Monthly Archives: August, 2007

The Fractal Universe

Ever being the scientific generalist and novice that I am, I have never heard of the “Fractal Universe”. But after reading about the big, gaping void a billion light-years across a couple of weeks back, and this blog posting in this week’s New Scientist, I got curious:

There is, however, a group of rebel physicists who did predict the existence of such a mind-bogglingly enormous structure. Back in March, I wrote an article entitled, Is the Universe a Fractal?, detailing the ongoing debate between mainstream cosmologists, who assume that the large-scale universe is homogeneous, and a band of physicists led by Luciano Pietronero, who claim that the structure of the universe is fractal.
The standard model of cosmology – that is, the big bang, cold dark matter universe – is founded on the assumption that the distribution of matter (both normal and dark) becomes evenly spread at sufficiently large scales. Look in one spot in the sky and then another and they should appear nearly the same, they say. There shouldn’t be a big hole in one spot and a giant cluster of matter in another.
The fractal guys argue that, on the contrary, matter continues to clump into ever-bigger structures even at the largest scales. It’s like this: imagine you could have a bird’s eye view of the universe (obviously impossible, but play along) and you zoom in to look at a single star. Then you begin to zoom out and you discover that the star is part of a galaxy. Keep zooming out and you see that the galaxy is part of a cluster of galaxies and the cluster of galaxies is part of a supercluster of galaxies and and the supercluster of galaxies is … This is where the debate begins.

According to the standard model, there’s nothing bigger than a supercluster. When I interviewed mainstream physicists David Hogg and Daniel Eisenstein for my article, they were claiming that the pattern should start to smooth out at about 200 million light years. According to the fractal guys, it just keeps getting bigger.

So in other words, since there could be more large empty voids out there, there should be even larger groupings of super clusters of galaxies, like super-duper deluxe gigantic groupings of galactis clusters and super clusters!

Like I said, cosmology is a new study for me, so I can’t lay out any theories of my own, but I did find an interesting slide show, http://www.fractaluniverse.org/ which is informative and asks some hard questions on it’s own.

And I do so love asking the hard questions! 😉

UFOs Over Haiti

By courtesy via Christopher of From the Left , here is a video of two UFOs flying over Haiti. From the looks of the video, the objects look too crudely made to be ET. To me, they look to be reversed engineered man-made craft.

What do you think?

http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/ver/223/popup/index.php?cl=3803818

Sorry that the video isn’t pasted into the blog, WordPress doesn’t support Yahoo!video and I didn’t buy any extra options. Yeah, I’m cheap!

Will the Singularity be a Techno-Rapture?

The Rapture – Wikipedia definition: “In conservative Christian eschatology, the Rapture is the name given to an event in which Jesus Christ descends from Heaven, accompanied by the spirits of all the saints of God, both from the pre-incarnation period these saints are transported from the Earth to meet the Lord and be rejoined with their corresponding spirits in the air. Immediately after this, all Christians alive on the earth are simultaneously transported to meet the Lord and those who have preceded them in the air. All are transformed into immortal bodies like Jesus’ body, often referred to as the “resurrection body“.

Techno-Rapture – Singularity, The. The Techno-Rapture. A black hole in the Extropian worldview whose gravity is so intense that no light can be shed on what lies beyond it.

Singularity – The postulated point or short period in our future when our self-guided evolutionary development accelerates enormously (powered by nanotechnology, neuroscience, AI, and perhaps uploading) so that nothing beyond that time can reliably be conceived.

The concept of a technological Singularity hasn’t yet reached mainstream thought, but it is gaining momentum every time a new break-through comes about in computer science, usually in the form of faster computing speeds via optical or quantum chips. The robotic sciences, especially in Japan contributes when a discovery is made on how a robotic brain “learns” like a little child makes the vision of a Singularity that much closer. Any gain in orthopedics on how artificial appendages are made to “mimic” the real thing contributes and projects in virtual reality such as Second Life and Google Earth (and Space) add their share too.

But will any advancement in these studies produce an artificial intelligence capable of passing a Turing Test, have “consciousness” or “soul” for lack of a better word?

If there is to be a Singularity or Techno-Rapture, I believe it will have to be through a fusion of humanity and machine, cyborg in other words. Only with a human “consciousness” that can be used as a base have a chance to be enhanced by artificial means to achieve hyper-awareness. Already our collective memories are being enhanced by means such as Internet search engines like Google, Yahoo, Ask, Lycos and what have you. Networked computers along with their larger hard-drives store more information than ever before. Imagine what you could do if you wore an input device like a pair of glasses (Charles Stross’s Manfred Mancx in Accelerando), a hearing aid, or a chip implanted into a stroke patient or a parapelegic? I know there’s times I wish I could readily access the InnerTubes quickly through a neural link or store something important like a business, doctor’s or any other kind of appointment in a medium other than my old unreliable grey matter.

A techno-rapture could occur if millions of users neural linked on the Web enhanced their intelligence to the point where a “hive-mind” would be formed and the resulting intelligence would evolve itself, create it’s own “Universe”, leave Earth en masse and entered said new “reality”.

Would that be a “Rapture” and the created Universe “Heaven”?

Of course there are many detracters and naysayers to this scenario. And the protests would not be without merit. Many can picture abuses by governments, corporations, individuals with fortunes and any combination thereof when dealing with this technology, especially the brain chip technologies. What government wouldn’t want brain chip controlled armies, corporations staffed by willing slaves working for nothing and a CEO controlling a senior VP working for a competitor? Not to mention the very idea of forming a “hive-mind” is an abomination to people who strongly believe in individual personal “sovereignty”. It is the classical battle of the old Industrial Revolution, “free enterprise”(individualism) vs. “communism”(hive-mind). Some would argue in fact the latter is already happening. I myself have argued that issue.

In the final analysis, a rapture in any sense or interpretation of the term boils down to a belief system of some sort. Either you believe in the classical literal spiritual uplifting to a higher plain of existence, or the Information Age Singularity way of enlightenment.

Maybe both are needed.

The Imperial Dancing Puppet Show

Nouri al-Maliki, the current Imperial puppet dancing on the strings of the American Federal Empire(TM), is slowly being roasted over an open fire pit, a scape-goat to take the blame in the failures of Imperial policy:

Nouri al-Maliki, who is fighting to hold his government together, issued a series of stinging ripostes against a variety of foreign officials who recently have spoken negatively about his leadership. But those directed at Democrats Clinton, of New York, and Levin, of Michigan, were the most strident.

“There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin. They should come to their senses,” al-Maliki said at a news conference.

Al-Maliki launched the verbal counteroffensive in the final days before the American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are due in Washington to report to Congress on progress in Iraq since the introduction of 30,000 more America troops. (Huffington Post, August 26, 2007)

No surprise here that Madam Senator Clinton, being the “Democratic” Party front-runner is critical of al-Maliki and is on the political “blame-game” bandwagon, her hopes of winning the fascist Red State voting block depend on her continuing “support of the troops” and Imperial policy in the upcoming Presidential “Elections” in 2008.

But al-Maliki undauntedly is carrying on and risking Imperial ire by issuing this statement:

“These statements do not concern us a lot,” Maliki said to reporters while he was visiting Syria. “We will find many around the world who will support us in our endeavor.”

Maliki’s comments came one day after U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker called the government’s failure to tackle legislation intended to ease Sunni and Shiite Muslim tensions “extremely disappointing” and two days after the chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee called for the Iraqi parliament to replace Maliki.

President Bush added to the criticism on Tuesday, remarking during a trip to Canada that there is “a certain level of frustration” with Iraq’s leaders.

But on Wednesday, Bush attempted to ease the tension, calling Maliki “a good guy, good man with a difficult job, and I support him.” (Huffington Post, August 22, 2007)

Oh really Herr Imperiator? So what about this little bit of regional back-stabbing?:

Documents obtained by IraqSlogger show Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s chief Iraqi opponent, Ayad Allawi, is paying Washington lobbyists with close ties to the White House $300,000 to help with Allawi’s efforts in the U.S. to promote himself and undermine Maliki. The powerhouse Republican firm retained by Allawi is Barbour, Griffith, & Rogers (BGR), and its BGR International unit is headed by President’s Bush’s one-time White House point man on Iraq, Robert Blackwill, who will lead the lobbying efforts on Allawi’s behalf. (IraqSlogger, August 23, 2007)

Needless to say, Barbour Griffith & Rogers’ Senior Advisor (and former Counselor to Secretary Rice), Philip Zelikow denies any knowledge of such usurpation of al-Makili’s power by BGR and Allawi. When in doubt, deny, deny, deny:

In response to the post I wrote on Friday concerning the lobbying efforts of Barbour, Griffiths & Rogers to push Prime Minister Maliki out of power — a post which generated this statement from ABC News — I received, on Friday night, the following e-mail from BGR’s Senior Advisor (and former Counselor to Secretary Rice), Philip Zelikow:

Re: Your blog about me Noticed your [Salon] blog on my role re Allawi, based on the CNN story.

CNN has amended their story to note, correctly, that I’ve had no contact with Allawi, directly or indirectly, since leaving government. I have had nothing to do with the lobbying efforts being conducted on his behalf.

I’ve cc’d one of the CNN reporters who has been working the story. They are sorry that they did not amend their story earlier to include this information, which they had since the story first started breaking (and it was news to me too).

You took a pretty hard swing, based on a false assumption. And a lot of people read it.

Happy to take my lumps, but better if it’s for things I’ve actually done.

Philip Zelikow

Over the course of further e-mail exchanges I had with him over the weekend, Zelikow claimed, among other things, that: he has “no equity relationship with BGR”; that he merely “advise[s] BGR from time to time on specific matters, but not this one”; and that he “learned of BGR’s relationship with Allawi from reporters calling [him] about it yesterday [Thursday].” He also said:

I am not formally consulting with the administration about Iraq policy. I talk about Iraq issues with a number of Republicans and Democrats in an effort to help both sides find a common way forward, and therefore preferred not to take sides in public testimony. I’m not doing paid work on Iraq for anyone in the government. (Glenn Greenwald August 26, 2007)

Greenwald goes on to say that while has no reason to doubt Zelikow’s word on this, he has serious reservations about the veracity of that claim (click above link).

Bu$hco and the neocon-munists have seriously backed themselves into a corner with the Iraq Debacle and are grasping for any straw they can find. In Allawi, they have a demonstratable strongman like their ol’ pal Saddam who could possibly shove the country back together under his proverbial “heel” and be subservient to the American Imperiem. Remember, there’s the oil “deal” to be settled on yet.

Please read Justin Raimondo’s much better treatise on the Allawi and al-Maliki blame game here.

Update: Abu Gonzo resigns! Click here for the story.

Good news, Abu Gonzo is gone. Bad news Skeletor might be the new AG.

Saturday Sci-Fi: Star Trek, Outwardly Mobile

When I first started trawling the InnerTubes years ago, I come across various Star trek fan fiction sites and found that some were actually pretty good. The writing on quite a few of them was of pretty high quality, better than some of the authorized Paramount hacks.

Jay P. Hailey, in my opinion anyway, has a version of Star Trek that is very down home and unpresuming. The captain isn’t out to seek glory, in fact he feels overwhelmed at times. But of course since he’s the captain, he can’t show that. And that makes the character human.

The setting of the first story is shortly after the Federation got it’s ass handed to it by the Borg in the Battle of Wolf 359. Yes, the time frame is during the time of Star Trek: The Next Generation, so most of the references Hailey uses are during that time period. There is no Kirk, no Spock or any of the other Original Series members other than as references as historical figures (sorry UH).

Jay requested that I post his web site url: http://jayphailey.8m.com and his email address : jayphailey@hotmail.com so he can get some feedback. I would like feedback on this also so I can determine if future stories by others are worth it. Hell, I just might go ahead and do it anyway! LOL! Seriously, any feedback is good, especially positive.

So here in it’s entirety is part one of Jay P. Hailey’s Star Trek Outwardly Mobile: The Holly-Hop Incident (This was actually written by Jay and a friend, Dennis Washburn)

Star Trek: Outwardly Mobile

The Holly Hop Incident Part 01

(Stardate 44603)

It was just another day in San Francisco, as far as I could see. I was wrong. I woke up at the usual time, ate my usual breakfast, and had my usual morning jog.

I only jogged and took my time at the firing range as matter of habit. I had long since resigned myself to being a desk jockey at Starfleet Command. I was nearly fifty years old and hadn’t had a promotion in five years.

Still, commander was a pretty good rank and working in San Francisco had its advantages. There was the night life. That and the distance from front line duty meant that it wasn’t an adventure, it was just a job, one that I could leave at the office.

As I got back to my apartment near Golden Gate Park, the message light was blinking on my terminal. It was Admiral Quinn, my boss.

Quinn was an odd duck. It had been twenty years or more since he had held a field command, but he still wandered around as though he had that kind of discretion. His official title was “Chief of Operations” but I happened to know that 95% of that work was handled by a staff of people like me, who put in their eight hour shift and then went home.

Admiral Quinn kept running around and poking his nose into odd places. He always had one or two special projects cooking.

The Klingons would have called him a “Thought Admiral” at one time, and viewed him with a mixture of respect and uncertainty. Generally, he was regarded around Starfleet Command as “eccentric” and “independent minded.”

He had the ear of all the top brass. The Federation President and the C-in-C both met with Admiral Quinn regularly.

He had rescued me from re-classifying old mission logs and had used me as his “George” for some time. “George” is old service slang. It’s the pick up officer. If you don’t know whose department it was in, or if no other department wanted it, then you assigned it to “George.”

The recording on my terminal was Admiral Quinn.

On my terminal Quinn looked as though he was already a couple of hours into his day. Perhaps he was.

“Commander Hailey, please come to my office first thing. Your other tasks have been reassigned. You’ll be picking up new orders from me.”

I sent a routine acknowledgment and got dressed. I went to the headquarters of Starfleet Command. The security scans held me up for a while. Security (A.K.A. “Redshirts,” a name they particularly hated) was still doing overtime at Starfleet Command. It had been six months since the Borg had come to Earth, and the body armored goons with their phaser rifles wouldn’t have done any good anyway, but we were still too gun shy to let them go just then.

