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Red Pills of the Week — February 2nd

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! This week our trip down the rabbit hole will bring us vintage crop circles in England and 3d-printed bases on the Moon, serial killer felines & Iranian space monkeys. And as we marvel at the image of a thought being formed inside a brain, we’ll say farewell to the most prominent pioneer in remote viewing. February 2nd is when we in Mexico celebrate ‘día de la Candelaria’, so that means one thing: hot tamales for everyone aboard the Nebuchadnezzar!

10While some geeks still like to argue how giving Superman the power to fly is what inevitably began to ruin the character –personally I think the red underwear was more of a hinder– now scientists are discovering that what made the Man of Steel an invincible douche could influence regular Joes to become more altruistic.

The study consisted on using a VR helmet with a group of 30 male & 30 female students: half the students were given the power to fly over a foggy city –controlling flight by moving the arms, the way we all did when we were children & nobody was watching– while the other half were given the simulation of being transported over the same city aboard a helicopter.

Afterward, each student was told to sit while a lab assistant put away the VR equipment, and then “accidentally” knocked over a jar of 15 pens. The virtual fliers were quicker to help pick up pens and picked up more of them than the virtual passengers, and all six students who didn’t help at all were from the passenger group. There was no notable difference between the fliers who were given a mission to deliver insulin to a lost diabetic child and those who were told to just explore the city.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/wnQgDsdy7zg[/youtube]

Explaining the results is still for debate. While some believe that being given the (virtual) powers of Superman will coax you to follow the boy-scout stereotype as well, others on the other hand theorize that the simple act of being given control over the simulation encouraged the volunteers to have a more participant attitude, instead of merely being passive observers.

Personally I support the former explanation, which might be the reason why I can only play as a good guy on an RPG like Mass Effect 3 –yesterday  I saved both the Quarians & the Geth, Woohoo!!– and at the same time I think that if we could experience the same elation in a lucid dream, instead of using the technological crutch, we might observe a positive change in our mood & behavior during our waking hours. I know that one of the best dreams I ever had was when I could zip across the streets of New York like Spiderman, and by the time I woke up I felt like a million bucks.

9 Superman or Batman? Even without Nolan’s masterful cinematic rendition, the answer to me has always been a no-brainer: the Dark Knight’s sublimation of his personal loss & anger to help the citizens of Gotham, while walking the thin thread which could turn him into the very thing he’s trying to fight, is a much more interesting dynamic than an alien demigod becoming the steward of his adopted world.

The bat plane

I still hope Nolan himself can prove me wrong later this year, though!

And it seems that some folks over at the infamous Area 51 share my sentiment as well, as can be implied by the recent sighting of a weird experimental aircraft that is oddly reminiscent of the Batplane –*if* the video is authentic of course, because nowadays we can never be 100% certain.

But if the video is real, perhaps we shouldn’t be that surprised that Mr. Wayne is hanging out in the Nevada desert –after all, out there the best toys come in black

8 Anne Hathaway as the new Catwoman? MEEEEEOW!!! Only caveat: That Nolan chose not to portray her as a cat hoarder, like in Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

Cats are evil - The Oatmeal

But the fact is that many people all around the world are fond of felines, and that has become a very serious ecological problem: Because cats never get rid of their killer instincts, they end up decimating millions of birds, rodents & insects; and according to a new report, the numbers are actually higher than we had ever expected –something Matthew Inman had tackled on in his popular webcomic The Oatmeal.

“To maintain the integrity of our ecosystems, we have to conserve the animals that play integral roles in those ecosystems,” said Dr. George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy. “Every time we lose another bird species or suppress their population numbers, we’re altering the very ecosystems that we depend on as humans. This issue clearly needs immediate conservation attention.”

So what’s the solution? Telling cat lovers to control their pets seems rather pointless, because people will always choose their pets over wild fauna. Perhaps we could engineer the cats to diminish their hunting instincts with the help of DNA modification –but if Science starts to do that, then we all know what comes next: Bubastis.

