Monday, December 31, 2007

And now, for your New Year's Eve entertainment, Talking Heads' "Sax and Violins" . . .

I'm a coblogger at Reality Carnival Unleashed, a new collaborative blog that expands on Clifford Pickover's kaleidoscopic Reality Carnival by posting six-word headlines devoted to strange and mind-expanding news items. Drop by anytime!

Additional cobloggers can be found here.
NASA Mars Images Reveals a "Doorway" Structure

There is a strange door-like structure at the base of the mountain formation from a NASA image of Mars that is causing a stir. The first person to notice it wasn’t a NASA scientist, however, but rather a Russian reader of the portal R&D.Cnews, Alexander Novgorodov. Taking a closer look at an image taken by the spacecraft Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, he noticed an unusual morphology, which looks strikingly like a manmade doorway.

Of course, the object’s intriguing form does not denote the presence of a real doorway, nor would it imply that the mountain formation is of artificial origin. That would make an incredible story indeed, but the likely cause it boring old weather erosion. However, the peculiarities are of interest due to their unique morphology.

Interestingly, the "door-like structure" isn't the only such feature on Mars. Another has been noticed on the much-discussed D&M Pyramid in Cydonia (in multiple images, ruling out spacecraft imaging defects). Artificial? Until we have more evidence, it's your call.

For additional images of the D&M Pyramid, click here.
Hello Kitty contact lenses

I have seen the future.

(Thanks: BB.)
Apocalypse? Mmm, bring it on

The reason for the relish is partly obvious: humans find accidents fascinating: the bigger the spill, the bigger the thrill. Something else, however, lends to the Apocalypse a spice absent from even the most cosmic of motorway pile-ups: a sense of justice. Mankind, we are told, has brought this upon itself. After hubris will come nemesis. As we sowed, so shall we reap. Our chickens are coming home to roost, or sins returning to haunt us. How awful. How delicious.

(Via J. Orlin Grabbe.)

Nothing J.G. Ballard couldn't have told you about.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

One of the most inventive robot designs I've seen -- and just in time for New Year's!

(Thanx: Communist Robot.)
Watch the Wowwee Alive™ Elvis® in action!

Will Morrissey be next?

(Thanks, Michael.)

Antarctica May Contain "Oasis of Life"

Researchers have uncovered a complex subglacial system miles under the ice where rivers larger than the Amazon link a series of "lake districts," which may teem with mineral-hungry microbes.

(Via Aberrant News.)

Prospects for life on Mars are getting better all the time . . .
The plastic killing fields

In one of the few places on Earth where people can rarely be found, the human race has well and truly made its mark. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies a floating garbage patch twice the size of Britain. A place where the water is filled with six times as much plastic as plankton. This plastic-plankton soup is entering the food chain and heading for your dinner table.

(Via Reality Carnival.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Forecast in the Streets

Perhaps the topic of global warming suffers from the same sort of cultural divide as university faculties, between the techies and the touchies; that is the sciences and the humanities. A new report called The Age of Consequences, just released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for a New American Security, tries to bring the social sciences, in particular history, geography, and political science, into the forecast of climate change in the coming century. It makes for fascinating if frightening reading.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Here are parts one and two of the alien sequence from the film "Fire in the Sky," ostensibly a recounting of Travis Walton's alleged 1975 abduction. Huge creative liberties were taken with Walton's actual story; the result is a grimy, Gothic-looking craft inhabited by wizened-looking ETs who indulge in seemingly purposeless experimentation, sometimes leaving their victims to rot in membranous cells.

Taking its cue from the "mask" scene in "Communion," "Fire in the Sky" suggests that the big-eyed "Gray" visage (already a consumer touchstone by the film's release in 1993) is due to the metallic "spacesuits" worn by the aliens, presumably for excursions outside their vehicle.

The alien sequence is replete with arresting detail, from the UFO's eroded, labyrinthine interior to the bits and pieces of debris Walton rakes up with his hands as he's dragged down a dimly lit corridor to the aliens' laboratory. The alien environment's thoroughly aged appearance subverts the conventional image of ET spaceships as pristine and clinical. Instead of the pragmatic decor and sourceless lighting reported by abductees, we're treated to what amounts to a space-borne catacomb. Even the aliens defy the expected "Grays" in critical respects; their necks, for instance, feature a detached "extra" throat that cleverly accentuates their mummified physique.

