Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alien Origin of Species

"When the gods instead of man
Did the work, bore the loads,
the gods' load was too great,
The work too hard, the trouble too much.
The great Annunaki made the Igigi."
-- The Atrahasis Epic, 18th century B.C.

Kilgannon, C., Origin of the Species, From an Alien View, The New York Times, Jan 2010

WHERE did humankind come from?

If you’re going to ask Zecharia Sitchin, be ready for a “Planet of the Apes” scenario: spaceships and hieroglyphics, genetic mutations and mutinous space aliens in gold mines.

It sounds like science fiction, but Mr. Sitchin is sure this is how it all went down hundreds of thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia. Humans were genetically engineered by extraterrestrials, he said, pointing to ancient texts to prove it.

In Mr. Sitchin’s Upper West Side kitchen, evolution and creationism collide. He is an apparently sane, sharp, University of London-educated 89-year-old who has spent his life arguing that people evolved with a little genetic intervention from ancient astronauts who came to Earth and needed laborers to mine gold to bring back to Nibiru, a planet we have yet to recognize.

Outlandish, yes, but also somehow intriguing

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Helene Hegemann

"Your manuscript is both good and original. But the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good." -- Samuel Johnson, author, 1777

"... in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original...." -- C.S. Lewis, author, 1942

A lot of people on forums (Mr. Nathan Poe of Poe's Law fame for example) have charged that I have no original thoughts. I agree. Others have charged that all I do is cut and paste. I agree. James Joyce was the "original" [sic] Mr. Cutnpaste followed by William S. Burroughs. My favorite author Cormac McCarthy says "The ugly fact is books are made of books." When I announced to my friend my ambition to write a novel using plagiarized lines from Homer, one friend pointed me to Jonathan's Lethem's The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism and another pointed out that Matthew had plagiarized the phrase "weeping and gnashing of teeth" directly from Homer. And now I have discovered Helene Hegemann.

Kulich, N., Author 17 Says It's 'Mixing' Not Plagiarism, The New York Times, Feb 2010

BERLIN — It usually takes an author decades to win fawning reviews, march up the best-seller list and become a finalist for a major book prize. Helene Hegemann, just 17, did it with her first book, all in the space of a few weeks, and despite a savaging from critics over plagiarism.

The publication last month of her novel about a 16-year-old exploring Berlin’s drug and club scene after the death of her mother, called “Axolotl Roadkill,” was heralded far and wide in German newspapers and magazines as a tremendous debut, particularly for such a young author. The book shot to No. 5 this week on the magazine Spiegel’s hardcover best-seller list.

For the obviously gifted Ms. Hegemann, who already had a play (written and staged) and a movie (written, directed and released in theaters) to her credit, it was an early ascension to the ranks of artistic stardom. That is, until a blogger last week uncovered material in the novel taken from the less-well-known novel “Strobo,” by an author writing under the nom de plume Airen. In one case, an entire page was lifted with few changes.

As other unattributed sources came to light, outsize praise quickly turned to a torrent of outrage, reminiscent of the uproar in 2006 over a Harvard sophomore, Kaavya Viswanathan, who was caught plagiarizing numerous passages in her much praised debut novel. But Ms. Hegemann’s story took a very different turn.

On Thursday, Ms. Hegemann’s book was announced as one of the finalists for the $20,000 prize of the Leipzig Book Fair in the fiction category. And a member of the jury said Thursday that the panel had been aware of the plagiarism charges before they made their final selection.

Ms. Hegemann finds herself in the middle of a collision — if not road kill exactly — between the staid, literary establishment in a country that venerates writers from Goethe to Mann to Grass, and the Berlin youth culture of D.J.’s and artists that sample freely and thereby breathe creativity into old forms. Or as one character, Edmond, puts it in the book, “Berlin is here to mix everything with everything.”

A powerful statement, but the line originally was written by Airen, on his blog. The plot thickens, however, and shows that perhaps more than simple cribbing is at work. When another character asks Edmond if he came up with that line himself, he replies, “I help myself everywhere I find inspiration.”

“Obviously, it isn’t completely clean but, for me, it doesn’t change my appraisal of the text,” said Volker Weidermann, the jury member and a book critic for the Sunday edition of the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, a strong supporter. “I believe it’s part of the concept of the book.”

Heart of Darkness Quotes (That Influenced Cormac McCarthy)

"The ugly fact is books are made out of books. The novel depends for its life on the novels that have been written." -- Cormac McCarthy, author, April 19th 1992

Conrad, J., Heart of Darkness, 1899

... in the august light of abiding memories. [Suttree]

... evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames. The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories of ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea. [Suttree/Blood Meridian]

... they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of might within the land, bearers of a spark from a sacred fire. [No Country For Old Men/The Road]

"And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth." [Outer Dark]

But darkness was here yesterday. [Outer Dark]

Imagine him here -- the very end of the world, a sea the color of lead, a sky the color of smoke... [Blood Meridian/The Road]

They must have been dying like flies here. [Blood Meridian/The Road]

... feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him, -- all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of men. [Outer Dark/Child of God/Blood Meridian/The Road]

It had become a place of darkness. [Outer Dark]

... when an opportunity had offered at last to meet my predecessor, the grass growing through his ribs was tall enough to hide his bones. [Blood Meridian]

Mad terror had scattered them. [Blood Meridian]

It was just as though I had been let in to some conspiracy -- I don't know -- something not quite right.... [Blood Meridian/No Country For Old Men]

Not many of those she ever looked at ever saw her again -- not half, by a long way. [Blood Meridian/No Country For Old Men]

... the changes take place inside, you know. [Child of God/Blood Meridian/No Country For Old Men]

The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist. The sun was fierce, the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam. [Outer Dark]

... what looked like a God-forsaken wilderness ... [Outer Dark/Child of God]

For a time I would feel I belonged still to a world of straightforward facts; but the feeling would not last long. Something would turn up to scare it away.

Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn't even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long six-inch guns stuck out all over the low hull ... There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding ... and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives -- he called them enemies! -- hidden out of sight somewhere.

'Fine lot these government chaps -- are they not?' he went on, speaking English with great precision and considerable bitterness.

I said to him I expected to see that soon. 'So-o-o!' he exclaimed. He shuffled athwart, keeping one eye ahead vigilantly. 'Don't be too sure,' he continued. 'The other day I took up a man who hanged himself on the road. [Outer Dark]

... this scene of inhabited devastation. [Blood Meridian/The Road]

After all, I also was a part of the great cause of these high and just proceedings. [Blood Meridian]

I've seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but, by all the stars! these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men -- men, I tell you. [Blood Meridian]

... the other, bent over his books, was making correct entries of perfectly correct transactions ... [Blood Meridian]

Can't say I saw any road or any upkeep, unless the body of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet-hole in the forehead, upon which I absolutely stumbled three miles farther on, may be considered as a permanent improvement. [Blood Meridian]

... the ... devil was running that show. [Blood Meridian]

Certainly the affair was too stupid -- when I think of it -- to be altogether natural. [Outer Dark/Blood Meridian]

... for out there there were no external checks. [Blood Meridian]

I asked myself sometimes what it all meant. They wandered here and there with their absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence. [Blood Meridian]

You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I've never seen anything so unreal in my life. [Blood Meridian]

... afterwards he arose and went out -- and the wilderness without a sound took him into its bosom again. [Outer Dark/Child of God]

Then I noticed a small sketch in oils, on a panel, representing a woman, draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch. [No Country For Old Men/The Road]

... they were all waiting ... the only thing that ever came to them was disease -- as far as I could see.

'He is a prodigy,' he said at last. 'He is an emissary of pity and science and progress, and devil knows what else. [Blood Meridian]

Pitiless, pitiless. That's the only way. This will prevent all conflagrations for the future. [Outer Dark/Blood Meridian]

... the forest stood up spectrally in the moonlight ... [Outer Dark]

I knew once a Scotch sailmaker who was certain, dead sure, there were people in Mars. ... If you as much as smiled, he would -- though a man of sixty -- offer to fight you.

It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream ... [Outer Dark]

... he judged it necessary to inform me he feared neither God nor devil, let alone any mere man.

They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.

