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Red Pills of the Week — November 30th

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! Our next mission through the tunnels under the Desert of the Real will be filled with ancient mysteries & new exciting developments: dinosaurs for auction & hunts of giant sloths, weather-modifying mushrooms & plantation-burning ghost-hunters. And as we gather as many bitcoins as we can to purchase a ticket to outer space, we’ll say Adios to comet ISON. Hope you gringos had a pleasant Thanksgiving –you do know that turkey was not real, right? RIGHT??

10

How is babby formed?

How is babby formed?

This was a great news for dinosaur fans: A rare diplodocus skeleton was recently auctioned for the sum of $650,000. Don’t have that kind of deep pockets? Then I suggest you get a ticket to Alberta, Canada, where with a little luck you might dig up for yourself some nice fossil; like this beautifully-preserved baby ceratopsid –the kind of rhinoceros-like dinosaurs that used to lock horns with T-Rex back in the Cretaceous– so rare that it even had patterns of its skin imprinted on the rock! And speaking of T-Rex & skin, the mystery of why molecular paleontologist Mary Schweitzer was able to find traces of 68-million-year-old soft tissue from a Tyrannosaur, found by her team in Montana in 2005, has finally been solved: turns out iron from the blood acted as a form of natural formaldehyde, preserving the collagen proteins for millions of years.

Dinosaurs’ iron-rich blood, combined with a good environment for fossilization, may explain the amazing existence of soft tissue from the Cretaceous (a period that lasted from about 65.5 million to 145.5 million years ago) and even earlier. The specimens Schweitzer works with, including skin, show evidence of excellent preservation. The bones of these various specimens are articulated, not scattered, suggesting they were buried quickly. They’re also buried in sandstone, which is porous and may wick away bacteria and reactive enzymes that would otherwise degrade the bone.

Yeah yeah yeah, whatever. Just tell me we’ll one day be able to clone me a dinosaur using their fossilized soft tissue!

9 There were also some very interesting news aiming to dispute current notions over our own ancient past. The first one was about remains of giant sloths & other examples of mega-fauna found in Uruguay, which show distinctive evidence that they were hunted down by humans; but here’s the thing: the bed of giant bones has been radio-carboned with an age of 29 to 30,000 years, which is way earlier than the conventional estimate of the time when early settlers arrived to that part of South America.

A full sloth skellington.

A sloth skellington.

So that pushes back the colonization of the ‘New World,’ but what about the evolution of our very species? The oldest known stone-tipped projectiles found, which show a considerable amount of sophistication –as obsidian-based weaponry goes– have been uncovered in central Ethiopia’s Rift Valley by archeologist Yonatan Sahle from University of California, Berkeley. These javelins are 280,000 years old, which mean they are actually 80,000 years older than Homo Sapiens –implying that either our ‘primitive’ ancestors were far cleverer than we give them credit for, or we might need to do a liiitle editing on the book of Human Evolution.

8 Rewriting Human Evolution will become easier now that we have at our disposal powerful tools to analyze genetic material, which are just becoming cheap enough to be available for common citizens. Too bad that XXIst century technology is being encumbered by XVIIIth century politics: If you heard the last free episode of Mysterious Universe, then you are aware that The US Food & Drug Administration has ordered 23andMe to stop selling & marketing their genetic testing services, until they comply with their demands of providing enough evidence that its product provides accurate results.

As such DNA tests have been released in recent years, questions have been raised about whether they require F.D.A. approval and whether using them constitutes the practice of medicine, with a doctor needing to be involved. Ms. Wojcicki’s company has long held that consumers are entitled to the information in their own DNA, though it has also been talking to and meeting with the agency about how its tests could receive regulatory approval since 2009.

In its letter, the agency said, “Even after these many interactions with 23andMe, we still do not have any assurance that the firm has analytically or clinically validated the P.G.S. for its intended uses, which have expanded from the uses that the firm identified in its submissions.”

Well, if the government is so insisting of becoming involved between these genetic companies & the consumer, they might as well be also worried with the safety measures applied to prevent the genetic background of the clients be either hacked or misplaced. Or is there any other reason why the FDA has decided to focus its attention on 23andMe?

7

mushy-weather

We humans think we’re sooo clever, with our genetic test kits & our systems of governance & our Internet, but once in a while Mother Nature puts us in our place: A study conducted by UCLA researcher Marcus Roper discovered that mushrooms, those cap-headed fungi that look so simple & passive, can actually modify the weather in order to reproduce! They create air flow by allowing their moisture to evaporate, which causes an exchange of heat energy & a difference in air density; this process allow the spores to spread out around distances of 4 inches both horizontally & vertically.

Amazing. We monkeys are really under the delusion that we’re running the show.

6

cover-djinn

Those who have ingested mushrooms or other psychoactive substances, are more willing than most to entertain the possibility of non-human intelligences interacting with us from time to time. Some of those entities seem to have our best interest at heart –while others… not so much.

Boing Boing posted a story re. the banning of a Sci-Fi novel titled HWJN, that was being banned in Saudi Arabia under the charges of ‘blasphemy’ & ‘devil-worshiping.’ The topic of the book: Human/Djinn relationships.

There has been no official statement from the Saudi government, but the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice raided several bookshops that were selling the book and demanded the books be taken off the shelf. In one store, they left a hand written letter on official letterhead demanding that the bookshop manager show up the next day at their offices. Results of that meeting, if it occurred, have not been announced.

