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News Briefs 08-03-2010

So much strange – and anti-strange – news, reading it all could make your head spin. But not to worry — for me, a little aspirin and caffeine cast that demon headache right back out.

Big thanks to Baldrick and Greg.

Quote of the Day:

Imagine you are in a Toyota on the highway at 60 miles per hour approaching stopped traffic, and you find that the brake pedal is broken. This is CO2. Then you figure out that the accelerator has also jammed, so that by the time you hit the truck in front of you, you will be going 90 miles per hour instead of 60. This is methane. Is now the time to get worried? No, you should already have been worried by the broken brake pedal. Methane sells newspapers, but it’s not the big story, nor does it look to be a game changer to the big story, which is CO2.

Dr. David Archer’s analogy, here, regarding the recent news about methane leaking from the Arctic seabed.

  1. Is there anybody out there?

    From the start, Seti has been dogged by derision. Ozma was done quietly and cheaply because no respectable scientist would go near it. The business had been discredited by the UFO mania that had swept America and the world after the second world war. Everybody was seeing flying saucers and speculating about a saucer crash that left alien corpses at Roswell in New Mexico. This inspired the television series The X-Files and countless other fictions. In the film Independence Day, we and the American president get to see the corpses in question for the first time.

    Then there was guilt. Fears of new human technologies and environmental catastrophe turned the aliens into angry, judgmental figures. In The Day the Earth Stood Still, the best of the alien movies of the 1950s, we are judged by a giant, metal robot with eyes that kill.

    The mythology entered all of us. While researching my book about this culture, Aliens: Why They Are Here, I had myself hypnotised and immediately saw a flying saucer. I don’t believe in such things for a moment, but they were there, inside me.

    The power of this mythology was such that, for a while, the authorities had to take it seriously. Then things got even loopier in the 1960s with reports of alien abductions — usually involving some nasty (or perhaps nice) sexual element. The myth of the alien anal probe was born. Respectable interest in aliens dwindled rapidly.

    Yep, it was all us loonies’ fault —sheesh…

  2. The Davies Delusion

    Imagine a civilisation that’s way in advance of us wants to communicate with us, and assist us in our development,” Paul [Davies] says. He pushes his mackerel across his plate. “The information we provide to them must reflect our highest aspirations and ideals, and not just be some crazy person’s bizarre politics or religion.”

    This is why, Paul says, he very much hopes that our opening communication with the aliens will be drafted by him. “All the attempts to send messages up so far have been very crass,” he says. “If you’re going to leave it up to the mob to decide what’s important, it’ll be this really cool video game. Or some sporting event. Or some rock group.”

    “Do you have any idea of what you might say to the aliens?” I ask.

    There is a short silence. “I do,” he says.

    So Davies actually thinks his input will have a higher priority than the interests of corporate and political groups the moment aliens decide to communicate the way he wishes them to? Now that’s rich!

    Even in the movie Contact, the minute the scientists confirm they have detected an alien signal, the government takes over and decides how they are going to release the information to the public.

    Finally, what makes me smile is the thought that maybe —just maybe— aliens don’t give a hoot about chatting with the president of the United States, or Seth Shostak, Davies or even the Pope.

    Maybe they prefer to have a line of communication with the members of the mob. If they are as intelligent as Davies imagines, then maybe they would be more interested in what it’s exactly the opposite of what they are —that’s why geeks often have the fantasy of hooking up with the captain of the cheerleaders 😉

  3. Very interesting
    Very interesting link about the Horseradish tree. I have one growing in my garden – very pretty – it flowers most of the year and has delicate green leaves. The long seed pods are highly prized by the Phillipino community in my town. I knew about eating the roasted seeds, also using the flowers and leaves in salads etc., but didn’t know that the crushed seeds could be used to purify water. The picture in the article doesn’t really do this lovely tree justice, but I guess that specimen might have been growing in a very arid environment and is a testament to its survival in poor soil and drought conditions.

    Thanks Kat. Regards, Kathrinn

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