May 20, 2013 I Miguel Romero

Red Pills of the Week — May 18th

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! This week's prescription of Red Pills will bring you multiverses, exoplanets & events that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. We'll have a lunch made out of insects & wreck a flying car, after we lose our temper due to hatchet job articles in the Washington Post. And following our study in the raise of UFO sightings in Canada, we'll join our friends up North to warmly welcome Commander Chris Hadfield, after his long mission aboard the ISS. Speaking of which, it's my pleasure to announce that the Red Pill Enteprises continue to branch out, and that soon there will be an important development involving our good friends of Grimerica --stay tuned, boy & girls!

10 Our first Red Pill is a follow-up to a story we mentioned last March, when it was revealed how the Planck telescope confirmed a mysterious distribution of the background microwave radiation in the Universe, along what Cosmologists like to call the 'Axis of Evil,' because we know how scientists like to mock the things they don't understand --Big Bang anyone?

Now an article on The Daily Mail reports on Dr. Laura Mersini-Houghton, a theoretical physicist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who says the map of the Universe drawn by Planck further confirms a theory she proposed in 2005 along with Richard Holman, professor at Carnegie Mellon University. What is it they proposed that merits a mention in this column? Simply put, that the anomalous distribution of radiation in the Universe is the result of other universes exerting an influence on our own.

Actual photo of the multiverse

She said: 'These anomalies were caused by other universes pulling on our universe as it formed during the Big Bang.

'They are the first hard evidence for the existence of other universes that we have seen.'

Needless to say, many of her colleagues remain skeptical. But if proven right, then this finding would constitute physical, measurable evidence that everything we can detect with our most powerful telescopes, is just part of a small bubble swimming around an infinite sea. And if other Universes past or present can exert a gravitational pull in the microwave radiation, does that mean Dark matter & dark energy will follow the fate of the luminiferous ether?


kepler telescope
Telescopes in...SPAAAAACE

If there are other Universes surrounding our own, do they follow the same laws of Physics? does light in them travel faster or slower? do they have stars & planets where life can evolve? The possibilities are mind-blowing!

To think that less than a hundred years ago scientists were still wondering whether our galaxy was all there was in the Cosmos, and even if there really were other planets orbiting other stars. I still remember when the first exo-planet was officially discovered and how the news made headlines in every major newspaper in the planet. Ironically, thanks to the Kepler telescope the discovery of a new alien planet is met with a collective 'Meh.'

But we only appreciate what we have once we lose it, and unfortunately it seems the Kepler telescope's days of blowing the minds of space enthusiasts are finally over. On May 15 NASA announced the space probe has suffered a malfunction in one of its 3 functioning gyroscopes --Kepler is equipped with 4, and 1 had already failed in the past-- which means the satellite will not be stable enough to stay in orbit & aim its telescope.

The fact is that Kepler had lasted way longer than its estimated life span, which makes the mission a complete success. And NASA scientists are still hopeful that with a little tweaking Kepler can right itself & remain functional for a little while longer.
But the downside is that Kepler's replacement mission won't be launched until at least 2017 --and that's only if no jackass in Congress affects NASA's plans by cutting on their budget.

So fare thee well, Kepler. From the 3rd rock of the Sun we salute you, & acknowledge how much YOU rock.



Missions like the Kepler space telescope help us realize just how unrealistic our assumptions have become, due to the influence of Sci-Fi in pop culture. Now I've always been & always will be a Star Wars fan, but the way George Lucas showed those ultra-clear images of faraway planets on the monitors of the Death Star, you'd think the galaxy was littered with viewing satellites every few parsecs!

star wars set
Uncle Lars really let the place go... oh wait.

Speaking of the best Sci-Fi franchise of all time --sorry, Darren-- my TDG brother Rick MG pointed me out to the work of NY photographer Rä di Martino, who 'accidentally' found the abandoned remains of the original Star Wars set while scanning Google Earth, left in Tunisia more than 35 years ago by Lucas & co, and known only by a handful of individuals.

You call it luck? In my experience there's no such thing.

7 di Martino's work makes me wonder. What would happen if 200 years from now some clueless archeologist found the remains of Mos Eisley and the Lars homestead? would he or she mistake them as proof of Ancient Aliens intervention?

better belize pyramid
Imagine this pyramid but as a pile of rocks.

Or perhaps the Star wars ruins will not be so durable, and not long before now a few greedy nerds will travel to Tunisia & bag themselves a very pricey piece of memorabilia. The fact is that not even bonafide ruins are safe from mindless destruction, as was patently proven by the destruction of a 2300 year old Mayan pyramid in Belize, all just to obtain gravel for the construction of a road. Like feeding a wooden stove with the pages of a Gutenberg Bible.

