacker loses extradition appeal

Glasgow-born Gary McKinnon was said to be "distraught" after losing the appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. He faces extradition within two weeks.

The unemployed man could face life in jail if convicted of accessing 97 US military and Nasa computers.

The 42-year-old admitted breaking into the computers from his London home but said he sought information on UFOs.

I just uploaded 23 low-res cameraphone pictures to Flickr. Better photos forthcoming; I've consigned my new camera to a shelf while I catch up with news I missed while away.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm in San Jose. Two interviews down, one to go. We're off to San Francisco tomorrow. I've been napping; I think the rest of the crew hit the town.

There's a trolley that passes by every 15 minutes. I'm considering strolling out into the night and catching a ride.

I sprang for a digital camera in Tucson. I can shoot video. A Posthuman Blues YouTube channel? Possibly . . .

More to come. In the meantime, I've been using the hell out of Twitter.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thirty-eight people make reservations for space hotel

The journey of four days at a distance of 300 miles (450 kilometers) from the earth will cost each guest €3 million, that's about USD $4.46 million. The price may seem steep but it includes transport to an island in the Caribbean, an eighteen week intensive astronaut training program prior to the journey, and of course, the four days in space. Guests are also welcome to bring their families to the island.

A Plague of Angels (or, Rorschach in your living room!) (Peter Watts)

Yes, the technology will improve over time; yes, efficiency will increase. But we're still talking about an omnidirectional broadcast here; even if the bulk of the signal strength passes in one direction, there's still going to be at least some wasted energy going out along the whole 360.

More to the point though, is Smith's confident assertions that "the human body is not affected by magnetic fields". Maybe he's talking about a different model of human body. Maybe the model he's talking about comes with a Faraday cage built into the skull, and is not susceptible to the induction of religious rapture, selective blindness, or the impaired speech and memory effects that transcranial magnetic stimulation can provoke in our obsolete ol' baseline brains.
Although I won't be at all surprised if I publish a few posts before I leave, I'll be mostly offline from the 23rd to the 28th. I'll be in Tucson, LA, San Jose, and San Fransisco, respectively, as I finish my role as "investigator" for an exobiology/SETI documentary for Canadian TV. (If you're Canadian -- which, sadly, I am not -- you'll be able to see it in January.)

I'll keep the tweets coming.
Found Image #12

Mayan Muons and Unmapped Rooms

In the new issue of Archaeology, Samir S. Patel describes how "an almost featureless aluminum cylinder 5 feet in diameter" that spends its time "silently counting cosmic flotsam called muons" -- "ghost particles" that ceaselessly rain down from space -- will be installed in the jungles of Belize.

There, these machines will map the otherwise unexplored internal spaces of what the scientists call a "jungle-covered mound."

In other words, an ancient building that now appears simply to be part of the natural landscape -- a constructed terrain -- will be opened up to viewing for the first time since it was reclaimed by rain forest.

It's non-invasive archaeology by way of deep space.

This immediately reminded me of possible future exploration of anomalous formations on Mars.
Welcome to a New Reality (Cliff Pickover)

People afflicted with Charles Bonnet Syndrome see beings from another world. Many scientists would call these beings hallucinations. Others call this syndrome a portal to a parallel reality.

People with Charles Bonnet Syndrome (or "Bonnet-people") are otherwise mentally sound. The beings appear when the Bonnet-people's vision deteriorates as a result of eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration -- or when patients have had both eyes removed. Charles Bonnet Syndrome is more common in older people with a high level of education.

Bonnet-people report that they see apparitions resembling distorted faces, costumed figures, ghosts, and little people.

A few years ago I experienced an unexplained, if harmless, "retinal occlusion" -- essentially a spontaneous bruising of the retina. As the vision in the afflicted eye worsened due to the burst capillaries, I began seeing intricate patterns, especially in low ambient light. I've since identified the patterns as "entopic" images, thought by some to have served as the basis for early cave art.)

Although I never saw any "beings," I could sometimes make out suggestive detail of both biological and mechanical objects, and even interact with them through what, at the time, seemed to be a sort of telepathy. (I never thought what I was experiencing was anything but a subjective phenomenon, but that didn't make it any less interesting.)

Here's an account of one such Bonnet-like encounter:

In front of my face, at reading distance, there appeared to be multiple rows of compressed text, each word encapsulated in an ellipse. Each row moved rapidly from the right to the left -- too fast for me to make out any sort of narrative, but acutely responsive, so that I could visually choose a specific word-balloon and have it persist for a moment before vanishing -- instantly replaced by a stream of words with similar connotations. It was like looking into the mind of a language database or some futuristic heads-up display word processor. It also had the feel of a timed quiz or test of some sort; I can see something like it eventually becoming a high-bandwidth Web application.

