Because the universe just isn't big enough...
Is there more than one universe? In this visually rich, action-packed talk, Brian Greene shows how the unanswered questions of physics (starting with a big one: What caused the Big Bang?) have led to the theory that our own universe is just one of many in the "multiverse."
Prepare for the UFO invasion folks. Darklore contributor Nigel Watson has uncovered a plot to fill our skies with illuminated flying craft, though the provenance is far from extraterrestrial - it's a prank being designed by remote-control (RC) aircraft enthusiasts. Via Yahoo News:
Dozens of volunteers around the world have signed up for what may be the biggest prank in history - using decades of knowledge of ‘UFO sightings’ to time the launch perfectly.
The ‘aliens’ will be strips of LED lights, on remote-controlled multi-rotor drone aircraft - launched at 8pm, so there are plenty of people to see the ‘invaders’, and held at a distance where it’s difficult to see what’s behind the glowing lights.
Nigel Watson, author of the Haynes UFO Investigations Manual found plans to “cause a wave of UFO sightings around the world and an apocalypse-like idea in the media,” on forums frequented by drone fans.
Watson says, “‘The Big UFO Project’ was originally scheduled to run on April Fool’s Day, but they have changed it to 05 April 2014 so that it will not seem like an obvious prank. Anyone who has a multirotor drone (pictured below) or anything that can carry a strip of LED lights and hover is invited to join in this event.
I was pointed to discussion about the project on a remote-controlled aircraft forum a few days ago, though since the plan has made mainstream news the thread has been locked down (it can still be found for now in Google's cache).
So, if any aliens *are* actually out there: April 5th would be a really good night to scout around without any witnesses being taken seriously...
A number of people have asked, if there is a government UFO cover-up, why haven't documents relating to them turned up in the massive intelligence leak by Edward Snowden. Well, in a new document released at The Intercept, the new website devoted to publishing information about the leaks, the flying saucers have arrived. Though where they've turned up might be cause for concern for the Fox Mulder's out there.
That document is a Powerpoint presentation from the British intelligence agency GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), titled simply enough "The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations", in which three of the fifty slides are images of 'UFOs'. Unfortunately, there is no text related to the images, so there could be a number of reasons for them being included - from pointing out people's belief systems, through to them possibly being part of actual psychological operations (psy-ops). The only clue might be that the images are listed under a heading of "Influence and Information Operations".
Besides the UFO references, there are a number of allusions to magic, from the mission statement to produce "cyber-magicians", to another slide listing the historical involvement of professional magicians with psy-ops, through to finishing with an image of Teller beside a quote, "Conjuring with Information".
Glenn Greenwald has written some commentary on the latest release of documents, pointing out how they show intelligence agencies are intentionally manipulating online discussions:
Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.
Returning to the topic of UFOs, writer/film-maker Mark Pilkington is well-acquainted with the dual topic of UFOs and intelligence agency deceptions via the intensive research he did for his book and related documentary Mirage Men. On his blog, Mark notes that "it’s clear that [intelligence agencies] consider the UFO subject, its attendant beliefs, and the vocal community surrounding it, to be a useful field of operations for their activities". He also points out that not much has changed in the last six decades, given the similarities between the newly released document and a research paper released in 1950 titled "Exploitation of Superstitions for Purposes of Psychological Warfare" - right down to the listing of magicians who have participated in psy-ops.
If you'd like to learn more about this subject, take a look at the lecture Mark gave a couple of years ago (embedded below), titled "The Abuses of Enchantment: Folklore and Deception in the Disinformation Age":
As Greenwald points out, "these GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online... Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that... No government should be able to engage in these tactics".
Or, as Fox Mulder told us all those years ago: "Trust no-one".
In his wonderful fictional series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the late Douglas Adams introduced the ‘Total Perspective Vortex’ – a machine built by inventor Trin Tragula, who after being constantly nagged by his wife to “Have some sense of proportion!” (sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day), decided to build a machine “just to show her”. Into one end, he plugged the whole of reality (in classic Adams fashion, extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake), and into the other he plugged his wife, so that she would be shown in one instant “the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it”. To his horror, Trin Tragula realized that this single, devastating shock had completely annihilated his wife’s brain, but to his satisfaction “he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion”.
I don't have any fairy cake on hand, but the above video is pretty close to being a Total Perspective Vortex: it's an accurate 3-dimensional model and animation created out of data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), showing some 400,000 galaxies in their actual position in the Universe.
High resolution and full-screen recommended! Remember: each of those points of light is a complete galaxy, each with 100 billion stars or more within them. And in case that all doesn't blow your mind enough, it's worth pointing out that this 3D representation only includes all objects out to redshift 0.1 - roughly 1.3 billion light years from Earth, about 1/10 of the distance to the edge of the known Universe. And the perspective given in this video is actually impossible, as to see the Universe in this way would require traveling at many times the speed of light.