To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe. [Blood Meridian]

Look at the influence that man must have. Is it not frightful?' They both agreed it was frightful ... [Outer Dark/Blood Meridian]

'get him hanged! Why not? Anything -- anything can be done in this country. [Outer Dark/Blood Meridian]

Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. [Outer Dark/Blood Meridian]

... till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once -- somewhere -- far away -- in another existence perhaps. There were moments when one's past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare for yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect. [Outer Dark/Blood Meridian]

They were men one could work with, and I am grateful to them. And, after all, they did not eat each other before my face ... [The Road]

We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth, on an earth that wore the aspect of an unknown planet. [Outer Dark/Blood Meridian/The Road]

The earth seemed unearthly. [Outer Dark/Blood Meridian/The Road]

It was unearthly, and the men were -- No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it -- this suspicion of their not being inhuman. [Outer Dark/Blood Meridian]

... we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We could not understand, because we were too far and could not remember, because we were travelling in the night of the first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign -- and no memories. [Outer Dark/Blood Meridian]

... a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you -- you so remote from the night of first ages -- could comprehend. And why not? The mind of man is capable of anything -- because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage -- who can tell? -- but truth -- truth stripped of its cloak of time.

'Catch 'im,' he snapped, with a bloodshot widening of his eyes and a flash of sharp teeth -- 'catch 'im. Give 'im to us.' 'To you, eh?' I asked; 'what would you do with them?' 'Eat 'im!' he said curtly, and, leaning his elbow on the rail, looked out into the fog in a dignified and profoundly pensive attitude. I would no doubt have been properly horrified, had it not occurred to me that he and his chaps must be very hungry ... [Outer Dark]

... my shoes were full; a pool of blood lay very still, gleaming dark red under the wheel ... To tell the truth, I was morbidly anxious to change my shoes and socks. 'He is dead,' murmured the fellow, immensely impressed. 'No doubt about it,' said I.... [No Country For Old Men]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Global Cooling Spells Trouble For U.S. Bee Population

AFP: Bitter winter spells trouble for US bee population.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – America's dwindling honey bee population has been badly hit by the bitter winter, the harshest in decades, with experts warning that winter losses could be as high as 50 percent.

Beekeepers normally lose around 10 percent of their colonies during the wintertime, when food stores are low and bees are confined to the hive.

But preliminary estimates indicate that this year, losses will be between 30 to 50 percent, said David Mendes, president of the American Beekeeping Federation.
"There are a lot of beekeepers who are in trouble" he said.

"Under normal condition you have 10 percent winter losses.. this year there are 30, 40 to 50 percent losses."

Winter figures showing the extent of the seasonal loss, are to be published in April.

Catastrophists Debate Chicxulub and Extinction

Now here is an interesting scientific debate. Either way you look at it we're doomed.

Science Daily: Prolonged Climatic Stress Main Reason for Mass Extinction 65 Million Years Ago, Paleontologist Says.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2010) — Long-term climate fluctuations were probably the main reason for the extinction of the dinosaurs and other creatures 65 million years ago. This conclusion was reached by PD Dr. Michael Prauss, paleontologist at Freie Universitaet Berlin, based on his latest research results.

Prauss thus challenges the almost 30-year-old theory that a meteorite impact at the Mexican Yucatan peninsula was the single cause for one of the five largest mass extinctions in Earth history, which has most recently been reiterated in a publication in the journal Science. According to Prauss, the impact was only one in a chain of catastrophic events that caused substantial environmental perturbations, probably largely controlled by the intermittent activity of the Deccan volcanism near the then-Indian continent, that continued over several million years and peaked at the Cretaceous-Paleogen boundary.

"The resulting chronic stress, to which of course the meteorite impact was a contributing factor, is likely to have been fundamental to the crisis in the biosphere and finally the mass extinction," says Michael Prauss. In a research project funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Gerta Keller, paleontologist at Princeton University, U.S.A., Prauss analyzed several drill cores and rock sections covering the extended Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary interval at Brazos River, Texas, USA. The investigated region is located about 1000 km northwest of the Chicxulub impact crater and is well known among geologic scientists for its exceptionally complete preservation of Upper Cretaceous sediments.

Based on an analysis of the appearance and distribution of organic-walled microfossils such as Algal cysts, pollen, and spores of terrestrial plants, Prauss shows that significant and persistent variations in the ecosystem of the Upper Cretaceous started long before the meteorite impact. Among others, these are reflected by fluctuations in sea-level and marine algae productivity.

Prauss also considers it highly problematic to equate the meteorite impact with the position of the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary: "The actual impact took place well before the geochemically and micropaleontologically defined Cretaceous Paleogene boundary." He supports his assertion with the position of the so-called fern spike, an episodic, significant increase in the proportion of fern spores caused by the pioneering phase of ferns in repopulating landscapes of destroyed ecosystems. In all sections of the investigated area the fern spike occurs well before important stratigraphic evidence for the Paleogene.

The new results contradict a publication by Schulte et al. (2010) in the March 5 issue of Science. Schulte et al. summarize the Cretaceous-Paleogene issue only to arrive at the 30-year-old theory of the impact as the sole cause of mass extinction. The occurrence of substantial fluctuations within the ecosystem of the Upper Cretaceous before the impact is disputed and the impact event is equated in time with the biostratigraphic Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. "In the light of the new data, both of these points have to be refuted," says Prauss.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Outer Dark

"But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." -- Matthew 8:12

"Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." -- Matthew 22:13

"And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." -- Matthew 25:30

They LORD. This is my second favorite after Blood Meridian.

"This is the darkest fairytale you could ever hope to not read to your children." -- Sarah

Davenport, G., Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy, New York Times Book Review, Sep 1968

Appalachian America has kept in the archaic courtesy of its speech and in the still uncompromised meanness of its ethnic jealousies an inviolable identity unmatched anywhere else in the United States. It is our Balkans. Appalachian speechways, uncorrupted by slang and impervious to innovation, put at the novelist's disposal a timeless epic diction; and the wildness of Appalachia exhibits for him a range of seasoned and ingrained depravities the ancient universality of which allows a tragic terror more sobering than any the portrayer of sophisticated agonies can hope for.

There is a strange awfulness about Appalachia that quickens the imagination. Its traditions are unconscious and deep in the bone. It still believes in fate. The Calvinist still walks there in Bunyanesque starkness. The world is an allegory and no violence however sickening is ever quite unexpected in the course of a day. It bears its poverty with Celtic dignity and looks at life with the Celtic disbelief in its permanence. And in the Tennessee novelist Cormac McCarthy it has found a new storyteller to depict the darkness of its heart and its futile defiance of its luck.

Mr. McCarthy's first novel, "The Orchard Keeper," won the William Faulkner Foundation Award three years ago. This, his second, is even finer. Though it pays its homage to Faulkner's rhetoric and imagery, it is not a Faulknerian novel. It is much leaner, closer in pace and spareness of line to the Gothic masters Gertrud Le Fort and her disciple Isak Dinesen, and lacks Faulkner's sociological dimension. Mr. McCarthy is unashamedly an allegorist. His responsibility as a storyteller includes believing with his characters in the devil, or at least in the absolute destructiveness of evil. As in Chaucer's "Pardoner's Tale," the moral symmetry of which is thoroughly Appalachian, you can hear mortality whetting its scythe behind every line.

Lucklessness is a dominant theme in the Appalachian mind. Mr. McCarthy's protagonist believes that "a man makes his own luck," and has made his by begetting a child upon his sister. Thereafter, his doom, and his sister's, unfolds with a perfectly logical inevitability that would have earned a gasp from Sophocles. The plot is like the finding by a malevolent hand the thread that knits the world; page by page it plucks the stitches lose until the fabric parts in a catastrophe so awful that one's eyes leave the page by sheer reflex.

The originality of Mr. McCarthy's novel is not in its theme or locale, both of which are impressively ancient. It is his style which compels admiration, a style compounded of Appalachian phrases as plain and as functional as an ax. In elegant counterpoint to this bare-bones English is a second diction taken from that rich store of English which is there in the dictionary to be used by those who can ("his shadow moiled cant," "the tapered spline of the axle").

Surprisingly, so hard-wrought a style is not in the least precious. The bookish diction complements the countrified one. Every word, moreover, is designed to serve Mr. McCarthy's sharply controlled sense of place and action. There is not a page of this novel which does not depict swift and significant action. Nor does Mr. McCarthy waste a single word on his character's thoughts. With total objectivity he describes what they do and records their speech. Such discipline comes not only from mastery over words but from an understanding wise enough and compassionate enough to dare tell so abysmally dark a story.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How the Alphabet Was Born From Hieroglyphs

Biblical Archaeology Review: How the Alphabet Was Born from Hieroglyphs.

It was here at Serabit, I believe, that the alphabet was invented—by Canaanites!

The invention of the alphabet ushered in what was probably the most profound media revolution in history. Earlier writing systems, like Egyptian hieroglyphic and Mesopotamian cuneiform with its curious wedge-shaped characters, each required a knowledge of hundreds of signs. To write or even to read a hieroglyphic or cuneiform text required familiarity with these signs and the complex rules that governed their use.