I can't help but be vaguely reminded of Philip K. Dick's experience with the "phosphene activity" that inspired the eye-fooling body-suits of "A Scanner Darkly."
At top of Greenland, new worrisome cracks in ice

In northern Greenland, a part of the Arctic that had seemed immune from global warming, new satellite images show a growing giant crack and an 11-square-mile chunk of ice hemorrhaging off a major glacier, scientists said Thursday.

And that's led the university professor who spotted the wounds in the massive Petermann glacier to predict disintegration of a major portion of the Northern Hemisphere's largest floating glacier within the year.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I've been fumblingly attempting to create a representational avatar of myself in Second Life. One of the many hurdles I've encountered so far is tracking down a pair of eyeglasses that fit, hence the "steampunk" welding goggles in the "photo" above.

My SL handle is "Hiromi Luminos."
NASA Releases Images and Video of Orion Failed Parachute Test

Oh-so-very Roswell . . .
Religion a figment of human imagination

No, wait! Surely you're just kidding, right?

Humans alone practice religion because they're the only creatures to have evolved imagination.

That's the argument of anthropologist Maurice Bloch of the London School of Economics. Bloch challenges the popular notion that religion evolved and spread because it promoted social bonding, as has been argued by some anthropologists.

Instead, he argues that first, we had to evolve the necessary brain architecture to imagine things and beings that don't physically exist, and the possibility that people somehow live on after they've died.

On the other hand, would we recognize a chimpanzee religion as such if we saw it?
The Interstellar Conundrum Reconsidered

No one can say whether interstellar missions will ever be feasible. What we can insist is that studying physics from the standpoint of propulsion science may tell us a great deal about how the universe works, whether or not we ever find ways of extracting propulsive effects from such futuristic means as dark matter or dark energy. And if it turns out that our breakthroughs fail to materialize, the potential of multi-generational missions supported by human crews still exists. They will be almost inconceivably demanding, but nothing in known physics says that a thousand-year mission to Centauri is beyond the reach of human technology within a future we can still recognize.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cat with four ears

Yoda is a Chicago cat with four ears. Valerie and Ted Rock found him in a local pub being "passed round by curious drinkers," hopefully not like that scene in Lynch's The Elephant Man.
Today's my birthday. Which means you have to indulge me and listen to Morrissey.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dark Roasted Blend is on the toy robot beat.
Lifelike animation heralds new era for computer games

The company says "Emily" is considered to be one of the first animations to have bypassed the "uncanny valley" -- which refers to the perception that animation looks less realistic as it approaches human likeness.

OK, I did it. Now it's your turn.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mogul Didn't Matter (Kevin Randle)

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with everyone knowing that there are dozens of spy satellites up there photographing everything down here, there was no need to keep the Mogul secret, so the Air Force trotted it out to explain the Roswell crash debris. Mogul was a high priority project, they say. It was top secret, they say. But in the end, it was just a bunch of balloons tied together, sometimes with microphones attached and sometimes not. Nothing unusual to fool ranchers, Army officers, sheriffs or anyone else who might have found the remains of Mogul.
This Lexus concept car looks fetchingly like the "spinners" from "Blade Runner."

More right this way . . .
No words.

(Thanks to Aberrant News.)
Do subatomic particles have free will?

Human free will might seem like the squishiest of philosophical subjects, way beyond the realm of mathematical demonstration. But two highly regarded Princeton mathematicians, John Conway and Simon Kochen, claim to have proven that if humans have even the tiniest amount of free will, then atoms themselves must also behave unpredictably.

Who I Think the Visitors Are (Anne Strieber)

My theory about "the visitors" is different from that of most UFO investigators: I think they are either time travelers, visitors from a parallel universe, the dead -- or all 3.

Over the years, we have received many letters connecting the spirits of the dead with visitors. This type of anecdote is anathema to old line UFO researchers, who want the whole thing to be about the conventional concept of encounters with aliens who have arrived in space ships from another planet.
They just don't make commercials like this anymore.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Found Image #11

Alien Will Kick Your Ass at Chess

It's been a while since I've stolen somebody's queen, but two alien-themed chess sets are putting me in the mood to do it. You can pick between AVP or aliens vs. Ripley.

I suppose I'm a little disturbed at how cool I think this is, especially since I'm an abhorrent chess player.

