Monthly Archives: August, 2012

SETI, ETI Civilization Detection and UFOs

When one discusses the UFO flying saucer phenomenon, the idea of civilizations coming to Earth and how they get here becomes moot because the mode is obvious — the flying saucer is a spaceship that transcends space and time and is technology many hundreds, if not thousands of years ahead of ours.

But mainstream science claims — “Not so fast. Einstein claimed that nothing can go faster than the speed of light in this Universe. Things that appear to transcend that speed are fake and optical illusions. If aliens come here, it will be in slower-than light vessels that are easily detected.”

I find that idea interesting, especially if there are civilisations thousands of millenia ahead of us are actually noticing us, they are using technologies that are magical to us.

Anything else, they are not as advanced as we think they are:

SETI always makes us ask what human-centered assumptions we are making about extraterrestrial civilizations. When it comes to detecting an actual technology, like the starships we’ve been talking about in the last two posts, we’ve largely been forced to study concepts that fit our understanding of physics. Thus Robert Zubrin talks about how we might detect a magsail, or an antimatter engine, or a fusion-powered spacecraft, but he’s careful to note that the kind of concepts once studied by the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project at NASA may be undetectable, since we really don’t know what’s possible and what its signature might be.

I mentioned zero-point energy in a previous post because Zubrin likewise mentions it, an idea that would draw from the energy of the vacuum at the quantum level. Would a craft using such energies — if it’s even possible — leave a detectable signal? I’ve never seen a paper on this, but it’s true that one classic paper has looked at another truly exotic mechanism for interstellar travel, the wormhole. These shortcuts through spacetime make space travel a snap. Because they connect one part of the universe to another, you go in one end and come out the other, emerging into another place and, for all we know, another time.

The fact that we don’t know whether wormholes exist doesn’t mean we can’t think about how to detect one, although the authors of the classic paper on wormhole detection make no assumptions about whether or not any intelligent species would actually be using a wormhole. The paper is “Natural Wormholes as Gravitational Lenses,” and it’s no surprise to find that its authors are not only wormhole specialists like Matt Visser and Michael Morris, but physicists with a science fiction connection like John Cramer, Geoffrey Landis, Gregory Benford and the formidable Robert Forward.

Image: A wormhole presents a shortcut through spacetime. Can one be detected? Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The analysis assumes that the mouth of a wormhole would accrete mass, which would give the other mouth a net negative mass that would behave in gravitationally unusual ways. Thus the GNACHO (gravitationally negative anomalous compact halo object), which playfully echoes the acronym for massive compact halo objects (MACHOs). Observationally, we can look for a gravitational lensing signature that will enhance background stars by bending light in a fundamentally different way than what a MACHO would do. And because we have MACHO search data available, the authors propose checking them for a GNACHO signature.

In conventional gravitational lensing, when a massive object moves between you and a much more distant object, a greatly magnified and distorted image of the distant object can be seen. Gravitational lensing like this has proven a useful tool for astrophysicists and has also been a means of exoplanet detection. But when a wormhole moves in front of another star, it should de-focus the light and dim it. And as the wormhole continues to move in relation to the background star, it should create a sudden spike of light. The signature, then, is two spikes with a steep lowering of light between them.

The authors think we might find the first solid evidence for the existence of a wormhole in our data by looking for such an event, saying “…the negative gravitational lensing presented here, if observed, would provide distinctive and unambiguous evidence for the existence of a foreground object of negative mass.” And it goes without saying that today’s astronomy, which collects information at a rate far faster than it can be analyzed, might have such evidence tucked away in computer data waiting to be discovered by the right search algorithms.

Would a wormhole be a transportation device? Nobody knows. Assuming we discover a wormhole one day, it would likely be so far away that we wouldn’t be able to get to it to examine its possibilities. But it’s not inconceivable that a sufficiently advanced civilization might be able to create an artificial wormhole, creating a network of spacetime shortcuts for instantaneous travel. Matt Visser has discussed a wormhole whose mouth would be held open by negative energy, ‘…a flat-space wormhole mouth framed by a single continuous loop of exotic cosmic string.’ A primordial wormhole might survive from the early universe. Could one also be created by technology?

It is my theory that if we do not build worm-holes — our AI partners, and/or successors will be able to invent and construct them.

So that begs the question — “Are flying saucers constructed by biological beings, or AI/cybernetic creatures?”

