News Briefs 22-06-2016

First we feel then we fall

  • Hundreds of genes seen sparking to life two days after death.
  • The Great Pyramid of Giza is lopsided, new investigation reveals.
  • Dan Brown is paying a lot of money to digitize a library devoted to mysticism.
  • Researchers map the most common coincidences.
  • Graham Hancock and humanity’s true origins.
  • Archaeologist claims to have found a fragment from the throne of the Kings of Mycenae.
  • New life found that lives off electricity.
  • The woman with hyper-sensitive eyes.
  • Humans: the hyperkeystone species.
  • The atmosphere of Venus is more terrifying than we imagined.
  • Night vision: UFO spotting in Sedona, Arizona.
  • Caribbean Sea acts like a whistle and can be 'heard' from space.
  • Confused snake gets caught in a loop while trying to shed its skin.

Thanks to Kat

Quote of the Day:

The meandertale, aloss and again,
of our old Heidenburgh in the days when Head-in-Clouds walked the earth.

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

News Briefs 21-06-2016

Patreon supporters: I've posted a sneak peak of the cover of the upcoming Darklore 9 for you all. Thanks for your help in keeping this site running!

Quote of the Day:

I see no wisdom in the eagerness to be found and approached by any intelligence with the ability to accomplish it from any sector of space. In the meetings between 'discoverers' and 'discoverees,' history has always given the advantage to the finders... My point is, who will come a-knocking - the trader or the tiger?

Jack Kirby

The 5th Young One: Pay No Attention to the Girl Behind the Sofa

Image

Read more fascinating articles like this one by liking The Daily Grail on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, ignoring the blare of children's television, I muzzily and reflexively poked at the Twitter icon on the battered screen of my knackered phone. Down I scrolled through the dozens and dozens of updates I'd missed during my five or so hours of child-interrupted sleep until I came upon one by comic artist Jamie Smart. It read

Oh my god. There was a fifth housemate in The Young Ones and she was terrifying.

Huh? I blinked, took a big swig of my bitter, luke-warm, instant coffee, and clicked the link Jamie had posted.

On Business Insider Australia I read the headline REVEALED: There really was a creepy fifth housemate lurking in cult British TV show The Young Ones. The article had been posted that very morning (18th June, 2016). What the...?

For those of you who don't already know, The Young Ones was a seminal, anarchic comedy series that ran on the BBC for two series between 1982 and 1984. Much like Monty Python, but in the era of VHS, The Young Ones became a show that many of us who were born in the 1970s ended up watching again and again and again. Business Insider news editor Peter Farquhar had, it turns out, quite recently watched a video on YouTube entitled The Young Ones ~ The 5th Roommate, which had been posted back in July 2012. This video had been inspired by a 1999 posting on The Easter Egg Archive website, which took its cue from a page last updated the previous year on a now defunct site called The British Comedy Library (still, thankfully, available via The Internet Archive's wonderful WayBack Machine). The strange person at the back of the house is the title of the page. It contains a few quotes from viewers who have emailed in to the site about something they've spotted re-watching the original 1982 series of the BBC comedy show The Young Ones. Things like

Has anyone else noticed the strange person who appears to share the flat with the guys. If you look carefully in the first five episodes you can see a mysterious person with long black hair who appears sitting against walls in the background of quite a few scenes.

And yes, the 2012 YouTube video shows it: a fifth housemate appearing at least once in every episode of the entire first series. She never moves, she never speaks, you never see her face, and her presence is never acknowledged by any of the other characters, but she's there.

This, apparently, blew Peter Farquhar's mind so much that he ended up contacting some of the people involved with the series including one of the writers, Ben Elton. Elton's prompt and short response was he had no idea what he was on about. A few days later however, Farquhar received a response from another member of the Young Ones team - Geoff Posner, who was one of the three directors on the series.

In his reply Posner said that he and fellow director Paul Jackson

thought it would be funny to have some ghostly figure in the background of some scenes that was never explained or talked about. Hair all over the face so you shouldn't be able to decipher the gender, either. The fact that we forgot to do it consistently shows what a bunch of amateurs we were in them days.

In his article Farquhar goes on to write

So maybe the fifth housemate idea wasn’t such a big deal to the cast and crew back then. Often what artists think of their own work is only half of the story. The other is what impact it has on the audience and its legacy and in this regard, “The Young Ones” still stands up incredibly well 34 years after it first aired. The appearance of the running “fifth housemate” gag is a great example.

Posner's short email explanation was, happily, enough to allay Farquhar's worries, and general sense of unease about the mysterious fifth housemate. Not mine though. No, not mine. Because you see, to me, Posner's explanation doesn't quite make sense. The fifth housemate - or the ghost as we should probably more accurately call her - isn't ... Read More »

News Briefs 20-06-2016

Consider yourself a Grailer? We're stuck just short of half-way to our funding goal - you can help us out by becoming a supporter of the Grail for as little as $1/month, or by offering assistance in other ways. We'll put you in the draw to win some very cool stuff, including signed gear from the mighty Tool, and the illustrious Alan Moore!

Thanks to @gordon_white and Mark Foster.

