Greetings, fellow Coppertops! Our weekly rendezvous will take us from the white the mountains of Tibet to the red plains of Mars. We'll encounter talking elephants and tyrant Reptilians, young hackers in Africa and UFOs dipping in hot lava. And as we assess the damage caused by Sandy, we'll see if finally an inconvenient truth has started to dawn on the American people. I hope you can appreciate just how terribly difficult writing this column was this week, as I found myself ensnared by a darker side of the Matrix, known as... Twitter.
(10) Our first stop takes place at the Amaz!ng Meeting in Las Vegas, that annual event where skeptics and atheists convene to do 2 of their favorite things: play craps on the casino, and talk crap about those poor & deluded 'woo people' who believe in flying saucers and psychic phenomena.
As reported by my good friend and mentor Greg Taylor, this year renowned physicist Sean Carrol told the audience how anomalous phenomena can't happen because "the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood" :
There are actually three points I try to hit here. The first is that the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood. There is an enormous amount that we don’t know about how the world works, but we actually do know the basic rules underlying atoms and their interactions — enough to rule out telekinesis, life after death, and so on. The second point is that those laws are dysteleological — they describe a universe without intrinsic meaning or purpose, just one that moves from moment to moment.
The third point — the important one, and the most subtle — is that the absence of meaning “out there in the universe” does not mean that people can’t live meaningful lives. Far from it. It simply means that whatever meaning our lives might have must be created by us, not given to us by the natural or supernatural world.
My mate Greg has often been accused by Randi and his minions of being a 'woo anti-Science guy.' And yet I believe Greg can be excused from finding a lot in common between Carrol's statements, and those of one Lord Kelvin expressed in the XIXth century --another elderly chap with a fetish for long white beards-- when he rather prematurely stated that 'there was nothing new to discover in physics.' a little after that WHAMO! We have Quantum theory, followed by Relativity, and now we're having fun with ideas of Multiverses & dark matter, all tangled up on Super-strings like Schrödinger cats high on catnip.
And as I'm sure Master Carrol would surely like to object and point out he was referring to the laws of physics ruling events in everyday life --as if implying that things like precognition or even UFO sightings are something of a fluke, when in reality they are more common than most people would like to acknowledge-- I do believe he left out a rather significant phenomenon which is, to my understanding, quite important in our everyday lives: Consciousness.
But, by far the best commentary on this story was made by a fellow member of TDG who goes by the name of Doug Skinner, who commented thusly:
Well, of course we understand the laws of physics completely: we wrote them. Whether we've finished writing them is another matter...
(9) If we ever going to finish writing those bloody laws of Physics, we're gonna need a lot of fresh brains up to the task. Wherever are we going to find them? Well, how about Africa?
Yes, Africa! And just to show why we should do well in changing our outdated colonial views on the continent who saw the birth of Man, here's a story which was also mentioned by Ben & Aaron on the latest MU podcast: After dropping a thousand Motorola Zoom tablet PCs to a village in Ethiopia, the kids --who were completely illiterate, and had never been exposed to printed words-- withing 5 months taught themselves English, and were starting to hack into the security of the OS.
So this story elicits a lot of thoughts in me. Firstly, how our technology might have reached a state of maturity to help trigger an intellectual explosion in developing nations, the likes of which our world has never witnessed --something the leaders of said nations might not be all too happy to experience. Secondly, it made me remember all the things discussed during Paradigm Symposium, where Giorgio & co. were assuring the audience that the 'gods' tinkered with our species's DNA in order to branch us out of the primate family. But what if it was something far more subtle? Maybe Kubrick & Clarke got it right all along, and the famous monolith was nothing but a big-ass Annunaki tablet --the iMonolith?
(8) A bunch of self-taught African h4x0rs is pretty incredible. But an African elephant who taught himself how to speak Korean? Now that's downright trippy! Last week we covered the story of NOC, the babbling beluga whale who started mimicking his tailless captors at the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program in San Diego. But now here comes Koshic, an elephant who has learned to um, 'manipulate' its trunk in order to modulate his natural low rumble, into something that strikingly resembles 5 words in the Korean language --hello, no, sit down, lie down and good.
Gangnam style pachyderm parody in 3... 2... 1...
(7) Did you know they are using elephant dung in Thailand as an energy source? Well, me neither --all hail our virtual oracle St. Googlez!-- but that makes a lot of sense, since Babar's poo would be a great source of methane. And methane is exactly what brings us to our next Pill of the Week, as NASA scientists have commanded their Curiosity rover to 'sniff around' for methane on Mars, since methane could be a very strong indicator of present life forms on our neighboring planet.
So far, there has been no detection of methane, which to NASA suggest that presently there are no modern Martian microbes --this despite previous detections of methane release, which are now being interpreted as the product of geological activity.
My interpretation? That no one --not even planets-- are willing to fart in public, if they feel someone's looking...
