Greetings, fellow Coppertops! For our last mission of March, we’ll look into the solar bullet we barely dodged in 2012; we’ll also investigate Wikipedia’s take on alternative medicine & holistic healing, and analyze a new photo of what seems to be a secret triangular craft. And as we put our Oculus Rift visor to immerse into a Facebook-sponsored virtual reality, we’ll try to peer into the farthest reaches of our solar system, in search of the mythical planet X. Let’s try to make this a quick op shall we? I had the bad the judgment of going to that Chinese restaurant Neo recommended, and as a result I’m suffering from a mild case of disentery –Dozer’s bland food never tasted so good, believe me!
So you guys remember how in 2011-2012 there was this active campaign launched by science journos to belittle those tinfoil-wearing doom-sayers expecting the Mayan apocalypse to unfold on Dec. 22nd? The fact that the date somehow coincided with the sun’s solar maximum was merely a coincidence, all the popular scientists assured us. We simply had nothing to worry about.
Turns out we did, and we still do! Until recently it was revealed that a freakishly huge solar tsunami barely missed our planet on July 23, 2012; had it erupted just 9 days earlier, you wouldn’t be reading this column right now –in fact, chances are right now some of you would be battling for your lives inside the Thunderdome.
“ Had [the latest storm] hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous ,” said Janet Luhmann, who is part of the STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Observatory) team and based at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory.
Luhmann and physicist Ying Liu of China’s State Key Laboratory of Space Weather led a team in analysing the magnetic storm, which was detected by NASA’s STEREO A spacecraft and published their results in Nature Communications.
So why the hell are we learning about THIS in 2014?? You’re just giving fodder for the tinfoil-wearing conspiracy theorists, you eggheads!
All jokes aside, just how many false alarms do we need before we come to our senses, and start implementing measures to prepare ourselves for a second Carrington event? Because by now it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but a matter of ‘when’.
Then again, maybe deep down inside we all want to rumble inside the Thunderdome…
We all know by now that tinfoil hat material is pretty much verboten or ridiculed at mainstream sites like Wikipedia –something that’s been covered regularly on both this column & the MU podcast– and if you ever thought this was just the work of the Guerrilla Skeptics infiltrated in The Free Encyclopedia’s editorial system, just look at the way Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales responded to a Change.org petition calling him to “create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing”:
No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.
Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.
What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.
Now the reason why I chose to cover this story at the Pills, is because I’m of two minds with re. to this subject: On the one hand I admit I’m also deeply skeptical of many ‘holistic healing’ methods popularized by the New Age subculture; for instance, I can’t stand it when I hear someone presenting him or herself as a ‘Reiki master’, because it makes me think how Reiki is so much like the adult entertainment business –ever noticed how in the AEB everybody is a ‘pornstar’ instead of a ‘porn actor’? Well I’ve never heard of a ‘Reiki apprentice’ either…
But on the other hand, I think Wales is being unfairly naive when it comes with how a scientific paper gets through the process of being published. It’s not just a simple matter of ‘producing evidence through replicable scientific experiments’, because we all know there are many subjects & topics that scientists are not willing to touch with a ten-foot pole, for risk of ruining their careers. So then it becomes a matter of a circular argument, not unlike a Renaissance bishop not willing to take Copernicus’ theories seriously, because they’re not being referenced by the Holy Scripture.
This messy approach of throwing the baby with the bathwater as a way to protect the public from charlatans, is keeping our civilization at a cultural stalemate. Wales may think his posture helps keep the demons haunting our world at bay, but IMO you cannot bring true change into society, if you agree to abide preserving the influence of the status quo.
One of the reasons I’m so enamored with UFOs, is because I acknowledge them for what they are: agents of instability, spitting at the illusory control of the status quo; be that political, scientific or even theological. But any UFO buff worth his X-Files DVD collection must always be aware than nothing is ever what it seems, in the murky world of the unexplained aerial phenomena.
We now go to the webpage of our friends at Open Minds, to review 2 photos taken in Amarillo, Texas. The pics were 1st reported by Aviation Week instead of the usual UFO groups –hence why it’s probably taken so seriously– and depict some sort of triangular craft of indeterminate size, leaving behind a strong & well-defined contrail. The object was allegedly photographed by Steve Douglass and Dean Muskett.
The photos were analyzed by Bill Sweetman, a senior aviation editor for Aviation Week who has covered aerospace and defense news for four decades, who along with 2 of his colleagues concur the images are genuine & show a real object.
But what is it, then?
That it is probably some sort of secret experimental aircraft tested by the US Air Force is kind of a no-brainer. Eerily-looking shapes aside, the object seems to depict a conventional propulsion system. The object was also accompanied by 2 other planes. Could it be a drone, then? Sweetman, who also monitors aircraft communication radio regularly, says he might have picked up some apparently related voice traffic, which would imply the craft was being piloted rather than remote-controlled.
