Red Pills of the Week — October 13th
Greetings, fellow Coppertops! This week we’ll explore ancient secrets revealed through modern science, and modern secrets that might shape the course of future science. We’ll discover diamond planets and singing mice, math mysteries and flying saucer schematics. And as we try to peer through the veil that separates this life from the next, we’ll congratulate a brave man who decided to peer through the veil of the stratosphere –at supersonic speed.
The hour comes near when we shall found a new Zion… in Minnesota!
(10) For our first stop in our trip we’ll travel to Wiltshire, where the famous Stonehenge is located. Despite all these years of study, and being one of the most popular ancient sites in the world, new secrets of the magical monument have just been brought to light –literally– through the use of modern laser-scan survey: 72 previously unknown Early Bronze Age carvings chipped into five of the giant stones, which were completely invisible to the naked eye. This new finding has turned Stonehenge into the largest single collection of prehistoric rock carvings in southern Britain.
While researchers interpret the carvings as depicting T-shaped axe heads and even a dagger, my fellow Grailers @ TDG have offered some other interesting explanations: maybe the ‘axe heads’ are in fact mushrooms, perhaps in honor of ancient psychotropic rituals involving psylocibin. If true, then we might just have to request the English Heritage to add a ‘d’ to the word Stonehenge…
(9) Because of the historical value, the humble blue stones of the Wiltshire henge are invaluable. Though we probably wouldn’t be able to calculate the worth of 55Cancrie, a newly discovered exo-planet which is largely composed of pure diamond. Galactus’ engagement ring?
(8) If you can’t afford a planet-size diamond to declare yourself to that significant other, you can always bring a chorus of singing mice –trust me: you’ll get props for originality, dude!
“And where” you might ask, “am I gonna find singing mice?” Well, may I suggest you visit Duke University, where researchers have found not only that mice can sing in unison, and can also learn to change the tune of their ‘serenade’, but they also use the same region of the brain as their singing human counterparts –a rare trait known as ‘vocal learning.’
Alas, their little rodent rock concerts are inaudible to the human ear. So it looks like you’re just gonna have to cash in on a big rock for your sweetheart after all, Bubba.
(7) Sure, we all though the singing mice in Babe were cute. But let’s be honest here: what we really want is a real-life Jurassic Park full of cloned dinosaurs –killjoy Chaos theoreticians be damned!
Well, I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but it seems that our dreams of riding a badass Triceratops will have to be put on hold… indefinitely. By comparing 158 DNA-containing leg bones belonging to three species of extinct moa –the kind of ‘big bird’ Romney wouldn’t like– which were discovered very close to each other, and preserved under identical circumstances, researchers have discovered that DNA has only a 521-year half-life.
“This confirms the widely held suspicion that claims of DNA from dinosaurs and ancient insects trapped in amber are incorrect,” says Simon Ho, a computational evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia. However, although 6.8 million years is nowhere near the age of a dinosaur bone — which would be at least 65 million years old — “We might be able to break the record for the oldest authentic DNA sequence, which currently stands at about half a million years,” says Ho.
So I guess this is it, guys. Only choice now is to carry on with plan B: Robo-dinosaurs! With flame-throwers and laser beams! Woo-hoo!!!
“Geekiness finds a way.”
(6) Every reader of this column should know by now that we’re living inside the Matrix, and yet there are still stubborn souls who demand a sort of proof; not in the shape of a bent spoon, but in a physical constant that might as a signature of the computational nature of the Universe –A cosmological red pill, if you will.
A simulation of the universe, the theory goes, would still show some limitations, no matter how powerful. From the inside the simulation these limits would be observed as a type of constraint of physical processes –think of it as the jagged lines on the curves of objects inside videogames, only distinguishable when you zoom in close enough.
The solution to recognize the constraints in our simulation? To build our OWN simulation! And that’s exactly what Silas Beane and his team at the University of Bonn in Germany are planning to do. Although their attempt at playing God will ultra-small version of the universe that’s down to the femto-scale –read really-teeny-weeny small.
Researchers are putting their money on the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin limit, which is a very interesting part of the theory of quantum chromodynamics –which, sadly enough, does not involve the colors displayed by the different groups in the Green Lantern universe– as a good candidate for the Matrix tell-tale signature. This is the limit of the energy shown in cosmic rays as they travel over really long distances, and are slowed down by the cosmic microwave background.
So, even though all these egghead talk is beyond my comprehension, what’s interesting to me nonetheless is how it reminds me of Anne Rice’s book Memnoch The Devil, in which God is shown as starting the whole Creation because He wanted to find out where He had come from –which makes you wonder if somewhere in the development of a sentient species they make a universal simulation of their own, resulting in all forms of life nested under endless manners of simulations ad infinitum… until someone somewhere finally pulls the main plug.
