Greetings, fellow Coppertops! This week’s virtual exploration will show to us warm-blooded dinosaurs and Creationist monsters. We’ll scan the brain of the most famous scientist, and discover that artificial intelligences share our perchance for procrastination. And amid speculation of extraterrestrial malware, we’ll cast our vote on the US president who could better handle an alien invasion. Let’s get ready then, and if you happen to meet a bearded white-suited douche, play it cool and steal his pen for me, k?
(10) If you opened a Natural History book printed 50 years ago, you’d find a lot of impressive illustrations showing squatting triceratops, water-dwelling brontosaurs and tail-drooping Tyrannosauruses battling each other at a laughably slow pace. Our conception about the ill-named ‘terrible lizards’ has been vastly revised in the past decades, thanks partly by the huge success of Michael Chrichton’s Jurassic Park. Now every 5-year-old could tell you that most dinosaurs were warm-blooded and agile instead of cold-blooded and slow, and that the terrible T-Rex had more to do with a chicken than with a crocodile –think of that next time you go to KFC.
The final nail on the cold-blooded thesis’ coffin has seemingly been hammered this week, thanks to a study published in Nature, reporting that LAGs –lines of arrested growth, observed in the bone structure of dinosaurs and modern lizards– are present in ruminants (think cows) from the tropics to the poles, putting the debate to rest once and for all.
What all this means is that dinos grew rapidly and held high-metabolic rates. And with all this it’s impossible not to think of what would have happened if that meteor that crashed near what is now the Yucatan peninsula hadn’t wiped them out. It’s also impossible not to think of all the modern accounts relating to reptilian humanoids associated with abduction cases. Has the rule of the ‘terrible lizards’ endured to this day?
(9) Among the many hypotheses put forth to explain the nature of the world’s most famous cryptid –the loch Ness monster– the most popular (and unlikely) is that Nessie is a surviving plesiosaur, an aquatic long-necked reptile that used to roam the seas when dinosaurs ruled the land. This unconfirmed idea is now being used by Creationists in the state of Louisiana in order to disprove Evolution; this would come as a big annoyance to the more mainstream Cryptozoologists, who despite their interest in undiscovered creatures such as Bigfoot and Champ, still agree with the general notion that the Earth is 4.5 billions of years old, instead of 6000 years like those who are determined to read the Bible in a literal sense.
But all this is the logical result of Cryptozoology and Ufology’s failure to raise above the level of pseudoscience; and I don’t mean this in any derogatory way, but as long as these disciplines are not overlooked by any kind of academic institution, or establish some kind of peer-reviewed mechanism or regulatory board, any jackass can claim to be a professional Cryptozoologist, a professional Ufologist, or professional ghost-hunter, and spiel whichever kind of unprovable crap to their heart’s content.
And let’s get one thing clear before we move forward: I personally don’t profess to be a professional ANYTHING in the Fortean world. At best, I consider myself to be a student in these disciplines, who likes to keep his ear to the ground and express his point of view in order to learn from others.
(8) The oceans of our world might still harbor a great deal of undiscovered creatures, but what lies beneath the oceans of Saturn’s moon is a bigger mystery. The last edition of Science published a paper written by Luciano Less of the Sapienza University of Rome, and a team member of the Cassini mission, which posits that the surface of Titan is not entirely made of solid rock.
“The search for water is an important goal in solar system exploration, and now we’ve spotted another place where it is abundant.”
While this new finding cannot really predict whether we’ll be able to find life in Titan, the existence of water in such a remote part of the solar system can still open up a plethora of exciting possibilities. Imagine: we could have re-fueling stations that could aid us in our deep-space explorations in the future.
One thing is for certain: our own backyard is turning up to be far more interesting than we previously thought. Let’s press on!
(7) In the Roman mythology, Saturn was identified with Kronos, the leader of the Titans who had the cannibalistic habit of eating his own offspring. The topic of cannibalism irrupted in mainstream media this past Spring due to some disturbing news which we’ve mentioned on previous occasions; and the most notable of this gruesome stories, that of Rudy Eugene, a 31-year-old man found stripped naked, who was shot dead by the police after he growlingly refused to stop eating a hapless vagabond’s face, was originally attributed to the influence of a modern drug known in the underworld as ‘bath salts’.
Yet the post-mortem blood tests performed on the Floridian face-chewer revealed he was not under the influence of ‘bath salts’ after all.
“Within the limits of current technology by both laboratories, marijuana is the only drug identified in the body of Mr Rudy Eugene,” the Miami medical examiner’s office said in a statement.
Which would make this gruesome even the worst case of the munchies in recorded history.
Yet Eugene’s girlfriend is convinced the attack was the result of something “supernatural”, which makes any Fortean scholar recall the legend of the Wendigo, a Canadian legend involving a demonic spirit which may ‘possess’ a normal person, and turn it into a savage anthropophage.
(6) The Wendigo is a myth preserved by oral tradition, and many of our Western myths stem from the traditions preserved in the Old and New Testaments. Take the story of king Salomon and the exotic queen of Sheba, which inspired many colorful legends such as incredible diamond mines hidden in the deepest of Africa, or even the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
But now modern science seems to give credence to some of these stories –hold on my Creationist friends: the Earth is still 4.5 billion years old, k?– as revealed by Luca Pagani of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK. Pagani examined samples of Ethiopian genomes and concluded it contained some non-African components closely related to middle-Eastern populations, and that this gene flow took place around 3000 years ago.
The meeting between the queen and Solomon remains a story, but the populations they came from did meet around that time, says Pagani.
And this is why this story is so relevant: While we should be mindful of considering ancient religious texts as literal truth, that doesn’t mean they weren’t inspired by actual historical events.