I want this biker jacket!
Russian Interest in MJ-12?

Hey, who can resist a headline like that?
Film-maker Jesús Olmo sent me the following clip today. It's quite possibly the best metaphor for the human condition I've ever seen, subtle and unnerving. (I could say more, but I recommend you watch it.)

MVI_8977 movie from Jesús Olmo on Vimeo.

Flatteringly, the video's captioned by a quote from an angsty essay I posted way back in 2004:

Perhaps we are larvae, subject to incurable neuroses that will cease to exist only when we ourselves cease to exist, supplanted by something new, and fundamentally better. Maybe some people's "winnowing" -- seemingly psychotic from our narrow vantage on the evolutionary bridge -- is an essential instrument in the betterment of our species, or at least a lens through which to glimpse where we're headed.
Found Image #10

Saturday, August 16, 2008

In the not-so-distant future, lighting fixtures will approximate sentience.

The AI Light is made in nylon using EOS's laser sintering process. Inside each wing are two actuators, one to control bending and one to control twisting; these allow the light to perform fluid, organic transformations, rather than harsh, robotic movements. The 'AI' refers to the way in which the light learns from its surroundings, and allows what Assa calls "training rather than controlling."

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

Virtual Transgender Suit, avatar termination and other online world tales

A study by psychologists at Nottingham Trent University has found that 54 percent of all males and 68 percent of all females "gender swap"--or create online personas of their opposite sex.

A real life manifestation of that practice, the Virtual Transgender Suit replicates the aesthetics of the typical virtual female form and catapults them within a real world context. The piece was specifically designed for men to wear in the real world, creating a bridge between real (where cross-dressing is not really socially accepted) and virtual.

(Via Next Nature.)
Photos: Tetrapod beaches of Japan

Hit the beach anywhere in Japan, and you are likely to see endless piles of tetrapods -- enormous four-legged concrete structures intended to prevent coastal erosion. By some estimates, more than 50% of Japan's 35,000-kilometer (22,000-mi) coastline has been altered with tetrapods and other forms of concrete.

Future archaeologists might wonder if these structures hint at the existence of a prior technological civilization or if they're merely the result of fortuitous natural forces.
Russia threatens nuclear attack on Poland over US missile shield deal

Russia's nuclear rhetoric marks an intense new phase in the war of words over Georgia. The Caucasus conflict has spiralled into a Cold War style confrontation between Moscow and Washington in less than a week.

Not me.

What famous person (or character) do I most resemble? There's a new poll on the sidebar with four options -- although if you can think of any others let me know.
Library of Dust

In 1913, Maisel explained, an Oregon state psychiatric institution began to cremate the remains of its unclaimed patients. Their ashes were then stored inside individual copper canisters and moved into a small room, where they were stacked onto pine shelves.

[. . .]

Over time, however, the canisters have begun to react chemically with the human ashes held inside them; this has thus created mold-like mineral outgrowths on the exterior surfaces of these otherwise gleaming cylinders.

There was a certain urgency to the project, then, as "the span of time that these canisters are going to be in this state is really finite," Maisel explained in the Archinect interview, "and the hospital is concerned that they're now basically corroding."

[. . .]

David Maisel's photographs of nearly 110 funereal copper canisters are a mineralogical delight. Bearded with a frost of subsidiary elements, their surfaces are now layered, phosphorescent, transformed. Unsettled archipelagos of mineral growths bloom like tumors from the sides and bottoms -- but is that metal one sees, or some species of fungus? The very nature of these canisters becomes suspect.
I found a serviceable bookshelf, slated for dumpsterhood, the other day. I'm busy populating it with titles I've amassed over the last two years. (The vast majority of my collection remains entombed in my parents' basement, at least for the time being.)

What a pleasurable reunion to have my books in sight instead of cocooned in cat-proof Sterilite crates.
World's Smallest Solar Car: Select Solar Mini

Talk about bringing solar power to the palm of your hand! The World’s Smallest Solar Racing Car is a tiny, fully-functional solar powered vehicle topped with a minuscule photovoltaic panel.

Add a miniature Martian landscape and -- voila! -- you have a respectable diorama of the Mars Pathfinder mission.
Found Image #9

Friday, August 15, 2008

Now this is a laptop.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Good stuff: The Cyberpunk Project Information Database.

