Category Archives: history

Earth Life, and Earth Shadow-Life


Animal figures cut into desert varnish

Across the world’s great deserts, a mysterious sheen has been found on boulders and rock faces. These layers of manganese, arsenic and silica are known as desert varnish and they are found in the Atacama desert in Chile, the Mojave desert in California, and in many other arid places. They can make the desert glitter with surprising colour and, by scraping off pieces of varnish, native people have created intriguing symbols and images on rock walls and surfaces.

How desert varnish forms has yet to be resolved, despite intense research by geologists. Most theories suggest it is produced by chemical reactions that act over thousands of years or by ecological processes yet to be determined.

Professor Carol Cleland, of Colorado University, has a very different suggestion. She believes desert varnish could be the manifestation of an alternative, invisible biological world. Cleland, a philosopher based at the university’s astrobiology centre, calls this ethereal dimension the shadow biosphere. “The idea is straightforward,” she says. “On Earth we may be co-inhabiting with microbial lifeforms that have a completely different biochemistry from the one shared by life as we currently know it.”

It is a striking idea: We share our planet with another domain of life that exists “like the realm of fairies and elves just beyond the hedgerow”, as David Toomey puts it in his newly published Weird Life: The Search for Life that is Very, Very Different from Our Own. But an alternative biosphere to our own would be more than a mere scientific curiosity: it is of crucial importance, for its existence would greatly boost expectations of finding life elsewhere in the cosmos. As Paul Davies, of Arizona State University, has put it: “If life started more than once on Earth, we could be virtually certain that the universe is teeming with it.”

However, by the same token, if it turns out we have failed to realise that we have been sharing a planet with these shadowy lifeforms for eons, despite all the scientific advances of the 19th and 20th centuries, then we may need to think again about the way we hunt for life on other worlds. Robot spacecraft – such as the Mars rover Curiosity – are certainly sophisticated. But what chance do they have of detecting alien entities if the massed laboratories of modern science have not yet spotted them on our own planet? This point is stressed by the US biologist Craig Venter. As he has remarked: “We’re looking for life on Mars and we don’t even know what’s on Earth!”

The concept of a shadow biosphere was first outlined by Cleland and her Colorado colleague Shelley Copley in a paper in 2006 in the International Journal of Astrobiology, and is now supported by many other scientists, including astrobiologists Chris McKay, who is based at Nasa’s Ames Research Centre, California, and Paul Davies.

These researchers believe life may exist in more than one form on Earth: standard life – like ours – and “weird life”, as they term the conjectured inhabitants of the shadow biosphere. “All the micro-organisms we have detected on Earth to date have had a biology like our own: proteins made up of a maximum of 20 amino acids and a DNA genetic code made out of only four chemical bases: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine,” says Cleland. “Yet there are up to 100 amino acids in nature and at least a dozen bases. These could easily have combined in the remote past to create lifeforms with a very different biochemistry to our own. More to the point, some may still exist in corners of the planet.”

Science’s failure to date to spot this weird life may seem puzzling. The natural history of our planet has been scrupulously studied and analysed by scientists, so how could a whole new type of life, albeit a microbial one, have been missed? Cleland has an answer. The methods we use to detect micro-organisms today are based entirely on our own biochemistry and are therefore incapable of spotting shadow microbes, she argues. A sample of weird microbial life would simply not trigger responses to biochemists’ probes and would end up being thrown out with the rubbish.

That is why unexplained phenomena like desert varnish are important, she says, because they might provide us with clues about the shadow biosphere. We may have failed to detect the source of desert varnish for the simple reason that it is the handiwork of weird microbes which generate energy by oxidising minerals, leaving deposits behind them.

The idea of the shadow biosphere is also controversial and is challenged by several other scientists. “I think it is very unlikely that after 300 years of microbiology we would not have detected such organisms despite the fact that they are supposed to have a different biochemistry from the kind we know about today,” says Professor Charles Cockell, of the UK Centre for Astrobiology at Edinburgh University. “It is really quite unlikely,” adds Cockell, whose centre will be officially opened this week at a ceremony in Edinburgh.

Ways need to be found to determine whether or not the shadow biosphere exists, says Dimitar Sasselov, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. “If you want a clue you can count up the amount of carbon that is emitted by living things – cows, sheep, grass, plants, forests and all the planet’s bacteria. When you do, you find there is a discrepancy of around 5% when you compare the amount given off from Earth’s standard biosphere and the amount you find in the atmosphere.”

In other words, there is slightly too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than can be explained by the emissions of standard lifeforms on Earth. There could be an error in these calculations, of course. Alternatively, the shadow biosphere could be responsible for this excess, says Sasselov. “There is plenty of room for a shadow biosphere. That is clear. Certainly, it is not true, as some allege, that we have strong evidence to show that it does not exist. In fact, the opposite is true: we do not have good enough evidence to dismiss it.”

A key point to note is that scientists – although describing the inhabitants of the shadow biosphere as weird – still assume they will be carbon-based entities. Complex chemistry based on other elements, such as silicon, is possible, they acknowledge but these alternatives cannot create the vast range of organic materials that carbon can generate. In other words, the shadow biosphere, if it exists, will almost certainly be inhabited by carbon life, albeit of an alien variety.