Verisimilitude notwithstanding, "Fire in the Sky" articulates powerful fears of what the abduction phenomenon represents. Perhaps its most striking contribution to the canon of UFO-themed movies is its insinuation that the aliens behave so strangely not because they're evil so much as amnesiac, their original agenda so faded with time that their very spacecraft has begun to decay. For all their technological might, they're a species on the brink of dissolution, sustained by inexplicable sadistic impulses.

More importantly, the cosmic molesters of "Fire in the Sky" serve as frightening caricatures of what human science might become under the unmitigated burden of postindustrial society. We expect our galactic elders to be wise, even compassionate. "Fire in the Sky," and the beings it attempts to represent, are a mocking reminder that such assumptions may be rooted in our own implicit, unexamined desires.
A Minor History of Giant Spheres

Buckminster Fuller proposes the "Cloud Nine" project, a levitating city of tensegrity spheres, each a mile in diameter. Because the surface-to-volume ratio of such spheres would be vanishingly small, Fuller calculated that if trapped solar energy raised their internal temperature by a mere one degree, they would be able to float like balloons.

(Via Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society.)

Positively amazing stuff.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Making a clean break from old gadgets with Second Rotation

Launched in July, Second Rotation's goal is to promote reuse and recycling, while helping consumers who are looking to unload unwanted electronics make a buck or two. The company began with a focus on cell phones and digital cameras, but has since expanded to include Apple laptops, consoles, digital media players, camcorders, and GPS devices.

I'm all for this. Click here for more information from Futurismic.
The Cosmos in a Test Tube

A collision between a brane and an antibrane can leave behind topological defects, including perhaps the Big Bang itself. But however elegant this theory, the problem with string theory is that it makes no falsifiable predictions, scientists being unable to find two Universe-sized objects that you can crash into each other. According to Richard Haley, who led the team at Lancaster University, a testable model can be found in a test tube of liquid helium.
His name is "Mac." He's white, bald, and he lives in Kansas City. He's Mac Lethal*, and he's a rapper, not an author/blogger. In other words, we're like bizarro versions of each other; if we ever met and shook hands, we'd probably explode in a 100% conversion of mass-to-energy.

Anyway, here's his MySpace page.

*How am I supposed to compete with a last name like that?
A couple intriguing UFOMystic posts:

Creepy Entity Video (Greg Bishop)

Of all the weird videos posted in various places, this one, apparently from Poland on May 20th keeps replaying itself in my mind. Unfortunately, the full video is now nowhere to be found.

Not true! The full video can be found (albeit in unnervingly small-scale Quicktime format) here. Scroll a bit and you'll see it. (The video is indeed creepy.)

UFOs & Unit 731 (Nick Redfern)

Could Nick's "Body Snatchers in the Desert" be on the right track? I wonder.
The Sex Singularity: When Machines Surpass Human Hotness

Any decade now . . .

(Hat tip, as usual, to Boing Boing.)
You can have your megaplex fodder. "Terminus," a haunting gem that weds flawless CGI with stunning sets and a moody, understated soundtrack, gets my vote for movie of the year.

(Found at Gerry Canavan's blog.)

The best (?) of Posthuman Blues (2007):

On cosmic philanthropy:

Nick Redfern hates aliens. Specifically, he deplores the disturbingly widespread belief that extraterrestrials are here to save us from ourselves in a gesture of galactic philanthropy.

And it would certainly seem he's backed by the evidence -- or, rather, the lack of it. Despite the persistent presence of unusual objects in our skies, we have yet to receive an ultimatum a la "The Day the Earth Stood Still." While UFOs have displayed apparent interest in military and nuclear facilities, a mass landing doesn't appear forthcoming. Whoever "they" might be, they're not the altruists we might wish they were.

On sentience:

"Ufonauts" are often described as behaving in a military or insect-like manner, even moving in lockstep. Maybe they're interested in us because we're aware in a way they aren't, and they're determined to acquire our capacity for self-reflective thought in order to communicate with us. In essence, our interaction with the UFO intelligence could be a dialogue with a complex but myopic machine. Maybe "they" have never encountered a species like us and are genuinely baffled -- insofar as a distributed computer can be "baffled."