Exclusive: A robot with a biological brain

"The robot's biological brain is made up of cultured neurons which are placed onto a multi electrode array (MEA). The MEA is a dish with approximately 60 electrodes which pick up the electrical signals generated by the cells. This is then used to drive the movement of the robot. Every time the robot nears an object, signals are directed to stimulate the brain by means of the electrodes. In response, the brain's output is used to drive the wheels of the robot, left and right, so that it moves around in an attempt to avoid hitting objects. The robot has no additional control from a human or a computer, its sole means of control is from its own brain."
Scientists to study synthetic telepathy

The brain-computer interface would use a noninvasive brain imaging technology like electroencephalography to let people communicate thoughts to each other. For example, a soldier would "think" a message to be transmitted and a computer-based speech recognition system would decode the EEG signals. The decoded thoughts, in essence translated brain waves, are transmitted using a system that points in the direction of the intended target.

I chastise the so-called UFO "community."

My new "Loving the Alien" column has been posted at Futurismic. Talking points: Second Life, science fiction and posthumanity.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's a hoax. And not even a good one.
Found Image #8

Here's a follow-up to a story I blogged in October of last year:

Did 'Masked Little People' Attack Bishop?

For more than a year, speculation, rumors and mystery have surrounded the former leader of the Gallup Catholic Diocese, in Albuquerque, N.M.

Last July, Bishop Donald Pelotte sustained multiple injuries in his home. He said he fell down a flight of stairs, but a mysterious 911 call from Pelotte is casting doubt on his claim -- so are his injuries.

[. . .]

And adding more mystery to his injuries was a bizarre call to 911.

A dispatch log from September details Gallup police were called to the bishop's home after he told operators "gentle little people about 3 to 4 feet tall wearing Halloween masks" were in his home.

"Can you tell me what happened?" the dispatcher asked.

"They're just moving. They've been quiet. They've been going upstairs in the bedrooms and hiding behind the artifacts. But they don't talk," said Pelotte, adding that they were wearing masks.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

Close encounter, hallucination or something altogether more disturbing . . . ?
Nasa Moonship flight target slips

Agency officials say they are now aiming for September 2014 for the first crewed mission of the Orion ship.

This is a year later than Nasa had hoped for, but still inside its March 2015 absolute deadline.

The officials say the funds currently available to develop Orion and its Ares launch rocket mean the faster timeline is no longer tenable.


Moonlighting engineers design alternative NASA rocket
The Chinese "Weather Manipulation Missile" Olympics

Sounding like a military operation, the Chinese government authorized the use of 1,104 cloud seeding missile launches from 4:00-11:39pm on Friday night to remove the threat of rain ahead of the 29th Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. This was the first time the weather manipulation technique was used during any Olympic event in the history of the games.
Pat Condell at his best:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bigfoot Body: "Georgia Gorilla" Will Shock The World

We shall see . . .
Just taken today . . .

The more I look at the latter photo, the more I'm impressed with how the artist approximated muscle and tendon with metal cable. I'm not sure if it's a finished project or not, but I'd love to have it in my "office"/living room.
Steampunk hermit crab destroys city!

Monday, August 11, 2008

I've added yet more photos to my Flickr stream. From now on I doubt that I'll blog new photos; Flickr will suffice, at least for the most part. Also, I've decided to pick up a respectable digital camera instead of relying on my cellphone. (I found myself in a Wal-Mart in Laramie and was surprised at how inexpensive they've become.)

Scientist claims Mars has 'contemporary' life

"The discovery of liquid water on Mars combined with earlier discoveries of organic substances in a meteorite that came from Mars, and also of methane in the Martian atmosphere all point to the existence of life -- contemporary life -- on the Red Planet," said Chandra Wickramasinghe, a globally renowned astrobiologist.

"I am not speaking of fossilized life but contemporary life," emphasised Wickramasinghe, who is professor of applied mathematics and astronomy at the University of Cardiff in Wales.

Wickramasinghe, a student and collaborator of the late British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, spoke to London-based Sri Lankan diplomat and journalist Walter Jayawardhana, who made the text of the interview available to IANS.

I've said something to this effect before, but if Mars doesn't have life, then what we think we know about organic chemistry will require fundamental revision.

In any case, I fully expect Nick Bostrom to be very disappointed sometime in the foreseeable future.
Found Image #7

A Bridge between Virtual Worlds

The discussion of linking together today's virtual worlds is not new, but this is the first running code that demonstrates previously hypothetical approaches--another tangible sign that Linden Lab is serious about interoperability. "We are still early in the game. The point of the beta is to give the rest of the development community the chance to try the protocols themselves," says Joe Miller, Linden Lab's vice president of platform and development. More than 200 users have signed up for the beta program, and currently 15 worlds have been connected.

