Sep 24, 2012 I Miguel Romero

Red Pills of the Week — September 22th

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! Our mission this week will have us explore the wonders of our world, as well as some of the mysteries in our cousin red planet. We'll study both the dangers and marvels that modern science can bring us, and we'll fly to Russia to see if among the trillions of carats worth of diamonds they brag about, they might also keep a few lake monsters here and there. And as we admire the Neanderthal's version of hot couture, we'll plunge into an age-old discussion concerning the marital status of religious figures. What's that you say? "Can we go to a restaurant while we're in the Matrix"? NO WE CAN'T! Don't you understand this is all an illusion, the same as the cool clothes we wear, and the car we drive in and... and... oh the hell with it --Chinese sounds Ok?

(10) Our first stop takes us deep into the jungles of Guatemala, with a little news that kind of slipped by us from the previous week, but it's worth including in the Pills nonetheless: A humble family in the village of Chajul found an impressive Maya mural right in their kitchen wall during a renovation, and the finding was later reported to National Geographic.

Mayan Murals

What's interesting to me is that the family found the mural 5 years ago, yet the discovery was reported just now. Possibly this is due to the fact that in Guatemala archeological findings are national property, and the areas where they're found are entitled for expropriation, which results in very little compensation for the unfortunate land owner. So I bet that in Guatemala people act just like in Mexico: if you find a rare archeological finding which could potentially increase or historic knowledge... you keep your mouth shut and act as if nothing ever happened --Great for the relics black market, bad for science.

(9) Some people still like to believe the Mayas escaped to another planet, which would explain the downfall of their civilization --tell that to the Mayas still living in Mexico & Central America. We ourselves are trying to escape to other planets, though; but as savvy (and cowardly) colonizers trying to learn from the mistakes of the past, we're first sending our robotic emissaries first to 'test the waters'... or in the case of Mars, the sands.

And the sands of the Red Planet are proving to be filled with mysteries. Back in 2004 NASA's rover Opportunity found strange geological outcrops of iron-rich spherules, which were jokingly called 'blueberries', tantalizing evidence of a wetter environment in the Martian past. And now  the seasoned artificial explorer has located a new outcrop of spherules which are dissimilar in both the structure & the iron content of the 'blueberries', which constitutes a whole new geological puzzle for the JPL scientists to figure out. I guess Oppie got tired of the Curious Rookie getting all the headlines, huh?

(8) If we ever decide to terraform the surface of Mars to make it more habitable, we'd probably need genetically-modified algae capable of heating the Martian poles and release the water trapped in the ice to increase the atmospheric pressure. A task no doubt a multinational giant like Monsanto would looove to perform.

If Monsanto is ever to survive this recent PR nightmare, that is: A group of French scientists fed a group of lab rats on a lifelong diet of one of the bestselling strains of GM corns *wink wink* and observed how the rodents started to transform into four-legged bags of cancerous tumors --Worst. Ratatouille recipe. Ever!!!

This certainly puts us in a very tight spot: as climate change puts a deeper stress on our ability to grow food, coupled with an increasing population --10 billion by 2050-- we will need very creative ways in order to advert a famine of global proportions. Because of this I used to advocate for GM foods --even though I've never accepted Monsanto's monopolizing policies-- but with this study I confess that my views need to be re-examined.

(7) Nobody wants to grow a big lumpy tumor. A big lumpy penis on the other hand... well, we all know there are scores of men out there with terrible feelings of inadequacy --you know the type: they spend inordinate amounts of time on the net, use infantile monikers like Blue Capsule Addict or something like that, so pathetic-- and for all of us THEM, a new hope rises in the form of a lab-grown schlong custom-made to the needs or whims of the patient.


But the fun nether-packs are just the beginning, because the future of regenerative medicine looks very promising --and huge. Well, maybe a bit scary also, if you stop to think about it...

(6) If you believe that pre-ordered penises doesn't sound like the kind of things Science should focus on, then you're probably gonna hate this next pill: a research by London's Imperial college is scanning the brains of test subjects high on ecstasy, with the goal to see if the controversial drug could eventually be used to treat victims of PTSD. The study is conducted by prof. Nutt --o that wondrous cosmic sense of humor-- And NO, I don't know how one can apply as a volunteer, so please don't ask that in the comment section.

(5) Ecstasy & Crystal are some of the many substances one can presumably find in any Russian night club, if one's into that sort of thing --which I ain't. The sort of thing I'm into is diamonds, and Russia is also choke-full of those, courtesy of an asteroid impact responsible for the Popigai crater.

So why I'm into diamonds, you might ask. Well, for starters they are the hardest natural substance known to man, so that's always cool. But aside from that, ever since I wrote this article from Wired heralding a new era of diamond-based computer chips, which could potentially work at speeds that would melt standard silicon ones, I've been patiently waiting for my chance to have a 'carat-core' video-game console.

Move over, Marylin! Diamonds could be a gamer's best friend.

(4) Diamonds is not the only thing the Russkies have being bragging about lately. There's also all their remote lakes claimed to harbor the Slavic versions of Nessie: The Daily Mail reported this week that Russian academics are convinced there's a large unknown creature living in the waters of Lake Labynkyr. As evidence they submitted a photograph of some distant object in the lake's surface, and the photos showing the display of a cheap radar scan displaying an alleged large mass, with an accompanying drawing of what the research theme believe the creature looks like.

