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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Planet X: Why the search for things that aren't there is still important.

As has been said, Truth is often stranger than fiction. Perhaps you've heard of Planet X. It is one of the popular subjects often purported by the many, true believers, hoaxsters and conspiracy theorists that buzz about the internet. As outlandish as some of these claims may now sound to our modern ears, they serve another purpose. And that is to remind us of a time when we didn't definitively know everything there is to know about everything. Theories abounded then just as they do now. For those who don't know about it, all one needs to do to find out is to enter the term "Planet X " or better yet "Nibiru" into the query field of your favorite search engine. Then you will see what I'm referring to.

This kind of subject matter on the far-flung fringe of actual science has for ages been excellent fodder for science fiction writers. I used it as one of  the locations in my last book, "A Paradox in Retrograde".  I did it for the same reason they did. Firstly, a rogue celestial visitor  from the frozen wastes still manages to capture the imagination. Secondly, despite our knowledge to the contrary, the notion of  the existence of a lost planet, has yet to be disproven.  The previous statement may ruffle some feathers, but it is a story rooted in hard observable science.

 Beginning in the late 19th-century observations of a perceived
perturbation in the orbits of the solar system's outer planets had led to the search of an elusive 9th planet. This search culminated in 1930 with the discovery by Clyde Tombaugh, of Planet X otherwise known as Pluto. This discovery was remarkable for many reasons. It being the first such discovery in the twentieth century had proven that that their theories may have been correct, and that there were major discoveries yet to be made. Today the work that he pioneered is ongoing. Astronomers both robotic and human continue to plot the lights against the black backdrop of space.

 Close up Pics of Pluto from New Horizon

Eventually, this class of bodies had been accepted as science fact  and given the name of trans-Neptunian objects. In the intervening years much as been discovered. With each discovery, our knowledge must evolve to reflect the richness and complexity of what is essentially our backyard.  The data streaming back from the New Horizons Probe currently sailing beyond Pluto will keep scientists busy  for years to come. Still others continue to stare out at the sky for that elusive movement of a planetary body. One such group of scientists using the ALMA telescope in Chile has recently claimed to have spied something remarkable. If what they're claiming is true, then we will need once again to rewrite the textbooks. It would seem some of their data indicates that a planetary object has been spotted in the direction of our closest star system, Centaurus. The debate they have started indicates that this barely visible phenomenon may be the farthest object of our own solar system.

diagram published in Smithsonian

Here are some other trans-Neptunian objects some discovered  fairly recently.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

Publication1.jpg There lately have been a number announcements pertaining to the red planet that are nothing short of  paradigm shifting. For as long as men have looked upon the face of Mars there has been speculation about the possibility of life. Recently at long last NASA had announced something that had been suspected for some time.

A Decades of visual evidence pertaining to the current existence of liquid water on Mars has been confirmed. Nasa’s recent announcement now states unequivocally that sufficient evidence exists to declare that water still flows there. This not to say that creeks and streams abound there. The evidence indicates something far more subtle.

Mars-Like Earth has seasonal weather.During the peaks of summer as temperatures approach - 10 degrees Fahrenheit and higher a briny water far denser in salt than seawater,                 
begins to bleed out from the from high cliffs to form what have been called  recurring slope lineae.

These findings were confirmed by the use of mineral mapping by the spectrometer on board the Mars reconnaissance orbiter MRO. There in these dark line features the tell-tale chemical signature of  hydrated salts was confirmed. The nature and behavior of these materials on Earth is well documented. It would seem that the same processes that produce such conditions on Earth are present today on Mars.

Though the announcement came with much fanfare the implications of this discovery are still being debated. If water exists than the presence of life cannot be easily ruled out? Should we then avoid contaminating or being contaminated by these most foreign of life forms? Otherwise, should these resources be exploited to further fuel our own destiny beyond this planet. I feel it is inevitable that we should soon discover the answers to these questions.

Meanwhile a report in the form of a tweet by Chris Bergin from NASA spaceflight .com made note of “most exciting thing ever” after being shown plans of an upcoming announcement by SpaceX. The speculation hinted that very soon SpaceX will be making a major announcement about it’s private plans  to colonize Mars. Could the proximity of these announcements be a coincidence? Or rather is this  merely the tip of the iceberg of the coming space race.    

