Greetings, fellow Coppertops! On this week's edition of the wackiest column in the Fortean blogosphere, we will learn about the Top Gun encounters between Iranian jet fighters & UFOs; we will study how the USA government shutdown affects Science, while Russia treats Greenpeace activists as pirates. And as we take out the popcorn to enjoy the latest Roswell imbroglio, we'll also put on our 3D glasses to better enjoy the HD quality of the Chewbacca costume showed on the latest Bigfoot press conference. I hope this doesn't take me too long to write since I'm typing with just one hand, while the other is holding a bag of ice; you see, I celebrated my 40th spin around the Solar System yesterday & I may have drunk one cerveza too many --not to the "Dude where's my Nebuchadnezzar?" point... but damn close!
They say drunkards have nasty encounters with pink elephants, but Iranian jet fighters seem to have close encounters of the 2nd kind on a regular basis: Our friend at Open Minds Jason McClellan received a wonderful tip from one of their fans, about an article published in the latest edition of Combat Aircraft Monthly, a military magazine dedicated to fighter jets: mainly focusing in the history of the F-14 Tomcat in the Iranian Air Force, the article briefly mentions how the F-14s have been sent to intercept UFOs for the last 20 years; and even though the Iranians are convinced these unknowns are spy drones deployed by the United States, the flying capacity displayed by the objects in some of these encounters seem out of this world:
In one case over Arak in November 2004, the crew of an F-14A armed with two AIM-9Js and two AIM-7E-4s spotted a luminous object flying near the heavy water plant of the Arak site. When the beam of the jet’s AN/AWG-9 radar “painted” the object, both the RIO and pilot saw that the radar scope was disrupted, probably due to the high magnetic energy of the object increasing the power of the reflected radar waves. The pilot described the object as being spherical, with something like a green afterburner creating a considerable amount of turbulence behind it. The Tomcat crew achieved a lock-on when it was flying a linear and constant flight path. Once the pilot selected an AIM-7E-4 to launch against it, the object increased its speed and then disappeared like a meteor.
Seasoned students of the UFO phenomenon will no doubt remember the famous 1976 incident over the city of Tehran, which even caught the attention of the CIA. It's interesting to learn dogfights between Iranian aircraft & UFOs have persisted throughout the years.
Even though I no longer think of UFOs are necessarily having an interplanetary origin, there's no denying the ETH is still one of the most convenient explanations for the phenomenon --perhaps too convenient.
It's now time to fire the rocket engines & head out to Mars, in which some of its most enigmatic geological features are now the subject of a scientific controversy: Joseph Michalski, of the Planetary Science Institute & Jacob Bleacher, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, have just published a paper on Nature proposing that some of Mar's deep craters are the remnants of ancient supervolcanoes, which could have changed the Martian climate millions of years ago, by way of spewing tonnes of ash into the atmosphere & cooling the temperatures in the surface.
The supervolcano candidates listed in the Nature paper include Eden Patera as well as Siloe, Euphrates, Ismenia and Oxus Patera. Michalski and Bleacher say these features don't fit their criteria for impact craters — in part because they don't have well-defined rims or evidence of impact debris, and are too deep to fit the profile for eroded ancient craters. They say more such features might be found elsewhere on Mars.
Most scientists are not convinced by this new hypothesis, and think the craters are just the result of cosmic impacts. But since Mars already has the (second) largest volcano in the solar system --Olympus Mons-- perhaps Michalsky & Bleacher's idea is not that far-fetched.
8 If a giant volcano erupted on Mars right now, perhaps we would never know about it due to the on-going government shutdown in the United States, which is affecting the scientific labor of NASA & several other government-funded institutions. Gizmodo Australia gives a very comprehensive list of all the projects or studies affected by the shutdown :
But looking on the bright side, we all added 'furlough' into our general vocabulary.
If you're annoyed for being deprived of your beloved PandaCam, you'll be genuinely enraged with the next Red Pill: George Edwards, who in 2012 claimed to have taken "the most convincing Loch Ness monster photo ever," has now publicly admitted he committed a hoax --something we already knew when we covered this story last year.