Exotic Detections: Wormholes and Worldships

NatGeo and the UFO Debate

NatGeo ( National Geographic TV ) has put out two versions of the UFO conundrum.

First is its show “Chasing UFOs” in which it has three protagonists look into various UFO stories all over the U.S. A lot of hard-core UFO researchers hate the show, but I find it entertaining ( I hold no illusions about any scientific veracity about the series ).

Now we have NatGeo’s latest production “Secret History of UFOs” which shows the other side of the coin. The “debunking” side:

 Well-known “skeptic” Robert Sheaffer’s performance in Secret History of UFOs, the National Geographic network’s latest debunking-disguised-as-documentary, begs the question: At what point does the systematic presentation of half-truths and outright falsehoods about the UFO phenomenon cross the line from incompetent scholarship to intentional disinformation?
As I noted in my last article,given the extremely biased and propagandistic treatment of the UFO subject one consistently finds on Nat Geo, it might reasonably be argued that the network has been working behind the scenes with the CIA to debunk the phenomenon.

This is not some paranoid fantasy. Indeed, the history of the agency’s covert efforts to spin or suppress UFO-related stories, utilizing its contacts in the news and entertainment media, is now well-documented. The policy resulted from the findings of the CIA’s 1953 Robertson Panel, which explicitly recommended using the mass media to debunk UFOs in the interest of national security. Journalist Terry Hansen’s excellent, scholarly book, The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up,  just republished as an e-book, details the agency’s decades-long use of the television networks, among other organizations, as tools to disinform the American people about the UFO reality.
While it would be nearly impossible to prove or disprove that producers at Nat Geo are in cahoots with the spooks—barring the intrepid efforts of some journalistic sleuth who is willing to ferret out the facts—it can at least be said that those responsible for the ongoing series of UFO “documentaries” at the network are slavishly spouting the agency’s official party-line regarding the supposed non-existence of UFOs, year after year, program after pathetic program. Their reliance on Robert Sheaffer, in particular, as a purportedly objective scholar on the UFO topic, belies either their naiveté or their premeditated participation in a disinformational ruse.
Highly relevant to this discussion is my research into Sheaffer’s affiliation with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) which was previously named The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). As journalist Terry Hansen has argued in The Missing Times, the historical role of CSICOP (now CSI) strongly suggests it has been performing as an intelligence community “front organization”—pumping anti-UFO propaganda into the media without revealing its true source or motivation.
My own findings about Sheaffer’s “skeptical” group—he was a founding member of its UFO Subcommittee—relate to my 39-year investigation of UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites, as documented in declassified files and military witness testimony. Many years ago I discovered that two of CSICOP’s leading members had professional ties to the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program, something they seemed very shy about publicly discussing in any meaningful way.
Moreover, one of those individuals, James Oberg, once privately harassed a former U.S. Air Force officer, Lt. Robert M. Jacobs, after he openly discussed a still-classified, nukes-related UFO incident in various magazine articles the 1980s. As discussed in my bookUFOs and Nukes and online, Oberg—who had worked as a nuclear weapons researcher and security officer while in the Air Force in the early 1970s—chastised Jacobs, in a personal letter, for releasing “top secret UFO data” relating to the September 1964 Big Sur Incident. This was a very odd accusation indeed, coming from someone whose public, supposedly-skeptical stance is that UFOs don’t even exist.
(According to now-Dr. Jacobs, a UFO had been inadvertently filmed through a high-powered telescope/camera as it paced and then circled a dummy nuclear warhead during a missile test flight at Vandenberg AFB, California. Apparently, four beams of light were seen shooting from the domed-disc to the warhead in rapid succession, whereupon the warhead began tumbling, eventually falling into the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles short of its target. This amazing encounter has been confirmed as a real event by a second USAF officer, retired Major Florenze J. Mansmann, who unequivocally says that two CIA agents confiscated the Top Secret film.)
