Meet Matilda, the 2-year-old Canadian kitten who will either make you go D'aww or cringe in horror, depending on whether the cover of Whitley Strieber's Communion gave you nightmares or not *raising hand*
Her other-worldly glassy eyes are the product of a congenital condition called 'spontaneous lens luxation', which has caused the lens in her eyes to detach. Their abnormal size is still a matter of some debate, though, and her veterinary suspects it's got "something to do with her collagen structure" --IMO I would fire up the MRI machine in search of metallic implants…
Despite the appearances, Matilda's illness does not bring her any pain, even though she's practically blind. I wonder if knowing she's become an overnight Internet celebrity would bring her any comfort.
All joking aside, though, this freaking-looking feline reminds me of how many people in our field believe cats and other animals, are able to perceive things with their acute sense than we humans are oblivious of. Fortean blogger and researcher Mike Clelland is among the many cat care-takers who have noticed their four-legged owners stare at a spot in the wall or an empty room with eerie fixation, as if they were aware of some invisible presence:
Last night I was alone in my little cabin sitting on the couch watching a DVD, my cat was sitting next to me, as always. Suddenly I was aware that she was acting really scared. She got into this really scrunched-up defensive pose and her tail poofed up huge. The hair along her back was sticking straight up. I tried to pet her to calm her down, but she didn’t respond at all. I could feel her back was rigid with tension. I leaned over and looked at her face and her eyes were entirely dilated and black.
She wasn’t moving, and she was entirely focused at an empty spot the center of the room just a few yards in front of the couch.
I saw nothing, and I sensed nothing. But my cat's overt display meant something.
I got up and walked around the house, and when I stood in the living room in front of the couch I could see right where she was focused. She stayed frozen in that anxious pose with her dilated eyes fixed on an empty spot right in the center of the room.
And there's even a few interesting anecdotes in which our furry overlords have become entangled with their alien counterparts. I already mentioned Strieber and Communion, which should be unquestionnably credited with inserting (or should that be 'probing'?) the stereotype of the Gray alien into the pop culture's psyche. In Transformation, the sequel to his best-selling book, Whitley mentions how once when he was about to be taken by the entities he call 'the Visitors' --he's never been comfortable with calling them 'aliens' or 'Et's'-- he grabbed one of their 2 cats --Sadie, a Birman-- with him as a sort of 'reality test'. When he found himself inside a normal-looking room, still holding the terrified cat between his arms and surrounded by 4 non-human entities, even though one appeared to be a 'blonde Nordic'; one of the entities asked him why he had brought the cat --the fact that these entities hadn't stopped him in the first place is interesting in itself. Forced somehow to provide the most honest answer by the overwhelming 'pressure' of their mere presence, Strieber replied that Sadie was part of his family, and as such she had the right to participate in family affairs.
The Visitors put Sadie to sleep --not permanently, as Whitley originally feared-- by pressing a strange metallic object on one of her thighs, which immediately caused her to collapse as if she had been anesthesyzed. The next day the poor cat stayed sleep curled in a ball until dinner time, when she drank a lot of water; she showed a stiffness in her leg until the next morning, in the exact place where the metallic object had been in contact with her skin.
Perhaps later ole Sadie took revenge by scratching her human's favorite armchair.
Is there indeed a parnormal connection between cats and 'the other side'? Is there a reason why ancient Egyptians showed such a huge veneration to them, other than the utilitarian benefit cats provided by eradicating vermin from their barns and grain mills?
If Matilda had the collar of Jake, the Cat from Outer Space perhaps she could tell us that, indeed, the Truth is Meow there.
Earlier this year, when I downloaded the Radio Misterioso podcast in which my friend Greg Bishop had a guy by the name of Bruce Duensing as the guest, I knew nothing about him or his ideas --a big stain in my UFOlogical record, given how he'd been blogging about the phenomenon for many years. That day I ended up listening to that episode twice in a row, fascinated by the things Bruce was saying with regards to UAPs --his favored acronym-- which heavily resonated with my own thinking.
