News of Carl Sagan’s involvement with a plan to “nuke” the moon, Project A119, has become relevant again. In fact, Sagan was involved in a number of military causes during his all-too-short lifetime. But later, he cut all ties with the military. Here’s what happened.
Carl Sagan spent his childhood under the ominous cloud of World War II. As the war faded and the United States and USSR entered a Cold War, the United States once again looked to its best and brightest — including many academic scientists — to consult with the military.
Sagan’s extremely limited involvement in a theoretical plan to “Nuke the Moon” as a show of U.S. military might recently caused an uproar, but this was just one aspect of Sagan’s involvement with the militarily. Sagan’s involvement in Project A-119 occurred while he worked toward his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. The good scientist actually broke personnel restrictions placed on the classified project by listing his involvement on a job application.
Sagan and Project Blue Book The majority of Sagan’s contact with the military came as a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board beginning in 1966. Sagan lectured at Harvard at this time in his life, but would soon depart to become Associate Professor of Astronomy in the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research at Cornell after being denied tenure by Harvard.
At this time in his career, Sagan had already begun to publish his suppositions about the atmosphere of Venus and became a member of the fringe in the eyes of many thanks to his ruminations on the possibility of intelligent life in the universe. Sagan also played a role in advising the U.S. Space Program, a program synonymous with military applications during the Cold War era.
Sagan allegedly received $800 per day (roughly $4500 in current dollars), an astounding sum for a university lecturer, to act as a consultant for the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. The United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board began in 1944 as a secret program with a variety of missions, including determining the possibility of using atomic energy in jet propulsion as well as non-traditional use of nuclear weapons.
Sagan’s military contact revolved around Project Blue Book, a 23-year study of UFOs conducted by the United States Air Force that ceased in January of 1970. Project Blue Book took a systematic approach to the study of unidentified flying objects, analyzing possible UFO data and aiming to determine if these objects were a danger to United States national security.
Within the two-decade-plus report are 12,618 “sightings”, with analysis leaving a mere 700 classified as unidentified. The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, however concluded that Project Blue Book did not meet necessary rigors, suggesting a university-led study of unidentified flying objects would be far more conclusive.
Separation from the military After the closure of Project Blue Book, Sagan continued to act as a prominent scientific advisor for NASA, arguing for the financial merit of robotic spacecraft.
Sagan became an extremely vocal advocate against nuclear proliferation after the rise of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Sagan openly protested the testing of nuclear weapons, with the sage arrested for trespassing after a 1986 underground detonation of a thermonuclear warhead in the Nevada desert.
Though he cut ties with the military, Sagan continued to ponder the idea of space war. He concocted the Deflection Dilemma — the idea that the using a significant blast to knock a near earth object on a trajectory towards earth off course could also be used as a weapon, sending the object into the country or countries of choice.
If you are curious, you can lose an entire weekend and browse through the entirety of Project Blue Book online thanks to the Project Blue Book Archive, or have a marathon of Twin Peaks to catch a hint of the intrigue surrounded Project Blue Book.
The idea of blowing up the Moon seems far-fetched, but not knocking an asteroid into an orbit that intercepts a certain country(s) and wreaks destruction over one side of the planet. It’s the ultimate Dooms-Day Device!
That’s why I don’t think NASA’s plan of flying to an asteroid in 2025 and Planetary Resources’ idea of asteroid capture and mining will be politically viable or palatable in the international arena because if a country that has the technology to move planetary objects into different orbits, especially in Earth orbit has the ultimate weapon over other nations in the form of a huge hammer.
And I’m really surprised this isn’t mentioned at various mainstream space sites.
Maybe it’s an unmentionable thing?
Like many geeks of the post-Sputnik generation, I grew up hoping that space travel would be common by the time I reached middle age. Weaned on a youthful diet of speculative fiction by the likes of Ray Bradbury and Arthur Clarke, raised on Star Trek and The Outer Limits, and thrilled by real-life hero Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” onto the gravelly surface of the Moon when I was in elementary school, it never occurred to me that humankind’s manifest destiny in the stars would be undone by changing political winds, disasters like the Challenger explosion, and a mountain of debt to pay for misguided military adventures like the War in Iraq.
It’s true that, in some ways, we’re living in a new golden age for space nerds. Bard Canning’s gorgeously enhanced footage of Curiosity’s descent to Mars — made instantly available by the global network we built instead of a Hilton on the Moon — certainly beats grainy snippets beamed down from Tranquility Base. A newly discovered exoplanet that “may be capable of supporting life” seems tomake headlines every few months. Cassini’s ravishing closeups of Saturnregularly put the fever dreams of ILM’s animators to shame. But wasn’t I supposed to be “strolling on the deck of a starship” by now, as Paul Kantner’s acid-fueled hippie space epic Blows Against the Empire promised me when it was nominated for a Hugo award in 1971?
The problem, it turns out, isn’t just a loss of political will to finance manned space flight. Rocket science turns out to be rocket science — not easy, and constrained by some very real limitations dictated by material science, the physics of acceleration, and the unwieldy economics of interstellar propulsion. Until a real-life Zefram Cochrane comes along to invent a practical warp drive, I may not be sightseeing on any Class M planets anytime soon.
One of the best briefings on the state of the art of interstellar exploration is Lee Billings’ essay “Incredible Journey,” recently reprinted in a wonderful new anthology called The Best Science Writing Online 2012, edited by Scientific American’s Bora Zivkovic and Jennifer Ouellette. I’m very honored to have a piece in the anthology myself: my NeuroTribes interview with John Elder Robison, author of the bestselling memoir of growing up with autism, Look Me in The Eye, and other books. When SciAm’s editors suggested that each author in the book interview one of the other authors, I jumped at the chance to interview Billings about his gracefully written and informative article about the practical challenges of space flight. Billings is a freelance journalist who has written forNature, New Scientist, Popular Mechanics, and Seed. He lives outside New York City with his wife, Melissa.