After Jacobs went public with the story, another leading member of CSICOP/CSI, the late journalist Phillip Klass, engaged in what Jacobs considered to be a thinly-veiled threat by pointedly mentioning, also in a private letter, his close professional associations with two leading figures in the U.S. intelligence community, Admiral Bobby Inman and U.S. Army General Daniel Graham.
Over the years, Klass had been accused of being a government disinformation agent by various UFO proponents. In response, he had always recoiled indignantly and dismissed the charge as nonsense. Interestingly, to my knowledge, never once did Klass openly cite Inman and Graham as associates and personal character references, as he did with Jacobs, when privately pressuring the former USAF officer. Fortunately, rather than being intimidated by Klass and Oberg, Dr. Jacobs eventually released the contents of their self-incriminating letters to him.
A third leading member of Robert Sheaffer’s organization, Skeptical Inquirer magazine editor Kendrick Frazier, published two demonstrably-inaccurate articles about the Big Sur case in an apparently frantic effort by CSICOP to debunk the incident, no matter how badly the facts had to be distorted or completely misstated to achieve the ruse. My documented exposé on the group’s now-discredited, attempted sleights-of-hand may be read at my website.
Significantly, although one will have to search diligently to find information confirming this fact, Kendrick Frazier was employed for over 20 years as a Public Relations Specialist by Sandia National Laboratories—one of the key facilities involved with the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program—during the same period his “skeptical” magazine was repeatedly pooh-poohing UFOs and ridiculing those who reported them. Frazier has even ducked mentioning his longtime job as a government-paid spin doctor in his self-written biography.
So, let’s recap here: Among CSICOP/CSI’s leading members are a former USAF officer (Oberg) who publicly rejects the reality of UFOs but privately chastised another former officer who leaked information about an Air Force/CIA cover-up of one very important case; a journalist (Klass) who publicly ridiculed those who suggested a disinformational motive for his UFO debunking, but privately acknowledged his close professional associations with top-level officials at the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency; and a magazine editor (Frazier) who continues to work for a magazine ostensibly devoted to dismissing UFOs on purely scientific grounds but who simultaneously worked as a PR mouthpiece for the U.S. nuclear weapons program for two decades, a position he has avoided mentioning in published references to himself.
In short, Robert Sheaffer’s “skeptical” organization has some very suspicious links to the U.S. government which it has attempted to downplay and even hide from public scrutiny. And this is the group of “UFO experts” that Nat Geo calls upon when seeking a supposedly knowledgeable, objective authority to interview about the nature of the phenomenon, when producing its alleged “documentaries” on the subject.
Whether by design or default, the latest debunking effort by the network is possibly the worst piece of anti-UFO propaganda ever produced by them, comparable to the crudest of the former Soviet regime’s notorious and now-laughable fact-spinning exercises during the Cold War era.
For example, to hear Secret History of UFOs tell it, the reason Americans began reporting sightings of disc-shaped “flying saucers” in the late 1940s is because they had been whipped into a near-hysterical frenzy by sensational news reports in July 1947 relating to the Roswell Incident which, according to debunkers quoted on the program, was in reality the recovery of a secret military balloon-train belonging to Project Mogul, not a crashed extraterrestrial craft, as many now believe.
Dr. David Rudiak, a leading Roswell researcher, says, “Those guys are merely parroting the theory originally adopted by an Air Force counter-intelligence team at the Pentagon in 1994 to thwart U.S. Congressman Steven Schiff’s official inquiry into what happened at Roswell.” Rudiak further notes that the project’s own records confirm that the specific test flight alluded to, Flight #4 on June 4th, had been cancelled due to cloud cover, thereby discrediting the debunkers’ and the Air Force’s claims about its alleged involvement in the now-famous Roswell object debris-recovery operation.
Rudiak explains, “The Air Force also deliberately brought back the two previous flights from the dead, #2 and #3, in order to make a case for #4 being the crash object. In reality, Mogul records unambiguously show these flights were likewise canceled due to high winds and equipment failure. All three flights were therefore written out of the project summaries, as can easily be seen in one image excerpt:

– click image(s) to enlarge –

Note that the summaries instead list Flight #5 as the first ‘successful’ Mogul flight, and it is so-listed in NASA’s records and in an official Air Force history of flight. It cannot account for Roswell, nor can any other real Mogul flight, the fates of which are all well-documented. ‘Flight #4’ is a fiction created in modern times purely to debunk Roswell. How can a nonexistent balloon flight explain anything?”
In spite of this documentation, Robert Sheaffer and the other debunkers continue to assert that misplaced public interest in the supposedly-discredited reports of a recovered flying saucer resulted in thousands of ongoing UFO sighting reports, even decades later, as gullible Americans jumped on the bandwagon. In doing so, Sheaffer and company conveniently fail to mention the U.S. military’s own secret assessment of the mysterious aerial objects, undertaken not long after the Roswell Incident, as revealed in the now-declassified “Twining Memo”, which was only released to the public via the Freedom of Information Act, decades after it was written.
In the late summer of 1947, after a three-month, nationwide sighting wave, Air Intelligence at the Pentagon urgently requested a report on the “Flying Discs”, as the military called them at the time. In response, Air Force Lt. General Nathan F. Twining, Commander of the Air Materiel Command (AMC), based at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, held a conference with personnel assigned to the Air Institute of Technology, the Office of the Chief of Engineering Division, various aeronautical laboratories within the Engineering Division designated T-3, and Technical Intelligence officers. For raw data, these groups used in their evaluations interrogation reports supplied by the Pentagon, containing statements by military UFO sighting witnesses.
Summarizing the input he received from his engineering and intelligence staff, Twining sent a memorandum to Brigadier General George Schulgen, Chief of the Air Intelligence Requirements Division, in which he presented AMC’s initial assessment of the unexplained aerial objects. Dated September 23, 1947 and classified Secret, the key portions of the memo are as follows:

1. At the request of AC/AS-2 there is presented below the considered opinion of this command concerning the so-called “Flying Discs”… 2. It is the opinion that:

a. The phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious. b. There are objects probably approximating the shape of a disc, of such appreciable size as to appear to be as large as man-made aircraft. c. There is a possibility that some of the incidents may be caused by natural phenomena, such as meteors. d. The reported operating characteristics such as extreme rates of climb, maneuverability (particularly in roll), and action which must be considered evasive when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar, lend belief to the possibility that some of the objects are controlled either manually, automatically, or remotely. e. The apparent common description of the objects is as follows:

(1) Metallic or light reflecting surface. (2) Absence of trail, except in a few instances when the object apparently was operating under high performance conditions. (3) Circular or elliptical in shape, flat on bottom and domed on top. (4) Several reports of well kept formation flights varying from three to nine objects. (5) Normally no associated sound, except in three instances a substantial rumbling roar was noted. (6) Level flight speeds normally above 300 knots are estimated.

In other words, despite the debunkers’ bogus claims on Secret History of UFOs about the reasons underlying public interest in the supposedly non-existent Flying Saucers—allegedly the result of inaccurate news reports relating to Roswell, coupled with Cold War hysteria and a widespread fascination with the dawning Space Age—in reality, behind-the-scenes, government analysts and officials took the UFO sighting reports by both civilian and military observers absolutely seriously.

Over on Rich Reynold’s site ‘The UFO Iconoclast(s)‘ , Rich speaks about Robert Sheaffer’s “unkept” appearance and how it’s a sign of “unclear” thinking.

I haven’t seen the show yet, but I will certainly see how any such thinking affects his debate. This certainly will be interesting.

After all, this is a thinly veiled attempt by NatGeo to present both sides of the UFO issue and most importantly, make the most money for its sponsors.


Robert Sheaffer — WTF?

Snowflake UFO


An amazing UFO video has been posted to YouTube showing what is described as a “snowflake” mothership dropping light balls over an unidentified area of South America. What is it?

In the video, taken at night, a man, speaking Spanish, is amazed by the sight of a lighted ship hovering over what looks like a farmhouse. The craft is shaped like a giant snowflake and appears to be throwing off smaller lighted orbs. It’s not like anything ever filmed before.

An interpretation provided by commenters on the channel is not really necessary, since the man’s amazement is understood in any language. But his family comes for a look and are amazed as well.

There’s just no way to describe this amazing UFO which defies explanation and does not appear to be a CGI hoax. At the end of the video, a separate segment renders the image in what looks like the infrared spectrum and the light balls dropping from the craft are more easily seen.

It’s just incredible.

I’m reminded of the Cordwainer Smith story “The Burning of the Brain” in which the starship is shaped like an old Southern manor. Starships in this far future time are held together by force-fields, not metal. Thus there is no need for pressure or vacuum hulls. The description of the UFO by the witness and its unorthodox shape is no surprise if the craft is built by a highly advanced space-faring civilization.

‘Snowflake’ UFO Drops Light Balls over South America

MJ-12 is really Project Aquarius?

Kevin Randle, a premier UFO researcher and often a good critic of various UFO conspiracies, gives a treatise on the possible theory of the MJ-12 documents and that they appeared in 1981, not in Jaime Shandera’s mailbox in 1984:

I have been reviewing the history of MJ-12 and I have found something interesting. The first mention of MJ-12 was not when Bill and Jaime Shandera received the undeveloped film. It wasn’t even when Moore was planning a novel with Bob Pratt, one-time editor of the MUFON Journal and former reporter for the National Enquirer.

