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Red Pills of the Week — January 25th

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! The past week was kind of scarce with mind-opening stories, but fear not! for I’ve still managed to retrieve a decent batch of red pills for you: From water detected in the farthest reaches of the solar system, ghost ships infested with mutant rats, to testing the memory of plants. And as we witness the most famous scientist retracting over the core of his life’s work, we’ll unveil a promising iPhone app which could help us decipher the secret of human consciousness. Alas, it seems those secrets are only reserved to macheads –sound familiar?



Seems the polar vortex has finally taken mercy on the Gringos. But could the last snow storms be  a forewarning of worse things to come? Some astronomers are just baffled with the development of the current solar cycle, which has been particularly inactive, and are starting to wonder if we’re not heading into another Ice Age!

Dr Lucie Green, from University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory told the BBC: “It’s completely taken me and many other solar scientists by surprise.”

After this sudden calming of the Sun, scientists wonder whether its activity will continue to fall.

“It would feel like the Sun is asleep… a very dormant ball of gas at the centre of our Solar System,” said Dr Green.

“There is a very strong hint that the Sun is acting in the same way now as it did in the run-up to the Maunder Minimum.”

The Maunder Minimum refers to a period that started in 1645 & ended around 1715, when sunspots became exceedingly rare –just like now– and caused the river Thames to freeze solid & the rest of Europe to suffer extremely sever winters.

Great! So it’s either have our satellites fried over a new Carrington event, or freeze to death on a new little Ice Age. Does anyone know where we left the warranty on our old sun? Maybe it’s time to send it to the repair shop.



Plan B of course would be to start colonizing new worlds, but for that we’d need the most valuable element in the Universe: Water. Fortunately for us, it seems water is much more abundant than we realized! Not only we have detected signs of water in Ceres, the small planetoid orbiting the asteroid belt, but some researchers now believe water can be spontaneously formed out of silicates –a.k.a. space dust– through a slow process fueled by solar wind. Which means any attempt to establish a permanent settlement on our Moon just got a bit easier.

Hmmm, all this talk of water has made me a bit thirsty. Time to open another Bohemia!



A common theory on the origin of Earth’s water is that some of it came from the comets that have impacted our planet for eons, yet there’s still much we don’t know about these ‘cosmic snow balls’ –or, as I like to call ’em, ‘God’s sperm cells’. That is about to change though, thanks to the Rosetta spacecraft which was launched by NASA almost 10 years ago, and sent its first message back to Earth in preparation for its long-awaited mission: to rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko next May, enter an orbit around it in August and –crossing fingers– to deploy a landing probe named Philae in November.

When the time comes, Philae will be ejected from the Rosetta mothership and spiral down toward the 2.4-mile-wide (3.9 km) comet’s core. When it reaches the surface, Philae will fire a harpoon to anchor itself and counter the rebounding force of its touchdown.

No probe has ever landed on a comet before, so success is far from assured. But if all goes well, Philae will study 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko up close with its 10 science instruments, using a drill to snag samples up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) beneath the comet’s surface.

“All other comet missions have been flybys, capturing fleeting moments in the life of these icy treasure chests,” said Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist. “With Rosetta, we will track the evolution of a comet on a daily basis and for over a year, giving us a unique insight into a comet’s behavior and ultimately helping us to decipher their role in the formation of the solar system.”

Sci-Fi writer Arthur C. Clarke envisioned future missions of capture & retrieval of comets, which would then be sent on a (controlled) collision course to other planets, to serve the needs of off-world colonies. Perhaps Rosetta is just the beginning of such a fiction scenario turned into fact.


Photo Via Wired.

Photo Via Wired.

But what if comets are actually icy decoys of an alien invasion? As unlikely as that scenario would be, there’s countless examples in Nature of clever deceptions perpetrated by ‘dumb’ animals. Take for example this spider recently discovered in the Peruvian Amazon & described in a post entry by biologist Phil Torres, which crafts elaborate fake spiders as a way to confuse predators. Damn Nature, you scary AND tricky!

“Considering that spiders can already make really impressive geometric designs with their webs, it’s no surprise that they can take that leap to make an impressive design with debris and other things,” he said.

Maaaybe… but I for one think this cheating spider raises a whole lot of deep philosophical questions re. the sense of self in the Animal Kingdom, and how other species interpret the world around them.

6 Which is scarier to you? Deceptive spiders capable of fooling its enemies, or mutant cannibal rats riddled with disease aboard a ghost ship heading your way? Well if you happen to live in Great Britain then probably the latter, since that is actually what several newspapers, including The Independent, are reporting!

The ravenous rodents are the only living things inhabiting the Lyubov Orlova, a cruise liner originally built in Yugoslavia in 1976, left abandoned in a Canadian harbour due to a legal dispute, which has been drifting across the North Atlantic for over a year after a storm set it loose –you just know some executive producer on the SyFy channel is getting a huge hard-on just by reading this!

Pim de Rhoodes, a Belgian salvage hunter who is among a number looking for the Lyubov Orlova off the UK coastline, told The Sun: “She is floating around out there somewhere.

“There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other. If I get aboard I’ll have to lace everywhere with poison.”

The head of the Irish coastguard, Chris Reynolds, said the ship was more likely than not to still pose a threat.

“There have been huge storms in recent months but it takes a lot to sink a vessel as big as that,” he said. “We must stay vigilant.”

Just torpedo the damn thing & be done with it, you guys! You shouldn’t play coy when dealing with ROUS.