(5) If we are all living inside a computer simulation, and God is the sysadmin, is the Pope the final boss to defeat in this videogame? Well, it seems Paolo Gabriele –the Pope’s former butler– may have believed that in the end; influenced in no small way by none other than Dan Brown’s fictional novels involving mystic secrets kept hidden by the Church’s hierarchy.
The agents said they found a mass of documents and books filled with newspaper clippings on the occult, secret services, Masonic lodges, yoga, political scandals in Italy, scandals involving the Vatican bank and other subjects.
Here’s a good example of History and Fiction cross pollinating each other, turning our lives deep into what philosopher Jean Baudrillard called ‘hyper-reality’ , where representations of things are more important –and hence, more real– than the objects being represented by them.
(4) Gabriele is at the vortex of one of the greatest scandals in the modern history of the Catholic church. But even this story would be eclipsed if we finally obtained verifiable confirmation of the existence of an afterlife. As reported by Ben & Aaron in the last free episode of the month, the American magazine Newsweek decided to dedicate its cover to Near-Death experiences, to highlight the story of Dr. Eben Alexander, a successful neurosurgeon who was turned from atheist to believer after suffering a 7-day coma which, according to his book Proof of Heaven, granted him a celestial vision of Paradise.
‘While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility,’ he writes.
Dr. Alexander’s scientific credentials are impressive, and his heartfelt account sounds very interesting. But maybe it’s just me, but I just can’t give much credence to his words, perhaps for the same reason I don’t care much about Bill Nye, a.k.a. the Science Guy.
…It’s that god-damned bow tie! They remind me too much of Pee-Wee Herman –And hey! I loved Pee-Wee’s show, but that doesn’t mean I would believe him, if suddenly he confessed he was once abducted by aliens that looked like animated furniture.
(3) But maybe I shouldn’t be so judgmental about these gentlemen’s love of quaint male attire. After all, I’ve always loved Albert Einstein’s quote:
“If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies… It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.”
Speaking of dear Albert, even though UFO skeptics love to recite how according to his theories traveling faster than the speed of light is impossible, a couple of Mathematicians published a paper on Oct. 3rd, showing how his equations work perfectly fine if extended to include FTL velocities.
The problem arise though, when we try to take a massive object and accelerate it to the speed of light. However, this new interpretation seems to show there is nothing that impedes the existence of particles that are always moving at speeds greater than that of light –Tachyons, anyone?
(2) If we manage to solve the secret of FTL travel, then assembling an interstellar spaceship would become just a matter of teamwork and dedication. In a teamwork effort you always need to communicate your plans to the other members, and this is where blueprints and schematics come in very handy.
Which brings us to the news about the National Archives’ declassified records from the USAF’s Aeronautical Systems Division, which show how for a considerable amount of time the US government was very serious about trying to develop aeronautical craft that were copycats of the Venusian and Martian saucers reported by Contactees in the golden days of the UFO era.
In this topic opinions tend to follow two specific camps: On the one hand, there are those who think the USAF’s attempts to create their own version of a flying saucer was a smokescreen campaign, aimed at convincing the American people that they were about to build a functional saucer Made in the USA –or in Canada, via the Avro company— so if American citizens (or perhaps even foreign spies) were to observe something funny in the sky, they might be rest assured to conclude it was probably “one of our boys.”
On the other hand, there are those who side with UFO skeptic investigator Mark Pilkington, who suspect –without any substantial evidence, one might add– that after the saucer program started to show substantial results, that then it went black. Therefore maybe all of the credible UFO reports we still get are caused by these saucers of Earthly origin.
Personally I try not to side with any particular camp, although I don’t discount the possibility that the Truth involves a complex mixture of both theories, including other ideas we haven’t even begun to conceive.
(1) Roswell is the place most associated with the UFO mythos in the collective imaginarium. Factual or Fictional, it is because of this tale that Roswell has become the first commercial working space port in the world –Fiction and Fact, cross-pollinating each other like we said before.
And now Roswell has also the distinction of being the place where Felix Baumgartner has achieved his monumental ‘spacedive’, landing on the soft desert land after breaking the speed of sound –I hope that during his historic descent, Felix was humming Jimi Hendrix’s tune Purple Haze, because on October 14th he really kissed the sky!
Congratulations to Baumgartner. It’s our dreams, and the courage to make them come true, what gives us wings in the end.
Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. Next week there won’t be any Red Pills, for obvious reasons. Take care, and I hope to see you in Minneapolis, vatos!