“The photos tell us more about what the mysterious stranger isn’t than what it is. The size is very hard to determine, for example, although the image size at contrailing height suggests that it is bigger than an X-47B. However, the basic shape – while it resembles Boeing’s Blended Wing Body studies or the Swift Killer Bee/Northrop Grumman Bat unmanned air system – is different from anything known to have flown at full size, lacking the notched trailing edge of Northrop Grumman’s full-size designs.” ~Bill Sweetman.
These new photographs do not explain all triangular UFOs as being the result of secret military craft, though. For starters, one needs to remember the triangular shape is highly unstable, and is only manageable through the aid of computer systems helping the pilot manage the avionics. So triangular UFOs prior to the appearance of miniaturized chips are still a great unknown. The same goes for craft that can hover in the air & then fly away at great speed, like in the famous Belgian UFO wave of 1989-1990.
All in all, the UFO world has just gotten a bit more complicated. As always.
As I grow older I become more convinced that the most important thing UFOs can offer us, is that they hint at the possibility that what we address as the physical world, is but a tiny subset of a grander landscape. By that definition, we are all living inside some sort of virtual reality.
But just as Hamlet had a play within a play, we ourselves are trying to launch our own version of VR, which for the longest time seemed as big a pipe dream as flying cars or nuclear fusion. But a new system by the name of Oculus Rift has been heralded by many as the long-awaited holy grail of immersive cyberspace; so much was the excitement & support from the Rift’s fans, that when Oculus launched their Kickstarter campaign in 2012, instead of the goal of $250,000 they raised almost ten times more.
But then, the dark side cometh: Facebook acquired Oculus for the exorbitant amount of $2 billion dollars. To the many Kickstarter backers, the announcement sounded like betrayal. Their selfless enthusiasm was cashed in as equity by the dotcom movers & shakers.
Are the nerds overreacting? Maybe. After all, this excellent article by Lev Grossman detailing the inside story of how Oculus Rift managed to rise from the garage project of a 19-year-old hacker, to potentially the most disrupting technology in the 1st half of the XXIst century, points out several upsides by the acquisition: For starters, that amount of moola means the technology will become widespread much more rapidly, because Oculus will manage to offer it at a more affordable price for end consumers.
And it will also broaden the scope of what VR can become: The Oculus guys were seeing it as a cool expansion to the FPS experience, but clearly someone with the intelligence of Mark Zuckerberg saw in the dorky goggles the potential to something more: a new quantum leap in educational & social exchanges.
And yet it’s not hard to also notice what this financial decision means: that in the years to come a handful of really big companies are just continue to get even bigger, seeking to acquire or control as many new technologies as possible, which eventually ends up stifling innovation –not to mention freedom of expression & social liberties, since we ALL know how much Facebook is struggling to maintain the privacy of their users, right?
In the meantime, here’s a little suggestion to Palmer Luckey, in case he’s reading this: If you want to retrieve the Karma points you lost in the eyes of your early backers, go & promise them 1 free final-product kit when they finally go into production.
Just imagine the possibilities, dear Coppertops: 10 years from now, you might be able to put on your visors, and have a VR journey through the whole of the solar system, including the frozen farthest reaches, full of icy dwarf planets… and perhaps a few surprises.
The biggest news this week by far was the discovery of a new dwarf planet stretching the edge of our local neighborhood. Tentatively called 2012VP113 –discoverers Scott Shepard & Chad Trujillo call it VP for short, or ‘Biden’, which may or may not be the weirdest honor bestowed upon a political figure… specially due to its PINK hue– this new planet is similar to Sedna, an object spotted by the Spitzer telescope 10 years ago; together, these objects are not just a new addition in the catalogue the solar family, but they hint to an even bigger possibility: the existence of the (in)famous planet X.
The latest work has already thrown up an intriguing possibility. The angle of the body’s orbit and that of Sedna’s are strikingly similar, an effect most likely caused by the gravitational tug of another, unseen body. One possibility is a “Super Earth” that traces so large an orbit around the sun that it has never been seen.
“If you took a Super Earth and put it a few hundred astronomical units out, the gravity could shepherd Sedna and this new object into the orbits they have,” said Sheppard.
Of course, the planet X explanation for the extreme perihelion –the elliptical orbits around the sun– of these planets. Another theory, which has lost support as of late, is the Nemesis theory which posited that our sun has a ‘death star’ companion, which due to its gravitational pull would be knocking comets out of their orbit, and hurling them towards the inner solar system from time to time.
Whether a dwarf star, a super Earth or even an Annunaki abode, it’s interesting to observe how thanks to Hubble & its kin we keep gathering more information about the farthest reaches of the Universe, and yet we seem to know so little about our own backyard. The folly of human kind, I guess –always looking to the stars, and never minding of the ground we stand.
Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. Don’t drink & drive, specially if you’re traveling beyond Pluto.