No, the first mention of MJ-12 was in 1981 in a one page document that seemed to be a legitimate AFOSI teletype message that has become known as the Aquarius Telex or the Aquarius Document. It is, in fact, a retyped version of an AFOSI report on UFOs photographed and filmed by Paul Bennewitz over Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although the majority of this document seems to be from a real report, there is one line that is not in the original. It says, “Results of Project Aquarius is still classified Top Secret with no dissemination outside official Intelligence channels and with restricted access to MJ – Twelve. [Emphasis added.]”
Here was a mention of MJ-12 that seemed to have gone unnoticed. A few UFO researchers attempted to learn about Project Aquarius with little luck but none seemed interested, at that time, in MJ-12. Eventually some, such as Lee Graham and Barry Greenwood, using FOIA, attempted to find additional information. Graham learned more when Bill Moore showed him a copy of the Eisenhower Briefing Document. Graham was able to provide a list of the names of those associated with MJ-12 to Greenwood.
The point is, however, that MJ-12 was mentioned long before the undeveloped film arrived in 1984. Moore, in fact, contacted Bob Pratt and told him about MJ-12 in 1982 with the idea of writing a book. Pratt felt that Moore didn’t have enough evidence to warrant a nonfiction book, but thought they could discuss it in a novel. Pratt’s working title? MAJIK – 12.
I have, over the last several months attempted to get the major proponents of MJ-12 to discuss this. Robert Wood has responded that he was going to do something about it, let me know what he thought about it, but that response has not arrived. Stan Friedman wrote, in response to my first inquiry that he was about to catch a plane but would have something later. He has yet to provide that, let alone respond to my last email.
MJ-12 didn’t just appear when the film arrived at Shandera’s house. It had been mentioned before, and a novel had been written about it. Pratt thought, when the MJ-12 stories hit the press in 1987, they should attempt to sell the novel once again. He wrote to Moore suggesting that, but never got a response.
You have to wonder about the reality of something that appeared for the first time in a document that was later to be declared a hoax (or rather the version that MJ-12 was a retyped version that added the line about Project Aquarius and MJ-12). Here’s the thing that hasn’t been discussed. Let us say that there is a highly classified project known as MJ-12… So secret that virtually nothing about it has been found. Now suppose that you want to introduce disinformation into the UFO community to confound it, and you have a mission of discrediting Paul Bennewitz because his research could expose a real, non UFO related but classified project. You create a fake document and ensure that it falls into his hands, hoping he would run to the media with it. Once he had done that, then you whip out the real document to prove he has an altered one… and you imply that he is responsible for the alteration and you demonstrate that he is unreliable.
So far, so good. But the very last thing you are going to do is put in that disinformation the name of a real, highly classified project that is so secret that no one outside a small exclusive circle knows about. To do so would be expose that project to scrutiny by UFO researchers who are responsible for thousands upon thousands of FOIA requests. You’ve now given them information that they shouldn’t have. There is no reason to expose MJ-12, if it exists, in a document meant to discredit Bennewitz.
While Randle explains that while Project Aquarius existed, that doesn’t necessarily mean that MJ-12 did. But I have always been fascinated by the possible existence of written proof of the Roswell Crash and study of ETIs and I love the works of Stanton Friedman, even though I don’t agree with some of his theories of UFOs.
Kudos to Kevin Randle also and I hope he expands on this in the future.

Family Illness

Due to an illness in my immediate family, I will not be posting this week.

Please feel free to enjoy all of my recent posting and past archives.

You will not be disappointed! Why David Brin Hates Yoda, Loves Radical Transparency

David Brin is one of my favorite modern science-fiction authors. Not only is he one of the famous killer “Bs” ( Benford, Bear and Brin ), he is a real scientist in his own right ( astrophysicist ).

In this interview by Wired, Brin not only voices his displeasure with Star Wars, he claims SETI is doing things wrong as well:

Best-selling author and futurist David Brin doesn’t mince words when it comes to
his disdain for Yoda, the diminutive sage of the Star Wars saga.

“I consider Yoda to be just about the most evil character that I’ve ever seen in the history of literature,” says Brin in this week’s episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Brin is just as unsparing when it comes to Star Wars creator George Lucas, whom he accuses of peddling “romantic claptrap about how demigods and mystic warriors are better than democracy.”