Steve Silberman: Before we even get into the meat of your piece, I want to mention how impressed I was by the power and lyricism of your writing. Phrases like “the cosmos suddenly becomes less lonely” and “the easiest way the Daedalus volunteers found to fuel their starship was, in effect, the industrialization of the outer solar system” make vast and highly abstract concepts immediately comprehensible and visceral to lay readers. What made you want to become a science writer, and who are your role models for writing, in any genre?
Lee Billings: My attraction to science preceded my attraction to the act of writing, perhaps because, like every child, I was intensely curious about the world around me. Science, more so than any other source of knowledge I could find, seemed to change the world into something at once eminently understandable and endlessly mysterious.
I became interested in science writing, science journalism, at approximately the same time I realized I would make a poor scientist. I was midway through my college prerequisites, thinking I was on a path to a career in neuroscience. I’d been having a lot of trouble with the more quantitative courses — calculus, organic chemistry, and so on. Many of my friends would ace their assignments and tests after sleeping through lectures and rarely cracking a book. I would study hard, only to receive poor grades. Meanwhile I was breezing through courses in English, literature, history, and art. After a particularly fervent all-night cram-session for a final exam that I still almost flunked, I decided if I wasn’t destined to excel within science itself, perhaps I could instead try to make my mark by helping communicate the world-changing discoveries scientists were making. So I switched my academic emphasis from neuroscience to journalism, and became something of a camp follower, scavenging and trailing behind the gifted few at the front lines of research. I’ve never looked back, and have no regrets. The job never gets old: Rather than being at best a mediocre, hyper-specialized bench worker, being a science writer lets me parachute in to varied fields on a whim, and invariably the brilliant individuals I find upon landing are welcoming and happy to talk to me.
As for influences… I still have a long way to go, but if my writing ever comes to possess a fraction of Carl Sagan’s charisma and elegance, John McPhee’s structure and eye for detail, Richard Preston’s depth of focus and cinematic flair, Stanislaw Lem’s imagination and analytic insight, or Ray Bradbury’s lyrical beauty, I will be a happy man.
Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”
Silberman: Several times a year now, we hear about the discovery of a new exoplanet in the “Goldilocks zone” that could “potentially support life.” For example, soon after he helped discover Gliese 581g, astronomer Steven Vogt sparked a storm of media hype by claiming that “the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent.” Even setting aside the fact that the excitement of discovering a planet in the habitable zone understandably seems to have gone to Vogt’s head at that press conference, why are such calculations of the probability of life harder to perform accurately than they seem?
Billings: The question of habitability is a second-order consideration when it comes to Gliese 581g, and that fact in itself reveals where so much of this uncertainty comes from. As of right now, the most interesting thing about the “discovery” of Gliese 581g is that not everyone is convinced the planet actually exists. That’s basically because this particular detection is very much indirect — the planet’s existence is being inferred from periodic meter-per-second shifts in the position of its host star. The period of that shift corresponds to the planet’s orbit as it whips from one side of the star to the other; the meter-per-second magnitude of the shift places a lower limit on the planet’s mass, but can’t pin down the mass exactly. So that’s all this detection gives you — an orbit and a minimum mass. That’s not a lot to go on in determining what a planet’s environment might actually be like, is it?
Now, get up and walk around the room. You’re moving at about a meter per second. Imagine discerning that same rate of change in the motion of a million-kilometer-wide ball of plasma, a star many light-years away. Keep in mind this star’s surface is always moving, in pounding waves and swirling eddies, in rising and falling convection cells, in vast plasmatic prominences arcing above the surface, often at many kilometers per second. At any particular moment, all that stellar noise can swamp the faint planetary signal. Only by building up hundreds or thousands of careful measurements over time can you get that crucial periodicity that tells you what you’re seeing might be a planet. So the measurement is quite statistical in nature, and its interpretation can change based on the statistical assumptions being used. This is further complicated by the fact that planets are rarely singletons, so that any given stellar motion may be the product of many planets rather than one, requiring careful long-term study to tease apart each world’s contribution to the bulk signal. It’s also complicated by the instability of astronomical instruments, which must be kept carefully, constantly calibrated and stabilized lest they introduce spurious noise into the measurements. In the case of Gliese 581g, not everyone agrees on the putative planetary signal actually being caused by a planet, or even being real at all — the signal doesn’t seem to manifest equally in the handful of instruments purportedly capable of detecting it.
So it’s very difficult to just detect these things, and actually determining whether they are much like Earth is a task orders of magnitude more difficult still. Notice how I’m being anthropocentric here: “much like Earth.” Astrobiology has been derisively called a science without a subject. But, of course, it does have at least one subject: our own living planet and its containing solar system. We are forced to start from what we know, planting our feet in the familiar before we push out into the alien. That’s why we, as a species, are looking for other Earth-like planets — they probably offer us the best hope of recognizing anything we might consider alive. It’s not the strongest position to be in, but it’s the best we’ve got. Calculating the probability of life on an utterly alien world outside the solar system for which we know only the most basic information — its mass, its orbit, maybe its radius — is at this stage a very crude guess. The fact is, we still don’t know that much about how abiogenesis occurred on Earth, how life emerged from inanimate matter. There are very good physical, chemical, thermodynamic reasons to believe that life arose here because our planet was warm, wet, and rocky, but we really don’t yet know all the cogent occurrences that added up to build the Earth’s earliest organisms, let alone our modern living world. A warm, wet, rocky planet may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for life as we know it to form and flourish.
Lee Billings with planet hunter Geoff Marcy
This is really a chicken-and-egg problem: To know the limits of life in planetary systems, we need to find life beyond the Earth. To find life beyond Earth, it would be very helpful to know the limits of life in planetary systems. Several independent groups are trying to circumvent this problem by studying abiogenesis in the lab — trying to in effect create life, alien or otherwise, in a test tube. If they manage to replicate Earth life, the achievement could constrain just how life emerged on our own planet. If they somehow manage to make some single-celled organism that doesn’t use DNA, or that relies on silicon instead of carbon to build its body, or that prefers to swim in liquid ethane rather than liquid water, that gives us a hint that “Earth-style” biologies may only be one branch in a much larger and more diverse cosmic Tree of Life.
