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.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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.


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.

Like ESE on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets  

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.

Like ESE on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets     

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?

Like ESE on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets    

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:

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 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!


Like ESE on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets     

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.

Like ESE on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets     

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.

Like ESE on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets     

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.

Like ESE on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets     

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.

Like ESE on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets     

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???

Like ESE on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets