Greetings, fellow Coppertops! We're about to embark in a whole series of missions in this brand new year of 2014 --by Matrix measuring, of course--and boy do we have lots of cool stories to cover already! From magnetic dog poop, fake crop circles & even faker Sasquatch taxidermies, all the way to famous movie critics giving the afterlife a thumbs up. And as we put more popcorn on the microwave to enjoy Paul Hellyer's latest disclosure of alien races waiting us to play nice so they can give us new toys, we'll assess a more scientific approach to unravel one aspect of the tangled web that is the UFO phenomenon. And for anyone of you still suffering the consequences of the infamous polar vortex, Morpheus says you're all welcome to warm up during one of Zion's rave-orgy-mass events, so get rid of the mittens & get ready to Par-teh!!
10 Let's start the new year with a couple of WTF news from the Animal Kingdom: The first story, a worthy Ig Noble candidate if I ever saw one, is from a paper recently published in Frontiers of Zoology which posits that dogs align themselves with the magnetic North-South axis when they poop; an evolutionary trait that might help them orient themselves in space during the moment when they are most vulnerable. Watching dog shit --for Science!
The second one is equally stunning --or should I say stonering? Turns out dolphins have been observed getting deliberately intoxicated --read 'tripping balls'-- after ingesting the neurotoxin released by pufferfish. More like puff-puff-pass-the-fish, amirite?
Oh Mother Nature, your crazy ramblings make life sooo enjoyable.
"Quit it with the Science crap, RPJ, and gimme my Fortean fix!" You want Fortean, dude? I'll give you Fortean! Last week two interesting stories involving UFOs & airline jets popped up: A pilot of a passenger jet reported a near collision with a rugby-shaped UFO near Heathrow Airport. Both the shape & the behavior of the anomalous object are quite typical, and numerous cases like this can be found in Leslie Kean's best-selling book.
Another intriguing UFO report comes from Germany: an unidentified object intruded into restricted airspace at the Bremen airport in Germany:
A spokeswoman for German Air Traffic Control (DFS) said: “It had normal lights, red and green, and an approach light on both sides," the Weser Kurier reported.
Eyewitness Dominique Höber told the paper the object was flying at between 100 and 200 metres and passed over his house four times.
“It looked like a plane,” he said. “It had lights but was a lot louder.”
Will these be isolated incidents, or is the phenomenon seeking more attention? I guess we'll find out together, won't we?
In Mexico we have a saying: "Not everything that glows is gold." And extrapolated into Forteana, we could conclude that not everything that looks anomalous is of anomalous origin. Residents of Salinas, California were baffled by the appearance of what it looked like one of those mysterious crop circles which are so common in the English wheat fields during the summer season. But it turns out that this particular agro-glyph was the result of a PR campaign launched by the Nvidia company, to promote their newest Tegra 4 computer graphics chip.
During the decades I've studied the crop circle phenomenon, my views on them have suffered many changes. While by now I consider that 95 or maybe even 99% of them are man-made, I still think there's a deeper mystery at the core of it, far more interesting than just a couple of juvenile aliens painting temporal graffiti on some poor farmer's land. To understand what I'm saying, I'd recommend listening to Colin Andrews' audio conversation with Mike Clelland on Hidden Experience, along with artist Matthew Williams --the only person ever charged with the felony of making a crop circle-- on The Paracast.
Some researchers still cling to the idea that a few of the circles are of anomalous origin, and therefore people like Williams are, in their eyes, pesky interlopers muddying the waters. But if we're talking about true hoaxers, none as irritating as the con-men desperately trying to get the media's attention with their claims of possessing a Bigfoot body.
Yes, unfortunately it is time to address the sad return of known huckster Rick Dyer to the Cryptozoological scene, after several mainstream outlets decided to grant him free publicity, about his (second) crying-wolf allegations of having shot a real Sasquatch in Texas, by luring it with pork ribs bought on a nearby Walmart.
Dyer released a few photos of his buddy Hank --that's the name he's given to the Bigfoot 'carcass' he allegedly had taxidermied-- and the only positive thing I can say about it, is that at least it looks better than the previous possum-filled costume he used in 2008. As you read this, Dyer is about to embark into a remake of the (in)famous Minnesota Iceman carnival show, taking Hank with him on a tour across the US, Mexico & Canada, where amazed folks will be able to observe his incredible
rubber doll bonafide hominid specimen--for a price, of course.
News like this point out to several unsavory facts:
We'll try to keep the Hank/Dyer coverage at a minimum here at The Pills. Let's just hope we can get better Bigfoot news as the year progress.
6 Couldn't Dyer at least had tried to rent Harry & the Hendersons for pointers to fake his latest Bigfoot body? I was in my mid-teens when I first saw that movie & I absolutely loved it, even if famous movie critics Siskel & Ebert gave it 2 thumbs down. Speaking of Roger Ebert, who passed away last year of thyroid cancer, a recent article on Esquire magazine suggests he might have had what is commonly known as a 'deathbed vision':
The one thing people might be surprised about — Roger said that he didn't know if he could believe in God. He had his doubts. But toward the end, something really interesting happened. That week before Roger passed away, I would see him and he would talk about having visited this other place. I thought he was hallucinating. I thought they were giving him too much medication. But the day before he passed away, he wrote me a note: "This is all an elaborate hoax." I asked him, "What's a hoax?" And he was talking about this world, this place. He said it was all an illusion. I thought he was just confused. But he was not confused. He wasn't visiting heaven, not the way we think of heaven. He described it as a vastness that you can't even imagine. It was a place where the past, present, and future were happening all at once.
The choice of the word 'hoax' is interesting, since it often has such negative connotations. Was Ebert implying we're all trapped into some kind of time/space 3D cell that forces our minds to think we're only flesh & blood beings condemned to experience reality only through a narrow arrow of Time? Many old-time Gnostics would have no problem agreeing with that!
But lately my personal ideas are pointing out to the possibility that, if this is a 'hoax', it's one perpetrated on ourselves. Bill Hicks used to say 'this is just a ride,' & my 80's childhood would make me conclude 'this is just a videogame.' And if it is a simulation of some sort, then maybe we do get to pick our own characters for the purpose of attaining more personal experience --XP in the gaming lingo.
And yes, that would mean sometimes we might choose to play as the villain of the story, the same way some people like to play as Siths & follow the path of the Dark Side in Knights of the Old Republic.
Yet we should all keep in mind that, as much as we try to speculate on these things, NONE of us really has the definitive answer.
But don't worry: When our time comes, we will ;)
So, if this is all an illusion, what is its true nature? Cosmologist Max Tegmark thinks he has the answer, & it may seem either awesome or terrible, depending on how much you enjoyed your Algebra classes in highschool: All that surrounds you, according to him, is made out of Math --including your own consciousness!
My dad, who is a retired mathematician, has this attitude, which I think we all have as kids, that ultimately reality is made of stuff. End of story. If you look around yourself in the world, you don’t see anything that’s mathematical, right? But physicists have discovered that all this stuff is made out of elementary particles, like quarks and electrons. What properties does an electron actually have? It has the properties -1, ½, and 1. These are properties that we physicists have made up geeky names for, like electric charge and spin and lepton number. But they’re just numbers! They’re just mathematical properties!
So all these building blocks of nature, these particles, actually have no properties at all, except for mathematical properties. So in that sense, they are purely mathematical objects. Classic materialism is dead: “stuff” isn’t the end of the story.
Pythagoras 2.0, baby! Now if we could just find the exit to this god-damned cave...
4 I think it's fair to say that in the future, many of our current models to explain Nature would seem rather quaint, and our descendants will laugh at how we desperately clung to erroneous assumptions & belief systems. Perhaps some of them are observing us right now, as either some sort of incomprehensible scientific experiment, or maybe just for the mere voyeuristic pleasure of it.
Would we be able to detect time travelers, though? astrophysicist Robert Nemiroff & a team of his students sought to put the question to the test, using the most powerful tool at their disposal: the Internet. For this they created a search algorithm based in what they call 'prescient knowledge,' looking for evidence in social media of a mention of some significant event before it actually happened. They focused on 2 instances --comet ISON & Pope Francis-- and their search turned out negative. If John Titor is tweeting, he doesn't seem to be too interested in either astronomy or religion...
this is not the 1st time such 'experiments' have been conducted --we already knew chrononauts are not too fond of cookies or even champagne-- but as I commented on my pal Chris Savia's article on Who Forted?, all this reminds me of something I read in Morning of the Magicians, by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. In it they speculated about the emergence of mutant super-geniuses who, following the guidelines later imposed by Professor X in the Marvel Universe, would try to conceal their presence from the rest of the dumb humans. But maybe they’d still try to send messages to each other, encoded in seemingly innocuous material like newspaper ads & the classified section of magazines.
So, following that logic, I’d focus on Craigslist rather than Twitter in search of potential time travelers–then again, if they really come from the future, and they don’t want to be detected, then they already KNEW about that scientific study beforehand. Duh
So stop wasting time & start thinking fourth-dimensionally, Marty!
