Apr 22, 2014 I Miguel Romero

Red Pills of the Week: Black Rings, Space Elevators & Spermato-traumas

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! On this Easter Sunday I've gathered for you a basketful of chocolate-covered Red Pills, designed to awe the mind & please your sweet tooth: We'll start by studying that mysterious black ring that appeared over England, and wonder if it's not some sort of super-secret Google project; we'll then check out if the possibility of creating human blood out of stem cells, is not a sign that out vampire overlords are ready to come out into the open; speaking of vampiric behavior, we'll have an update on Melvin Morse, the NDE researcher who was accused of child abuse; finally, we will investigate whether the epigenetic transmission of trauma could be one aspect of genetic memory. After our mission is over, we will head out with the Nebuchadnezzar to the Caribbean town of Macondo, to attend the funeral of the greatest Hispano-american writer of this era: Gabriel García Márquez, the chronicler of magic landscapes, who understood there's no greater fiction than Reality itself --don't worry, finding the way to Macondo is easy: you just have to follow the trail of yellow butterflies...


UFR: Unidentified Flying Ring


Paranormal investigator Chris O'Brien has a pet peeve: He complains that we've become so immersed in the distractions of our modern era, that we rarely take our noses out of our smartphones to look up into the sky.

Well, 16-year-old Georgina Heap did look up into the sky while she was playing tennis with her mom in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, and what she observed stunned here: A mysterious black ring, hovering in the middle of the cloudless, evening sky.

Georgina, who is studying for her GCSEs, said: "I looked up at it and thought, 'what the hell?', it was amazing.

"It was just floating there like a cloud and then it disappeared. It wasn't birds either.

"There were about ten of us who stopped what we were doing and watched. It is the weirdest thing I have ever seen."

The ethereal black ring sure looks other-worldly, which is why over the years some researchers have linked them to the UFO phenomenon --a classic case involving a black ring occurred in Fort Belvoir (Virginia) in 1957, and was even investigated by the Condon Report.  But several modern videos of black rings suggest these are a natural phenomenon called vortex rings, which can be triggered by either a thunder strike or the explosion of electrical equipment.


In most instances, the rings are formed by air mixed with smoke or steam that is forced out of a (relatively) small circular or cylindrical opening (this can be a chimney, the barrel of a canon, or a vent in a volcano crater). Because of the drag of the surface of the opening, the air expelled from the centre will move faster than the air exiting the opening near the edge. The air from the sides is sucked in, and a circular motion is created. In this way, a doughnut-shaped vortex is formed, just like a smoke ring that is blown from a smoker’s lips. The ring-shape is maintained due to the rotational motion of the air flowing in the vortex ring.

Indeed, the source of the smoke ring has been identified: A pipe-smoking giant Fireworks testing at Warwick Castle.



But don't be surprised if the next weird thing you get to see in the sky, is actually part of a project devised by the world's most popular search engine.

By now Google has made it clear they don't intend to stay as a mere Internet company. Last year they announced their Loon project, intended to bring connectivity to remote areas using a grid of giant aerostatic balloons; if that is not 'loony' enough for you, now Google has acquired the New Mexico firm Titan Aerospace --snatching it from its über-nemesis Facebook, in fact-- which designs solar-powered, autonomous aircraft capable of staying YEARS up to altitudes of 60,000 feet.


These drones would be capable of transmitting gigabit-speed Internet signals to the ground, which would mean developing nations who don't have the resources to build a modern communications infrastructure, might end up enjoying a faster & more reliable connectivity than the over-priced home clients in the 'developed world' pay for!

(Could it also mean Google is perhaps planning to offer its services to the Army as subcontractor, delivering fast communications between command centers & ground troops on remote locations?)

You think the sky is the limit for the Silicon Valley giant? Think again! This week Rich DeVaul, head of Google X's Rapid Evaluation team --Google X is the division in charge for conceiving the company's most long-term & out-there ideas, like Google Glass-- confirmed that for a while, their team of think-big geeks were actively seeking to build one of the most inspiring ideas ever conceived by the mind of Sci-Fi legend Arthur C. Clarke: A space elevator.

Alas, the Google geeks vision was countered by the current limitations in nanotechnology:

The team knew the cable would have to be exceptionally strong-- "at least a hundred times stronger than the strongest steel that we have," by ­[Google X researcher Dan Piponi]'s calculations. He found one material that could do this: carbon nanotubes. But no one has manufactured a perfectly formed carbon nanotube strand longer than a meter. And so elevators "were put in a deep freeze," as [Google X researcher Mitch Heinrich] says, and the team decided to keep tabs on any advances in the carbon nanotube field.

Memo to investors: If in the near future you read Google has acquired a nanotech-company, BUY!

Do you feel the fact that a private company is capable of competing with Darpa in the development of wacky ideas come straight out of comic books, is a positive or a negative development? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.


The Blood is the Life Lab

We also know Google is deeply involved in the Transhumanist movement, which among other things seeks to find the means to identify the biological processes involved with human aging, in an attempt to deactivate them altogether --perhaps even reverse them. One of the Transhumanist ideals is the mass-production of lab-grown organs, ready to be transferred to patients without the hurdles of wait lists or incompatibility risks.