Ardent Singularitarians will doubtlessly point out that our brains are effectively distributed computers, in which case the aliens, if they're here, should possess sentience even if mechanical. But a sophisticated intelligence doesn't necessarily need to be aware of itself to perform a task. If we're observing beings created by someone or something else, sentience might have been deliberately excluded from their repertoire for fear of losing control of a useful tool.

On the semiotics of environmental collapse:

The 20th century image of the astronaut is quickly being replaced with that of the anonymous haz-mat worker. Not only are we on the brink of massive planetary dieback, we're on the cusp of a new mythology with its own rites and symbols.

On psychedelic states and nonhuman intelligence:

The psychedelic realm has the visual flexibility of a multimedia installation or high-bandwidth website, forcing me to consider that it's actually designed as a communications system: a sort of neurochemically derived "chatroom" populated by all manner of colorful "avatars."

It's conceivable that "trippers" can access this interzone, even if inadvertently. The beings seen -- described similarly in UFO and drug narratives -- might be the equivalent of neuropharmacologists and system operators. (Online environments like Second Life, while fanciful, abide by many of the conceits and laws that govern the real world, if only for the sake of convenience. It's likely that an alien intelligence versed in nonlocal communication would apply similar reasoning when constructing a virtual environment.)

On "bulldozing the collective unconscious":

If mythology functions as a social utility, the sterile milieu of contemporary "stripmall culture" heralds a new relationship between ourselves and all things "imaginal." We could be losing -- or at the very least suppressing -- some vital archetypal dialogue, effectively bulldozing the collective unconscious in favor of more Starbucks drive-thrus and Home Depots.

World folklore is inundated by accounts of nonhuman intelligences whose machinations penetrate and underscore our own. Recklessly driving such beings to virtual extinction might leave irreparable scars on the psychic landscape. Or it may give them reason to fight back.

On Singularitarianism:

The future is not a PowerPoint graph. It doesn't abide by Moore's Law. The future is a thicket of variables, many with the capacity to change us in ways we choose not to think about for fear of shattering the edifice that transhumanism has become.

On UFO occupants:

UFO researchers like their aliens to abide by 20th century preconceptions of what alien beings should look like; entities like those observed in Hopkinsville comprise a kind of viral assault on conformist ufology by insinuating themselves into reigning conceits and quietly subverting ETH dogma. Ultimately, their existence is marginalized and becomes less ufological than "fortean." We're asked, in effect, to consider the Hopkinsville visitors and their like as somehow separate and distinct from "hardcore" case-files that more readily suggest extraterrestrial visitation. We do so at our peril.

On "alien" technology:

Our own technological trajectory suggests that a full-scale planetary reconnaissance could be achieved using incredibly small devices. A nanotech "smart dust," for instance, could infiltrate and reap a vast real-time harvest of information -- all without our knowing. As we prepare to use such technologies to study our own planet (and its inhabitants) in ever-increasing detail, we're forced to question prevailing ufological assumptions. While scintillating "spaceships" and irradiated landing sites are certainly cause for wonder and scientific concern, they appear suspiciously mired in the science fantasies of the previous century.

On climate change:

We deride Holocaust deniers. We poke merciless fun at Creationists. Yet we tolerate those who flaunt the depths of their incomprehension by claiming that anthropogenic climate change is some sort of fiction fabricated by political extremists.

Perhaps some of us can afford to be be loftily contrarian, a stance to which Michael Crichton aspired with "State of Fear." Or maybe some of us are just utterly and contemptibly stupid.

On paranormal ontology:

For the most part, the ufological landscape remains a sparring ground for entrenched notions of dispassionate ET visitors and equally tenacious claims of popular delusion. Consequently, we've gone about attempting to "debunk" a phenomenon that continues to defy definition. While many -- if not most -- well-known abduction narratives are indeed fallible, disquieting findings from emerging (or suppressed) disciplines promise to reframe the debate.

I suspect the truth, if we can find it, will be considerably weirder than "mere" extraterrestrial visitors or sociologically induced fantasy.

On J.G. Ballard:

Fifty years from now, as we examine the cancerous folly of the early 21st century from the perspective of wary temporal colonists, we'll see Ballard as the very embodiment of prescience.

On the American Nightmare:

The American Dream doesn't run itself; it needs to be vigilantly enforced every step of the way -- and we're perfectly willing to risk the health of the planet in doing so.

