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Red Pills of the Week — October 26th

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! Did you all miss me? After a brief but long-needed break we’re back at the cabin of the Nebuchadnezzar, ready to deliver another batch of mind-expanding Red Pills, ranging from the Cryptozoological to the Ufological, without forgetting to add a few scientific tidbits for good measure. If you were among the dozens who participated in last week’s Paradigm Symposium, I hope you had as great a time as I did –and if you wanted to attend, but for some reason or another ended up dragging your feet, let go of your fears already & choose to free your mind next year!

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We need to start by mentioning what should have been last week’s #1 Red Pill: By now, news that renowned Oxford university geneticist Bryan Sykes has made a ground breaking discovery with his Bigfoot/Yeti project, has reached every corner of the interwebz. His astonishing conclusion? That the hair samples collected from a mummified corpse alleged to be the mythical Yeti –along with other samples obtained in recent times– belong to an undiscovered hybrid of the polar bear, having a 100% match with a fossil jawbone found in Svalbard (Norway) in 2004 –wonder if they also found a matching metal armor too…

yeti-bear

Reaction to this news across the Cryptoforums & even the skeptic pages is both varied & interesting. True, deep inside we all wanted the Abominable Snowman to be just that: a man, or something more closely resembling to it than a bear. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has been quick to point out that Yeti is a blanket term created by Westerners to describe a range of creatures belonging to Tibetan & Nepalese folklore; Sykes’s hair samples may belong to the giant Dzu-Teh, which should not be confused with the more human-like Meh-Teh –the same way Malay & Indonesians speak of the orang-outang, the reddish ape we’re all familiar with, & the orang-pendek, a cryptid said to be more human like which still awaits official recognition.

But even if hardcore skeptics think that the legend of the Meh-Teh, is a pathetic attempt to cling to the hope of finding & undiscovered ape-like creature roaming the jungles & hills of the Himalayas, perhaps they should consider that it’s their snark & mockery one of the reasons serious research like the one performed by Sykes takes a long time to come by. Out of folklore & myth now comes a living animal that awaits to be formally found.

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skull5

Still, Sykes’s media hype originally promised to deliver something that would ‘rock the foundations of human history,’ so there may yet be even more shocking news in the horizon with regards to the other tissue samples he’s been analyzing. While we wait with eager anticipation, I invite you to take a trip to the townlet of Dmanisi in the former Russian republic of Georgia. There, scientists have uncovered a skull said to be 1.8 million years old, that could potentially revolutionize our current notions of human evolution:

“The differences between these Dmanisi fossils are no more pronounced than those between five modern humans or five chimpanzees,” said Dr David Lordkipanidze from the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi, a lead author of a paper in the journal Science and co-author of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Traditionally, researchers have used variation among Homo fossils to define different species. But in light of these new findings, Dr Lordkipanidze and his colleagues suggest that early, diverse Homo fossils, with their origins in Africa, actually represent variation among members of a single, evolving lineage – most appropriately, Homo erectus.

“Had the braincase and the face of Skull 5 been found as separate fossils at different sites in Africa, they might have been attributed to different species,” said Dr Christoph Zollikofer from the Anthropological Institute and Museum in Zurich, Switzerland, a co-author of the Science paper.

Fascinating. This serendipitous finding could force us to rewrite 150 years of Anthropology books. But what if the morphological differences in these individuals were the result of them being of different species? Why only assume that a group or tribe would ONLY be formed with members sharing the same origin?

8 Let’s talk some more about morphological differences: Back at the Paradigm symposium one of the speakers, biologist PZ Myers, mentioned during his presentation (among other things which I won’t get into here; for that I suggest you listen to this) that the portion of the human genome commonly referred to as ‘junk DNA’ is just that –junk, by which I guess he meant it served no ulterior purpose. But a team of researchers led Axel Visel of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, have found evidence that our ‘junk’ may be responsible for shaping one of the most relevant elements, in our day-to-day interaction with other humans: our faces.

woman-face

Experimenting with mice, Visel & his team found that although the junk DNA does not encode proteins, there are regions in it that regulate the genes that code for facial features, which they call ‘transcriptional enhancers.’ Tweaking the enhancers might mean the difference between having a face like Salma Hayek, or looking like Rhea Perlman.