By contrast, an alphabetic writing system uses fewer than 30 signs, and people need only a few relatively simple reading rules that associate these signs with sounds.
This great invention had far-reaching social and cultural implications. With the alphabet, writing broke out of the “golden cage” of the professional scribal world. Writing was no longer their monopoly. When many more members of society could learn to read (and write), access to information and knowledge was no longer as limited as it had been. Alphabetic writing eventually gave many more people control over their lives and enabled larger segments of the population to take a more active role in the cultural and administrative affairs of their respective societies.
But how was it done?

Although, as I believe, the alphabet was invented by Canaanites, we still owe a significant debt to the Egyptians, for it was Egyptian hieroglyphs that provided the trigger and the means that made the invention of the alphabet possible.

To understand how this came about, we must first examine some very odd Serabit inscriptions—just a few dozen that markedly differ from the hundreds of hieroglyphic inscriptions at the site. The credit for first noticing one of these unusual inscriptions in Serabit goes to Hilda Petrie, wife of the famous Egyptologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, who was leading an archaeological expedition to Serabit in 1905. It was she who called attention to some fallen stones on the ground by one of the mines, bearing several awkward signs that seemed not to be real hieroglyphs.

Then more of these inscriptions began turning up on rocks by the turquoise mines, and even inside the mines. A few came from the desert roads leading to the temple. From the temple precinct itself, however, only two small statues and a sphinx bore inscriptions in this strange new script.

Petrie studied these crude inscriptions and observed that they appeared to be a kind of imitation of hieroglyphic signs. Yet the repertoire of signs was very small. Petrie ingeniously identified these awkward signs as an alphabetic script, different from the Egyptian hieroglyphic system with its hundreds of signs. Yet Petrie was unable to read these strange inscriptions.

In 1916, some ten years later, Sir Alan Gardiner, the famous English Egyptologist, noticed a group of four signs that was frequently repeated in these unusual inscriptions. Gardiner correctly identified the repetitive group of signs as a series of four letters in an alphabetic script that represented a word in a Canaanite language: b-‘-l-t, vocalized as Baalat, “the Mistress.” Gardiner suggested that Baalat was the Canaanite appellation for Hathor, the goddess of the turquoise mines. Were these inscriptions carved by Canaanite workmen?

An important key to the decipherment was a unique bilingual inscription. It is inscribed on a small sphinx from the temple and features a short inscription in what appears to be parallel texts in Egyptian and in the new script.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Neuroscientists Sell Their Souls to the Devil

"Favorinus says, when Plato read his treatise on the Soul, Aristotle was the only person who sat it out, and that all the rest rose up and went away." -- Diogenes Laertius, historian, 3rd century

"Two thousand years ago these extraterrestrials created a being to be placed on this planet to teach homo-sapiens about love and peace." -- Linda M. Howe, journalist, 1989

Scientific American: Neuroscientists don't believe in souls--But that doesn't mean they can't sell theirs. (Hat tip: Toby)

Of all scientific fields, neuroscience has the greatest potential for revolutionary advances, philosophical and practical. Someday, brain researchers may figure out how precisely the brain encodes thoughts like the ones I’m thinking now. Cracking the neural code could help solve the mind-body problem, ending millennia of pointless metaphysical chitchat. We may finally understand how brains work and why sometimes they don’t. We might even discover truly effective treatments for depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and dementia and chuck our current quasi-therapies.

It is because I have such high hopes for neuroscience that I’m so upset by two trends in financing of the field. One involves neuroscience’s growing dependence on the Pentagon, which is seeking new ways to help our soldiers and harm our enemies. For a still-timely overview of neuroweapons research, check out the 2006 book Mind Wars by bioethicist Jonathan Moreno of the University of Pennsylvania. (PR disclosure: I brought Moreno to my school to give a talk on March 10.) Potential neuroweapons include drugs, transcranial magnetic stimulators and implanted brain chips that soup up the sensory capacities and memories of soldiers, as well as brain-scanners and electromagnetic beams that read, control or scramble the thoughts of bad guys.

When Moreno was writing his book, neuroscientists were reluctant to talk about their affair with the Pentagon and seemed embarrassed by it. No longer. Last year the National Academy of Sciences published a 136-page report, Opportunities in Neuroscience for Future Army Applications, that makes an unabashed pitch for militarizing brain research. The authors include the neuroluminaries Floyd Bloom of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and editor-in-chief of Science; and Michael Gazzaniga of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Both are members of the U.S. Council on Bioethics.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Math Genius Refuses $1 Million Prize

BBC: Russian maths genius Perelman urged to take $1m prize.

Russian maths genius Grigory Perelman, who declined a prestigious international award four years ago, is under new pressure to accept a prize.

A US institute wants to give him $1m (£700,000) for solving one of the world's most complex mathematical problems, the Poincare Conjecture.

But it is unclear whether Dr Perelman, a virtual recluse, will pick it up.

A children's charity in St Petersburg, where he lives, has urged him to take the money and give it to charity.

Dr Perelman, 43, has cut himself off from the outside world for the past four years, living with his elderly mother in a tiny flat said by neighbours to be infested with cockroaches.

In an open letter on its website, the Warm Home charity called on Dr Perelman to give the cash equivalent of the US Clay Mathematics Institute's $1m Millennium Prize to Russian charities.

It suggested that the mathematician had already made an ethical point by turning down the Fields Medal, the world's highest prize in mathematics, in 2006.

The mathematician is reported to have said "I have all I want" when contacted by a reporter this week about the Clay Millennium Prize.

According to the UK's Daily Mail newspaper, he was speaking through the closed door of his flat.

Dr Perelman was the first person to turn down the Fields Medal, which would have been presented to him at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Madrid.

"I'm not interested in money or fame," he is quoted to have said at the time.

"I don't want to be on display like an animal in a zoo. I'm not a hero of mathematics. I'm not even that successful; that is why I don't want to have everybody looking at me."

One of Russia's most senior politicians, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, has appealed for Dr Perelman to be left in peace to make up his own mind.

He suggested that it was "not very decent to look into other people's pockets and count other people's money", Russia's Interfax news agency reports.

The Rappahannock: Their Faces Were Blue and Their Bodies Were Red

"The next day, being the fift of May, the Werowance [Chief] of Rapahanna sent a Messenger to have us come join him. We entertained the said Messenger, and gave him trifles which pleased him. Wee manned our shallop with Muskets and Targatiers sufficiently: this said Messenger guided us where our determination was to goe. When we landed, the Werowance of the Rapahanna came downe to the water side with all his traine, as godly men as any I have seene of Savages or Christians: the Werowance comming before them playing a Flute made of a Reed, with a Crown of Deares haire colloured red, in fashion of a Rose fastened about his knot of haire, and a great Plate of Copper on the other side of his head, with two long Feathers in fashion of a paire of Hornes placed in the midst of his Crowne. His body was painted with Crimson, with a Chaine of Beads about his necke, his face painted blew, besprinkled with silver Ore as we thought, his ears all behung with Braslets of Pearle, and in either ear a Birds Claw through it beset with fine Copper or Gold. He entertained us in so modest a proud fashion, as though he had beene a Prince of civill government, holding his countenance without laughter or any such ill behaviour. He caused his Mat to be spread on the ground, where hee sate downe with a great Majestie, taking a pipe of Tobacco: the rest of his company standing about him." -- George Percy, explorer, "Observations By Master George Percy, 1607", Narratives of Early Virginia 1606-1625, 1607

"SIR: I have obtained information through contrabands that the enemy are fortifying Fredricksburg and are building gunboats on the Rappahannock under the superintendence of Mr. Matthew F. Maury. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant." -- Lieutenant R. H. Wyman, Commanding Potomac Flotilla, Official War Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, March 13th 1862

"SIR: I have the honor to report to you that, in my absence up the river to Fredricksburg, the steam transports Telegraph and Rotary came into the mouth of the Rappahannock and the crews from both vessels went on shore and robbed the houses on shore, breaking into the women's trunks, taking their jewelry and clothes, and taking their beds away with them. Respectfully your obedient servant...." -- F. Josselyn, Acting Master, Commanding U.S.S. Reliance, Official War Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, August 26th 1862

