Saturday, December 31, 2005

I've added some new blogs to the sidebar. In alphabetical order:

Capital of Nasty

Cute Overload

Gravity Lens

Red Colony

The Ruminations on America Project


In addition, I've added two blogs that happen to be local, Digital Doorway and A Voyage to Arcturus.
Living forever

Kurzweil writes that "as we reverse engineer our bodies and brains, we will be in a position to create comparable systems that are far more durable and that operate thousands to millions of times faster than our naturally evolved systems." The computational capacity needed to emulate human intelligence, he says, "will be available in less than two decades." Once a computer achieves a human level of intelligence, "it will necessarily soar past it."

I have many items on my 2006 to-read list. The second (after Rudy Rucker's "The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul") is "The Singularity Is Near."

Related: Douglas Rushkoff's 1994 book "Cyberia" is now available online. When this book hit stores, I had yet to send an email.

Paranormal visitation getting you down? Now there's hope!
Tropical Storm Zeta Forms in Atlantic

Tropical Storm Zeta formed Friday in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, another installment in a record-breaking hurricane season that officially ended last month.

What? Climatological phenomena dare to defy our arbitrary temporal conventions?

Happy New Year, by the way. I think 2006 is going to be exceptionally weird.

Friday, December 30, 2005

I'm apartment-shopping today. We've got our eyes on a nice place in a no-kidding historical landmark with a solarium that looks over a picturesque fountain court. I think it's ours if we want it, but we're looking at another with hardwood floors to see if that wins us over.

Of course, the management might become suddenly anal-retentive and deny us, but I'm determined to get out of my current place. (I love the view, but five years is a long time. Especially when no one fixes your walls.)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Clifford Pickover never stops!
Aberrant, yet weirdly alluring . . .

(Found at Boing Boing.)
No self-respecting anomalist's New Year's festivities are complete without perusing UFO Casebook's Best UFO Photographs of 2005.

(Tip of the hat to PAG E-News.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Look what else I got for Christmas!

I'm not Catholic. I've never been Catholic. But I like setting Nunzilla loose on the floor and watching the fireworks.

I wonder if she'll hit it off with Katita . . .

One of those days. (Art credit: Franz Kafka.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Look what I got for Christmas!

"Katita" bounces, shuffles, jitters, shivers, and rambles like there's no tomorrow.

And who knows? Maybe there isn't.
It's post-Christmas, but some of this stuff is still funny.
Oooh!'s top ten "musts" of 2005!
2005 warmest on record in north

"It's simple physics; more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, emissions growing on a global basis, and consequently increasing temperatures."

Warm weather not going anywhere

Extreme drought, grass fires and warm afternoons at the park: It's a Central Texas winter wonderland.

Austin temperatures hit 81 degrees Monday afternoon, surpassing by 2 degrees the previous record for the date at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport that was set in 1988.

Whitley Strieber returns with another essay on the "visitors":

Twenty years ago tonight, at approximately three thirty in the morning on December 26, 1985, I heard odd noises and felt as if I had fallen out of bed. I opened my eyes to a scene of such extraordinary horror that I am still suffering from the effects of that moment, two decades later.

What I saw before me was a small room like the interior of a tent, populated by enormous insects. These insects were at once strange, distant-seeming creatures, totally unlike me and not communicating any sense of the human at all, and yet at the same time aware of me in a way that eloquently and terrifyingly signaled intelligence.

I'm inclined to accept Strieber's account as basically factual, albeit embellished by subjective impressions, buried desires and the understandable longing for meaning when confronted with the bizarre.

Throughout the years I've followed his tale I've experienced incredulity and not a little confusion -- but I've never laughed. (And I can't wait for his new novel, "The Grays.")
Partial Ingredients for DNA and Protein Found Around Star

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered some of life's most basic ingredients in the dust swirling around a young star. The ingredients - gaseous precursors to DNA and protein - were detected in the star's terrestrial planet zone, a region where rocky planets such as Earth are thought to be born.

The findings represent the first time that these gases, called acetylene and hydrogen cyanide, have been found in a terrestrial planet zone outside of our own.

All that raw material -- just waiting to be intelligently designed!

Monday, December 26, 2005


For a few hours, the world reported the crop circle mystery as solved - but operation leader Colin Andrews soon realised he had been hoaxed and the figures on night-vision cameras were not aliens but local mischief-makers.

