Thursday, December 31, 2015

A shot from space


So today is one of my least favorite holidays. Going to buck up by thinking about extinction from space.

The Atlantic ran a story about "the chilling regularity of extinctions." The article opens with a rundown on that giant rock that (probably) wiped out prehistoric life. New research has shown a correlation between the cycle of comet showers and massive die offs on Earth. There is a pattern: Every 26 million years, there have been enormous impacts and then massive die-offs. 

Really shouldn't be a surprise. Space is so full of free bodies such as asteroids, comets, one will inevitably hit us.  But there is one hitch in the aforementioned correlation, at least according to The Atlantic article. The space body that wiped out the dinosaurs was something of an outlier, even by mass extinction standards. If there had been an impact of even close to that size in the last 66 million years, humanity wouldn't have even arisen. So...good, I guess?

I dunno. Just something to mull over as you guzzle champagne from clinquant finery. Billions of frozen rocks sitting in that parking lot called the Oort Cloud at the outer reaches of the solar system. Just wait for one of them to get knocked loose and play the roulette wheel.

Here's Talking Heads.








Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Towards compromise


I have depression.

Sometimes it gets the better of me and I send out little "hints" as to how awful I'm feeling on my social media. One of my friends, I'll call him "JT" for these purposes, recently sent me a message to see if I was all right.

I met JT on Twitter. He read a few of my blog posts and we found we had quite a few things in common, not the least of which being an affinity for British New Wave bands of the 1980s. But we found we didn't agree much on politics. He's somewhere in the middle of the right end of the political spectrum and if you've followed me for any length of time then you pretty much know where I stand. Regardless, JT's digital "wellness check" made me sit and think for a long time, even though I'm certain he didn't intend such. In fact, he didn't intend anything apart from making sure I was doing all right.

He didn't check first to see what my stance was on the Iranian nuclear treaty. He didn't poll me to make sure I was supporting at least one of the GOP 2016 candidates. He just wanted to help. JT's act of compassion forced me to evaluate many things. If I saw a car on the side of the interstate that had black smoke billowing out from under the hood and one of the passengers in the ditch and the other knelt over him crying, I don't think I'd care if there was a Trump bumper sticker on the car. I'd stop and help in whatever way my limitations would allow. I believe most people I know would have the probity to do the same. This and acts like JT's show us at our best, demonstrating we have far more in common with one another than differences.

It's tougher to see that now. As meme after meme gets passed around on social media and cries of "libtard" and "Teabagger" fly in the comments section, there's a sense of tribalism that sets into the morrow of the social framework. Stick with your own and eye the other with suspicion. Never know what they might try to take from you. I've done it. I will freely admit that. I have felt so dead cold with certainty on issues that I saw razor-sharp rhetoric as justified when I was opposed and insulted. It only serves to escalate the situation and we get nowhere. Civil discussion and compromise are needed now more than ever before.

But how can you compromise on issues that deal with human rights? How can true justice allow a "compromise" on something such as full and equal rights for the LGBT community, or a woman having access to every medical care option, or how on earth could you compromise on #Blacklivesmatter? These things are absolutes and naturally generate unyielding stances. I'll be honest...I don't have an answer.

Perhaps the method is to proceed from common ground. We have it. Despite the howls of the extremes of both sides, I'm starting to see the large mass of people that fall in the middle. We want the chance to earn a decent wage and send our kids to good schools. We want to be safe. That means being safe from both criminal threats here at home and from what enemies we may have overseas. The majority of us are the products of immigrants and I believe we want to continue to welcome people into our nation, but most of us also understand the need for a component of safety and security in that process. This is the good stuff, the things we all want. We just differ on how to get it. But if we could somehow remember that our goals are the same...

I know. It reeks of naiveté. Even I kind of want to smack myself right now. Maybe it's the hope that comes with the holiday season. But it's also during this season that I frequently hear songs calling for "peace on Earth." I can't help but wonder how that's ever going to happen when the citizens of America can't even make peace with each other? Because the thing is, we're all we have. Each one of us is fighting this tough battle called life. No presidential candidate is going to come save us. We, the people who as George Bailey said "do most of the working and paying and living and dying," are in this together.  Probably time we start acting like it.

Because as I learned from my friend's message, compassion makes a fine bridge to compromise.


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Monday, December 28, 2015

The Paranormal Couple



I am on the far right. Armando is on the far left. The two men in the middle are wonderful friends but have little bearing on this story. Sadly, this is the only digital photo I have with Armando.

Imagine if you will two old college friends who move in together to share expenses.

They find they're a bit opposite by nature. One is a self-proclaimed hedonist, caring little for perceptions or appearances. The other is wound pretty tight. As example, he was found scrubbing the bathroom in his underwear while listening to Erasure...which brought up all kinds of uncomfortable questions.

Sounds like the same old cliche, right?




Well what if I told you that the two men in this urban, postmodern scenario were enthralled with the weird, the bizarre, the unexplained? They are...The Paranormal Couple.

During the mid 1990s, Armando and I introduced ourselves to the wonders of canned Chicken a la King while simultaneously consuming hours of the show, Sightings. That was the one hosted by Tim White who reminded us that "no mystery is closed to an open mind"...whatever that means. Often that meant a lot of ghost stories and few outrageous claims about the pyramids that had both Armando and I howling at the TV in disbelief.

Of course it was 1994 and we had yet to experience Giorgio Tsoukolos. 

But there was Bigfoot. Through one of the numerous docs we met researcher Peter Byrne. His Bigfoot organization had a really cool jeep they'd use to go toolin' through the woods. The doors had a Sasquatch silhouette on them, same shape as the classic "pose" from the Patterson film. Most people want to see a Bigfoot. Armando and I would settle for a ride in the jeep.

Oh and we were there at the beginning for the Chupacabra. The beginning of its entry into public consciousness anyway. So we got that going for us. Which is nice. 

Naturally, we wallowed in gallons of UFO content. We watched the film versions of Communion and Fire in the Sky, prompting long, mealtime discussions of each. We compiled a full VHS tape of abduction documentaries. The title we gave that tape? "Leave Our Butts Alone!" We had in-depth discussions about UFO phenomena, abductions, and what exactly were the motivations of the Greys. 

Except we didn't know they were called "Greys." Instead, given their enormous, almond-shaped eyes, Armando gave the would-be aliens a new moniker:

"The Bug Eyed Fucks!" he would say. "We're never going to have a democratically elected Congress or a non-rigged Oscar night. You know why? The Bug Eyed Fucks! Those twisted freaks obsessed with our asses!"

Be that as it might've, we eventually found a way to give the BEFs a bit of payback. Virtually, anyway. It was that magnificent video game X-COM: UFO Defense. Genre constraints keep me from getting into all the wonderments of that game, but suffice it to say it involved UFO crashes, BEFs, and sending in transport planes full of armed troops to shoot the surviving BEFs. Oh the days on end we whittled away with that game. You could also name each of your individual soldiers. Given that mine had a tendency to get killed, I stopped naming them after people I liked and switched to the names of people from work or Republican politicians.

Although before I did that, one of the troops named Nick Rhodes survived a disaster of a mission and became senior officer by default. I imagined him in fatigues with little ruffle cuffs sticking out at the wrists. He'd pace before the other troops and say "All right, boys. I'm in command now. And we're gonna get a few things straight round here...very few."

