Greetings, fellow Coppertops! Our weekly adventure across the tapestry beneath Reality will reveal to us biped canids & telepathic rapes, deeper levels of brain activity & the true science behind science fiction weaponry. And as we put on our visor & diving gear to take a closer look to a mysterious pyramid submerged in the Atlantic, we'll try to take stock to the latest revelations confirming the watery past of the Red Planet. You know, it just occurred to me: Why didn't the machines think of destroying Zion by way of just flooding its caverns using the water of a lake or something? Seems to me that even synthetic villains ALWAYS like to do things the hard way...
It also seems Stephen Hawking just can't wait to live in a world ruled by machines! At the premiere of the documentary film about his life, he had no qualms in professing his allegiance to the Transhumanist movement --while also taking the opportunity to mock all the millions of people, who are still hoping to enjoy a more 'analog' form of immortality:
Speaking at the premiere of a documentary film about his life, the theoretical physicist said: "I think the brain is like a program in the mind, which is like a computer, so it's theoretically possible to copy the brain on to a computer and so provide a form of life after death.
"However, this is way beyond our present capabilities. I think the conventional afterlife is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark."
Unlike the 'new & improved' afterlife, sought mainly by those who have more money than they could spend in several lifetimes --right, professor?
And yet, many audiophiles would tell you that although digital music is practical & convenient, it doesn't hold a candle to the warmth & nuances that only old-fashioned vinyl records can deliver. Perhaps it's the same with the hereafter...
9 It's kind of ironic, if you think about it. After all, Hawking began making a name for himself by studying the intricacies of black holes, which back in the early years of his career were still theoretical constructs as yet unconfirmed by astronomical observation --or rather indirect observation, since black holes are... well, pretty darn black.
So maybe something similar happens with what we call 'paranormal phenomena': events that maybe will never be directly confirmed by conventional methods of inquiry, but can be inferred by their 'gravitational pull' --i.e. the persistent reports of witness throughout the years, and the indelible mark it's left on their lives.
Consider for example the multiple accounts of the legendary Michigan Dogman, a large canid-like creature with glowing eyes which can allegedly stand and walk on its hind legs. The cryptid was recently brought to the news by the Grand Haven Tribune, recounting testimonies which go back as far as 1938, and as recent as the mid-90's as told by a resident of Ottawa county.
Stories about the Dogman are as fringe as you can possibly get in the realm of Forteana --a man with the head of a dog?! why not a minotaur or a man with the head of a falcon, like the Egyptian god Horus?-- and yet Michigan keep on telling of their encounters. Perhaps there's something in the woods of Ottawa county which triggers some consistent form of hallucination, but more likely the answer is so strange we cannot even formulate the proper question yet.
One thing's for sure: As long as people keep telling the stories --and pop culture latches on to them-- the Dogman will keep on haunting the dark recess of our minds.
8 The problem of course, is when we let our inner demons control our decisions, and act out of fear & hysteria. When exploring the depths of the rabbit hole, it's always a good policy to be tied to a 'safe line', which can be either strong social relationships, other pastimes, or even a good sense of humor --trust me, it does work!
The historical events transpiring in Salem, Massachusetts during the XVIIth century, is the perfect cautionary tale to illustrate the consequences of hysteria-governed decisions. The events surrounding the infamous witch trials are known world-wide, but what few people know is that the execution of the people found guilty of witchcraft did not involve the cliched burning at the stake.
The first to be formally executed was Bridget Bishop. She was perceived as a promiscuous woman and a gossip. (Clearly, she must be a witch!) Though she pleaded innocent, the Special Court of Oyer and Terminer—the court set up to deal with the witch trials—found her guilty. On June 10, 1692 she was hanged on what would become known as Gallows Hill.
Eighteen more women followed in Bishop’s footsteps, swinging on Gallows Hill. Additionally, one elderly man named Giles Corey was pressed to death by heavy stones. Many more people were tried and sent to prison, and several of them died while incarcerated, including Sarah Osborne, one of the first “witches” convicted.
Funny enough, Tituba, who confessed to witchcraft right from the start, was simply let go a year after being imprisoned when someone paid to get her out of jail.
Alas, the (Catholic) Spanish Inquisition kept on burning witches well into the XVIIIth century; possibly out of the belief that upon Judgement Day they would be deprived of a body in which to be resurrected --apparently ashes are harder to reanimate than bone dust...
7 A modern news seeming to echo the Salem frenzy was posted on the Huff Post this past week: A 55-year-old from Utah convinced her husband of shooting their neighbor, whom she accused of 'telepathically raping' her(!):
Court documents obtained by both papers show that Meloney Selleneit convinced her husband that Pierce had 'telepathically raped' her on several occasions.