On environmental priorities:

Regarding our potential ability to restore the planet's climate by curbing greenhouse emissions (which won't, by itself, be nearly enough), Griffin offers us this bit of delirium: "I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."

I'll have to remember that the next time I'm crossing a busy street. Who am I to want to get out of the way of that truck? How unspeakably arrogant of me.

On ufology:

The field of ufology suffers from a related problem, the toxic assumption that UFOs and other elements of forteana must necessarily yield to a single consciously derived explanation -- whether the hallowed Extraterrestrial Hypothesis or something else.

But if we're dealing with a truly alien intelligence there's no promise that its thinking will be linear. Indeed, its inherent weirdness might serve as an appeal to an aspect of the psyche we've allowed to atrophy. It might be trying to rouse us from our stupor, in which case it's tempting to wonder if the supposed ETs are literally us in some arcane sense.

On pseudoskepticism:

In Shermer's world, the universe abides by the proclamation of a self-appointed "skeptical" elite, inconvenient facts summarily brushed aside with the help of a few condescending remarks and semantic misrepresentations. Fortunately for the rest of us, the universe doesn't seem to care what Shermer thinks. Instead, we're confronted with phenomena that challenge our assumptions and force us to expand our epistemological frontiers, all the while utterly indifferent to the preconceptions of committed believers and debunkers alike.

On Roswell:

Shostak seems to assume that if Roswell was the crash of an ET vehicle, we should have been able to figure it out by now -- despite his well-made point about ancient Rome's certain inability to make sense of laptop computers. He forces himself into an evidential cul-de-sac: we should know all about Roswell because of the event's importance, he complains, but that very importance is rooted in an assumed alien technology we don't have a chance of understanding. Ironically, Shostak's case against Roswell as an ET event actually winds up complimenting the idea that an alien craft was recovered and duly covered up by an understandably concerned military.

Regarding the Roswell crash's technosocial impact being "too subtle" for Shostak's taste, it's worth noting that technological forecasters such as Ray Kurzweil argue that technology even a few centuries ahead of our own will likely underscore Arthur C. Clarke's maxim that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" -- in which case classified laboratories could still be attempting to make sense of the Roswell debris in order to reproduce it for military or industrial applications.

On molecular manufacturing:

If the ET intent is to test our reactions to its presence (or something more profound, as the phenomenon's impact on our mythology might indicate), quickly assembling "ships" and even "aliens" from raw materials would enable the disparity of forms seen in the sky. The flexibility of nanotech construction would allow the UFO intelligence to respond to our preconceptions in "real time," thereby ensuring a permanent foothold in the collective unconscious while maintaining plausible deniability -- at least among those tasked with policing potentially subversive memes.

On extraterrestrial surveillance:

The abduction mythos suggests that "they" are here for our DNA, in which case we constitute a valuable natural resource. Of course, this forces us to wonder why an extrasolar species would have any interest in a molecule that many scientists consider unique to this planet. Initially, at least, it seems implausible that ETs would have any practical use for human genetic material. Then again, given the sheer novelty of our biological heritage, is it excessively arrogant to consider ourselves worthy of prolonged ET scrutiny?

On sex:

What do you do when you discover that the love you remember so fondly is so much computational static? Or, in human terms, how do you react to the prospect that "love" itself is a cunning delusion forged by millions of years of hominid evolution?

Most of us are at least partially willing to entertain the idea that something better is just around the corner, even knowing the psychological risks. We're wired for optimism because, ultimately, defeatism tends to pass along fewer genes. DNA is a uniquely tyrannical molecule. It lulls us with the lusty murmur of sirens until we find ourselves stranded on uncharted shores.

On simulacra:

No, this isn't "steampunk" -- this decrepit automaton harpist is the real thing. No batteries. No optical sensors or force-feedback units. Not a single chip hidden away inside the delicate porcelain skull. The irony is that its movements, limited as they are, are noticeably more "natural" than those of recent androids.

On consciousness:

If the UFO phenomenon is generated by Earth itself, perhaps it uses the human nervous system as a kind of operating system. Its enduring physicality argues that it can manipulate consciousness in such a way that individuals can function as unwitting projectors. If so, the study of UFOs might eventually lead to a new understanding of the role of awareness. One day, through careful back-engineering of our own minds, we might employ UFO-like abilities through thought alone -- in which case the UFO phenomenon risks becoming obsolete.