It is well known that designs for both a Mars colony and a Mars Colonial transport vehicle are well under way. Until now these have remained as down the road ventures. If this speculation is true as some have implied then the resources  for its success may already be in place.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Question of Faith

A Question of Faith

As Wam once said “You got to have faith” not for its own sake mind you; as an ingredient, however, it can be powerful stuff. What do you mean by that you ask?  I’m not talking about faith in supernatural. That’s a whole other story; for the sake of brevity I will not touch on. I’m talking about faith in man’s constructs his institutions and Ideas. It is amazing to me that a group of animals decided one day to behave in a civilized fashion. I imagine it was all hatched up one night beside some ancient fire pit. I doubt that in reality it was that sudden. However, in geologic terms it was but a microsecond ago. Albeit with varying degrees of success from that point on, each of us has been indoctrinated into a contract of behavior.

No longer do we live in fear of being consumed by unrestrained nature. Nor do we experience the true freedom that goes hand in hand with being in harmony with nature. There in this exchange our ancestors made a tacit agreement that requires from us their descendants to make peace with that decision.

In order to come down out of the forest men, they had to accept the concept of a division of labor. In a system such as this each participant must produce his fair share of labor so they might in fair trade exchange the products of these labors for the goods and services others. This is how a specialty of occupations had evolved as farmers turned to woodworkers and smiths. Later every endeavor of man would follow suit under these same rules. Today there is a complexity to our economics that seems almost biological in nature. It is however merely a construct created but a few thousand years ago.

So much of what drives our world requires us to believe it to be true. Money is paper what it represents, however, is something we hold value in.  We believe in science so we take our pills and follow the advice of experts. For long ago we ceded our limited individual knowledge for the superiority of a collective ever evolving one whose devotees are held to rigorous standards. Knowledge of who and what we are no longer interpreted by shamans or natural experience is distilled into histories told through which we feel strangely disconnected from.

When explaining to a child how the world works there are the inevitable questions that follow. A particularly astute child may ask what is it that keeps the world from falling into chaos. An adult who is being honest would need to search for an answer. The answer one might give to a child would by necessity be brief and simple. By coincidence, these stripped down definitions are generally more accurate and easily understood. 

Whatever that answers might be the chances are that both the adult and the child will be left dissatisfied. What we inevitably find is that to do so requires us to use words that tend to defy logic.  In a nutshell well must believe in it for it to be so. It is by the wish of goodwill and fairness alone that divide us from the harsh realities of the world from which we evolved.

At this point and time, we are as we have from the beginning constantly standing on the edge of anarchy. We remain here happily rarely giving much thought to the inherent fragility of human society. For it to work, enough of us must not only believe it to be good, natural and just, but we must also actively participate in it. Therein faith does not require us to believe the inherent truth in the construct merely that we show up and play our part.

Other perhaps more important questions however remain. In the face of increasing brutality and diminishing resources at what point do we have a responsibility to lose faith in a system? To what extent does one follow along heedless to the warnings? Are we so far removed that we can longer tell what is essential to our own self-interests?

As a special thanks to my friends out  in the world I am offering my book "Children of a Dark Age" free of charge in pdf format for a limited time.  See the link on the sidebar, If you like it drop me a line.
Thanks again

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Daydream man

Homo Somnium- Daydream man

 Do you catch yourself daydreaming? Do you expend energy on things such as painting, writing a blog or playing golf? Things such as these we all do for many reasons. Perhaps we do it to relieve boredom or to exercise pended up energy?  From a strictly evolutionary standpoint, there would seem
to be no obvious survival benefit to it. Despite this, we as individuals spend an awful lot of time and energy imagining things, some of which never come to fruition.

Some say that this is a side effect of the cultural revolution ushered in by civilization. As our time was freed up from the rigors of hunting and gathering more free time could be allocated to things not directly related to our immediate survival. However, no one alive today can know for sure what the causal relationship between creativity and the rise of civilization might have  been. It would seem logical that there must have been some preexisting  semblance of the creative mind  to make the initial jump in the first place.

                          Gobekli Tepe

 From those dusty fragments that are available of a remote past, we must, therefore, infer what we can. Scientists and other professionals across many disciplines for many years have been doing just that. There are  many conflicting ideas, some of which that do not fit so squarely within the accepted cannon. However, with each new discovery, it is becoming more evident that complex and abstract thought far predates the onset of civilization. The question then is how long?