"SIR: I have the honor to make the following statement:
At 2.25 p.m., on our return from the mouth of the Rappahannock River, when abreast of Brandywine Hill, the enemy opened fire on us from the hill, firing some thirty shells at us before we arrived at this anchorage, none of them taking effect. We beat to quarters and returned fire with our rifle gun. At 2:40 p.m. came to anchor. The enemy opened fire on the fleet from another battery about a mile north of the first. At 3:20 p.m. received orders to open fire with much elevation. At 4 p.m. a 30-pounder Parrott percussion shell struck our ship on the starboard side 20 inches under water, and as soon as possible we put a shot plug in the hole without ceasing firing. At 4:30 p.m. received orders to cease firing. At 4:35 p.m. a 30-pounder Parrott percussion shell struck our ship on the starboard side aft the main rigging, going through into the fire room and exploded, wounding three men, viz:
Jeremiah Daley (coal heaver), compound fracture of radius and right forearm and compound fracture of cranium and contused wound of right foot, with partial loss of first, second, and third toes.
Henry F. Smith (coal heaver), compound fracture of left femur at juncture of middle and upper third, and incised wound of face, laying bare left side of lower jawbone.
John McCluskey (first-class fireman), slight contusion of back in lower region.
Also broke blower, blower engine, and steam gauge pipe. I also state during the engagement my officers and men behaved nobly. At 7 p.m. ship still leaking badly.
Very respectfully your obedient servant...." -- T.J. Linnekin, Acting Master, Commanding U.S.S. Currituck, Official War Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, December 10th 1862

"SIR: I have the honor to report that at 3 o'clock this afternoon the enemy opened fire on us from a battery on the south side of the river. In obedience to your order I immediately responded with my 8-inch gun, 32-pounder, and 12-pounder rifle howitzer. I have reason to believe that our fire was effective. After expending eighteen 8-inch shell, twenty-one 32 pounder shell, and fourteen Schenkle shell, I ceased firing, in accordance with your order. I am happy to say that no one was injured on this vessel. I must say that the officers and men behaved admirably. I am, sir, very respectfully your obedient servant...." -- James W. Turner, Ensign and Exectuive Officer, Commanding U.S.S. Yankee, Official War Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, December 10th 1862

"I find myself at length an inhabitant of this pretty Southern village, this 'hot-bed of Virginia aristocracy.'" -- Emily C. Pearson, Life on the Rappahannock, 1864

"Fifty years ago the early oysterboat was an institution of the Rappahannock. About sunrise in every town and village on the river, black servants with tin buckets and white lads with capacious mouths flocked to the moorings where the negro oystermen dispensed the breakfast supplies and gave casual morsels on the half-shell to the watering palates around. They were called Carter Creek oysters. The name may be inexact; but they came from the lower Rappahannock, and chiefly, I believe from beds cultivated by old 'King Carter' of Corotoman." -- Moncure D. Conway, author, Barons of the Potomack and Rappahannock, 1892

"The Song has been silent for more than thirty years. In another thirty years it will cease to be a living memory save to a handful of very old men. But those who once heard can never forget it's weird, fantastic sinister tones." -- Ira S. Dodd, historian, Song of the Rappahannock: Sketches of the Civil War, 1898

"In a tract of short rolling hills, which the natives refer to in all seriousness as 'peaks,' an average rise of probably not more than twenty feet above the general level, is Bob's plantation. Five or six acres of cornfields, in which 'cornfield beans' are planted at the foot of the cornstalks, constitute Bob's domain. Surrounded for a number of miles by a heavy growth of mixed short-leaf pine (Pinus taeda) and 'spuce pine' (P. Virginiana), and tracts of varied oaks, his log-houses present a scene of remoteness and solitude that seem in proper accord with the solitary character of this old Indian. Not far from his houses are swamps of oak and gum where, until a few years ago, he was accustomed to kill wild turkeys, sometimes as many as thirty to forty in one season. Bob has been an expert marksman with his muzzle-loading gun, which he fondly treasures now in his old age with a deep feeling of friendship." -- Marshall H. Saville, Rappahannock, Archaeological Specimens of New England, Volume 5, Issues 1-3, 1919

"One of the big local myths is that the Rappahannock and the Potomac rivers are lousy with water moccasins (also known as cottonmouths). We do have aquatic snakes in the local waters, and they are aggressive little devils who would just love to bite you, but they are not poisonous. The northernmost, authenticated range of the cottonmouth is the Great Dismal Swamp. But if global warming [sic] continues, who knows? Don't kill aquatic snakes, unless of course, you have been lost between Motts Run and Fredricksburg for two weeks and are hungry enough to eat a snake. If you kill snakes indiscriminately, and think they have no place on this planet, you are, in effect, saying that the creator made a mistake putting them here in the first place." -- Bob Sargeant, reporter, Snakes Alive!, The Free Lance-Star, July 10th 1999

"The Native Americans who gave their name to the Rappahannock were a numerous and ancient people, and for much of the seventeenth century they were able to remain on their ancestral lands, albeit in much tension with the English settlers and bordering tribes. By 1670, the Rappahannock River was home to one of the Virginia colony's five forts (along with two on the James and one each on the York and Potomac Rivers)...." -- Frank E. Grizzard and D. Boyd Smith, historians, Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History, 2007

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Modest Report

New Islands Appear From the Sea

HAWAII - For nearly 30 years, scientists and pseudoscientists have argued over control of public opinion. Now declining sea levels have resolved the dispute for them: new islands have arrived.

New islands are islands which have literally just been created, said an oceanographer in Hawaii. Their appearance have been confirmed by satellite imagery and sea patrols, he said.

"What these two parties could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global cooling," he said.

Scientists at the School of Oceanographic Studies at the university have noted an alarming increase in the rate at which sea levels have fallen over the past decade.

For the pseudoscience version see here.

The Finger Is Not Human?

Time: A New Species? Scientists Discover a Distant Human Relative.

In 2008, a team of archaeologists discovered a fossilized fragment of a pinkie finger in the secluded Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. The finger was buried with bracelets and other artifacts typical of early human sites dating back about 35,000 years. It was sent to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, for routine genetic analysis. When the results came back, Johannes Krause, a researcher at the institute, called his colleague Svante Pääbo on his cell phone. "You'd better sit down," he said. "The finger is not human."

Genetic analysis of the finger bone has since indicated that it was a remnant of a previously unknown hominin, distinct from both early modern humans and Neanderthals — the heavily muscled Homo species that cohabited with Homo sapiens in the region from 50,000 to 30,000 years ago. Early modern humans, the results suggested, shared parts of Eurasia not only with Neanderthals but a totally different human-like creature, and all three probably came into contact (the finger bone was found within 65 miles of known Neanderthal and modern human sites).

Krause and Pääbo's analysis, published online on Wednesday by the journal Nature, is the first to identify a novel hominin based on genetic analysis alone — without fossilized remains to offer anatomical reference. But the researchers stop short of declaring the human-like creature a brand-new species. Instead of giving it a Latin name, they refer to the creature publicly as "the Denisova hominin" and in internal e-mails and discussions simply as "X." But privately, scientists at Max Planck — a world leader in the painstaking process of separating genomes from other DNA (of viruses and bacteria, for instance) that typically contaminate fossils — believe that the sequencing of the Denisova hominin's nuclear genome, which will offer a complete genetic picture, will confirm a new species. Krause says the sequencing has begun, and will be complete within a few months.

Wednesday's results come from an analysis of the creature's so-called mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from the mother, and therefore does not give as complete a picture as nuclear genome sequencing. "In terms of mitochondrial DNA alone, this hominin was twice as distant from us as Neanderthals," says Krause. "The evidence is already very strong that we are looking at a previously unknown hominin, and possibly a new species."

Scientists have no idea what the Denisova hominin looked like or how it behaved and interacted with early modern humans, and perhaps never will without a more complete fossil record. But even the preliminary genetic analysis has already shed new light on human ancestors' exodus from Africa and subsequent spread across the globe. The dominant theory holds that various hominin species left Africa in a series of distinct migrations, beginning with Homo erectus or a close relative a little under 2 million years ago, followed by the lineage that gave rise to Neanderthals, and finally the ancestors of modern humans about 50,000 years ago. The mitochondrial DNA of the Denisova hominin suggests its ancestors left Africa around 1 million years ago, at a time not previously associated with migration.

"I speculate that we may discover that it is an oversimplification to talk about particular exodus events from Africa," says Pääbo. "There might have instead been a continuous gene flow and migration."

Pääbo says that because the Denisova hominin is assumed to be human, it's possible that there are many other unknown hominin fossils waiting to be discovered. He says paleontologists will continue to scour for remnants in Siberia and other northern regions, where cold weather helps preserve ancient DNA. Most early hominin fossils are from equatorial and tropical regions, where conditions for DNA survival are poor (indeed, although fossil records suggest a distinct hominin species, Homo floresiensis, co-existed with humans in Indonesia, genetic confirmation has proved elusive).

