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Red Pills of the Week — March 2nd

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! On this week’s journey through the Fortean Matrix we’ll find spinning black holes & 3d printed cars, telepathic rats & NDE movies. And as we take a look at the Russian version of the X-files, we’ll open a bottle of champagne for that lucky couple who’ll enjoy a romantic trip to the planet Mars & back. You know, the Nebuchadnezzar also offers special trips for newlyweds, so you might wanna consider us in your honeymoon arrangements –what’s more romantic than a trip through the abandoned sewer system of a ruined megalopolis? After fleeing a sentinel attack, NOTHING in your marriage will appear too hard to handle.

10 Our first pill takes us close to the Cosmic version of the Leviathan monster: a black hole. For the first time scientists have been able to calculate the spin rate of a super-massive black hole, and were surprised to find out it was spinning at 84% the speed of light, which would be as fast as the laws of physics would permit. And just think that this galactic behemoth is 2 million miles in diameter, and its YOUR head the one that’ll start spinning uncontrollably.

God is the ultimate DJ, yo!

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9 Another thing that’s also fast-pacing, although on a metaphorical sense, is human ingenuity. And one field that promises to increase its pace even further is 3-D printing. We’ve often discussed this fascinating technology on the Pills, and now we unveil its latest development: Urbee 2, the 3-D printable automobile.

Designed by engineer Jim Kor, Urbee’s light-weight polymer chassis is as tough as steel, and the whole car takes around 2500 hours to be printed in a large-scale printer. Granted, that’s not very efficient; but still, think of the possibilities: limitless customization, cheap replacement of worn-down or broken parts without the fear that your local shop has to order the piece & You have to take a cab to work until its delivered. Not only that, but 3-D printing would give car makers the freedom of producing the cars with fewer parts, translating in a reduced price tag.

Personally, I can’t wait until the Urbee is available for sale.

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8 But sometimes the price of human ingenuity is paid by other species. Take for example lab rats: Egg-heads have spent quite a lot of time endowing them with super-musculature, enhanced brain power, or even an extended life span. But not happy with that, now the egg-heads have gone one step further, and granted the rats the ability to ‘telepathically’ communicate with each other, thanks to microscopic electrodes implanted into their brains.

For the love of Shepard, you people: STOP giving super-powers to vermin! This is a trend that’s not going to end well for humanity.

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7 Then again, those lab rats are treated far more humanely than how Nazi criminals treated the members of our own species inside their concentration camps. This week the New York Times reported on a new study, conducted by a group of historians who made a shocking discovery: The Nazis had around 42,500 ghettos & camps spread all around Europe, a figure so high many academicians did a double take when the group presented their findings during a forum at the German Historical Institute in Washington in late January.

The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.

An estimate of 15 to 20 million people were imprisoned or exterminated inside these camps. Proof that no matter how much we think we knew about the brutality of Hitler’s minions, there is still much to be dug out and preserved, so that never again our culture falls into such levels of inhumanity.

6 In the XXth century even people who would have been shocked by the crimes committed by the III Reich did nevertheless share some of their beliefs concerning what is usually known as Social Darwinism: the idea that ‘survival of the fittest’ should be applied to society in order to ‘cull down’ those members deemed a burden to the rest of the group.

Those ‘undesirables’ vary depending on the values of a given community: people with mental problems, those who displayed ‘sexual deviancy’, or in the case of James ‘the Amazing’ Randi, those addicted to illegal substances. At least that’s what one might infer from a post written by Randi on his blog, in which he expresses his personal disdain for “those individuals who were stupid enough to rush into the arms of the mythical houris and/or Adonis’s” and who would do well to just drop dead for the benefit of the rest of us.

That quote, and another one provided by Randi to author Will Storr during an interview, has been the subject of a little controversy now that Storr’s book The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science has been published. In the book Storr writes that when he confronted Randi with the quote of his blog, instead of backing up Randi expounded on his thoughts:

“I’m a believer in Social Darwinism. Not in every case. I would do anything to stop a twelve-year-old kid from doing it. Sincerely. But in general, I think that Darwinism, survival of the fittest, should be allowed to act itself out. As long as it doesn’t interfere with me and other sensible, rational people who could be affected by it. Innocent people, in other words.”

So it would seem that the founder of the JREF, an institution which promotes itself as the champion of helpless victims in danger of being hoodwinked by charlatans & hucksters –because according to them, ALL people who claim to have psychic abilities are either charlatans or self-deluded– doesn’t think the same of drug addicts, who –in his own words– are “stupid people. And if they can’t survive, they don’t have the IQ, don’t have the thinking power to be able to survive, it’s unfortunate; I would hate to see it happen, but at the same time, it would clear the air.”

