Greetings, fellow Coppertops! This week we'll venture out of the safety of the subterranean tunnels to search for evidence of ancient lost cities. We'll study cranial conundrums and cephalic commentaries, and as we fly up into the atmosphere trying to reach heavenly realms, we'll have to be on the lookout for sources of deadly rays. I'd fasten my seat-belts if I were you —It's Niobe's turn to pilot.
(10) Mapping the tunnel system circling Zion is vital to our survival, but mapping the DNA of our closest relatives is equally important. The Bonobo genome, the last of the great apes to be analyzed, reveals a startling conclusion: in some small respect, they are genetically closer to us humans than to chimps.
The data, which scientists hope will shed more light on the lineage of humans, was obtained from Ulindi, a female bonobo at Leipzig zoo. It showed that more than 3% of the human genome, which contains our hereditary data encoded in DNA, was more closely related to either the bonobo or the chimpanzee genome than these were to each other.
Both the bonobos & chimpanzees seem to embody the 2 main aspects of the human psyche: the gentle & loving Bonobos reflect the Eros, whereas the murderous chimps represent the darker side of our nature, Thanatos. But if Bonobos seem to be the ones more closely related to us, then how we explain all the blood spilled since we dragged our butts out of Africa? Chimps seem also to be more apt with the use of tools and have bigger brains than Bonobos.
Right now I can't help thinking of the iconic scene in Kubrick's 2001, and how the Alpha Male of the pre-human gang that come in contact with the Monolith has the famous Eureka moment of using a femur bone as a club; but --and here's the rub-- that moment of illumination was fueled by violence and a desire to kill. Also, many people are not aware that the shiny craft that 'morphs' from the bone thrown to the sky was actually an orbital nuclear weapon --Kubrick never missed a chance to show a deep sense of irony.
Could we be able to locate the 'chimper' aspect of our genetic code, and expunge it? Should we?
(9) The question about the shared traits between the remaining great apes and H. Sapiens forces us to look into the past, and to the extinct members of our family. We've often mentioned the wondrous examples of cave art in our weekly sojourns through the Matrix, and with good reasons --bones and genes will never be able to reveal what went on inside the minds of those long-gone individuals; art and culture, however primitive, are as lasting testament of the dreams and yearnings which propelled us to the lofty position we now enjoy. Who we are is what we were.
But now new studies suggest we'd been taking credit for the art made by those 'dim-witted, brutish' cousins of ours, the Neanderthals! Scientists have dated paintings in 11 locations of Northern Spain, and discovered that a red disc at one of them had to be at least 40,800 years old, making it the oldest art in Europe by at least 4000 years. Conclusion: humans couldn't have done it --with our current chronological estimates, at least.
"Perhaps we should start thinking of [Neanderthals] as the European brand of Homo sapiens, morphologically different from what we call the modern humans in Africa," said João Zilhão, of the University of Barcelona, an author on the Science paper. "But they were sapient people as well – that is probably the implication of the last decade of results."
All our historic notions regarding Neanderthals and other extinct hominids have been fundamentally revised in the last 10 years or so. Whatever the reason for their demise, it might had nothing to do with our supposed intellectual superiority. In fact I often wonder if the reason for our success lies exclusively in 2 of our main hobbies: we like to travel, and we like to f*#%k.
(8) Evolution teaches us that we are nothing but a transitional process. As the centuries go by, what shifts in our frame should we expect? When Sci-Fi tries to envision the Man of Tomorrow, the bald over-sized cranium comes up so often it's turned almost into a bad cliche --Um, sorry Nick!-- yet it now appears that, for some reason or other, at least the heads of white Americans are getting bigger. How big? roughly a tennis ball's worth of new brain room.
Then again, a bigger brain might be just like the cerebral equivalency of a Humvee -- terrible mileage, and not really enough room for anything useful.