(5) The mythic Ark of the Covenant was said to be the ultimate weapon, displaying ‘the power of God’ in the form of terrible rays which would vanquish any enemy. And now it seems the US Army would like to have the same power in the battlefield, thanks to scientists and engineers at Picatinny arsenal, who are busy developing a device that can shoot lightning bolts through a laser-induced plasma channel to destroy its target –to put it in lay terms: PEW PEW PEW!!
Though the Physics behind it were pretty sound, there were many technical problems to solve, yet the project team have reported such advances in the past month, that the day when we’ll see Tesla-type weapons in the battlefield might be not far ahead –for better or for worse.
(4) Assembling a working high-energy beam weapon takes some serious brain power, but it’s probably a trickle compared to the awesome output the brain of Stephen Hawking unleashes on a daily basis –yes, we’re all pissed with his comments about UFOs, but we need to act like adults and acknowledge the awesome intelligence of the British cosmologist.
His phenomenal intelligence lies in deep contrast with his frail physical condition. I suppose in a way he reminds us of Professor X, and the pulp-fiction notion that great mental powers come at a great cost. But this is precisely the reason why there’s an interest to ‘hack’ Hawking’s brain via a gadget aptly called the iBrain, in order to aid him communicate more easily.
Will this kind of technology allow us someday to make a ‘back-up copy’ of the minds of notable scientists and intellectuals? Of course for those of us who lean toward the understanding of the brain as ‘receptor’ rather than a ‘processor’, these Transhumanist notions seem rather ill-conceived. The years ahead promise a quite entertaining debate.
(3) Making a synthetic copy of a human’s mind seems like the stuff of science-fiction. But how close are we really of building a true A.I.?
Inside the secret X laboratory, the Google engineers (Googleneers?) went about to digitally simulate a human brain, and they managed to create one of the largest neural networks by connecting 16,000 processors. And what did they do with their new creation? why what any self-respecting mad scientist would: set it loose on the world (wide web) —MUAHAHAHAAAAAA!!
Fortunately for us clueless meat-bags, the Google machine network spend its time learning to enjoy one of our trendiest time-wasting hobbies: LOL Cats.
The Google brain assembled a dreamlike digital image of a cat by employing a hierarchy of memory locations to successively cull out general features after being exposed to millions of images. The scientists said, however, that it appeared they had developed a cybernetic cousin to what takes place in the brain’s visual cortex.
Neuroscientists have discussed the possibility of what they call the “grandmother neuron,” specialized cells in the brain that fire when they are exposed repeatedly or “trained” to recognize a particular face of an individual.
“You learn to identify a friend through repetition,” said Gary Bradski, a neuroscientist at Industrial Perception, in Palo Alto, Calif.
This should certainly come as a great relief to all the cat people, for the day when the robot uprising finally occurs, their furry pets might be the only thing that spares them from the recycling pits —“Carbon-based unit 23-4567-AX is left to be supervised by agents Mittens and Mrs Whiskers”
So much for dog-lovers :-/
(2) The idea of self-teaching neural networks gathering information from the Internet might seem like something we might need to worry about in 1 or 2 decades. But what if there was an alien A.I. living inside our computer networks right now? Such ideas come to mind after a group of SETI scientists were asked about the possibility of receiving an extraterrestrial signal which could turn into a malicious computer virus. Although the experts think the idea is highly unlikely, they concede is not completely improbable.
“Our instruments are connected to computers, and like any computers, they can be reprogrammed,” [SETI-Berkeley’s Andrew Siemion] warned. “Our software receives input that ultimately comes from unknown sources, and again, while this input is never executed or decoded, we don’t perform rigorous checks to validate this unknown input like a computer security conscious programmer might do with an internet application.”
Obviously the SETI folks are always operating on the assumption that the hypothetical ET-related event hasn’t yet happened. But let us assume it already has: Imagine a sentient alien A.I. living inside our world wide web, gathering information, and maybe even doing a bit of hacking —want to destroy the humans? wreck the digital records of the stock markets in New York, Paris & Tokyo, and enjoy the ensuing chaos.
That might also be an interesting explanation for the apparent lack of radio transmissions: Earth is suffering the galactic equivalency of being Rick-Rolled!
Nevertheless, all these speculations are only showing our continuous bias of trying to understand extraterrestrial intelligences from a human perspective –in the XIXth century they had to be invaders, in the XXth they became space explorers, now they are interstellar spammers– but in the meantime the National Geographic channel is promoting their new Chasing UFOs TV series by transmitting a Twitter response to the famous Wow! signal. WOW answered with a LOL, might end up in WTF!
(1) A computerized alien invasion seems like a novel theme for a Hollywood script. But what about the ole fashioned analogical type of ET Armageddon? For their promotion of the aforementioned UFO TV series, the Nat Geo folks also conducted a survey which seems to reveal most Americans would like Barack Obama to be the Disclosure president after all –this despite the fact that his administration responded to an online petition in the lamest way possible.
In regards to national security, nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans think Barack Obama would be better suited than fellow presidential candidate Mitt Romney to handle an alien invasion. In fact, more than two in three (68%) women say that Obama would be more adept at dealing with an alien invasion than Romney, vs. 61 percent of men. And more younger citizens, ages 18 to 64 years, than those aged 65+ (68% vs. 50%) think Romney would not be as well-suited as Obama to handle an alien invasion.
It should be also noted that, of those surveyed, more than 1 in 5 (21%) would call the Hulk to deal with the havoc of an alien invasion. Memo to the GOP: Bruce Banner/Tony Stark 2016!
Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. And remember: It is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.