On a planet 4C hotter, all we can prepare for is extinction

We need to get prepared for four degrees of global warming, Bob Watson told the Guardian last week. At first sight this looks like wise counsel from the climate science adviser to Defra. But the idea that we could adapt to a 4C rise is absurd and dangerous. Global warming on this scale would be a catastrophe that would mean, in the immortal words that Chief Seattle probably never spoke, "the end of living and the beginning of survival" for humankind. Or perhaps the beginning of our extinction.

(Via Chris Wren's blog.)
A charming example of cartoon reality deftly inserting itself back into "meatspace" reality:

Contact lenses for "anime eyes"
Build a better being

Will Wright's hugely successful games SimCity and The Sims let players shape the structure of urban areas and the lives of virtual humans; his upcoming game, Spore, lets them control the universe.

Although it is just a game, the young gamers of today may grow up to be the bioengineers of tomorrow. If Spore has any influence whatsoever, we foresee an utterly comical genetic future.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Speaking of found images: this site is nothing but.
Recent acquisitions:

Film-maker/videographer Greg Hemmings saves me the effort of recounting my recent jaunt to Wyoming and Wisconsin in this Kerouacian account. (Hemmings' professional site can be found here.)

I especially like this anecdote:

We climbed a huge mountain to film up an observatory. In fact it was an infrared telescope that could see a quintillion miles away. Mac did his first bit of b roll filming, checking out the scope, looking over the cliffs, running into guy wires. It was horribly funny actually, I was doing a hand held tracking shot of Mac walking around the observatory, I had asked him to look to the side as if he where walking and admiring at the same time, then WHAMMO! One of the electrical pole guy wires nailed him in the face! He was lucky it didn't slice his face right off his head. We all had a chuckle, Mac laughed.

Fortunately, it's all on tape; with any luck it will wind up on YouTube.

In a couple weeks I'll be departing for Arizona and California to film additional interviews with astrobiology/SETI luminaries. Watch this space.
Rudy Rucker on the creative process:

I enjoy my complex, layered, recursive, misleading ways of coping with reality and processing information. My mind is like an anthill, carting each twig of experience into this or that midden heap. If I can think of myself as a character in a transreal novel, then my life becomes more bearable, more mythic, less raw. Also it's a good way of amusing myself: a way to put reality in quotes, a way to handle life with pot-holders.
Franz Kafka's porn brought out of the closet

A stash of explicit pornography to which Franz Kafka subscribed has emerged for the first time after being studiously ignored by scholars anxious to preserve the iconic writer's saintly image.

Having stumbled by chance across copies in the British Library in London and the Bodleian in Oxford while doing unrelated research, James Hawes, the academic and Kafka expert, reveals some of this erotic material in Excavating Kafka, to be published this month. His book seeks to explode important myths surrounding the literary icon, a "quasi-saintly" image which hardly fits with the dark and shocking pictures contained in these banned journals.

So Kafka had a thing for "shocking" sexual imagery. So what? Frankly, I find it more endearing than anything else.
Found Image #6

New computer simulations show how special the solar system is

"Such a turbulent history would seem to leave little room for the sedate solar system, and our simulations show exactly that," said Rasio. "Conditions must be just right for the solar system to emerge."

Too massive a gas disk, for example, and planet formation is an anarchic mess, producing "hot Jupiters" and noncircular orbits galore. Too low-mass a disk, and nothing bigger than Neptune -- an "ice giant" with only a small amount of gas -- will grow.

"We now better understand the process of planet formation and can explain the properties of the strange exoplanets we've observed," said Rasio. "We also know that the solar system is special and understand at some level what makes it special."

Oh, yeah? Well, I still say we're an utterly insignificant speck of dust adrift in an endless existential abyss!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

I've added a couple new photos to my Flickr stream.
Kickin' it old-school in the LHC:

(Thanks: Communist Robot.)
This thing is sure to turn a few heads:

Odysseus: Aurora's radical, unlimited endurance, solar powered aircraft

Aurora Flight Sciences has revealed the design of the aircraft it hopes will achieve the ambitious goals set out in DARPA's ambitious Vulture program: sustained uninterrupted flight for over five years at altitudes of 60,000-90,000 feet. Known as Odysseus, the solar-powered concept aircraft is as radical as the mission it is designed to accomplish, combining three self-sufficient "constituent aircraft" in a unique Z wing configuration that spans almost 500 feet (150 meters).

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Well, I'm intrigued.