“Billions of years ago, life based on different types of carbon biochemistry  could have arisen in several places on Earth,” says Cleland. “These varieties would have been based on different combinations of bases and amino acids. Eventually, one – based on DNA and on proteins made from 20 amino acids – formed multicellular entities and became the dominant form of life on Earth. That is why we find that life as we know it, from insects to humans and from plants to birds, has DNA as its genetic code. However, other lifeforms based on different bases and proteins could still have survived – in the shadow biosphere.”

A different prospect is highlighted by Sasselov, who points out that a complex organic chemical can come in two different shapes even though they have the same chemical formula. Each is a mirror-image of the other and are said to have a different chirality. “Amino acids are an example,” says Sasselov. “Each comes in a right-handed version and a left-handed version. Our bodies – in common with all other lifeforms – only use left-handed versions to create proteins. Right-handed amino acids are simply ignored by our bodies. However, there may be some organisms, somewhere on the planet, that use only right-handed amino acids. They could make up the weird life of the shadow biosphere.”

But how can scientists pinpoint this weird life? Microbes are usually detected in laboratories by feeding nutrients to suspected samples so they grow and expend. Then the resulting cultures can be analysed. A weird lifeform – such as one made only of proteins formed out of right-handed amino acids – will not respond to left-handed nutrients, however. It will fail to form cultures and register its existence.

One solution to this problem is being pursued by Sasselov and colleagues’ Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. They are building an artificial cell – or bionic system – made only of right-handed components including right-handed DNA and right-handed ribosomes. “If there are right-handed lifeforms out there, many of them will be viruses – which will attempt to hijack the DNA of our bionic cells,” adds Sasselov. “When they do that they will leave evidence of their existence. Essentially we are building honey traps to catch any right-handed viruses that might live in the shadow biosphere and so reveal their existence.”

Other scientists suggest a different approach – by looking at Earth’s most inhospitable ecological niches: hot vents on the seafloor, mountaintops, highly saline lakes, Antarctic ice sheets and deserts. Standard lifeforms, mainly bacteria, have been found in these places but only a few. Some niches, researchers speculate, may prove to be just too inhospitable for standard life but may just be tolerable enough to support weird life. Microscopic studies would reveal their existence while standard culture tests would show they had a different biochemistry from standard lifeforms.

Stripes of desert varnish Stripes of desert varnish line the canyon walls of Capitol Gorge in Utah. No laboratory has been able to re-create the phenomenon. Photograph: Larry Geddis/Alamy

And a promising example is provided by the desert varnish proposed as a target by Cleland and backed by David Toomey in Weird Life. “No laboratory microbiologist has been able to coax bacteria or algae to make desert varnish,” he states. “It is also possible that the stuff is the end result of some very weird chemistry but no one has been able to reproduce that either.” So yes, these sites could provide proof of the shadow biosphere’s existence, he argues.

Not surprisingly, Cleland agrees. “The only trouble is that no one has yet got round to investigating desert varnish for weird life,” adds Cleland. “I confess I find that disappointing.”

Fascinating. I have come across different versions of Earth “shadow” life over the years; Mac Tonnies’ “cryptoterrestrials“, ancient creatures older than mankind whom remain hidden and undetectable from us. And Peter Watts’ “Behemoth” right-handed amino acid life forms taking over the Earth during the 21st Century.

And I’m not even counting legends of elves, Bigfoot, dwarves, demons and angels from past decades and centuries.

So the idea of Earthly “alien” life isn’t new.

But maybe, just maybe with advanced biotechnology techniques, we’ll be able to detect this shadow life.

Perhaps a whole hidden world!

Life on Earth… but not as we know it

Hat tip to the Daily Grail.


Dystopia vs. Dystopia

Two science-fiction classics of social dystopia, Brave New World and 1984 respectively by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell ( Eric Blair ) remain the yard-sticks by which future tyrannies are measured.

What is little known is that when Blair’s ( Orwell ) 1984 came out, Huxley wrote him a letter of ” congratulation.”

Kind of.

In October of 1949, a few months after the release of George Orwell‘s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he received a fascinating letter from fellow author Aldous Huxley — a man who, 17 years previous, had seen his own nightmarish vision of society published, in the form of Brave New World. What begins as a letter of praise soon becomes a brief comparison of the two novels, and an explanation as to why Huxley believes his own, earlier work to be a more realistic prediction.
Trivia: In 1917, long before he wrote this letter, Aldous Huxley briefly taught Orwell French at Eton.
(Source: Letters of Aldous Huxley; Image: George Orwell (via) & Aldous Huxley (via).)

Wrightwood. Cal. 21 October, 1949
Dear Mr. Orwell,
It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual’s psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.
Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government. Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations. Another lucky accident was Freud’s inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism. This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years. But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.
Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.
Thank you once again for the book.
Yours sincerely,
Aldous Huxley

If Huxley and Blair were alive today, the point would be moot because both types of tyrannies are employed in the world presently.

But I think these are just temparary developments.

1984 v. Brave New World 

Hat tip to Red Ice Creations

“Mega” Cities / Chilean Earthquake UFOs

I’m not sure this is a good thing or not since I’m an ol’ country boy:

The world’s mega-cities are merging to form vast “mega-regions” which may stretch hundreds of kilometres across countries and be home to more than 100 million people, according to a major new UN report.