As we trace back our human lineage we find that some of our now extinct cousins were capable of abstract symbolic thought and perhaps even language. For example, we now know that our direct ancestor, Homo Erectus had the ability to shape his world in ways that placed him right at the top of his food chain. In many ways, he was superior to us. No one today could survive the wild as he did in direct competition with lions, hyenas, and dire wolves. Our transformation of the world has negated the need to possess such strength and guile.

  The tradeoff, of course, is civilization and all that it entitles
one to. We must, however, learn to recognize the inherent fragility of this thing in which we all participate.  We do after all still possess that same problem-solving mind. To what end then will become this latest and last survivor of our genus?

As the saying goes, all good thing must come to an end. There are many species with whom we share this planet. Some of which may be in the possession of higher processes that rival our own. In our absence will one of these candidates rise to the challenge? It would seem that there would be no obvious candidates. Perhaps it is to our evolved descendants who we shall deliver this world as an inheritance?

In a future world in which sentient machines have relieved us of our toils and labors perhaps the true nature  of this daydream mind will be unleashed.  Whether or not our robot overlords may be so benevolent is another story entirely. The key to this question may ultimately rest in our ability to survive long enough for our innate creative capacity to be unleashed. It served us well enough when we dropped out of the trees onto the savanna.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Drawn to Darkness

Drawn to Darkness

"Illustration from Children of a Dark Age"

Today we enjoy perhaps the greatest standards of well being  in all of human history. In this century the march of progress may be such that a human lifetime could one day last indefinitely. How  careful then might one be to avoid the chance of that life threatening accident. Therein lies  the conundrum. The promise of a long life balanced against desire to avoid injury and death is beginning even now to effect the way we live our lives.

Safety First

Where once one’s time would be occupied by the pursuit of providing for one's self and their families today accomplishment has been increasingly replaced by the pursuit of entertainment.  In this age of the safety first  everybody wins  mentality more time than ever is being spent cloistered away from the greater world avoiding the rigors of survival.  This kind of existence devoid of any real sense of competition for some has left them with a deep feeling of dissatisfaction. As a result there are many people living in today’s society who seem to exhibit  a tendency toward what I would for lack of a better phrase call  being drawn to darkness.

You might ask, what is this darkness of which I speak?  For the case of this argument let's characterize it as an expression of an emotional state that exists upon a spectrum ranging between a kind of existential ennui and an abiding emptiness. Here thoughts can fester upon anything from the destructive notions of fear, failure, paranoia, and dangerous to the merely mysterious aspects of existence. For whatever reason, whether it be in art or reality a significant  subset of us there are drawn.

What is it from within this dark void that we hope to discover? Modern psychology often defines such prolonged bouts of these negative emotional states as a condition of mental illness. There is no doubt that many among us truly suffer from a physical disease process that hinders what is considered to be a normal emotional state. However there are some who perhaps are suffering from a deficit of a different kind.

Evolution is persistent but interminably slow

 Having long ago  tamed the wilderness that shaped our biology we find ourselves again in the cross-hairs of evolution. As this pattern will undoubtedly continue to play out there may in time be some unwanted consequences.For example, with each successive generation children will be slightly less prepared for the hard work of survival than the one that preceded it. This situation is compounded by the fact that we live in happy times. This most assuredly will not always be the case, which brings me to the case in point, Germ Theory revolutionized life in the nineteenth century by recognizing microorganisms as the source to many of mans diseases. Subsequent to this strategies were put in place that continue to save lives to this day. There is however a single draw back to a hygienic lifestyle that accompanies the great benefits.

Stated simply germ theory postulates that our individual immunity's are made stronger by the regular exercise produced on it by exposure to pathogens. A well exercised immune system is primed and ready for when an a true life threatening exposure is set upon us. On the contrary a sheltered immunity not only is weaker but it tends to begin to attack the body itself. Herein is the cause of many autoimmune disorders including some  forms of arthritis and allergies.
The atmospheric germ theory, from a lecture given to the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, 1868.


Having long ago given up the balance with which we once held with nature we have since grown increasingly unaccustomed to the onslaughts inflicted upon us by the environment and the microorganisms that live within it. Again it is  our modern hygienic  lifestyle to which we can look to as an example of how something that has increased our overall well our being can just as well be a source of potential weakness.

It can be argued that within the biological history of human species  the crucible of climatic instability has been one of the primary forces that has driven evolutionary adaptation. In a pattern corresponding roughly to those of cyclical precession and eccentricity of the Earth's orbit, the survivability of the human species has been episodically challenged and influenced.