“I stand by my picture. It is genuine. I took it in November as as far as I am concerned it constitutes the latest sighting of the Loch Ness Monster.” ~George Edwards in August of 2012
"Why should I feel guilty for having a bit of fun? 'Where would Loch Ness be without the world’s best known forgery, the Surgeon’s Photograph?" ~George Edwards in October of 2013
Edwards says he planned the hoax as a way to take revenge on those 'experts' who take themselves & the loch Ness monster too seriously. Unlike him, who prefers to have a bit of fun & collect the money of folks hiring his touring services...
I don't have a problem to taking a laid-back attitude on Fortean phenomena --that's almost the whole point of this column-- but I don't give excuses or justifications to deliberate charlatanry. Edwards should be shunned away by the townsfolk living near the loch, for he is the kind of person who gives skeptics the chance to say Nessie is nothing but a myth kept alive in order to boost tourism.
Perhaps Edwards should consider relocating his touring business to lake Natron in Northern Tanzania, which seems like something worthy of Mordor's borders: Its waters are so alkaline that almost any animal submerging on them will die & be turned into a calcified corpse. Amazed by the eerie sight, photographer Nick Brandt took the opportunity to use the petrified birds & pose them with the lake as a background.
The result is both mesmerizing & disturbing, and he titled the collection Across the Ravaged Land --Me, I would've called them Medusa Lake, which sounds way more appropriate than Natron.
An inhospitable lake filled with poisonous water is scary, but a swarm of Asian giant hornets bigger than your thumb is the very stuff of nightmares. Many news outlets are reporting the terrorific arthropods have killed at least 19 people in China in the last 3 months --and you thought we only needed to worry about bird flu & powder milk coming from their borders!
The hornets' venom contains a neurotoxin powerful enough to dissolve human tissue. Sadly, Chen Changlin knows all about that. While he survived a recent hornet attack in China's Shaanxi province, a woman and child weren't so lucky.
"I ran and shouted for help, but the hornets chased me about 200m, and stung me for more than three minutes," Chen told China Youth Daily.
"The more you run, the more they want to chase you," another hornet victim said. When this man was admitted to hospital, his urine was the colour of soy sauce, CNN reports.
Vladimir Putin might not be as afraid of fearsome hornets as he is of fearless activists: Last month the crew of the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise was seized by Russian authorities after performing a peaceful protest at an oil drilling platform located in the Arctic circle. Everyone on board was accused of piracy & face up to 15 years in prison.
Writing for VICE, Seán Doyle explains why Russia is going to such extremes against Greenpeace antics:
A 2013 report from professional services firm Ernst and Young argued that the Arctic "could account for as much as 20 percent of the world’s undiscovered but recoverable oil and natural gas resources," adding that "Russian Arctic opportunities may in fact be the big prize." Until recently, Arctic hydrocarbons were seen as Russia’s main hope of maintaining its position among the world’s biggest oil and gas exporters.
However, the discovery of shale gas deposits in the Siberian Bazhenov formation could change this. A Financial Times report indicated the formation could be five times the size of the American Bakken formation in North Dakota, which is driving shale production in the US. It's in the middle of a prime oil region and the infrastructure for extracting and transporting crude is already in place—making it cheaper and easier to develop than the Arctic.
With this in mind, the isolated Prirazlomnaya, coming in at a cost of more than $3 billion, is beginning to look dangerously like a white elephant. A year ago, drawing attention to the rig—as Greenpeace has done—was unlikely to cause problems for anyone who was anyone in the Russian energy sector. However, with costs now rising and production at the rig experiencing prolonged delays, some very large heads might be expected to roll in the near future. This may explain why the powers that be have become somewhat more sensitive to people drawing attention to it on a global scale.
Still think Putin deserves the Nobel Peace Prize?
3 Russia is not the only country claiming a stake in the Arctic. There's also Norway & even Canada preparing to tap onto the North Pole natural resources, which are now becoming more accessible due to Climate Change.
IPCC, the international panel of scientists organized by the United Nations with the goal of assessing the potential threats lying ahead caused by global warming, has just released their latest 5-year report, which caused a U.S. meteorologist to break down in tears & pledge never to fly again.
I just broke down in tears in boarding area at SFO while on phone with my wife. I've never cried because of a science report before. #IPCC
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) September 27, 2013
(Eric) Holthaus, who gained a large following during hurricane Sandy, estimates he flew 75,000 miles last year, much of that to Ethiopia where he is involved in a climate project.
He has followed climate change for years, as a blogger for the Wall Street Journal and now at Quartz.