Okay, so that headline sounds pretty off-the-wall, and considering it's a Daily Grail headline then you know it's pretty weird! But that's exactly the question put forward by artificial intelligence researcher Hugo de Garis, who wonders whether the advanced artificial intelligences of extremely old alien civilisations might end up harnessing the vast computational power offered by sub-atomic elements, a hypothetical technology he labels 'X-Tech':
X-Tech provides a potential solution to the Fermi Paradox ("where are all the nonhuman civilizations?") ... maybe they're not out there living on other planets, but rather living inside atoms and particles! Perhaps we should be looking inside “elementary” particles because creatures constructed at these tiny scales would operate hugely faster, at far greater densities, and with vastly superior performance levels. We may need a paradigm shift away from outer space to inner space, from SETI to SIPI -- the Search for Infra Particle Intelligence!
...as one scales down, in general, performance levels increase dramatically. Hence one can readily speculate that any nano-based artilect [de Garis's monker for advanced 'artifical intellects'], sooner or later, will not be able to compete with his femto-based cousins, and will probably downgrade itself as well. This logic applies all the way down (to Plank-tech?). Hence we come inevitably to the following dramatic conclusion.
The hyper intelligences that are billions of years older than we are in our universe (which is about 3 times older than our sun), have probably “downgraded” themselves to achieve hugely greater performance levels. Whole civilizations may be living inside volumes the size of nucleons or smaller.
When I first had this idea, about a decade ago, I chuckled, but now I take it very seriously, because there seems to be so much logic behind it.
De Garis notes that once this idea is thought about seriously, the current SETI paradigm seems very 'provincial'. "Extra terrestrials (ETs), who might be primitive enough to bother sending radio signals to beings like us," de Garis says, "are NOT the most intelligent specimens in the universe. The really smart ones I suggest are very very tiny."
I have to say, reading about this concept at Centauri Dreams did bring to mind some of the shamanic stories about intelligences hiding within plant DNA, DMT etc. In particular, an experience that Dennis McKenna related where he was given a vision that was "a water molecule’s eye view of the process of photosynthesis", before hearing a voice behind his left shoulder quietly chiding him: "You monkeys only think you’re running things".
Fun speculations to riff on!
This film follows the ancient cycle of sunset, to night, to sunrise. A continuous loop of perpetual movement that has been unbroken since the dawn of time, and the only true constant in our lives.
I shot this film over 12 days around the San Pedro de Atacama region of Northern Chile. San Pedro is an oasis town in the Atacama and sits at an altitude of 2600m. The town is a great base to explore the fascinating landscapes that surround it, and everything just goes up and up.
The Atacama is well-known for what are arguably the cleanest, darkest skies on Earth. The dry air adds an extra transparency and this coupled with the altitude creates a night sky like no other. I visited at a time when Venus was situated quite close to the centre of the Milky Way; an astronomical event that only takes place every 8 years or so. I also timed my visit with the Autumn equinox which is a good time of year to capture Zodiacal light; the celestial phenomenon caused by sunlight scattering interplanetary space dust in the Zodiacal cloud. It stretches across the ecliptic and glows for a short while after sunset like a UFO beam and I was lucky enough to witness this every night I stepped out into the dark.
As always, I recommend taking the time to truly comprehend what we're looking at in a clip like this: pretty much our entire galaxy, and millions of stars beyond. Blows my mind every time I grasp that fact.
You might also like...
Astronaut Chris Hadfield is currently on the publicity trail promoting his book An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth (Amazon.com / Amazon UK), and as a result there are a number of fascinating interviews with @Cmdr_Hadfield in various places around the internet that touch on fun topics such as belief, spirituality and alien life. For instance, in a recent NPR interview Hadfield remarked on how being on the 'outside' of the planet looking in certainly brings with it spiritual feelings:
I think what everyone would find if they could be [up in space] - if they could see the whole world every 90 minutes and look down on the places where we do things right, and look down where we're doing stupid, brutal things to each other and the inevitable patience of the world that houses us - I think everybody would be reinforced in their faith, and maybe readdress the real true tenets of what's good and what gives them strength.
Hadfield's words bring to mind the 'Overview Effect', which transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it.
Yesterday, everyone's favourite astronaut also stopped in to one of our favourite podcasts, the Joe Rogan Experience, for a relaxed and in-depth chat. It's one of my favourite JRE episodes, because Joe doesn't freak out about it all, and as a result the feel of the interview is like you're sitting down having a beer and chatting with an everyday guy, who just happens to have flown in space on multiple occasions and spent around half a year living on the International Space Station, and thus has some amazing experiences and insights to share with you.
One such insight was inspired as Hadfield looked down at the erupting Mount Etna below him:
It was a really clear reminder of the fact that most of the planet is super-heated lava and magma, so hot that the rock is liquid and plastic. And we just live on this little chilled crust, like the top of a porridge pot...we just live on this little thin bit on the top that is crust.
And when you tip it the other way around and look up, half of the atmosphere is in the first three miles. Three miles. Think about it, people go for a three mile run - and really the whole habitable atmosphere is three miles. Above 15,000 feet it's hard to even live.
So we live on this little bit of cooled crust, and this little sliver of air, and we think it's guaranteed. We think we're invincible right, and we think the whole universe is here to serve us. And we're like bacteria in a corner, just found a little niche that'll support our life.