(6) Speaking of Barsoom, we all know this year's John Carter kinda sucked, right? Which is probably why this week there was a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of geeks suddenly cried out in terror when they heard that George Lucas was selling out his company, along with the rights for the Star Wars franchise, to the Walt Disney Company --soon to change their name to Buy-n-Large-- for $4 billion
Sooner than you could say "Han shot first" there was a massive display of images portraying the geekosphere reaction to this news. Here's one made by yours truly:
"Oh, why are you including this on the pills, RPJ?" Well, firstly because I'm a big fat nerd so SHUT UP! But second and most importantly, because as a Fortean I recognize the impact the original Trilogy had in the recycling of the Hero's Journey to a younger generation. Like it or not, movies and videogames is the method by which the new myths and religions are now being created and experienced.
But then, as we all thought that ole George was gonna cash in on his mouse check to buy himself a working version of the carbonite freezer to deal with the legions of fanboy haters, he shut us all up with the announcement that he's going to donate most of his Disney money to charity.
*Snif* Redemption in the final act --get's me every time, man. Now all we need is a bonfire and a bunch of dancing Ewoks for a proper Yub Nub scene!
(5) Into the Great Unknown is a non-canonical comic in which Han Solo & Chewie crash on an unfamiliar planet, called Earth. Han is killed by the humans and Chewie becomes the legendary Bigfoot. While there are some researchers who like to toy with the idea that the hairy hominids might be something more than just unknown apes *Cough!* Nick Redfern *Cough!* that hasn't stopped other investigators from attempting to find physical evidence from these elusive creatures.
Last year there was a lot of uproar regarding a 'scientific' expedition organized in the Siberian region of Kemerovo, where a lot of prominent scientists were invited, including Dr. Jeff Meldrum, one of the few American academics willing to speak about the compelling evidence for the existence of Sasquatch. The problem is that Meldrum quickly felt that there was very little 'science' in this particular endeavor, and that it was all organized to boost tourism for the region.
Well, now the Daily Mail has published a story regarding a 'Yeti hair' which was obtained inside a cave during last year's expedition, and which have caused a lot of interesting claims from some Russian scientists:
'We had ten samples of hair to study, and have concluded that they belong to mammal, but not a human,' said Professor Valentin Sapunov, of the Russian State Hydrometeorological Institute.
But before you Crypto-fans begin to get too excited, I would caution you to read Loren Coleman's editorial to this story. Basically, he's not convinced. And he points out to a more skeptical article published by The Telegraph, where one can find a rebuttal of Sapunov's claims by Oleg Pugachev, Director of the Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Science --where the 'Yeti hairs' were analyzed:
“He came with some bits of hair to the Institute, and spent a lot of time in my office complaining that official science wants nothing to do with it and no-one wants to test them.
“He asked me to help. I took a pity on him and ordered our DNA specialists to carry out a test.
“They did not manage to extract any genealogical material because there were no hair bulbs.
“The structure of the hair showed that they could have belonged to a goat, and a bear, and to other animals.
“That’s the end of it. What Snowman is he talking about?”
So, do we have conclusive evidence of unknown hairy hominids living in Siberia. Not yeti, IMO.
(4) But the snows of Eurasia and the Himalayas are not just home for Cryptozoological mysteries, as the next Pill of the Week, will show: Indian soldiers and Tibetan police officers have been all spooked by mysterious lights in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir:
The yellowish spheres appear to lift off from the horizon on the Chinese side and slowly traverse the sky for three to five hours before disappearing. These were not unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS), drones or even low earth-orbiting satellites, say Army officials who have studied the hazy photographs taken by ITBP.
Radar readings seem to show that the 'objects' are non-metallic. My first reaction while reading this story, is that it seems very similar to the mysterious Hessdalen lights who have been studied in Norway for a couple of decades. I await to see what my illustrious colleague Mr. Micah Hanks --who has personally studied a similar phenomenon at the Brown Mountains of NC-- has to say about these sightings at the India/Tibet border.
(3) So it seems that UFOs, whatever they are, have a thing for mountains. And that of course also includes volcanoes like Mount Popocatépetl in Mexico --Hey, if Jason McCllelan can say it, so can you, k?-- where a recent video of a camera (owned by the Televisa TV network) monitoring the activity of this live volcano allegedly captured a cylindrical object plunging inside its crater.
The video has received a lot of skepticism. The initial Mexican scientists who were consulted by Televisa quickly pointed out that the object might just be seen as if it was going inside the crater, as a result of an illusion caused by the camera's angle. Since the apparent entrance of the object was not followed by any sort of explosion of expulsion of volcanic material, the object could either be a bolide flying behind the volcano, or even some type of digital manipulation --something Ben Hansen, one of the investigators in the TV paranormal show Fact or Faked also concluded, alluding the video could be a hoax triggered by all the attention gathered by the Kentucky video we reported last week. Also Jason & Maureen were right in pointing out in their latest edition of Spacing Out! how the object's cylindrical appearance might just be the result of the lapse-time capture of the video by the Televisa camera --since it wasn't recording at 24 or 30 fps so it would give a smooth feed.