Is it only a matter of time then  before we are again so tested?

Getting back to the darkness, is it wrong then to assume that  like in the way  an autoimmune disorder develops from an underutilized immune system, so it is for the psyche? Here the  phantoms of our nightmares may represent those figments of thwarted desires and untested ambitions. Are these evidence to another form of deficit to which we equally weakened by.

I suspect that often when those so afflicted venture there may already have some vague or subconscious idea formed of what lurks there. Is it perhaps the promise of discovery, of a heart pounding danger or even a desire to collect experiences onto which one can measure themselves against. Perhaps searching here is a modern equivalent to some  existential ritual, a right of passage. In such a ritual in which fear is confronted it may be often found there that it is a reflection of that self that lingers just below the surface. Hidden so this glimpse into the darkness like in a mirror becomes an act of self discovery.

"Illustration from Children of a Dark Age"

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Top 5 Things That Aren't There

I have been doing this blog thing for a few years now. Being that the title of this blog  is “Things That Aren't There” I thought it might be high time to list of the top 5 things that aren't there.

There are plenty of mysterious and fascinating discoveries yet to be made in our world and in our universe. Enough so to supply this blog with subject matter for a good many years. There are threads of non thematic elements however that seem to have been revisited upon again and again.  In the style in which these are presented these elements, drawn from current popular science are described or eluded to often as given facts. In truth the consensus on many of these is  not quite universal. The reason that many of these theories are perceived as being fringe worthy is that they do not jibe well with our everyday common experience. I believe however that there is enough evidence in each case that as this century unfolds and capacity to understand increases, many of these may one day be accepted by the masses as common knowledge. Here presented are my top five presented in no particular order.

The Holographic Universe

  All life on Earth including our primitive ancestors had for eons learned to exploit its environments. For billions of years our single celled ancestors lived exclusively in a two dimensional world. Then some primitive creature had the bright idea to grow on top of its neighbor. Despite its lofty vantage it still could not fathom its universe from beyond this perspective. These cells would eventually coalesce into a unified form. Its senses would then by necessity evolve to be self aware  in the dimensions in which we are all now familiar. It is only now that we are beginning to see that it may just be the tip of the iceberg.

There are a number of dimension that for us exist only in the world of mathematics forever beyond the reaches of our common senses.Nature apparently has not seen fit to prepare us to see any phenomena that are non essential to our survival. The spaces in which we inhabit can be plotted and calculated as a projection of two dimensional perspective. Every point within has it’s corresponding two dimensional value whose perspective is determined by the observer. Much of what we perceive therefore is more or less relative. The only verifiable points of reference are purely numerical. To extrapolate this out to grander scales, the universe can be best described as series of intersecting planes laid out upon a curved manifold. Upon this fabric the mass of an object creates a localized warp  or bubble from which the three common dimensions are a manifestation caused by the effects of gravity. Furthermore some proponents of string theory suggest that all of what we call the universe is in reality two dimensional information structure projected upon a cosmological horizon.
 Credit: TU Wien

All of time exists as a single dimension

Meanwhile in more classical cosmology what we recognize as time, is according to Einstein only a  part  of a greater four dimensional construct known as Space time. Our experience of this construct is dictated by our relative proximity to given mass and the relative velocity around it.
Again it is our senses that dictate our experience. Although experientially the arrow of time for us points only in one direction science for sometime has characterized it as a dimension that exists all at once as a single whole.  Past, present and future then merely appear to exist independent from one another in what Einstein described  as of persistent illusion.  It is for this reason that within such a closed system that the arrow of time precludes paradoxes.  There is also a possibility that on the far end of this continuum there is another arrow pointing in the opposite direction. To those in such a reality yesterday is the future.

If one were able to view the dimension of time from the outside an individual's perspective within could be characterized as a two dimensional slice which we refer to as the present.The future exists for us only in imagination and the past as a memory. However despite our inability to see them they exist side by side with the mere membrane of the present to separate them.

Heisenberg’s uncertainty

Regardless to any observed event Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that on the quantum level that there is limit to the level of precision one can achieve when plotting the position of any single particle. In that there the ability to determine its momentum is inversely proportionate to the precision in which its position is measured.  In a nutshell this means that the closer you look at an event the the more pixelated it becomes. The implications of this is that there is an inherent uncertainty that is built in to reality that exists independent of an observation.