According to Mr Andrews, however, across Wiltshire a more mysterious and sinister event was happening, which has remained top secret ever since.

Oh, please. And he's just now decided to talk about it? This "revelation" has all the earmarks of a last-ditch effort to breathe life into a dying mystery.

By the way, I've read Andrews' book on the subject, "Crop Circles: Signs of Contact." While he recounts the high-tech vigil mentioned above, I don't remember any allusions to military conspiracy.
I just realized there's an interesting similarity between this "octacube" sculpture . . .

. . . and the wormhole transport machine in "Contact" (below).

Since both are literally "dimensional portals" -- one based on hard mathematics, the other speculative -- I rather doubt the resemblance is fortuitous.

"Wanna take a ride?"
The land of elves: Hidden creatures make their home in this Icelandic town

Mischief befalls Icelandic road builders who can’t recognize good elf domain, including breakdowns of heavy equipment and even worker mishaps and injuries. It is said to have happened on more than one job site, enough to take the mythology seriously. Consequently, road planners here consult with an elf expert before routing a road or highway through rock piles that may be elf habitat.

(Via The Anomalist.)

"Breakdowns of heavy equipment"? This sounds suspiciously like the oft-reported failures of car ignition systems and electronic equipment that occur during close encounters with UFOs.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Psychopathic Hymn: J.G. Ballard's 'Crashed Cars' Exhibition of 1970


Each of these sculptures is a memorial to a unique collision between man and his technology. However tragic they are, automobile crashes play very different roles from the ones we assign them. Behind our horror lie an undeniable fascination and excitement, most clearly revealed by the deaths of the famous: Jayne Mansfield and James Dean, Albert Camus and John F. Kennedy. The 20th century has given birth to a vast range of machines -- computers, pilotless planes, thermonuclear weapons -- where the latent identity of the machine is ambiguous. An understanding of this identity can be found in a study of the automobile, which dominates the vectors of speed, aggression, violence and desire.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

Better than people

Foreign pundits keep telling Japan to do itself a favour and make better use of cheap imported labour. But the consensus among Japanese is that visions of a future in which immigrant workers live harmoniously and unobtrusively in Japan are pure fancy. Making humanoid robots is clearly the simple and practical way to go.
Researchers develop new method for studying 'mental time travel'

The researchers showed nine participants a series of pictures and then asked them to recall what they had seen. By applying a computerized pattern-recognition program to brain scanning data, the researchers were able to show that the participants' brain state gradually aligned with their brain state from when they first studied the pictures. This supports the theory that memory retrieval is a form of mental time travel.

This kind of technology could be used to study the neurological basis of false memories. Since the portion of the brain that records visual stimuli is distinct from the portion that produces confabulated or imagined experiences, researchers could use medical imaging to determine whether or not "abduction" accounts are based on actual memories of nonhuman encounters. (To his credit, Whitley Strieber has been advocating just such a research effort for several years.)

If you don't have it already, I highly recommend downloading Google Earth. It's like being at the controls of your own flying saucer.
Evolution named 2005's top scientific breakthrough

"I think what arouses the ire of scientists (about intelligent design) is . . . the notion that it belongs in the same universe as scientific analysis," Kennedy said in a telephone interview.

"It's a hypothesis that's not testable, and one of the important recognition factors for science and scientific ideas is the notion of testability, that you can go out and do an experiment and learn from it and change your idea," said Kennedy. "That's just not possible with a notion that's as much a belief in spirituality as intelligent design is."

(Via Chapel Perilous.)

Just to clarify my position on the "intelligent design" thing: I concede that the observation that our universe is hospitable to complex life is a potentially interesting philosophical issue. On the other hand, I don't think it's nearly as interesting as some, who contend the universe must have been crafted with terrestrial biology in mind.

After all, we observe the universe as it is because if it were any different we simply wouldn't be here. I'm perpetually surprised by how many otherwise accomplished cosmological thinkers balk when faced with this simple -- if elliptical -- proposition.

And although the prospect is tarred by its many "fringe" associations, I see no reason why our species couldn't have been the recipient of at least one genetic "upgrade" on behalf of extraterrestrial visitors. But ET intervention doesn't refute evolution. Rather, it helps refine our appreciation for evolution by forcing us to consider the process ultimately responsible for our hypothetical benefactors.

Does this validate "intelligent design"? Emphatically, no.