(7) And it seems I'm not the only one making fun of American heads. The whole Internet had a blast when we learned HBO's popular show Game of Thrones used the head of former president George W. Bush --or rather, a prop with the semblance of the former (ehem) head of State-- in either a fitting or insulting fashion, depending on how you lean on the political spectrum. Whether the now legendary Lulz moment was intentional or not --"We just had to use whatever head we had around"(??)-- HBO has quickly tried to bury the incident, ensuring some hardcore fans are now in possession of a pretty valuable DVD version of GoT's 1st season. Who says HBO doesn't look after its loyal audience?
(6) Images of Dubya's severed head might have caused a few shocks among the members of the GOP, but that's nothing compared to the shock suffered by the Santos, a Brazilian family who were mourning the death of their two-year-old son Kelvin, only to witness him come back to life --if only for the briefest of moments:
But an hour before his funeral was due to take place on Saturday the boy apparently sat up in his coffin and said: "Daddy, can I have some water?".
The boy's father, Antonio Santos, said: "Everybody started to scream, we couldn't believe our eyes. Then we thought a miracle had taken place and our boy had come back to life.
"Then Kelvin just laid back down, the way he was. We couldn't wake him. He was dead again."
Now THIS is the kind of story for which the term Fortean was coined. Glitch in the Matrix? Last farewell? a plain hoax? I guess we'll never find out.
But before we move on let's not forget that Belem, the area in Brazil where this incident happened, has always been a window area of many unexplained phenomena --including the infamous Chupas of the 1970s, which we'll be discussing again later.
(5) Speaking of re-animated corpses, scientists have found they can harvest live stem cells from cadavers that have been dead for more than 2 weeks. Stem cells as you all probably know, have been heralded as the key for all sorts of miracle cures, yet they have never been able to work their magic to convince those who refuse that research be conducted on them, based on the moral questions provoked by some of the methods through which they can be harvested.
Hopefully this new discovery will help open a new source of stem-cell extraction, and perhaps someday when you go to your next medical check-up and the nurse gives you an organ-donation form to sign, there will be a new box below the usual "heart", "eyes" or "liver" which reads "stem cells."
Hmmm... come to think of it, this could be also the source for a cool Zombie film script!
(4) Harvesting precious resources from cadavers might seem a bid morbid, but not as morbid as harvesting resources to wage a war for over a thousand years. This is the sort of gloomy scenario a loyal gamer of Civilization II found himself in, after he kept playing the game for almost 10 years straight. Among the results he reports are these:
In this post-apocalyptic virtual scenario, there are only 3 great superpowers on a perpetual war with each other (2 run by the computer, and 1 by the gamer) but due to the weird balance expressed in the strategy of the game, they have reached a seemingly unbreakable stalemate in which nobody can win. Licerius --the guy reporting these findings-- has also expressed his personal frustration in how he wanted his faction (the Celts) to stay a democracy, yet he found he had no choice but to change into a Communist dictatorship in order to respond more quickly to the attacks by the 2 other enemy factions, without being delayed by the Senate decisions.
What I find fascinating about the way the game has developed, is that it perfectly reflects the same conditions portrayed by George Orwell in his Magnum Opus 1984, where the reader finds 3 super-powers --Oceania, Eurasia & Eastasia-- in an equally perpetual stalemate which renders the phrase "War is Peace" depressingly valid.
Yet at the same time, when we look into the history of the game we find it was first released in 1996, so I assume the developers never put into consideration the disruptive effect a terrorist faction, with NO specific national affiliation, could have in denting the might of a given super-power. Likewise both the game and Orwell's novel never consider the emergence of an exterior disruptive element --like say, a comet impact obliterating a huge chunk of one of the factions' territory? And of course, resources in the game are not constrained by the finite scarcity we face in the real world.
Nevertheless, it's a very interesting story, and one that further confirms my personal suspicion: that WE ourselves might be all inhabiting one ginourmous virtual game. In which case, we'd better find a way to power-up PRONTO!