Ian Tattersall of the Department of Physical Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, who was not involved in the research, calls the Denisova hominin a "significant addition" to the emerging picture of our past — one we now know we shared with a number of other hominin species. "We are the only hominin around today, so we tend to think that's how it's always been. But the evidence is accumulating that the human evolutionary tree is quite luxuriantly branching. There were multiple species that competed in the evolutionary arena, rather than a single lineage that was honed from primitiveness to perfection." ...

The fossils of early modern humans have been discovered alongside artifacts — such as bracelets and necklaces — that indicate they had culture. And Krause says the location of the Denisova hominin — among artifacts assumed to be human — raises the possibility that the Denisova hominin was similarly advanced. "The fossil was found with modern technology and ornaments, including a very beautiful bracelet," he says. "It's a big step to argue that the Denisova hominin created them — if you find a Coca-Cola bottle near a mummy's tomb, you don't assume that the mummy invented Coke. But the coincidence is tantalizing."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mysterious Stone Spheres Ignored

Science Daily: Mysterious Stone Spheres in Costa Rica.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 23, 2010) — The ancient stone spheres of Costa Rica were made world-famous by the opening sequence of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," when a mockup of one of the mysterious relics nearly crushed Indiana Jones. ...

"The earliest reports of the stones come from the late 19th century, but they weren't really reported scientifically until the 1930s -- so they're a relatively recent discovery," Hoopes said. "They remained unknown until the United Fruit Company began clearing land for banana plantations in southern Costa Rica."

According to Hoopes, around 300 balls are known to exist, with the largest weighing 16 tons and measuring eight feet in diameter. Many of these are clustered in Costa Rica's Diquis Delta region. Some remain pristine in the original places of discovery, but many others have been relocated or damaged due to erosion, fires and vandalism.

"We really don't know why they were made," Hoopes said. "The people who made them didn't leave any written records. We're left to archeological data to try to reconstruct the context. The culture of the people who made them became extinct shortly after the Spanish conquest. So, there are no myths or legends or other stories that are told by the indigenous people of Costa Rica about why they made these spheres."

Geomythology: The Science of Myths and Legends

"Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long intervals...." -- Plato, philosopher, Timaeus, 360 B.C.

"... the Egyptians ... concealed mysteries that were above the common herd under a veil of religious rites and hieroglyphic symbols." -- Isaac Newton, mathematician, Principia, 1694

"Le myth est né de la science [Myth is born from science]." -- Charles F. Dupuis, polymath, 1795

"Le mythologie, dans son origine, est l'ouvrage de la science [Mythology has it's origin in the opera of science]..." -- Charles F. Dupuis, polymath, 1795

"Tis strange -- but true; for truth is always strange; stranger than fiction." -- Lord Byron, poet, Don Juan, Canto XIV, Dec 17th 1823

"Mythology is inevitable, it is natural, it is an inherent necessity of language." -- F. Max Muller, philologist, On the Philosophy of Mythology, 1872

"Depend upon it, there is mythology now as there was in the time of Homer, only we do not perceive it, because we ourselves live in the very shadow of it, and because we all shrink from the full meridian light of truth." -- F. Max Muller, philologist, On the Philosophy of Mythology, 1872

"... the only explanation possible is that the legends must be true." -- John H. Parker, archaeologist, The Archaeology of Rome, 1877

"We all believe in fairy-tales, and live in them." -- G. K. Chesterton, philosopher, Heretics, Chapter XX: Concluding Remarks About Orthodoxy, 1905

"... what is myth to-day is often history to-morrow." -- Lewis Spence, translator, July 1908

"I would always trust the old wives' fables against the old maids facts." -- G. K. Chesterton, philosopher, Orthodoxy, Chapter IV: The Ethics of Elfland, 1909

"My first and last philosophy, that which I believe in with unbroken certainty, I learnt in the nursery. ... The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. They seem to be the entirely reasonable things. They are not fantasies: compared with them other things that are fantastic. ... Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense." -- G. K. Chesterton, philosopher, Orthodoxy, Chapter IV: The Ethics of Elfland, 1909

"... If I am to discuss what is wrong, one of the first things that are wrong is this: the deep and silent modern assumption that past things have become impossible." -- G. K. Chesterton, philosopher, What's Wrong With The World, Chapter IV: The Fear of the Past, 1910

"... at the basis of all myths, particularly nature myths, there is a real fact, but during a subsequent period the material was given its present mythical character and form." -- Johannes Riem, author, 1925

"This they tell, and whether it happened or not I do not know; but if you think about it, you can see that it is true." -- Black Elk, medicine man, August 1930

"Facts are facts, and the Cult's so-called mythology has certain facts behind it." -- Isaac Asimov, author, 1941

"The geomythologist seeks to find the real geological event underlying a myth or legend to which it has given rise; thus he helps convert mythology back into history." -- Dorothy B. Vitaliano, geomythologist, May 1967/June 1968

"The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact." -- C.S. Lewis, author, 1977

"By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth...." -- C.S. Lewis, author, 1977

"... all the talk, all the legends, must be true." -- Paige W. Christiansen, historian, The Story of Mining in New Mexico, 1975

"Many myths contain accurate or reasonable statements about past events, while all historical sources, both primary and secondary, originate in a given cultural milieu and are influenced by cultural practices and beliefs. Because of this, it can be said that all historical accounts, whether Aztec, European, Chinese, or Fijian, are to some extent 'myths' (see Sahlins 1983)." -- Michael E. Smith, historian, 1984

"Then the legends must be true." -- Steve Kramer, writer, Exedore, Zentraedi Minister of Affairs, Robotech: The Macross Saga, Episode 23: Reckless, April 3rd 1985

"... the word 'myth' does not necessarily carry a connotation of falsehood...." -- Manuel Alfonseca, computer scientist, July 1998

"Year after year, science finds explanations, scientific reasons behind all the legends. They think this proves history was not as myth has shown it, but in fact it proves that all the myths were true." -- Robert Brown, writer, 2005

"... the study of the geological foundation of human myths, an emerging discipline in the Earth sciences called 'geomythology.' This term was coined by Dorothy Vitaliano, in her pioneering book Legends of the Earth: Their Geological Origins (1973), as 'the study of the geological reality lying behind myths and legends of the past." -- Luigi Piccardi, geomythologist, Myth and Geology, 2007

"Geomythology indicates every case in which the origin of myths and legends can be shown to contain references to geological phenomena and aspects, in a broad sense including astronomical ones (comets, eclipses, meteor impacts, etc.)." -- Luigi Piccardi, geomythologist, Myth and Geology, 2007

"The interpretation of geological folklore, to be correctly and exhaustively carried out, requires the integration of knowledge in the fields of geology, archaeology, history, comparative mythology and anthropology. The geological study of mythology and legendary accounts may reveal encoded memories of past geological events, thus providing a reservoir of geological information." -- Luigi Piccardi, geomythologist, Myth and Geology, 2007

"Myth and geology are related in several ways." -- Dorothy B. Vitaliano, geomythologist, 2007

"Some geomyths actually constitute a record of major geological events." -- Dorothy B. Vitaliano, geomythologist, 2007

"In all the Indian legends, whether it is the Ramayana or Mahabharata, one can find embedded elements of geological processes." -- D. Chandrasekharam, geomythologist, 2007

"Myths have no point to make. They are, in fact, history." -- Jno Cook, author, November 2009

"There is no difference between science and mythology." -- Me, noob, March 2010

"Ancient myths proved science wrong." -- Me, noob, March 14th 2010

Vitaliano, D.B., Geomythology: The Impact of Geologic Events on History and Legend with Special Reference to Atlantis, Journal of the Folklore Institute, Volume 5, Number 1, Pages 5-30, Jun 1968

Piccardi, L., and Masse, W.B., Myth and Geology, Geological Society Special Publication 273, 2007

Vitaliano, D.B., Geomythology: Geological Origins of Myths and Legends, Geological Society of London Special Publications, Volume 273, Pages 1-7, 2007

Chandrasekharam, D., Geo-Mythology of India, Geological Society of London Special Publications, Volume 273, Pages 29-37, 2007

Piccardi, L., et al., Scent of a Myth: Tectonics Geochemistry and Geomythology at Delphi (Greece), Journal of the Geological Society, Volume 165, Number 1, Pages 5-18, Jan 2008

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rene Noorbergen

"Our slot in the eons of unrecorded time has in fact become an age of slanted information. With ever-increasing frequency, new hypotheses are tested, current scientific theories modified, and new formulae constructed, but all with the aim of proving previously accepted theories...." -- Rene Noorbergen, author, Secrets of the Lost Races: New Discoveries of Advanced Technology in Ancient Times, 1977

"Our quest for knowledge and our memories have become one-sided, and this is precisely our problem." -- Rene Noorbergen, author, Secrets of the Lost Races: New Discoveries of Advanced Technology in Ancient Times, 1977

"For more than a century, orthodox historians essentially have dealt with only a single body of historical facts -- facts that meet the requirements of their preconceived hypothetical framework, telling them that man of today is the result of an evolutionary process that has brought us upward both intellectually and physically from a lower order of beings. Millions of years are involved in this hypothetical view of history, and even though the historians cannot draw the curtain of recorded history back further than 6,000 years, they steadfastly stick to their theories, for their programmed minds simply will not accept any other explanation for man's technological and cultural development." -- Rene Noorbergen, author, Secrets of the Lost Races: New Discoveries of Advanced Technology in Ancient Times, 1977

Noorbergen, R., Secrets of the Lost Races: New Discoveries of Advanced Technology in Ancient Civilizations, 1977

Did "they" really visit us in ancient times?