Hell, I had even taken to carrying a phaser after that.

I’m told that the Counselor’s department had a high turn over rate that year.

I felt late as I approached Admiral Quinn’s office. I checked my watch. I was just on time, but when the Admiral cancels all your routine tasks and asks to see you first thing, you feel tardy no matter what.

“Jay, good morning.” The Admiral greeted me as I walked through his door.

His office was typically large and well equipped. There were hints of personality here and there, too. The office overlooked the Pacific, as well as showing all the contextual junk, that no doubt had personal significance to Admiral Quinn.

“Good morning, Sir.” I answered. Usually I meant it. Not today. Today I wanted to swallow the lump in my throat and say “What do you want, really?”

Quinn didn’t disappoint me. He almost never does.

“Here are your orders.” Quinn Handed me a PADD.

I read –

“You are promoted, as of stardate 44603.0 to the rank of Captain with all the privileges and responsibilities pertaining thereto.]

You are further ordered to report to, and take command of the starship USS Harrier NCC 45657. You will then undertake the mission to be outlined later.”

I looked carefully at the PADD. There were some other phrases, in the overblown, pretentious and acronym laden lingo that Starfleet so adores. The orders looked authentic.

Admiral Quinn grinned merrily ” I always enjoy that. It’s one of the few real pleasures that come with this job. The look on a new captain’s face when he gets the news. I must say, Captain, that skeptical disbelief is a new reaction to me.”

I simply couldn’t believe it. “There must be some mistake, Admiral. I’m not on the captains list.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Jay. You always were on the list, albeit somewhere near the bottom.” His face darkened. “The `Borg Incident’ advanced that list quite a great deal.”

That I understood.

Quinn continued. “The Harrier is a test bed, not a front line command. It is, however a step up, for you.”

That I understood, too.

“What is the Harrier going to test, sir?” I had butterflies in my stomach. The USS Harrier. My ship!

“It’s going to test a new concept in faster-than-light drives.” Admiral Quinn sounded enthusiastic and impressed. As well he might be. A significant improvement in starship speeds was something of a holy grail among engineers. It would be an unparalleled strategic advantage.

“You’ll find out more, when you receive your orders. This mission has a level 9 classification.” The Admiral finished.

I was shocked. I had a conditional level nine due to my records work, but I didn’t know it counted for modern projects.

The rest of the day was a blur. I cleaned out my desk, and called up the records. The Harrier (My ship!) was currently completing a refit in Spacedock. Some of my co-workers came by to wish me luck. I briefed the new man, Sisko, on the details of the job. I left the Admiral’s office early. I wasn’t needed there. My new job was going to take some time to study up on. It was time I just didn’t have.

-*-

A few days later I was in a travel pod while my new Security chief, Lt. Commander Flagg briefed me on the details of my new ship. (My ship!)

It was love at first sight when I saw her for the first time. But, honestly, she was an ugly duckling. I suppose the design must have seemed really nice 90 years ago, when the Constellation class ships first flew. But now, it was small and old.

The records on the hull went back sixty-seven years. I read about her last tour of duty, fifteen years ago. Starfleet had spent a lot of effort to bring her up to spec. I was especially worried about her new warp core. It was a modern device in an old fashioned ship. It developed more power than her systems were designed to handle. We could program it with a limiter to avoid that problem, but it made me unhappy. It was a kludge and it offended my engineer’s sensibilities.

I had asked about it. As it turned out, the warp core had been intended for the USS Melbourne, which had been lost at Wolf 359. I didn’t ask anymore. Many us were dealing with hand-me-downs after that.

-*-

“… A number of position have yet to be filled, Flagg was saying. He was a short, wiry man with black hair in a fuzzy, bushy, cut. He seemed intense. He moved like an oiled spring. I didn’t really like him, but beggars can’t be choosers. I was already trying to be the Captain when I put a grin on my face and tried to mean it, when I said “Glad to have you aboard, Commander.” .

I don’t think he was fooled.

“I couldn’t help but notice that we have no Chief Engineer assigned, yet. ” I said. There was a whole shopping list of items. This was a big one for me. I had been a Chief Engineer, years before. I knew first hand how badly a ship depends on her Chief Engineer. We were only a few days shy of launch and still no Chief Engineer. On an experimental ship? It didn’t make sense.

“Starfleet has been having a problem finding someone with the proper clearances and … other attributes.”

I was confused a little. What attributes? An engineer with that high a clearance usually had better things to do than push an old ship around, but I thought this was important. I figured I would learn more in a little bit of I just waited.

“Is there a First Officer assigned, yet?” I asked, dreading the answer.

Flagg grinned faintly. I almost missed it. “Yes sir. Commander Li’ira. She’s a little green.”

I thought that this was pushing it for the Chief of Security. “Ahem… Li’ira. Is that her first name, or last?”

“It’s the only name she uses, Captain. She’s an Orion.” This was also a surprise. An Orion in Starfleet? In a command position? On an experimental ship?

“Ah… Hmmmm.” I said. Too much simply did not make sense here.

But my discomfort couldn’t last. We were about to dock. Flagg performed the usual fly by, checking out the exterior of the ship. It would be one of the few times I ever saw the USS Harrier from the outside. There was no hint on the surface of what made this ship an experimental model. All the bumps and protuberances were normal and functional for this ship. There were the sensor housings. Over there were the primary deflector emitters, with their complicated cooling manifolds.

I had spent as much time as possible learning the layout and systems of the USS Harrier. Fortunately there wasn’t that much that was different from the stock model.

One difference was the navigational deflector system. It was overpowered for that kind of starship by a huge margin.

There was no one to ask about that. The whole thing was so classified, that I couldn’t even speak to the Project Manager. I was just there to push the ship.

As we approached the docking port, I saw a scramble inside. The crew, (What there was of it) was rushing to receive the new Captain.

We received clearance to dock and the pod was made fast. My palms were sweaty. I didn’t even realize that I was nervous until my hands reminded me. Flagg went over to the hatch and said “Whenever you’re ready, Captain.”

My chest felt tight. My voice broke as I said “Go ahead.”

Flagg cycled the lock and the doors opened on the USS Harrier (My ship!). I stepped out of the pod and came to attention as I looked around. The first thing that caught my eye was the Orion, Li’ira. I was struck as I saw her by the Orion pheromones. I knew it, and knew what they were, and still I felt my cheeks flush as a rush of lust came over me. I took two deep breaths and looked again. She was tight. She was at attention, and you could have measured perfect angles between her and the deck. Every hair and every muscle was perfectly in place. Her face was very earnest and very young. She had the same intensity as Flagg. I put her at lieutenant, maybe even full grade. But there were three solid gold pips on her collar.

“Ten-HUT!!” She barked. And the rest of the crew came to attention. Most of them were young officers and ratings. It was a fairly fresh crew and probably inexperienced.

Lovely. I said “Permission to come aboard?”

“Permission granted, sir!” Li’ira barked.

I saluted the keel and came aboard. I inspected the fresh, young faces in my crew. Then I took a position roughly in front of them. I held up the PADD, and read the orders off it.