The moral of the story is clear: just because you still haven’t found any use for it, you should refrain from calling something ‘junk.’ That goes for genes, or even the paranormal.

7 We started the column with one type of cryptid, so let’s switch to another: Sea serpents. For many years countless mariners told tales of these marine monsters, which have been mostly relegated to the Fantasy cabinet along with unicorns & dragons. Yet even mainstream biologists think there are some strange-looking animals which might have been responsible for much of the sea serpent lore –like the oarfish, which can grow to lengths up to 50 feet.

oarfish-found

Oarfish are incredibly rare, since they usually inhabit the deep regions of the ocean. But recently there’s been not one but TWO findings of oarfish carcasses on the coasts of California. The first one was found by science instructor Jasmine Santana while swimming at Catalina island; not long after, a second giant oarfish washed ashore at Oceanside harbor.

While fascinating, I don’t know if oarfish match the typical description of a sea serpent, since any fish we know swims by moving its body side by side, whereas the classic description of the sea serpent shows the monster propelling its body up & down –like a mammal. Having said that, another interesting aspect of the oarfish is that in Japanese folklore they were considered emissaries of the gods, and their appearance would forecast a major earthquake –something that it’s already being exploited by some websites.

Folkloric notions aside, I hardly think it’s presumptuous to acknowledge some animal species are far more sensitive to natural distresses than we are. If we take the decline in bee population as something worth pay attention to, why not the atypical appearance of bottom-dwelling critters like the oarfish?

6 A wise man pays close attention to its surroundings. A wise society does the same, and keeps a record of the changes in order to ensure its continuity. Last October 25th our sun released not one but TWO X-class solar flares just hours between each other. X-class are at the top of the scale given the amount of energy they release.

(Yeah I know, soundtrack is waaaay too dramatic)

Thankfully neither of these solar tsunamis were aimed directly to Earth. But it makes you think, though? Why the hell aren’t we starting international discussions in order to implement safety measure in case one of these space storms eventually hits us??

Oh right. I forgot that thinking way ahead is not the surest way to earn votes…

5 If a massive solar flare triggers another Carrington event, our modern civilization would be doomed, but I guess humans would still find a way to survive. Back in the 80’s when they’d show you ‘The Day After’ during class every student in the Western hemisphere was left with the impression that, in the even of Nuclear conflagration, only rats & cockroaches would be able to live off the radioactive wasteland –then Fallout 3 came & the prospect of Atomic Armageddon started to look kinda fun.

But before roaches supplant us as the rulers of this world, we still have a chance to show them who’s boss! A company in Michigan has released an iPhone app that let’s you take control of a cockroach using electric impulses. With your smartphone allowing you to control the movements of your very own Roboroach, the sky is the limit to what you can do with it!

…Just try to avoid large shoes.

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facetattoo

I admit it: The 5th Element is one of my Sci-Fi guilty pleasures. I love the whole premise of it, from the Ancient Aliens background to the kitschy take on the Space Opera genre. Though I wouldn’t like to live in Corben Dallas’s micro apartment, I’ve often dreamed of living in an age when transluminal travel has been mastered.

Would the people living in the Age on interstellar travel be much different from us? Or would we still be able to recognize in them some of the trends still persisting in our own age, some of them harkening back to thousands of years. Take tattoos for example: Nowadays they are nothing but a fashion or cultural statement; but the many markings adorning the body of Ötzi, the famous Copper-Age mummy recovered in the Austrian-Italian Alps, seem to have served a therapeutic purpose:

Ötzi is covered with more than 50 tattoos in the form of lines and crosses made up of small incisions in his skin into which charcoal was rubbed. Because they are all found on parts of the body that show evidence of a lifetime of wear and tear—the ankles, wrists, knees, Achilles tendon, and lower back, for example—it’s thought that Ötzi’s tattoos were therapeutic, not decorative or symbolic. When Ötzi was first studied, archaeologists were shocked because they had never before seen Copper Age tattoos, and because acupuncture as a treatment for joint distress, rheumatism, and arthritis was thought to have originated in Asia more than 2,000 years later.