Schrödinger's cat

In the realm of quantum mechanics the bizarre is the commonplace.  Perhaps nothing exemplifies this notion more than Schrodinger’s now famous cat in a box thought experiment. In the experiment he asks if a cat were placed in a box with a dose of cyanide  How could we be sure until we opened the box if the cat were dead? Furthermore until the box is opened the state of the cat is undetermined so its potential state is both alive and dead.

Some time later this thought experiment was tested in the equally famous double slit experiment. In which photons are fired at a target of material bearing two  Identical slits. It was discovered that when unobserved photons behaved as both particles and waves, fixing their states only upon measurement.  The same is true of the cat he is both alive and dead until we observe the opened box. In some interpretations both versions of the cat exist in their own branch of reality.

The Quantum Mind

There is little doubt that one of the longest standing questions one could ask not only in science but also in philosophy is where within our fragile bodies does the seat of consciousness exist. Its a thorny question fraught with controversy. However though many purport that no evidence exists for anything beyond a purely biological process some have inferred the possibility of the mind existing beyond the physical body. I'm not talking about a spirit in the traditional sense but a measurable phenomenon. Currently there are no tools sensitive or sophisticated enough to detect such phenomenon. This does not rule out the possibility of there someday being a method in which it is discovered how the brain may access a quantum process inherent to the universe that is currently invisible to us. There however can be no doubt that classical physics has most certainly failed in this quest.

(image from Scientific American, September 1992, article by Gerald D. Fischbach, Mind and Brain, page 52)


An image posted by the author.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Anti Science Bullies/ Fools Paradise

The Anti Science Bullies/ Fools Paradise

Full disclosure-  l along with many like minded folks have from time to time been a critic of the science establishment. I am probably in the minority though when I say that its system of institutions, of masters and subservient  journeymen has changed little since the days of the alchemists. However, despite these criticisms, since the days of Darwin from these systems have come the most rational outlook on the world and how it works. No other currently available belief system  approaches its propensity toward discovery and ability to predict and describe nature.  

For better or worse now more than ever we live in a world ruled by technology. To  those in the business of discovery or of getting things done, this has been nothing short of a revolution. Science can look now onto a constant flow of data and statistics on any subject of research that one may desire to investigate, virtually in real time. These changes to the way things get done has afforded new levels of openness and increased cooperation among once diverse and disparate fields of study. This has lead  to  a  general hastening to the pace of advancement in many fields of endeavor including engineering technology, medicine and the study of our environment. We may be on the threshold of a new age of discovery. There is a point however to which we are swiftly approaching where these advances may ultimately be of little consequence.

 One obvious side effect of this information glut is the increased availability and reach of misinformation and out and out lies.  It has always been true that smaller minds always endeavor to subjugate those more enlightened. Whether it be for fear that new perspectives may somehow usurp the powers that be, or merely a fear of change it is they who would stand in the way of progress.
Perhaps in their heart of hearts they suspect that their well worn image of the world may merely be an illusion. Their agenda then is to undermine reason at all costs. It is in this kind of fear, bred from ignorance that could  ultimately prove to be the greatest threat to human survival.

Science is the only belief system that will tell you things that you don’t want to hear. People at first did not want to know that the Earth was not the center of their universe. Over time through experiment and observation, these truths were accepted as such. The same could be said for the current state of the world. Though  groups of well funded anti science thugs, and religious zealots would rather you believe otherwise, we may potentially be on the cusp of an extinction event in which we play the starring role. Despite this,there are those among us either through delusion or deceit  who then choose to perpetuate the mindset of a  consumer centered culture. Unfortunately we live in a world that is increasingly less able to sustain it.

Whether we choose to believe it or not we may very 
well be standing collectively on the edge of a new era. The nature of this new era, more so than in any other time in our history depends mostly on the things we choose to do today.  Though these things may never come to pass, to deny the mounting evidence is to live in a fools paradise.

Moving forward then is made more difficult by the plain fact that whole portions of this nation  are now caught up in a deep running culture of denial. This phenomenon, fueled by misinformation and an outdated fundamentalism is by no means new. This new wave however is coming at a most inopportune time. For these people have become victims not only of their own beliefs but  by a class that subjugates working people and culture of greed that demonizes reason as being anti business. The problem with these arguments is that people find themselves struggling against their own interests. And worse yet what solutions could be available are being dismantled one by one by groups of conservative bullies whose power to intimidate those more moderate grows daily..
 Read more on extinctions and climate change and why we should care.