Since then I timidly started to have a little bit of online interaction with him, on Facebook and his blog posts, which were definitely not 'UFOlogy 101' material. Bruce's paragraphs were packed with content, and his writing style was often oblique and obscure in meaning, which was not done out of intellectual pedantry as much his most honest attempt to elucidate upon a mystery which is oblique and obscure in intention to begin with.
It nevertheless made me realize that when it comes to UFOs I'm still at the Kindergarten level, and I had much to learn from him.
On the morning of Thursday, June 4th, Greg read a message on the Facebook wall of Bruce's daughter, informing of the passing of his father after having gone through open-heart surgery on the previous Monday. The news hit me harder than I'd expected, seeing how I was just (barely) starting to know him. Perhaps it was because that same week I myself had gone through a different kind of personal transition, after being fired from the job I'd worked in for the last 15 years.
Transience. It's something we rarely notice because we're so focused on the trivial minutiae of our daily routine, yet it's always happening all around us. It's only when a certain critical mass is reached in our cognitive awareness --an accident, being fired from your job, the death of a loved one-- that we stop acting like automatons for a minute, take stock of our surroundings and we begin to pay attention.
(Maybe UFOs are meant to be a wake up call intended to shake us out of our dull complacency, before we fall off the cliff ahead)
Transience and Transition seemed to have been in Bruce's mind, even to the last. The name of his blog was 'A Transit of Contingencies' and the title of his last blog entry was 'The Voyages of the Dead', which of course caused me to speculate: Was the title a hint to his fears about the appointed surgery? An indication of depression? A premonition even?
The last paragraph in the post, which I urge you to read in its entirety, is not only a fitting way for a great intellectual to say adieu, but it also captures Bruce's love of art, literature and poetry, and perhaps his yearning to reconcile the oblique and obscure within himself:
In every fiction there is an element of truth and the same could be said by reading that statement in reverse order, and so this writer thinks on poetics as a series of observations that indirectly point to a reality not directly manifested in their sentences.
The same may apply to us.
After the sudden shock of the news, Greg asked me to come to the show the next Sunday to talk about Bruce and how he had began to influence the both of us in the way we look at UFOs, forcing us to adopt a broader, bolder scope of it and other phenomena. Robert Brandstetter, a brilliant friend of ours who uses the alias 'Burnt State' in the Paracast forums --and also shares with us a nascent kinship with Bruce and his ideas-- was also invited to join in, and even though I still felt a certain inadequacy in being part of this radiophonic eulogy --a close friend of him or one of the many people who discussed things with him online, would have been far more suited to speak with authority about his philosophy and who he was as a person-- I accepted the invitation; in the end I think we did an acceptable job, and the three of us conducted an amenable 'jamming session' in saying farewell to our departed peer --The lion's share of the credit should go to Robert, who did an outstanding job re-reading Bruce's blog, and researching additional info about his background, like his love for clockwork toys and model trains which IMO was very telling of his analytical albeit-whimsical character.
(The images above were the 'notes' I doodled to prepare myself prior to the radio show. "What am I?" is the answer Bruce once gave to Greg's question: 'If you ever met an alien being, what would you say or ask to it?')
We wrapped up the session by having Robert read the Thomas Wolfe quote Bruce had chosen as the intro for his last blog post, and after that I requested Greg to play Café Tacuba's 'Olita del Alta Mar' (Little Wave of the High Seas). Not only it's a song I loved the moment I first listened to it, but that Sunday morning --as I was getting ready for Radio Misterioso's nightly broadcast-- it was thanks to Bruce that I finally understood the true meaning behind the lyrics: A human life is like a wave in the sea; it's made of the same stuff as the sea, but for a little while it has a distinct shape and momentum; like all waves it reaches its peak at one point, breaks into the shore, and then recedes back.
You could say the wave ceased to exist, even though its water never left the sea. The fact the wave had a transitory existence is what gave it its shape and beauty, the force carrying it ashore waning and then gently returning that which formed the wave, to the immensity from whence it came.
Safe travels, Bruce. And godspeed.
