Saturday, November 26, 2011
Going to Mars is something we plainly aren't going to give up on any time soon. Here are all the Mars exploration missions up to 2011 on one map, created in 2009 by Bryan Cristie Design. Today marks NASA's launch window for sending another rover to Mars; the new rover is called Curiosity: "The spacecraft, which will arrive at Mars in August 2012, is equipped with the most advanced rover ever to land on another planet. ... [T]he rover will investigate whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life, and favorable for preserving clues about whether life existed. On Nov. 26, NASA Television coverage of the launch will begin at 4:30 a.m. PST (7:30 a.m. EST). Live launch coverage will be carried on all NASA Television channels. For NASA Television downlink information, schedule information and streaming video, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv. The launch coverage will also be streamed live on Ustream at http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl." (Hat tip: Lee Hamilton.)
Friday, November 25, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Wired recently reported that a bunch of dinosaur feathers have been found encased in Canadian amber, further confirming that the great reptiles actually looked like nightmarish giant birds.
Discoveries of dinosaurs' feathers have dramatically altered how we think these creatures looked - see below. (Hat tip: Ken Kaminesky)
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Newton's accidentally dog set fire to 20 years' of the great man's work. Image Source: Wiki.
Caption for the above image: Artist's engraving [by Morel from 1874] of apocryphal story of Newton's pet dog knocking over a candle and setting fire to his papers. Sir Isaac Newton had on his table a pile of papers upon which were written calculations that had taken him twenty years to make. One evening, he left the room for a few minutes, and when he came back he found that his little dog "Diamond" had overturned a candle and set fire to the precious papers, of which nothing was left but a heap of ashes. It was then that he cried, "Oh, Diamond! Diamond! thou little knowest what mischief thou hast done!" Story published in The Life of Sir Isaac Newton By David Brewster (1833) and later in St. Nicholas magazine, Vol. 5, No. 4, (February 1878).
Considering they provide the namesake of this blog, it took me awhile to search online for Newton's occult writings about the Philosopher's Stone (the mythical element that would turn lead to gold and provide a means to immortality), the Tarot, astrology, alchemy, magic, and the end of the world. Newton also wrote of Atlantis in his Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms. He concealed these works to avoid criticism. When he died, these papers were considered 'unfit to publish.' When they finally surfaced in 1936 after being kept for centuries in the Earl of Portsmouth's attic, they were auctioned. One of the people who eagerly bought and read Newton's secret writings was John Maynard Keynes - there's some food for thought as the world's economic crisis deepens. After reading them, Keynes reportedly said, "Newton was not the first of the age of reason, he was the last of the magicians."
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Galileo's sketches of the moon from the Starry Messenger, 1610. Image Source: Royal Society via BBC.
Some days, I'm grateful I am living in the midst of the Technological Revolution. Britain's Royal Society has been publishing scientific papers since 1665 and has now made all its articles from some of history's greatest researchers and thinkers available for free online for the period from 1665 to 1941. The articles come from the Philosophical Transactions, the world's first scientific journal - and the Society has continuously published it ever since. Being able to read this journal at the click of a button is one of the better wonders of our technology. I09 reports:
See a further report on this at the BBC. In honour of the namesake of this blog, here are Newton's other Royal Society publications, or published commentaries or letters relating to him.When it comes to old academic societies, there isn't an organization on Earth that can hold a candle to Britain's Royal Society. Founded all the way back in 1660, The Royal Society has been pumping out peer-reviewed scientific literature since 1665, when the first edition of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society made its debut.
And today, almost 350 years later, The Royal Society has opened up his historical archive of journals to the public, free of charge.
All told, the fully searchable online archive comprises around 60,000 scientific papers. And while complimentary access is limited to those articles published before 1941, don't let that distract you from the incredible collection of publications included in the archive. ... Isaac Newton's first scientific paper ever? That's there.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Image Source: Luxury Holidays to Dubai.
Image Source: Dubai Hotels.