Is our technology a mere shadow of what "they" once taught us?

Are "they" perhaps still in communication with our civilization, or have "they" abandoned us -- forever?

Is it possible that the unidentified ancient artifacts attesting to a super-technological society belong to our own historical development?

Can it be that we have regressed instead of evolved? Have we lost more than we have gained?

Are we now again approaching the level of advancement and sophistication that led to a historical downfall of the human race?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Consensus Pseudoscience

"For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert." -- Arthur C. Clarke, author, 1999

Michael Crichton, Aliens Cause Global Warming, Jan 2003 (Hat tip: Louis)

Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Evolutionists Concede Early Humans Could Walk Upright

Science Daily: Evidence Indicates Humans' Early Tree-Dwelling Ancestors Were Also Bipedal.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 20, 2010) — More than three million years ago, the ancestors of modern humans were still spending a considerable amount of their lives in trees, but something new was happening.
So did we live in trees or did we live in caves? I'm so confused.

David Raichlen, an assistant professor in the University of Arizona School of Anthropology, and his colleagues at the University at Albany and City University of New York's Lehman College have developed new experimental evidence indicating that these early hominins were walking with a human-like striding gait as long as 3.6 million years ago.

The results of their research appears in PLoS ONE, a journal from the Public Library of Science.

A trackway of fossil footprints preserved in volcanic ash deposited 3.6 million years ago was uncovered in Laetoli, Tanzania, more than 30 years ago. The significance of those prints for human evolution has been debated ever since.
If ancient humans could walk upright, how come modern humans have devolved to where they can't?

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Raptor Dinosaur Discovered In China

China Daily: New species of dinosaur found in N China.

BEIJING - A team of paleontologists has found an intact and complete skeleton fossil of a previously undiscovered dinosaur species in north China, the team's leading scientist Xu Xing said Saturday.

Named Linheraptor exquisitus, the new species is the latest one found in the Dromaeosauridae family of the carnivorous theropod dinosaurs that lived about 80 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.

The fossil of the dinosaur was one of the world's most well-preserved specimen of small predator dinosaurs that lived during that period, said Xu, a research fellow with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

About 2.5 meters long and weighing 25 kg, the dinosaur would have been a fast and agile predator and, like other dromaeosaurids, possessed large "killing claws."
Xu said the new species documents a transitional stage in dromaeosaurid evolution from original ones with long and thin hindlimbs to developed ones that were comparatively stronger.

The new dinosaur was found in the rocks of the Wulansuhai Formation in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the past two years by an international team, which was led by Xu Xing and Professor Tan Lin from a local paleoanthropology institute and consisted of members from China, the United States and Britain.

It represents the fifth dromaeosaurid dinosaur uncovered from the Formation, which is famous for its preservation of uncrushed, complete skeletons.

Different from other quarries in the country, dinosaur fossils there were mostly buried in aeolian rocks formed by sandstorm, which the paleontologist believe killed and buried the dinosaurs, resulting in comparatively intact preservation.

The paleontologists warned that if not collected in time, the large amount of fossils uncovered in the region every year might soon be damaged and disappear.

The findings were published in the peer-reviewed science journal Zootaxa Friday.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

82% of French Public Are Mindless Sheep

BBC: French TV Contestants Made to Inflict 'Torture'.

82% of participants in the Game of Death agreed to pull the lever. ...

"They are not equipped to disobey," he told AFP. ...

Mr Nick says that his experiment shows that the TV element further increases people's willingness to obey.

"With Milgram, 62% of people obeyed an abject authority. In the setting of television, it's 80%," he told Reuters.
So 80% of the French public are mindless sheep and natural born slaves to authority.

This is supposed to be news?

"... from the hour of our birth, some are marked for subjection, others for rule." -- Aristotle, philosopher, Politics, Book I, 350 B.C.

Electric Weather On Kronos

Science Daily: Cassini Shows Saturnian Roller Derby, Strange Weather.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2010) — From our vantage point on Earth, Saturn may look like a peaceful orb with rings worthy of a carefully raked Zen garden, but NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been shadowing the gas giant long enough to see that the rings are a rough and tumble roller derby. It has also revealed that the planet itself roils with strange weather and shifting patterns of charged particles. Two review papers to be published in the March 19 issue of the journal Science synthesize Cassini's findings since arriving at Saturn in 2004.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Myth of Progress In the Devolution of Science

"[Progress] is the exception, and for every case of it there are ten of degeration." -- J.B.S. Haldane, biologist, Possible Worlds, 1927

"The ancient Chinese, Babylonian, Hindu, Greek, Roman, and most of the medieval thinkers supporting theories of rhythmical, cyclical or trendless movements of social processes were much nearer to reality than the present proponents of the linear view." -- Pitirim A. Sorokin, sociologist, Social and Cultural Dynamics, 1932

"Scientists generally have little historical sense, so that each single generation knows little of the struggles and inner difficulties of the former generation. Thus it happens that many ideas at different times are repeatedly conceived anew, without the initiator knowing that these subjects had been considered already before." -- Albert Einstein, mathematician, 1954

"In history and in evolution, progress is always a futile Sisyphean struggle...." -- Matt Ridley, zoologist, The Red Queen, 1993

"We are told that the evolution of human civilization is a linear process -- that it goes from stupid cave man to smart old us with our hydrogen bombs and striped toothpaste. But the proof that the Sphinx is many, many thousands of years older than the archaeologists think it is, that it preceded by many thousands of years even dynastic Egypt, means that there must have been, at some distant point in history, a high and sophisticated civilization -- just as all the legends affirm." -- John A. West, egyptologist, 1993

"... faith in progress is a superstition." -- John Gray, philosopher, The Myth of Progress, April 9th 1999

"Todays obsession with 'progress' - a straight line from one accomplishment to another - blinds us to the lost realities of our past. Our research reveals a legacy closer to the ideas of the ancients." -- Rand and Rose Flem-Ath, scholars, 2010

Manuel Alfonseca, The Myth of Progress in the Evolution of Science, 1998

The concept of Progress is relatively modern. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it was assumed [sic] that the great thinkers of Antiquity were unsurpassable. New theories had to be justified with the argument that Aristotle, Euclide or the appropriate authority (possibly misunderstood) had said the same thing before. Thus, medieval thinkers were not interested on being original, or what we now call the "copyright". New philosophical works would frequently be falsely attributed to the old masters.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was one of the first to launch the revolutionary idea that the great men of the past did not necessarily know more than we do [O.I.M.: i.e. he was the first arrogant ass of Scientism]. This opened the way to the concept of Progress, successively promoted by René Descartes (1596-1650) and Bernard de Fontenelle (1657-1757), who was the first to state that, from the biological point of view, antique and modern people are essentially equal.

The theory of Indefinite Progress appeared during the eighteen century. It is the inverse of the medieval idea, and affirms that the future is always superior to the present. Abbé St. Pierre (1658-1753), Turgot (1727-1781) and Condorcet (1743-1794) may be considered its fathers. Condorcet divided History into ten successive steps. The tenth (ours) is the age of science, rationalism and revolution, and will open the way to an age of prosperity, tolerance and illustration (Utopia is always just around the corner).

The theory of Indefinite Progress gained general acceptance during the nineteenth century. Auguste Comte (1798-1857) proposed a different succession of steps, the last being the age of science and industry. As always, back turns are forbidden. Our arrival to the scientific era is final.

The discovery of evolution in the nineteenth century gave new expression to the principle of Indefinite Progress, which came to be redefined in biological terms: Biological evolution is a process towards more and more complexity. ...