So why am I blogging about this? I guess because I'm wistful. I'm melancholy for those simpler times. I know for a fact my self at that time wouldn't have seen it that way. I was having a terrible time adjusting to adult life and I felt bad that I wasn't going to as many wing dings and shindigs as a young man my age should've been. 

What dumb things to worry about. And even dumber to not realize how good I had it. 

For I had no idea what true nightmares life could have in store for someone.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays from ESE!




Season's Greetings!

I am going to take time off in an attempt to enjoy the Yuletide Season.

That's right. Attempt. Things aren't good for me right now. In fact, that might be understatement. But whenever I'm feeling miserable at this time of the year, I think of a dispatch from Edward R. Murrow in London in the early years of World War II. It goes something like this:

"Christmas Day began in London nearly an hour ago. The church bells did not ring at midnight. When they ring again, it will be to announce invasion. And if they ring, the British are ready. Tonight, as on every other night, the rooftop watchers are peering out across the fantastic forest of London's chimney pots. The antiaircraft gunners stand ready. And all along the coast of the island, the observers revolve in their reclining chairs, listening for the sound of German planes.  The firefighters and the ambulance drivers are waiting, too. The blackout stretches from Birmingham to Bethlehem, but tonight over Britain the skies are clear.

This is not a Merry Christmas in London. I heard that phrase on twice in the last three days."

So that's my moment of depressed bokketo. Have a happy.





Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The strange story of Gary McKinnon


Gary McKinnon is a fascinating facet of UFO lore.

He is a UK citizen and has been called, among other things, a computer genius, a man obsessed with UFOs, a "bumbling nerd," and the man who committed "the biggest military computer hack of all time."   His story is mainly one of drawn out legal battles over extradition, but it's what he claims to have found deep in the recesses of US Defense Department computers that interests me and most others who follow this kind of thing, First, a bit of context.

Last week I asked a question. If UFOs really are alien in origin, could we ever defend ourselves against them if we needed to? After all, there are claims that suggest we might need to.  Something that may support this notion is a 1940s memo from four star general, Nathan Twining. The alleged content of this memo has Twining arguing that UFOs are very real, that they represent a security risk, and should be treated as a defense priority by investing in new technology. It's been said that Twining was reacting as a military man should given the limited amount of information available at the time. Others have said that the veracity of the memo itself is questionable. Regardless, the Twining memo gives an interesting jumping off point. Did we develop anything to defend ourselves against this "threat"?

Well, kinda.

There was the X-20 Dyna-Soar. This craft had similar roles/design specifications as the space shuttle. It would travel into space and return to land like an ordinary aircraft. It did, however, have offensive capabilities as well. It could attack Soviet satellites or carry out bombing operations. Could it have been deployed against UFOs? We may never know as the Dyna Soar never made it out of the design phase. A tricked out version of it did appear with SHIELD in an issue of Marvel's Strange Tales. But I digress...

It also might have paved the way for the X-37B. This is an unmanned, reusable spaceplane that has spent a great deal of time in orbit. Its true purpose has never been made public but it's not hard to see why "UFO faithful" might start making claims...however baseless...that the X-37B is a platform for UFO defense.

That returns us to the question, "is our government preparing to fight against extraterrestrials?" Well let's take a look at what McKinnon claims he saw before he was caught and shut out of the systems for good. 

McKinnon said that he saw NASA photographs of UFOs. These objects, one of them "cigar shaped" according to McKinnon, were then airbrushed from the photo before release to the public. He also claimed have seen other enormous spacecraft outside of Earth orbit. These however had American flags on the hulls and names like USSS (United States Space Ship?) Hillenkoetter. That name is intriguing as Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter was said to have been a member of the famed Majestic 12. Given the extreme doubt cast upon the notion of MJ12, that might not do much for you in terms of McKinnon's credibility. There is one more thing, however.

McKinnon said he saw a list of names. They all held military rank and were listed under the heading "Non-terrestrial officers." These latter two points don't have much to do with UFOs but they may indicate something else: a clandestine US space program.

That's as fascinating as UFOs in its own right. 

While US authorities and McKinnon appear to have reached an irenic state of sorts, his claims remain. The problem is that they are just that. Claims. There is nothing physical to substantiate them. That is not to say that he is lying. There simply is nothing tangible to corroborate what he's saying.

Still, it's interesting as all hell.




Saturday, December 19, 2015

Silver Bridge anniversary


How did I forget this?

Last Tuesday marked an anniversary in the annals of the paranormal. On December 15th, 1967, the Silver Bridge collapsed. The bridge connected Kanauga, Ohio and Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The mere mention of that latter location should ring bells of familiarity for any "weird hunter" or gastronome of the paranormal. For of course the town of Point Pleasant was the focal location of the book The Mothman Prophecies by the legendary John Keel.

Keel's book paints a somber picture of the collapse as collected from witness interviews. Cars in the river, Christmas presents floating to the surface, and amidst it all the deaths of 46 people as the collapse occurred during rush hour. But of course that's not why Keel visited Point Pleasant. He was there for something else.

Mothman.

Witnesses say that the strange, winged humanoid had been seen before the bridge collapse (among several other times). This helped foster the notion that the Mothman entity, whatever it is, is a harbinger of doom, a warning of impending tragedy. But Point Pleasant was witness to more than that. 

The town became a massive melting pot of weirdness. All manner of paranormal phenomena occurred there in the finite window of time Keel identified before and after the bridge failure. Not the least of these occurrences was a wave of UFO sightings. The coinciding of the UFOs with the appearance of Mothman led several to speculate that the creature was extraterrestrial in origin, but Keel thought otherwise. He related it all to his "superspectrum" theory.

I shouldn't get started on that point because there's so much more to it than I have time for today. You really owe it to yourself to read The Mothman Prophecies if you haven't already. Keel gives a fascinating look at Point Pleasant as an "everything and the paranormal kitchen sink" locale, similar to Dulce and the Bridgewater Triangle.

Many have tried to explain the events of Point Pleasant. Joe Nickell pegged Mothman as a combination of barn owls and unreliable human faculties. Doubtless Robert Shaeffer has chimed in a time or two on the subject. Just the same, I'm not fully satisfied with those explanations. At the same time, I'm not buying "aliens" as the reason, either. So just what happened during that time in Point Pleasant?

I'm not afraid to say that I have no idea.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Bionics, Transhumanism, and the End of Evolution"


So YouTube recommended a BBC video on transhumanism to me.

It was titled "Bionics, Transhumanism, and the End of Evolution" and it was a mixed bag. On the plus side, they interviewed the best talent. There's Kurzweil, Max More, Natasha Vita-More, and Bruce Sterling. The doc got the idea down, anyway. The purpose is to help people live longer, healthier lives by overcoming their biology. Not only that, but hopefully we can have smarter people as well. This can be brought about through advancements in such fields as bionics, nanotech, and artificial intelligence. For as Kurzweil is quoted in the video: "Non-biological intelligence is growing. Biological is not."

A few interesting points: the documentary video goes into genetic manipulation. This is an aspect of transhumanism that I tend to overlook but it is wrong of me to do so. It's a vital component. I was interested to learn of how DNA alteration may help with organ transplants. If a donor organ is "re-keyed" to the recipient's DNA, then the chance of rejection is far less (to that I say, forget the meat. Just go full tech.) There was also the account of Robert J. White of the Cleveland Clinic. He kept a brain alive outside the body. He transplanted a monkey's head onto a different monkey's body. Kept it alive for seven days.