For Brin, narratives that glorify the prerogative of an elite caste are no trivial matter. His 1998 book The Transparent Society argues that current notions of privacy allow the rich to operate in secret as they dismantle democracy. “Unless we have radical transparency in human civilization,” says Brin, “this attempted putsch by a new aristocracy is going to succeed.”

Read our complete interview with David Brin below, in which he explains why SETI is doing it wrong, muses about whether self-righteous indignation is a form of addiction, and talks about his epic new first-contact novel, Existence. Or listen to the interview in Episode 66 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above), which also features a discussion between hosts John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley and guest geek Rob Bland about Batman in film, comics and television.

Wired: Tell us about your new novel, Existence. What’s it about?

David Brin:Existence is about the world of roughly 2050, and terrible things have happened, but guess what? People have reacted to the terrible things by coping, as they always have. They’re dealing with it. They’re dealing with living in a world of augmented reality, where you’d step outside and you can scroll through all the overlays of augmented reality that are laid upon the surface world. Google Glass is just heading us down in that direction, but I take it 40 years into the future.

The book is set against what I consider to be the fundamental quandary of our age, and that’s the Fermi paradox — the notion that the universe ought to be filled with all sorts of lifeforms, species that came out onto the galactic stage before us, and we see no signs of them, not even in the rocks of the Earth. The Earth was prime real estate for 2 billion years, with an oxygen atmosphere and nothing living on land higher than slime molds, so why didn’t the Independence Day aliens show up then, instead of when we happened to be able to defend ourselves?

And this astronaut in my novel, in the first chapter he’s out there using a space lariat — a tethered device that NASA’s actually developing — to remove space debris so that that form of pollution doesn’t destroy our access to low-Earth orbit. He snags something very unusual, and it appears to be a crystal, about a meter long, and it appears to be a message in a bottle. It appears to have been sent by other civilizations. And so the question — is it a hoax? What might the motives be of the aliens that appear to be inside?

Wired: Neal Stephenson has said that some mainstream critics have accused him of being grandiose for titling his novel The System of the World. Have you heard from any of those same critics about titling your novel Existence?

Brin: Not really, except in a joking way. I mean, there are people who say, “Well, Brin, you better live up to this.” And I’m pleased to say most of them have written back to me saying grudgingly, “Oh, all right, you did.” But there’s always going to be snarkers out there, and my answer to them — if they have useful criticism that I can learn from — my response is, “Great! Would you like to join my collection of pre-readers who catch mistakes? Next time you might be able to catch it in manuscript.”

Wired: This book predicts that bags of urine might be worth something in the future. Given the current economic situation, would you advise that we all dump our stocks and invest in urine instead?

Brin: The great phosphorous mines of Florida are being tapped out, and soon it’ll be just Morocco and a couple other places that have large phosphate beds left, and so in my novel it’s posited that in 40 years or so, men are expected to either pee outside, or into phos-urinals that collect the phosphorous.

Wired: In Existence, an autism plague features prominently. Why does autism interest you and what approach should we be taking to dealing with it?

Brin: The rate of discovery of autistic syndrome — or autistic spectrum syndrome — is rapidly rising. Some of it may be due to better diagnosis, and some may be due to environmental factors. I posit in the book that some of it may be simply due to the fact that they’re not dying anymore, but instead starting to flourish in a world where the online opportunities to express themselves are computer-mediated and possibly enable them to lead productive lives. In which case the question is, are they sick at all? Well, I think parts of the spectrum are obviously crippled and unhappy, but how many parts of that spectrum? Well, that’s an interesting question. Ask some of the internet billionaires, who are clearly from Planet Asperger.

Wired: The book also explores the idea that self-righteous indignation might be a form of addiction. Could you talk a bit about that?

Brin: I actually gave a talk at the National Institute for Drug and Addiction on this very topic. Believe it or not, I still do science. I was trained as an astrophysicist, but I do guerrilla raids into little areas of science that are outside my expertise, and I’m pleased to be a member of a civilization that puts up with that. The boundaries that were so rigidly defended — guild boundaries of scientific specialty — are no longer as fiercely defended as they were, and one piece of evidence of that is that we just won the right to establish the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UCSD. It’s going to be very exciting. And all the deans from all the divisions and departments at UCSD signed on to participate in this bold new endeavor that will study imagination and how it works in human beings, from neuroscience to the arts to education — especially education — and how to engender and encourage it. So keep your eyes and ears open for more information about the Arthur Clarke center.