(3) Civilizations rise and fall, but some of them leave behind a wondrous legacy of their sophistication. Now, thanks to modern technology, we may be on the break of finding a lost city buried under Myth and the jungle's canopy.
A team from the University of Houston, using laser-based light detection and ranging (LIDAR) from a survey plane, have seem to have found the ruins of the fabled Ciudad Blanca (White City) deep in Honduras' Mosquito coast region. Ever since the days of Hernán Cortez, the Spanish Conquistador who conquered the Aztec empire, many adventurers and treasure hunters have tried to locate the legendary city lured by the promise of fabulous fortunes, yet none succeeded until (apparently) now.
Many people in our so-called modern age live under the impression that every square inch of our planet's surface has been scanned, mapped and accounted for; yet nothing could be further from the truth. New astounding archeological findings are being made regularly thanks to satellite imaging, refuting some long-held assumptions about the lack of advanced settlements inside the Amazonian rain forest. Now we know for instance that, contrary to popular belief, the oldest pyramids in the world are NOT the ones in Egypt, but in Peru --something I hope Philip Coppens will talk about at the upcoming Paradigm symposium #shameless-plug.
If these new ancient ruins --quite the oxymoron, I know-- are proven to be the mythic Ciudad Blanca, would this discovery give credence to the existence of other legendary cities, like the Incan Paititi for example, said to be still inhabited by the mysterious White Brotherhood?
(2) From white cities in the jungle we move on to heavenly palaces in outer space. China had previously announced that 3 taikonauts would be sent to the Tiangong-1 space station module sometime this month, and that probably one of them would be a woman. Now it is confirmed that transport plane pilot Liu Yang has been chosen to be the first woman 'taikonaut' in history, and that the three of them will be launched this very Saturday evening. So I hope that by the time you're reading these lines news of their safe arrival will be transmitted by the networks.
A new space race is about to commence: On your sets, get ready...
(1) Space inspires contradictory ideas of hope as well as dread. Our pop culture has conveniently exploited scenarios of conflict between interplanetary groups, employing sophisticated weaponry which ubiquitously include death rays, also contradictory in their beauty and destructive nature.
But now a Canadian farmer is making a claim that mixes fiction with reality, after blaming an alien 'death ray' for the loss of 250 of his cattle heads.
"At least 250 head of cattle have died from what we call a death beam," Bock said on camera in May of last year. "Where the atmospheric air is manipulated into a death beam, focused on the noses of the animals."
Werner Bock, a German immigrant who moved to Canada to become a farmer, has posted several Youtube clips in which he shows images of his cows being afflicted with several bald spots in the head and body, which he claims are the result of an intense red-glowing beam of about an inch and a half in diameter.
Predictably enough, Canadian authorities do not buy into his story and are charging him for not giving his cows proper medical attention. His trial will begin in September.
This is a tough one to decide. Anyone who has read Jacques Vallee's Confrontations know there are many examples of Brazilian hunters being harmed by high-concentrated beams fired by strange refrigerator-size objects that were popularly known as the already-mentioned Chupas or Chupa Chups, out of the general belief that these mini-UFOs were extracting blood from the victims --the victims did experience a drop in red cells, but that might be better explained as the result of exposure to microwave radiation.
The unfortunate victims of the Chupas suffered all kind of symptoms generally consisting with exposure to non-ionizing radiation, and although unconfirmed by Vallee, there seemed to have been at least a few deaths associated with these encounters. For a 'death ray', Vallee speculated, these energy beams seemed to be terribly ineffective if their purpose was to cause a fatal injury to the target.
Could the same thing be happening to Bock's cattle? And for what purpose? Could this be the result of some secret military experiment? I think this might be one of 2012's Fortean stories worth monitoring.
Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out --and remember: Trends will come and go, but black latex will ALWAYS be fashionable inside the Matrix.