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Last Friday Sharon Hill posted a response from the JREF foundation with regards to Storr’s book:

“The statement “I’m a believer in social Darwinism,” did not come from me. In fact, I had to look up the expression to learn what was being referred to. This attack appears to be calling me a Nazi, nothing less. I demand that Mr. Storr refer me to the original sources to which we assume he has referred. Until then, I’ll only say that he has carefully selected phrases and statements out of context, not the sort of referencing that I would have expected from him.”

So now the response of several members of the skeptical community was to suspect Storr of quote-mining, or even libel against one of their most respected leaders. Unfortunately for them, skeptic blogger Hayley Stevens interjected when she wrote that she herself had heard Storr’s original tape, and the tape disproved Randi’s recent allegations:

I listened to the interview being played to me over the phone and I heard James Randi talk about how he believed that those addicted to substances should be allowed to “do themselves in“. He then said ‘I’m a believer in, if you call that Social Darwinism, I would have to generally agree”. There’s a pause and then Storr points out that many would consider such a belief to be a right wing view of other people. The conversation continues.

So by Saturday the JREF had to do some damage control. On the comment thread in Sharon’s page Randi wrote:

Until just recently, I did not recall having spoken with Mr. Storr years ago about certain comments posted on randi.org, and I barely recall that event, even now This is an understandable lapse, since I’m constantly being interviewed, and often under circumstances that call for my attention to be otherwise directed, Also, some interviews occurred during a time of my life in recent years when my health – and thus my cognition – were not at their best. The unfair suggestion that Mr. Storr tried to provoke me, or that he’s a “bad guy,” is something I must dismiss, since I believe I would have remembered that sort of behavior. In any case, I now know much more about the described encounter, and I maintain that I would never have said I was a Social Darwinist, since I only recently learned in detail what that term really means, and in fact I was quite ignorant of the history of the movement organized around that false idea. I’ve been surprised that this was not obvious to people discussing the matter, but I accept that the conversation with Mr. Storr went just as described. No problem with that.

Go to the webpages and read all the statements by yourself. After you finish you might find yourself thinking –as am I– that the skeptic community is uncomfortably conceding that one of their most notable spokesperson is nevertheless holding to some rather antiquated –and, more to the point, unscientific– ideas, and that said ideas and the recent controversy are the result of his advanced age –Randi is an octogenarian– & declining health. You can go to Doubtful News & The Daily Grail to read my personal stance on this situation as well, but I’ll finish by only asking you this: what does it say to you when the founder of a famous educational institution claims that up until now he didn’t know what Social Darwinism is?

 

5 On his reply at Doubtful News Randi asked that the JREF & himself  were not treated as targets, and yet Randi himself has made a career of treating people who hold ideas antagonistic to his as veritable bulls-eyes.  One of the skeptic/atheist movement’s favorite scape goat is NDE research, and that’s why that after the publication of Dr. Eben Alexander’s best-selling book Proof of Heaven, has been the subject of many scathing criticisms written by some of the most prominent spokespersons in that community.

Those folks are probably not too pleased to learn that Universal has acquired the movie rights of Alexander’s book, a decision which will no doubt will bring the controversial claims of this neurosurgeon to an even bigger audience. What can I say, guys? even with that corny title, Proof of Heaven sounds like a much more fun movie experience than The God’s Delusion.

 

4 Admit it: We *all* cried the 1st time we watched Titanic, even if now we can’t stand Celine Dion’s song & think that old lady was a selfish bitch for throwing the jewel into the ocean. And even though James Cameron is no doubt planning several sequels to Avatar, the possibility to a Titanic II coming to your nearest Multiplex is rather unlikely –unless it was a ghost movie or something.

But, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a Titanic II in real life. And that’s exactly Australian billionaire Clive Palmer’s vision, as he plans to unveil the replica to the world’s most famous ship by 2016? And you know why I think this is gonna work? Because by then there won’t be any freaking icebergs left in the ocean. Thank you, global warming!

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3 Unlike Titanic,which gets tiresome after one view, I’ll never get tired of watching the original Star Wars trilogy. I’m sure I’m not the only mid-aged nerd who once dreamed of having a furry 7-foot-tall sidekick who would rip the arms off my school enemies.

And now that alleged screen-shots of the controversial Erickson project have leaked into the Internet, I believe a new Fortean meme should be coined: Chewbasquatch.