The German design studio Kurzgesagt --"in a nutshell"-- created these entertaining clips full of interesting infographics, to tackle at one of the most persistent logical quandaries in modern Science: The (in)famous Fermi Paradox --a.k.a. "where are all the bloody aliens?!"
The videos stick firmly with the accepted scientific parameters, while at the same time utilizing some of the latest far-out concepts proposed by the likes of Freeman Dyson and Nikolai Kardashev, who came up with a classification system for advanced civilizations depending on their energy consumption --ours is about level 0.75, while the Galactic empire in Star Wars is probably between 2 and 3 (though the matter would no doubt trigger an onslaught of rants from angry fanboys everywhere!)
What's interesting also is how our own technological advances dictate the differences in how we decide to interpret the paradox itself. In 1950, when Enrico Fermi first came up with the idea during an informal conversation, notions re. the vast distances between stars and the age of the Universe were only initially considered, whereas now that we live in the Information Age, new elements like the emergence of strong A.I. and Virtual Reality also have to be thrown into the mix --why risk your life in something as useless as conquering the Galaxy, when you could choose immortality inside a simulated Paradise catered to your every whim?
NASA and SETI keep insisting that evidence of intelligent ETs is 20 years in the horizon --though they keep repeating that every 10 years or so. The prediction will either come true or it won't, like so many other scientific broken promises (where's my god-damned jet pack?!) and if in 2035 we still hear nothing but apparent silence from the Great Beyond, I'm sure the Fermi Paradox will remain an inexhaustible fountain of creative ideas to explain our cosmic isolation.
...Maybe that's the point of it?
Last week in Spain a group of fantastic researchers into the UFO phenomenon came together for the 'Inhabited Sky' conference in Spain (three of whom I've had the honour of publishing, in Darklore and standalone books). Jacques Vallee, Chris Aubeck, Theo Paijmans and Nigel Watson discussed sightings of UFOs throughout history, and the various things we've learned in recent times about the phenomenon.
As many readers would know, Jacques Vallee's Passport to Magonia (re-released last year by Daily Grail Publishing) is the classic work in this field, but his more recent book with Chris Aubeck, Wonders in the Sky, updates the historical catalogue of sightings significantly. Nigel Watson and Theo Paijmans are also respected Fortean historical detectives, looking back at old sightings and stories and digging for the truth behind them. So the line-up was definitely an impressive one.
Luckily for us, their presentations at the 'Inhabited Sky' conference were captured on video (see the top of this post), so there's a full 3 hours of fascinating lectures and Q&A for interested readers to dig into. While the introductions and questions are in Spanish, the speakers themselves presented in English - see the timeline below if you're searching for something in particular:
3:30 - Theo Paijmans, ufologist, Dutch author and editor, examines the social impact of spaceships and aliens in comics and literature of the early twentieth century.
41:00 - Nigel Watson, author of the recent book UFOs of the First World War (2015), tell us how advances in aviation and space travel were published in the media and art and how it shapes our view of them.
1:17:30 - Jacques Vallée, astrophysicist, computer scientist and world-renowned ufologist, will talk about the importance and impact of anomalous phenomena observed since ancient times.
2:04:00 - Jacques Vallée and Chris Aubeck, questions and debate on anomalous phenomena observed since ancient times.
Related book: Passport to Magonia
You might also like:
Right after Kenneth Arnold's sighting of 9 Chevron-shaped objects flying at great speed near mount Rainier in June of 1947, the American media was flooded with similar reports coming from all around the country. The modern era of UFOs had begun, and during the next decade civilian associations like NICAP and APRO were founded in an attempt to understand the nature and origin of these objects, as well as to demand transparency from the government which was suspect from the beginning of hiding what it knew about them to the public.