Some feel that we need to go back to the very beginning to rediscover the origins of human soulfulness. In one short month, the Winter Solstice will be upon us. It will mark one year before the anticipated Ancient Mayan date for the material and spiritual crisis that some consider may be the ‘end of the world.’ Graham Hancock, controversial best-selling journalist on Prehistoric cultures, discussed this fabled date in 1995 in his book, Fingerprints of the Gods. That book echoes an 1882 work by Ignatius Donnelly, author of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World (you can read the latter piece here), which speculated that Atlantis actually existed. The theory runs that Atlantis harboured a global Antediluvian maritime civilization of astronomers and priests - for thousands of years before the time when formal history and archaeology declare civilization actually started around 5,000 years ago. The idea is that pre-Flood coastal civilizations flourished during the Ice Age and were eradicated by a sudden worldwide rise in sea levels when the ice sheets melted. Hancock is convinced that great secrets of human civilization were lost in this catastrophe. He has devoted a lot of diving time to scouring possible Ice Age town ruins in coastal seabeds all over the world, searching for proof of these lost cultures, their hidden truths, and their deep history.
In January 2010, author and self-styled neo-Shaman Daniel Pinchbeck discussed 2012 with Graham Hancock in a lecture entitled, "Retelling the Past, Reimagining the Future." Both writers agreed that 2012 is a metaphor for a collective journey where we must look within to endure a universal spiritual transformation. In this conversation, Hancock attacked secular materialism: we looked in the Modern and Postmodern eras to external authorities to define ourselves [while cynically criticizing those same authorities] and diminished our faith in our subjective senses. According to him, the consequences were disastrous. He insisted we must renew our faith in the internal perspective. He felt and feels that we must look within for our ultimate sources of self-identification, consciousness, and conscience.
A few caveats: Hancock and Pinchbeck advocate expanding consciousness through the use of mind-altering drugs, without consideration that these substances are a short cut to thinking, or that they short circuit the hard-won trials of the spiritual and moral experiences not bolstered by chemical aids. The authors would likely argue that participating in drug-driven shamanic experiences is a way of stepping back in time, of repeating many-thousand-year-old rituals and recovering secrets of ancient, lost civilizations. At the same time, however, they dismiss today's conventional religions as having failed in their spiritual mandates. Yet those faiths may contain surviving threads of the very Prehistoric cultures they seek.
These writers were and are truly Millennial in their conviction that the deep past must harbour important knowledge that could be the 'key to everything.' They have searched for a benevolent, Eden-like human paradigm. This view contrasts with another famous afficionado of the deep past, H. P. Lovecraft, who felt that lost eras were full of knowledge, which, when awoken, promised nothing good. Lovecraft imagined our subjugated knowledge of terrifying Ur-aliens. His Ur-monsters knew how to psychically penetrate our dreams and drive us to madness. Lovecraft felt that Antediluvian knowledge was incredibly dangerous, and pre-Flood societies had died and been wiped from our memories for a reason.
Antediluvian mythologies certainly contain the seeds of their own destruction. Elsewhere, Hancock has talked of a repeating symbol that he feels was reproduced by post-Flood societies as an emblem, 'flag,' or symbol to remember the pre-Flood world - that of a winged snake. Curiously, the Biblical depiction of Satan is that of an angel transformed into a serpent. The Flood myths of many countries are one repeating story about mass moral and spiritual failure prior to worldwide disaster. Hancock and Pinchbeck drew from this theme to point to a neo-Gnostic idea about a battle between good and evil. This idea has an unsettling subtext, whether intended or not, which echoes ongoing conspiracy theories about grand powers pulling strings behind the scenes; yet in this regard, Hancock confined his remarks to the notion that we currently face spiritual dominance from aggressive, malevolent forces. Pinchbeck has a more pronounced weakness for these theories.
Image Source: Atlantis Short Story Contest.
