News, news and more news. We don't just fill your Xmas stocking, we're here for the duration.

News Briefs 26-09-2006

Torture now too huh? Excuse me while I boggle for a bit...

  • Is there anybody out there? How the men from the ministry hid the hunt for UFOs.
  • Has a little known British aerospace engineer designed an engine with no moving parts, using microwave radiation and the strange properties of relativity? Interesting anecdote about industry not wanting to know about it due to commercial interests as well.
  • Yeti scholar one of 24 killed on downed helicopter in Nepal.
  • Are scientists afraid of ghosts? An opinion piece by Deborah Blum, author of Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death (Amazon US).
  • Space plane in test run for zero gravity surgery.
  • Phil Plait goes toe-to-toe with bad astronomy.
  • First rocket from New Mexico's Spaceport America crashes in the desert. Seems to be a common occurence down in New Mexico.
  • Astrobiology looks at a Faceless Cydonia.
  • 9,500-year-old decorated skulls found in Syria.
  • Debate rages over new Confucius image.
  • TV to show corpse on a cross.
  • New concepts for fighting poverty, disease and climate change are opening up.
  • Reflections on Newton's mythical revelation: After Einstein, after quantum physics, and after a harvest of revolutions in our grasp of the cosmos and consciousness alike, all that is solid seems to have melted into air. How can we really know that ripe apple will ever hit the turf? Michael Frayn's The Human Touch: Our Part in the Creation of a Universe is available at Amazon US & UK.
  • Study finds that human hands emit light. ET's finger kicks our butt though.
  • Tree rings offer hidden history of hurricanes.
  • Survey points to unsafe levels of pesticide residues in food.
  • Henrietta the chicken was living inconspicuously among 36,000 other birds at Brendle Farms for 18 months — until a foreman noticed she had four legs. Survival adaptation, or the Colonel's own secret GM recipe?
  • Pavements and car parks designed to purify water and store it in underground tanks?
  • Tech expert says we may end up the pets of robots.
  • Alex Jones accuses Google of censoring his videos.

Thanks Kat.

Quote of the Day:

We are dealing with the best-educated generation in history. But they've got a brain dressed up with nowhere to go.

Timothy Leary

News Briefs 25-09-2006

All your base are belong to us.

  • A Japanese probe has been launched to investigate solar flares. Unlike the new film Sunshine, it's an unmanned mission.
  • China's Shijian-8 satellite has returned to Earth with its payload of special seeds that may feed billions.
  • NASA chief Michael Griffin is brown-nosing the Beijing beaurocrats and sniffing around China's space program.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has done it again, finding more than 500 galaxies that existed less than a thousand million years after the Big Bang.
  • Saturn has a new ring, sparking rumours that the gas-giant is engaged.
  • UP Aerospace gears up to launch cargo aboard low-cost rockets into space from its New Mexico base.
  • Space tourist Anousheh Ansari continues to work and manage her business, despite orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station. What a waste, turn off the laptop and enjoy the view!
  • More than 1100 US Commerce Department laptop computers were lost, stolen or missing in the last five years. I feel guilty when I steal a pencil.
  • DARPA is spending millions of dollars on programs researching how to grow arms and legs back for soldiers who lost them at war. Someone at DARPA's been reading Richard Morgan's science-fiction novels.
  • Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan, is the first Takeshi Kovacs novel (Amazon US or UK). Scifi, crime noir, French and Japanese cinema, William Gibson and Philip K Dick, it's one hell of a futurist mix.
  • Here's a transcript of former US President Bill Clinton's venomous reaction to Fox News' attempt to smear him. Think Progress also has video. Great website.
  • The state of California has filed a lawsuit against six leading car manufacturers, arguing that exhaust fumes are damaging the state's climate, economy and public health.
  • Attendees at a secret pirate radio camp learn how to build their own FM transmitters and avoid the Feds. This one time, at Pirate Radio camp ...
  • The flamboyant Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, leader of the Russian republic of Kalmykia, claims to be in telepathic contact with aliens.
  • Do the Russians have a Bigfoot carcass on ice, or are the caretakers of Lenin's corpse getting sloppy these days?
  • Sam Ejike Okoye, a Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science, discusses extraterrestrial life and its possibilities.
  • A recent study in Japan has found that all parts of the human hand emit detectable levels of light. Clyptomaniacs are the brightest because they're light-fingered.