I don't like what he did to animals, but it demonstrates that consciousness can be transplanted.

Natasha Vita-More said something that actually made me think of one of my reservations about transhumanism. She mentioned Versace and what an artist he was. "Can you imagine if Versace could have designed a human body?" Well, Versace products are very expensive. Will the Singularity only be affordable for the 1%? As the rich/poor divide widens almost daily, that's a distinct possibility.

Worst of all, the video had this ominous, tabloid-y tone to it that I seldom see associated with the BBC. Naturally Frankenstein was referenced and the whole thing had this air of "Guess what they're cooking up in the lab and do you think it will kill us all?" We don't need that. Additionally, the overall production and technical quality of the video was most lackluster.

I couldn't help but wonder what Vernor Vinge would think of this vid. He might've gotten sick of the dark tone as well.


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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

UFOs: Could we take them in a fight?


This is a continuation of my exploration of the ExtraTerrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) for UFO phenomena. Here's a brief look at my rationale for doing such.

A logical question when considering the possibility of an alien origin for UFOs is: "What do they want?" I mean, why come all this way? In pondering this, I immediately jumped to the worst case scenario.

I'm sure you're surprised.

Let's say they're hostile. I mean, I've blogged about it before and mentioned a few cases that might make one at least consider the possibility. Books such as Leonard Stringfield's Situation Red have alleged that encounters with UFOs have been getting more violent in nature. This means everything from physical injury to dangerous interference with systems we rely on for safety. All that and we haven't even included the terrifying abduction phenomena. That and my mind is poisoned with the bubblegum, alien invasion movies of my youth (geez why can I not resist Independence Day 2?) But I digress...

There may have already been altercations between UFOs and military forces. One such example goes all the way back to February of 1942 during the so-called "Battle of Los Angeles." During this encounter, a UFO entered the airspace over Los Angeles. Given that this was only three months after Pearl Harbor, the object was met with searchlights and a hail of antiaircraft fire. The official explanation? A weather balloon. Hah! Bet you didn't see that coming. Seriously though, the Los Angeles Times published this piece on the incident, but if you're a UFO true believer, you likely won't care for its tone or content.

Then there's the Tehran incident. In 1976, an Iranian F-4 fighter was sent to intercept a UFO over Tehran. As the fighter pilot was about to get missile lock, the UFO was able to completely disable all of the plane's electrical systems. Numerous military personnel, including a full colonel, witnessed this event and recorded it. There has never been any kind of explanation for this encounter other than a genuine UFO. But if these advanced craft can deactivate the weapons and aviation systems of what was then a semi-advanced fighter, what hope do we have?

Well, basic radar waves might do them in. That's what someone said to me in a Facebook comment regarding the infamous Roswell crash. The idea being that our high-powered radar emissions somehow muck up the control systems of the so-called flying saucers. So...we could just beam them with radar waves? Sorry. It just doesn't make any sense to me. If the ETH is indeed correct, then I find it difficult to believe that sophisticated craft could cross the interstellar void and just get brought down by a radar dish circa 1947.

Of course we can't leave out the allegations about Dulce. I have been and will continue to research, write, and interview extensively about that fascinating (albeit shaky) claim. What is it? It involves an alien base inside a mesa and a firefight for control of the facility between the aliens and US special forces. Want to know more? I'll let you know when my book comes out.

On the plus side, logic seems to indicate that we're safe. If "they" wanted us dead, they'd have done it by now.

I think.



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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Paris climate change agreement


It has been hailed by many as critical action on climate change.

But will it really be that?

Last Saturday in Paris, over 150 nations agreed to a pledge, a pledge to limit the amount of carbon dioxide they emit into the atmosphere and thereby (hopefully) mitigating the effects of climate change. What are the key details?

For one, this is viewed as a long-term effort and naturally so. It will take time to accomplish these goals. The combined effort is centered around making sure that average temperatures do not rise above the nefarious "2 degrees Celsius" mark. It is generally accepted that if overall temperatures rise two more degrees, that is when we will really begin to see the catastrophic and likely irreversible effects of climate change. Temperatures have already increased by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since pre-industrial times. This Paris agreement has more ambitious aspirations, however, aiming to cap temperature rise at 1.5 Celsius as opposed to just keeping it under two degrees.

How will we do this? Limit greenhouse gas emissions. Such actions apply only to developed nations, however. The developing world is expected to do what it can as its "capabilities evolve." Wealthier nations have also pledged a combined $100 billion by 2020 to help poorer countries reduce their emissions. The accord also included a section on "loss and damage" associated with climate related disasters, such as island nations threatened by rising sea levels. On the other hand, the section does not involve any pledge of liability or compensation. So...

Not surprisingly, nobody seems entirely happy with this agreement. Conservative politicians have issued their customary clishmaclaver about "harm to the economy" (read "their bottom line") but I'm hoping they will eventually return to their primary scientific concerns, such as Creationism and the "Young Earth." Climate activists are upset that the pact is too weak and does not go far enough to save the world.

A pragmatist might look at the flaws inherent within the actual accord. There is no penalty for any nation that fails to meet their emissions targets. Proponents of the agreement point out that while that might be, there is transparency. The involved nations are supposed to report their emissions and give updates on their efforts to reduce them, thus encouraging them to follow through on promises. You'll forgive me if I say this relies a bit too heavily on altruism as there is neither carrot nor stick involved here.

Well there is a carrot. We can begin to actively do something about climate change and try to avoid catastrophe. Sadly, that doesn't usually translate to much in a make-a-buck world.

Do I have a dim view of humanity or what?



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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Augmented reality will kill the screen





While it's not exactly what I had in mind when I say "get rid of the TV," augmented reality brings new possibilities. Check this out:

http://www.techinsider.io/augmented-reality-will-kill-the-screen-2015-12

Big pushers of tech want to get rid of TV, computer, and even smartphone screens. Instead, you would wear unobtrusive (you would think one day they would be, anyway) glasses that would project digital images in front of you. Through augmented reality, you would see the actual world with overlaid imagery and probably information that the device is receiving from other "smart" objects. Microsoft's HoloLens is one current example of this approach, in basic theory if nothing else.

What are the implications of this? Well, I can think of a couple of things.

-I can envision creating art in otherwise empty air. Brush strokes of vivid color and abstract shapes. Maybe sharing it with others who are also viewing through AR.

-This is going to change how the interiors of buildings are designed. These screens are the central point of several rooms in homes and offices. What happens when they are gone? Open space? Will this mean bold new architecture?

-So what will we do with all those old flat screens that were once so sacrosanct? Oh fickle and fugacious media! Here's an idea: use the frames of those flatscreens to create solar panels. 

There. Something that was once polluting the mind is now helping to better our environment.

Hey somebody get me one of these AR headsets for Christmas. Please?


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The VertiPod!


Looking for a new mode of transportation but feeling like you're running out of options? Looking for what you can get me for Christmas?

Look no further! Behold the VertiPod!

According to the ad copy at the link, the AirBuoyant VertiPod is a "prototype multi-copter" that can be flown manned or by remote. If it's all the same to you, I'm going to just fly it on my own. No need for outside control. Not that I'm paranoid or nothin'.