The idea that autism is actually part of evolutionary process is interesting, but in Brin’s classic “uplift” novels, the evolutionary process is thrown under the bus.

All in all, ‘Existence‘ sounds like it would be a great modern hard sci-fi read and I would love to see how it could fit in his “Uplift” Universe.

Why David Brin Hates Yoda, Loves Radical Transparency

Famed UFO Investigator’s Research is donated to MUFON

The late UFO investigator Leonard Stringfield ( 1920 – 1994 ) looked mainly into UFO crashes, but had his own close crash experience near the end of WWII which probably prompted his interest in the subject and influenced the rest of his life:

[…]”I was shocked to see three teardrop-shaped objects from my starboard-side window,” Stringfield wrote. “They were brilliantly white, like burning magnesium, and closing in on a parallel course to our C-46. Suddenly our left engine feathered, and I was later to learn that the magnetic navigation-instrument needles went wild. As the C-46 lost altitude, with oil spurting from the troubled engine, the pilot sounded an alert; crew and passengers were told to prepare for a ditch! I do not recall my thoughts or actions during the next, horrifying moments, but my last glimpse of the three bogies placed them about 20 degrees above the level of our transport. Flying in the same, tight formation, they faded into a cloud bank. Instantly our craft’s engine revved up, and we picked up altitude and flew a steady course to land safely at Iwo Jima.”

Stringfield walked away from the event frightened about what he had seen, and later heard independent reports from other witnesses that caused him to take a more serious look at UFOs.

He created Civilian Research, Interplanetary Flying Objects (CRIFO) and published the monthly newsletter, ORBIT. The newsletter caught the media’s attention and soon his paid subscribers swelled to 2,500, becoming the world’s largest civilian UFO research group of its day.

Then on September 9, 1955, the Air Defense Command (ADC), Columbus, OH, called on him for cooperation in passing along current UFO reports. The Ground Observer Corps (GOC) in southwestern Ohio was asked to call Stringfield with UFO activity and he was asked to call the ADC to report the better sightings.

In 1957, Stringfield became the public relations adviser for the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), a new civilian UFO reporting group operated by Donald Keyhoe – a position he held until 1972.

In the 1970s he began collecting witness accounts of crashed UFOs that included accounts of alien bodies. He went on to publish seven reports on this material until his death in 1994. He served as director of public relations and as a board member for MUFON. He was a regional director for the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies. He was an advisor to Grenada Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy during efforts to establish a UFO research agency within the United Nations.

He published his first UFO book, “Inside Saucer Post 3-0 Blue” in 1957. Other books followed. His most famous, “Situation Red: The UFO Siege” was published in 1977 and subsequently translated into several languages. Later, he published seven reports on UFO Crash/Retrievals. The latest, “Status Report VII: Search for Proof in a Hall of Mirrors,” was published in February 1994.

In his private life, Stringfield worked for DuBois Chemicals, a division of Chemed Corporation, Cincinnati. He died on December 18, 1994, in his sleep one day after his 74th birthday after a long battle with lung cancer.

I often call modern ufology “ufoology” because all of the infighting of the various groups ( metallic ufo supporters, paranormal ufo and disclosure people ).

These folks will never see eye-to-eye and meetings are usually a Circus Vargus.

But Leornard represents a dying group of researchers that includes greats like Dr. James MacDonald, who actually performed meticulous recording, observations and scientific research. Going to Disclosure Conferences were not part of their repetoire.

I don’t know if MUFON is any better, but maybe some good use will come of it.

UFO crash investigator: Leonard Stringfield’s research goes public

Hat tip to The Anomalist .

“Curiosity” of Mars Begins

Early today the Mars Rover ‘Curiosity’ using an untried, esoteric landing system, landed on Mars safely.

There was much bally-hoo over this system, but luck was on NASA’s side this time (50% of Mars landings fail). Now Curiosity begins it’s exploration of the Gale Crater in order to find evidence of past life, or conditions that supported  it.

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s most advanced Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars Sunday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft that carried Curiosity succeeded in every step of the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including the final severing of the bridle cords and flyaway maneuver of the rocket backpack.

“Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars — or if the planet can sustain life in the future,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030’s, and today’s landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal.”