Quote of the Day:

The personal, as everyone's so f*cking fond of saying, is political. So if some idiot politician, some power player, tries to execute policies that harm you or those you care about, take it personally. Get angry. The Machinery of Justice will not serve you here - it is slow and cold, and it is theirs. Only the little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide out from under with a wink and a grin. If you want justice, you will have to claw it from them. Make it personal. Do as much damage as you can. Get your message across. That way you stand a far better chance of being taken seriously next time. Of being considered dangerous. And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous, marks the difference - the only difference in their eyes- between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate. And time and again they cream your liquidation, your displacement, your torture and brutal execution with the ultimate insult that it's just business, it's politics, it's the way of the world, it's a tough life, and that it's nothing personal. Well, f*ck them. Make it personal.'

Quellcrist Falconer, Things I Should Have Learned By Now Vol II

from the novel Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan

News Briefs 22-09-2006

News so late, it's practically from tomorrow.

Thanks Baldrick.

Quote of the Day:

Knowledge is a deadly friend
When no one sets the rules.
The fate of all mankind I see
Is in the hands of fools.

From Tomorrow And Tomorrow, In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969.
The nostalgic can click here to hear an mp3 of the title cut (at an unrelated website).

News Briefs 21-09-2006

Let's start the news on a cheery note. Death, death and death. Things begin to improve after that...but we finish where we started.

  • Mothman documentary producer dies aged 42 from a rare form of cancer. Yet another tragic victim of the Mothman Curse? Read the story at your peril.
  • Wiccan soldier's family gets closure after Department of Veteran Affairs approves pentacle symbol for memorial plaque. Heck, Hollywood has been doing it since 1960.
  • Iceman Oetzi bled to death in a matter of minutes after an arrowhead ruptured an artery.
  • Paleontologists discover 'Lucy's Baby'. More at National Geographic, including images and video.
  • Croation robbers make off with 6 kilograms of archaeological gold (in the literal sense).
  • Ancient Hindu text preserved by modern technology.
  • The Royal Society accuses Exxon Mobil of funding groups which have been misleading the public about climate change.
  • Greenland ice sheet continues to lose ice mass at a significant rate. According to special interest group ExMob, loss of ice is "good for babies".
  • Biologist mixes science and salvation in his book The Creation (Amazon US and UK).
  • And if that's all a bit nicey-nice for you, here's Scientific American's multiple book review pitting spiritual science against materialist science. If you know Sci-Am, you know which way this one will lean. "The assumption of materialism is fundamental to science" - sounds like someone is still sitting at the pub with Isaac Newton.
  • Hired psychic causes scandal for Colombian prosecutor.
  • Creepy shadow person effect conjured up by electrical stimulation of the left temporoparietal junction in the brain.
  • Space shuttle UFO mystery deepens with more objects sighted.
  • NASA spots new ring on Saturn. The Z-cat and some Voom will soon take care of that.
  • Bizarre supernova breaks all the rules.
  • Droids in the Desert - not a new prequel from George Lucas, but a NASA project.
  • Fish used to detect terror attacks. When fish get sent on a black-ops mission to capture Osama, then I'll be impressed.
  • Policeman reports being attacked by two flying witches.
  • Woman dies during marshmallow-eating contest.

Quote of the Day:

Religion and science both profess peace (and the sincerity of the professors is not being doubted), but each always turns out to have a dominant part in any war that is going or contemplated.

Howard Nemerov

News Briefs 20-09-2006

Jameske's short on time, so I'm passing around the hat...

Quote of the Day:

Christian: One who thinks the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.

Ambrose Bierce

News Briefs 19-09-2006

Aye, Roger the Cabin boy and hoist the mainsails, we be pirates today!

Thanks Kat.

Quote of the Day:

As long as there's a few farmers out there, we'll keep fighting for them.

Willie Nelson

News Briefs 18-09-2006

Take a trip on a rocketship ...