While its quadcopter setup is nowhere near as elegant as say, a jetpack...it has its obvious positives. If your daily commute is one of sitting in bumper to bumper traffic and your inner voice is screaming "humans were not mean to live this way!" then  this might be what allows you to soar above all of those traps of postmodern living. And I can zoom around campus, hovering outside windows and flying by at high speed with a hearty cry of "Hey-ho fuckers! Beware he who is both prolix with pen and possessed of a quadcopter!"

Plus, there's just something...comic-booky about it. You laughed at the Segway? Well you shan't do so with its aerial equivalent!

VertiPod...away!


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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

RFID powder


Behold, more technology to make the paranoid lose sleep at night.

The world's smallest RFID tags have just been introduced by Hitachi. These Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) chips are only 0.15mm X 0.15mm in size. By looking at these dimensions, it's easy to see how these chips get the nicknames "powder" and "dust."

What are the applications for this? Well, all manner of things. One concept is called "bugged money." This RFID powder is mixed in with the fibers of paper currency, thereby making the money easier to track or authenticate...or both. Upon the mention of "bugged money," a friend of mine told me such currency made an appearance in the old Bruce Sterling novel, Distraction. It's a book I have not read, but I have no trouble believing Sterling as prescient. The RFID powder technique need not solely be applied to money, either. Same method could be used with gift cards or event tickets. As you might imagine, there are also proposed military applications.

One such concept is "Smartdust." This particular cloud of dust would be composed of wireless Micro-Electric-Mechanical-Systems sensors that, as the linked article says anyway, "can detect anything from light and temperature to vibrations."

Maybe I'm one of the aforementioned "paranoid" types, but could that not be one of the more benign applications of this? Imagine being covered between your antipodes by a powder of this kind. Would you even know it was there? What else might it eventually be capable of besides tracking or sensing? Can you imagine inhaling this stuff?

Wait, I have another idea. This might be straying more into the arena of nanotechnology, but if I were to cover myself in this powder on a daily basis, I could send constant updates to ESE. Not just your daily posts, but constant. I see or think of something I want to blog and there it is online. The powder captures what I want and uploads it. Complete with pics.

Beats the "blogging bot," that's for sure.


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Monday, December 7, 2015

3D printing furthering transhumanism




I have argued time and again that the ultimate aim of transhumanism is to help people.

Two news stories came across my feed relating ways to do just that. Both involve 3D printing to replace parts of the human body.

One development is 3D woven synthetic cartilage that will allow knees to "replace themselves." Innovative researchers at Duke University have devised a three-dimensional woven scaffold. This is a dense material comprised of woven fibers that are strong yet flexible...similar to cartilage in that respect but the material is also porous. This is all rendered in a 3D weaver, a device similar to a 3D printer. Stem cells are removed from the subject, their growth accelerated, and then these cells are injected into the woven scaffold. This scaffold is then placed inside the subject and the cells will continue to grow, eventually replacing the synthetic scaffold.

Also brought to us by the wonders of 3D printing are living blood vessels. Well, 3D bioprinters which are, as in the previous case, operating on a similar method as 3D printing. It uses "bioink," or "basic structural building blocks that are compatible with the human body." This stuff is combined with actual living cells in conditions designed to foster blood vessels to develop on their own. Sadly, the resulting blood vessels cannot be transplanted, but they do allow for us to see what developments could arise from them. Among these innovations could be "organs on a chip" that will (hopefully) reduce the ungodly wait time for organ transplants.

Great steps forward. Granted I'd like to see progress on total cybernetic replacement of organs or those "swarms of nanobots" I keep hearing promised. I keep imagining them bombinating in the bloodstream that repair as they go, but I'm excited for what we have now.

Related, if anybody has designs on cool transhuman tech that will take permanently take away stress and worry, hit me up.


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Thursday, December 3, 2015

David Bowie and Blackstar




David Bowie remains steeped in science fiction.

The video for his latest song "Blackstar" is testament to that. It opens on a desolate planet or moonscape. An eclipse hangs above in the darkness of space. A woman approaches the form of a dead astronaut, spacesuit shell containing naught but dusty, skeletal remains. Then there's Bowie, singing while wearing a blindfold with painted on eyes. There's also a woman with a tail. It's creepy as hell and you need to check it out:





Against all my willpower and literary judgment, I can't keep myself from making an association that I can only hope won't sully the work of this genius. I mean, it's an association with the lowest of culture. Well, maybe not the lowest but you can pretty much see the bottom from there. God help me I can't hold it back. Here goes.






Remember an awful cartoon from the early 80s called Blackstar? At the time of its airing, I was playing Dungeons & Dragons rather regularly and found myself checking out a few episodes. I found it was nowhere near the quality of Thundarr the Barbarian, so I didn't stick with it. Anyway, Blackstar was a hodgepodge of a great deal of science fiction sources, most prominent among those being Edgar Rice Burroughs' "John Carter of Mars" series. In fact, that might be evidenced in the name of the cartoon's lead character.

John Blackstar is an astronaut. His spaceship is sent through a wormhole and he ends up crashing on the primitive planet of Sagar. It is a planet with a sword and sorcery culture. It is also ruled by a Darth Vader-like character called The Overlord. He is in possession of a mystic sword called the Powersword. If this weapon should ever be combined with its other half, a blade called the Starsword, then the two would form the ultimate weapon: the Powerstar.

Of course the Starsword has somehow fallen into the custody of John Blackstar and Blackstar is leading a rag-tag group of fugitives in a rebellion against the Overlord. Among these rebels is a sorceress named Mara (scholars of Buddhism, feel free to chime in on that), a shape-shifter named Klone, and the obligatory "cute little guys" called the Trobbits. Yeah, you can just imagine the latter tossed in by the suits in marketing who demanded to know "where are your Smurfs?" so the show could be competitive with other properties. Actually, rumor has it that the name "Trobbits" is a concatenation of "tree hobbits" in a ripping off of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

And Blackstar rode a dragon.

What would any of this have to do with David "the genius" Bowie? Nothing. Except that which has unfortunately infected my heat oppressed brain. It's the song title "Blackstar" that does it, really. What if Bowie is showing what really happened to John Blackstar?  Blackstar does indeed go through the wormhole and crash on Sagar, but Sagar is an utterly dead and desolate world. There may be weird natural formations and green skies as depicted in the cartoon, but there is no fantasy epic for Blackstar to become a part of.

No, that all plays out in his mind. It's all wishful, day-dreamy thinking as John Blackstar lay dying slowly from starvation, the sole inhabitant of dead Sagar. Foudroyant with despair and unable to embrace grim reality, Blackstar's mind turns to the absurd and trobbits is what he gets. That and all the assorted, delicious weirdness of the Bowie video set to the electro-minimalist ambiance.

"Can you hear me, Major Tom? Can you hear me, Major Tom?"

Bowie's vision is at once a more realistic and more fantastic interpretation of John Blackstar than the cartoon. Yes, I'm well aware that I am reading far too much into all of this. But please, someone get to work on a Thundarr film adaptation.

There's something wrong with me.


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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bauhaus postcards




No, not the magnificent goth band fronted by Peter Murphy. The art school in Germany circa 1919-1933.

The signature style of this school (Bauhaus meaning "construction house" in German) ended up having significant, long-lasting influences not only on art but on graphic design, interior design, architecture, and typography. During my lunchtime surfing about the interwebs, I came across this gallery from Wired that featured numerous Bauhaus postcards.