A philosopher, Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) announced the stop of the indefinite progress of our civilization. His work The Decline of the West (1923) was very influential during the depressive years after the first world war.

A historian, Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), in his monumental A Study of History, saw civilizations as entities that are born, grow, stabilize and die (or become living fossils), although they may leave descendants. Indefinite Progress becomes a statistic phenomenon, difficult to measure except at a distance, similar to the advance of a car as a consequence of the movement of its wheels.

An anthropologist, Alfred L. Kroeber (1876-1960) suggested, in his Configurations of Culture Growth, that people of genius are not born alone, but form configurations preceded by precursors and followed by declines. Again, not Indefinite Progress, but a succession of ups and downs.

A sociologist, Pitirim A. Sorokin (1889-1968) accumulated quantitative data in his Social and Cultural Dynamics, suggesting that intellectual and cultural activities (science and philosophy) go through long cycles of about two thousand years alternating intuitive phases (with a predominance of philosophy and religion) and sensitive phases (dominated by science). We are currently in the middle of one of the latter, but sooner or later this phase will end, as its predecessors.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Does Our Sun Have a Binary Companion?

In the visible universe binary stars and multiple star systems are the norm.

The Sun: Earth Under Attack From Death Star.

AN invisible star may be circling the Sun and causing deadly comets to bombard the Earth, scientists said yesterday.

The brown dwarf - up to five times the size of Jupiter - could be to blame for mass extinctions that occur here every 26 million years.

The star - nicknamed Nemesis by Nasa scientists - would be invisible as it only emits infrared light and is incredibly distant.

Nemesis is believed to orbit our solar system at 25,000 times the distance of the Earth to the Sun.

As it spins through the galaxy, its gravitational pull drags icy bodies out of the Oort Cloud - a vast sphere of rock and dust twice as far away as Nemesis.

These "snowballs" [sic] are thrown towards Earth as comets, causing devastation similar to the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Now Nasa boffins 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 dwarfs 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.

Boffins 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."
Britt, R.R., Nemesis: Does the Sun Have a 'Companion'?, Space.Com, Apr 2001

Evidence Mounts For Companion Star To Our Sun, Space Daily, Apr 2006

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ancient History of Southern California

"The sky came down upon the earth." -- Constance G. Du Bois, anthropologist, The Mythology of the Diegueños, Journal of American Folk-Lore, Volume XIV, Number 54, Pages 181-185, 1901

"Kwayu, the meteor ... is mentioned also in other Mohave legends as a destructive cannibalistic being." -- A.L. Kroeber, anthropologist, Two Myths of the Mission Indians of Southern California, Journal of American Folk-Lore, Volume XIX, Number LXXV, Pages 309-321, 1906

"That the meteor was important in the beliefs of the Indians of southern California is further shown by the Luiseño Dakwish myth given below, and by a somewhat similar story from the Saboba, a more northern division of the Luiseño, printed in this journal some years ago. It must therefore be concluded that the meteor is one of the most important special conceptions in the mythology of all southern California ...." -- A.L. Kroeber, anthropologist, Two Myths of the Mission Indians of Southern California, Journal of American Folk-Lore, Volume XIX, Number LXXV, Pages 309-321, 1906

"The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions." -- Cormac McCarthy, author, The Road, 2006

James, G. W., A Saboba [Luiseño] Origin Myth, Journal of American Folk-Lore, Volume XV, Number 61, Pages 36-39, 1902

Before my people came here they lived far, far away in the land that is in the heart of the Setting Sun. But Siwash, our great God, told Uuyot, the warrior captain of my people, that we must come away from this land and sail away and away in a direction that he would give us. Under Uuyot's orders my people built big boats and then with Siwash himself leading them, and with Uuyot as captain, they launched these into the ocean and rowed away from the shore. There was no light on the ocean, Everything was covered with a dark fog, and it was only by singing as they rowed that the boats were enabled to keep together.

It was still dark and foggy when the boats landed on the shores of this land, and my ancestors groped about in the darkness, wondering why they had been brought hither. Then, suddenly, the heavens opened, and lightnings flashed and thunders roared and rains fell, and a great earthquake shook all the earth. Indeed, all the elements of the earth, ocean, and heaven, seemed to be mixed up together, and, with terror in their hearts and silence on their tongues, my people stood still awaiting what would happen further. Though no voice had spoken they knew something was going to happen, and they were breathless in their anxiety to know what it was.

Then they turned to Uuyot and asked him what the raging of the elements meant. Gently he calmed their fears and bade them be silent and wait. As they waited, a terrible clap of thunder rent the very heavens, and the vivid lightnings revealed the frightened people huddling together as a pack of sheep. But Uuyot stood alone, brave and fearless, facing the storm and daring the anger of Those Above. With a loud voice he cried out 'Wit-i-a-ko!' which signified 'Who's there? What do you want?'

But there was no response. The heavens were silent! the earth was silent! The ocean was silent! All nature was silent!

Then with a voice full of tremulous sadness and loving yearning for his people Uuyot said: 'My children, my own sons and daughters, something is wanted of us by Those Above. What it is I know not. Let us gather together and bring "pivat," and with it make the big smoke and then dance and dance until we are told what is wanted." So the people brought pivat--a native tobacco that grows in Southern California--and Uuyot brought the big ceremonial pipe which he had made out of rock, and he soon made the big smoke and blew the smoke up into the heavens while he urged the people to dance. They danced hour after hour until they grew tired, and Uuyot smoked all the time, but still he urged them to dance. ...

Thus were settled the original inhabitants on the coast of southern California by Siwash, the God of the Earth, and under the captaincy of Uuyot.

But at length the time came when Uuyot must die. His work on the earth was ended and Those Above told him he must prepare to leave his earthly friends and children. He was told to go up into the San Bernardino Mountains, into a small valley there, and lie down in a certain spot to await his end. He died peacefully and calmly, as one who went to sleep. He was beloved of the Gods above and Siwash, the God of Earth, so that no pain came to him to make his death distressful.

As soon as he was dead the ants came and ate all the flesh from his bones. But the spirit messengers of Those Above looked after him and they buried him so that the mark of his burying place could never be wiped out. ...

Ah! my people were strong and powerful then. There were many of them. Uuyot had led them to be a great people. They made a solid ring around the whole earth. Alas! that ring is broken now.

The Immortals

"And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us [extraterrestrials], to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken." -- Genesis 3:22-23

Mintowt-Czyz, L., Turritopsis Nutricula: The World's Only Immortal Creature, The Times, Jan 2009

Turritopsis nutricula may be the world’s only “immortal” creature.

Jellyfish usually die after propagating but Turritopsis reverts to a sexually immature stage after reaching adulthood and is capable of rejuvenating itself.

The 4-5mm diameter creature, technically known as a hydrozoan, is the only known animal that is capable of reverting to its juvenile polyp state.

Theoretically, this cycle can repeat indefinitely, rendering it potentially immortal.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Here Be Dragons: Biogeography of an Expanding Earth

"... the earth is definitely expanding, but the best way to sell it is simply as a mechanism for continental drift (i.e., plate tectonics.) When you say (as I used to say) plate tectonics is wrong, people then think you are saying continents don't move or seafloor spreading doesn't occur, etc. So you immediately put those people off. By telling them, it's almost all the same ideas used in (or confiscated in) plate tectonics -- continental drift, seafloor spreading, a closed Atlantic and closed Indian -- it just provides a different mechanism for continental drift (global expansion rather than convection), I think it becomes easier to digest." -- Dennis J. McCarthy, biogeographer, Email to the Noob, March 14th 2010

McCarthy, D.J., Here Be Dragons: How the Study of Animal and Plant Distributions Revolutionized Our Views of Life and Earth, Oxford University Press, Oct 2009

Sullivan, M., 'Here Be Dragons' Right Here in North Hampton, SeacoastOnline.Com, Nov 2009

[Dennis J.] McCarthy is a scientific researcher with the Buffalo Museum of Science in New York, and he sits on the editorial board of Biogeography & Systematics. He has published numerous papers in such publications as the Journal of Geophysical Research, Der Spiegel Online (Europe's largest-selling news weekly), The Journal of Biogeography, and Notes and Queries, Oxford's journal of literary scholarship.

So yeah, he's got mad biogeography street cred. ...

"I'm pursuing a controversial view in Earth science, and I knew the secret was in biogeography," McCarthy said. "Plate [sic] tectonics is definitely correct [bigass rolleyes], but I believe one aspect of it is likely to be modified. Specifically, I knew the distributions of plants and animals would let you know if current views of the history of the Pacific are correct. If not, this would completely challenge our views of planetary science. Biogeography could be on the forefront of the next major scientific revolution — just as it has been so often in the past." ...