The phenomenon of the so-called “endless city” could be one of the most significant developments – and problems – in the way people live and economies grow in the next 50 years, says UN-Habitat, the agency for human settlements, which identifies the trend of developing mega-regions in its biannual State of World Cities report.

The largest of these, says the report – launched today at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro – is the Hong Kong-Shenhzen-Guangzhou region in China, home to about 120 million people. Other mega-regions have formed in Japan and Brazil and are developing in India, west Africa and elsewhere.

The trend helped the world pass a tipping point in the last year, with more than half the world’s people now living in cities.

The UN said that urbanisation is now “unstoppable”. Anna Tibaijuka, outgoing director of UN-Habitat, said: “Just over half the world now lives in cities but by 2050, over 70% of the world will be urban dwellers. By then, only 14% of people in rich countries will live outside cities, and 33% in poor countries.”

The development of mega-regions is regarded as generally positive, said the report’s co-author Eduardo Lopez Moreno: “They [mega-regions], rather than countries, are now driving wealth.”

“Research shows that the world’s largest 40 mega-regions cover only a tiny fraction of the habitable surface of our planet and are home to fewer than 18% of the world’s population [but] account for 66% of all economic activity and about 85% of technological and scientific innovation,” said Moreno.

“The top 25 cities in the world account for more than half of the world’s wealth,” he added. “And the five largest cities in India and China now account for 50% of those countries’ wealth.”

The migration to cities, while making economic sense, is affecting the rural economy too: “Most of the wealth in rural areas already comes from people in urban areas sending money back,” Moreno said.

The growth of mega-regions and cities is also leading to unprecedented urban sprawl, new slums, unbalanced development and income inequalities as more and more people move to satellite or dormitory cities.

“Cities like Los Angeles grew 45% in numbers between 1975-1990, but tripled their surface area in the same time. This sprawl is now increasingly happening in developing countries as real estate developers promote the image of a ‘world-class lifestyle’ outside the traditional city,” say the authors.

To quote Jameske of the Daily Grail, “Judge Dredd soon to follow.”

“I am de la-aw!”

Sly Stallone will always have a job I guess.

UN report: World’s biggest cities merging into ‘mega-regions’

hat tip


UFO activity has long been associated with volcanic and earthquake activity, especially in Mexico, Central and South America.

Here we have photos of UFOs that were taken after the recent 8.8 R quake in Chile:

Long-time researcherLiliana Núñez Orellana(formerly with AFLA)sent us a video clip from Chilean television displaying some of the truly startling images captured before, during and after the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in that country. Interviewed for this presentation were Rodrigo Fuenzalida and Alberto Urquiza. Mr. Fuenzalida was asked to provide an analysis of the situation, and he shared an interesting theory: that UFOs, regardless of their nature or origin, vacate their underground or underwater lairs before an earthquake much in the way that our own surface ships set out to sea before a hurricane.

This might be evidence of Mac Tonnies’ cryptoterrestrial theory in that in the shear numbers of these objects that vacate geological volatile areas of the planet before, during and after these events.

Are you seeing this Mac?

Chile: Bumper Crop of UFO Images

hat tip

The Natural Alphabet / “St. Paddy’s Day” is Ancient Egyptian

A bit of a history lesson here; how did our modern alphabet evolve?

Well, according to this article, “it’s all in nature”:

The precursor to many of the characters in our modern script are found in the pictogram hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. The symbol for the letter ‘A’, in its earliest representation, depicted the image of the deified ox–which came to represent ‘the great one’ or ‘the creator’ in subsequent cultures. So it remained, as the symbol became adopted by the Greeks and Romans in a more rudimentary form, called ‘Alpha’–still signifying a supreme position today.

Not all the letters that make up our current alphabet are thought to trace back to forms from nature, however. The letter ‘B’, for example, is traced back to a pictogram of a house–its dimpled center once representing a doorway. Likewise, the early symbol for ‘C’ resembles a sling, though some speculate it might depict the hump of a camel.

the letter d imageThe letter ‘D’ in its Proto-Semitic was often represented by the pictogram of a fish, though as the symbol was adopted by the Phoenician, it seems that only the triangle-shaped tail was preserved. That triangle would become more precise as the Greek letter ‘Delta’, until the Romans rotated the shape slightly and rounded one of the pointed sides.

Very interesting. Although I don’t think the original Lascaux Cave artists intended nothing more than preserving the power of their animal spirits.

Then again, isn’t that what written words do?

How Nature Inspired the Alphabet

hat tip


Sometimes I haunt Chris Knowles’ The Secret Sun for a dose of Jungian Symbolism and today Saint Patrick’s Day gets the treatment:

Well, it’s that time again- the Liberalia. Some of you may know it as St. Patrick’s Day, but it was originally sacred to Dionysus (or Liber Pater as he came to be known after the clampdown on the Bacchanalia), as those who’ve read The Secret History of St. Patrick’s Day know. And this brings us back to Osiris, the father (or Pater) of the Egyptian Mystery Trinity. Here’s a sneak preview for those who haven’t read the article:

In Egyptian mythology, Osiris was killed on the 17th day of Athyr, the third month of the ancient calendar.