A recent news seems to be a small step into that direction: A British research team funded by the Wellcome Trust has announced the creation of artificial human blood, cultured out of induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS) --cells that have been 'programmed' to revert to a stem stage; the stem cells turned into blood cells are fit for clinical transfusion, and human trials are being scheduled by late 2016 or early 2017.

The technique highlights the prospect of a limitless supply of manufactured type O- blood, free of disease and compatible with all patients.

“Although blood banks are well-stocked in the UK and transfusion has been largely safe since the Hepatitis B and HIV infections of the 1970s and 1980s, many parts of the world still have problems with transfusing blood,” said Prof Turner.

We *all* know where this is going, don't we?



NDE Criminal


I've often wondered, whether all our efforts to preserve & extend the human life span would be seen as less important, if we finally managed to obtain incontrovertible proof of life after death. For sure nobody likes it when an untimely death occurs, specially if it happens to a young child; but would we consider it less of a tragedy, if we had the genuine certainty that their lives have merely experienced a transition, and that all who have left this realm of existence have gone to a better place?

That was what NDE researcher Dr. Melvin Morse was seeking to solve; but unfortunately, while his professional quest to prove Death is but doorstep received national attention, in his private life he crossed a line which should remain uncrossed: In 2012 we reported that Morse & his wife were being accused of mistreating their 11-year-old daughter; Morse, a pediatrician who had been investigating NDEs among children, has been sentenced to 3 years in prison for 'water-boarding' the girl as physical punishment --which led some to suspect that perhaps Morse was trying  to trigger an NDE in the child; but the judge ruled out that possibility:

"The idea that the defendant was experimenting on (the girl) is speculative, and I see his actions differently," said the judge, who described Morse as controlling and manipulative in his abuse of a vulnerable child.

At first I too considered the possibility that Morse's crimes was related to his line of work in some capacity; now I think they are not related in that way, and yet I can't bring myself to understand how a medical pediatrician, who seemed to have been on a mission to convey a message of hope to fathers who have lost a child, could end up being such a shitty parent himself!

The title has now become a punchline

We often talk of how the politicians who display the most homophobic behavior are probably closeted gays in denial; or how skeptics who claim to be defenders of critical thinking, are nothing but biased cynics with fundamentalist tendencies. It's time to accept the same behavior can also be found in the Fortean field, and people who write about life after death, God & heavenly realms might have a big shadow they have not come to terms with --I certainly would not be willing to throw the 1st rock...

And what of Morse's work? Should it be discarded by NDE science? This is a complex issue. One the one hand we shouldn't expect scientists to always display an impeccable moral behavior --they are scientists, not saints-- but on the other hand, NDE is mainly perceived as without scientific merits by the majority of the academic community, and as such it heavily relies on the credentials of the few scientists risking their career to support it; whether we like it or not, for the time being the credentials of these few mavericks must be as irreproachable as humanly possible.

Yes, the playing field is uneven; yes, it is unfair, but that's just life before death.


The Sins of the Father... Or His Traumas


I certainly Morse's daughter gets all the psychological care she needs, in order to leave this nasty episode of her life behind her --because if she doesn't, it may have unexpected consequences for her AND her descendants.

A group of European researchers have made a fascinating, yet disturbing finding: Stress can alter the gene expression in the sperm cells of adult mice, resulting in depressive behavior in later generations.

The study is notable for showing that sperm responds to the environment, says Stephen Krawetz, a geneticist at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan, who studies microRNAs in human sperm. (He was not involved in the latest study.) “Dad is having a much larger role in the whole process, rather than just delivering his genome and being done with it,” he says. He adds that this is one of a growing number of studies to show that subtle changes in sperm microRNAs “set the stage for a huge plethora of other effects”.

Researchers are not really sure how stress can alter the RNA (the protein equivalent of DNA) in sperm cells, but the reason I find this study fascinating, is that it is not just another example of how our environment plays such a huge role in the expression of our genetic code --what scientists call epigenetics-- but it also show how the events in the lives of our parents can have an impact in OUR lives. Call it epigenetics, or call it genetic memory, but it seems as if the Bible was right: The sins of the father are passed onto his children.

I happen to live in one of the most stressful environments in the modern world: Mexico city, where every day is a constant struggle with 20 million people getting in the way; every year it feels as if things are getting worse, and I used to think this was merely the result of me going through middle age & getting older. But now I'm thinking that perhaps the stress is becoming an epidemic, and we'd better do something about it, or else we're gonna end up tearing ourselves to pieces inside this concrete rat cage.

Also, things like this study might explain how it's so difficult to resolve ethnic or religious conflicts that seem to have no end in sight. Consider the issue of Israel & Palestine: The pain & suffering caused by both parties has been going on for decades, and even if by some miracle a peace negotiation could be achieved & maintained, you'd still have to deal with all the transmitted wounds passed on to the next generations.


If Vendettas are carried out through our blood, then there's no greater courage than to let our demons starve inside of us.

Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter, and that what ended up resurrecting after it, was your sense of wonder & your gratitude for being alive in this world.

Miguel Romero

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

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