Incidentally, this item was brought to my attention by John Shirley, whose excellent novel "Crawlers" hinges on the crash of a research satellite bearing malevolent nanobots. Seek it out if you're in the mood for a literary science fiction/horror hybrid.
NASA chief: ISS tests for super plasma space drive

The plasma drive is intended to work by using electric power to blast hydrogen reaction mass from its rocket nozzles at a much greater velocity than normal chemically-fuelled rockets can achieve. This means that the carrying spacecraft gets a lot more acceleration or deceleration from a given amount of fuel, and so can potentially make interplanetary journeys in much shorter times. Another potential application seen for VASIMR is maintenance of the space station's orbit, without the need to burn off colossal amounts of chemical rocket fuel.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Found Image #5

Styrofoam dome homes

But are they cat-friendly?
The Largest Human-Made Art on Earth

Forget crop circles.
Before steampunk there was "Victorian ParaTechnology."

(Thanks: BB.)
I saw "The Dark Knight." Aside from some fine supporting roles, I found virtually nothing of interest. The title character (and his alter-ego) are wooden, unconvincing and unsympathetic. (Contrast Christian Bale's comatose delivery with those of the always dependable Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, characters I would have been happy to see more of.)

"The Dark Knight" has garnered some serious praise. I don't doubt it's a superior super-hero movie. But it's devoid of ideas and stripped of character; whereas many viewers see the reinvented "Batman" franchise as cerebral and even morally challenging, I see an excuse for yet another car-chase.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tokyo Fantasy: Images of the apocalypse

These fantastic photoshopped images by Tokyo Genso (Tokyo Fantasy) show a post-apocalyptic Tokyo overtaken by nature.

And you thought the future of "Blade Runner" was bleak.
Montauk Monster Replica

Yep, a replica of the Montauk Monster. It looks very well done, nice color tones, and a good representation of a weekend wonder, if you ask me.
When I'm not listening to The Smiths, there's a decent chance I'm listening to Vangelis.

The following is the kind of proposal that reminds me how cool it can be to live in the 21st century.

Autonomous NanoTechnology Swarm (NASA)

The Autonomic NanoTechnology Swarm (ANTS) is a generic mission architecture consisting of miniaturized, autonomous, self-similar, reconfigurable, addressable components forming structures. The components/structures have wide spatial distribution and multi-level organization. This 'swarm' behavior is inspired by the success of social insect colonies where within their specialties, individuals outperform generalists and with sufficiently efficient social interaction and coordination, groups of specialists outperform groups of generalists.
I'm not ashamed to admit that Radiohead's "Creep" is something of a tongue-in-cheek personal anthem. Imagine my astonishment to discover this haunting cover version:

60 Belgian Women Sing Radiohead's 'Creep' - Scala & Kolacny Broters

Now, this is a fine example of a cover bringing a new dynamic to a well established song. There's nothing quite like the sound of multiple voices stacked together (in a more freewheeling light, see also: Arcade Fire live). I'm not 100% behind the straight piano accompaniment, but on the other hand, it does feel like a slight stylistic nod to the ballad-y version of 'Like Spinning Plates' off 2001s I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings. Either way, the track's slow build manages to become more and more atmospheric as it progresses.

(Via Aberrant News.)
Found Image #4

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Kite Power Could Generate Energy for 100,000 Homes

If we told you that a free-flying kite could provide enough energy to power your house, you might consider us crazy. How about all the homes on your block, or even an entire city? Scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands recently tested just such a technology, tethering a 10 square meter kite to a generator to produce 10 kilowatts of power (enough energy for 10 homes). They are currently planning to scale the experiment with a 50 kilowatt kite and a 100 megawatt array called the Laddermill that could potentially power 100,000 homes!
'Slow Life' and its Implications

Imagine a form of life so unusual that we cannot figure out how it dies. That’s exactly what researchers are finding beneath the floor of the sea off Peru. The microbes being studied there -- single-celled organisms called Archaea -- live in time frames that can perhaps best be described as geological. Consider: A bacteria like Escherichia Coli divides and reproduces every twenty minutes or so. But the microbes in the so-called Peruvian Margin take hundreds or thousands of years to divide.
Obscura demonstrates Minority Report display

Obscura Digital has released a video of a new technology it's dubbed a multi-touch hologram.

The demonstration shows a man interacting with holographic images projected before him, moving them around and resizing them much as you would on Microsoft's Surface.

However, unlike Microsoft's pet project all the images are projected in the air, bringing fond memories of Minority Report to PC Pro's offices.