  • It looks like a hoax, but this video of a UFO in China will grant you triple happiness.
  • During the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-37 mission, astronauts filmed an unidentified sphere hovering in space.
  • Maybe the Russians will see something similar on their way to the International Space Station.
  • They've taken the first female space tourist for the trip, and she only paid $20 million for the privilege. Not for your feminists on budgets.
  • Are Russian-made laptops better than the spontaneously-combusting IBM brand that exploded at LAX?
  • Researchers have created a silicon-based chip that can produce laser beams, a development that'll revolutionise computers.
  • Perhaps in reference to the Pluto fiasco, a rock even further from the Sun has been named after the Greek goddess of strife, Eris.
  • A planet discovered 450-light-years away is bigger than Jupiter but is so light it would float in a bathtub if you could find one big enough.
  • Changes in the Sun's brightness over the past millennium have had only a small effect on Earth's climate.
  • A stone block unearthed in Mexico may be inscribed with the earliest known writing in the Americas, anthropologists claim.
  • Despite the investigations of Dr Robert Schoch and Daily Grailer Dr Collette Dowell, an Egyptology professor from Cairo says it is still worth digging at the so-called pyramids of Bosnia.
  • Archaeology magazine's Mark Rose remains skeptical, and provides a pdf link of Zahi Hawass' letter. Aw, it's typed -- I was hoping we'd get to analyse the Big Zee's handwriting.
  • Roman relics found near Elephanta indicate trade continued between India and the Romans later than thought. That should brighten the heart of American economists.
  • A rarely-explored seascape off the coast of Papua is possibly the richest marine environment in the world, with dozens of new species discovered.
  • A 10'000-year-old quarry is rich in prehistoric artifacts, including a spearpoint still smeared with mammoth blood.
  • A cave in Gibraltar contains the earliest known remains of Neanderthals, a mere 24000-years-young.
  • Petroglyphs thought to be 6000-years-old have halted work on a building site in Utah.
  • I can't think of a suitable segue, so I may as well just give you the link to the peeing Madonna.
  • Buddhism continues to grow in America, adapting and changing in its Western environment.
  • Researchers want to find out why hearing voices in your head is a positive experience and not a cause of concern for some people.
  • If you want hobbits and vikings for neighbours, then consider buying a house in the Shire of Bend. I suspect Kat is a closet entrepeneur secretly developing a Hogwart's apartment complex.

Quote of the Day:

Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems -- but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems incredible.

Salman Rushdie

News Briefs 15-09-2006

Did anyone else see Whitley Strieber on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson last night?

  • Jim Hansen, leading climatologist and director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, issues now-or-never warning: we only have a decade to save the planet.
  • Oldest writing from New World discovered.
  • Mongolian paleontologists find 67 dinosaurs in one week.
  • 10,000-year-old 'Quarry of the Ancestors' yields Ice Age tools and weapons, including a pristine spearpoint still smeared with the blood of a woolly mammoth.
  • Touted as the last refuge of the plants and animals that populated the ancient supercontient of Gondwana, New Zealand may in fact have once sunk beneath the waves, taking all traces of Gondwana with it.
  • Astronomers discover that the galactic center of the Milky Way formed independently of the region where Earth is located.
  • Puffed-up planet puzzles astronomers.
  • For 15 years Chicago biochemist Raphael Lee has been working to bring a revolutionary therapy to trauma patients. In spite of increasingly positive evidence of efficacy, and the FDA's 1995 green light to begin humans trials, he has yet to administer his treatment to a single patient because other doctors simply refuse to believe it's possible to reverse trauma, and thus consistently steer their patients elsewhere.
  • Across three continents, severely brain-damaged patients are awake and talking after taking ... a sleeping pill. And no one is more baffled than the GP who made the breakthrough.
  • The vole, a mouselike rodent, is not only the fastest evolving mammal, but also harbors a number of puzzling genetic traits that challenge current scientific understanding.
  • Savants: Charting 'islands of genius'.
  • Slow brain waves play key role in coordinating complex activity: Theta waves in separate regions of the brain lock in phase to coordinate their activity, essentially tuning in the high-frequency waves that transfer information.
  • Ten-thousand volunteers sought for world's biggest academic study -- on musical taste and lifestyle.
  • The Meanings of Magic (pdf), an article from the new journal Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft.
  • New research shows anemia may impair thinking, especially 'executive functions' such as problem solving, planning, assessing dangers, and following up on important activities.
  • Researchers attempting to design terrorist-proof airplanes want a comprehensive network of microphones and cameras installed throughout each aircraft, including the lavatory, which would be linked to a computer 'trained' to pick up suspicious conversations and movements.
  • US Air Force chief says nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield.
  • No psi please -- we're British. Greg says, 'Excuse me Lord Winston, but is that hypocrisy I smell?'
  • Princeton Researchers Announce Diebold Voting-Machine Hack. Here's their demonstration video. More Diebold hack videos: So much for ballot security.
  • YouTube in copyright cross hairs: as Greg says, proof that big business still doesn't 'get' the Internet age.
  • Experimental A.I. Powers Robot Army. Time to take that Red Pill?
  • The comforts of madness: J G Ballard explains why consumerism is a new fascism.

