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Red Pills of the Week — September 21st

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! On our continuing adventures inside the Fortean Matrix, this week we’ll discover extraterrestrial impacts & Persian cats in space, walking beer kegs & Bigfoot maps. And as we analyze the unholy union between TED & Monsanto, we”ll try to uncover the truth behind creepy clowns haunting the streets of Northampton, England. We’ll also try to make an appointment with the Architect, to see if the torrential rains afflicting Mexico are the result of a glitch in the Matrix; but in the meantime, please consider making a donation to the American or Mexican Red Cross, or any other NGO of your choosing, to help the people afflicted by this natural disaster –on behalf of my paisanos, thank you in advance.

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comet

Water can also come from outer space, as a result of a cometary impact. And now scientists are realizing these cosmic collisions might be an essential ingredient in the alchemical process of Life: a group of scientists from the Imperial College London, the University of Kent and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have discovered that when a comet slams into a planetary surface, the energy released causes the water & carbon dioxide ice to create more complex organic molecules such as amino-acids, the basic building blocks of life. Their research was published online on the Nature Geoscience journal website, on September 15.

The researchers discovered that when a comet impacts on a world it creates a shock wave that generates molecules that make up amino acids. The impact of the shock wave also generates heat, which then transforms these molecules into amino acids.

The team made their discovery by recreating the impact of a comet by firing projectiles through a large high speed gun. This gun, located at the University of Kent, uses compressed gas to propel projectiles at speeds of 7.15 kilometres per second into targets of ice mixtures, which have a similar composition to comets. The resulting impact created amino acids such as glycine and D-and L-alanine.

PEW-PEWingfor Science!

9 But the last news story did not manage to make much of an impact (no pun intended) when compared to the next image from planet Mercury that turned viral this past week: a b/w photograph taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft in 2011, showing a block of crust jutting out of the surface which vaguely resembles a human figure.

Mercury_humanoid

To most geeks, the formation reminds them of the most famous space pirate in Sci-Fi, trapped in a slab of carbonite for dumping Jabba’s cargo. But that’s because most geeks have a very limited musical taste…

21 years later & Freddie's still ROCKing us

21 years later & Freddie’s still ROCKing us

8 Let’s now jump ahead to another world in our solar system: Mars. This week there was some bad news for people hoping to find life still clinging to the red sands of our sister planet –at least life that farts methane into the atmosphere.

NASA has just reported that the rover Curiosity has failed to detect any traces of methane, which makes for a harder case for the presence of Martian microorganisms in the surface, even though there are plenty of lifeforms on Earth which don’t produce methane. This new finding seems to contradict the readings taken by orbiting probes & Earth-based telescopes, which in the past have confirmed the presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere. So either our own atmosphere skewed the results, or the presence of methane on Mars is seasonal and there’s some unknown process that quickly destroys the molecules –perhaps a methane-sucking Martian?

Whatever the answer, it’s clear that NASA is currently following the plan of looking for life as all we know it. But perhaps we should start looking for life as we DON’T know it?

7 If Curiosity hit the jackpot & photographed the fossil of an ancient organism lying on the surface of the Red planet, our first logical assumption would be that it was an indigenous life-form, yet that might not necessarily be the case. What if it was a specimen sent by an alien race, the same way we were sending dogs & chimps during the Dawn of the Space race?

We’ve discussed the Iranian space program in the past, and the controversy surrounding the claim of having sent a monkey inside one of their capsules. Now came the announcement made by the official IRNA news agency that the next animal they’re planning to vaporize launch is a Persian cat; because we ALL know cats are docile creatures & great for following instructions to the letter, right?

Grumpy-in-Space

6 But what about the American space program? Have the Yanks renounced to the goal of leading humanity’s colonization of the final frontier, or have they resorted to funnel all energy & resources to a more secretive program, which some consider to be far more advanced in scope than what we currently consider possible?

free-gary-mckinnon

One person who sought to find out, and paid a heavy price for his curiosity was British hacker Gary McKinnon, who after a long & arduous legal battle managed to thwart the United States’ efforts to have him extradited. Luckily Gary enjoyed the backing of many international fans, along with the support of his mother, Janis Sharp. Now Janis has written a book describing the 10-year ordeal to save his son from ending the rest of his life in a Guantanamo cell, after his son was accused of one of the largest cyber-spying crimes in modern history, fueled by his desire to learn the truth about UFOs.