3/17 is also the date of a Masonically-created holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. The story has it that the holiday was established by high level Freemason, George Washington, allegedly to reward Irish soldiers in the Continental Army. But “St. Paddy’s” has traditionally been a very minor Saint’s day in Ireland. Considering that the day has become America’s defacto Bacchanal (which takes us back to Osiris) it’s worth noting some of the parallels of this day with Solar mythology.

• Osiris was believed to be the source of barley, which was used for brewing beer in Egypt.

• It’s customary to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day and Osiris was known as the “Green Man”

• The root word of Patrick is pater, the Latin word meaning father. Osiris is the father in the Egyptian Trinity.

I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to get the fixings for boiled dinner– I suppose we can postpone the festivities until the weekend when I can make some fresh soda bread (the stuff at the store is always stale) and get a better deal on the corned beef.

Mmmm..soda bread. I forgot about that.

I wonder if the store will have anymore left when I go home from work today?

It’s funny how the ancient gods and their holidays got integrated into “Christian” culture over the centuries.

Of course the people in charge of buying school textbooks in Texas would deny that to the end…

It’s Saint Osiris Day Again!

“Nibiru” = Nemesis / Cleveland UFOs

The Nibiru Myth gets another reboot from scientists:

AN invisible star responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs may be circling the Sun and causing comets to bombard the Earth, scientists said.

Now NASA scientists believe they will be able to find Nemesis using a new heat-seeking telescope that began scanning the skies in January.

The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer – expected to find a thousand brown dwarf stars within 25 light years of the Sun – has already sent back a photo of a comet possibly dislodged from the Oort Cloud.

Scientists’ first clue to the existence of Nemesis was the bizarre orbit of a dwarf planet called Sedna. Scientists believe its unusual, 12,000-year-long oval orbit could be explained by a massive celestial body.

Mike Brown, who discovered Sedna in 2003, said: “Sedna is a very odd object – it shouldn’t be there.

The only way to get on an eccentric orbit is to have some giant body kick you – so what is out there?”

Professor John Matese, of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said most comets come from the same part of the Oort Cloud.

He added: “There is statistically significant evidence that this concentration of comets could be caused by a companion to the Sun.”

I think until we actually send a probe to “Nemesis”, all this news will do is fuel the fire of Niribu, End Times and 2012.

But it does make you wonder how the Sumerians knew about these outer planets 5,000 years ago.

Invisible star ‘shooting comets at Earth’

It’s been quite a while since mainstream media has said anything serious about UFOs. Usually the corporate media has nothing but derision concerning the subject.

However since the appearance of UFOs over Lake Erie near the city of Cleveland have UFOs once again in the mainstream ken:


I was kind of impressed MSNBC interviewed Nick Pope. But being a former UK Minister of Defense does help the credibility factor somewhat.

The Cleveland UFO: What on Earth?

Alternative Universes / March on Christian Fathers?

Mention the multiverse and visions of myriad soap bubbles float the consciousness.

This is mainstream physics attempting to be fringe and at most tries, it succeeds.

But proving it is hard, and when it comes to theorizing if ‘our’ kind of life can form in an alternate universe, well, even MIT has to ‘just theorize’:

Just by reading at that title you might have disregarded this article as pure fantasy. And to be honest, I had to read the MIT article twice before I took it seriously.

Although it’s pure speculation, there’s something appealing about considering multiple universes (a scenario known as the “multiverse”) where anything — and I mean anything — is possible. But just because an alternate universe is possible, it doesn’t mean life can exist there.

Now scientists from MIT — obviously not content with searching for life within our own cosmos — have shown that alternate universes could nurture life even if the fundamental nature of these universes is totally different from our own.
Quark Tweaking

Professor Robert Jaffe and his team at MIT recently had their work published on the front cover of Scientific American after they reached this intriguing conclusion. By slightly altering the masses of the fundamental particles that make up the matter in our universe, Jaffe et al. have shown that although the characteristics of the elements may change, organic chemistry should still be possible in the multiverse.

In the multiverse, “nature gets a lot of tries — the universe is an experiment that’s repeated over and over again, each time with slightly different physical laws, or even vastly different physical laws,” says Jaffe.

Focusing only on carbon-based life forms (i.e. Life As We Know It™), the MIT scientists worked out some different scenarios by tweaking the masses of the tiny particles that make up protons and neutrons. These particles are called “quarks” and they come in six different “flavors” but Jaffe only looked at the most common quarks: the ‘up,’ ‘down’ and ‘strange’.
The Right Mix For Life?

Soon after the Big Bang, energy conditions in our universe were ‘just right’ for matter to form, cool and clump together in such a way that it eventually formed the galaxies, stars and planets that we see today.

But say if something was slightly different? What if one of the forces failed to separate from the primordial soup of matter over 13 billion years ago? What if the earliest particles to form — such as quarks — had slightly different masses than we measure today?

In previous studies, researchers have altered the characteristics of just one variable to see how their modified universe would evolve. Most of the time, the resulting universe became radically different, throwing everything into a chaotic mess where the most basic chemistry couldn’t hope to survive.