Silberman: Going deeper than the notion of the cosmos feeling “less lonely” – as well as the fact that we all grew up watching Star Trek and Star Wars and thinking that aliens are frickin’ cool (as long as they’re not the mama alien fromAlien) — why do you think people are so motivated to daydream about extraterrestrial life? What need in us do those dreams fulfill?
Billings: I don’t really think most people are necessarily motivated to daydream about just any sort of extraterrestrial life. It will probably take more than a microbe or a clam to excite most of our imaginations, even if that microbe happens to be on Venus or that clam happens to be on Mars.
I do think humans are motivated to daydream about extraterrestrial intelligence, and, to put a finer point on it, extraterrestrial “people.” They are motivated to dream about beings very much like them, things tantalizingly exotic but not so alien as to be totally incomprehensible and discomforting. Maybe those imagined beings have more appendages or sense organs, different body plans and surface coverings, but they typically possess qualities we recognize within ourselves: They are sentient, they have language, they use tools, they are curious explorers, they are biological, they are mortal — just like humans. Perhaps that’s a collective failure of imagination, because it’s certainly not very easy to envision intelligent aliens that are entirely divergent from our own anthropocentric preconceptions. Or perhaps it’s more diagnostic of the human need for context, affirmation, and familiarity. Why are people fascinated by their distorted reflections in funhouse mirrors? Maybe it’s because when they recognize their warped image, at a subconscious level that recognition reinforces their actual true appearance and identity.
More broadly, speculating about extraterrestrial intelligence is an extension of three timeless existential questions: What are we, where do we come from, and where are we going? The late physicist Philip Morrison considered SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, to be the “archaeology of the future,” because any galactic civilizations we could presently detect from our tiny planet would almost certainly be well more advanced than our own. It’s unlikely that we would ever receive a radio message from an alien civilization in the equivalent of our past Stone Age, and it’s unlikely Earth would ever be visited by a crewed starship that powered its voyage using engines fueled by coal or gasoline. Optimists consider this, and say that making contact with a superior alien civilization could augur a bright future for humanity, as it would suggest there are in fact solutions to be found for all the current seemingly intractable problems that threaten to destroy or diminish our species. It’s my opinion that most people think about aliens as a way of pondering our own spectrum of possible futures.
I’m inclined to believe some of the things Billings has to say in that it’s doubtful we’ll build anything like a starship in the near future and folks ( taxpayers ) just won’t fund those kinds of projects. Entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, James Cameron and Peter Diamandis could in the future fund projects such as starprobes and starships – only if they prove profitable.
IMO it looks like stronger telescopes both on Earth and in space will be the only human built machines exploring the closer solar systems for any signs of life and extant civilizations because they can be economically constructed – and if they found anything interesting, the items are still a safe distance away.
Global Warming, whether one considers it caused primarily by humans, or as a natural process determined by cyclical solar activity, is potentially a huge problem for the human race regardless of its cause.
One possible cure for GW is geoengineering. What is geoengineering you ask?
Well, read this post from The New Yorker:
Late in the afternoon on April 2, 1991, Mt. Pinatubo, a volcano on the Philippine island of Luzon, began to rumble with a series of the powerful steam explosions that typically precede an eruption. Pinatubo had been dormant for more than four centuries, and in the volcanological world the mountain had become little more than a footnote. The tremors continued in a steady crescendo for the next two months, until June 15th, when the mountain exploded with enough force to expel molten lava at the speed of six hundred miles an hour. The lava flooded a two-hundred-and-fifty-square-mile area, requiring the evacuation of two hundred thousand people.
Within hours, the plume of gas and ash had penetrated the stratosphere, eventually reaching an altitude of twenty-one miles. Three weeks later, an aerosol cloud had encircled the earth, and it remained for nearly two years. Twenty million metric tons of sulfur dioxide mixed with droplets of water, creating a kind of gaseous mirror, which reflected solar rays back into the sky. Throughout 1992 and 1993, the amount of sunlight that reached the surface of the earth was reduced by more than ten per cent.
The heavy industrial activity of the previous hundred years had caused the earth’s climate to warm by roughly three-quarters of a degree Celsius, helping to make the twentieth century the hottest in at least a thousand years. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, however, reduced global temperatures by nearly that much in a single year. It also disrupted patterns of precipitation throughout the planet. It is believed to have influenced events as varied as floods along the Mississippi River in 1993 and, later that year, the drought that devastated the African Sahel. Most people considered the eruption a calamity.
For geophysical scientists, though, Mt. Pinatubo provided the best model in at least a century to help us understand what might happen if humans attempted to ameliorate global warming by deliberately altering the climate of the earth.
For years, even to entertain the possibility of human intervention on such a scale—geoengineering, as the practice is known—has been denounced as hubris. Predicting long-term climatic behavior by using computer models has proved difficult, and the notion of fiddling with the planet’s climate based on the results generated by those models worries even scientists who are fully engaged in the research. “There will be no easy victories, but at some point we are going to have to take the facts seriously,’’ David Keith, a professor of engineering and public policy at Harvard and one of geoengineering’s most thoughtful supporters, told me. “Nonetheless,’’ he added, “it is hyperbolic to say this, but no less true: when you start to reflect light away from the planet, you can easily imagine a chain of events that would extinguish life on earth.”