7 We’ve kept cats on our households for thousands of years, so by now they’ve become a familiar sight in our lives. The same could not be said of the famous crop circles that appear on the English country side each year. Their origin is a cause of confrontation between true believers & skeptics, but most of them might at least agree that the circles are for the most part a modern manifestation.

Or are they? An Australian amateur historian by the name of Greg Jefferys claims that using Google Earth’s new 1945 overlay –which allow users to observe the landscape as it was 68 years ago– he has managed to locate distinct crop circle formations in the English Black country, which would prove they are not a modern hoax launched by ‘Doug & Dave’, those jovial pensioners who have been used by skeptics to explain away the entire phenomenon –this despite the fact that circles appear in several other countries aside from England.

Black Country crop circles

The b&w photos are somewhat difficult to discern, but even if the circles are genuine formations present in the landscape of yesteryear, is that proof that they were created by extraterrestrials? Jefferys is careful not to enter into wild speculations, and simply enunciates 2 points that he’s trying to prove with his work:

“Firstly, I believe that the claims of various ‘artists’ to have created them all is patently false,” he says.

“That is itself probably one of the biggest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the scientific community, and I think that my 1945 Google Earth work does this.

“Secondly, there is a significant body of evidence that indicates high frequency electromagnetic energy is involved in the creation of crop circles.

“What is not clear is what generates that energy and organises it into circular patterns. This is one of the questions I hope to answer, at least partially.”

While the 1st point might be evident with his photographical analysis, the same cannot be said on the 2nd, since there’s still too much controversy surrounding the alleged energetic disturbances observed in the stems of the plants inside the circles. Regardless, even before Jefferys’ work we already had some evidence that crop circles might be much older than previously thought –I’m talking of course about the famous Mowing Devil woodcut.

6 If aliens are indeed behind some of the crop circles, do they use some sort of ‘energy beam’ in order to create the geometric agroglyphs? What used to be the domain of science fiction is quickly entering the realm of science fact, and the popular tractor beams are no exception: A group of scientists from Scotland and the Czech Republic claim they can move around tiny objects —microscopic tiny– using nothing more than a beam of light, by taking advantage of a weird physical effect called the ‘radiation pressure’ of electromagnetic energy. Basically, photons do exert a minuscule force on matter, so what do you get if you reverse the effect and crank up the juice? Voilá! a Federation-class tractor beam.

Tractor beam as seen in Eve online

That is, if scientists can figure out how to prevent the energy of the beam from accelerating the molecules of the object, which is the basic principle behind heating stuff. But given what we know about the famous ‘Fire In the Sky’ abduction case of Travis Walton, in which a UFO shot up a beam of light which first paralyzed & then hurled Travis several feet into the air, perhaps a working tractor beam will be feasible in the future.

5 By the time the original Star Trek TV show was airing and the Enterprise crew started to explore the final frontier on a weekly basis,  the American audience were also being marveled by the achievements of their own real-life space program. One of the more publicized phases in NASA’s plans to send men to the Moon was the use of chimpanzees to test the effects of microgravity in living beings, and now the Iranians are claiming the same with the announcement that they successfully launched & retrieved a Rhesus monkey using a capsuled dubbed Pishgam, which means “pioneer” in Farsi.

The Ol' Switcheroo

Or should the capsule be named Fishscam instead? Some skeptics think there is some weird monkey business with the photographs provided by Iran’s space agency, and that the Iranians were pulling a switcheroo because the poor animal died in the mission. The Iranians responded by saying there had been some confusion with the photographs sent to the international press, but assured the doubters that a monkey had been in fact been sent on a rocket & retrieved safely.

I however think the Iranians are hiding the horrible truth, and the truth is they found out what happens to monkeys when they’re sent into space: they turn super-intelligent.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/zrTMn-dLVbU[/youtube]

4The plan looked SO easy back then:

  • Send chimps to space
  • Send men into orbit
  • Send men to Moon
  • Build base on Moon
  • Conquer the Universe

2001 came & went, and things are still a little behind schedule –and by a little I mean we’re screwed on this rock, y’all.