It was analogous to pulling a critical block (a constant) out of an unsteady Jenga tower (the universe), toppling the stack.

The question of life in these situations never came up, it was impossible for any stable elements or compounds to form.

But in this new research, the idea was to alter mass of all the quarks, not just one of them.

In our universe, the down quark is about twice as heavy as the up quark, resulting in neutrons that are 0.1 percent heavier than protons. Jaffe and his colleagues modeled one family of universes in which the down quark was lighter than the up quark, and protons were up to a percent heavier than neutrons. In this scenario, hydrogen would no longer be stable, but its slightly heavier isotopes deuterium or tritium could be. An isotope of carbon known as carbon-14 would also be stable, as would a form of oxygen, so the organic reactions necessary for life would be possible. — MIT release.

Although the fundamental particles would be very different, organic chemistry would be possible in this case.

The thinking here is that alternate universes are constructed completely different from our own.

Some might be, but I think there’s quite a few that exist exactly along side ours, constructed almost identically!

Can Life Exist in Alternate Universes?


The meme of the Founding Fathers of the United States were ‘Christian’ and that the US is once and always a ‘Christian’ nation started during the Reagan and on through the Bushs’ 1,2 and including Clinton’s administrations is still with us today. In fact it is strongest in the state of Texas.

As anyone who is a serious student of history, and one doesn’t have to be a student of esoteric history if they keep their eyes open at all realize that the Founding Fathers weren’t ‘Christian’ at all, but were Masonic Deists.

And it’s not hidden at all. The documentation is all out there to read if one is curious enough to read it.

Unfortunately, what we’re seeing is the efficiency of meme building of the media to control the masses and rewriting history at the same time to serve a purpose.

It is up to you dear reader to determine what that purpose is:

Over two days, more than a hundred people — Christians, Jews, housewives, naval officers, professors; people outfitted in everything from business suits to military fatigues to turbans to baseball caps — streamed through the halls of the William B. Travis Building in Austin, Tex., waiting for a chance to stand before the semicircle of 15 high-backed chairs whose occupants made up the Texas State Board of Education. Each petitioner had three minutes to say his or her piece.

“Please keep César Chávez” was the message of an elderly Hispanic man with a floppy gray mustache.

“Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world and should be included in the curriculum,” a woman declared.

Following the appeals from the public, the members of what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption was the subject of all the attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years. Gail Lowe — who publishes a twice-a-week newspaper when she is not grappling with divisive education issues — is the official chairwoman, but the meeting was dominated by another member. Don McLeroy, a small, vigorous man with a shiny pate and bristling mustache, proposed amendment after amendment on social issues to the document that teams of professional educators had drawn up over 12 months, in what would have to be described as a single-handed display of archconservative political strong-arming.

McLeroy moved that Margaret Sanger, the birth-control pioneer, be included because she “and her followers promoted eugenics,” that language be inserted about Ronald Reagan’s “leadership in restoring national confidence” following Jimmy Carter’s presidency and that students be instructed to “describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” The injection of partisan politics into education went so far that at one point another Republican board member burst out in seemingly embarrassed exasperation, “Guys, you’re rewriting history now!” Nevertheless, most of McLeroy’s proposed amendments passed by a show of hands.

Finally, the board considered an amendment to require students to evaluate the contributions of significant Americans. The names proposed included Thurgood Marshall,Billy GrahamNewt GingrichWilliam F. Buckley Jr.Hillary Rodham Clinton and Edward Kennedy. All passed muster except Kennedy, who was voted down.

This is how history is made — or rather, how the hue and cry of the present and near past gets lodged into the long-term cultural memory or else is allowed to quietly fade into an inaudible whisper. Public education has always been a battleground between cultural forces; one reason that Texas’ school-board members find themselves at the very center of the battlefield is, not surprisingly, money. The state’s $22 billion education fund is among the largest educational endowments in the country. Texas uses some of that money to buy or distribute a staggering 48 million textbooks annually — which rather strongly inclines educational publishers to tailor their products to fit the standards dictated by the Lone Star State. California is the largest textbook market, but besides being bankrupt, it tends to be so specific about what kinds of information its students should learn that few other states follow its lead. Texas, on the other hand, was one of the first states to adopt statewide curriculum guidelines, back in 1998, and the guidelines it came up with (which are referred to as TEKS — pronounced “teaks” — for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) were clear, broad and inclusive enough that many other states used them as a model in devising their own. And while technology is changing things, textbooks — printed or online —are still the backbone of education.

The cultural roots of the Texas showdown may be said to date to the late 1980s, when, in the wake of his failed presidential effort, the Rev. Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition partly on the logic that conservative Christians should focus their energies at the grass-roots level. One strategy was to put candidates forward for state and local school-board elections — Robertson’s protégé, Ralph Reed, once said, “I would rather have a thousand school-board members than one president and no school-board members” — and Texas was a beachhead. Since the election of two Christian conservatives in 2006, there are now seven on the Texas state board who are quite open about the fact that they vote in concert to advance a Christian agenda. “They do vote as a bloc,” Pat Hardy, a board member who considers herself a conservative Republican but who stands apart from the Christian faction, told me. “They work consciously to pull one more vote in with them on an issue so they’ll have a majority.”