These featured postcards are from 1923 when the Bauhaus was preparing for its first public exhibition. A combined 16 students and professors (including Vasily Kandinsky and Paul Klee) from the institution created these postcards to publicize (ah promotion, the bane of the artist since time immemorial) the event in hopes of expressing what was believed to be the new German aesthetic in art and industrialization. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (one of my favorite places in the world) acquired 20 of these beautiful pieces of black, red, yellow, and blue, sometimes showing geometric shapes and other times Cubist sensibilities (do you see the face? Damn, could I have any more parentheticals in this post?) Rough architectural sketches are thrown in for good measure.

“The medium was an important part of the message,” says Juliet Kinchin, curator of MoMA's architecture and design department. “Modern design at the Bauhaus was not about creating one-off monumental or exclusive creations.” Indeed, there was a shift towards the more commercial going on at the time of the 1923 exhibition. Bauhaus was moving from art to industry. Part of the minimalist approach to the cards was to deflect any sense of elitism.

What? Elitism in art and academics? Say it ain't so.

The full gallery is well worth checking out. I certainly spent longer than I should have just looking over the images and wishing I could get to MoMA but cursed by dearth of propinquity.

Speaking of more time than I should, time to go grade.



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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

UFO navigation



Screenshot from the classic X-COM: UFO Defense game.

This post continues my exploration of the ExtraTerrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) for UFO phenomena. For more on my motivations behind this, click here.

My last post, the one dealing with UFO interiors, led me to speculate on another aspect of so-called "space visitors." To get here, they must have a means of navigation. Travis Walton may have stumbled across just such a system. He claims that he came upon a "planetarium chair" that turned an otherwise empty chamber into an expansive field of stars.

Also in that last post, I referenced the abduction account of Barney and Betty Hill. Among the many interesting aspects of that case is Betty's claim that one of their abductors showed her a map. "Do you know where you are on here?" the Grey asked her. She did not. "Well, it won't do much good to show you where we're from if you don't know where you are." Or at least that's what I recall Betty saying in an interview. The Grey showed her the map anyway.

This map revealed the aliens' point of origin as being the Zeta Reticuli star system. This is an area of the universe that would not be revealed to astronomers until well after the Hill incident. Betty, however, saw it. There were various lines marked on the alien map, showing trade and travel routes. Apparently, getting around the galaxy was no trouble for them. What's more, the very mention of "trade routes" has startling but not totally unexpected implications. If they are trading, then there must be multiple races out there.

At the same time, I find the idea of "travel routes" in space to be somewhat indicative of two dimensional thinking. I've never traveled between stars but I somehow don't think that's how it works. If it is to happen at all, an Einstein-Rosen Bridge might be the way to go. This is a theoretical wormhole that would bring two points in spacetime together. Might the bridge connect to...shall we say, interesting...locations here on Earth? That's what the Oswald abduction incident might indicate.

Luli Oswald was a concert pianist and while in Brazil in 1979. She claims she was abducted from her car by a UFO occupied by "rat-like beings." Here is a portion of her account:

“[A few of these beings are] from the Antarctic, from Patagonia… This is a very good man, this little rat talking to me. He said the South Pole ends and there is a tunnel that goes to join another tunnel underneath it, a tunnel inside the Antarctic. The ones (beings) I saw come from there. Others come from outside. Some are intraterrestrials, like these from the Antarctic. That’s why they come from the water, and they go into a tube and they enter another world under there, and they are from there. Others are extraterrestrials. This group is an evil group, but there is one good one among them.”

Intraterrestrials? Beings here on Earth? Something like what Mac Tonnies speculated about in his Cryptoterrestrials? Might it also be that these beings...if they indeed were such things...were actually referring to an Einstein-Rosen Bridge when saying "tunnel" and Oswald simply interpreted it otherwise? Antarctica is certainly no stranger to UFO activity, so maybe...

Still, it would be great to have the know-how needed to hop around the galaxy as the ETH implies. Wouldn't it be great if the aliens could teach us how to do it? According to one abduction account, they are more than willing to...we just need to let them live here.

John Day of England claimed that in 1978, he and his family were all abducted by aliens (again from their car). Not only were they taken into a UFO, they were brought aboard a mothership high in Earth orbit. The enormous craft was packed with beings from the planet "Janos." Their homeworld was destroyed when their planet's moon exploded. These aliens then packed up whoever and whatever they could, about a million of them all told or so the account reads, and headed out to wander space in search of a new home.

Oh boy is this great.

John Day and his family were told that the Janosians (or whatever they call themselves) would be willing to give humans the technical specifications for the propulsion drives and navigational systems necessary for interstellar travel. We just need to winkle out a place for them to live, the extraterrestrial equivalent of "Relax, we're just going to sack out on the couch."

Not sure why Day's family were the ones taken and told to relay this offer, but since it was back in 1978 I can only assume that the answer from The Powers That Be was a "no."

Or was it???





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Monday, November 30, 2015

Forget dialysis. Nanotech is the way to go.



Too many people suffer from kidney complications. Nanotechnology may be able to change that.

For a documentary on nanotech, check out this video. In all too brief terms, nanotechnology means machines on the nano scale. Basically that's super small and invisible to the naked eye. "Nanobots" and other such devices have all manner of potential to benefit humanity. Just one of those ways could be an artificial kidney as described in this article from Futurism.

The University of California, San Francisco and Vanderbilt University have developed prototype device that can fill in for the basic functions of a kidney. A silicon nanofilter can remove toxins, salts, water, and a few small molecules from the bloodstream. This nanotech does not require electricity to function, rather it operates on blood pressure. These filters, unlike the kind currently used in dialysis, will have uniform-sized pores.

Just think about that for a moment. The nano device is small enough to manipulate molecules. That has staggering implications for what we will be able to do in the not too distant future. When I read Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near, I sat in wonder as he discussed nano machines that would be small enough to arrange atoms. Atoms. There's not that much of a gulf between the reorganization of matter and the manipulation of reality as a whole. Will we be able to do it? Kurzweil thinks so.

Looking at developments such as this filter, I can't immediately say he's wrong. Let's hope researchers at universities keep making breakthroughs like this one. Nice to know there are bibliotaphs and other smart-types out there who want to do more than watch TV.



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Friday, November 27, 2015

The Story of Stuff




Happy Consumerism Day!

That's what it is right? I mean let's be honest. Black Friday is a celebration of all things consumer.

Yep. Depression has struck me hard once again. So you're probably thinking this is going to be another anti-establishment post that's chock full o' snark.

You're right.

It's partly because I've finally watched the animated documentary called The Story of Stuff. It's about what unchecked consumerism does to us and the biosphere. What better way to start off the holiday shopping season? Check out the video here:


The thesis of the documentarian is both simple and logical: you cannot run an infinite system on a finite world indefinitely. "Stuff" gets extracted, produced, distributed, consumed, and then disposed of. All of that takes a toll on our environment. This cycle is enabled largely by greedy corporations who can manipulate governments into fewer regulations and by people driven to consume. This drive arises from corporate advertising and the whole cycle self-perpetuates.

This is all supported by sobering statements of data. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations. Americans account for 5% of the world's population, but we consume over 30% of the world's environmental resources.

On the plus side, this documentary has been part of school curriculums for a few years now. Maybe it will give students a combined sense of exigency and possibility. I know my own students sometimes get depressed and hopeless over the state of the world today. Who can blame them? But the important thing is to remember there is always something you can do. Even if it's just blogging a post.

Hey here's a little holiday activity. Look up the meaning of "oniomania." http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday/

I'm such a Grinch.