As a Cryptozoology enthusiast I'd be the 1st one to admit the so-called evidence is pretty much useless. Even the radar scan readings are pretty unreliable, considering the equipment use seems to be a cheap set one can find at fishing stores, for around US $130.00 according to Cryptomundo commentator AreWeThereYeti. In light of that, the fanciful drawing of what the research team believe the creature looks like is little more then wishful thinking, and perhaps even evidence of their lack of objectivity and predisposition to believe in the existence of the lake monster. As for the photograph of the distant object on the surface of the lake, opinions vary --man on a boat suggested by Glasgow Boy seems the likeliest explanation.

Having said all that, the lake does have a strong tradition about a strange aquatic beast living in its waters, and one witness account include a group of geologists on a fishing trip who saw a huge head appear. And like wrote above, Labynkir is not the only Russian lake where unknown creatures have been reported; case in point: Lake Koskol.  There was also a very interesting case from Lake Khaiyr, where in 1964 The Russian Pravda published how a group of Academics from Moscow University observed a saurian-type creature (as reported by Peter Costello in his book In Search of Lake Monsters) --Alas, there's a good chance this one was just a hoax.

It's interesting to note how in Russia the people advocating for the existence of lake monsters are scientists, in sharp contrast with what happens in the West. Also, the word accompanying that illustration in the Lake Khaiyr (probable hoax) case is загадка, which is Russian for 'enigma', and IMO waaaaaaay better than Nesski as a name for a Russian lake monster. Just sayin'...

(3) Another subaquatic mystery this week was the finding of strange geometric designs eerily reminiscent of mandalas on the sandy bottom of the sea, off the southern coast of Japan. But before anyone had the chance to cry "underwater crop circles!" the riddle was rapidly solved: The enigmatic artist was none other than the humble puffer fish, who makes the intricate circles in order to attract mates:

Apparently the female fish are attracted to the hills and valleys within the sand and traverse them carefully to discover the male fish where the pair eventually lay eggs at the circle’s center, the grooves later acting as a natural buffer to ocean currents that protect the delicate offspring. Scientists also learned that the more ridges contained within the sculpture resulted in a much greater likelihood of the fish pairing.

That's kinda groovy, dontcha think?

(2) Frequent readers of the Pills should know by now that I love Neanderthals. Our long-lost uncomprehended cousins are a matter of personal fascination, since they are an actual historically proven example of the co-existence with another intelligent species, not so different from our own. So whenever a new story about them appears, you can bet it will be included in this section of the Matrix.

Besides, the latest Neander-news is particularly interesting: Authors of a new study suggest our cousins used feathers for ornamental purposes; and it seems they favored those of corvids like ravens and rooks, which I find particularly significant, given how these animals play such a predominant role in the myths of so many ancient cultures.

So, did the Neanderthals use the feathers for some type of ritual ceremony? as a status symbol? as nocturnal camouflage? or did they just think wearing black was an awesome fashion statement. Perhaps we'll never know; but what we do know is that what WE need to change faster than a pair of parachute pants, is our outdated ideas about this incredibly successful branch of the Homo family.

(1) Other preconceptions we might be forced to reconsider are the ones pertaining to the life of Yeshua Ben Yosef, a.k.a. Jesus Christ. A bit of controversy was raised over a bit of papyrus discovered by Karen L. King, a historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School. The fragment in ancient Coptic --the late-Egyptian language used by early Christians-- shows the phrase "Jesus said to them, ‘My wife ...’"

"My wife WHAT?" one would certainly like to know. "My wife loves me very much"? "My wife's driving me crazy"? "My wife won't let me go fishing until I finish washing the dishes"? A second line below purportedly reads “she will be able to be my disciple”, which would allude to Mary Magdalene's level of involvement among the early followers of Jesus. Nevertheless King herself is quick to caution that this mysterious fragment --whose owner chooses to remain anonymous-- in itself cannot be seen as proof of Jesus' marital status, since it was obviously written centuries after his death. Thus it belongs to the large collection of Apocryphal texts not accepted among the Canonical gospels, mainly due to their Gnostic orientation.

As a relapsing Catholic I admit considering whether Jesus was married or not is still a bit of a touchy subject. Many people think that Jesus being married was perfectly reasonable, considering how in the Jewish society all men had the traditional obligation to settle down and raise a family. Yet by the same token, I don't see in Jesus a figure who shows much respect for tradition, specially the parts related to the insane obsession 1st Century Judaism had with the concept of purity --Human corpse? Impure. Objects in proximity with human corpse? Objects are impure. A person's shadow projecting against human corpse? The person is impure... WTF?!

Let me finally add that as a liberal Fortean I know I'm obliged to recognize Jesus as a very important spiritual teacher and nothing more. And yet, because of the influence the books of Juan José Benítez had in my life, there's still a small part inside me whispering "But what if..." "what if...".

Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. All right, the Chinese restaurant was one thing, but going to a strip joint is WAY pushing the rules, you guys! (Just don't tell Morpheus, capisce?).

Miguel Romero

Miguel Romero a.k.a. Red Pill Junkie is a cartoonist and fortean blogger who writes at Mysterious Universe

Join MU Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions & much more! Subscribe Today!