Curiosity landed at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 5, PDT, (1:32 a.m. EDT Aug. 6) near the foot of a mountain three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside Gale Crater. During a nearly two-year prime mission, the rover will investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.

“The Seven Minutes of Terror has turned into the Seven Minutes of Triumph,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Science John Grunsfeld. “My immense joy in the success of this mission is matched only by overwhelming pride I feel for the women and men of the mission’s team.”

Curiosity returned its first view of Mars, a wide-angle scene of rocky ground near the front of the rover. More images are anticipated in the next several days as the mission blends observations of the landing site with activities to configure the rover for work and check the performance of its instruments and mechanisms.

“Our Curiosity is talking to us from the surface of Mars,” said MSL Project Manager Peter Theisinger of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The landing takes us past the most hazardous moments for this project, and begins a new and exciting mission to pursue its scientific objectives.”

Confirmation of Curiosity’s successful landing came in communications relayed by NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter and received by the Canberra, Australia, antenna station of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking elemental composition of rocks from a distance. The rover will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover.

To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site places the rover within driving distance of layers of the crater’s interior mountain. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

The mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

All in all, this is a feather in the cap of mainstream science and technology. Too bad we can’t get the benefit of full tech trickle down from the military-industrial-complex!

Text is from .

Photo is from NASA Watch .

The U.S. Navy’s Unmanned UFO

From The Danger Room (

x-47 1

NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Maryland — If you saw it in person, you’d probably think it was a UFO, too.

That’s what happened when the Navy trucked its batwing-shaped drone of the future from California to its new testing bed here in Maryland. Across the country, 911 switchboards lit up with reports that mysterious trucks were hauling a spaceship. In truth, it was a demonstration model for something the Navy desperately wants: to launch an armed, spying, stealthy drone from an aircraft carrier, one of the hardest maneuvers in aviation, conducted with the click of a mouse. But up close, you can see why people freaked out.

Not many people have seen the X-47B, as the Navy calls it, up close: its Northrop Grumman manufacturers and its remote Navy test pilots, mostly. Until Tuesday, when the Navy program executive office in charge of developing what will be known as the UCLASS — for Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System — let reporters see the X-47B in the metallic flesh.

First impression: It’s a lot bigger than the photos and music videos have made it out to be. Its 62.1 feet of bat-shaped wingspan look even larger in person. When it stands on its landing gear, you get the sense that a human being could actually crawl into the X-47B — they’d need a ladder — even though that would defeat the purpose. After all, the X-47B is designed to be one of the most autonomous drones the U.S. military has.

The idea behind UCLASS — of which the X-47B is merely the demonstration model — involves doing away with the joysticks and computer banks that most remote operators use to control their drones. Instead, Northrop’s proprietary software lets drone pilots program where they want the drone to fly. Then they can go get a sandwich. “It’s smart enough for you to put really interesting contingencies” in the X-47B’s way, says Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the Navy’s program manager for its flying drones. “It has the smarts to react to that condition.”

The Navy doesn’t really want to elaborate, beyond saying that “precision GPS” helps the drone understand where its aircraft carrier mothership is. The Navy is quick to remind reporters, however, that the X-47B is just a demonstrator, unarmed and carrying no sensors yet. It’s at Pax River, home to catapults and trapping wires that simulate what’s necessary for an aircraft launch, to test the proposition that the Navy really can launch a drone from a carrier and bring it safely back. The drone took its first flight from Pax River on Sunday, a 35-minute flight over the Chesapeake Bay at 7,500 feet and a 180-knot clip.

Next year, the Navy plans to actually launch the X-47B from Pax River to the deck of an aircraft carrier — with the aforementioned mouse click. The plan is to bring UCLASS into the Navy’s air fleet by 2019 (the date recently slipped a year).

That said, not even a drone as autonomous as the X-47B is without human companionship. A Northrop test pilot named Gerrit Everson can prove it: on his forearm is a white box called the Control Display Unit. Packed with six buttons and cabled to a battery pack strapped to the small of Everson’s back, it’s kind of like if Nintendo created a Power Glove for flight-deck operations. The control unit can power the drone up once it’s latched to a carrier catapult and take control of it once it lands and needs to be moved elsewhere on the carrier. Everson grips a handle and flicks his wrist; if the X-47 was powered up, its nose would along with his wrist.

LOL. If the Navy is coming out with a semi-autonomous drone now, just think what’s getting tested at Area 51!