Asked what sparked her decision to pen the 352-page memoir, Janis told the WHT: “During my fight for Gary a lot of people suggested I write a book, but it was the last thing I was thinking about and I wasn’t interested.

“In fact I didn’t even keep a diary, as all I could think about was fighting to keep Gary safe in the UK.”

She added: “I hoped that Gary would write a book as I thought it might help him by giving him an outlet to express his feelings about all that he had gone through.

“But Gary is still in recovery mode and needs time before he could face reliving the hell he went through.”

“Basically at the age of 64 years, my husband and I are starting all over again.”

You can order a copy of the book here. A Kindle edition is also available.

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SciSource_BT0451-as-Smart-Object-1-600x423

To face the entire legal apparatus of both the United States & the UK takes a whole lot of guts. It also takes a special kind of gut to be able to convert rich-carbohydrate foods like bread of bagels into beer, which is exactly what happened inside the belly of a 61-year old Texan. Ladies & gentleman, meet the Human Brewery!

“He would get drunk out of the blue,” nursing dean Barabara Cordell of Panola College in Carthage, Texas, told NPR’s  “the salt” food blog. The man’s wife, a nurse, purchased a breathalyzer and found that (often after exercise or not eating) his blood-alcohol level was regularly four to five times the U.S. legal limit of 0.08 percent.

The answer to this biological riddle need not to invoke a rather lame –yet still awesome– X-men mutation, though. The man had been a home brewer for many years & during that time he’d been exposed to yeast, the fungi responsible for the fermentation of beer. When an anti-biotic treatment killed off most of the man’s intestinal flora, the yeast took vacancy on the gut’s available real estate.

Beside the Guinness-like quality of this Red Pill, the story helps to reaffirm the importance of the oft-neglected ecosystem living within each & every one of us. We do contain multitudes, as Nietzsche once wrote.

4 ‘Visceral’ is one way to describe most folks’ approach to Cryptozoology –they feel it in their gut that Bigfoot is a real being, awaited to be found & confirmed by modern Science.

Yet the problem with most Bigfoot hunters is that they’ve failed to approach the problem from a XXIst-century perspective. They’ve embraced the use of night vision goggles & automatic trail cams, but other than that they still keep searching for Sasquatch the same way René Dahinden did half a century ago. Maybe it’s time for Squatchery to fully enter the digital age.

Which is exactly what Penn State PhD candidate Joshua Stevens intended to do, with his graphic visualization of 92 years of Bigfoot reports. The map shows a total of 3,313 sightings reported between 1923 & 2013, which reveals at first glance a lot of interesting ‘clusters’:

“Right away you can see that sightings are not evenly distributed. At first glance, it looks a lot like a map of population distribution. After all, you would expect sightings to be the most frequent in areas where there are a lot of people. But a bivariate view of the data (right) shows a very different story. There are distinct regions where sightings are incredibly common, despite a very sparse population. On the other hand, in some of the most densely populated areas sasquatch sightings are exceedingly rare.

SasquatchSightings_Small1

I don’t have a really good explanation for this. These are sasquatch sightings we’re talking about and I’m way out of my area of expertise (do bigfoot experts exist?). But it’s clear that if the legendary biped is real, it’s thriving out west.”

Make no mistake: Stevens is far from being a doe-eyed believer in hairy bipeds roaming across the Pacific Northwest. But his exercise should be embraced & emulated by all the groups claiming to be serious in their intention to prove the existence of Bigfoot. The fact that it’s taken so long before anyone decided to come up with a map like this underscores the need for a new approach in Cryptozoology.

Bigfooters must realize computers can be used for things other than posting blurry videos on Youtube.

3 Data-mining seems to be the name of the game, and nobody beats Google at it. The Silicon Valley giant is always looking to undertake unorthodox challenges outside their natural area of expertise –e.g. the Google Glass, the Loon balloons & their self-driving car project– and now they are about to announce Calico, by far their most ambitious endeavor to date, because it won’t just deal with computer algorithms & heuristic systems –it will deal with the (indefinite?) extension of the human lifespan.