But wait! Things are starting to get pretty exciting in the ‘build-a-lunar-base’ department: We have previously mentioned the plans of using 3-D printing technology to speed up the process of building habitats on the lunar surface using regolith –a.k.a. moon dust– but now comes news that Sir Norman Foster is interested in helping design the 1st abode of mankind in our natural satellite.

For those of you who have never heard of him, Foster is one of the most prominent architects in the world –some might even say *the* most prominent– responsible for iconic buildings like the famous 30 St Mary Axe skyscraper in London –a.k.a. the Gherkin, which kind of looks like a Reaper’s version of a sex toy! amirite ME fans?– so to have him on-board in trying to come up with ways to build a feasible 3-D printed lunar base is like having Enzo Ferrari to help you design a new car.

Mass Effect woz 'ere

Foster is already a Starchitect, but will he become the first Lunarchitect (h/t Grimerica!)  in the world? Stay tuned…

3 After we establish permanent settlements all around the Sol System, we might want to try our luck somewhere else –preferably where we can enjoy some of the comforts of our own home world, like not-too-extreme climate & abundance of liquid water. We used to think that organic life everywhere would use the same guidelines, so scientists came up with what is known as the Goldilocks zone, to determine whether an alien planet’s orbit was placed in the right sweet-spot distance to its home star in order to facilitate the development of life.

But now scientists are redefining the habitable zone, which means that some planets which were once considered too inhospitable might now viewed as worthy candidates for the search of alien life:

The new definition isn’t radically different from the old one. For example, in our own solar system, the boundaries of the habitable zone have shifted from between 0.95 astronomical units (AU, or the distance between Earth and the sun) and 1.67 AU, to the new range of 0.99 AU to 1.7 AU.

“It’s a surprise that Earth is so close to the inner edge of the habitable zone,” said astronomer Abel Méndez of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, who was not part of the team behind the redefinition.

Surprising indeed. And yet again it makes one wonder whether in the distant past Mars was once a much more suitable place for the appearance of organic life forms.

2 Imagine what Mars would have looked like millions of years ago, when it had a thicker atmosphere that allowed the accumulation of liquid water. Imagine the rivers crossing the red valleys & the cloud formations raining over the Martian canyons. Where *is* that image that you can clearly see with your mind’s eye?

The answer to that metaphysical question might be closer to be answered than we think, thanks to the work of a group from Japan’s National Institute of Genetics, who have managed to capture the first images of a thought being formed inside the brain of a zebra fish –alas, the thought was not “what the f#$k are these guys doing with my brain??” but instead it was something akin to “LUNCH TIME!” since at the time the zebra fish was contemplating its next meal.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/Vo3TchUQM1w[/youtube]

1 According to the current materialistic paradigm, thoughts are nothing but electro-chemical signals exciting our neurons, hence they are dissolved with the death of the brain. But what if our thoughts exist independently of our physical cerebrums? would that imply that Consciousness can transcend the barriers of life & death?

This are the kind of ideas that several pioneering researchers intended to pursue when examining the feats of an incredible individual: a painter by the name of Ingo Swann, who later lay the foundations of what eventually came to be known as remote viewing —our current PC term for what was usually referred to as clairvoyance in the more esoteric circles.

Swann’s active participation in parapsychology research began in 1969 when he was 36 years old. During the next twenty years he worked only in controlled laboratory settings with scientific researchers. Although he lectured widely on the importance of psychic faculties and potentials, he has never publicly demonstrated his abilities. Because of his participation in hundreds of thousands of experimental trials, author Martin Ebon wrote of him as “parapsychology’s most tested guinea pig,” and Psychic News and other media often refer to him as “the scientific psychic.”

Sadly we must report that last Friday (Feb. 1st) Ingo passed away into the great beyond. During his long & fruitful career he never tried to become a celebrity with the help of his extraordinary abilities, the same way the likes of Uri Geller would later end up soiling the reputation of the entire field of ESP. May he now continue to explore the infinity of the Cosmos, the same way he used to do while he was still bound –but not constrained– to a physical form.

Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out, wishing you a happy exploration of the Matrix.

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