Greetings, fellow Coppertops! This week's voyage through the Matrix will take us to the very edge of the solar system. We'll fly to the Moon in search of water, and ancient Egypt in search of cheese; and as we return to the Baltic sea to evaluate a modern mystery, we'll make a final stop at Rapa Nui to revisit a Fortean's all-time classic enigma. Time to follow the white rabbit, my friends.
(10) Our weekly sojourns seek to explore the very edge of reality, and recently NASA has made the momentous announcement that Voyager 1, the robotic space probe launched in 1977 --way older than you, Ben & Aaron!-- to explore the Jovian system (Jupiter and its moons) and Saturn, is reporting a sharp increase in cosmic rays that could herald the spacecraft's long-awaited breakthrough into interstellar space.
Thus, Voyager 1 is about to become the 1st man-made object to leave the boundaries of our solar system, in the longest-running mission undertaken by NASA --it's atomic battery is set to last another 13-15 years more. Will it become part of a tourist attraction itinerary in the not-so-distant future? Will it be found by some advanced alien civilization perhaps? Or maybe it will return to Earth someday to raise hell and replicate bald space babes --you probably can guess the one I'm rooting for...
(9) At its current velocity, it will take more than 70,000 years before Voyager reaches the nearest star, which means that if NASA had launched the probe back in the age when mammoths were still walking the Earth, Voyager would have arrived to Proxima Centauri just now --I can already imagine a cave-man version of NASA's mission control full of people yelling "YABBA-DABBA-DOO!". Speaking of mammoths, the first mammoth graveyard has been recently uncovered at a Serbian coal mine, due to heavy torrential rains which exposed the prehistoric remains --Hooray for Global Warming!
Could this discovery be an indication that mammoths shared the same speculated behavior associated with modern elephants, which are said to instinctively flock to a certain place to die when they grow older?
(8) A 6-ton mammoth ate as much as 300 pounds of vegetation per day --talk about the salad buffet!-- so a whole herd would probably finish off with entire forests during their annual migrations. But now British professor Ian Roberts, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is saying that mammoth-sized Americans are finishing off with the ENTIRE planet! Roberts and his colleague Dr Phil Edwards issued a press release stating:
North America has only 6% of the world's population but 34% of the world's biomass mass due to obesity. In contrast Asia has 61% of the world's population but only 13% of the world's biomass due to obesity.
It's not that Roberts & Edwards are fearing the lard-ass weight of obese Americans is going to tilt the planet's orbit or anything, but they emphasize the importance of "looking at biomass rather than just population numbers when considering the ecological impact of a species, especially humans," says trainee doctor Sarah Walpole, who also worked on the document. Consider also the fact that China and other emergent economies are quickly switching their diets to include less grains and more meat & dairy, and it doesn't take a PhD to realize we'll soon find ourselves in a spot tighter than a stadium seat between XXL football fans.
So there you have it. It turns out that the 3rd Horseman of the Apocalypse was not Hunger after all, but Obesity --riding a deep-fried shire horse covered in buffalo-wings sauce. You want a large soda with that?
(7) It seems that our modern craving for fatty milk-based products is actually older than we thought. More than 7000 years ago prehistoric people in the African Sahara were making dairy products like butter, yogurt and cheese. In fact, many researchers speculate that milk products might have been the reason why hunter-gatherers decided to switch their nomadic life-style and settle down.
Milk: it does a Civilization good.
(6) People used to imagine the Moon was made of cheese, then came the space age and we thought we'd figured out the truth about our natural satellite: nothing but a bone-dry chunk of rock.
Well, we've got it all wrong --again: Turns out there's enough water on the Moon to probably sustain a permanent settlement in the future *crossing fingers*. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) explored the Shackleton crater, located on the lunar South pole, and found that a quarter of the surface in this 2-mile-deep & 12-mile-wide bowl is scattered with ice crystals.
Yo NASA! Ice crystals are cool & s#%t, but when are you lending us pics of all those mysterious structures you've kept hush-hush during all these years? You'd best hurry up & come clean, or China is gonna punk your ass!
(5) If space research defined the last half of the last century, then the first decades of the next one will be defined by research in particle physics. CERN's Large Hadron Collider has become one of the most popular scientific facilities in the world --even though almost nobody knows what the hell a hadron actually is-- and the phrase 'god particle', which is already part of our pop culture language, is making the rounds once again in mainstream media, with rumors pointing at the long-awaited announcement of its discovery to be made in July 4 --Huh? why make the Yanks that uncalled favor, CERN dudes?
With the recent faster-than-light-neutrinos fiasco, which quickly red-shifted into a lot of embarrassed red faces, CERN's desire to keep the cards close to thee chest is more than understandable. But if the discovery of the Higgs boson is confirmed, I'd reckon it will echo far across all aspects of our society, including those barely tangential to Science. Like Radio Misterioso's Greg Bishop, I find these types of research highly interesting because it might be the kind of left-field discoveries which could unexpectedly bring us answers to other seemingly-unrelated mysteries, like UFOs or even the very nature of human consciousness.
(4) The search for the building blocks of the Universe is inevitably mired with philosophical and religious questions. Will modern science be able to give the 'final blow' to institutionalized churches, as many hope for? or will it cause the exact opposite?