Wednesday, November 25, 2015

UFO from the basement


If you are anything like me, and I know I am, the basement scares you.

I don't mean that in any kind of eerie sense, but simply for the pure fact that it has become the family dumping ground. Don't know where we'll keep that? The answer is invariably the same: "Put it in the basement." As of now, the sheer volume of cardboard boxes, packing crates, and plastic bags stuffed full of who knows what truly terrifies me. What's in there? What do we do when we have to move? Wow, that's getting close to the furnace.

It all sort of looks like that warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

And after sifting through a bit of that old junk today, I found this:


I bought it back in 1994 at a Starlog store (anybody remember those?) My best friend, Armando was with me when I got it. The two of us where on a rather big UFO kick at the time (subject of a future post.) It was exciting! After all, Testor models somewhat accurately predicted the stealth fighter. Now here they were purporting that there was a UFO in military possession at Area 51. Most of these claims came based on testimony from Bob Lazar.

That's what the instructions say, anyway.

They come with a reprint of part of Lazar's infamous interview, wherein he explains various aspects of the UFO. As example, he describes the two modes of flight made possible by the cyndrilical gravity amplifiers. "Omicron" allows for travel in the short range and near a source of gravity. "Delta" configuration is used for traveling the vacuous depths of interstellar space. He also reiterates the claim that the "Greys" originate from the Zeta Reticuli star system.

So today I found the model again and actually started working on it. First here's what the insides of the box look like:




Wow. Not sure if my model-building skills are up to snuff enough to tackle this. But just look at that blue decal.





It's the "alien language" I've blogged about before. 

http://esotericsynapticevents.blogspot.com/2015/11/ufo-language.html?m=1

Naturally, I started work on the EBEs first. Also started on one of the warp core cylinders or whatever they are.




Obviously my painting skills leave something to be desired. That or I need finer brushes to really make it work.

Well try to forgive me. In return I'll keep posting updates.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Is climate change good for cryptozoology?


We passed a climate change landmark on November 11th.

See here: http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/11/november-11-2015-the-last-day-of/417378/

On that day, the CO2 content of the atmosphere reached 401.64 parts per million. That's the highest amount of CO2 we have had in a million years. You know CO2. It traps heat, raises temperatures, melts ice, acidifies the oceans, and screws up the weather. 

But there is a plus side! And not just for Republicans dedicated to wiping out entire species (oh have I exposed your deepest penetralia?) For example, as the ice of Antarctica has melted researchers have been able to catalog hundreds of hitherto unseen wildlife.

http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/40497/story.htm

New species of shrimp, jellyfish, sea anemone, and all kinds of cool finds to excite the biologist in your life. I conjecture from this that there may be other parties excited for similar reasons: cryptozoologists.

As the climate changes and habitats are gradually erased, it may get harder for cryptids to hide. I mean, you would think that between deforestation and encroachment of civilization, we would have conclusively come upon Bigfoot by now. Doesn't bode well for cryptids. Then again, maybe drought will alter the Congo and we'll find the purported dinosaur, Mokele Membe.

I don't know what to tell you about sea monsters.

Unfortunately, the converse is probably true. We will find even less reason to believe in such creatures. The good news is that we might find whole new, exotic cryptids instead.



Monday, November 23, 2015

Transhuman predictions

Proponents of transhumanism et. al., I apologize.

My posts will be brief this week. True, I have the days off but there's no shortage of things to do. I'm also making my entries on the Blogger app. As such, I can't find a way to add hyperlinks. So you'll just get...well...links. Here's one:

http://www.businessinsider.com/ray-kurzweil-most-extreme-predictions-2015-11

It's a sort of primer article on transhumanism focused on Ray Kurzweil. Ray Kurzweil has made several bold predictions. They aren't exactly new. Many of them are covered in his books, The Singularity is Near and The Age of Spiritual Machines. Here are a few of those predictions.

-Nanobots will connect our brains directly to cloud computing. I love talking with my students about this concept. Nanobots adhered cybernetically to the nervous system, allowing us "complete and immersive access" to virtual reality. Why would anyone want to leave?

-Nanobots will be key in life extension. Bolster that immune system by swarming and killing invaders and irregular cell growth.

-We can 3D print anything. Lungs, rib cages, suspension bridges, and...all manner of stuff.

-We will recreate the deceased via AI. This is certainly one of Kurzweil's boldest...and most controversial...predictions. Through a DNA sample, Nanobots will extract memories and recreate the person as an artificial intelligence. Chew that one over for a little while.

-After the Singularity, we upload. Once fully merged with machines, human consciousness itself may be uploaded to brain-based computers but with a billion times the computing power of the human brain.

-Virtual bodies. I've often wondered about the mind/body conundrum when it comes to uploaded human consciousness. Our minds need a body because we are just wired that way after millions of years of evolution. Kurzweil's theory is that transhumanism will allow us to have virtual bodies that are completely customizable.

-The Singularity will make us funnier. Now that's an interesting assertion. How you might ask? To hear Kurzweil say it, Nanobot-enhanced intelligence will allow us to be more creative and even for different modes of expression. Splendeferous! Well, for me, anyway.

If you want to disagree with Kurzweil, that's fine. God knows many people do. Two things you may wish to consider however. One, Kurzweil bases his predictions on the Law of Accelerating Returns. Look it up. Two, transhumanism isn't really a new concept. There's evidence of prosthetic developments since ancient Egypt and the 16th Century:

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/object-of-intrigue-the-prosthetic-iron-hand-of-a-16thcentury-knight?kwp_0=61361&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=keywee&kwp_4=344665&kwp_1=217176

Are Kurzweil's predictions merely logical extensions?




Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wild Palms




I remember Dorkland telling me about it, but I never watched it.

"It's cyberpunk," he told me.

Truth be told, I had forgotten all about it up until just recently when someone on Twitter referenced it. Looking into it more, Don't know why I never made a point to see it when it first ran. It's got all the hallmarks of a winner. Maybe it's because I had just graduated college, left my favorite place on Earth, and had absolutely no idea where I was going or what I would do.

That tends to distract you.

Anyway, Wild Palms was a miniseries that aired on ABC in 1993. It was produced by Oliver Stone and jam-packed with stars like Jim Belushi, Dana Delaney, and Bebe Neuwirth, and directors like Kathryn Bigelow and Phil Joanou (Rattle and Hum). The miniseries was based on a comic strip that ran in Details magazine, thus making it all the stranger that I didn't watch  as I used to read Details religiously.

The story itself was about what happens when the politically powerful can employ mass media technology, especially virtual reality, to manipulate the populace. What's scary is that this 1993 miniseries is set in the year 2007 and in more than a few ways it predicts the social realities of that year...and now. There are camps of far right-wingers calling themselves the "Fathers" who are opposed by Libertarian-types carrying the moniker of "Friends." The battleground is the mass media. Tossed into this mix are plots to become living holograms and a cult-like religion called Syntheiotics that is most unambiguously based on Scientology, promising empyreal dreams to the wealthy and gullible. Oh and vicious, sociopathic child TV stars.

Want to know what makes my missing it all the more mind-boggling? There's a cameo by William Gibson. Here it is:




"And they won't let me forget it."

Best of all is Belushi's line in reaction to Syntheiotics: "I don't dig bad science fiction."