Quote of the Day:

People think that fascism arrives in fancy dress worn by grotesques and monsters as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis.

Fascism arrives as your friend. It will restore your honour, make you feel proud, protect your house, give you a job, clean up the neighbourhood, remind you of how great you once were, clear out the venal and the corrupt, remove anything you feel is unlike you.

It doesn't walk in saying, our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution.

Michael Rosen

Comics Legend Jack Kirby Worried That Our Attempts to Contact Aliens Might Attract a 'Tiger'

Galactus Attack

In recent times, somewhat of a divide has formed in the ranks of scientists involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). One side is championing the idea of 'Active SETI'; that is, instead of passively searching for signals from elsewhere, as we have been for decades now, this faction wants to start broadcasting our location to the cosmos in case anyone out there is listening as well. The other side thinks this could be a rather bad idea, given the Earth's own history of civilisations being taken over by other, more technologically advanced cultures.

This debate, however, is hardly a recent development. In 1972 and 1973, NASA launched the Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes. Placed aboard each were gold-anodized aluminium plaques - now referred to as the 'Pioneer plaques' - which featured a pictorial message to any extraterrestrial species that might intercept the probes. The plaque imagery depicted a human male and female, as well as a series of lines emanating from a point, intended to act as a guide to our Sun's location in the cosmos (the lines represented the Earth's distance and position from pulsars, allowing aliens to triangulate our position). For even more detail, an illustration showing our position within our Solar System was also included.

The idea for the plaques was championed by 1970s science celebrity and educator Carl Sagan, and it was he, along with SETI pioneer (no pun intended) Frank Drake, who designed the content of the pictogram.

Pioneer Plaque

But not everyone was happy about this decision being made without public consultation. Comics legend Jack Kirby - who just six years previous had created the comic-book character of Galactus, an alien that devoured planets - denounced Sagan's move. Kirby's thoughts were outlined in a response to the Los Angeles Times, which in 1972 had approached a number of artists, including Kirby, asking for their own ideas on what should have been included on the plaque. Kirby made clear that he thought providing a map of our location was a dangerous move, as we can't predict that actions of any alien civilisation that might find it:

I would have included no further information than a rough image of the Earth and its one moon. I see no wisdom in the eagerness to be found and approached by any intelligence with the ability to accomplish it from any sector of space. In the meetings between 'discoverers' and 'discoverees,' history has always given the advantage to the finders. In the case of the Jupiter (Pioneer) plaque, I feel that a tremendous issue was thoughtlessly taken out of the world forum by a few individuals who have marked a clear trail to our door.

My point is, who will come a-knocking - the trader or the tiger?

So what content would Jack Kirby have put on the Pioneer Plaques and sent out into space to represent the Earth? The diagram he provided to the Los Angeles Times is simple, and as promised, has no 'location data' for interested aliens. Instead, it shows idealised illustrations of man and woman, greeting any aliens who might be looking at it simply with a friendly smile and wave. Kirby explained:

It appears to me that man's self image has always spoken far more about him than does his reality-figure. My vision of the plaque would have revealed the exuberant, self-confident super visions with which we've clothed ourselves since time immemorial. The comic strip super-heroes and heroines, in my belief, personify humanity's innate idealism and drive.

Kirby Pioneer Plaque

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Nightmares of the Future: Escape from the Prison Planet

Earth: a Prison Planet. A planetary panopticon where the convicts happily write their own police files and track their own movements, sharing them with the Stacks [Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft]. As will be explored in detail in this post, through understanding this, and planning a planetary jailbreak, a bright green future may await the escapees; and those that were built to hunt us down may lead the way.

---

Spoiler Warning: key aspects of the current season of Person of Interest are shown and discussed below.


Preface

Narratives involving cities or countries split into Exclusion Zones are a popular part of contemporary science fiction films and TV shows. From Monsters, and its plot of a North America divided following a panspermic alien invasion at the start of this decade, through to the new series Cleverman where "The Zone is all at once an exclusion area, a prison, a refugee camp, a refuge, a camp, and a ghetto." The TV shows Colony and Containment being two other obvious examples.


Monsters (2010)


Colony (2016)


Containment (2016)

The idea of the Zone stretches back into the 20th Century of course, to the book Roadside Picnic via the film Stalker and made real by the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The Zone the Strugatsky brothers wrote of was a dream-like, magical place. The Zones audiences are watching today are the stuff of nightmares - and the building blocks of a Prison Planet.

This is the nature of the post-cyberpunk condition. What was previously a utopian dream - we're talking about the Internet in particular here - has become an ever-increasing dystopic nightmare. But to opt out is to lose your voice in the global conversation, and the chance to plant the seeds of change; even if those seeds grow into nothing more than dank memes - retweeted and forgotten. What is to be done?

As science fiction writer and futurist David Brin recently advised, in essence - get thee a narrative that can do both:

You don't have to choose! Between pessimism and optimism, that is. A sane person uses dollops of both - simultaneously - to help navigate a path ahead. Because making a better world requires two phases. First finding the errors, snake-pits, land mines and quicksand that lie in wait, as we charge into the future. Those dangers are best revealed by eager complainers shouting “look out, you fools!” It is the supreme value of reciprocal criticism -- and science fiction has played a role, by issuing very effective self-preventing prophecies.”