All fair & valid objections. But now I'm going to give you my reasons why you shouldn't dismiss the video so quickly:
First, because the presence of UFOs near mount Popocatépetl is nothing unheard of. In fact it's become quite common that vulcanologists find strange objects in the photographs taken by the cameras monitoring mount Popo's activity 24/7.
So that's why Hansen's suspicions that this was a hoax triggered by the Epling UFO makes no sense to me. Yes, I'll be the first one to admit Televisa has been known to manipulate the news from time to time. But is he really suggesting one of the most powerful TV networks in the world deliberately produce a UFO hoax? As if the story of the Kentucky UFO had been so important down here --it wasn't.
Furthermore, the theories of the Mexican experts should also be taken with a grain of salt. They were expecting the UFO to behave like a classical 'physical' object, governed by the laws of inertia and momentum, and therefore when they see no aftermath of an impact they conclude the object didn't go inside the crater. What they don't know, since they clearly are not well-versed in UFO lore, is there's plenty of cases where witnesses report mysterious lights going inside mountains, lakes or even the ocean, without any signs of impact. Which would suggest either these objects are not made of solid matter, OR --maybe, and I'm speculating here-- that these objects are able to shift from what we call ordinary 'reality', to other levels or dimensions. Maybe.
That's why I choose to keep the Mount Popocatépetl --it takes practice, vatos!-- in my gray basket, for the time being.
(2) Or maybe we're all just a hologram. That's certainly the conclusion many of the 5000 attendees to David Icke's presentation at Wembley stadium might have reached, after enduring the 11-hour (!) presentation given by the former BBC sports presenter --some cynics have suggested it was originally a 1-hour presentation, followed by a 10-hour explanation after a collective "Whaa?" by the stadium's audience.
Yeah, Icke and his outré ideas are easy target. But, I must admit that since the core of his main message is intrinsically gnostic, as a gnostic myself I can certainly entertain the notion that what we perceive as the 'real world' is but a very thin outer layer, hidden deeper levels where unknown beings might be lurking.
Plus, as James Ward --who attended the event--wrote on his blog: "you have to admire a man who can get thousands of people to come to Wembley Arena to watch a twelve-hour PowerPoint presentation."
Power corrupts. Powerpoint corrupts at a Microsoft level.
(1) But perhaps the notion that we're not in control of our world has become quite self-evident to all the millions affected by Sandy this week. The TV channels, newspapers and social networks have been um, flooded (sorry) with apocalyptic images of Manhattan & New Jersey that put Roland Emmerich to shame.
And with the aftermath of homes ruined, infrastructure services inoperative, and millions of people subjected to the kind of daily hardships they used to experience ONLY as comfortable spectators, an annoying realization starts to dawn: Maybe --just maybe-- all that 'Climate Change' nonsense wasn't wrong after all.
Oh hell, people! Let's stop with the PC euphemisms and call it like it is: GLOBAL WARMING.
Because now we're witnessing some of the most powerful opposing voices to the notion admitting they might be wrong. Philp Plait a.k.a. The BADAStronomer is also perceiving a change of wind in the political arena, too. And even though there's still a few stubborn people refusing to take their head out of the sand --like Ken Mampel, an unemployed, 56-year-old Floridian & Climate Change denier, who is responsible for having erased ANY mentions of global warming in the Wikipedia page of Hurricane Sandy during the 1st week of the storm-- the evidence will no longer be able to be denied.
I know this is a horrible thing to say, and know that my heart goes to all the victims of Sandy --not just in the United States, but ALSO in Cuba and Haiti-- but here it goes: Maybe this needed to happen.
We had Katrina in 2004, and saw New Orleans destroyed, yet we didn't listen --and I'm changing the 'You' I originally wrote for the 'We', because we are all in this together.
Maybe we needed to see the mighty Gotham succumbing to the even mightier forces of Nature to realize this $#!t is real, yo! and it's only going to get worse. Because let's face it: We've wasted 30 years arguing with each other, hearing the voices of the 'experts' who were on Big Oil's payroll. And we ALL wanted to listen and be convinced by their assuring voices, because we all knew that changing our ways was going to be a real drag, and we all want to continue driving our SUVs and cooking our food in the microwave oven, and firing up all our hungry little gadgets to keep us entertained every minute of our lives.
But guess what? Even if we got rid of all that, it's too late now. All we can do now is start re-structuring our cities so they can withstand these types of 'super-storms' as they become more and more frequent. And yes, we'll have to get rid of some of our beloved comforts, if we want to ameliorate --NOT stop-- the effects of Global Warming.
Either the message sinks in, or our cities will.
Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. I promise I'll be less Morpheus-preachy next time, k? In the meantime, you can follow me (or stalk me, it's up to you) on the Twitter, where you can find me @red_pill_junkie