I'm going through other YouTube clips of the miniseries as I can't seem to find Wild Palms on Netflix or anywhere else for that matter. There are scenes of Ben Savage giving a positively chilling performance as a psychotic child star. Indeed it seems that this owes more to works of David Lynch such as Twin Peaks than sci-fi proper. That's not a bad thing if the weirdness is delicious.

If somebody can locate me a full version of Wild Palms online, hit me up.


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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

UFO language


This is a continuation of my look at the ExtraTerrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) for UFO phenomenon (click here for more on my modus operandi for doing so.) In this post I ask: what is the written/spoken language for UFO occupants?

Language is sort of my thing. Not only as a writer, but as an educator in the discipline of composition. I also have a sizable interest in linguistics, in where language comes from and how it develops. That said, it's only natural for me to wonder what an alien language would be like. Or...would they even need one?

My first introduction to what alien writing might look like came while reading about the Roswell UFO crash. Among the debris Jesse Marcel allegedly handled was something that looked like an i-beam. On this beam were markings that can best be described as hieroglyphics. Marcel reproduced these markings from childhood memory. While I certainly have no true frame of reference from which to make a judgment, I could never quite bring myself to accept that I was looking at an alien language. It just looked too much like something we would do.

Then I came across this collection of symbols often seen on UFOs. There are a few similarities with what was said to have been found amidst the Roswell wreckage, but there are differences as well. Look at all of the angular lines, the triangle-based forms, and the squiggles. I'm particularly intrigued by the series of depictions of symbols seen on UFOs in Brazil, the US, and Spain in 1959, 1964, and 1967 respectively. They just look like what science fiction has indoctrinated us to expect when we hear the phrase "alien language." Your skepticism meter should therefore be swinging towards the red. Also on the same page is the arrow/inverted "V" symbol that police officer Lonnie Zamora saw on the side of a craft in his famous UFO sighting outside of Socorro, New Mexico. I can't help but notice the similarity between that symbol and insignia that have been floated around as allegedly being stenciled onto doors and vehicles at Dulce Base. My skepticism meter is moving even more towards the red but that's for whole other reasons that I don't have room to get into in this post.

Of course if we're talking skepticism, scroll all the way towards the bottom of that last link and you'll see a symbol that is remarkably similar to the one worn by comic book and TV hero, The Flash. But I digress...

Finally, there are those who claim that any form of written communication done by aliens is more or less for our own benefit. Aliens communicate telepathically. They don't need written or spoken language. Sometimes humans receive telepathic messages from aliens and then express those messages through crop circles or automatic writing. That is part of the contention of Nancy du Terte, a woman who calls herself a "skeptical psychic" and a researcher in the field of "exo-linguistics," attempting to put together a sort of Rosetta Stone for alien languages.

That just sounds like something I absolutely must get in on. But I digress.

Why study exo-linguistics? Besides it being a really cool name for a discipline? Nancy du Terte provides the following rationale on her website:


          1. Aliens are able to shut down and restart nuclear missile defense stations in the United States and Russia,  creating a threat to our international security.

          2. Aliens are able to violate our commercial and military airspace with impunity, and often avoid radar detection,  creating a threat to our civilian and military air travel.

          3. Aliens are able to abduct people from their beds and perform genetic experiments on them at will,  creating a threat to our public health and security.

          4. Aliens have demonstrated familiarity with advanced technologies and evolved mind control techniques far beyond our current scientific knowledge, which would be useful to know.


Ok.

Her website features a gallery of "channeled communication" from aliens rendered in written form. Whether or not they are genuine does not detract from the fact that they are fascinating to look at.

Language often tends to head towards expediency. What is the quickest, most efficient way to say something? Much as I might detest it, that's exactly the effect that "textspeak" is having on our language. As we become more and more of a visually-oriented society (certainly frightening for myself as a writer), would something like a line of hieroglyphics make for maximum efficiency? If I weren't such a slugabed, I would race off right now to study the intricacies of such a language, but...

I just keep coming back to efficiency. It would seem to me that such an attribute would be a hallmark of any race capable of practical interstellar travel. The symbols I've been looking at however, seem to have far more of ourselves projected upon them.

That doesn't do much for my skepticism.


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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"Real cyborgs"


Today, I gave my annual lecture on transhumanism to the freshmen.

In addition to giving me the chance to extol William Gibson (as anyone rightly should), I peppered the presentation with examples of people who have already become "real cyborgs." I'm talking about Nigel Auckland, Johnny Methany, and the like who already have implants or full prosthetic devices, but what I neglected to find in time was this gallery posted at CNN of other people who have connected their bodies to technology. Among them are:

-Neil Harbisson had an antenna implanted at the top of his skull. To hear him describe it, the implanted device allows him to experience synesthesia. For example, he can "hear colors." Blue apparently sounds like a C sharp.

-"We are not the endpoint of evolution. We should enhance ourselves." Truer words were never spoken. They were said by Dr. Andrew Vladimirov. He is conducting experiments on consciousness and brainwaves by bombarding his prefrontal cortex with infrared lasers.

-I showed a slide of students and faculty at the University of Minnesota controlling a drone by thoughts. That's old news, really, and the technology involved has come a long way in a short time. The CNN gallery shows startup founder, Tiana Sinclair operating her own drone through bio-interface. The drone is "like a huge biosensor" or "EEG device" that senses alpha and beta brainwaves. "I'm kind of a big believer that the world is broken and we can solve its problems with technology," says Sinclair.

I know that I seem to forever be harping on what transhumanism is going to do for us. It gives me at least a bit of hope for the World of Tomorrow. Today after lecture however, I just felt sort of...I don't know...flat. Maybe it's the news, maybe it's other things I have going on, but I just can't help but feel that transhumanism is gradually being co-opted into the realms of the said same all-too human failings that we've been trying to overcome. The current zeitgeist of transhumanism is politically charged. "Who speaks for us?" "I don't like who's running for the Transhumanist Party." Human beings are political animals so I really shouldn't be surprised, but...somehow I was hoping we'd rise above it. Stop arguing! Go back to developing my AI personal assistant that speaks with a hot female voice! Better yet, those cybernetic replacements that will do away with all of my frailties.

Do I sound like a fundamentalist awaiting rapture? Probably. Maybe this is just reality and logic intruding on my formerly Panglossian thinking.

I'm also a bit soured on the nature of the discourse. Look at that CNN article again and the language it uses. "Human cyborg?" By definition, doesn't a cyborg have to be at least partly human? Redundant. I know it's a "lamestream" media source (geez, did I just write that?) but does no one consider what they're writing? Or was this done by a "techno-pundit" thinking they were helping CNN "surf ahead of the zeitgeist"?

Or maybe they just don't know what they're talking about.

Then again, it could be my recent reading habits. In order to set the spirit and "get the feel" of writing literary journalism/nonfiction for my Dulce book, I've been poring over Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, and Norman Mailer. A lot of Norman Mailer. This is writing that is grounded deeply in reality and not speculation. I am hoping to bring that sensibility to the subject of Dulce Base. Through that effort, the same point of view may be bleeding over into my other interests.

I probably just need to eat. I'm thinking fish and chips.

Of course if I were transhuman, I would crave not such things.


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Monday, November 16, 2015

"Alien artifact" to pass Earth in 2017


Although this one isn't getting as much attention as the last one, there is an object in space that has aroused much curiosity.