"I don't fit in with scientists," McCarthy said with a laugh. "I never really did."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The New Kingdom's Comet Venus Crown

Venus, Athena Cometha, Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent, Lucifer.

"As Zeus's [Jupiter's] daughter [Venus] she'll be immortal and live in heaven with her brothers, Pollux and Castor, the heavenly twins, an extra star for ships to steer their courses by." -- Euripides, playwright, Orestes, 408 B.C.

"Democritus however, insists upon the truth of his view and affirms that certain stars [Venus] have been seen when comets dissolve." -- Aristotle, philosopher, Meteorology, 350 B.C.

"Some of the Italians called Pythagoreans say that the comet is one of the planets [Venus]." -- Aristotle, philosopher, Meteorology, 350 B.C.

"For the past 50 years or so, scientists have been talking about dust condensing at low pressures and gradually becoming pebbles, then boulders, etc. and building planets. While that process goes on to some extent, it would lead to oxidized planets without massive cores. I think in the main the planets rained out of the centers of giant gaseous protoplanets, which would account for their massive cores and, in the case of Earth, for her two component surface." -- J. Marvin Herndon, geophysicist, Email to the Noob, October 2008

Gary Gilligan: Velikovsky's Comet Venus.

Immanuel Velikovsky concluded from his extensive interdisciplinary research that the planet Venus was remembered from the time of the dawn of civilization as a brilliant cometary body.

While there is a wealth of literary sources to draw upon, when it comes to the pictorial evidence it isn’t as forthcoming. No images can be conclusively identified as actually representing Venus in cometary form, a situation that essentially shouldn’t exist. After all, it stands to reason that it was naked eye observations that primarily inspired the myths. So, at the very least the imagery should be equal to or analogous to the literary sources – but this clearly isn’t the case.

Have we overlooked something? Is it possible images of Comet Venus have been staring us in the face for decades?

The image on the right has been taken from the back of Tutankhamun’s throne. It depicts the wife of king Tut, Ankhsunamun. The queen is shown wearing a very distinctive crown consisting of a disk surmounted by cow horns and two tall plumes.

This unusual headdress made its appearance in the New Kingdom and features prominently in Egyptian art - numerous queens can be seen sporting this particular crown. Although the actual shape or outline remained constant (for approximately 900 years), there exist a few variants to the colours shown. For example, the disk was predominantly painted the traditional Egyptian deep red, the ‘horns’ normally black, while the plumes can be gold, a plain yellow, or blue and without the ‘filaments‘.

Like most Egyptian crowns encompassing a sphere, it somehow represents an aspect of the sun, or so the conventional way of thinking goes. This is a perplexing line of thought since the Sun is a golden glaring ball—it doesn’t have cow horns wrapped around it and most certainly exhibits no signs of enormous cometary tails.

It is apparent even to the uninitiated that what we are looking at here is a comet—a large comet with a plumed tail. Furthermore, if Egyptian art is used as a measure of time, this comet graced our skies for nearly a thousand years. It is carved, painted, and represented in statues the length and breadth the of Nile valley. Even the legendary Cleopatra wore this headdress.

Could this particular crown be a true-life physical representation of proto-Venus as it appeared in ancient times?

To quote Wal Thornhill:

'In the electrical model of the solar system, any body on a sufficiently eccentric orbit about the Sun will exhibit cometary features. For ancient people to have seen Venus as an Earth-threatening comet, Venus must have had an eccentric orbit that brought the planet near to Earth'.

Are we looking at Velikovsky’s comet Venus?

Comparing the comet crown with the Venus diagram on the left reveals some fundamental similarities, far too close to be deemed coincidental. In fact, for all intents and purposes they are virtually identical!

The orb represents the body of Venus: the horns signify the bow shock as the solar wind slams into the Venusian surface, enveloping its body due to a lack of an intrinsic magnetic field. The two large plumes represent Venus’ magnetotail—split in two and flowing downstream at least three times its diameter.

The image on the left is just a diagram, and today Venus’ comet tail can only be detected by magnetometers and charged particle detectors. However, place Venus on an eccentric orbit in a highly charged ‘dusty’ environment and the normally invisible magnetotail (and bow shock) would become highly visible.

Wal Thornhill commenting on Venus’ cometary magnetotail:

'A power surge in those filaments today would cause them to glow, and Venus would form a "stupendous" cometary apparition in the sky. The forensic evidence would stand up in court, showing that Venus was a comet within human memory'.

Science is slowly proving Velikovsky to be correct in a number of areas. Perhaps with the comet crown of ancient Egypt we now have the pictorial evidence to match.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Computer Able To Read Memories

"He [Pythagoras] called Mnemosyne, or Memory, the composition, symphony and connexion of them all, which is eternal and unbegotten as being composed of all of them." -- Porphyry, philosopher, 3rd century

Science Daily: Traces of the Past: Computer Algorithm Able to 'Read' Memories.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 11, 2010) — Computer programs have been able to predict which of three short films a person is thinking about, just by looking at their brain activity. The research, conducted by scientists at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London), provides further insight into how our memories are recorded. ...

To explore how such memories are recorded, the researchers showed ten volunteers three short films and asked them to memorise what they saw. The films were very simple, sharing a number of similar features -- all included a woman carrying out an everyday task in a typical urban street, and each film was the same length, seven seconds long. For example, one film showed a woman drinking coffee from a paper cup in the street before discarding the cup in a litter bin; another film showed a (different) woman posting a letter.

The volunteers were then asked to recall each of the films in turn whilst inside an fMRI scanner, which records brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow within the brain.

A computer algorithm then studied the patterns and had to identify which film the volunteer was recalling purely by looking at the pattern of their brain activity. The results are published in the journal Current Biology.

"The algorithm was able to predict correctly which of the three films the volunteer was recalling significantly above what would be expected by chance," explains Martin Chadwick, lead author of the study. "This suggests that our memories are recorded in a regular pattern."

Although a whole network of brain areas support memory, the researchers focused their study on the medial temporal lobe, an area deep within the brain believed to be most heavily involved in episodic memory. It includes the hippocampus -- an area which Professor Maguire and colleagues have studied extensively in the past.

They found that the key areas involved in recording the memories were the hippocampus and its immediate neighbours. However, the computer algorithm performed best when analysing activity in the hippocampus itself, suggesting that this is the most important region for recording episodic memories. In particular, three areas of the hippocampus -- the rear right and the front left and front right areas -- seemed to be involved consistently across all participants. The rear right area had been implicated in the earlier study, further enforcing the idea that this is where spatial information is recorded. However, it is still not clear what role the front two regions play.

"Now that we are developing a clearer picture of how our memories are stored, we hope to examine how they are affected by time, the ageing process and by brain injury," says Professor Maguire.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

John Milton On Uranium Mining For Celestial Warfare

"Between the celestials [angels] and the Asuras [fallen angels], there happened, of yore, frequent encounters for the sovereignty of the three worlds with everything in them." -- Mahabharata, Book I: Adi Parva, Section LXXVI, 8th century B.C.

Milton, J., Paradise Lost, Book VI, 1667

The remedy; perhaps more valid arms,
Weapons more violent, when next we meet,
May serve us better, and worse our foes,
Or equal what between us made the odds,


Whereto with look composed Satan replied:
Not uninvented that, which thou aright
Believest so main to our success, I bring.
Which of us who beholds the bright surface
Of this ethereous mould whereon we stand,
This continent of spacious Heaven, adorn'd
With plant, fruit, flower ambrosial, gems, and gold;
Whose eye so superficially surveys
These things, as not to mind from whence they grow
Deep under ground, materials dark and crude,
Of spiritous and fiery spume, til touch'd
With Heaven's ray, and temper'd, they shoot forth
So beauteous, opening to the ambient light?
These in their dark nativity the deep
Shall yield us, pregnant with eternal flame;
Which, into hollow engines, long and round,
Thick ramm'd, at the other bore with touch of fire
Dilated and infuriate, shall send forth
From far, with thundering noise, among our foes
Such implements of mischief as shall dash
To pieces, and o'erwhelm whatever stands
Adverse, that they shall fear we have disarm'd
The Thunderer of his only dreaded bolt.
"Whilst the copper ores were the main objectives of the ancient mining, numerous other toxic metals are present in significant quantities, including minerals such as thorium and uranium...." -- John P. Grattan, professor, et al., Radon and ‘King Solomon's Miners’: Faynan Orefield Jordanian Desert, Science of the Total Environment, Volume 319, Issues 1-3, Feb 2004