There is only one reason to consider deploying a scheme with even a tiny chance of causing such a catastrophe: if the risks of not deploying it were clearly higher. No one is yet prepared to make such a calculation, but researchers are moving in that direction. To offer guidance, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) has developed a series of scenarios on global warming. The cheeriest assessment predicts that by the end of the century the earth’s average temperature will rise between 1.1 and 2.9 degrees Celsius. A more pessimistic projection envisages a rise of between 2.4 and 6.4 degrees—far higher than at any time in recorded history. (There are nearly two degrees Fahrenheit in one degree Celsius. A rise of 2.4 to 6.4 degrees Celsius would equal 4.3 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit.) Until recently, climate scientists believed that a six-degree rise, the effects of which would be an undeniable disaster, was unlikely. But new data have changed the minds of many. Late last year, Fatih Birol, the chief economist for the International Energy Agency, said that current levels of consumption “put the world perfectly on track for a six-degree Celsius rise in temperature. . . . Everybody, even schoolchildren, knows this will have catastrophic implications for all of us.”
The human race might have no choice but to try geoengineering by the end of the 21st Century if the prognosis of a six degree Celsius rise in temperature holds true.
But if we are to become a true Kardashev Level One civilization, humans must have total control of the energy outputs of the planet.
And that includes the climate.
Hat tip to Boing Boing.
For over thirty years Zecharia Sitchin has been trying to legitimize his theory the early Sumerian culture’s mythology are the real-life stories about human origins and the beings that were instrumental in our creation.
Now Sitchin has a new work that has a new proposition, perform modern DNA testing on a long dead Sumerian queen:
[…]I have been asked at times where my interests would have taken me were the teacher to compliment rather than reprimand me. In truth, I have asked myself a different question: What if indeed “there were giants upon the Earth, in those days and thereafter too“? The cultural, scientific, and religious implications are awesome; they lead to the next unavoidable questions: Why did the compilers of the Hebrew Bible, which is totally devoted to monotheism, include the bombshell verses in the prehistoric record — and what were their sources?
I believe that I have found the answer. Deciphering the enigma of the demigods (the famed Gilgamesh among them), I conclude in this book — my crowning oeuvre — that compelling physical evidence for past alien presence on Earth has been buried in an ancient tomb. It is a tale that has immense implications for our genetic origins — a key to unlocking the secrets of health, longevity, life, and death; it is a mystery whose unraveling will take the reader on a unique adventure and finally reveal what was held back from Adam in the Garden of Eden.
Sumer: Where Civilization Began
Sumer, it is now known, was the land of a talented and dexterous people in what is now southern Iraq. Usually depicted in artful statues and statuettes in a devotional stance (Fig. 28), it was the Sumerians who were the first ones to record and describe past events and tell the tales of their gods. It was there, in the fertile plain watered by the great Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, that Mankind’s first known civilization blossomed out some 6,000 years ago — “suddenly,” “unexpectedly,” “with stunning abruptness,” according to all scholars. It was a civilization to which we owe, to this day, virtually every ‘First’ of what we deem essential to an advanced civilization: The wheel and wheeled transportation; the brick that made (and still makes) possible high-rise buildings; furnaces and the kiln that are essential to industries from baking to metallurgy; astronomy and mathematics; cities and urban societies; kingship and laws; temples and priesthoods; timekeeping, a calendar, festivals; from beer to culinary recipes, from art to music and musical instruments; and, above all, writing and record keeping-it was all first there, in Sumer.
We now know all that thanks to the achievements of archaeology and the decipherment of ancient languages during the past century and a half. The long and arduous road by which ancient Sumer moved from complete obscurity to an awed appreciation of its grandeur has a number of milestones bearing the names of scholars who had made the journey possible. Some, who toiled at the varied sites, will be mentioned by us. Others, who pieced together and classified fragmented artifacts during a century and a half of Mesopotamian archaeology, are too many to be listed.
And then there were the epigraphers — sometimes out in the field, most of the time poring over tablets in crammed museum or university quarters — whose persistence, devotion, and abilities converted pieces of clay incised with odd ‘cuneates’ into legible historical, cultural and literary treasures. Their work was crucial, for while the usual pattern of archaeological and ethnographic discovery has been to find a people’s remains and then decipher their written records (if they had them), in the case of the Sumerians recognition of their language — even its decipherment — preceded the discovery of their land, Sumer (the common English spelling, rather than Shumer). And it was not because the language, ‘Sumerian’, preceded its people; on the contrary — it was because the language and its script lingered on after Sumer was long gone — just as Latin and its script had outlived the Roman empire thousands of years later.
The philological recognition of Sumerian began, as we have illustrated, not through the discovery of the Sumerians’ own tablets, but through the varied use, in Akkadian texts, of ‘loan words’ that were not Akkadian; the naming of gods and cities by names that made no sense in Assyrian or Babylonian; and of course by actual statements (as that by Ashurbanipal) about the existence of earlier writings in ‘Shumerian’. His statement was borne out by the discovery of tablets that rendered the same text in two languages, one Akkadian and the other in the mysterious language; then the next two lines were in Akkadian and in the other language, and so on (the scholarly term for such bilingual texts is ‘interlinears’).
It was in 1850 that Edward Hincks, a student of Rawlinson’s Behistun decipherments, suggested in a scholarly essay that an Akkadian ‘syllabary’ — the collection of some 350 cuneiform signs each representing a full consonant + vowel syllable-must have evolved from a prior non-Akkadian set of syllabic signs. The idea (which was not readily accepted) was finally borne out when some of the clay tablets in the Akkadian-language libraries turned out to be bilingual ‘syllabarial’ dictionaries — lists that on one side of the tablet gave a cuneiform sign in the unknown language, and a matching list on the other side in Akkadian (with the signs’ pronunciation and meaning added, Fig. 29). All at once, archaeology obtained a dictionary of an unknown language! In addition to tablets inscribed as a kind of dictionaries, the so-called Syllabaries, various other bi-lingual tablets served as invaluable tools in deciphering the Sumerian writing and language.
Zecharia’s proposal to have a Sumerian queen DNA tested is funded by his own money. He has much to lose if his theory falls flat.
But the man’s 90 years old and he’s entitled to prove his theories on his own dime.
Whether he’s right or not is inconsequential in the long run. Sumerian history is just as rich and influential as Egyptian history is, in fact, it’s older!