3 It's been 24 years already: Where is my fucking hover-board??
Is it perhaps that we've been looking for the secret of levitation in the wrong places? Consider this astonishing video made by Japanese engineers, who have been able to suspend & manipulate small objects on a three-dimensional axis using ultrasonic standing waves:
Maybe it really is just a matter of raising your you-know-what, my fellow MU fans...
2 But if we start talking about vibrations & what-not, might we risk falling too deep into the rabbit hole? Just take a look at former Canadian Minister of Defense Paul Hellyer, a strong supporter of UFO disclosure, who was a recent guest in Sophie Shevardnaze's program on RT:
This is a perfect example of how sometimes the most vocal supporters of the UFO reality can turn into its worst enemies. It's one thing to talk about cases when there was radar & pilot confirmation of UFO intrusions, but when you start discussing the many alien races visiting this planet, and how some of them dress as nuns when going to Las Vegas to conduct their affairs, you are inevitably going to be labeled as a crackpot.
I'm not against exploring the fringier aspects of the UFO phenomenon --in fact, I think there is where we'll find the most interesting clues to unravel this mystery-- but at the same time I advocate for a more sober approach when dealing with mainstream media. To people who are still unconvinced that not all UFO reports are the result of hoaxes or misidentifications, a baby-steps approach akin to Leslie Kean's work might be the most appropriate course of action.
Last week I was a guest at Greg Bishop's Radio Misterioso show, and during the interview I gave my opinion on why I think people should pay more attention to the weird crap you & I are so interested in.
The most honest answer anyone could give, is that UFOs & ghosts & Bigfoot are anomalies. They are pesky little inconsistences flying in the face of our tidy models of the Universe, mocking at our explanations of what Nature is & how it should behave. With such anomalies we have 2 choices: We either keep burying our head in the sand & ignore them, hoping they'll eventually go away --which they won't-- OR we can be brave & decide to look at them in hopes of trying to learn something new. Because if history has taught us something, is that the moment we face those anomalies & try to incorporate them into our incomplete models of the Universe, our Science experiences quantum leaps in understanding.
Take for instance our last Pill of this week: For ages reports of strange aerial lights have been reported before or after massive earthquakes, and have been part of the lore of many cultures. Some NASA scientists decided to look into the matter, and conducted the most comprehensive study of 'earth-lights' cases to-date. At the end, they came up with some pretty astounding revelations:
Over the past few years, various theories have been proposed for how earthquake lights form, including the disruption of the Earth's magnetic field by tectonic stress and the so-called piezoelectric effect, in which quartz-bearing rocks produce voltages when compressed in a certain way.
But [Friedemann Freund, an adjunct professor of physics at San Jose State University] and colleagues now report that what causes earthquake lights appears to be an entirely different electrical process.
"When nature stresses certain rocks, electric charges are activated, as if you switched on a battery in the Earth's crust," he says.
The types of rocks that are particularly given to the phenomenon are basalts and gabbros, which have tiny defects in their crystals. When a seismic wave hits, electrical charges in the rocks may be released.
In some areas, basalts and gabbros are present in vertical structures called dikes, which formed as magma cooled along vertical faults and may reach as deep as 60 miles (97 kilometers) underground. These dikes may funnel electrical charges along, the scientists wrote.
"The charges can combine and form a kind of plasma-like state, which can travel at very high velocities and burst out at the surface to make electric discharges in the air," Freund added. Those discharges are what make the colorful light shows.
The right conditions for lights exist in less than 0.5 percent of earthquakes worldwide, the scientists estimate, which explains why the phenomena are relatively rare.
Earthquake lights seem to be most common in Italy, Greece, France, Germany, China, and parts of South America, though they have been observed in Japan, North America, and elsewhere.
The lights can occur weeks before major earthquakes, Freund noted, or during actual shaking. They have been recorded at distances of up to 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the epicenter.
The researchers now think earth-lights could be used as a predictive signal for earthquakes. But maybe there's more to it we could learn? How about ways to harness the geo-magnetic energies of the Earth, or understand how they can affect the human psyche?
Pay no attention to the typical anti-UFO jargon of these articles. What Nat Geo & other outlets are not willing (yet) to recognize, is that there's true scientific advantages to taking our collective heads out of the sand & dare to face the eerie objects haunting our skies.
Because even if we never solve the mystery of their true nature, we might learn a whole lot about this world... and ultimately ourselves.
Until next time this is RPJ jacking out, hoping you'll join me in my quest toward the Sun.