The Erickson project is currently linked to the Melba Ketchum DNA study. I’m no Jedi, but I’ve gotta bad feeling about all of this…

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2 Just as the Star Wars movies kindled my geeky passion in the 80s, the X-Files TV series appealed to my Fortean sensibilities in the 90s. And speaking of the X-Files, a very interesting article was published last week on Pravda, concerning the disclosing of a secret project carried out during the Soviet era, whose goal was to get in contact with alien intelligences.

Yes, I’m fully aware that Pravda is not exactly the most reliable news source in the world, but still I must admit that the contents of the article make a lot of sense to me. The retired senior officers of the Soviet Ministry of Defense explained how they ‘lured’ UFOs by increasing the activity on a certain missile testing ground –something that reminds me of the famous Rendlesham case in the UK.

The main project of the unit was a state program on the discovery of intellectual human resources. The goal of the program was to identify ways to make the human brain work in a special regime of super-powers, making a person a superhuman. The Scientific Council of the program was led by an Academician Natalya Bekhtereva, who until her death served as a scientific director of the Institute of Human Brain of RAS.

Over two hundred highly skilled professionals from across the country participated in the program. “In the process of research, we came to the conclusion that a human was an energy and information system that receives information from outside. This is precisely why a human can manifest paranormal abilities,” said Alexey Savin. In order to identify this external source of information, three groups were created. One group was formed from scientists, another – from military, and the third one was composed of women.

The group of women made the most significant progress in the research. Savin explained that they “wanted to make a contact with representatives of other civilizations. And we did it.” According to him, a special method has been developed that allowed the human brain to tune into a contact. “We had to tune energy-contour of the human brain to a particular wave, like a radio,” Alexey Savin explained.

To anyone moderately versed in the UFO phenomenon, none of this should be particularly shocking. The US military’s experiments with remote viewing also yielded somewhat similar results. And on top of that, reading the Pravda article also reminded me of our friend Nick Redfern’s book Final Events.

No hypnosis, drugs, or other similar methods were used in the course of the experiment. A special system of testing was also developed to separate the incoming reports from hallucinations and insanity of the experiment participants. The experimental results were impressive: six participants were given a chance of physical contact, and two of them even managed to visit an alien ship. According to Savin, representatives of extraterrestrial civilizations revealed themselves gradually, giving away the information as they saw fit.

In particular, they talked about their government structure and education system. No information on the military could be obtained. The only thing they agreed to share was a scheme of the equipment for the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases. The head of the experiment explained that humans were like small children to them. “Our civilization is too young to be of interest to them as a subject for a dialogue. Because we are also a part of the universe, we may harm ourselves and other civilizations with our foolish actions, so they are looking out for us. “

That last quote is particularly tantalizing, considering how one of my favorite explanations for the Fermi paradox is the Quarantine hypothesis.

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1 My cosmic compadre Micah Hanks has publicly stated that in his opinion there’s still no reliable evidence pointing out to an extraterrestrial explanation for the UFO phenomenon. While I tend to agree with him, I would nevertheless point out that there a handful of interesting exceptions to that claim. One of those exceptions is the famous disappearance of the Soviet probe Phobos II, which before going silent managed to capture a rather enigmatic shadow cast by a gigantic object on the surface of the Martian moon.

Whether or not there’s an extraterrestrial intelligence patrolling the orbit of Mars is something that hasn’t stopped our efforts of establishing a human presence on that planet –although perhaps it has delayed them. And the big news this week was the announcement made by Dennis Tito, the 1st space tourist in the world, of sending a couple of humans –a man and a woman, preferably married and past their reproductive age– to a 501-day fly-by trip to Mars.

“Inspiration Mars reminds me of Apollo 8 in 1968, going around the moon,” software billionaire Charles Simonyi, who spent tens of millions of dollars buying two flights to the International Space Station, said in a Twitter update. “Inspiration is a goal for humans, science should be left to the rovers.”

I wholeheartedly concur, and even though many space pundits are expressing their skepticism that Tito’s project will be ready in time to take advantage of the brief 2018 window –an event that repeats every 15 years when the Earth & Mars align & distances are considerably shorter– I for one wish him the best of luck.

May I suggest nonetheless that instead of sending a heterosexual couple to consider conjoined twins as the 1st human visitors to the Red planet? After all, these are folks guaranteed to tolerate each other during a cramped year-and-a-half long space trip.

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I mean if you’re already taking advantage of nature to ensure your plan is successful, then go the distance, dude! Just sayin…

Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out, wishing you Siamese dreams tonight.

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