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Red Pills of the Week — September 29th

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! This week we shall take a journey through the mysteries of ancient art as well as those of modern science. We’ll peruse strange fashion statements through body modification, and notice the coming problems that 3d-printing will bring, once it becomes as ubiquitous as personal computing. And as we collect yet more conclusive evidence of desertic Mars’ once wetter past, we’ll travel to a nearer desert here on Earth, where strange revelations were promised to be disclosed. You know? I still don’t get how people on Zion have the know-how to hack into the Matrix, they possess electro-magnetic hovercraft ships and even Mecha war robots, but a simple needle and a thread to sew one’s clothing is a technology which has been lost forever! Oh well…

(10) Our first stop takes us to a favorite subject here at the Pills: Leonardo da Vinci. From his perennial incapacity to stay interested in one single endeavor for too long, to his condition as an outsider trapped in an age he didn’t fully belong to, I’ve always felt a special kinship with Leonardo. This of course is a fascination shared by many all across the world, and this week the Mona Lisa foundation presented a new painting, that they claim is the precursor of the most famous painting in the world.

Leonardo had the habit of painting 2 versions of a single theme, and historians tell us the same thing happened with the Mona Lisa: the first one painted in 1503, commissioned by Lisa Gherardini’s husband, the merchant Francesco del Giocondo; and the other was completed in 1517 for Leonardo’s patron, the great Giulano de Medici. This is the reason why the Isleworth Mona Lisa portrays a much younger woman than in the version kept currently at the Louvre, whose enigmatic smile has captivated humanity all these centuries… IF the Isleworth Mona Lisa is an authentic painting by Leonardo, which could result in a very lucrative prospect for the ‘non-profit’ Mona Lisa foundation –Who wouldn’t want their own Mona Lisa, after all. Right Mr. Sabatini?

(9) The concept of beauty in the Renaissance followed the Classical canons of Greece and Rome. So I wonder what would Leonardo, Raphael & Michelangelo have said, if they saw the new ‘Bagel heads’ body modification fad coming from Japan –probably…. COWABUNGA!!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/XP5udgFS8SM[/youtube]

[WARNING: Don’t click on video unless you’re not into watching people injecting saline water into their foreheads]

And you thought you had it rough when your dad scolded you for getting that nose earring, huh? Wait to see what YOUR kids will come up with to get your blood boiling! Glowing tattoos? fish scales or cat eyes? Parenthood in the XXIst century: the final frontier –of parental patience.

(8) Speaking of antiquated morals: during the U.N. General Assembly, Mexico’s president Felipe Calderón urged the United Nations to lead a global debate, to assess the progress and the cost over the current prohibitionist regime for illegal drugs. Considering Calderón’s government has been acclaimed as one of the toughest opponents in the war against drug trafficking –which has translated in millions of dollars spent, and tenths of thousands of lives lost as collateral damage– his words carried an extra weight for the assembly; alas, not enough to convince the United Nations to step forward, alleging this is a matter for sovereign nations to resolve among themselves.

The reason I consider this news worthy of inclusion in the Pills is simple: not only after Nixon launched the war on drugs 41 years ago, has there been any evidence whatsoever that it has worked –drug consumption is at an all-time high, and the cost on human lives and the economy are staggering– but we should also keep in mind that because of the current ban on these substances, is that the research of scientists like Dr. Rick Strassman & others, who are trying to study the great potential some of these chemical compounds might have in enhancing our psychological and spiritual well-being, is progressing at a frustratingly slow pace due to all the regulations and political hostility such studies suffer.

Add to that the disturbing fact that many of the ‘good’ drugs Big Pharma companies profit from, are no better than a placebo sugar pill at best, and at worst they have nasty side-effects the doctors who prescribe them are completely unaware of –simply because the companies who carry out the studies are not obligated to disclose negative results– and it’s easy to perceive there’s something terribly wrong with how we assess the dangers to public health.

I feel that this stubborn refusal to recognize that many of these demonized drugs are no worse than alcohol and tobacco, has indirectly hindered the evolutionary progress of the human race. It’s time to face the obvious, and move on.

(7) We also need to recognize that our modern life style carries out a heavy burden in the general ecosystem, and we may have to pay a taxing price for our novel comforts. –maybe too taxing.

The widespread collapse of bee colonies in North America and Europe has been pointed out by mainstream media for the last 5 years –and it was even mentioned in M. Night Shyamalan’s forgettable film of 2008, The Happening. During this time many theories have been proposed, to explain the worrisome decline of the insects humanity depends on to pollinate many of its vital crops. From parasitosis to genetic inbreeding, all the probable culprits have been discarded. The latest study by Brock Harpur, of York University in Canada, shows that the bee colonies enjoy sufficient genetic diversity.