” … As of this stardate, I hereby take command of this vessel.” I finished.

“Computer, transfer command to Captain Jay P. Hailey, authorization, Li’ira – code delta gamma 1449.” Li’ira barked, again. Had she rehearsed this?

I almost hesitated. I could feel the entire weight of the ship, the crew, and their weird mission settling on my shoulders.

But I was committed. “Computer, identify Jay P. Hailey, Captain. ” The computer beeped, and I entered my code. I was officially tied to the USS Harrier. There was no turning back.

Almost as soon as the change of command was complete, Lt. Commander Flagg insisted that I needed a security briefing. I resisted at first. I wanted to tour the ship and get to know her. I hadn’t even seen the Engine Room, yet. Flagg was stubborn and I reluctantly agreed. We retired to the captain’s office. It was a generic little cubby hole with a wooden executive’s desk overfilling it.

“Allow me to present my authentic credentials.” Flagg said and handed me a strange PADD. It was a design favored by Starfleet Intelligence. I had to keep my thumb on a certain spot for the screen to stay on. If someone with different thumb print grabbed the PADD before the program was finished running, it would self destruct and call an alert.

It was an identification of Colonel John Flagg. It looked authentic. There wasn’t much back ground, but I wouldn’t have expected there to be.

I looked up and said something brilliant. Possibly “Oh.”

He said “I wanted to brief you, Captain, on the nature of your mission. This is all highly classified, and not to leave this room.”

He continued, ” The `Holly Hop’ drive may be the best strategic advance the UFP has ever seen. It is a device that transfers a ship between point A and point B with no time delay, and no passing through the intervening space. An `instant elsewhere’ drive.

“I am project security on this. I report to people higher up, but you don’t need to know who. I’m in charge of seeing that this mission goes through.”

I said “So you’re in command, here?”

Flagg responded too quickly. ” No, of course not! You’re the Starship Captain here. I am just here to make sure that the Federations’ enemies don’t get their hands on it, and that all goes smoothly.”

I said “Okay, fine. When do I get the technical stats on this device? I’ll need to know all the pertinent details.”

Flagg grinned a toothy grin ” I’ll see that all you need to know is available on your terminal.”

“Are there any other ringers in the crew?” I asked

“Li’ira. She’s my second. Her actual rank is major.”

“How well qualified is she to be a starship’s First Officer?”

“Very well. We have briefed her extensively and she has just passed all of her technical exams.”

I just looked at him for a moment. A little green? You bet. My head started to throb.

Just then I started really thinking of backing out. Obviously, this was some idiot’s pet project. It would doom my career. To get cold feet after I had already taken command would put me back behind that desk, until I retired.

But was career advancement worth my life?

I said “Okay, do I have discretion on choosing the rest of the crew?”

Flagg replied ” Of course. You’re the Captain.”

-*-

First I read the report on the “Holly Hop”. Charles Holly was a quack. His record, the public areas of it, was a litany of promising ideas that just didn’t work out, somehow. The math behind his new device was weird. I didn’t understand much of it. I wasn’t used to that. More importantly, there wasn’t enough of it. Not that his equations didn’t look authentic, as far as I could ead them, but there were no experimental findings confirming them. There was a report of five unmanned test runs. I was disturbed that each of the five had resulted in damage to the probe used to test the device.

I sought out Holly. He was in Engineering. In the middle of a fairly standard engineering deck, there was his strange device. I’d have missed it, if he hadn’t been in the middle of taking it apart. It looked extremely innocuous. It was just a little box added to one side of the “Pool Table” master systems monitor.

“Dr. Holly?” I interrupted.

“Yes, what?” Holly seemed surprised and then slightly annoyed. He was a typical mad scientist. He wore a rumpled sweater with big pockets. The pockets overflowed with tools and doo-dads. His hair was an unruly shock that threatened to fly away. His eyes were large and peered at me as though I were a bug.

“Well now that you’re here, you can hand me that.” He waved at a bag with a profusion of tools in it. I guessed he wanted a rescalable hydro-spanner and dug it out for him. He grabbed it and returned to his work.

“Sir, I had some questions about the theories that under lie this device.” I began.

“You don’t understand the math.” He said, knowingly.

“Well… yes.” I hated to admit it.

“May I ask your qualifications?” He looked at me with an arrogant air.

“I have a degree in higher math from Starfleet Academy, sir, as well as another in Warp Physics.” I was proud of my qualifications. I had worked hard for them.

“You are a piker. A dilettante. I don’t have the time to complete your neglected education. The question you have asked would require me to spend years explaining it to you with short words and simple diagrams. ” He hesitated for effect. “And I’m not certain you could understand it, even then.”

I figured Holly was really fun at parties.

“Okay,” I tried to rein in my irritation. “Let’s discuss observational evidence.”

Holly breathed a sigh of deep irritation. He made a performance out of stopping and slamming his tool down on the monitor.

“What about my evidence?” He growled.

“I’m sorry, the report was probably inaccurate. It said you had only test fired five times? And that each time the probe was damaged?”

“That’s correct. So?”

“Doesn’t that make you suspect that there might be a problem?”

“Oh Fiddle Faddle! Why don’t you read the report before you grill me on it next time!” He rounded on me and got right in my face “For your information, Each of the probes suffered a failure that was unrelated to my device.” He counted them off.

“Probe one suffered an engine failure following the test and fell into the sun.”

“Probe two activated it’s self destruct system. I suppose it felt unworthy.”

“Probe three suffered a navigation failure and crashed into a cargo ship.”

“Probe four suffered a clock failure and never reappeared.”

“Probe five had a power system failure and overloaded. All the details are in the report. Each of these problems can be solved by having a living crew aboard to fix them.” He turned away “If you don’t mind, Lieutenant, I have work to do.”

I was pretty sure that last was a dig. I hoped he wasn’t that dumb. In any event, talking to this man was going to be mostly useless. I had to try another tack.

-*-

Quinn said “I can’t help you, Jay. All I can say is that I trust you to do the best you can.”

“Thank you, Sir.” I said through an insincere smile. Well, so much for `who you know’. Admiral Quinn’s reply let me know several things. Whatever else this project was, it was a political hot potato.

Starfleet had a clever way of dealing with political hot potatoes. They assigned it to a flag officer and got out of the way. If things worked out well, they gave the officer a commendation and said they knew it was going to work all the time. If things didn’t work out well, then they blamed it on the flag officer and let him hang in the breeze for it.

I was that man, today.

I wasn’t worried about the project itself. I wasn’t worried about myself. I would either make it, or not. That was up to me.

What worried me, oddly, was the crew. I didn’t even know them. But they were my responsibility. I was afraid of killing a number of them by not covering every angle. It was not a comfortable position.

I needed back up. I couldn’t handle the situation by myself. I also didn’t trust Flagg as far as I could throw him.

So I went looking for people I could trust.

-*-

Arthur Hendricks was a thin black man with an easy smile. He was naturally friendly, and it was rather catchy. When I found him, he was cleaning a hydroponics bay on Spacedock.