Texas and Kansas lead the Evangelical Christian charge against ‘secular’ schooling, gaining considerable ground over the past thirty years.

Some folks wonder why American kids don’t score high on global math and science tests.

And senators from these states are whining about losing jobs after NASA institutes its new 2011 budget this fall, LOL!

How Christian Were the Founding Fathers?

Today’s hat tip goes to The Daily Grail .

Early Twen-Cen UFO/Alien Memes

From Adam Gorightly’s site:

Turn of the Century Image of an Alien Discovered

Comment by Abdullah the Butcher on Gorightly’s site, “Which one is the alien?” LOL!

The one on the left looks like my great-great grandfather!

I wonder if the “alien” traveled around in one of these things?

Interesting the cigar shaped UFO meme has returned recently. The little ‘alien’ is still with us. Apparently they’re not mutually exclusive.

The resurgence of phallic symbolism?

The little ‘aliens’ represent ‘seed?’

SETI Radio Telescopes or UFO Sightings: Which Is More Credible ?

The SETI question and UFO issue has been around for about the same time. Frank Drake, the Father of SETI, has been looking for evidence of ET for 50 years via listening for radio transmissions via radio telescopes. Advocates for the UFO phenomenon have been seeking, and often finding physical trace evidence for same for over 60 years. The only difference between the two methods is that one is sanctioned by mainstream governments and the scientific community, the other is actively suppressed and ridiculed by same. Even when by the very definition of scientific empiricism (the collection of trace physical evidence) often favors visitations of some type occurring. And continues to occur everyday.

Searching the skies with radio telescopes BTW, have yet to prove anything, although there have been interesting close calls such as the ‘Wow’ signal. And to be fair, searching by this method for only 50 years isn’t nearly long enough to yield palpable results. 100 years should be enough to get a good baseline, if it gets that far. By that I mean even the Father of SETI is starting to have doubts about picking up signals from ET civilizations, due to the continuing evolution of communication methods of human civilization that is cutting down on the stray radio signals that are emitted:

After 50 fruitless years of scanning the stars for ET signals using radiotelescopes, Frank Drake, the godfather of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is acknowledging the obvious: SETI’s foundation might well have been erected atop wet cement.

It happened this week, just days after the New Zealand Defence Force became the latest foreign bureaucracy to announce its intentions to unload hundreds of UFO documents into the public domain.  The venue was London, and the occasion was 350th anniversary celebration of the venerated Royal Society. But the conservative science fraternity had never convened for a topic like this: ”The Detection Of Extraterrestrial Life And The Consequences For Science And Society.”

The assembly didn’t confront UFOs head-on (that would’ve been way too Whoopee Cushion for the distinguished panelists), but its attending luminaries included NASA reps and Arizona State physicist Paul Davies, whose “Are We Alone?” book made it into Hillary Clinton’s hands during a presumed UFO briefing by Laurance Rockefeller in 1995.

Drake, author of the famous equation projecting how as many as 10,000 civilizations might well be thriving amid the Milky Way galaxy, shared his latest epiphany with the BBC.  It went something like this: As cable, fiber optics, digital and other communications technologies continue to evolve, Earth is emitting fewer radio-band signals and growing more silent. Maybe that’s why we haven’t heard anything. Maybe advanced cosmic societies have dispensed with radio altogether. Consequently, SETI astronomers are now on the lookout for optical flashes that could account for ET laser communications.

“In searching for extraterrestrial life, we are both guided and hindered by our own experience,” Drake conceded. “We have to use ourselves as a model for what a technological civilisation must be, and this gives us guidance for what technologies might be present in the Universe.

At the same time, this limits us because we are well aware that all the technologies that might be invented have not been invented; and in using ourselves as a model, we may not be paying attention to alternatives, as yet undiscovered and as yet unappreciated by us.”

(emphasis mine)

Really? Ya think? Alternatives to the sort of linear thinking that can’t even envision an ET civilization with a 50-year technological jump on us (to say nothing of a century, or a billion years)? Well, give The Royal Society an A for effort in the Look How Radically Futuristic We Can Be Dep’t. But as UFO events proceed without its acknowledgement, this is why the captains of official science look more like museum relics than the trailblazers they pretended to be this week.

One can look at the era of radio telescope SETI as an evolutionary step.

In 1924, the US Navy wanted to listen for telegraph signals from Mars .

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Go figure.

50 Years of Goose Eggs

hat tip

Evidence of Pre-historic Science?

Ever since this cycle of civilization began, pre-historic science and measurement were reputed to be legend and myth.

Neolithic structures such as Stonehenge certainly used aspects of this system and were incorporated into the structure.

Thus ancient peoples of Britain (and the world) were able to tell when it was time to plant and harvest crops and to celebrate the moon, stars and sun.

How did these ancient folks build structures as Stonehenge and  others that dot the surface of the planet?

Was/is there a guiding influence of ancient pre-historical science that taps into primordial energy?

And can it be tapped now-a-days?

It is strange where research can lead you. More than a decade has passed since we joined forces to try and find out if there was any reality to a claim that highly accurate units of length had been in used during the British Neolithic. We found that these supposedly primitive people were using a highly developed science that connected them to the rhythms of the Earth.