Yes, I listened to Ben & Aaron discuss this on the latest episode of MU, and on this issue I don't happen to agree with Aaron one bit --sorry, mate. Choosing to preserve one archeological ruin over the other based merely on aesthetic considerations reminds me of conservationist efforts that focus on the 'cute' animal species like the pandas or the tigers, but leave out the 'ugly' animals like sharks or bats. What you find useless or of little importance today might be proven to be vital in the years to come.

Meanwhile following up on a previous Pill we covered in June of last year, scientists have released images of what they think is the mythic Ciudad Blanca (White City) in Honduras, a once-in-a-lifetime discovery achieved through the use of sophisticated LIDAR technology. Let's just hope these ruins are prettier than the Noh Mul temple in Belize...


solar flares
Don't mess with the Sun.

The Sun has unleashed 4 massive solar flares this week:

Experts say that a rise in solar activity is common right now because the Sun is in a phase of its 11-year activity cycle that is nearing the solar maximum, expected in 2013. According to space weather experts at NOAA, more strong solar flares may be expected in the coming days.

See what happens when you mess with the Mayan legacy, bitches??

5 Scientists have learned that low sunspot activity has a subtle effect on crop yields. As if we didn't face enough problems with our food production due to the effects of Climate Change & the fact that people just can't overcome their addiction to having more babies!

Come on. Every one is doing it!

Seriously though, there's just not enough land & water to raise enough cattle to meet the protein demand of a rising population. So what are we to do? The United Nations suggest we bug our way out of world hunger --literally.

Wasps, beetles and other insects are currently "underutilised" as food for people and livestock, the report says. Insect farming is "one of the many ways to address food and feed security".

"Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly, and they have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint," according to the report.

mmm yummy
Nom Nom Nom

To all the people wincing at the thought of swapping their Big Mac for a beetle sandwich ("Yum! extra crunchy!") I suggest you lighten up. As a Mexican I'm accustomed to having chapulines as a spicy appetizer --they're delicious when you're drinking Tequila or Mezcal-- so I agree that adding insects in the mainstream diet would be an easier solution to World Hunger, than lab-grown meat or other means of synthetic protein.

Besides, think about it: you like eating shrimp & lobster? then you're being a big fat hypocrite, because those are basically the insects of the sea.



If there's something that creeps people out more than having cricket legs between your teeth, is the thought of suffering the amputation of some part of your body due to cancer. And yet the entire world's attention centered last Tuesday on Angelina Jolie's revelation that she had gone through a double mastectomy to avoid the risk of developing breast cancer --as fellow Gralien Report fan Milton said on the chatroom last week, for a few moments Twitter was turned into Titter (if you find that joke offensive go complain with him).

I find Jolie's decision to be very brave, and thanks to a cloning breakthrough produced using the same technique that created Dolly the sheep in the 90s, perhaps her parting away with her breasts will only be a temporary situation. This is a very exciting development, because it's the 1st time stem cells have been created out of adult cells, which should put religious groups at ease --then again, those religious groups are also against human cloning, so I guess you can't win them all, right?

coffee is nice
I am going to drink you so hard right now...

Oh, and the secret ingredient for the success in the cloning therapeutic technique? Coffee:

“It is remarkable that adding caffeine was the key that resulted in embryonic stem cell lines from all three [egg] donors,” commented Alison Murdoch, professor of reproductive medicine at Newcastle University in the UK where scientists have carried out similar research.

Inducing those poor poor embryos to java addiction. Have these people no morals?! *slurps its third cup of the morning*

3 If we're currently on our way to develop the capacity to grow a complete human being out of a single cell from an adult donor, what are we to make of the claims raised by UFO researchers, who are utterly convinced alien beings are coming to this planet to kidnap hapless citizens, who then are used as guinea pigs for some machiavellian hybridization program?


One member who listened to these seemingly crazy rants & decided to pay attention was Harvard professor John Mack, who then became heavily involved with Abduction research & went out to write Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens (1994).

This week the magazine Vanity Fair published a refreshingly balanced article --written by Ralph Blumenthal-- on the late John Mack & his involvement with a phenomenon that seemed to "contradict virtually all of the basic laws of physics, chemistry and biology on which modern science depends," as one colleague wrote to Mack. The article explores the heavy toll on Mack's reputation his interest in 'alien abductions' brought to him, along with his personal reassessment on the phenomenon, and its implications on the evolution of Consciousness in the Universe, topics he touched upon on his last book Passport to the Cosmos (1999).