I had met him a year earlier while investigating a project for Admiral Quinn. I had felt comfortable with Hendricks and had talked too much to him. Soon the entire station knew I was a ringer for Quinn, thanks to Hendricks. They had stopped talking to me. But they hadn’t stopped talking to Arthur. I found out all that I wanted to know from him.

He had this special ability to make friends. He was also talented in being in the right place at the right time. It was almost magical. Arthur Hendricks just knew things.

He was still an ensign. It was a safe bet that he was going to be one forever. Hendricks had no sense about who he talked to. Once too many times he had revealed his Commanding Officer’s closely held information. He was paying for it by cleaning the hydroponics tanks. He was working alone.

“Good afternoon, Snoopy.” Being a snoop was Arthur’s talent, it became his nickname. He took to it as a form of rebellion. He even collected the old comic strip and memorabilia from “Peanuts”.

“Hi, Captain Hailey.” Arthur turned and stood to face me. Did he read my new pips, or did he know already? No matter.

“Arthur, I have a proposition for you…”

-*-

Lieutenant Green looked up from the PADD and said, “Yeah, the math checks out, but I don’t understand it.”

I was confused “Come again?” I encouraged.

Green was an overweight man with a crown of fine blonde curls. He looked like some one’s little cherub who grew out, but never up. It was an accurate impression. Green was an engineering and mathematical prodigy.

I had met him during another project. He had been inventing away, but not reporting anything. I had quickly solved the problem by assigning him a yeoman who was also a monitor for Admiral Quinn. Green had been left essentially alone since then.

Green had joined Starfleet to seek out strange new machines and take them apart to find out why they worked. There was a little of this in all of us engineers, but for Green it was the end all and be all. It made him a loss as a line officer.

He said “The math is a lot of `how’ but not a lot of `why’. It implies a whole new branch of physics, but doesn’t explore it any.”

I said “How would you like to see this device, hands on?” Green’s eyes lit up. I would have to work harder to cover for him, but I needed information.

-*-

Dubonich crawled out of the inner workings of the reactor. It was one of about thirteen million small auxiliary reactors on Spacedock.

Ten years had been relatively kind to the old Chief.

“Chief, can you still adjust a mark seven duotronic phase inducer by ear?” I asked.

Ten years earlier, when I had been the chief engineer on the starship USS Akagi. He had performed that feat during a critical event. The rest of the engineering staff had never let him live it down.

“Reckon I can, Captain.” He answered.

“Would you like another space cruise on your record before you retire?”

Dubonich looked at me thoughtfully. He knew that all was not as it appeared. Being part of the huge Spacedock Engineering crew was a comfortable shore posting. He was one tour or less from retirement and he was doing a relatively easy job there. He seemed to come to a decision. “Reckon I do, Captain.”

-*-

“I know what you’re up to, Captain.” Flagg said. I could tell he enjoyed saying things like that.

“Oh?” I gave him a stare. We were in my ready room. My own personal tricorder had verified that the room was free of bugs, and my own personal phaser rested completely out of reach in the upper desk drawer.

I’d have to rethink that before the next confrontation came up with Flagg.

“It’s not wise, it’s not necessary, and it won’t work.” Flagg continued. “I am not your enemy.”

“Are you questioning my choice of crew members, Colonel?” It was all I could think of.

“Yes, Captain. At least here in private.” He seemed to think it was an important distinction. “Hendricks is unnecessary at all, and his record indicates he’s a danger to the mission. Green is not a good manager, at all. He doesn’t have to just fix things, he’s got to run the department.”

He continued “The only choice here that makes sense from an operational point of view is the collection of NCO’s you’ve put in engineering.”

“It all makes sense from my point of view.” I said. It was, at least, the truth.

I refused to budge. Colonel Flagg knew that to over ride me would be to name himself Captain. Evidently he didn’t think he had the pull for that, because he backed down. I don’t know who he was trying to please, but it was evident that the mission hung on Flagg keeping someone happy. He needed me.

“We’re on the same side here, Hailey. Think through the potential of this device and soon you’ll see the truth.” Flagg then turned and left.

I sat and thought a moment. All I could see were problems and I fervently wished that Charles Holly and his device had never come to be.

The door bell to my office rang. “Enter.” I said. Li’ira came in. She was still as tight and perfectly regulation as ever. She still produced that pheromone driven rush of lust.

I was finding it easier to deal with as time went on. I didn’t even have enough time to worry if that meant that I was getting old.

She handed me a PADD with a status report and went to parade rest. I scanned the PADD. Most of the preparations to leave Spacedock had been completed, but all the reports were too detailed and contained so much useless information, that I had to learn to read between the line to get the basics.

I signed off on her report, and handed it back. “Very good, Commander. It seems we’ll leave on schedule after all.”

“Sir! Yes, Sir!” She barked. It irritated me when she did that. Once already I had ordered her to loosen up, but she was so uncomfortable with it, that I soon relented. I guestimated that she needed a good drunk, preferably at the Mardi Gras, followed by a torrid affair with a jazz musician. I was amused both by the image of the young woman before me doing anything at all torrid, and by what the look on her face might be if I ordered her to do it. She barked again, and startled me out of my reverie.

“Permission to speak, Sir!”

“Granted.” I had to fight to keep from bellowing back.

“Sir, you have no Yeoman, Sir! With respect, will this impair your efficiency!?”

I blinked at her several times. What an excellent idea!

“Commander, you’re a genius!” And I rushed out of my office intent on my newest task.

I wonder how Li’ira got herself out of my office without being dismissed?

-*-

Soon my crew was as complete as it was going to get. I had dashed straight away to Starfleet academy and picked up a fourth year cadet named Yo. He was now taking a cadet cruise aboard the USS Harrier as the First Officer’s Yeoman. He was diligent, upright, prepared, industrious and clean. A regular boy scout. I assigned him as Li’ira’s yeoman. In that job his boy scout tendencies were put to good use. Li’ira began to loosen up a little now that she had a large fraction of the work load taken off her.

I had also requisitioned a computer expert of my acquaintance from Starfleet Command. He had a sideline in producing holodeck adventures. A friend of mine was an avid computer gamer and had dragged me into one of his holodeck adventures.

About the time my friend and I were trying to harmonize the ancient runes to open the mystic gates, and hating the man who had stuck us in this mess, I had an epiphany.

Most members of Starfleet Security were well trained grunts. They were very good at the application of force under orders from the ship’s officers.

But the reason for their reputation as grunts and “Redshirts” was that there was too much detail to ever hope to train them to deal with every contingency. But I had wanted these evil Holodeck exercises for another reason.

I felt that with the proper stimuli, the “Redshirts” under my command could learn to think creatively on their feet. They could learn to duck and to cheat, and to change the rules on their opponents.

I wanted a team of Redshirts that would cause enemy commanders and villains to tear their hair out in frustration.

So I contacted the author of these Holodeck Role Playing Games, and discovered that he was Ensign Gerald Bruce, a computer specialist at Starfleet Command. I drafted him, using my “Captain’s prerogative”. After assigning him to the position of Captain’s Yeoman. I told him of my plan and sent him to work on it.

-*-

Soon the time came for the USS Harrier to leave Spacedock. It had been two weeks of hair pulling and nail biting. The actual event I will never forget.