Based in the Bay Area, not far from Google’s headquarters, Calico will be making longer-term bets than most health care firms. “In some industries, it takes ten or 20 years to go from an idea to something being real. Healthcare is certainly one of those ares,” said [Larry] Page. “Maybe we should shoot for the things that are really, really important so ten or 20 years from now we have those things done.”

I’ve listened to my friends Ben & Aaron discuss the ultimate goals & aspirations of the Transhumanist movement (cult?) in the last episodes of MU. And although I tend to agree with most of what Aaron says when he questions whether humans are not meant to live 150 years or longer, being a natural-born Contrarian I feel obliged to point out: maybe in the Neolithic Age, people thought humans were not meant to live past the age of 30.

Whatever the future has in store for us, I can guarantee you this: it will arrive before we’re ready for it.

2 No matter how noble the intentions of Page & Brin would initially seem, we must make sure to keep a vigilant eye on them. For sooner or later when companies & institutions grow too large, they ultimately start deviating from their original intentions due to the gravitational pull of Conformity itself.

TED is a perfect example of this: We’ve criticized them before for their clumsy censorship of the talks given by Hancock & Sheldrake earlier this year, but now comes news of an even bigger scandal: Over at Natural News, the editor points out to a TEDx memo clearly stating the organization’s policy re. GMOs –anyone opposing Frankenfoods are de-facto Woo Woo pseudoscientists!

This is particularly worrisome, because it underscores TED approach to controversial topics –the kind of things you encounter more frequently the moment you’re entering into new territories– and that is, a complete lack of respect for the things that might contravene huge corporate interests. The kind of interests that allow the TED attendees to spend $7,500 a year to go to the live conferences…

But perhaps the TEDster should pay more attention to what Abby Martin says in the latest episode of Breaking the Set (skip to 1:37);

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8ko6vlNxJ0[/youtube]

The sad thing about all this though, is that TED current policy might eliminate the participation of voices willing to speak against Monsanto’s bullying policies –voices like 11-year-old Birke Baehr:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/b5OOOIKtj8w[/youtube]

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northampton-clown

Monsanto & Frankenfoods creep me out for sure, but not as much as clowns. Ever since I watched the film based on Stephen King’s It I want to spray napalm inside the baggy pants of those red-nosed bastards, just to be on the safe side.

In what was surely the most surreal story of the last week, the townsfolk of Northampton England –home of the legendary writer/magician Alan Moore– began to report a spooky clown haunting the streets of their community, which had an eerily resemblance to the demonic character Pennywise from King’s book. Initially it was thought the harlequin figure was connected to a short film recently shot at Northampton titled ‘The Local Clown’, but further inquiries concluded the film-makers were in no way involved with the Pennywise impersonator.

That the clown is directly related to Stephen King’s novel –originally published on September 15th 1986–  can be deduced from the fact that in the story, Pennywise was said to re-emerge every 27 years.

Even Moore himself has come out on the record denying any knowledge on the identity & intentions of the Northampton clown, though for a man continually trying to perforate the thin membrane separating Ideaspace from ordinary reality, the idea of a creepy clown roaming the streets near his home is hardly surprising:

“I am getting kind of used to this. After having a comic strip I wrote 30 years ago spewing masked anarchists across the global political stage for the past couple of years. Things that I write do have a tendency to spill into reality. Since that was one of the principles behind Jimmy’s End [an episode in The Show] – to blur the boundaries between one and the other – I suppose that getting clowns manifesting in my neighbourhood is only to be expected.”

The clown has agreed on an interview explaining the motives behind his appearances –i.e. for the LULz of it– without revealing his true identity, though I seriously doubt he’ll manage to remain anonymous for much longer. Personally, I can attest to the fact that when you decide to embody an idea or character emanating from the realm of Imagination, magical things can happen.

And if you want to know what I’m talking about, meet me next month at the Paradigm symposium –I’ll be the 6′-4″ guy wearing a red luchador mask.

Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. Hoping you have the courage to become the hero in your own comic book story.

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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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