But he said he was overwhelmed by the IPCC pronouncing for the first time that humans were now only decades away from being locked into a course of dangerous climate change. He also despaired at the inertia in UN climate talks, which are unlikely to produce global action before 2020.
On his way home from San Francisco, Holthaus tweeted: "I just broke down in tears in boarding area at SFO [San Francisco airport] while on phone with my wife. I've never cried because of a science report before."
Two minutes later, Holthaus tweeted again: "I realised, just now: this has to be the last flight I ever take. I'm committing right now to stop flying. It's not worth the climate."
Easier to predict than the weather, was the onslaught of vicious criticism Holthaus's decision has brought him. The sad fact of the matter is that in 2013 there's still a lot of global warming denialists out there, and they don't seem to be going away anytime soon...
So what's the solution? Most would not be able nor willing to follow Holthaus's example. Why hasn't there been an international effort to innovate air travel in order to reduce its impact on the environment? Why aren't the dot-com millionaires organizing contests for the exploration of new radical ideas for fuels or jet engines?
2 But heated dissent over climate looks like courteous conversation when compared to the vitriol gushing out of the comment section of a few blogs, caused by the evident implosion of Roswell's Dream Team, a group of investigators who 2 years ago decided to join forces with the purpose of evaluating the available evidence --or lack thereof-- surrounding what some still vehemently believe is the most important UFO case in all history: the alleged crash of a non-human craft over the New Mexico desert in July of 1947.
The online animosity was triggered by rumors surrounding some Kodak slides purportedly showing an alien body lying on an Army gurney, with a blanket covering its genitals. The slides are said to be from 1947, so presumably they would be directly related to Roswell --though no one, not even those advocating for their authenticity, can actually confirm that. Questioned by Jack Brewer for the Orlando Paranormal Examiner, Kevin Randle --a member of the Dream Team & one of the most important investigators on Roswell-- denied he was personally involved in the on-going investigation of the slides:
“I have seen no photographs, slides, or pictures of alien creatures associated with the Roswell crash,” Randle explained. “I have participated in no investigations of such slides.”
Randle's response prompted Canadian filmmaker Paul Kimball --a long-time friend of Kevin who was initially asked to be part of the Dream Team but declined-- to publish an e-mail in an attempt to show Randle was in fact conducting some inquiries into the matter of the slides with Tom Carey & Don Schmitt, two other members of the team --here one might be inclined to ask just what amounts to an 'investigation' when dealing with UFO research. A couple of phone calls & reading a few blog entries?
And then came Anthony Bragalia stating that the slides are authentic & totally awesome, but because of the recent developments the person who owned them would probably decide not to get involved with UFOlogists again, and that none of us would get to see them because we weren't capable of playing nice with each other in the playground. Boo Hoo --also, how convenient!
So who blew the lid? Judging by what our pal Nick Redfern shared on a post at the UFO Iconoclasts blog, it could've been the very owner of the slides itself, or someone close to him or her.
By now questions have been raised, accusations have been made, explanations have been issued, and friendships have been terminated over this matter. And at the end of the day, I humbly submit that even if the slides ever surfaced, and showed a weird humanoid body lying on an Army gurney, and were confirmed to be taken and developed around 1947, it would still prove absolutely NOTHING about the supposed otherworldly provenance of the Roswell event. Just because a body looks different from a typical human body does not automatically means it's of extraterrestrial origin --Whoa... I'm starting to sound like my pal Micah!
I could even go further & state that not even photographs presented by president Obama himself, on the proverbial Disclosure press conference Basset & his pals keep dreaming about, would constitute enough evidence.
Something more would have to be presented to convince even the more skeptical minds; what that 'something' could be I have no idea, but it's clear the Dream Team wasn't finding it even before the slides brouhaha exploded. Perhaps it's time to move on and declare Roswell an unsolvable cold case.
1 Then, again things could have been far worse for the Roswell Dream Team: they could have become the subject of public mockery like Dr. Melba Ketchum & Adrian Erickson, who last Tuesday held a press conference to present 'never before seen HD video' of Bigfoot.
Thank you Melba & Adrian for proving, once & for all, that Chewbacca is real & we are all in fact living in the moon of Endor. Now on to your next crusade, brave people: Proving that Han shot first!
Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. Remember what Master Yoda said: Fear is the path to Douchebaggery.