During their arduous struggles in trying to gather evidence which could prove the existence of what they believed were extraterrestrial craft visiting our planet, these investigative associations were consistently forced to change their expectations about what flying saucers could and couldn't do. When only reports of high-altitude objects were deemed credible, there soon came sightings at close range; when sightings at close range were finally accepted, they were followed by reports of actual landings; when landing cases were reluctantly deemed credible, there soon came sightings of the saucer occupants leaving their craft and interacting with the witnesses. As seasoned abduction researcher Dr. Leo Sprinkle once said to Mike Clelland during an audio interview, the phenomenon is forever one step ahead of us, and is always delighted to shatter whatever comfortable preconception we might have of it.
One preconception that has always been hard to accept --even to this day-- is the idea that UFO occupants would establish a long-lasting relationship with a particular witness, choosing him or her as their appointed ambassador to the rest of Humanity. And yet that's exactly what a few individuals claimed during the 1950's and 60's, speaking before amazed audiences --and suspicious government agencies-- about their regular encounters with these beings; these were not tentacled monsters coming to our planet with ill-intents, they said, but our (very human-like) brothers from outer space, bringing a message of love and universal peace to mankind.
Both NICAP and APRO always considered people like George Adamski and George Van Tassel, with their stories of mingling with angelic Venusians and etheric spacecraft, to be nothing but crackpots at best --or hucksters and attention-seekers at worst; and now that the tools of modern Science has shown Venus to be an inhospitable hell-hole, and the photos taken by Adamsky or others have been proven to be hoaxes, our opinion of the Contactees has only worsened.
But now comes a new documentary by film-maker Patrick Connelly, intended to take a fresh, new look at that fascinating moment in XXth century history, when the wounds of WWII were still fresh and the new threat of nuclear annihilation loomed menacingly above the seemingly tranquil suburban landscapes of America. A time when people looked to the sky searching for answers, yearning for someone who could save us from ourselves.
They Rode the Flying Saucers is still in production, and will feature interviews with scholars like historian Aaron Gulyas who wrote a book about the Contactee era, as well as my friend Greg Bishop who has always been enamored with the tales of the Space Brothers --Greg interviewed Patrick last year on his show Radio Misterioso, so if you wish to listen to the podcast click here.
To learn more about the film, visit its official website. And just to get you Urantians ready for a vibration-raising weekend full of interplanetary kinship, here's the Carpenter's 1970 classic Calling Occupants from Interplanetary Craft:
Are you ready for the transmission to commence?
"It would be many years later, in front of the firing squad, when Col. Aureliano Buendía remembered that remote afternoon in which his father took him to see the ice..." ~Excerpt from the novel 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'.
2015 marks the first anniversary of Gabriel García Márquez's death. Without a doubt the most popular Latin American writer of his time, his literary style constitutes one of the best examples of the artistic movement known as 'Magical Realism', which is characterized by the insertion of fantastical events into common circumstances, thus transforming the extraordinary into ordinary and vice versa. It's no wonder the Colombian-born Nobel laureate ended up writing One Hundred Years of Solitude --his most famous novel-- during his stay in Mexico city; a place even more outlandish than Macondo, the fictitious Caribbean town he created as the setting of most of his stories. Salvador Dalí once said of Mexico, that he couldn't stand being in a country that was more surrealist than his own paintings.
I'm sure the eccentric Spanish artist would have felt vindicated, had he been present at the spectacle I attended on the night of May 5th. That evening UFOlogist Jaime Maussan --even though he keeps insisting he's merely a journalist-- invited the Mexican citizens along with the rest of the world to beWITNESS: The event that would "change history" by showing for the very first time "physical evidence" confirming the famous Roswell saucer crash of 1947, and the extraterrestrial presence in our planet. At the National Auditorium no less, the most illustrious public forum in the country with a total capacity of 10,000 seats, during a presentation which ended up being worthy of a García Márquez's novel.
But not for the reasons the organizers intended...
From the onset the whole thing seemed bizarre enough. After a couple of years of rumors concerning the recovery of 2 old Kodachrome slides purportedly showing a genuine corpse of an alien being, allegedly recovered after the Roswell crash --the be-all and end-all of all UFO cases according to American researchers, given their obsession with this particular 68-year-old mystery-- the story finally irrupted into the mainstream in early February of this year
Since 1989, Ufology Research in Canada has collected UFO sighting data from active Canadian researchers, and each year has compiled it into an annual 'Canadian UFO Survey' and released it publicly "in an attempt to promote the dissemination of information across the field of ufology".