Of course, all of this is assuming, for argument's sake, that the personalities responsible for the carnivalesque ID "debate" are motivated out of desire for scientific truth. They aren't. ID is an uppity euphemism for "Creationism" -- and as those of us who have been watching know, "Creationism" is a religious ploy that seeks to deride empirical reality in favor of politically expedient superstition.
Galaxies Grow Up in Dark Matter Nurseries

The two teams together have found the first concrete evidence that young galaxies in the early universe are nestled within clumps of dark matter, and that a single clump of dark matter nurses several young galaxies. Both teams took advantage of the Subaru telescope's unique ability to take deep sensitive images over a large area of sky.

Dark matter -- the stuff's everywhere, but what is it?
Creating the First Synthetic Life Form

Several groups are trying to make synthetic genes in hopes of constructing microbes that perform useful tasks, such as producing industrial chemicals, clean energy or drugs. The Columbia team is pushing the technology to its limits by trying to put together an entirely synthetic genome.

ASIMO -- faster than ever!

(Found at Betterhumans.)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

THE WINTER SOLSTICE OF 2012 - A LEAP OF FAITH is Peter A. Gersten's personal mission statement for the next seven years.

Be warned: It's weird. But to anyone who's experienced sustained episodes of synchronicity, it's remarkably easy to sympathize with Gersten's sense of incipience.

I can't say I agree with Gersten's predictions, but neither can I dispute my gnawing sense that reality is, in fact, a "cosmic computer program" and that the next few years promise much upheaval.

Happy holidays -- and don't forget to add yourself to the PB Geographical Matrix!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Here are SF writer Ben Bova's recommendations for a better future.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

From Budd Hopkins' article about Susan Clancy:

Equally damning of Clancy's religious explanation is the fact that the UFO reports of many abductees in more primitive cultures describe exactly the same details as do abductees in more advanced cultures, and yet these more primitive people work assiduously to make their UFO experiences fit into the schema of their traditional religions. Thus, in a well-known Zimbabwe incident, the natives who described small, white-skinned aliens in shiny one-piece jumpsuits insisted that they were the ghosts of their ancestors, who can now, apparently, fly around in wingless metal discs.

I'd argue that Hopkins' insistence that the small, white-skinned entities are literal "aliens" is as lamentably simple-minded as Clancy's own wholesale ignorance of the abduction enigma. "Aliens in jumpsuits" may simply be how the modern Western mind reacts to a "reality-transforming" stimulus.

In a similar manner, explaining the beings as ancestral ghosts could be equally valid. In each case, the mind accesses a comprehensible psychic vocabulary to describe an event that may defy empirical analysis.

This isn't to say Hopkins is wrong; perhaps we really are dealing with more-or-less comprehensible biped aliens with white skin and a penchant for shiny jumpsuits. Maybe the witnesses in Zimbabwe simply weren't versed enough to make an accurate identification.

But the UFO encounter evidence has roots that go far deeper than the contemporary infatuation with "abductions." When the phenomenon is examined historically, it seems more likely that the "aliens" insinuate themselves into a given cultural matrix by appealing to ready-made mythological constructs -- thus the near-endless procession of elves, dwarves, fairies, and saucer-pilots that haunt our attempts to discern the "other."

I think someone is here. But to ascribe nonhuman visitation to Hopkins' meddling intruders is to play into a long-standing perceptual trap . . . and the toll might not be merely intellectual.

Jacques Vallee:

"There is a strange urge in my mind: I would like to stop behaving as a rat pressing levers -- even if I have to go hungry for a while. I would like to step outside the conditioning maze and see what makes it tick. I wonder what I would find. Perhaps a superhuman monstrosity the very contemplation of which would make a man insane? Perhaps a solemn gathering of wise men? Or the maddening simplicity of unattended clockwork?"
Robot Demonstrates Self Awareness

Imitation, said Takeno, is an act that requires both seeing a behavior in another and instantly transferring it to oneself and is the best evidence of consciousness.

In one experiment, a robot representing the "self" was paired with an identical robot representing the "other."

When the self robot moved forward, stopped or backed up, the other robot did the same. The pattern of neurons firing and the subsequent flashes of blue light indicated that the self robot understood that the other robot was imitating its behavior.

Have the Constants of Physics Remained Unchanged?

The physical constants of the Universe are thought to have remained unchanged since the Big Bang; many predictions made by cosmologists depend on it. An international team of researchers are using the National Science Foundation's Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) to see if things really have gone on unchanged for billions of years. They're looking to measure two universal constants: the ratio of mass between protons and electrons, and something called the fine structure constant.