On UFO "disclosure":

So while I obviously can't speak on behalf of the rest of the planet, I'm up for the proverbial White House lawn landing. Daniel Pinchbeck and others speak of a deep need to catalyze global consciousness. To me, irrefutable evidence that we share the Cosmos with at least one other intelligent species could be the very catalyst we're looking for -- short-term consequences be damned.

Evolution has never been easy; birth is seldom without potential dangers.

On virtual hedonism:

Ultimately, will the leisure class choose the digital hedonism of Second Life circa 2020 or brave the unwelcome reality of a disintegrating environment? I can imagine visiting the "real" world becoming something of a rebel act; users will log-in after extended stays in the non-simulated world with exotic tales to tell . . . but will we bring ourselves to believe them?

On biomimicry:

Is the intelligence behind the close-encounter experience using SF devices as a way of interacting with us, much how a primatologist "communicates" with an orphaned monkey via hand-puppet? If so, how to account for descriptions of bug-like entities from populations who haven't been primed to know what an alien "should" look like? Maybe the "mantis" identity is simply a costume that works, in which case one can't help but yearn for a glimpse of next year's fashions . . .

On cryptoterrestrials:

Yet as we watch night erode the familiar highways and stadiums and ever-encroaching suburbs, our confidence falters. Already, technological forecasters envision a near-future populated by our artificially intelligent offspring. Perhaps as our most cherished certainties crumble in the glow of a new century -- full of danger, portent and enigma -- it's become relatively easy to contemplate the presence of the Other: not an other new to our planet, but one predating our own genetic regime. Something unspoken and ancient yet nevertheless amenable to science . . . an intelligence with an almost-human face, until recently content to abide by the shadows of our complacency.

Wishing you a weird 2008!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

World's Biggest Building Coming to Moscow

One of the world's most ambitious building projects, Crystal Island will cost $4 billion and it is scheduled to be built within next 5 years in Moscow. It will be enclosed within a vast mega structure covering a total floor area of 2.5million square metres -- floor area alone will be four times the size of Pentagon in Washington DC.

Pipe dream?
In this fascinating series of outtakes from the film version of "Communion," we see a contemporary iconography in the making. Christopher Walken's silent dialogue with the "Grays" is like watching a mind in the process of discovering itself, a testament to Whitley Strieber's seminal book.

The interior of the craft in "Communion" has always struck me as oddly plausible. It has the spatial logic of a dream, boundless yet confining. And the aliens -- obvious marionettes -- are somehow creepier and more believable than their CGI successors. After all, would a real alien show its true self to you? And if it did, would your mind have the dexterity to construct an accurate translation?
Video of Col. Kal Korff Sending Off "Secret Wars" Trilogy to Publisher Coming Next Week announced today that starting as early as next week, they will begin posting on the Internet the videotaped footage of their President and CEO, Colonel Kal Korff, sending off his new trilogy book series on terrorism, Secret Wars: Defending Against Terrorist Plots, to his publisher in New York, Prometheus Books. Korff was filmed recently at a media event sending the book off to be published, and took a few moments to briefly answered questions.

Korff is a Colonel in the Israeli-founded Special Secret Services and is an expert in Counter-Terrorism. At roughly 1,200 pages, Korff's book is already being lauded as one of the most definitive works yet written on the subject of terrorism.

It is due for release next year by Prometheus Books and is also a weapon in the war against terrorism.

Korff's book is the result of a 5.5 year classified project.


Yeah, I know I once declared this blog a Korff-free zone, but who could resist this? I want to see that "media event" video, damnit -- and I'm not being sarcastic. I mean, that's historic footage. The world needs to see it.

I'm sure Kal would agree.

Update: True to form, Korff has deleted the post quoted above. Never happened, folks.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Russia to launch space base for missions to Moon, Mars after 2020

"After 2020, Russia plans to create and put into orbit a near-Earth experimental manned complex to ensure transport operations to the Moon and Mars," Anatoly Perminov said.

He also said Russia has tentative plans for manned missions to Mars, but since substantial technical and financial resources would be needed, a Mars expedition should be international.

The agency chief had said previously that Russia planned to send cosmonauts to the Moon by 2025 and establish a permanently-manned base there in 2027-2032.