I arrived on the bridge at about 08:55 in the morning. Li’ira had stopped barking orders, and now stated them with exaggerated calm. I supposed that Colonel Flagg had given her more extensive briefings. She was in the center seat readying the USS Harrier to fly.

The bridge of the USS Harrier was old fashioned. It was suited more to a ship from thirty years ago, than a test bed of modern technology. It even had he old fashioned Nav/Helm console as a single unit near the front of the bridge.

But all the displays were letter perfect, and the patter on the bridge could have come out of any manual.

“Main Deuterium Feed”

“Check”

“Power Generation, all modes”

“Power generation, all modes, shows green”

“Navigational feed”

“Starfleet NavCom updated at zero-hundred hours, all checked”

“Main Sensor class three diagnostic”

“Check, Main Sensor nominal.”

“Time: T-Minus five minutes and counting”

“All Hands! All Hands! T-Minus five!”

Et cetera. I’m sure the technical jargon is boring to you, but to me it was the language of a smooth operation, ready to roll.

It was as though nothing were weird or spooky about the whole event so far, and I let myself go with it.

“Captain on the Bridge!” Snapped the officer of the bridge. The whole bridge stopped and stood up. I stood for a moment, acutely embarrassed. It helped to realize that the “Captain” was a role that the whole ship looked up to. It wasn’t me, it was the office. And I knew that I had to make it look good and give the kids in the crew their magic feather.

I looked around briefly and made sure that each of the bridge crew saw me looking at them. And then I let the grin spread across my face.

“Excellent.” I said. “As you were.” I really wanted to say “Coooool!” But it wouldn’t have seemed captainly. I think that most of them got it.

“Report, Commander?” I asked Li’ira. It was pro forma, but that made it important, even so.

“All systems up, and running to specifications. All departments report secure and ready for space, Captain.” Her eyes were straight ahead, and I could almost see the proper manual pages flashing across her mind.

“Very Good, Commander.” I made the proper reply, and then took my place at the center of the circus.

I remember that the next few minutes seemed to take forever, but I can’t specifically recall why. Two minutes later I said “Communications, give my compliments to Spacedock, and request departure clearance.”

Flagg responded “Aye, Sir.”

The clearance was given, and I said, “Commander, take us out.” Then I remembered, had she ever done this before?

But her technical training was without fault. The USS Harrier made a textbook departure and took off across Earth’s solar system at a leisurely one half

impulse.

“Put us on the specified heading, and inform me when we reach the testing site, please, Commander.” I ordered. “You have the bridge.”

Then I got up and had to straighten that damned two piece uniform. We had recently switched from a form fitting jump suit that really left too little to the imagination, to a two piece version. The two piece was a little easier, but it led to something that was called “The Picard Maneuver” after the famous Starship Captain. The jacket of the uniform had a tendency to ride up on the tummy, and whenever one stood up, it needed to be pulled down and straightened to restore the trim.

I performed “The Picard maneuver” and went to the turbo lift. I figured one truly was a captain when they could keep their dignity through the trials of Starfleet uniforms. I wasn’t there, yet.

I went to the engineering room. Lt. Green and Charles Holly were up to their elbows in Holly’s strange device. I caught the eye of Chief Dubonich. He looked pointedly at Lt. Green and gave an eloquent shrug. All around the engineering room, things were busy.

The first launch of a ship just out of refit is a cranky business. But the old chiefs were running the fresh young engineers every which way around the compartment, and all seemed quite well in hand.

I approached the two men in the center of the action. Over the background noise of the engineering room, I heard them talking gibberish. I assumed it was mathematical notations on the operation of the device, but for all of me, it could have been Swahili.

“Lt. Green, report.” I ordered. The Chief Engineer of the USS Harrier looked at me in surprise, and then glanced around at his department.

“Uh,” He groped “Everything seems okay, Captain.”

“What is the meaning of this interruption!?” Charles Holly demanded. I supposed it had been awhile since he had met anyone with whom he could talk shop.

“Well, sir, I was wondering if the device would be ready for its test on time.” I tried to speak soothingly without letting Holly know I thought he was a mad quack. I shouldn’t have bothered. I could have told him that the ship was under attack for all the notice he took of me.

“Yes, yes, tell Starfleet that their precious drive will be ready on time.” And then he turned back to Green and launched into another spate of gobbledy gook. Green had the good grace to at least look embarrassed as he was swept away on a mathematical tide.

I went to Chief Dubonich and said “Chief, how’s she holding together?”

Dubonich looked at me, pointedly. His expression asked the question when to voice it would have been insubordinate. Did I know what I was doing? “She’s a good ship sir, all the new equipment is settling in, you know how it is.” Then he switched his gaze to Holly and Green “Figure they’ll blow us up with that thing, sir?”

“I wanted to speak to you about that. Do you think the isolation fields could hold it if his doo-hickey just plain explodes? ” I asked. I thought it was a good possibility. I had also measured the potential of the blast if Charles Holly’s’ device simply took the energy we fed it, and used it to explode. The fields in the engineering room should hold.

Dubonich looked at me. “Think it’ll break that way, Captain?”

“I want to cover every possibility, Chief.”

“Yes, sir, I think we can come through that, all right.”

-*-

I told myself I would then go to my office, and have a productive working day.

I didn’t. I spent the rest of the day making a nuisance out of myself.

I toured the USS Harrier, more or less at random, and poked my nose into nearly every compartment. It was difficult enough for the new crew to get into the routine of their new jobs, but that day, I made it worse. Nobody could turn around, it seemed, without me being there to offer my useless and interfering comments.

I suppose they were mostly smart enough to say “Yes, Sir!” And then do it the right way when I was out of sight again. But there wasn’t a department that I missed.

Ten hours later, I returned to the bridge. A satisfactory report awaited me there, and I retired for the evening. We were right on schedule and would arrive at the test site, near the edge of the solar system, the next morning.

I had given us a roundabout course to the test site to give the ship a chance to shake down. We weren’t really supposed to be going much of anywhere, but I preferred to have the ship a little more comfortable with itself when we finally tested the Holly Hop drive.

-To Be Continued-

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all things Trek. I claim original characters and situations in this story for me.

 

 

The Case for the Planet Tiamat

I have posted some threads about ancient astronauts, gods, God and other legends concerning the beginnings of human civilization. Some sound real far-fetched and insane. But others have the air of credibility about them. Critics of these theories range from “deceit brought in by the Devil” to “there is just no evidence for the matter at all!” Well, I tell you what, I’m going to put this “evidence” out there and let you dear audience judge for yourselves whether I’ve been taking too much epilepsy medicine or not.

Author Zecharia Sitchen has written several books about the ancient Sumerians and their relationship with their gods. Their “gods” of course are ancient astronauts. One of the legends is of how the gods entered our world via their planet “Nibiru”. On the way into the inner Solar System, Nibiru came in close proximity to a planet called “Tiamat”. Now Tiamat happened to be where the asteroid belt is now. Needless to say that Tiamat ended up in a million pieces:

A “Tiamat” Discovered?