Recently I appeared on "Larry King Live," along with Clancy and several others, when one of the guests showed a blow-up of the world-famous Trent UFO photographs from McMinnville, Oregon, arguably the best-known UFO photos in existence. They were prominently featured in "Life" magazine in 1950, and have been reproduced hundreds of times since in many publications. What's more, in 1969, after careful analysis, an investigator for the skeptical Condon Committee described the McMinnville photo case this way: "This is one of the few UFO reports in which all factors investigated, geometric, psychological, and physical, appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disc-shaped, tens of meters in diameter, and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two witnesses." Optical physicist Dr. Bruce Maccabee has investigated this case thoroughly, flying to McMinneville, interviewing the Trents, their family and neighbors, taking his own test photos from the same location, and carrying out literally months of optical analysis of the original pictures. Maccabee's work has been published widely, but the photos themselves should be familiar to anyone with even a cursory involvement in UFO study and research. Yet, during the Larry King program, abduction authority Susan Clancy glanced at the photos on the monitor and said something like this: "that could be anything...someone who threw up a hubcap or a Frisbee or something." Her evident ignorance of this case, and, by extension, of the literature and history of the UFO phenomenon, was aptly illustrated by this glib, contemptuous wisecrack, a remark one might expect to hear late at night in a Texas barroom, but not from someone holding a Ph.D. degree from Harvard. Earlier, when King asked her how she became interested in the subject of UFO abductions, she began her answer this way: "I've been studying aliens for..." Studying aliens? Again, this peculiar description of her work in the laboratory is not what one would expect to hear from an experimental psychologist on an ostensibly serious TV program.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bruce Sterling introduces two engaging Web-toys. (The one with the falling balls is flat-out fascinating.)
Now this is weird . . .

Stalin's half-man, half-ape super-warriors

According to Moscow newspapers, Stalin told the scientist: "I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat."

Sometimes I wonder if some rogue transgenic experiment is responsible for the beings seen piloting UFOs. It's a weird and troubling concept, even more disconcerting than the prospect of sharing our planet with elusive indigenous humanoids.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It certainly looks to me like the Beagle 2 has been found.
'Intelligent Design' Barred from Dover, Pa. Schools

"Intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.

This comes as a very pleasant surprise. And to think I was actually beginning to enjoy the US' descent into an utter theocratic malaise . . .

Prediction: The next time we get hammered by a super-hurricane, Falwell and his ilk will blame it on the hell-bound secular types who dared to dispute divine truth. So let's enjoy this while it lasts.
Alaskan volcano showing signs of erupting

A sulfurous steam plume, hundreds of miniature earthquakes and a new swath of ash on snowy Augustine Volcano have scientists looking for a possible eruption in the next few months.

The 4,134-foot volcano hasn't shown such signs since it last erupted in 1986, when ash from a 7-mile-high column drifted over Anchorage, the state's most populous city, and kept flights out of the skies over Cook Inlet.

(Via Unknown Country.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

I updated my Mars site -- finally. See page 48 for more on the photo above.
I've just been informed that this blog has been selected for the coveted "Zorgy" Award.

I'm not sure what "Zorgy" recipientship entails, but I'm assuming I at least get a nice grant. You know, for research.
Last year I made a half-assed New Year's resolution to devote more time to writing. I'm making it again, but this time with a better sense of perspective.

The thing is, maintaining a daily blog is addictive . . . and, of course, fun, or I wouldn't be doing it. But it also takes up a surprisingly large amount of time and I feel I'm needed elsewhere -- if not necessarily in "meatspace," then at least poring over my word processor or reading an actual tree-based book (I haven't read as much as I would have liked over the last few months).

I think it would be premature and silly to stop posting here, so I'm not about to. But I'm going to change the flavor of the posts to expand upon the work I really should be doing -- namely, splicing/massaging my new nonfiction effort into intelligible form, cranking out more (finished) short-stories and getting serious about the commercial potential of a science fiction novel manuscript. (It occurred to me this evening that one of my favorite author/bloggers, Rudy Rucker, manages a rather remarkable fiction output while maintaining a well-wrought weblog, so I don't think writing and online publishing are mutually exclusive. In fact, I foresee the two genres becoming increasingly entangled and symbiotic.)