But since mainstream media can't abide the thought of these silly topics being given the minimum amount of credibility, Blumenthal's article was rapidly followed by what can only be kindly referred to as a hatchet piece on the Washington Post: The fear that drives our alien belief, by Caitlin Dewey:

Researchers at the Universities of Westminster and Vienna have identified a proverbial host of factors that appear to correlate to belief in UFOs: Gender, politics, religiosity, intelligence, fantasy proneness—even certain psychological disorders, like schizophrenia.

So basically entertaining the existence of UFOs is a tell-tale sign your head has a few screws missing. But wait! there's more:

Without these stories, psychologist Stephen Diamond explains in an essay on UFOs and the “cry for meaning,” we have to accept the fact that some things mean nothing, and others are totally beyond us—a strange, frightening and ultimately deflating thought.

In fact, it’s arguably easier to believe the universe is full of life, even hostile life, than to believe the universe holds no meaning at all. In that respect, a belief in UFOs answers many of the same questions as a belief in God—explaining, perhaps, why the religious tend to not believe in them.

"You believe in UFOs? Stop being a pussy & face the Nausea of a meaningless existence!"

What can really be said about Dewey & her admirable insight on the belief in UFOs? My Cosmic Compadre señor Micah Hanks has shared his own thoughts at his blog, so there's hardly anything left for me to add. I'll only say that when it comes to fear, it comes in all shapes & sizes. And ascribing an existential fear as the basis of an UFOlogical interest might very well constitute a fear itself; one borne out of a refusal to accept that something as important as a non-human intelligence present in our world has been downplayed & overlooked by the powers at be, simply because its the only way to save face against a power that escapes their control --and fearing the idea of something controlling your life instead of you, is probably the reason many people embrace atheism instead. But hey, what do I know? I don't write for the Washington Post.

2 And it's also interesting Dewey neglects to consider that some people happen to believe in UFOs because, guess what: they've seen them. Shocking, I know.

And those people's numbers seem to be rising, at least in Canada. According to researcher Chris Rutkowski, who just finished compiling the Canadian UFO Survey for the year 2012, there were more than twice the number of UFOs reported than in the previous year --an average of five each day. Of those reports, only 7.5% were deemed unexplained.

The study found that more than half of all UFO sightings were of simple lights in the sky. Witnesses also reported point sources of light, spheres and boomerangs.
Results of this study show that many people continue to report unusual objects in the sky, and some of these objects do not have obvious explanations. Many witnesses are pilots, police and other individuals with reasonably good observing capabilities and good judgement.

Numbers of reported UFO sightings remain high. Several theories for this can be suggested: more UFOs are present and physically observable by witnesses; more secret or classified military exercises and overflights are occurring over populated areas; more people are unaware of the nature of conventional or natural objects in the sky; more people are taking the time to observe their surroundings; more people are able to report their sightings with easier access to the Internet and portable technology; or even that the downturn in the economy is leading to an increased desire by some people to look skyward for assistance.

Although the largest percentage of reported UFOs is simply lights in the night sky, a small number are objects with definite shapes observed within the witnesses’ frame of reference.

Popular opinion to the contrary, there is no incontrovertible evidence that some UFO cases involve extraterrestrial contact. The continued reporting of UFOs by the public and the yearly increase in numbers of UFO reports suggests a need for further examination of the phenomenon by social, medical and/or physical scientists.

So what about the spike? Chris & his colleague Geoff Dittman don't elaborate on that --after all, that's not their job-- but perhaps --& let's be clear I'm speculating here!-- people were raising their gaze upward more frequently due to the Mayan Apocalypse craze. There could also have been an increase of unidentified things in Canadian airspace which could be explained by way of radio controlled drones, or even flying cars crashing near schools --wait, what??

experimental flying car
Professor Frink Crashes his flying car

Yep, an experimental flying car crashed in British Columbia last week.  Perhaps the 'driver' lost control of the car while trying to avoid collision with a UFO. Anything can happen in those blue Canadian skies, eh?

1 Even without the increase of UFO activity, there's no denying that Canada is closer to space than ever before, thanks to the rising star of Chris Hadfield, who just recently returned to Earth after his 6-month mission as commander of the ISS --but not before he gave us this jewel of a music video, which keeps bringing tears to my eyes no matter how many times I've watched it:


Which in turn elicited this immediate reaction:


Fuck Yeah, Canada! That is all

Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out, encouraging you to add your voice to the symphony of Life.

Miguel Romero

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

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