I wonder about the beginning of this ancient magical practice, and whether this was the original purpose of inscribing symbols in the human body.

3 But tattoos & other so-called magic paraphernalia are not the REAL source of Magic. That has always been the human mind & its ability to focus intent, in order to transform an internal wish into external reality. For what is our modern civilization, but the realm in which the fruits of human imagination have crystallized into the tools to reshape our world?

The next Pill is another nice example on how the arcanum of the human mind can literally yield countless treasures: An Indian holy man had a dream of king Rao Ram Baksh Singh,  who was executed in the XIXth century for rising against the British. In the dream, the king told the swami the location of a massive treasure, and after disclosing this information to an Indian minister, a group of geologists & archeologists investigated the site, and allegedly detected evidence of heavy metal 20 meters below the surface.

Was the swami visited by the spirit of a dead king? Was his mind tapping into the collective unconscious in order to retrieve this information? Whatever the answer, if the treasure is located it would prove there’s more to dreams than our modern assumptions, that they’re just quaint simulacra produced by our brains running on shut-down mode.

2 I’ve often dreamed of UFOs. And the dreams are sometimes frightening, yet I couldn’t categorize them as actual nightmares. The real nightmare for me, is to be oblivious of the deeper currents shaping the topography of Reality.

UFOs are the cosmic alarm clock meant to wake us up.

Over at The Daily Grail I found the link to this rather intriguing Youtube clip, claimed to be ‘a military training video shot over Syria’ in which 2 triangular craft are displaying some slow albeit fantastic maneuvers.

http://youtu.be/wUF5h3PX4y8

The blog Anything UFOs claims these are TR-3B secret military aircraft, which have been mentioned repeatedly throughout the years whenever the theory that UAPs are human-made technology has been brought up. Some researchers think such experimental aircraft were behind such notorious cases as the Belgian UFO flap of 1989, or the ‘Boomerang’ craft –as big as a football stadium!– that were reported over the Hudson valley region in New York, also in the 1980s.

I don’t know if I buy into this explanation. For starters either the people testing experimental propulsion systems over populated areas were criminally irresponsible, or the technologies were mature enough by then to be fool-proof, in which case we should be seeing them in the ‘white world’ by then.

As for the video, since there’s no way to prove its provenance & it shows no clear point of reference, one could claim it’s worthless. It might even be a CGI hoax, yet it’s so damn boring I kinda doubt it. I think there’s something about it that I find very interesting –what it is I haven’t figured it out yet.

1 UFOs. UAPs. OVNIs. Flying Saucers. Soucupe Volantes. They are the reason I’m typing these letters on my computer, and in many ways have been the main drive of my life. I am forever trapped by the tractor beam of the alluring mystery surrounding them, and I feel with certainty I’ll never be free of their shadow.

You could say that, in many respects, I’m forever an alien abductee.

UFOs are regarded as the low-brow side of pop culture in the United States, but other nations take them much more seriously. One of those nations is Peru, which has recently announced it has re-opened their official agency in charge of investigation anomalous aerial phenomena. The decisions was taken due to a recent increase in UFO sightings, particularly over the Andean town of Marabamba where luminous objects have been spotted over several days.

Over at the Huff Post, Lee Spiegel has this to say about the Peruvian’s government decision:

South America has an open-minded attitude about UFOs. Government officials don’t tend to shy away from, downplay or even ridicule reports that come from local citizens.

Thank you Peru, for showing the world UFOs should be taken seriously & are worthy of official investigation.

…Also thank you for Shakira 😉

Until next time this is RPJ jacking out, reminding you the hips don’t lie –so pay attention to them!

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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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