And that's the point of this post, to act as a "self-preventing prophecy" - to take a tour through the construction project that is the nascent Prison Planet we all occupy, that it might then never come to exist. This will start by examining the commonality between the real-life origins of the space age in 19th Century Russia and the fictional future the Scottish writer Iain M. Banks imagined in his Culture novels. We then move into the present, leaning on the TV series Person of Interest to explain our post-cyberpunk condition - and how it ties into the effects of climate chaos and war - and see how distressingly close the Terminator universe is to being realised. With that understanding established, we'll visit some previous times in history people have attempted to flee the Empire, and learn that this place has its own pseudo-nation - and make some extrapolations about its application today in the "never offline" world.

The film The Matrix was in part a depiction of Philip K. Dick's idea of the Black Iron Prison. The heroes journey the Wachowski sisters gave us started with Neo's seeking to understand the true nature of his life and free his mind. That goal is repeated in this post. See you on the other side.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Introduction

A few years ago Benedict Singleton wrote an essay, Maximum Jailbreak, that significantly changed my perspective on humankind's multi-century project to spread beyond the planet we call home. In it he explains just who the Russian Cosmists of the late 19th Century to early 20th Century were, what their legacy is, and how that project maps onto the current area of thinking known as Accelerationism.

Singleton neatly summarises the Cosmist worldview with three phrases: "Storm the heavens", "Conquer Death" and "the Earth is a trap." It's that third phrase that we'll be focusing on here to help frame an elaboration of Earth's potential looming future as a Prison Planet.

...this is the characteristic gesture of cosmism, what we might call the “cosmist impulse”: to consider the earth a trap, and to understand the common project of philosophy, economics, and design as being the formulation of means to escape from it: to conceive a jailbreak at the maximum possible scale, a heist in which we steal ourselves from the vault. [Maximum Jailbreak]

As he continues to elaborate - looking at traps as a form of design thinking - there's a coevolution of intelligence at work between predator and prey; between the hunter and the hunted:

It’s a knowledge of traps and how they function that enables one most easily to undo a trap that one is in: a talent for escape is predicated on the same intelligence that goes into entrapment—indeed, in the example of the traps that people set for each other, it’s clear that—as Hyde puts it—“nothing counters cunning but more cunning.” To outfox is to think more broadly, to find the crack in the scheme, to stick a knife into it, and to lever it open for new use. Freighting the environment with a counter-plot is the best device for escaping the machinations in which one is embroiled: a conversion of constraints into new opportunities for free action, technological development as a kind of Hydean accelerationism. [Maximum Jailbreak]

Escaping the trap of Prison Planet will require cunning: most immediately by understanding that it's already well under construction, and crucially, that it may be the impetus for us to fulfill the Cosmists' vision.

That the Prison itself contains the pieces required to not just defeat it, but craft a much better future. Just as the cliche of the inmate using sheets to make a rope and a spoon to dig a tunnel, the things that would be used to contain us may become the instruments of our salvation.

As an event in this alternative history of design, cosmism arrives as a kind of absolutization of its basic principles into a project of generalized escapology... If design is a hustle, then cosmism is the long con—or perhaps more precisely, the most extravagant gesture of lengthening the hustle into a con: not simply an aggregation of hustles—a chain of coin-tricks, each self-sufficient, without bearing on the next—but a process of nesting them into a cultivated scheme or expanding plot, so that each gambit paves the way for the next. [Maximum Jailbreak]

This post will form a bridge between the ideas examined in the Plutocratic Exit Strategy series and those earlier outlined in as an Atemporal People's Republic. Between an Earth where the freedom of movement of 99.99% of humanity is increasingly restricted and every activity and thought monitored - just as the 0.01% are poised to storm the heavens - and a space-based republic where all of humanity is just a fraction of the population of its citizenry; where AIs and Uplifted animals are ... Read More »

News Briefs 17-06-2016

“He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder.”

Quote of the Day:

“As far as I know, there is no proof whatever of the existence of an objective reality apart from our senses, and I do not see why we should accept the outside world as such solely by virtue of our senses.”

Maurits Cornelis ‘M.C.’ Escher

News Briefs 16-06-2016

What happens if more than 50% of a country’s population decide they don’t believe in democracy anymore?

Thanks to Michael Prescott.

Quote of the Day:

Curb your dogma.

Principia Discordia

Modern Magic: Using Acoustic Waves to Levitate Objects

Legends abound of ancient people building their monumental megalithic structures by levitating the massive blocks into place. While such ideas don't seem to have any real evidence to back them up, modern science has figured out one way to pull off this levitation 'magic': by using acoustic waves. Though, rather than 200 ton stones, researchers are using - rather disappointingly - styrofoam balls and water droplets.

Nevertheless, it's a cool effect, and the science behind it is fascinating to boot. Destin Sandlin of the excellent Smarter Every Day YouTube channel walks us through it all in the embedded video above.

(h/t Kat)