The book itself is a science-fiction novel, available in both Arabic and in English translation as H W J N that treats jinni as science fictional beings that co-exist with humanity, and tells of a romance between a human and a jinn.

The translator and co-author, Yasser Bahjatt, attended the World Science Fiction Convention this August in San Antonio, appearing on panels and selling copies of the English edition. The book has received complimentary reviews on Amazon and elsewhere from science fiction writers such as Gregory Benford.

The messages on Twitter use the hashtag #حوجن or #HWJN.

Does the Saudi government fear the prospect of another dreadful Twilight-like saga? Or is there something more behind the censorship of tale involving the ‘beings of smokeless fire’? Someone give Rose Mary E. Guiley a call!

5 Combining fire with spirits is never a good idea: What better cautionary tale to illustrate this than the news linked at Gawker of a historic plantation in New Orleans, that was deliberately burned to the ground by a group of ghost-hunters assholes, who in their drunken/pot-headed stupor decided arson was the best way to show their frustration toward the unresponsive apparitions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR3lFdWa2KM#t=69

Photos of the arrested felons. Can you find the ghost among them?

Photos of the arrested felons. Can you find the ghost among them?

Most comments on Gawker are on the LOL-stupid-crackheads-who-believe-in-the-paranormal vein, but *I* on the other hand think the ghosts, tired of being pestered by intruding morons, knew these guys would do something really stupid if they decided not to manifest. Framed from the other side –Genius!

4

hanging-gardens

The loss of a 160-year-old mansion seems like a huge loss, but it’s peanuts compared to the loss of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, of which only the Great Pyramid still remains. One of those ancient wonders were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, whose remains have been unfruitfully search for centuries & led many archeologists to imagine they were nothing but a myth.

But new evidence suggests people were looking in the wrong place: The error was spawned by an ancient text describing the gardens as having been built by king Nebuchadnezzar –hmm… the name kinda rings a bell– around 600 BC.  But according to Dr Stephanie Dalley from Oxford University, who found a prism at the British Museum in London covered in cuneiform writing, which described how king Sennacherib –who lived a century before Nebuchadnezzar– built a wondrous garden in the Assyrian capital of Niniveh, 350 miles away of Babylon.

During a Channel 4 documentary called Finding Babylon’s Hanging Garden, Dr Dalley was able to combine ancient maps with modern-day versions to locate what she believes to be the ruins of the palace.

Nearby she found a large mound of dirt sloping to a stretch of greenery which she claims is the ‘best place’ for the ancient site.

She believes her claims are substantiated by a bas-relief, taken from Nineveh, that detailed the location of the palace alongside a garden with trees hanging from terraces.

Furthermore, Dr Dalley claimed in the documentary that Nineveh was also known as New Babylon and added this may be where the confusion came from.

A Greek historian named Diordorus Siculus described the gardens as being 400ft wide by 400ft long, with walls as high as 80ft.

3  If future archeologists ever found the remains of Area 51, what would they think of them? And what conclusion would they gather from the surrounding areas, which are now being claimed by white supremacist Neo-Nazis.

You read correctly: Residents of Rachel, Nevada –home of the famous Little A’le’Inn, where UFO hunters used to calm their hunger & thirst back in the 90’s– are on edge after the only gas station in town was bought & closed, followed by the trailer park which was also wiped down; the direct result of these purchases is the reduction of the town population.

[Pastor] Kenniston, a former news reporter, did some digging. What he found was that same man who had purchased the store, and the trailer park had also scooped up several large parcels of raw land in the heart of Rachel. Property records show the owner Richard Bunck quickly transferred his new real estate into the name of the JHM Baptist Church. Kenniston was floored when he looked it up.

“Their church is identified by the experts as Christian identity and neo-Nazi. And those two little niches are the most dangerous, I’m told,” Kenniston said.

Why is it that white supremacists are moving near Area 51, and why now? I ask my 3 readers to share their thoughts on the comment section.

2

virgin-galactic-press-tent

Who would you rather share a space trip with: A white supremacist or a drug-lord?  Given Virgin Galactic’s last announcement, it looks like the chances of having the latter sitting beside you have increased exponentially. Richard Branson’s company has announced it’s now accepting Bitcoins to purchase a ticket aboard SpaceshipONE by 2015. Because ordering the assassination of your enemies can become sooo boring after a while…

Virgin Galactic is a company looking into the future, so is Bitcoin. So it makes sense we would offer Bitcoin as a way to pay for your journey to space,” Branson wrote. “A lot of the people who have joined Bitcoin are tech-minded people, as are many of our current future astronauts.”

All jokes aside, this initiative has probably turned Virgin Galactic into the 1st major company to embrace the controversial alt-currency. Does this indicate Bitcoin is starting to move beyond the shadowy fringes of the Darknet?

1 I bet but watching a comet from outside our atmosphere must be a glorious experience. Speaking of which, the date many stargazers were looking forward to has finally come & gone: Comet ISON had his rendezvous with the Sun on Thanksgiving day,  just within 684,000 miles of the solar surface. Many astronomers followed the live transmission, and like a moth flying too close to a light bulb, it all looked as if the intrepid ball of cosmic snow had paid the ultimate price for that brief kiss to a star’s cheek. But like a space Phoenix returning from its ashes, the ‘comet of the century –or at least some small portion of ‘ shows signs of life after reaching its perihelion.

Farewell, cold pilgrim of the Cosmos. You gave a shiny performance for the pleasure of the dwellers of this world.

Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out; hoping you too have your moment in the Sun.

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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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