As the discovery of the number of planets outside of our little Solar System increases (the count is now 400), the possibility of discovering earth-type planets (or moons) increases also.
There’s a theory that 10% of the estimated total of earth-type planets in the whole galaxy could approximately be at least 10 Billion . And of them, 10% could harbor intelligent entities (see Drake Equation calculator).
The implications for the world’s religious communities would be manifold to be sure and there could possibly be chaos, destruction and various social mayhem.
Now the Vatican, the center of the Western Catholic religion, is taking some preemptive action by acknowledging the possibility of discovering intelligent beings on exoplanets:
For centuries, theologians have argued over what the existence of life elsewhere in the universe would mean for the Church: at least since Giordano Bruno, an Italian monk, was put to death by the Inquisition in 1600 for claiming that other worlds exist.
Among other things, extremely alien-looking aliens would be hard to fit with the idea that God “made man in his own image”.
Furthermore, Jesus Christ’s role as saviour would be confused: would other worlds have their own, tentacled Christ-figures, or would Earth’s Christ be universal?
However, just as the Church eventually made accommodations after Copernicus and Galileo showed that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, and when it belatedly accepted the truth of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Catholic leaders say that alien life can be aligned with the Bible’s teachings.
Father Jose Funes, a Jesuit astronomer at the Vatican Observatory and one of the organisers of the conference, said: “As a multiplicity of creatures exists on Earth, so there could be other beings, also intelligent, created by God.
“This does not conflict with our faith, because we cannot put limits on the creative freedom of God.”
Not everyone agrees. Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist and author of The Goldilocks Enigma, told The Washington Post that the threat to Christianity is “being downplayed” by Church leaders. He said: “I think the discovery of a second genesis would be of enormous spiritual significance.
“The real threat would come from the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence, because if there are beings elsewhere in the universe, then Christians, they’re in this horrible bind.
“They believe that God became incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ in order to save humankind, not dolphins or chimpanzees or little green men on other planets.”
The Academy conference will include presentations from scientists – by no means all of them Christians – on the discovery of planets outside our solar system, the geological record of early life on Earth, how life might have started on Earth, and whether “alien” life of a different biochemistry to our own might exist here without our knowing, among many other things.
There has been many rumors in the past the Catholic Church has already been privy to the knowledge of intelligent ETs and have been part of a cover-up to keep a lid on things until the world is ready for such information.
These rumors could be just so much tinfoil, but what if it is true?
It would give much credence to the extraterrestrial theory of UFOs, cattle mutilations and abduction of people against their will.
Although I’m not going to hold my breath any time soon about ‘disclosure’.
Gene Steinberg and David Biedny celebrate the life of Fortean/science-fiction writer Mac Tonnies on the November 1st, 2009 Paracast with guests Greg Bishop, Patrick Huyghe, Paul Kimball and Nick Redfern, people who were close friends or worked with Tonnies on various projects.
A very touching send-off for Tonnies.
Somehow, I have to think that in the many Universes of the Multi-verse, Mac got up that Monday morning as normal and went to work as if nothing happened, still thinking about publishing his book.
Western militaries have been searching for a technological edge against whatever enemy-of-the-decade we happen to be fighting against for the past sixty-five years. Power supplies happen to be part of that equation since if western militaries can lower the incidences of refueling airborn and ground fighting machines, that means they can spend more time fighting the ‘enemy.’
Enter Project Kugelblitz.
The announcement came in May 2006 that – after decades of secretly investigating UFOs – the Ministry of Defence had come to the conclusion that aliens were not visiting Britain. The MoD’s claims were revealed within the pages of a formerly classified document – entitled Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defence Region, and code-named Project Condign – that had been commissioned in 1996 and was completed in February 2000.
Released under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act thanks specifically to the work of FT contributor Dr David Clarke and UFO researcher Gary Anthony, the 465-page document demonstrated how air defence experts had concluded that UFO sightings were probably the result of “natural, but relatively rare phenomena” such as ball lightning and atmospheric plasmas. UFOs, wrote the still-unknown author of the MoD’s report, were “of no defence significance”.
Inevitably, many UFO investigators claimed that the MoD’s report was merely a ruse to hide its secret knowledge of alien encounters, crashed UFOs, and high-level X-Files-type conspiracies. And although the Government firmly denied such claims, the report did reveal a number of significant conclusions of a genuinely intriguing nature.
The atmospheric plasmas which were believed to be the cause of so many UFO reports were “still barely understood”, said the MoD, and the magnetic and electric fields that emanated from plasmas could adversely affect the human nervous system. And that was not all. Clarke and Anthony revealed that “Volume 3 of the report refers to research and studies carried out in a number of foreign nations into UAPs [Unidentified Aerial Phenomena], atmospheric plasmas, and their potential military applications.”
That such research was of interest to the MoD is demonstrated in a Loose Minute of 4 December 2000 called Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) – DI55 Report, which reveals: “DG(R&T) [Director-General, Research & Technology] will be interested in those phenomena associated with plasma formations, which have potential applications to novel weapon technology.”
This was further borne out in an article on Condign written by James Randerson and published in the Guardian on 22 February 2007 (“Could we have hitched a ride on UFOs?”). It stated in part: “According to a former MoD intelligence analyst who asked not be named, the MoD was paranoid in the late 1980s that the Soviet Union had developed technology that went beyond western knowledge of physics. ‘For many years we were very concerned that in some areas the Russians had a handle on physics that we hadn’t at all. We just basically didn’t know the basics they were working from,’ he said. ‘We did encourage our scientists not to think that we in the West knew everything there was to be known.’”
And it wasn’t just the British Ministry of Defence and the Russians who recognised the potential military spin-offs that both plasmas and ball lightning offered – if they could be understood and harnessed, of course. Official documentation that has surfaced in the United States reveals that only two years after pilot Kenneth Arnold’s now-historic UFO encounter over the Cascade Mountains, Washington State, on 24 June 1947, the US military secretly began looking at ways to exploit such phenomena.