"She told Mr. Selleneit to 'go ahead' and shoot Mr. Pierce," according to Meloney Selleneit's arrest warrant, obtained by KSL. "Defendant also admitted that immediately before the shooting, as Mr. Selleneit stood at the door of his trailer preparing to shoot Mr. Pierce, defendant told Mr. Selleneit to 'go for it.'"
The victim's injuries were not life-threatening.
Meloney Selleneit will be sentenced next month.
Meloney also pleaded guilty of purchasing the gun her husband used. You see, he himself could not buy one, on account of a PREVIOUS felony involving the attempted sexual (non-telepathic) abuse of a child, for which he pleaded guilty but mentally ill.
Maybe it's just me, but I get the sense ESP crimes should be the least of the concerns of American citizens --firearms on the hands of feeble-minded felons on the other hand...
6 Ok, I also admit that lately I've been extolling the virtues of entheogens in this column. That doesn't mean one shouldn't be careful with substances that could have everlasting effects on your brain! As frail & fallible as the Transhumanist deem it, that squishy piece of wetware between your ears is the only one you'll ever get.
There's also no denying that our brain still hold a lot of unexpected surprises. An article on Scientific American discusses the discovery of a new type of brain signal previously unobserved in conventional EEG readings, which may force doctors to re-evaluate what it means to be 'brain dead': First detected in 2011 on a Romanian heart-attack patient lapsing in a coma state, the signal now called "v-complex" waves for its resemblance to the alphabet letter was eventually replicated on the Université de Montréal using cats induced into a heavy comma as test subjects.
The v-complex electrical impulses most likely originated in the hippocampus, an ancient structure located in the middle of the brain thought to be involved in memory storage and consolidation. The pulses generated by the hippocampus were reverberating and rippling out to other brain structures, the researchers wrote, eventually reaching the outer cortex, which is responsible for higher-order cognitive processes like thought and language.
In a conscious, healthy brain, the cortex sends signals down to the older brain regions that govern our baser urges. The researchers hypothesize that by placing the cats in such a deep coma, they may have shut off all brain activity in the cortex, at which point the hippocampus took over, and electrical signals began to be transmitted from the bottom up rather than top down.
“Everybody thinks that the flat line is the ultimate frontier of living brain,” says Florin Amzica, a neurophysiologist at Universite de Montreal and coauthor on the paper. He suspects the waves have not been discovered before simply because no one bothered to look.
Does this mean comma patients or those declared 'clinically dead' still retain some level of cognition? The Montreal scientists are not certain, but highly doubt it. Even though I'm hesitant of using such analogies, but perhaps under such conditions the brain enters a sort of 'hibernation' mode like modern laptops, in an attempt to safeguard the higher functions for as long as there's enough energy remaining among the nerve cells. Other neuroscientists remain skeptical, however, and consider the 'v-complex' waves as a result of a pharmacologically-induced comma.
As a layman, what's note-worthy for me is that Death is starting to look less as a definitive binary state --either you are or you aren't-- and more like a blurry process with a great deal of gradual levels. Perhaps declaring a human 'dead' should be considered as difficult as declaring a computer 'alive.'
5 The uncertainty neuroscientists display when tackling these difficult problems, should remind us that a proper response while applying the scientific method is that of humility, and not arrogance. Arrogance is to think the common man has nothing to contribute to the advancement of Science, and that letting radical notions to be trialed & contested in the square of public opinion is a worthless endeavor.
The reason I bring this up is due to Popular Science's decision to shut down the comment section at the bottom of their articles. The editors claim they neither have the time nor the resources to fend off the trolls denying the validity of their published material, so better to let them spew their anti-Science nonsense elsewhere, lest they confuse the minds of their readers in making them think they could actually have a valid point to make.
As a person who's suffered the stigma of censorship on various occasions, but also delved in discussions with people raising points I've deemed of little merit, I still stand by the opinion I had the liberty to share at io9 when discussing the error of Pop Sci's decision: Comments are not only about professing an opinion. They can lead to additional content, maybe tenuously or completely unrelated to the core topic, but that can nonetheless become a bonus to your experience as consumer —AND participator— of content.
Because without participation & exchange of ideas on the Internet, then we might as well go back to the good ole days of printed publishing, when libraries, magazine editors & newspapers were the sole outlet of knowledge, and publications like Popular Science didn't have to bother with updating their obsolete business model. Heck, last time I checked, Pop Sci still thought it needed to restrict their content based on geographical location --How novel!
"Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it." ~ Mark Twain
4 Let's continue exploring the issue of censorship, but with a different twist. Some people criticize the Star Wars prequels 'cleanliness' because they were used to the nitty-gritty 'frontier-like' aesthetics of the original films. That's actually was one of the few things I cut Lucas some slack for, because I understand the point he was trying to make --the fact that the Old Republic was prettier & cleaner, because under the Empire's ruling all forms of artistic suppression would have been suppressed.