Peter Watts has done what I always assumed was impossible: he's made me want to take in a NIN concert.
Found Image #3

I realize I've been on a Mars kick recently, but you really don't want to miss this.
I haven't read a Greg Bear novel in about ten years, but I'm putting his new one on my list.
Confessed circle-maker Matthew Williams tells us how to spot man-made crop-glyphs. Take that, Linda Howe.

(Thanks to UFOMystic's Nick Redfern.)
Train design proposes private seating pods

Australian designer Hamit Kanuni Kuralkan has designed a train for people who don't want to have anything to do with other passengers.

Pimp my bug

Insect Lab is an artist studio that customizes real insects with antique watch parts and electronic components.

(Via Reality Carnival.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Pentagon's Unmanned Spokesdrone Completes First Press Conference Mission

Monday, August 04, 2008

Mysterious Chinese Tunnels

Subterranean space here clearly exists within an interesting overlap of projections: fantasies of race, exoticism, and simply subconscious fear of the underworld. White Europeans had expanded west all the way to the Pacific Ocean -- only to find themselves standing in a swamp, on earthquake-prone ground, with a "mysterious" race of Chinese dock workers tunneling toward them through the earth, looking for victims . . . It's like a geography purpose-built for H.P. Lovecraft, or something straight out of the work of Jeff VanderMeer: down in the foundations of your city is a mysterious network of rooms, excavated by another race, through which unidentified strangers move at night, threatening to abduct you.
Found Image #2

I swear I had no knowledge of this when I posted the Chet Zar painting below. The similarity's a little spooky.
Found Image #1

In an attempt to make use of some of the strange images stored on my hard-drive, I've decided to begin posting an indefinite series of "found" graphics. No pithy commentary from me, but if you feel compelled to comment, feel free.

The Presencing of the Other (Daniel Pinchbeck)

Whether the subject is crop circles, orbs, alien abductions, UFOs, miraculous appearances of the Virgin, spirit encounters in psychedelic states, and so on, we face the question of the existence of "the Other," of entities or energies that seem to have intention, and to exist largely beyond the current range of our perceptions, while they touch upon our world. Philosophers would agree that we don't know "things in themselves," but only those aspects of a thing that can be perceived by our senses and cognized by our mind. It is also clear that perception involves a tremendous amount of choice, and that choice is based upon our psychological disposition. We don't see the world as it is, but to a large extent we see the world as we are.

Explore the fantastic art of Chet Zar.
"Do Humans Have 23 years to Go?" Play Superstruct and Find Out -Invent the Future!

The Institute for the Future is inviting the world to play Superstruct, the world's first massively multi-player forecasting game. It's not just about envisioning the future -- it's about inventing the future, creating superstructures to solve and counter super threats facing the planet.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Click here for an amazing hi-rez panorama taken by the Phoenix lander. It's perhaps the next-best thing to actually being there.
A high-ranking NASA official (who insists on anonymity) has sent me the following image. Taken by a black-budget Mars lander just two days ago, the picture reveals tantalizingly plant-like structures that bolster the case for an active biosphere on the Red Planet.

For more exclusive information, click here!
If you're obsessed with the exploits of Fortean researcher Nick Redfern (and who isn't?) you're in luck.
Friend and colleague Paul Kimball has retired his UFO-oriented blog, Above and Beyond (known for most of its lifetime as The Other Side of Truth) -- and I don't blame him. The UFO subject is so riddled with ignorance and distortion -- most self-imposed, no matter how ardently devotees blame the media or government -- that attempting to infuse the subject with the measured calm that typifies Kimball's efforts is, at the very best, an uphill climb. (How to encourage a curious agnostic in reasoned study of the UFO phenomenon when the very term has become near-synonymous with lunatic fringe pursuits such as "expolitics"?)

No doubt certain true believers will welcome Paul's absence; from the beginning, The Other Side of Truth eviscerated popular myths and stalwart misconceptions with a methodical, informed tone that angered pundits on both sides of the fence. Fortunately, as Paul points out, he isn't actually going anywhere -- he's just setting aside his blogging microphone to free up time for other projects. (I sympathize completely, having effectively threatened to quit the blogging scene three or four times since Posthuman Blues' inception in 2003.)

(Paul continues to maintain a presence here. In addition, he continues to write a monthly column for the UK's Alien Worlds, a progressive and welcomingly inclusive zine well worth the cover price.)