In this discussion, Hancock did not acknowledge or explore the Internet as a potential new forum of expanded spiritual consciousness. He presented a compelling argument that the external arbiters of spirit and the mind – material values driven by currencies of financial exchange and a glorification of a practical, problem solving mentality – are failing us. They are no longer able to provide the answers necessary for psychological survival in a rapidly evolving world. The Tech Boom’s desperate acceleration has further sparked the ensuing spiritual crisis. And it is that very crisis which may be our ultimate unconscious aim in creating the Boom in the first place. Thus, through the very dull and pedestrian bean counting that Hancock abhorred, it seems we are subliminally driven to generate a moral and psychological vacuum, which will either destroy us or remake us. But in a final twist, any spiritual hunger we may have will be projected upon Virtual Realities and experienced through them.
Image Source: Shéa MacLeod.
Pinchbeck confirmed the importance of Virtual Realities elsewhere: "It is my thesis that the rapid development of technology and the destruction of the biosphere are material by-products of a psycho-spiritual process taking place on a planetary scale. We have created this crisis to force our own accelerated transformation - on an unconscious level, we have willed it into being." Caveats aside, the Millennial spiritual vacuum these authors identified easily explains why the Internet has exploded exponentially in the past 15 years and why it is so curiously and universally addictive. Below the jump, see the whole discussion and a transcribed excerpt on the need to look within for a renewed spiritual and moral consciousness.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Where are we going again? One of Inge Morath's rediscovered 1955 Parisian ball photos. (Thanks to -T.) Image Source: Time via The Inge Morath Foundation / Magnum Photos.
Although I've criticized the Baby Boomers' iconoclastic destruction of social values and institutions (here and here), it's time to give them some due in that regard. Their influence has been compounded by the parallel effect of the Tech Revolution, which has rendered past perspectives and morals obsolete. However, the ensuing Millennial aporia - a confusion or lack of values - may not be entirely bad. One thing the Boomers initially successfully attacked, not without some justification, was the external labeling imposed by social behaviour and cultural expectations that stifled people and held them back. The only problem is they replaced the old labels with new ones and they also questioned people's capacity to devise alternatives.
We are at the turning point. People without external reference points or viable directions coming to them from society can have trouble orienting themselves. What is expected from society when the outside prompts and social signposts are gone? What can one do, when everything, especially on the Internet, is a tabula rasa? What do the faithful do when organized religions seem to have lost capacity for building communities with motives grounded in genuine spirituality? What do the politically-minded do when political faiths furnish nothing but empty 18th and 19th century slogans unsuited to current conditions? Will they really take refuge in self-righteous blindnesses, vicious polarities, and internecine mutual accusations between Left and Right? The decline of externally imposed orders and cultural traditions is fracturing personal egos like so many billion eggshells.
On this blog, I've written posts (here, here and here) that indicate that economic troubles intensify aporia. People experience heart-breaking levels of stress as they face the upheavals of the global economy. The middle classes are dying or evolving. Going bankrupt, losing everything, losing a house (or never having the chance to own one), losing faith in the system, losing faith in the American dream (if you're American) - or being absorbed into a grand global culture (no matter where you're from) - all of this is deeply unnerving.
In social, spiritual and material vacuums, conflicts grow. Yesterday, I posted pieces on the intenstification of weapons research and the implementation of psychological testing on military personnel, which is being conducted with a view toward civilian applications. Ignoring the signs on the horizons won't help. Those reports made me think of a passage in Daniel Deronda: "There comes a terrible moment to many souls when the great movements of the world, the larger destinies of mankind, which have lain aloof in newspapers and other neglected reading, enter like an earthquake into their own lives--where the slow urgency of growing generations turns into the tread of an invading army or the dire clash of civil war, and gray fathers know nothing to seek for but the corpses of their blooming sons, and girls forgot all vanity to make lint and bandages which may serve for the shattered limbs of their betrothed husbands." One day, the chaos that grew in the obscure distance is on your doorstep.
The obliteration of externally imposed values leaves one real option. As we turn the bend toward the unimaginable and accelerating future, and the institutions that once defined authority and stability in our societies remain only as gin palace exteriors, there is a time lag that allows for individual and collective introspection. There is a need to find new values internally.