(Via Futurismic.)
'Mind' still a medical enigma

Herbert's experience evokes the question: Can the human mind provide the power to will a man from a near-comatose state? Some experts believe the mind is not only powerful, it isn't even "local" to the body.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Like most skeptics, I have grave misgivings about the "miraculous," a term we seem to instinctively reach for to describe phenomena beyond the realm of known science. There are no "miracles." There is, however, a body of strangeness that leaves the door open (if only barely) for some form of nonlocal consciousness.

Mondolithic Studios has featured some superb posts lately, but what really caught my eye was this breakdown of the transhumanist rallying cry for "species uplift":

I Could Have Told You That

Which brings me to one of the creepiest and most truly disturbing concepts floating around the most distant outer fringes of techno-totalist circles: the idea of "species uplift". That's the idea that we have a moral imperative to use advanced technology to artificially elevate the intelligence of animal species to at least human level, for their own good. It's not even a new idea (Planet of the Apes). But like so many tropes that have been circulating around in science fiction for the last 70 years, it's been rebranded to sound daring and novel and given a bit of post-Drexlerian spitshine for the GenY demographic.
Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

The cobbling together of life from synthetic DNA, scientists and philosophers agree, will be a watershed event, blurring the line between biological and artificial -- and forcing a rethinking of what it means for a thing to be alive.

"This raises a range of big questions about what nature is and what it could be," said Paul Rabinow, an anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley who studies science's effects on society. "Evolutionary processes are no longer seen as sacred or inviolable. People in labs are figuring them out so they can improve upon them for different purposes."

(Via PAG E-News.)

Then again, have we ever truly viewed evolutionary processes as "sacred"?
Mouth Eyes pictures

Uniquely disturbing . . . reminds me of something from "Naked Lunch."

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)
The Round Files #002: The George W. Bush MJ-12 Briefing

In which The Chimp is notified of the "alien problem." Good stuff.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

"The Story of Stuff": holiday must-viewing.

Cliff Pickover strikes again . . .

I got it, baby. The four-disc "Blade Runner" final cut. Christmas miracles do come true!

You have to love this position statement:

At the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, we take seriously the danger that atomically-precise exponential manufacturing could enable such concentrations of unprecedented power as to result in either terminal warfare or permanent enslavement of the human race.

(Full article, "The Fermi Death Sentence," right here.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

DIY brain stimulation tech! You'll thank me!

Happy holidays from Posthuman Blues!

Wait a second -- what's David Lynch doing in Japan?

(Thanks, Steve!)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Hummer of 2100?

Cuban Truck-Raft

The home-made vehicle appears to be a truck-powered raft. The barrels provide floatation and the engine drives the propeller. Cool hack if it works.
Blog of the day: Eureka Dejavu's Dispatches from a Virtual World
Yet another in a long list of articles mired in the assumption that UFOs, if "extraordinary," must be extraterrestrial craft:

Why not full disclosure on UFO sighting?

Given that exhaustive research hasn’t revealed any signs of life elsewhere in our own solar system, and that the next likely candidate is a goodly jaunt even at the speed of light, it’s not likely that we’re being buzzed by alien life forms.

NASA, then, might well be correct in insisting that there was nothing extraordinary about a UFO sighting near Kecksburg, in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, where something fell from the sky and was retrieved by soldiers in 1965. Yet it has reacted to requests for records of the incident as if it was keeping a little green man in a freezer.
Lobster serves as model for new X-ray device

A lobster's eyes, which look like small antenna, are made up of thousands of tiny square channels that allow the eyes to focus by reflection, rather than by refraction -- or the bending of light -- as human eyes do.

That unique optical geometric design, which allows lobsters to see in the dimmest light, is being adapted into a "lobster-eye lens" that focuses the X-ray images so that the device can actually see through a wall and project an image of what's on the other side.

Given the way people are treated at airports post 9-11, I'm surprised this gadget doesn't come equipped with pincers.
Google Wireless And The End of The Telephone

First, the 700mhz spectrum allows for very high bandwidth, at least 100mb/s to start. Secondly, it has long range, at least 30 miles. Combine this with Google's long-going and continuing acquisition of "dark fiber" and Google has the ability to offer nationwide, high-bandwidth, wireless access to anyone with any conceivable device. With new services like Googol's gTalk along with their gphone is only the beginning. Combine this new ubiquitous, wireless reality with movements like Open Social and OpenID, and within about 10 years, possibly even 5, there is no longer any need for telephone numbers, email addresses, and seperate webspace identities (facebook, myspace, etc.). You simply are who you say you are wherever you go as you intereact in the digital ecosphere.