So, what’s killing the bees? Harpur himself seems inclined to believe it’s the result of pesticides. While some even believe it’s the effect of cell phone towers polluting the environment with electro-magnetic waves. Maybe it’s a combination of all the suspected factors, or maybe it’s something we haven’t discovered yet. Whatever the particulars, the general explanation is quite simple to me: It’s the result of an imbalance, produced by our crave to exploit Nature to the point of collapse.

To every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Call it Karmic Thermodynamics, if you will –Or call it what you get for treating Mother Nature like a bitch.

(6) And you know what you get when you make a scientific study that seems completely ridiculous to both peers and laymen? You get yourself an Ig Nobel award! And here are some of this year’s proud winners:

Fluid Dynamics: Walking with coffee. Another 2012 paper, this one with practical applications. “In our busy lives, almost all of us have to walk with a cup of coffee,” the text, in Physical Review E begins. “While often we spill the drink, this familiar phenomenon has never been explored systematically.” As it turns out, both the specifics of the cup and the biomechanics of walking play a role in making the mess. One of the two authors was there to pick up the prize.

Anatomy: Your backside looks familiar. Noted primatologist Frans de Waal took home an Ig Nobel for this paper, which involved showing chimps the rear ends of their compatriots and unfamiliar chimps. Chimps were successful at identifying the rears of those they were familiar with.

Literature: Infinite report regression. It’s not often that the government gets honored for the quality of its prose, but an analysis from the GAO took home the prize for being “a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.” No surprise that it was occasioned by a policy adopted by the Department of Defense.

Science: Do it for the Lulz.

(5) Advancements in primate ass recognition might not seem that important, but a field that promises to bring a truly fantastic revolution, not unlike the one some of us already experienced in the 80s with the arrival of computers into our homes and offices, is the technology of 3D-printing.

These machines, which can reproduce complex volumetric topologies using heat and thin polymer filaments, are lowering their costs at a rapid pace –you can get one of the smaller models for less than US$600 nowadays– so Futurologists predict the day when we might stop going to a store to buy a spare part or appliances is closer than we think. Bye-bye outmoded production chains! Hello Star Trek replicators!

But along with the promise comes the risks: A group of Libertarian activists from Texas have announced their plans to release downloadable open-source kits, to assemble 3d-printed working fire arms through their project Wiki Weapon:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/AQ6Q3BfbVBU[/youtube]

So far these early attempts to Wikinize personal weaponry has been acknowledged by the Design community alone, who are trying to start a sensible discussion, regarding the possible legal and ethical limitations this new technology could or should have –after all, do we really want to live in a world where everybody can have access to a gun? –but one doesn’t need to be a psychic to realize that sooner or later the politicians will start to take notice, and will probably react in the same thoughtful, calculated manner they usually show when confronted by a new technology they can barely understand –i.e. ban the $#!t out of everything.

As the years go by I start to understand how right was Jaron Lanier, when he wrote during the Napster controversy that “we’ll have to rid ourselves of either computers or democracy. You can’t have both.”

(4) If we manage to solve the moral and legal ramifications of 3d-printing, we might enter a world where anything you can imagine will be available in a matter of hours, or even minutes. Will the desire to steal someone else’s property disappear?

Well, back in the 1930s Hitler’s minions didn’t hold back on their impulses to appropriate things that didn’t belong to them. And among their historic loots, one piece that stands out from the rest is a Buddhist metallic statue popularly known as the ‘Iron Man’; and alongside its badass name, the small sculpture seems to have and even more badass origin: Outer Spaaaace! … aace… ace…

Known as the ‘iron man’, the 24-centimetre-high sculpture may represent the god Vaisrava?a and was likely created from a piece of the Chinga meteorite that was strewn across the border region between Russia and Mongolia between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, according to Elmar Buchner, of the University of Stuttgart in Germany, and his colleagues.

What’s even more interesting to me is the fact that the true age of the ‘Iron Man’ is unknown. Historians and Art scholars date it to the 11th. century Bon culture, but what if it’s much much older than that? In any case, the other-worldly nature of this remarkable piece of art makes it worthy of a Josh Whedon cinematic treatment –or at least a Black Sabbath musical interlude.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/MII3ns2KTBc[/youtube]

(3) From where in the immensity of the Cosmos the Chinga meteorite came from, is a riddle we’ll probably never solve.  A riddle we’re on the verge of discovering on the other hand, is the mystery surrounding the ancient oceans of Mars. NASA scientists announced last Thursday Curiosity’s discovery, showing incontrovertible evidence of flowing water on the surface of the Red Planet.