While the US Air Force was busying itself trying to determine whether UFOs were alien spacecraft, Soviet inventions, or even the work of an ultra-secret domestic project, the US Department of Commerce was taking a distinctly different approach. In its search for answers to the UFO puzzle, the DoC was focusing much of its attention on one of the most mystifying and controversial of all fortean phenomena: ball lightning.
A technical report, Project Grudge, published in 1949 by the Air Force’s UFO investigative unit detailed the findings of the DoC’s Weather Bureau with respect to ball lightning, which it believed was connected to normal lightning and electrical discharge. The phenomenon, said the DoC, was “spherical, roughly globular, egg-shaped, or pear-shaped; many times with projecting streamers; or flame-like irregular ‘masses of light’. Luminous in appearance, described in individual cases by different colours but mostly reported as deep red and often as glaring white.”
The Weather Bureau’s study added: “Some of the cases of ‘ball lightning’ observed have displayed excrescences of the appearance of little flames emanating from the main body of the luminous mass, or luminous streamers have developed from it and propagated slant-wise toward the ground… In rare instances, it has been reported that the luminous body may break up into a number of smaller balls which may appear to fall towards the earth like a rain of sparks. It has even been reported that the ball has suddenly ejected a whole bundle of many luminous, radiating streamers toward the earth, and then disappeared. There have been reports by observers of ‘ball lightning’ to the effect that the phenomenon appeared to float through a room or other space for a brief interval of time without making contact with or being attracted by objects.”
Possibly unknown outside of official circles – until I made the discovery at the US National Archives, Maryland, two years ago – is the fact that a complete copy of the Air Force’s Project Grudge document was, somewhat surprisingly, shared with US Army personnel at the Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, in early 1950.
Even more surprising is a curiously-worded entry contained in the covering letter from the Air Force to Edgewood staff that accompanied the Grudge report: “You are aware we have already discussed with Mr Clapp the theoretical incendiary applications of Ball-Lightening [sic] that might be useful to the several German projects at Kirtland. Useful data should be routed to Mr Clapp through this office.”
Precisely who the mysterious Mr Clapp was, I have thus far been unable to determine; however, the fact that he is described as ‘Mr’ is a strong indication that he was not a member of the military. ‘Kirtland’ can only be a reference to Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. Named in 1942 after Roy C Kirtland – the oldest military pilot in the Air Corps – the base is located in the southeast quadrant of Albuquerque, New Mexico, adjacent to the Albuquerque International Sunport airport, and employs over 23,000 people. Moreover, Kirtland AFB has been the site of numerous mystifying UFO incidents since the late 1940s.
As for the reference to “the several German projects” apparently in place at Kirtland at the time, this is almost certainly related to the US Government’s controversial Operation Paperclip which, in the post-World War II era, saw countless German scientists – some of whom were Nazis, and many of whom were engaged in advanced aerospace research – secretly offered employment in the US, and particularly at military installations in New Mexico, such as the White Sands Proving Ground.
So, can we assume from the hints contained in this letter that by early 1950 some sort of combined Army-Air Force project, or at the very least, an exchange of information, was underway at Edgewood Arsenal – possibly working in tandem with a similar project at Kirtland Air Force Base – to try to understand and harness the power of ball lightning?
The answer would appear to be yes. Documentation has disclosed the identity of a project nicknamed Harness-Cavalier, the purpose of which was indeed to understand and capitalise on the true nature of ball lightning, and which, from 1950 to at least the mid-1960s utilised the skills of personnel from Edgewood Arsenal, Kirtland Air Force Base, and also Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio.
Via the Freedom of Information Act, a whole host of documents from the files of Harness-Cavalier – now numbering more than 120 – have surfaced, demonstrating that those attached to the project were kept well-informed of any and all developments in the field of ball lightning, and particularly how it might be exploited militarily.
Such documentation includes: “Theory of the Lightning Ball and its Application to the Atmospheric Phenomenon Called ‘Flying Saucers”, written by Carl Benadicks in 1954; “Ball Lightning: A Survey”, prepared by one JR McNally for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee (year unknown); DV Ritchie’s “Reds May Use Lightning as a Weapon”, which appeared in Missiles and Rockets in August 1959; and “An Experimental and Theoretical Program to Investigate the Feasibility of Confining Plasma in Free Space by Radar Beams”, which was written by CM Haaland in 1960 for the Armour Research Foundation, Illinois Institute of Technology.
The strongest evidence that confirms Edgewood Arsenal’s deep interest in the potential use of ball lightning on the battlefield can be found in a December 1965 document entitled “Survey of Kugelblitz Theories for Electromagnetic Incendiaries”. Written by WB Lyttle and CE Wilson, the document was prepared under contract for the US Army’s New Concepts Division/ Special Projects at Edgewood.
This is totally fascinating in that this explains quite a bit of why the US military kept the stories of ‘UFOs’ alive and were able to keep the prying eyes of the public away from their various research projects.
Exploring ‘ball-lightning’ and the use thereof would solve quite a lot of the problems of refueling fighters and other esoteric weaponry DARPA could dream up to kill people.
Tesla invented the concept himself one hundred years ago when he imagined transferring artificial electrical ‘ball lightning’ from transfer station to transfer station around the world (spawning a theory about the 1908 Tunguska, Siberia explosion).
No wires or cables required. A completely ‘wireless’ network world-wide.
We don’t know for sure if the Pentagon has this ability and we only have people like Andrew D. Basiago’s claims they do, but imagine the implications!