The Dood is near indeed . . .

We human excel at thinking we've established a dominion over time. We concede that regimes and even civilizations decay and vanish, but persist in the illusion that some ill-defined aspect of our essential human-ness -- falsely assuming such a thing exists -- will never change. We prefer the fragile solace of perpetuity to the harsh truths of extinction and transition.
Maybe I should feel vaguely guilty or overbearing stealing cool stuff from the likes of Ectoplasmosis (in my opinion, one of the best "weirdhunting" blogs on the Web), but in this case I just couldn't help myself.
The Chimp covers R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)":

Friday, December 21, 2007

The "Blade Runner" final cut boxed set is out. You know you want it.

(How much for just the briefcase? If that's not a cyberpunk chick-magnet, I don't know what is.)
I've made no secret of my adoration for Peter Watts' luminously cerebral dystopian science fiction novels. It turns out he writes a mean book review, too. Check out this shrewd indictment of Francis S. Collins' "The Language of God," which has been getting some major shelf-exposure (at least here in Jesusland):

The God-Shaped Hole

Collins' understanding of natural selection appears to be a woefully-ignorant caricature in which every organism always behaves optimally to promote its own fitness, and every instance in which this doesn't happen constitutes a failure of evolutionary theory calling out for Divine intervention. What he doesn't seem to understand (or perhaps, what he's hoping his readers won't understand) is that the whole basis of natural selection is variation. Organisms don't all behave identically; some do better than others; the losers die out. Nature, in other words, is chock-full of organisms who do not selfishly spread their genes, who benefit others at their own expense. Conspecifics might call such organisms "unsuccessful competitors". Parasites would call them "hosts". Predators would call them "food". The Archdiocese calls them "parishioners".

Perhaps you're thinking that's a cheap shot. I don't think so: this guy needs to be taught the basics -- not just of biology, but of elementary logic. To claim that the existence of non-selfish acts defies evolutionary theory is like claiming that blow jobs disprove the orgasm's relevance to reproduction.
The Year's 10 Craziest Ways to Hack the Earth

Some say the extreme temperatures predicted for the near future call for extreme measures. Others say the solutions could be worse than the problem. In increasing order of unorthodoxy, here are the 10 craziest geo-engineering schemes of 2007.
Japanese Official Admits UFOs Exist

This headline currently graces Whitley Strieber's Unknown Country website. Unfortunately, it's inaccurate. The official in question doesn't know that UFOs exist, nor is he "admitting" anything; he simply "believes" that UFOs exist.* Nothing wrong with that, but it's not nearly as cool as a government official mentioning (even in passing) "insider" knowledge of the subject.

Ironically, Strieber goes on to lament the stubborn state of the media and its proven inability to address the UFO question. While his sentiments are understandable enough, his website's persistent misrepresentations are less accommodating to nonbiased readers.

*George W. Bush evidently believes that he's spoken with Jesus. Is this press-stopping news that the Judeo-Christian God exists? By Strieber's plastic journalistic standards, the answer can only be "yes."
Boffins Say E.T. Too Bored By Our Messages To Phone Home

Previous messages beamed into deep space via radio-telescope by scientists have tried to demonstrate our intelligence by sending coded math problems, a bit of chemistry, physics and biology, some data on what we look like and even where we've come from. This may not, however, be good enough for their superior brains. Dutil and Dumas argue that if any alien does decode a message containing essentially trivial data, "after reading it, they will be none the wiser about us humans and our achievements."

Conversely, instead of waiting for prime numbers, we should be actively searching for art.
Asteroid may hit Mars in next month

The asteroid, known as 2007 WD5, was discovered in late November and is similar in size to an object that hit remote central Siberia in 1908, unleashing energy equivalent to a 15-megaton nuclear bomb and wiping out 60 million trees.

Scientists tracking the asteroid, currently halfway between Earth and Mars, initially put the odds of impact at 1 in 350 but increased the chances this week. Scientists expect the odds to diminish again early next month after getting new observations of the asteroid's orbit, Chesley said.

Hey, I hope it hits. We Earthlings could use the wake-up call.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

NASA has a Stargate

Cosmic conspiracy theorists, start your engines.