“We’ve now identified pebbles and gravel at the landing site that clearly have been carried down by water, have been broken down and very much smoothed out,” said William Dietrich, a geomorphologist working with the Curiosity imaging science team. “This is the beginning of our process of learning how much water was running and how long this area was wet.”

Even better, the scientists are convinced the water was present for thousands of millions of years; and with water and enough time, Life is almost a universal imperative.

So even though we MU members might go to our graves without finding out the truth about flying saucers, I can almost guarantee we will yet have the chance to enjoy another type of phenomenal paradigm shift: finally finding evidence of life on other world outside our own –Better than nothing, right?

(2) And if we do find evidence of ancient Martians, how will the religious leaders react? Maybe quite positively, as long as the discovery doesn’t challenge their fundamental dogmas. Riddley Scott’s Prometheus has finally been released in Italy, and the Vatican was not pleased with its plot involving extraterrestrial Engineers seeding life on planet Earth:

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, said Prometheus “mishandles the delicate questions raised by … the battle eternal between good and evil in yet another attempt to steak the secret of immortality.” The newspaper also said that “the journey of Prometheus should instead symbolize the search for the supernatural,” referring to the original hero of Greek mythology who is said to have created man from clay.

Even though I shouldn’t criticize the Papal thumb down too much, given how Prometheus failed to meet my cinephile expectations either –although for far different reasons– it’s sad how the church’s hierarchy didn’t notice how Scott chose to name the giant geneticists the Engineers, instead of the Designers. Since the Catholic catechism finds no conflict between the Genesis account and modern Evolutionary theories, showing a willingness to accept God’s freedom to utilize whatever creation methodology He/She might see fit regardless of mankind’s opinion, I fail to see what difference would it make if it was proven that we are, perhaps, the end result of a direct intervention by an ancient extraterrestrial race. Shouldn’t the landowner be entitled to hire as many gardeners as needed to tend to His home?

It’s also amusing to read ahead in the Hollywood Reporter’s article, and learn that the Vatican didn’t show the same type of contempt to the male stripper comedy Magic Mike. Keeping the priorities straight as usual; right, your Holiness?

(1) The planet Prometheus lands was a desert wasteland, and yet the crew went out hoping to reveal some transcendental truth; and yet they came out with more questions than answers.

Something similar happened in another desert last weekend, at the National Atomic Testing Museum. During the conference titled “Military UFOs: Secrets Revealed,” a group of spectators gathered up to listen to an impressive assembly of civilian and ex-Military members, who during their careers were able to investigate or be involved with the UFO phenomenon ‘from the inside’. Retired Air Force Col. Charles Halt, retired Air Force Col. Bill Coleman –the former chief spokesman for Project Blue Book between 1961 and 1963, who was also involved in the TV program Project UFO, as well as Robert Emenegger’s UFOs Past, Present & Future— Blue Book’s former director Col. Bob Friend, retired Army Col. John Alexander & Nick Pope, who used to run the British UFO desk, shared their opinion that UFOs are real and something which shouldn’t be subject to public mockery, or scientific rejection.

But unfortunately the great ground-breaking secrets we were expecting in September 8th didn’t amount to anything capable of breaking any ground, outside Halt’s personal claim that there’s a secret group managing the UFO secret inside the US government –to which he didn’t provide any evidence to substantiate his allegations:

“I’ve heard many people say that it’s time for the government to appoint an agency to investigate,” Halt said.

“Folks, there is an agency, a very close-held, compartmentalized agency that’s been investigating this for years, and there’s a very active role played by many of our intelligence agencies that probably don’t even know the details of what happens once they collect the data and forward it. It’s kind of scary, isn’t it?”

Not really, Colonel. Because believe it or not we’ve all heard this before ad nauseam. And unless someone can provide tangible evidence showing this to be the case, not even your outstanding military record will be enough to make the mainstream media give you the time of day –Depressing, isn’t it?

Even Nick Pope jokingly apologized the audience for not providing a ” ‘spaceship in a hangar’ smoking gun.” Oh well, there’s always next year’s conference, eh Nick?

Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. Next week is yours truly’s birthday, so I hope the Oracle can bake me a nice chocolate cake –I might also have to ask Mouse for some R&R with the woman in the red dress!

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