The 2014 report is now out, and it seems that - contrary to some media reports - UFOs are certainly not dead. 1021 UFO sighting reports were collected in Canada during 2014 - almost three a day - the third-highest number of UFO sightings recorded in the last 25 years.
Other interesting facts from the report summary:
- The Top 5 metropolitan areas with the most UFO reports are (in order of highest): Toronto, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary and Montreal (tie), and Edmonton.
- Although there has been a trend during the past 25 years of having more UFO reports received in the mid-summer months (corresponding to long nights and fair weather for observing UFOs in the night sky), 2014 was exceptional in that the was a marked peak in UFO reports in the early fall. In fact, almost 17 per cent of all reports in 2014 came in September, well above the average of 9.5 per cent for September during the past 25 years.
- In 2014, the average Strangeness rating of UFO reports was 4.26, well above the 25-year average of 3.5 and above last year’s average of 3.67. Strangeness measures the degree to which a UFO report is comparatively unusual, for example a simple light in the sky being 2 or 3, and occupants observed outside a landed craft being about 8 or 9 on the Strangeness ratings scale. The average Reliability rating was similarly up in 2014, suggesting more cases were of higher quality or were better investigated. Most UFO sightings, unfortunately, are not well investigated, leaving the field wide open for speculation and sensationalism.
- More than 47 per cent of all UFO sightings were of an object described as a “point source,” or starlike.
- The typical UFO sighting lasted approximately 13 minutes in 2014, comparable with other years.
Head over to the Ufology Research website for more details, and follow the links to dig into the data.
(h/t Chris Rutkowski)
Last month I announced the coming release of The John Michell Reader, Inner Traditions' collection of essays by the late English counterculture icon. Well, the book is now available through all the major bookstores [Amazon US & UK] and it would definitely make a fine addition to any Fortean's library. "Radical traditionalist" is a spot-on way to describe Michell, who used his witty prose on his column at The Oldie --a humorous monthly magazine aimed for senior readership-- both to complaint about the loss of the traditional lifestyle in British rural areas, condemn modern Agriculture, rant about Darwinism, support the Monarchy system, as well as extolling the use of psychedelics to promote thought-provoking conversations at suitable parties. You can't get more "radical center" than that!
At the same time, Michell also directed his attention to a plethora of Fortean topics, including Sacred Geometry, Stonehenge, the Grail lore, Fairy legends and UFOs. It is on this last subject that I find Michell's ideas resonating heavily with my own, which is why with Inner Traditions' permission, I'm posting one of his essays concerning the most controversial aspect of the UFO phenomenon: Alien abductions.
UFO Abductions and the End of Innocence
The first UFO contactee I met was a young lad from a poor Protestant family in Northern
Ireland, named Ivor Brown. One evening he was walking along a dark country road toward a dance hall when he saw in front of him an ovalshaped object. Some creatures came out of it and took him inside, where he was seduced or whatever you call it by two strange but attractive females. Somehow Ivor got in touch with Desmond Leslie, the author of the very first UFO book, who took me to meet him.
We were inexperienced at that time, so were rather disconcerted by Ivor Brown. Our main concern was whether or not he was lying, and our ideas on how to tell a liar from an honest man were unimaginatively conventional. We had hoped to find the type of reliable witness who appeals to lawyers, firmeyed and rationalminded. That was not Ivor Brown. He was nervous, impressionable, uneducated, and prone to symptoms that are familiar to psychiatrists. Ever since his experience he had maintained psychic contact with his abductors and knew when they were near his house. His sensitivity spread to the rest of the family. Their minds and habits were changed and they left their home to go on psychically guided travels. The last I saw of Ivor was when he passed through London with old Mr. Brown and a younger brother, on their way to visit the grave of Matthew Hopkins, the fanatical witchfinder of seventeenthcentury Suffolk.
