Greetings, fellow Coppertops! In our continuing adventures inside the Fortean Matrix, we'll explore ancient caves in Tibet & modern weapons of mass embarrassment. We'll travel deep into the ocean to observe the world's largest volcano, and we'll fly up to the ISS to chat with the new member of the crew --he's 13 inches tall & very friendly, although he only speaks Japanese. And as comet ISON comes closer to the Sun bringing back old fears of UFO hysteria, we'll pay our respects to one of my personal heroes & role-models. Perhaps you've noticed the interior of the Nebuchadnezzar is now decorated in a festive manner; that's because September is the patriotic month for us Mexicans --meaning lots of tequila, delicious Mexican dishes & Mariachi music. How fitting that September *also* happens to be MU's PLUS month as well!
The downside of living in a country where EVERYTHING is delicious, is that you always have to worry about your waistline --unless you happen to be one of those lucky bastards who always stay slim, no matter how many tacos they gulp down in a single meal. Turns out the intestinal bacteria of these real-life Jugheads might be the best tool for losing weight, according to a study from Washington University in St. Louis. In tests performed with lab mice, the researchers transplanted gut microbes of obese & lean people into the rodents; microbes from lean people kept the mice thin, whereas the samples from obese people made the poor mice gain weight. When the two microbe types were allowed to mix, the lean microbes overtook the fat ones so long as the mice kept eating healthy food --I envision a miniature test of dodgeball inside the mouse belly.
The study doesn't mean your love handles would be magically erased with a simple fecal transplant --like the ones we discussed back in May-- which is kind of reassuring, because as a fat nerdy kid I suffered a lot of abuse from bullying assholes in school, until I decided not to take anymore of their shit; the last thing I need is to learn I should have kept taking their shit to get slimmer!
Speaking of people who take shit from no-one --especially TV networks-- Charlie Sheen, the former star of Two and a Half Men, is back in the news again & seems well on its way to becoming a professional cryptozoologist: Back in July he was seen hanging out in loch Ness on the lookout for the fabled beastie --or some decent Scotch whiskey... maybe both?-- and after that he flew t0 Alaska in search of the Kushtaka, who according to Sheen is "a shape-shifting trickster who is half man, half otter. It lures one away from the campsite with the mimicked sounds of a crying baby, then kills you, takes on YOUR form, and returns to the scene for more suckers or prey." Hmm... the crying baby sounds remind me of the Australian Yowie, something Aaron mentioned in the last episode of MU.
As it was the case in Scotland, Sheen & his posse didn't manage to sight the Kushtaka, which leads me to believe cryptids are naturally adverse to comic actors --Maybe Christian Bale would have better luck? We all know he has a knack for interrogations...
8 If Charlie is thinking of flying to the Himalayas in search of the Yeti, he might want to make a quick stop on the former kingdom of Mustang in north-central Nepal, where a gorge so large it dwarfs the Grand Canyon in Arizona is now the subject of an on-going archeological expedition --the kind that puts archeologists in serious jeopardy.
There, a team of mountaineers & archeologists lead by Pete Athans are exploring thousands of man-made caves carved into a sandy-colored cliff, 155 foot above the ground. The astonishing photographs captured by Cory Richards look as if they were taken in Tatooine, yet the whoever made those caves thousands of years before didn't have landspeeders or modern alpinist equipment --with which reaching the caves is still a dangerous ordeal-- so the researchers have no idea on how they managed to climb up there!
As for the purpose of the caves themselves, archaeologist Mark Aldenderfer proposes this general theory:
Aldenderfer divides cave use in Mustang into three general periods. First, as long as 3,000 years ago, the caves were burial chambers. Then, around 1,000 years ago, they became primarily living quarters. Within a few centuries, the Kali Gandaki Valley—the neck in the hourglass connecting Asia’s highlands and lowlands—may have been frequently battled over. “People were scared,” Aldenderfer says. Families, placing safety over convenience, moved into the caves.
Finally, by the 1400s, most people had moved into traditional villages. The caves were still used—as meditation chambers, military lookouts, or storage units. Some caves remained homes, and even today a few families live in them. “It’s warmer in winter,” says Yandu Bista, who was born in 1959 in a Mustang cave and resided in one until 2011. “But water is difficult to haul up.” [Source]
I still think these caves might hold some weird connection to the niches used in Chavín de Huantar to achieve visionary states. I also wonder: just what are the acoustic properties of that gorge? and would the caves help enhance them or not?
7 It's a good thing we don't need to live in caves anymore, although sometimes our modern dwellings can bring up unexpected hazards: Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly's new skyscraper is not only an affront to Londond's skyline --citizens call it the 'Walkie Talkie'-- but its curved glass facade is capable of focusing the ray of the sun so intensely it can even melt cars, something a CGI artist had predicted a year ago using a simple 3D mockup.
Hey, anyone can make mistakes, right? Problem is this is not the 1st time Viñoly's buildings turn into urban death-rays: the curving Vdara hotel in Vegas is already famous for burning the plastic drink cups --and even the hair!-- of hapless guests resting at the pool. As the 'Walkie Scorchie' developers are rushing to install protective screens on the window, Viñoly has come out to say the real villain in this story is none other than Climate Change:
"When I first came to London years ago, it wasn't like this," he said. "Now you have all these sunny days. So you should blame this thing on global warming too, right?"