In Laramie, we had the good fortune to schedule a brief interview with Dr. Leo Sprinkle, a proponent of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis for UFO activity. I share Sprinkle's conviction that something genuinely strange is occurring; I take issue with his certainty that the phenomenon is generated by ETs. Refreshingly, we were able to "jam" a bit in front of the camera without our discussion degenerating into an ideological quarrel. (Indeed, I think we both realized we shared more common ground than not.)

Sprinkle's one of the most humble and unassuming figures in "ufology" (a term I've grown to quietly loathe). There's a reason he's not a top-billed speaker on the paranormal convention circuit -- a fact that casts the ufological state-of-the-art in a deservedly unflattering light.

I bought Ken Wilber's "A Brief History of Everything" yesterday. The woman at the counter thought I looked like Wilber. Today, at a coffeeshop, a customer seemed to think I might actually be Wilber . . . or at least a rather obsessive admirer.
Blog of the day: London Bananas

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Here we go again . . .

The White House is Briefed: Phoenix About to Announce "Potential For Life" on Mars

So why is there all this secrecy? According to scientists in communication with Aviation Week & Space Technology, the next big discovery will need to be mulled over for a while before it is announced to the world. In fact, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory science team for the MECA wet-chemistry instrument that made these undisclosed findings were kept out of the July 31st news conference (confirming water) so additional analysis could be carried out, avoiding any questions that may have revealed their preliminary results. They have also made the decision to discuss the results with the Bush Administration's Presidential Science Advisor's office before a press conference between mid-August and early September.

Although good news, Thursday's announcement of the discovery of water on Mars comes as no surprise to mission scientists and some are amused by the media's reaction to the TEGA results. "They have discovered water on Mars for the third or fourth time," one senior Mars scientist joked.

It's not quite the Alien Abduction Lamp, but it's close.

More here.
Nick Pope injects some intelligence into the UFO debate -- in the New York Times, of all places:

Unidentified Flying Threats

A healthy skepticism about extraterrestrial space travelers leads people to disregard U.F.O. sightings without a moment's thought. But in the United States, this translates into overdependence on radar data and indifference to all kinds of unidentified aircraft -- a weakness that could be exploited by terrorists or anyone seeking to engage in espionage against the United States.

How many cannibals could your body feed?

Dead Monster Washes Ashore in Montauk

This is an actual monster, some sort of rodent-like creature with a dinosaur beak. A tipster says that there is "a government animal testing facility very close by in Long Island," but unless the government is trying to design horrible Montauk monsters that will eat IEDs and fart fire at bad Iraqis, we're not sure why they would create such an unthinkable beast. Our guess is that it's viral marketing for something.

Unknown Country comments here.

Meanwhile, take a look at this.
The Lucifer Project (Greg Bishop)

Apparently, evil scientists at NASA, in cooperation with the Illuminati and who knows what other shadowy groups, are planning to use the plutonium energy source in the Cassini space probe to ignite a fusion reaction when the spacecraft ends its useful life. What they hope to do is turn Saturn into another star (called "Lucifer.") The purpose is reportedly twofold: To create a new planetary system around Saturn for humans, and to cause an outgassing that will sterilize Earth, or at least wipe out a great portion of the population so that the remaining people will unquestioningly accept a one-world government.
Video: Actroid stars in TV commercial

Actroid DER-2, Kokoro's uncannily lifelike fembot, has made her acting debut in a TV commercial for Kincho's Preshower UV insect repellent/sunscreen spray. Titled "The Woman Who Doesn't Rust," the 15-second commercial spot shows Actroid outdoors at a campground, where she recommends using Preshower because, as a female, her skin is important.
Prepare to be amazed.

I bought a new watch at a shop in Madison, Wisconsin. Couldn't resist.

The ectoplasmic-looking being on the right is me riding shotgun out of Denver on the way to Wyoming. I half-expected to see a UFO. No such luck.

Nothing like touristy kitsch to brighten my day!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Oh, the things you see on low-rider motorcycles. I took this outside a tavern in Laramie.
Paging Terry Gilliam!

This patently gorgeous machine can be found in the Coal Creek coffeeshop in Laramie Wyoming. (Take that, Starbucks!)
I'm back home sorting through pictures. Here's me with a tablecloth collaboration. (The upside-down portion is by Greg Hemmings.)

My expression seems to mirror that of the entity in the drawing. Or is it the other way around . . . ?
I'm in the lobby of a Holiday Inn Express in Madison. Barring catastrophe, a shuttle will take me to the airport in an hour and a half. Then back to Kansas City via O'Hare. If I haven't replied to your email, I will shortly.