5 ROUS are cool, but UFOs are way cooler. And as every seasoned UFO buff should be aware, there can be many explanations for unexplained lights in the sky. On our 1st column in 2014 we discussed a recent scientific research on Earth lights, and now it’s time to discuss another plausible explanation for some UFO reports: Ball lightning.

Researchers in China claim to have captured video of ball lightning & its electromagnetic spectrum for the 1st time–completely by chance I might add–which enabled them to confirm a theory of what exactly makes the glowing orbs –vaporized dirt.

The researchers made their findings and video of ball lightning public just a few days ago, as reported by NewScientist. The video is only 1.3 seconds but is slowed down to show its shape, color, brightness, and associated spectrum.

Ok, so the video is not exactly summer blockbuster material, but on the other hand it’s really cool how this serendipitous event could help us increase our knowledge on plasma physics. Who knows, maybe the secret ingredient for a functioning nuclear fusion plant is just to sprinkle a bit of dust!

4 “We are part of a symbiotic relationship with something which disguises itself as an extra-terrestrial invasion so as not to alarm us.” ~Terence McKenna

The above quote has always fascinated me, since it implies our general underestimation of the plant kingdom is perhaps what is impeding us from getting in contact with the intelligence behind the UFO phenomenon. But new information is surfacing which suggests we monkeys really need to stop deluding ourselves: A new study conducted by Dr. Monica Gagliano and her colleagues from the University of Western Australia shows Mimosa pudica –a.k.a. the ‘touch-me-not’ flower… boy that sure brings a lot of High-school memories *Ahem*– is endowed with long-term memory comparable to those found in animals. Even more confirmation that consciousness permeates every part of the Cosmos?

Gagliano’s team used a special device to drop water on the plants repeatedly; after only a few seconds, the plant learned that the water drops were not harmful, and stopped closing up. The plants remembered that the water was okay even weeks later, and after its environment had been changed.

“Astonishingly,” the team writes in their paper, “Mimosa can display the learned response even when left undisturbed in a more favorable environment for a month. This relatively long-lasting learned behavioral change as a result of previous experience matches the persistence of habituation effects observed in many animals.”

So stop being a douche around plants, yo. Or else some day the plants will get med-ivy on your ass!

3 Do Marijuana plants resent if they are smoked? I bet if they do, it wouldn’t be nowhere near as much as the DEA agents who are still hopelessly trying to beat that dead horse we call ‘the War on Drugs.’  After some hysterical –and frankly hilarious– statements made by some crazy-ass American talking head, the POTUS made a bold statement about POT: Obama went on the record saying marijuana is “no more dangerous than alcohol.”

Granted, Obama is not rushing to full legalization –he probably thinks he has bigger fish to fry before he’s turned into a lame duck– but nevertheless is a (small) step in the right direction, or even a giant step if you compare it with previous attitudes of former White House residents. Here’s hoping a broader acceptance of marijuana will also bring about an openness to other types of entheogens.

2 Just as we’re in dire need of changing our views on psychedelics & other mind-altering drugs, we might also need to revise our concept on one of the most enigmatic objects in the known universe: Black holes.

In a move bound to make many eggheads go nova, Stephen Hawking has just released an online paper in which he retracts from one of the most known postulations of his career: According to Hawking, the concept of an event horizon surrounding a black hole, in which nothing –not even light– can escape, is against the laws of quantum theory.

In its stead, Hawking’s radical proposal is a much more benign “apparent horizon”, which only temporarily holds matter and energy prisoner before eventually releasing them, albeit in a more garbled form.

“There is no escape from a black hole in classical theory,” Hawking told Nature. Quantum theory, however, “enables energy and information to escape from a black hole”. A full explanation of the process, the physicist admits, would require a theory that successfully merges gravity with the other fundamental forces of nature. But that is a goal that has eluded physicists for nearly a century. “The correct treatment,” Hawking says, “remains a mystery.”

The rationale is hard to follow for a layman, but basically what Hawking is saying is that there are no black holes in the sense we’ve come to think of them: as inescapable cages in which nothing could ever escape ’til the end of all things. The paper has not yet passed peer-review, but it’s sure to stir a lot of heated debate in the future. Perhaps we’ll address it once again here at the Pills, but for now what it’s worth noting is how Hawking showed a lot of maturity by moving on the ideas he held dear & made him famous world-wide –perhaps he’s also change his mind about UFOs & the afterlife? Hey, one can dream, right?

1 Changing our ideas about such cosmological concepts as black holes is great, but IMO we need to go further than that, and I mean WAAAY further: We need to change our ideas re. human consciousness.

The people behind the Global Consciousness project have tried to do just that for several years, by analyzing the endless string of 0’s & 1’s spewed by random number generators (RNGs) distributed all over the globe, to see if relevant social events have any effect in the ‘randomness’ of these numbers. But what if we could increase the amount of data gathered, by transforming every smartphone in the planet into a random number generator AND a data sensor? Enter the Collective Consciousness App!

This initiative makes [email protected] look downright childish in comparison. If you own an iPhone & would like to offer it as a sensor for the planet’s nervous system –along with helping you keep in touch with one of the coolest sites in the whole interwebz– then go ahead & support this campaign!

Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out; hoping you’re as excited of being part of this stage in human civilization as I am 🙂


Miguel Romero a.k.a. Red Pill Junkie is a cartoonist and fortean blogger who writes at Mysterious Universe
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