You can watch/listen to the full one hour interview here:
Throw in Hadfield's first-hand description of what it feels like to ride a rocket into space (a journey that takes less than 9 minutes, reaching a speed of 5 miles per second), his thoughts on our use of fossil fuels, and whether there's life out there, and it's compelling stuff. I'll even forgive him and Joe for singling out UFO researchers as the focus for criticism about belief systems.
And just to round out the Chris Hadfield appreciation post here on TDG, here's his uber-popular rendition of Bowie's "Space Oddity" (18 million views on YouTube), in case you're an alien being and haven't seen it yet:
Are you a fan of Reality TV shows involving the obscenely-rich & famous? Hardly the kind of question you'd expect to find at The Grail, I know --We all have our guilty pleasures, don't we?-- because if you are, then you might have seen the latest episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, in which the celebrity family took a little road trip adventure to the (now officially acknowledged) Area 51, with Open Mind's Alejandro Rojas & Travis Walton --yes, THE Fire in the Sky Travis Walton!-- as their chaperones.
In the video below, Rojas explains how this surreal juxtaposition of the mundane & the other-worldly came about, and his overall opinion of rubbing elbows with the Beverly Hills jet set. You'll also hear why Walton decided to go along for the ride as well:
Personally, I don't know if looking for more exposition to the UFO phenomenon by way of involvement with celebrities is such a good idea. After all, it's not as if there aren't plenty of famous actors & singers willing to publicly reveal their interest in the topic; but has that had any actual impact in the overall acceptance of UFOs in our culture? At the end of the day, most of these individuals haven't attained their popularity & lofty status because of their opinions ...or even their intelligence.
And there's also the risk that having a celebrity on your team can seriously backfire --just ask Stuart Stevens, one of the top advisers in Mitt Romey's presidential campaign in 2012. Empty chair anyone?
Then again, I've always been of the opinion that one of the main problems with UFOlogy as a movement, is that it tends to take itself too damn seriously. Sure, a show like Keeping Up... is hardly Emmy winning material, but it helps to give a lighter & more approachable aspect to the phenomenon, and who knows? maybe it would even prompt some N00bies to search about the subject as a bonus.
Hey, at least there weren't any night-vision scenes involved, right?
Gentlemen, if you're looking for a nice rock to put on your lady's finger, you might be on the wrong planet: scientists have hypothesized that on Jupiter and Saturn it may just rain diamonds, and form oceans of the stuff:
Astrophysicists have calculated that the conditions on the two biggest planets of the solar system are enough to produce stable oceans made from diamond.
They claim that powerful lightning storms in the planets’ atmospheres cause particles of carbon to form, which then drift down though the gas. As the carbon falls, it is crushed by the enormous pressures that exist on the two planets, causing them to form dense chunks of diamond.
At even greater depths, the scientists say the diamond will eventually melt to form liquid diamond, which may then form a stable ocean layer.
Full article: Diamonds May Fall as Rain on Jupiter and Saturn
Forget that controversial History Channel show: the ruins of ancient alien civilisations may well exist beyond our atmosphere, and scientists are keen to go and search for them. The field of xenoarchaeology - the search for the material remains of extraterrestrial cultures - was once mainly a science fictional concept, but in recent times there has been much progress in nailing it down firmly to the realm of science present. Over at Aeon Magazine, Paul Gilster (of the Centauri Dreams blog) has posted a wonderful essay documenting some of the efforts being made to search for such 'relics', from Dyson spheres through to asteroid mining ventures. He also touches on the philosophical side of the search, noting the difficulty in predicting what these relics might be, when we are searching for something that is, quite literally, alien to us:
All of these searches ask us to put ourselves in the minds of beings about whom we know absolutely nothing. The physicist David Deutsch has flagged this as a problem for prediction of all kinds, not just those involving SETI. According to Deutsch, we can distinguish between ‘prophecy’ and ‘prediction’, with prophecy being the discussion of things that are not knowable, while prediction deals with conclusions that are based on good explanations of the universe. As prognosticators from Thomas Malthus to the Club of Rome have demonstrated, we may be able to identify problematic trends in the present that can be extended into the future, but we cannot know what knowledge we will acquire in the future to manage those problems. This is why no scientific era has succeeded in imagining its successor. The scientists of the late 19th century discovered this firsthand, when confronted with the emergence of quantum theory and relativity early in the early 20th. Both theories raised questions earlier theorists couldn’t have even formulated.
In the context of interstellar archaeology, the problem is that we have no analogues in our experience for what advanced cultures might create. Patience is the byword as the effort proceeds, the same patience that Heinrich Schliemann’s successors have used to master the art of sifting through rubble, with careful digging and delicate brushwork sweeping aside soil to uncover the shape of a fragmentary artifact. Interstellar archaeologists are tasked with sifting through gigabytes of data, not layers of soil, but the principle is the same.
Where do you think the best place to look for alien ruins might be? Earth, our Solar System, or distant suns and galaxies? And what should we be looking for? A fascinating topic.