     According to Enuma Elish as interpreted by me, Sumerian cosmogony (or rather the Anunnaki who had told the Sumerians) held that our planetary system began with a messenger-planet near the Sun (”Mercury”) and a larger planet called Tiamat that orbited where the Asteroid Belt is now.  In the next phase, the two inner planets that we call Mars and Venus formed between Tiamat and the Sun; and after that, the outer planet formed in pairs; Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

     Drawn into the center of that early solar system, the invader Nibiru/Marduk was fated to collide with Tiamat.  One half of her was shattered and became the Asteroid Belt; the other more intact half was thrown into a new orbit and became the planet Earth.

     A week before the announcement by the U. Penn team (described above), a team of British, Australian and American astronomers announced the discovery of a solar system similar to ours in the constellation Puppis.  “There, in what is the closest resemblance to Earth’s solar system yet found in outer space, a Jupiter-like planet circles a sun-like star in an orbit that corresponds to one halfway between Mars and Jupiter in our own system.”

     The New York Times (7 July 2003) accompanied the report with a diagram showing the positions of the Sun, the Earth, Mars and Jupiter in our solar system, compared to a superimposed sketch of the newfound solar system with a planet, in a circular orbit, between Mars and Jupiter.

     Astronomers and reporters found the discovery exciting because the findings suggest that the solar system might also include “an Earthlike planet.”

     I find it exciting because, as my readers know, in our solar system, there indeed was a planet precisely between Mars and Jupiter: TIAMAT; and were it not for the collision, it would still be there.

     Once again, what the Sumerians learnt from the Anunnaki is proven right.

Now skeptics would say that, “Well, Niburu should’ve been destroyed also”. Believe it or not, I agree with that. And Sitchin fails to explain that. But I think what he was getting at was that the theory of planetary collision and the extreme age of some planets. That now is a proven fact according to astronomer Stein Sigurdsson in 2003:

Astronomers said Thursday the oldest and most distant planet yet found is a huge, gaseous sphere 13-billion years old and 5,600 light years away, a discovery that could change theories about when planets formed and when life could have evolved.

The planet, more than twice the size of Jupiter, orbits two stars, a pulsar and a white dwarf that linked together about a billion years ago. The system is in the constellation Scorpius within a globular cluster called M4 that contains stars that formed billions of years before the sun and its planets.

“All of the stars in this cluster are about the same age, so the presumption is that the planet is that age also,” Harvey Richer, an astronomer at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, said Thursday at a NASA news conference.

Sitchen also theorized about planetary ejection from ancient solar systems, thus the possibility of a planet Nibiru entering our Solar System:

I asserted that the well known Sumerian /Akkadian Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish) has to be treated not as mythical allegory but as a sophisticated cosmogony; and that the challenger that appeared at the edge of our solar system, coming from outer space, was a planet ejected from another distant solar system.  This entailed recognition by the authors of the ancient text that there are other solar systems in the universe with their own planets – a notion held impossible by astronomers until a few years ago.  It entailed the notion that stars and their planetary systems could explode, ejecting a planet to journey in space – another revolutionary astronomical aspect only recently accepted; and it entailed the even more challenging idea, that life exists elsewhere in the universe and could have and did evolve ealier than on Earth.

A recent article in New Scientist speculated that chances are greater for life to have been seeded on Earth instead of forming here:

If you buy a lottery ticket this week, what are the odds that you’ll win the grand prize then get struck by lightning as you pop open the champagne? Vanishingly small, but still much higher than the odds that life on Earth first evolved on our planet, according to an ardent proponent of the notion that life came from space.

Chandra Wickramasinghe from Cardiff University, UK, has long argued the case for cometary panspermia, the idea that comets are infected with primitive life forms and delivered life to the early Earth. That would explain why life on Earth arose so quickly after our planet formed around 4.5 billion years ago.

Wickramasinghe says the case has been bolstered by NASA’s Deep Impact probe, which blasted Comet Tempel 1 with a projectile in July 2005. Scientists reported seeing clay particles spewing out from the interior.

Because clay needs liquid water to form, Wickramasinghe says that suggests comets once had warm, liquid interiors due to heating from radioactive isotopes. Clay is also a favoured catalyst for converting simple organic molecules into complex biopolymers on the early Earth.

Now, Wickramasinghe and his colleagues argue that the sheer volume of watery clay environments on comets makes them a far more likely site for the origin of life than our home planet.

Meaning that the ingredients for life can be flying all around space for millions and millions of years before landing on Earth and starting all of this mess.

The point is? The point is this recent discovery made by Rene Duffard of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia in Grenada, Spain:

Two space rocks in our solar system’s outer asteroid belt might contain mineral evidence for a new class of asteroids or long eroded mini-worlds. 

The asteroids, (7472) Kumakiri and (10537) 1991 RY16, were found to contain basalt, a grey-black mineral that forms much of the crust on Earth and the other inner planets.

Basalt has also been found in space rocks shed by Vesta, the third largest object in the asteroid belt, located between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars. The presence of basalt is evidence that an object was once large enough to sustain internal heating.

“We need now to observe both objects in the near-infrared range to confirm whether they have a basaltic surface,” said study leader Rene Duffard of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia in Grenada, Spain. “If they do, we will need to try to work out where they came from and the fate of their parent objects. If they do not, we will have to come up with a new class of asteroid.”  

The finding, made using photometric data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), was presented at annual European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, Germany.

So some asteroids in our Asteroid Belt exhibit signs of being part of a larger body that had internal heating (hot molten core?) at one time. This is an old theory, but now there’s hard evidence to confirm this. But where does this lead us?

It leads us to theorize that the Sumerians might’ve been close to the story of life creation on this world. There’s evidence of ancient planets (Nibiru) that might’ve been ejected from their original Solar Systems. Then entering a younger solar system, colliding with another planet in said Solar System, destroying one, the other almost. Then the resulting asteroids/comets bombarding a young Earth thus seeding it. And oh yeah, an asteroid belt that has a mineral that is only found in rocky planetary crusts that formed from internal heating.

I’m probably off base with this, but think about it. People have been found guilty of murder with less circumstantial evidence than this!

Dehumanizing War

I have been wracking my brains out trying to find something different relating to science, but relevant to today’s world. Then I ran across this post in the Daily Galaxy :

Increasingly, the military wants to hand over the responsibility of killing to conscienceless machines. Some say it’s a great way to protect our troops and others are calling it a cold-hearted cop-out.

In either case, the US military hopes to dehumanize military operations as quickly as possible. The US National Research Council advises “aggressively exploiting the considerable war fighting benefits offered by autonomous vehicles”. They are cheap to manufacture, require less personnel and, according to the navy, perform better in complex missions. One battlefield soldier could start a large-scale robot attack in the air and on the ground.

The US military already has unmanned aerial vehicles armed with hellfire missiles. “At present they require a human to give, by remote, permission to fire,” says Owen Holland, professor of computer science at the University of Essex, “but it will not be long before they can take the human out of the loop.”

The U.S. Government has made no secret about wanting to increasingly utilize robots and other “unmanned” equipment to use in warfare. This is one of the mandates of the Pentagon 20 Year Strategy, to “dehumanize” war.

Hmmph, like it doesn’t do that already?