Quite honestly, I've got a lot on my plate right now, which is the way it should be. So in 2006 Posthuman Blues' emphasis will probably shift from coolhunting and fringe commentary to more personal, creative concerns. The change might be radical or it may be subtle; I don't know. Hopefully it will be for the best. If not, then at least it will be a diversion.

Anyway, if you notice a drop-off in the number of posts in the near future, don't be alarmed. And by all means please keep me bookmarked.
You know, I might take up regular television viewing if I had one of these.

(Found at Boing Boing.)
Sharpen your pencils, kids!

NASA Seeks Innovative Ideas for Revolutionary Concepts

Previous winning proposals include systems or concepts for a spacecraft propelled by a magnetized beam of electrified gas for rapid interplanetary transportation; an electrostatic radiation shield for a lunar base; and the redesign of living organisms to survive on Mars.

Lt. Walter Haut, spokesman who announced wreckage of flying saucer in Roswell, died at 83

Army Lt. Walter Haut, a former spokesman for the Roswell Army Air Field, died Thursday in Roswell, his daughter, Julie Shuster, said. He was 83.

Haut listened closely on July 8, 1947 as base commander Col. William Blanchard dictated a news release about a recovered flying saucer and ordered Haut to issue it.

The Roswell Daily Record newspaper ran a bold headline July 9, 1947: "RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region."
Arctic orcas highly contaminated

Norwegian scientists have found that killer whales - or orcas, as they are sometimes known - have overtaken polar bears at the head of the toxic table.

No other arctic mammals have ingested such a high concentration of hazardous man-made chemicals.

(Via PAG E-News.)

This is a fellow intelligent species we're slowly exterminating. And we have the nerve to expect cordial greetings from ETs.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

What the Left Behind Series Really Means

Fetishizing of the End Times as a spectacular gore-fest visited upon on the unbelievers is nothing new. But the sheer number of people gleefully enjoying the spectacle of their own blackest magical thinking made manifest by mass media is new. Or at least the media aspect is new. It reinforces the major appeal of these beliefs, the appeal being (to restate the obvious) that they get to pass judgment on everyone who disagrees with them, and then watch God kick the living snot out of them. It doesn't get any better than that.

(Via Post-atomic.)
Our elves, our selves

"The real world is messy," says Donna Casella, a professor of film, fantasy and pop culture at Minnesota State University (Mankato). "Crime often pays, and some people die for no reason. In the alternative reality of elves, things can be fixed."

Elves and their otherworldly cousins -- fairies, dwarves, gnomes and other creatures of the fairy kingdom -- have endured for centuries in folklore, literature, movies and pop culture. Elves steal our hearts with their magic, mischief and mystery and help us understand ourselves.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Regardless of the empirical reality of so-called "aliens," ufonauts have become the elves of the technological age. Their ultimate aim seems to be some sort of melding of worlds, a reconciliation. In the folklore of the "Grays" and their kin (recently reiterated in the SERPO claims) we encounter a recurring theme of interstellar comradeship and the "miraculous" acquisition of out-of-this-world technology.

What's playing: Johnny Cash

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Late last night I made the switch to Yahoo! Mail's new beta. It's not bad -- just different. So far as I can tell, the most significant changes include a preview pane and the ability to drag and drop messages to and from folders instead of selecting a destination folder from a drop-down menu.

I'm not committed to the new interface, but I'd feel like I was chickening out if I didn't give it a chance. At least I can categorically claim that it's better than Gmail.

A Solution to the Fermi Paradox: The Solar System, part of a Galactic Hypercivilization? (Beatriz Gato-Rivera)

I introduce the Fermi Paradox and some of its solutions. Then I present my own solution which includes two proposals called the Subanthropic Principle and the Undetectability Conjecture. After discussing some consequences of this solution, I make some comments about brane world scenarios and their potential to strengthen the Fermi Paradox. Finally, in the appendix I have included some questions and answers that came up during this Forum.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Counter-Surveillance Headdress

The laser tikka (forehead ornament) is attached to a hooded vest and reflective shawl. The laser is activated by pressing a button on the left shoulder of the vest. When pointed directly into a camera lens, the laser creates a burst of light masking the wearer's face. The wearer can also use the reflective cloth to cover the face and head. The aluminized material protects her/him by reflecting any infrared radiation and also disguises the wearer by visually reflecting the surroundings, rendering the wearer's identity anonymous.

Wait a second -- this is a prop from "Aeon Flux," right?