There is now a vast literature on the subject of “UFO abductions”— the modern folklore term for the kind of experience described by Ivor Brown. A large and growing number of similar encounters are reported all over the world, particularly in America. Opinions are divided about their meaning. Some say that they are to do with extra-terrestrial beings, while others believe they have a psychological origin. My own persuasion is that the sensible approach to the phenomenon of UFO abductees is by comparing it with past records—the records of folklore.
In any regional account of British folklore one can find stories about people who have been abducted by unworldly creatures, conventionally identified as fairies. The details in such cases are infinitely varied, but one detail is always the same. In every account of an abduction, whether by fairies, demons, or UFOcreatures, the abductee is mentally changed and acquires a new, spiritual perception. The results are not always of obvious benefit—abductees are likely to become lonely, melancholy, introspective. Some are persuaded that they have gone mad and there are always a few who think that God or the Venusians have chosen them to reform mankind.
In certain cases, however, a person who has undergone the abduction experience is awakened to life and gains the level of understanding, which, in ancient and tribal societies, was induced by a ritual initiation.
I now know that Ivor Brown was telling the truth, that he had a genuine, traumatic experience and that he naturally described it in modern, spaceage imagery rather than, as he would have done a generation or so earlier, in terms of demons and fairies. The actual cause of that experience is a mystery, which, I feel sure, will never finally be explained. Yet is has to be accepted as a real, effective phenomenon. To any sympathetic reader who has the slightest idea what I am driving at, I offer for contemplation the following suggested connections: violation of innocence by “UFO abductors”; by rumoured covens of “cult ritualists”; by tribal elders in the course of their initiation of adolescents. These are terrible things to undergo, but the victim may find certain compensations, such as maturity and a finer sensibility.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The John Michell Reader by John Michell, introduction by Joscelyn Godwin © 2015 Inner Traditions.
Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com
The above clip is part of the promotional campaign for both Jaime Maussan's Be Witness live presentation --which will be featured on May 5th at the National Auditorium in Mexico city-- as well as Adam Dew's Kodachrome documentary. It shows (alleged) random reactions of passersby in Chicago, after they are shown what has purportedly been claimed to be 2 black-and-white slides of a humanoid being inside some sort of glass showcase --If you want to see a low-res image of one of those slides, click here.
If there's one thing that's clearly shown in the video, is how the images seem to perfectly conform with our pop culture assumptions of what an alien being is supposed to look --short stature, slim body and large cranium. What it's not shown, though, is whether these images are as real as the Santilli 'alien autopsy' video of the 1990's, which was equally hyped as the smoking gun that would finally unravel the 'Cosmic Watergate' behind the truth of UFOs and ET visitation.
To say these images are controversial is the understatement of the century. A lot of assumptions have been made with regards to the slides by the people behind tomorrow's presentation. There's the assumption that the slides were taken by Hilda Ray, who was a lawyer, a pilot, the wife of geologist Bernerd Ray; there's the assumption that the couple's illustrious careers and connections with the top elite of American society in the 40's and 50's, would have somehow made them privy to very sensitive material --like the retrieval operations of crashed saucers conducted by the Military.
And of course, there's the majestic assumption --see what I did there?-- that the body (or bodies) shown on the slides are of an extraterrestrial biological entity, AND that these entities were involved in the (in)famous Roswell event of July 1947. That's enough 'ifs' to make your head spin faster than a Reticulan spaceship, which is why some of the most prominent researchers involved in the history of the Roswell affair --namely Stanton Friedman and Kevin Randle-- declined to actively participate in what Maussan and Dew call "the biggest UFO event of all time."
"Is this for real?", one person asks after being shown the slides. That's what Don Schmitt, Tom Carey, Adam Dew and Jaime Maussan keep telling us, and they promise to show us all the evidence to back that claim tomorrow onstage and via live streaming. I'll be there to see whether they deliver the goods... or crash and burn trying.