The Reason My Professors Told Me NOT To Use Wikipedia

The last time I was taking college courses, I was told by my professors NOT to use Wikipedia as a source for any of my papers. One of the reasons was that Wikipedia entries can be biased toward a certain editors point of view. Well, it seems that they were right:

A program called “Wikiscanner” designed to show the origination of Wikipedia edits is revealing the shocking, hilarious, shady, bizarre and often clearly biased origins of many Wikipedia entries. Some of the edits may be meant as harmless (albeit rude) pranks, but many others are a deliberate effort to misinform the public by rewriting “facts”, or by covering up the truth.

Central Intelligence Agency computers, for example, were found to be the sources of nearly 300 edits to subjects including Iran’s president, the Argentine navy, and China’s nuclear arsenal.

“While I cannot confirm whether any changes were made from CIA computers, the agency always expects its computer systems to be used responsibly,” CIA spokesman George Little said in response to the incidents.

A Vatican computer was used to remove documented evidence linking Ireland’s Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to a decades-old double murder.

Politics are also playing a big part in the “Wiki War”.  Recently, an edit traced back to computers at the US Democratic Party’s Congressional campaign committee changed a description of conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh to replace “comedian” with “bigot” and dubbed his listeners “legally retarded.”

“We don’t condone these sorts of activities and we take every precaution to insure our network is used in a responsible manner,” committee spokesman Doug Thornell responded.

A Republican Party computer was used after the US invasion of Iraq to change “occupying forces” to “liberating forces” in a Baath Party entry. A United Nations computer was identified as the source of an edit that referred to a respected Italian journalist a “promiscuous racist”. Those types of changes may seem small, but when they are specifically calculated to sway public opinion, the issue becomes bigger than the actual edits.

This is a shame. Wikipedia could be a valuable source of information if used right. But of course, human beings looking to get an upper hand over an adversary are willing to do anything they can to poison the well for others. And I’m sure Wikipedia has influenced public opinion in positive, and negative ways the past seven years.

I suppose if it wasn’t Wikipedia it would’ve been something else. Just wait until the Internet is run by intelligent software. Maybe it’ll be smart enough to filter out manipulation of any kind.

Or maybe it’ll do a little manipulation of it’s own.

Article from The Daily Galaxy

Boggling Boltzmann Brains

From New Scientist :

POP. What are the chances that an everyday object – a rock, a chair, you name it – could suddenly appear out of thin air? Not zero, surprisingly. In fact, given enough space and time, it is conceivable that a conscious being could arise, even if only for a microsecond.

OK, such an event would be incredibly unlikely, but not impossible – at least in theory. Physicists have dubbed such hypothetical beings “Boltzmann brains”, after the 19th-century Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, a pioneer in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. Boltzmann posed the question of whether the universe could have arisen from a thermal fluctuation; his work presaged the idea that a fluctuation could also give rise to a conscious entity that sees the universe. In this regard Boltzmann brains are not necessarily actual brains, but rather are a metaphor for observers of the universe that might appear spontaneously.

The idea sounds absurd, but it is helping cosmologists grapple with models of the universe, and our place in it. Cosmology, indeed most of science, assumes that we humans are typical observers in the grand scheme of things. Ever since the 16th century, when Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus argued that the Earth is just a rock orbiting the sun, we have been dethroned from a unique position in the cosmos. The laws of physics seem to be the same in our neighbourhood as in the rest of the visible universe. So the idea has been enshrined that unless we have reason to think otherwise, we should assume that we are typical. “This assumption is very essential to everything that we do,” says Alex Vilenkin of Tufts University in Massachusetts. “If we don’t assume that our observations are typical of observers, we wouldn’t be able to conclude anything.”

The way I understood quantum mechanics is that since universal particles and their inherent building block particles and their building “strings” all buzz around back and forth in different energy states, thus there always is a small probability, no matter how small, that if you start crossing the road to check your mail (yeah, you might get hit by a truck) you’ll dissolve and rematerialize in another part of the world, or Universe for that matter. This idea posits that the longer the Universe exists, because of increasing random fluctuations in thermal radiation of the expansion, the chances of these “Boltzmann Brains” show up to be dominant observers of the Universe. Ludwig Boltzmann is the father of this concept and you can read his Wikipedia profile here.

Professor Leonard Susskind in 2002 hypothesized that entities could arise from the thermal fluctuations in the Universe:

Spikes in space-time

There is another way to think about why our universe began in a highly
ordered or “low entropy” state. In 2002, a group of physicists led by
Leonard Susskind at Stanford University in California proposed that
entities capable of observing the universe could arise via random
thermal fluctuations, as opposed to the big bang, galaxy formation and
evolution. This idea has been explored by others, including Don Page
at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Some researchers
argue that under certain conditions, self-aware entities in the form
of disembodied spikes in space-time – “Boltzmann brains” – are more
likely to emerge than complex life forms. Because they depend on
fluctuations of particles, Boltzmann brains would be more common in
regions of high entropy than low entropy. If the universe had started
out in a state of high entropy, it would be more likely to be
populated by Boltzmann brains than life forms like us, which suggests
that the entropy of our early universe had to be low. As a low-entropy
initial state is unlikely, though, this also implies that there are a
huge number of other universes out there that are unsuitable for us.

More philisophical debating about existance and the Universe, I love it!

Next up, Are We Living In a Computer Simulation?

Slam-Dunk-a-thon

It’s been a while since I posted a political thread, so I did a little trawling and came up with this odd little tidbit I didn’t catch anywhere else.

From AmericanFreePress :

An insane plan authorized by President Bush to join Turkey in a covert war to assassinate leaders of a Kurdish rebel group in northern Iraq was exposed after a former Dick Cheney aide briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Within days of the visit to the Hill by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman, columnist Robert Novak got wind of the plan and made it public. It transpired that Edelman boasted that the plan involved U.S. Special Forces helping their Turkish counterparts “behead” the leadership of the Kurdish guerrilla group the PKK, also known as the Kurdistan Workers Party, in its hideout in mountains bordering northern Iraq and Turkey.

When lawmakers questioned the sanity of the United States getting caught up in yet another guerrilla war, Edelman assured them it would be a success. The U.S. role would be hidden and vigorously denied if made public. Some members of Congress thought the strategy was risky, especially at a time when the United States was bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Edelman’s response was that the plan was a “slam dunk” and that it would not take long to accomplish.

Oh boy, remember another “slam dunk”? :

As in, it was a “slam-dunk” that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Or so Tenet said, with the kind of unambiguous self-assurance that Bush so admires. These will go down as Tenet’s famous last words, even though he uttered them more than a year ago.

“George, how confident are you?” the president asked Tenet, in an exchange depicted in Bob Woodward’s book “Plan of Attack.”

“Don’t worry, it’s a slam-dunk,” Tenet said.

Playing political hot-potato with the Turks over beheading the PKK should come as no surprise to anybody paying attention to the Middle East and ignoring the spin of the corporate media. The Turks have 200,000 troops on the Iraqi border and have said in no bullshit terms that they will stream across and wipe out Kurdistan. Oh yeah, Kurdistan have been the only staunch ally Bu$hco’s ever had during this whole imperial adventure.

How’s that spreading democracy workin’ for ya?

Original article