As we ponder these questions, we notice the recent announcement from scientists who give credence to Bulgaria's claims re. the discovery of John the Baptist remains.
"When I first heard this story in 2010 I thought it was a bit of a joke, to be honest," said Tom Higham of the University of Oxford's Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, one of the world's top laboratories for carbon dating of archaeological material.
Yet it seems the Fate has the final laugh as always, because the analysis of the bones --which include a molar and a piece of skull-- indicate they all correspond to the same individual, a man who probably came from the Middle East and lived in the 1st century A.D. As with all religious relics though, a definitive answer is impossible to obtain.
Personally, I can say that my reading of J.J. Benítez's Caballo de Troya books left me with little admiration for the so-called 'announcer' of Jesus. But that's a story for another time...
(3) Religious queries were once relegated to books and ceremonies, but nowadays they've entered into modern forms of entertainment. Take for instance Prometheus, the movie that every geek and his dog were longing to see; the reviews are something of a mixed bag, with most agreeing in stunning visual merits of Riddley Scott's film, yet many movie-goers have wasted no time in expressing their disappointment, since Prometheus obviously did not live to our perhaps unjustly high expectations --which were nevertheless raised by the massive viral campaign promoting the movie.
Phil Plaitt, the renowned BADAStronomer, used the opportunity to criticize Scott's vision merely from a scientific standpoint; a rather pointless endeavor really, since I've always considered the technical plausibility of fictional worlds important, yet secondary to the objective of stating an important social comment about the human nature.
As for myself, I managed to find many elements of Prometheus enjoyable, like my personal suspicion that the Engineers were heavily inspired by William Blake's paintings. I also appreciate Scott's intention to leave many questions unanswered in order to force the audience to draw their own conclusions --emulating Kubrick's 2001-- which I'd rather have instead of being spoon-fed with stupid explanations --Midichlorians, anyone?-- yet I cannot oversee the many faulty elements in the plot, and so I can join in the laughing of those fans who've tried to explain the rationale behind some of Prometheus' characters, via cleverly funny clips [Spoiler Warning]:
Besides, Charlize Theron without nudie scenes? RIPOFFFFFFFFF!!!!!
(2) Despite its short-comings, Prometheus will end up being the best promoter for the Ancient Astronaut theory since 2001: A Space Odyssey --sorry, Giorgio-- but the concept did manage to burst through the news media's chest thanks to our Swedish friends of Ocean X team, and their successful project at the Baltic Sea. Mind you, I'm saying 'successful' in the sense that they did manage to attract the attention of the entire world with their claims of finding a strange anomaly; but as you probably already know, the end results are... confusing.
Since the last time we mentioned this story, I've kept a Google Alert on all the news pertaining to the so-called Baltic Sea UFO. The conclusion so far seems to be that the mysterious whatsit is not the Millennium Falcon after all *Wookie cry* but they DID manage to find something else: The descriptions vary from 'mound' to 'mushroom', yet from one can ascertain from the low-quality pics released, the anomaly appears to be the exposed half of an egg-shaped object rising from the sea floor. At the top there's an opening, and there are round soot-covered stones described as small fireplaces around it. There have been also mentions of "Passageways or walls and something that could be a staircase are seen at a 90 degree angle from the top of the sphere."
Of course, now that it's been confirmed the anomaly is not an evidently artificial anomaly, the 'serious' news outlets treat the story as "just a rock", while the outre news channels are still hopeful it might be something else. If the X Team's discovery was proven to be a rare archeological remain, they would no doubt earn their place in history books --which better way to celebrate, than with a bottle of rare 100-year-old salvaged cognac?
(1) The tale of the Baltic Sea UFO is a modern myth, but our Fortean predecessors focused on other more tantalizing enigmas. Rapa Nui, or Easter island as it's more commonly known, has always captured the collective imagination with their imposing giant sculptures called Moais. What was their purpose, and how were they placed?
Ever since their discovery, Science has tried to explain the manner in which these anthropomorphic figures were moved and erected from their stony quarries. Some people suggested that the transporting of the Moais was precisely what caused the ecologic deterioration of the island, which ultimately doomed the Rapa Nui culture. Now a group of researches have tried to demonstrate how the statues could have been moved upright, through a rocking motion employing a cleverly organized roping system, thus emulating the oral tradition of the Polynesian islanders who claim the Moais 'walked' to their final resting place.
Although this demonstration seems pretty convincing, I frankly remain somewhat skeptical. You'll notice the evenly flat terrain in which the test was conducted, which I find unlikely to be present throughout the whole length of Easter Island. Furthermore, I remember that during my studies concerning Rapa Nui, that it was claimed by the islanders that the Moais were moved through Mana, a sort of special mental power akin to telekinesis. These ideas do not seem so far away from the speculations about resonance that our good friend Nick Redfern recently explored in his latest book --as per discussed in the latest MU podcast-- so although I don't want to ascribe to the easy meme "I don't know, therefore aliens" I choose to keep the Moais in my bray basket.
Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out, and asking you: if you ever get to meet an obnoxious bearded fellow with a white suit, just keep it cool and steal his pen for me, k?