Is there life on Venus? Most planetary scientists would say 'no', or at least 'unlikely' - despite being almost a twin to Earth in size, the second planet from the Sun is the closest thing we might imagine to being hell. With surface temperatures close to 900°F, even the Devil might be looking for a vacation to a cooler climate.
And yet, in 2012, a senior Russian planetary scientist claimed not only that Venusian creatures existed, but that they had already been photographed. With all the modern publicity for Mars exploration - especially by the Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity rovers - it is often forgotten that the former Soviet Union successfully landed probes on Venus nine times in the thirteen year period between 1972 and 1985. By virtue of the hellish conditions on the planet's surface, these missions were short affairs - the longest any of them survived once on the ground was a little over two hours.
But during their short Venusian encounters, a number of these probes did transmit photos back to their orbiters, taken from a camera that repeatedly scanned across the panorama. Apart from giving us a glimpse of the alien landscape, Russian scientist Leonid Ksanfomaliti has suggested these images might also show us alien life.
Ksanfomaliti was inspired to re-analyse the images by the many recent discoveries of exoplanets of many sizes and conditions, which made him question whether we have made a mistake in thinking that life likely only exists under Earth-like conditions. Another factor might have been the ongoing discovery in modern times of many 'extremophiles' on Earth: organisms that live in conditions well beyond what we previously thought life was capable of.
To search for signs of life, Ksanfomaliti compared multiple images of the same area, taken at different times as the cameras scanned backward and forwards over the landscape, looking for changing - that is, moving - elements. The challenge then was to figure out whether anything that moved was living, or instead some sort of non-biological phenomena (e.g. dirt being blown by wind), or effects of changing light, digital imaging artifacts and so on.
His startling conclusion: the images do indeed show forms of life, including one that he nicknamed a 'scorpion'. Because Venus isn't hellish enough already, am I right?
At the blog of the Planetary Society, Emily Lakdawalla was impressed enough by Ksanfomaliti's credentials that she decided to critically evaluate his claim, despite it seeming "so obviously ridiculous" that she would "ordinarily not give it a second thought." With a strong understanding of image transmission and processing in planetary exploration, she was less than impressed by his analysis:
With all of these natural and artificial reasons why there may be changes in pixel values from one image to the next, it's hazardous to read too much into small changes of blobby shapes. But that's exactly what Ksanfomaliti goes on to do. There is a bold sentence in the paper that I asked Twitter help in translation, and it reads: "It must be emphasized that in the present work on the processing of the initial images images any retouching, drawing-in, additions to, or adjustment of images was completely ruled out." And he says that the use of Photoshop was "categorically ruled out." Yet he goes on to say that adjustments were, in fact, made. Missing bits of images were filled in with data from other images, contrast and brightness adjusted, and (most strangely), the "Blur" and "sharpen" functions in Microsoft Windows Paint were sometimes employed. These are all fairly standard operations in image processing (except for the use of Windows Paint instead of Photoshop for blur and sharpen filters, which is just odd), but they are most definitely "adjustments" of images, especially that blur and sharpen business. Sharpening, in particular, can have weird effects on noisy images.
...There is so much variation in noise among these five images, and they have been so processed with sharpening and infilling of data, that I think it is pointless to micro-analyze tiny little features and whether they have changed, much less whether they represent the presence of moving, living creatures or not. These images are much less convincing even than those of the Mars Sasquatch.
What was perhaps most surprising to Lakdawalla was how such a respected and knowledgeable planetary scientist could come up with something "so patently off the wall". Someone noted to her that Ksanfomaliti has always been interested in ideas "slightly on the edge of reality", while another suggested that perhaps three decades of analysing old data sets might make anyone crazy. Her own thoughts, however, were more about the dangers in being so smart that you convince yourself that your new theory is the start of a new paradigm:
I've seen before when successful people become so convinced that they are smart and right that they go over some edge and suddenly think that any crazy idea that flits into their head must be right, because they thought it and they're always right, right? There's no way for me to know what's made Ksanfomaliti make so much out of absolutely nothing. All I know is, there's nothing here. Move along.
Dammit, I was so hoping that Venusian scorpions were a thing.