But maybe Londoners could learn to love Viñoly's creation. If WW3 starts this month & knocks us back to the Stone Age, the Walkie Scorchie could turn into the city's main source of heat, thus becoming a sacred place like Stonehenge.
6 Speaking of Stonehenge with its geometric pattern made out of megaliths which have puzzled men for centuries, now a tiny geometric pattern made out of silk structures --that looks like a mini Isengard tower-- is making biologists scratch their heads.
The small structures (2cm across) were first spotted by graduate student Troy Alexander in the Peruvian jungle, and he posted a photo in the subreddit whatsthisbug hoping for some feedback. Turns out scientists are as puzzled as the Reddit members:
“I have no idea what made it, or even what it is,” said William Eberhard, an entomologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
“I’ve seen the photo, but have no idea what animal might be responsible,” echoed Norm Platnick, curator emeritus of spiders at the American Museum of Natural History.
“I don’t know what it is,” said arachnologist Linda Rayor, of Cornell University. “My guess is something like a lacewing, but I don’t really know.”
My personal guess is that aliens have given up on catching our attention with crop circles, so they're now turning their gaze to the insect world in search of a more sensible audience.
5 If there's one artist in this world who is obsessed with insects if Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro, who always finds in them an endless source of inspiration to exploit for his movies. His latest blockbuster Pacific Rim describes an invasion of monstrous aliens, coming to our planet through a dimensional portal at the bottom of the ocean.
I'm sure Guillermo will be pleased to learn geophysicist have just discovered the largest volcano on the entire solar system ---even bigger than Olimpus Mons on Mars!-- lurking at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The new volcano is being named Tamu Massif & has been inactive for 140 million years --but just to be on the safe side, maybe Elon Musk should use his sleek hand-gesturing modelling interface to start building some Jaegers?
4 Giant robots are cool, but talking robots are even cooler! And now Japanese robot Kirobo has made its global debut aboard the International Space Station with the 1st non-human message received from outer space...that we know of.
Kirobo's stunt came just in time to commemorate the official announcement of Tokyo winning the bid to host the Olympic games in 2020, which to any self-respecting Otaku would seem eerily synchromystic...
3 Unfortunately, Japan still has to solve that teeny weeny problem of a leaking radioactive plant threatening to poison all life in the oceans --no biggie, right?
The Japanese government is pledging to spend 47 billion Yens ($470 million US dollars) in a plan intended to stop the radioactive water from spreading, which sounds kinda crazy: a wall of frozen earth circling the reactors, using pipes pumping coolant into the soil.
"The world is closely watching whether we can dismantle the (Fukushima) plant, including the issue of contaminated water," said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"The government is determined to work hard to resolve the issue."
2 The world is also closely watching the arrival of comet ISON, which is not only causing excitement among star-gazing fans & professional astronomers, but is now beginning to excite the imagination of some UFO buffs: Some websites are claiming the comet is being 'escorted by UFOs,' based on some blurry images taken by the Hubble space telescope; which would make for some low-taste snarky attacks from the usual skeptoid groups, except that the shadow of the Heaven's Gate mass suicide of the late 90's still looms heavily in the horizon. Because of this the people in charge of the Space Telescope Science Institute deemed appropriate to set the record straight:
Richard White, principal investigator for the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, explained that the image was a composite, created by averaging the data from three separate camera exposures. The three objects are just different views of Comet ISON's nucleus.
"The comet itself does not have three pieces," White wrote. "They are an artifact from adding up the separate exposures. The comet does not look the same in each exposure because both the comet and the Hubble telescope are moving during the exposure. The comet is blurred, just as a picture taken out the window of a moving car will be blurred."
Although as Greg pointed out at TDG, this will no surely help fuel up the fires of conspiracy among the true believers. Oh well, if worse comes to pass we could always join Bill on the 'we lost a moron' dance...
Oh shit, I'm just starting to sound like them skeptoids!
1 You see, the biggest problem with the UFO phenomenon is not that governments keep their heads firmly stuck in the sand, or that it's exploited by TV networks & pop culture as the poster-child of pseudo-scientific thinking. No, the biggest problem is that ANYONE can come up & pretend to be an 'expert' on UFOs! You just need to read a few books, watch a few reruns of Unsolved Mysteries, interview a few witnesses & BAM! you're a bonafide UFOlogist with the right to be interviewed by Larry King or make a living in the lecture circuit.
Here's the lil dirty secret of the field, you kids: there are no experts on UFOs. And the best Litmus test one can apply in order to gauge the value of a researcher's claims is this: the more serious investigators are the ones claiming to have the less amount of answers.
One of those investigators was Pedro Ferriz Santa Cruz, the father of Mexican UFOlogy, who in his long career in broadcasting managed to popularize the topic of 'flying saucers' with his TV program Un Mundo Nos Vigila (A World is Watching Us) first in the 1950s, and later in the 90s when a second version of the program was aired, on account of the intense UFO wave experienced in Mexico around that time. Sadly, Don Pedro passed away last Tuesday at the age of 92.
If it weren't for his books & his continuing passion in trying to find an answer to biggest enigma facing mankind, you wouldn't find yourself reading these lines, dear reader. And I wouldn't have had the chance to let the enigma expand my horizons & improve my life, in more ways than I could've ever dared to imagine.
For that... & much more... muchísimas gracias, Don Pedro.
Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out, hoping you have the chance to meet your heroes -- as I did.