This led us on to realise that the science used by these Neolithic people did not die out as we first assumed. In our most recent book – Before the Pyramids, we have uncovered rock-solid evidence that the powers-that-be in Washington DC – in the Whitehouse, the US military and the highest levels of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry are aware of, and secretly celebrating this ancient system of science.

But our biggest personal challenge has been to face up to the consequences of our own findings; because they have brought us to the point where we have found compelling evidence that our planet and its environment has been carefully designed for us. Stranger still there appears to be a message built into the very fabric of the solar system itself.

This was not a finding that we had looked for, or even cared for. We are very pragmatic people working in an area of ancient research that is specialised and very sober. Here was an idea that was apparently outrageous – but apparently inescapable.

In early 2009 we had decided to revisit all of out findings that had resulted in three joint books plus one still in draft manuscript form (now published). We were troubled because, despite one of us being an agnostic and the other an atheist, we could not escape the conclusion that we were looking at a message from what we called the UCA (Unknown Creative Agency) that had designed our solar system and all life on Earth.

Then in late November 2009 we were contacted by David Cumming, an expert in AI (artificial intelligence) who had studied our evidence in great detail and independently come to the same conclusion. He claimed that it formed an equation that a very clear message from the creator.

That equation has been refined to:

We will describe the mathematics at the end of this article, but the important point is this:

Hlf.π is the specification of the SETI Communications frequency for extraterrestrial messages based on a galactic aspect of the hydrogen atom. This shouts, “Pay attention – this is a message”.

Ω are the numerals of the base ten counting system. This states; “ten-fingered humans I am talking to you”.

The left-hand side of the equation equal’s the right-hand side, which is the speed of light in a vacuum measured in Thoms per second (Earth/Moon/Sun harmonic units). This says, “the message is from the creator” (because the speed of light is the most significant physical reality in the universe).

Is this credible?

The facts behind it certainly are. But we thought we should go back to retrace some of our key findings over the years to help you decide.

Is the equation a message from the ‘Creator?’

Or are we dealing with an alien intelligence that is several levels of intelligence above us like we are above ants?

For all intents and purposes, does it really matter?

Was our solar system designed to produce humans?

Real Telepathy and Homo Erectus the Sailor

In the UK, a professor at Southampton has invented a real telepathy machine:

We are about to make history. As long as these electrodes don’t electrocute me first, I am seconds away from becoming the first journalist in the universe to try the professor’s telepathy machine.

He doesn’t call it a telepathy machine, of course. He’s a scientist so it’s called the brain-to-brain communication experiment, or B2B. Still, my brain is about to read his daughter’s brain. Gwyneth and I will communicate solely by brain wave. Which, in my unscientific book, is telepathy.

The “professor” is actually Dr Christopher James, a pioneering biomedical engineer at Southampton University, and his invention makes fact out of science fiction. Decades from now we won’t be phoning home to say the train’s late. We’ll be thinking it. Soldiers will take orders from their commanding officers cerebrally and minds imprisoned in disabled bodies will be free to communicate with others via cyberspace. Centuries from now, one evil dictator will misappropriate the brain-to-brain technology, take over all our minds and destroy us.

Right now we’re at the very beginning of this revolutionary journey. I’m at one end of an anonymous office on the university campus with two electrodes stuck to the back of my head (and one, alarmingly, on the front “for grounding”). Gwyneth is sitting at the other end thinking either “left” or “right”. Two electrodes are connecting her to a computer that can tell, from her brain waves, what she is thinking.

It then passes this information, via the internet, to my computer, which flashes a series of lights at me. I can’t tell the difference — it’s all far too quick — but my brain can. My electrodes detect the same sequence of lefts and rights that Gwyneth is thinking. In short, my brain has read her brain. Eureka.

James is keen to point out his invention’s limitations. If his 11-year-old daughter thought of a cat or Venezuela or how she’d much rather be out tobogganing than sitting here thinking of left and right, I wouldn’t know it. We can only do lefts and rights. Nevertheless, non-verbal communication has arrived.

“These are the very first baby steps towards communication by thought,” James explains. “It is not impossible to imagine a future where this direct brain-to-brain interaction is commonplace. But we have a long way to go in terms of the speed, accuracy and robustness of the technology.”

He likens the thought processes of a brain to a cocktail party. Except that it’s a cocktail party attended by 100 billion guests and they’re all jabbering away noisily at the same time: “What we’re trying to do is eavesdrop on individual conversations at that cocktail party but we’re trying to do it from outside the building. Currently, the eavesdropping is fairly crude.”

The external sensors that James uses to measure the tiny electrical currents generated when we think are haphazard. They pick up interference, they mix up signals and, frequently, James has to glue them back on when they fall off. New ones are being developed but, says James, “the point where we can measure hundreds of thought waves in isolation is still a long way off”.

The alternative is to ditch the sensors and bury electrodes directly in the brain. Invasive brain-computer interfacing is far more controversial but also far more accurate and it has already been tested in America. In 2005 Matt Nagle, a college football star left tetraplegic after a stabbing, became the first person to control an artificial hand through thought. He had a 96-electrode chip implanted on the surface of his brain. A computer was then programmed to recognise Nagle’s thought patterns, enabling him to operate the robot hand.