A light saber is not a practical weapon; it's an elegant weapon, favored by the Jedi & the Sith over the clumsiness of a common blaster. And even though all my adult life I had felt resigned to consider light sabers as a piece of Sci-Fi that would never cross over to Reality, this recent news gives me a new hope: A group of scientists from Harvard & MIT have serendipitously stumbled upon a new state of matter in which light particles bind together like molecules --something that goes against all preconceived notions since photons, like Richard Dawkins, are devoid of mass (badum tish!).
To get the photons to interact with one another the team from the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms (a group led by [Harvard Professor of Physics Mikhail Lukin] alongside MIT Professor of Physics Vladan Vuletic) cooled rubidium atoms in a vacuum chamber to just a few degrees above absolute zero – the coldest possible temperature at which particles do not move.
When two photons were fired at the cloud they did not pass through it and exit individually (as had been expected) but emerged on the other side as a single molecule. This was due to the Rydberg blockade, which states that when an atom is excited (has energy imparted to it) nearby atoms cannot be excited to the same degree.
This meant that as the first photon excited atoms in the cloud but had to move on before the second photon could do the same. Lukin describes the end result as the photons pushing and pulling each other through the cloud.
The coolest part of this story aside from the prospect of one day wielding real-life light sabers --WHO CARES about quantum computers?-- is the names of the scientists involved: Lukin (as in Luke Skywalker) and Vladan (as in Vader). Not only does God play dice with the Universe, He/She plays with d20's.
3 We all know Star Wars is now a property of Disney --a.k.a. The Octopus-- but we don't know what their new upcoming film Tomorrowland, directed by Brad Bird, will be about. Originally code-named 1952, it was thought by some to be based on the famous UFO wave that hit the United State's capital on that fateful year. Now comes word from celebrated web artist Matthew Inman --a.k.a. The Oatmeal-- that he recently attended a meeting with Disney executives & Bird himself, which led him to suspect Tomorrowland will be centered around the figure of Nicola Tesla; Inman is directly involved in the funding & construction of a future Tesla museum, which explains why the House of the Mouse wanted his input re. the contents of a cardboard box found in Walt Disney's archives--a box already used in tantalizing teasers intended to promote the film.
They also showed me the box which, according to Disney, was uncovered in Disney's archives after years of neglect. Inside was a bunch of memorabilia from the early days of Walt Disney. When looking in this box, they asked me to focus on a few items pertaining to Tesla, including a letter that described a supposed meeting that took place at the 1889 World's Fair between Tesla, Gustave Eiffel, Thomas Edison, and Jules Verne (which, as far as I know, never happened).
The contents of the box were later displayed at D23, and Slashfilm did a very thorough job of explaining what was inside.
The story of the 1889 World's Fair remind me of Sesh Heri's novel Wonder of the Worlds, which centers around a (fictional) encounter between Tesla, Mark Twain & Harry Houdini during the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago, which propels the plot into a bizarre thriller involving airships, Ley lines & even Martians. Would something like this --or even the Black Knight satellite mythos-- be explored in Tomorrowland? Is Bird pretending to portray a Disneyfied Breakaway Civilization?
2 I've always loved the idea of combining the ancient past with the future. That's why I loved Star Wars as a kid, and why I loved Battlestar Galactica as an adult. I still firmly believe that the key to our destiny lies in first unraveling who we really are & where we come from.
In perhaps one of the most exciting archeological news of the year, an underwater pyramidal structure has been detected just 40 meters off the coast of Isla Terceira, one of the larger islands in the Azores archipelago. The discovery was made by private yacht owner Diocleciano Silva using "GPS digital technology" (sonar?) & is already have Graham Hancock pretty excited & ready to take his old diving suit out of the closet.
And while the usual cynics & skeptics are quick to point out this feature --if confirmed-- does not give further credence to the Platonic legend of Atlantis, perhaps they should divert their attention to the recent massive earthquake registered in Pakistan, which caused the creation of a new island off the nation's southern coast. If a quake can make an island rise from the sea on a single day... why not sink it too?
1 Underwater pyramids are fascinating, but Martian pyramids are even more so. Though I wouldn't sign up to be part of Mars ONE, I pray I'm still around to witness the steps of the first men on the surface of the Red Planet.
The future colonization of Mars might have just received its biggest boost: This week NASA scientists confirmed that the soil samples scooped by the Curiosity rover last year had an unexpectedly high amount of water (about 2%). No longer will we be discussing Martian water reservoirs in the past tense, for now we know there's still plenty of precious H20 left in its surface --perhaps enough to sustain future human habitation.
I know I know. By now all the evidence for water on Mars feels like CGI explosions on a Michael Bay flick: a pile of shredded cheese hiding our nachos. But large quantities of water could also be used to produce rocket fuel on-site, like Robert Zubrin has been proposing all along.
Bottom-line: we're running out of excuses NOT to go.
Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. Remember what the spiders of Mars taught Peter Parker: With great power comes reverse French kissing.