Thanks Greg.

Quote of the Day:

People are very busy, and there’s a deep, built-in, cognitive inability to think carefully and intelligently about catastrophic risks with unknown or slight probabilities. When you ask them to start thinking about something that doesn’t connect to anything in their experience, a purely theoretical danger, it’s difficult for them to take it seriously.

Richard Posner, author of Catastrophe: Risk and Response (Amazon US & UK).

News Briefs 14-09-2006

As Flash Gordon might have said, it's all about Global War Ming...

  • Scientists say Neanderthal's last stand can be traced back to Gibraltar.
  • Elgin Marbles controversy intensifies as Germany hands back a piece of the Parthenon.
  • Department of Energy takes inspiration from the pyramids on how to say 'Keep Out!' to future generations.
  • Dr Gregory House versus the aliens. They sure do like their materialist explanations for strange phenomena on House (e.g. the Faith Healer episode).
  • Kiwi experts to examine alleged 'meteorite fragment'.
  • Time to reinvest some of that stock in tea companies: green tea cuts fatal illness risk.
  • Humans are 'causing stronger storms'. Next they'll try and pin those 'war' things on us.
  • Arctic sea ice declining through both summer and winter, according to NASA scientist.
  • Study says don't blame the Sun for Global Warming.
  • Google Earth feature highlights environmental change around the globe.
  • Madonna sings on a cross in Russia. Monty Python to sue for copyright infringement.
  • Bush sees U.S. religious awakening and refers to the Iraq 'liberation' as a gift from the Almighty.
  • Under the guise of reining in the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program, the Senate Judiciary Committee approves a bill that would dramatically expand the government's domestic surveillance capabilities, and usher in a new age of rampant monitoring.
  • Relax. Your appendix is more likely to kill you than Al Qaeda. If your appendix has recently gone on a holiday to Afghanistan, I'd be very worried.
  • Columbian gang members' wives and girlfriends go on sex-strike to make them give up their arms. Who needs arms for that?
  • Pedia-smackdown! Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia and Dale Hoiberg of Britannica go toe to toe.
  • Seeing with your tongue. I've seen drunk people licking walls...does that count?

Quote of the Day:

The snozberries...taste like snozberries

From the movie 'Super Troopers'

News Briefs 13-09-06

Short and sweet.

  • The reason so many doubt the official 911 story is that it is not believable.
  • The tragedy of Conrad Black. Hard to have much sympathy but interesting things said in the article.
  • Empires with expiration dates.
  • The rise and fall of the intellectual.
  • Scent of father checks daughter’s maturity.
  • Cancer quack or medical genius?
  • Humans strange, Neanderthals normal.
  • The Japanese Jesus trail.
  • Green aurora over Lake Superior.
  • Big crater seen beneath ice sheet.
  • Humanoid robots existed in ancient civilizations.
  • Bubble fusion discoverer Taleyarkhan strikes back.
  • Making electrical grids more efficient.
  • Earth: a self repairing capacitor.
  • The comet and the future of science.
  • Dig unearths evidence of Neolithic partying. So they finally found Mick Jagger.
  • Unpublished papers reveal research of Isaac Newton.
  • Genetic surprise confirms neglected 70 year old hypothesis.
  • Decoded: the genius of Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Should he have spoken of rivers of blood?
  • Inside the planet definition process.
  • Common pain killer may induce heart attacks.
  • Energy for a cool planet. Series of papers on subject of energy.

Quote of the Day:


Silence propagates itself, and the longer talk has been suspended, the more difficult it is to find anything to say.

Samuel Johnson