…spacefaring enthusiasts acknowledge the enormity of the undertaking they propose, most transhumanists take it as an article of faith that their ideas will be realized soon, though the goalposts keep receding into the future. As more soundbite than proof they invoke Moore’s exponential law, equating stodgy silicon with complex, contrary carbon. However, despite such confident optimism, enhancements will be hellishly difficult to implement. This stems from a fundamental that cannot be short-circuited or evaded: no matter how many experiments are performed on mice or even primates, humans have enough unique characteristics that optimization will require people.Contrary to the usual supposition that the rich will be the first to cross the transhuman threshold, it is virtually certain that the frontline will consist of the desperate and the disenfranchised: the terminally ill, the poor, prisoners and soldiers — the same people who now try new chemotherapy or immunosuppression drugs, donate ova, become surrogate mothers, “agree” to undergo chemical castration or sleep deprivation. Yet another pool of early starfarers will be those whose beliefs require isolation to practice, whether they be Raëlians or fundamentalist monotheists — just as the Puritans had to brave the wilderness and brutal winters of Massachusetts to set up their Shining (though inevitably tarnished) City on the Hill.
So the first generation of humans adjusted to starship living are far likelier to resemble Peter Watts’ marginalized Rifters or Jay Lake’s rabid Armoricans, rather than the universe-striding, empowered citizens of Iain Banks’ Culture. Such methods and outcomes will not reassure anyone, regardless of her/his position on the political spectrum, who considers augmentation hubristic, dehumanizing, or a threat to human identity, equality or morality. The slightly less fraught idea of uploading individuals into (ostensibly) more durable non-carbon frames is not achievable, because minds are inseparable from the neurons that create them. Even if technological advances eventually enable synapse-by synapse reconstructions, the results will be not transfers but copies.
I noticed she takes the same tact that Alastair Reynolds does concerning uploading minds in his “Revelation Space” series.
Which makes sense, because current theories speculate that the original brain would have to be destroyed during the scanning process.
Then a whole new can of worms gets opened concerning copies and the soul.
The land of woo is big business:
Skeptical literature is seldom a hot seller with the exception of fiery books about atheism and the culture wars which tend to dive into the political realm and use science to bolster what’s more of a philosophical case than a purely scientific one. Cranks, on the other hand, sell books by the truckload. Even a skeptical bestseller like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion which sold over 1.5 million copies, can’t match the estimated 6 million or so copies of The Secret, a book of New Age fluff which declares that if you want something bad enough, reality will change to accommodate your whims. Oh and that’s not counting the 1.5 million DVDs of the same kind of wishful-thinking-in-a-can sold before the book was published and endorsed by the Queen of Woo herself.
And you can see why pseudoscience is so popular. Cranks aren’t limited by facts and figures like skeptics or scientists. They can make up anything to win favor with a crowd. When they’re telling people that their wildest dreams can come true if they close their eyes and think about it hard enough, anyone who dares to stand up, and point out that there’s no evidence for this claim or that reality doesn’t conform to our entitlement complex, seems like a heckler killing everybody’s joyful buzz. The public interested in the kind of stuff skeptics refute on a regular basis doesn’t care about the need for a contrarian opinion. They only care about having their wishes fulfilled, so anyone who tells them otherwise is treated as an undesirable. Even worse, when they tune in and buy the books and DVDs on a regular basis, cranks get even more exposure because their brand of snake oil generates cashflow and keeps ratings high.
Greg Fish in quite a few of his recent posts has been on a one person crusade to smash down the doors of various dogmas and its proponents who plan on taking over the school systems of the country, the government and other areas of influence. Like the media.
I like Greg and I comment on his blog quite often, but I think he’s fighting a losing battle because like most pure scientific empiricists, he gets frustrated by the social dynamic by which most societies operate; a religion (doesn’t matter what kind) and those who use it for control.
A paradigm that has existed for 6000 years.
Hats off to ya for your persistance Greg!
For once I understand NASA’s logic concerning developing techniques to find extra-solar, Earth-like planets:
A new technique for finding wet exoplanets got a field test when astronomers pretended to be aliens.
“If you were on another planet, you’d look at Earth and say, ‘That looks like the most interesting planet around that star,’” said Nicolas Cowan, a grad student at the University of Washington and lead author of the study. “Any critter with half a brain can look at Earth and say, ‘That’s the one that looks different.’ The question is how to quantify what it is that makes it look interesting.”
Astronomers used a telescope aboard the Deep Impact spacecraft — which crashed a probe into a comet in 2005 and is on its way to another — to stare at Earth for two separate 24-hour periods. They tracked the changes in light and color that crossed the Earth’s surface as it rotated, and connected them back to continents and oceans. The results will be published in the August issue of Astrophysical Journal.
Though the spacecraft was only 30 million miles away from Earth, light years closer than the nearest extrasolar planet, it was far enough to blur out the distinctive features of the Earth’s surface.
Nice job of recycling a spacecraft that finished one mission and using it for another.
Maybe there’s hope after all!
The latest from Mac Tonnie’s aboutSETI blog:
The late conspiracy theorist Jim Keith, in his colorfully titled “Saucers of the Illuminati,” makes an interesting point about the simplicity of the quintessential alien face. Could it be, he wonders, that abductees’ brains manufacture the same predictable alien visage because the close encounter experience is so devastatingly weird, crammed with unfamiliar visual cues? Conversely, the minimalist alien head may be due to a scarcity of visual information; the abductee’s mind may “fill in the blanks” to encompass something essentially faceless.
When it comes to ufology and alien visitation, I try to keep an open mind on the subject.
What’s one person’s alien visitation is another’s religious experience. To me, it’s all one and the same.
These photos were taken at Obama’s victory rally in Chicago and forwarded to me. Clearly, many in spirit were celebrating too.
Aliens? Angels? Demons? Dead people?
Think happy thoughts!
In this video I will show you across goggle sky. You will see what I believe to be UFO craft. I looked for things that don’t look like stars (because, certainly stars would be the only thing you would expect to see if there were no such things as UFOs.) So, looking for things out of the ordinary, which was actually quite easy I found the things included within the presentation. It seems a common phenomena that where we have these long lines, or beams within the sky maps, we often find UFOs. But I do wonder, what are these beams? They appear Dark, Blue, Red, or Green and are thousands of miles long. Are they giant long space craft? Laser beams? Trade routs? A glitch of Google sky? These beams are in abundance, and appear in most areas of the sky. Check out the large portion of the sky where the stars appear red in color (as apposed to bluish). This suggests that the photos here are taken with a different light filter to the rest of the sky. When you zoom in here, its easy, so easy to find hundreds of bright Green, Blue, and Red beams.
“Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’…”
Railroad to the stars?
Earth to be paved over for new intergalactic spaceway system?
Reporting from Edwards Air Force Base — NASA rolled out its next-generation space capsule here Wednesday, revealing a bulbous module that is scheduled to carry humans back to the moon in 2020 and eventually onward to Mars.Unlike the space-plane shape of the shuttles, the new Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle looks strikingly similar to the old Apollo space capsule that carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon and back in 1969, with Armstrong and Aldrin becoming the first humans to walk on the lunar surface.There is one key difference, however. The test module, unveiled at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, is substantially bigger — 16.5 feet in diameter compared with Apollo 11’s 12.8 feet.Still, cramming six astronauts inside will make it “pretty cozy,” he said.
The craft’s extra girth will allow it to carry six astronauts instead of Apollo’s three.
“This is the same shape as Apollo,” said Gary Martin, the project manager for the test program at Dryden. “But the extra space translates into twice as much volume as Apollo.”
Oooh, I’m impressed! /not!
How many times can the wheel be reinvented?
Quite a few apparently.
Finding ancient meteorites on the moon would be exciting enough, but what they may contain really interests Houtkooper.
Consider simple bacterial life on the early Earth, existing inside a rock which is then blasted off the surface of the planet by a large impact. In theory, some of these samples could have landed in lunar craters like Shackleton. Once there, they would be perfectly preserved in a deep freeze for billions of years. Life carried to the moon in this way would almost certainly be dead, although it is possible that some hardy creatures could survive the journey in a dormant state. As Houtkooper succinctly states, “there could be signs of life from early Earth on the moon.”
Things get particularly interesting when a large impact on the moon by an object around 10 km in diameter is considered. If that were to occur, enough material would be thrown up to create a very thin lunar atmosphere. This tenuous atmosphere could last a few hundred years, just enough time to spark into action any dormant life that had been carried to the moon from other worlds.
So it is possible that, dotted throughout the moon’s colorful history, it may have hosted simple but live alien organisms.
Panspermia has made a comeback in recent months, both as a means of transferring life throughout the Cosmos naturally and artificially.
Viability of the organisms being transported about is the issue.
How can living things withstand the rigors of freezing cold, solar and cosmic radiation?
Here are some articles that might answer some of these questions:
A ~ 10-metre object on a heliocentric orbit, now catalogued as 1991 VG, made a close approach to the Earth in 1991 December, and was discovered a month before perigee with the Spacewatch telescope at Kitt Peak. Its very Earth-like orbit and observations of rapid brightness fluctuations argue for it being an artificial body rather than an asteroid. None of the handful of man-made rocket bodies left in heliocentric orbits during the space age have purely gravitational orbits returning to the Earth at that time, and in an3′ case the a priori probability of discovery for 1991 VG was very small, of order one in 100,000 per anmun. In addition, the small perigee distance observed might be interpreted as an indicator of a controlled rather than a random encounter with the Earth, and thus it might be argued that 1991 VG is a candidate as an alien probe observed in the vicinity of our planet.
I think mainstream SETI is afraid of finding Bracewell Probes, because it shakes them from the comfortable notion that material interstellar travel is impossible and any civilization is a safe thousands of light-years away, accessible only by micro and radio waves.
Adam Crowl does ask an interesting question, “…if it is a probe, then why is it suddenly becoming visible? Based on our primitive attempts at invisibility cloaks using meta-materials I suspect any advanced technological species will be able to remain unseen by primitive eyes… yet here we have a probe making itself blatant. Hmmm…”
Hmmm indeed Adam.
In an initiative energized by Google Vice-President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf, the International Space Station could be testing a brand new way of communicating with Earth. In 2009, it is hoped that the ISS will play host to an Interplanetary Internet prototype that could standardize communications between Earth and space, possibly replacing point-to-point single use radio systems customized for each individual space mission since the beginning of the Space Age.
This partnership opens up some exciting new possibilities for the future of communicating across vast distances of the Solar System. Manned and robotic space craft will be interconnected via a robust interplanetary network without the problems associated with incompatible communication systems…
“The project started 10 years ago as an attempt to figure out what kind of technical networking standards would be useful to support interplanetary communication,” Cerf said in a recent interview. “Bear in mind, we have been flying robotic equipment to the inner and outer planets, asteroids, comets, and such since the 1960’s. We have been able to communicate with those robotic devices and with manned missions using point-to-point radio communications. In fact, for many of these missions, we used a dedicated communications system called the Deep Space Network (DSN), built by JPL in 1964.”
Indeed, the DSN has been the backbone of interplanetary communications for decades, but an upgrade is now required as we have a growing armada of robotic missions exploring everything from the surface of Mars to the outermost regions of the Solar System. Wouldn’t it be nice if a communication network could be standardized before manned missions begin moving beyond terrestrial orbit?
On the observational mainstream surface, the concept makes good, logical sense.
I cannot make any additional, knowledgable comments because my expertise in InnerTube Networking is limited at best, even though I am an experienced ‘user’. I simply find the ‘architecture’ aspect overwhelming.
Okay, I’ll make a guess ( so I lied about not commenting ); From what I get from this is that each planet, moon, artificial satellite and probe will have its own individual ‘Internet.’ Each local network will then send time delayed TCP/IP ‘packets’ to each other, thus linking up to the major Earth Google-Plex.
The deal breaker is the light-speed delay, but this should be negated somewhat by a hardy ‘time delayed’ TCP/IP protocol.
It would seem to me that would require more memory packed into even smaller physical entities.
Quantum computing to the rescue?
Or perhaps the GooglePlex AI needs to happen first?