“I can’t put it into words,” said Nagle during the trial. “It’s just — I use my brain. I just thought it. It will give me a sense of independence.”

James believes the non-invasive route to brain-computer interaction is a more feasible one. He speculates that the holy grail of full thought-controlled navigation — a life-changing concept for the severely physically disabled — could be achieved in decades.

The next watershed is when computers become faster at reacting to our thoughts than our own bodies, when a tiny chip in your glasses can understand millions of brain waves in millionths of seconds. It is still a long way off but is by no means unimaginable.

Full brain-to-brain communication is certainly further off and faces significant hurdles. While progress in reading thoughts is rapid, passing those thoughts to another human being is fraught with both scientific and ethical problems. Since announcing his breakthrough in direct communication, James has received letters imploring him to desist in his mad science. People are gravely concerned that his team’s work will lead to an underclass of zombies controlled by the scientists of tomorrow.

I wouldn’t worry. Quite apart from the sheer complexity of reproducing the exact electrical and magnetic stimuli to precise areas of the brain that trigger thoughts and movements, the amount of electrodes (and accompanied drilling) that would be required is something of a stumbling block.

Back in the office I have swapped places with Gwyneth. I’m thinking left, right, left, left but the computer claimed that I had thought four lefts in a row. If I was in a thought-controlled wheelchair I would have shot down the stairs by now. The computer needs time to learn my brain waves. I need time to learn how to imagine right and left clearly enough for the computer to understand.

Frankly, I’d rather be out tobogganing as well. And even though it is conceivable that James’s invention will one day be viewed with the same breathlessness as Archimedes’s momentous night in his hot tub, right now I can’t help thinking it’s simply good to talk.

I’ve used the telepathic soldier concept myself in my Lamont science-fiction. I think it’ll be practical in ten years.
Homo Erectus the Sailor?
Human ancestors that left Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago to see the rest of the world were no landlubbers. Stone hand axes unearthed on the Mediterranean island of Crete indicate that an ancient Homospecies — perhaps Homo erectus — had used rafts or other seagoing vessels to cross from northern Africa to Europe via at least some of the larger islands in between, says archaeologist Thomas Strasser of Providence College in Rhode Island.

Several hundred double-edged cutting implements discovered at nine sites in southwestern Crete date to at least 130,000 years ago and probably much earlier, Strasser reported January 7 at the annual meeting of the American Institute of Archaeology. Many of these finds closely resemble hand axes fashioned in Africa about 800,000 years ago by H. erectus, he says. It was around that time that H. erectus spread from Africa to parts of Asia and Europe.

Until now, the oldest known human settlements on Crete dated to around 9,000 years ago. Traditional theories hold that early farming groups in southern Europe and the Middle East first navigated vessels to Crete and other Mediterranean islands at that time.

“We’re just going to have to accept that, as soon as hominids left Africa, they were long-distance seafarers and rapidly spread all over the place,” Strasser says. The traditional view has been that hominids (specifically, H. erectus) left Africa via land routes that ran from the Middle East to Europe and Asia. Other researchers have controversially suggested that H. erectus navigated rafts across short stretches of sea in Indonesia around 800,000 years ago and that Neandertals crossed the Strait of Gibraltar perhaps 60,000 years ago.

Questions remain about whether African hominids used Crete as a stepping stone to reach Europe or, in a Stone Age Gilligan’s Island scenario, accidentally ended up on Crete from time to time when close-to-shore rafts were blown out to sea, remarks archaeologist Robert Tykot of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Only in the past decade have researchers established that people reached Crete before 6,000 years ago, Tykot says.

Strasser’s team cannot yet say precisely when or for what reason hominids traveled to Crete. Large sets of hand axes found on the island suggest a fairly substantial population size, downplaying the possibility of a Gilligan Island’s scenario, in Strasser’s view.

In excavations conducted near Crete’s southwestern coast during 2008 and 2009, Strasser’s team unearthed hand axes at caves and rock shelters. Most of these sites were situated in an area called Preveli Gorge, where a river has gouged through many layers of rocky sediment.

At Preveli Gorge, Stone Age artifacts were excavated from four terraces along a rocky outcrop that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. Tectonic activity has pushed older sediment above younger sediment on Crete, so 130,000-year-old artifacts emerged from the uppermost terrace. Other terraces received age estimates of 110,000 years, 80,000 years and 45,000 years.

These minimum age estimates relied on comparisons of artifact-bearing sediment to sediment from sea cores with known ages. Geologists are now assessing whether absolute dating techniques can be applied to Crete’s Stone Age sites, Strasser says.

Intriguingly, he notes, hand axes found on Crete were made from local quartz but display a style typical of ancient African artifacts.

“Hominids adapted to whatever material was available on the island for tool making,” Strasser proposes. “There could be tools made from different types of stone in other parts of Crete.”

Strasser has conducted excavations on Crete for the past 20 years. He had been searching for relatively small implements that would have been made from chunks of chert no more than 11,000 years ago. But a current team member, archaeologist Curtis Runnels of Boston University, pointed out that Stone Age folk would likely have favored quartz for their larger implements. “Once we started looking for quartz tools, everything changed,” Strasser says.

Ancient Hominids May Have Been Sea-Farers

Today’s hat tip