It was first discovered in 1991 by an astronomer named James Scotti, who initially thought it to be just another asteroid of about 10 meters in width. But he soon found that the object, afterwards named 1991 VG, had several anomalies. It has a peculiar rate of rotation as well as fluctuations in speed and brightness. It was also in a heliocentric orbit similar to that of Earth. As soon as more data was gathered on 1991 VG, two things became clear: it had passed by the Earth once before in 1975 and would do so again in 2017.

A small asteroid passing by the Earth is by no means unusual, but they don't often make return trips. They get pulled in by the Earth and incinerated in the atmosphere, the Earth's gravity kicks them into a different trajectory, or they collide with another body in space. They don't usually keep coming back. That, combined with the other anomalous qualities of the object, had astronomers wondering if 1991 VG was a fragment of human-made space junk. Was it part of a rocket booster or something. There were possible candidates, but they were soon eliminated. Then in 1995, astronomer Duncan Steel made this astonishing assertion:

  “...none of the handful of man-made rocket bodies left in heliocentric orbits during the space age have purely gravitational orbits returning to the Earth [in November of 1991]...it might be argued that 1991 VG is a candidate as an alien probe observed in the vicinity of our planet.”

Turns out that Steel was raising this explanation only to debunk it, but he does think that we should  "take seriously the possibility that there are alien artefacts in the solar system, although I very much doubt that there are any, based on what we know so far." Despite this quite likely assessment, the phrase "alien probe" did garner attention from proponents of SETA...Search for ExtraTerrestrial Artifacts (a hortatory of which can be read here)

This is a notion that I've heard of, but had not looked into with any real amount of depth. I must say it's a fascinating concept. The idea is to not simply look for signals from or external indications of alien civilizations, but look for artifacts that they might have left behind in our own solar system. The argument for this approach is partly based on human activity. We send probes to collect data about our end of the universe, why wouldn't other civilizations do the same? It's a logical and expedient means of exploration. Another quite captivating notion is we might find archaeological fragments of other civilizations. Maybe they have already visited our solar system and left something behind? If a civilization has been destroyed or let its refuse out into space (much as we have in several ways), might the remains reach us one day? Imagine finding the alien equivalent of a Greek vase or a Roman statue floating in space,

As for the true nature of 1991 VG, we might get our answer in 2017.


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Thursday, November 12, 2015

UFO interiors




I am continuing my examination of the ExtraTerrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) as explanation for UFO phenomena. As I've said before, it's more of a mental exercise than anything.

If the source of UFO activity is indeed "space people," then one point of immediate curiosity would be "what does the inside of an alien spacecraft look like?" At this time, the majority of the descriptions available come from alleged alien abductees.

One such case has come to be known as "The Allagash Abductions." What makes this case unique is that it is not simply one person taken in the middle of the night from their bedroom or what have you, but four men camping together in Maine. During the night, they observed a strange light in the sky over a lake. As the light drew nearer, they noticed that it was a structured craft. A high-powered beam of light came from the UFO and later under hypnosis, the men claimed that they were each taken inside the craft. They described the interior as sterile, white-walled, functional, and not unlike a medical examination room.

Then there is the now legendary incident of Barney and Betty Hill. "The interrupted journey." Their case was one of the first to really popularize the mythos and saporific tropes of an alien abduction. On a lonely road in New Hampshire, the Hills encountered a saucer-shaped UFO and were then brought aboard the craft by beings that were more or less the standard Grey archetype. Naturally, their were tests. One of the distinctive aspects of this case is that Betty Hill asserted that she was shown a book in an alien language. She was also shown star maps as the aliens attempted to convey to her where they were from. The map pointed to the double star system of Zeta Reticuli, thus cementing in pop culture that stretch of the universe as the home of the Greys. Why wouldn't an alien craft come with a library and maps?

 Let us not forget Travis Walton. As I've said many times before, his story is one that departs quite a bit from the abduction template. He was able to get loose from his Grey abductors and then wander about the inside of the UFO. Walton reports that he came across multiple rooms within the craft. One of the more dramatic and expansive ones had a domed ceiling and empty space, save for one control chair in the center. In fact, he described the chamber as having the setup of a planetarium. Naturally curious, he played with the controls on the chair and the walls and ceiling seemed to disappear, revealing a wide viewport of stars. Was this the navigational station for the craft? It would stand to reason that such a feature would be necessary. Walton also claimed to have entered a cavernous "hangar" that held smaller, disc-shaped UFOs. He likened this to what you might find on a human aircraft carrier. If so, this would lend credence to the popular notions of an alien "mothership" that waits in space. The "flying saucers" that people report are merely scout craft.

Glimpses into the interior of these purported craft are not limited solely to abductees. There have been a few sightings of UFOs, such as the one in Turkey, where the witnesses claim they could see windows on the sides of the craft, allowing them to see into a brightly-lit interior and even see the silhouettes of occupants (yeah, I know. That link has Roger Leir. Sorry.)

 I know that I wanted to examine all of this by presuming that aliens are the cause, yet in doing so, I find myself falling even more on the side of Jacques Vallee. In his studies, Vallee has looked at nigh innumerable UFO cases that stretch back to the beginning of recorded history. In each sighting and each encounter, the "aliens" are possessed of fantastic technology and ability, but it is not so far removed as to be unrecognizable. For example, the descriptions offered by Barney and Betty Hill and Travis Walton are extraordinary, but thanks to science fiction, they are not beyond our understanding. Our minds have certain "expectations" when it comes to what the inside of an alien spaceship should be like.

Maybe that should tell us something.


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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Astrobiologist has plan to find life on Mars


Finding life in the void of space...

Or at least on Mars. That's the goal anyway. This interview with astrobiologist Nathalie Cabrol takes a look at just how we're trying to achieve it. As she says:

“It’s been so difficult. Because we haven’t looked yet!”

Wait, we haven't looked? What about all the space probes and rovers we've sent to that planet? Shouldn't we have enough analysis in to determine if there is or ever was biological matter present? This is to say nothing of all of the Mars anomalies cataloged by Richard Hoagland at the Enterprise Mission!

Well, let's disregard that latter point for a moment. A healthy, lengthy moment, preferably.

The Viking missions were not designed knowing what we now know about Mars. That plus the technical limits of the 1970s placed confines on the search capabilities. We've learned more from the rovers, but at the end of the day, we still don't quite know what to look for or how to find it. If there ever was life on Mars, what traces would it leave?

 Dr. Cabrol has been searching out places on Earth that might lend information as to the plausibility of life on Mars, magnanimously enduring hardships so that we might learn more. These places or "analog sites" are areas where conditions might mimic those of early Mars. Among these is the high Andes where UV radiation from the Sun requires SPF 100. The point of such research is not entirely to see if organisms can still exist in such conditions, but to determine what UV radiation does to the record of life, the "biosignature." How does it change chemistry?

Like many others far more informed than I am, I'm almost positive there's no intelligent life on Mars. There probably isn't even any sizable exo-life. Hard for that to come about when solar winds stripped away your planet's magnetic field. In fact, Cabrol places a big, wet blanket of logic on any of those futile hopes by saying we're looking for something "microbial at best." When you think about it, even that would be an amazing find. Failing anything living, I'd settle for a really cool fossil find.

There are plans at NASA to send another rover to Mars in 2020. The primary goal of this mission will be to "seek out new life" if I may borrow a phrase. I'm disappointed that it appears the agency is making very few strides towards sending humans there, but I guess that's why we have the private sector.

Until then, play around with the Mars version of Google Earth and see what you can find.



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