TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Quantum Biology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quantum Biology. Show all posts

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Coronavirus: The Garden of Earthly Delights


Image Source: 4chan.

This is a surreal moment, not a funny one. Plague humour takes on a Bosch-like quality. Bosch depicted sin as a catalyst for social breakdown in his Garden of Earthly Delights. His famous triptych symbolically portrayed a world letting go. That's the feeling now. Jokes get thrown in with intense news reports and crazy conspiracy theories. There is no clear narrative.

Paranoia and Priorities

Image Source: 4chan.


Crazy predictions, apparently from 2017 - or if you prefer - crazy disinfo. Click to enlarge. Image Source: 4chan.

The Internet Underground, as I have previously blogged, regards Aaron Swartz (1986-2013) as a Gen Y hero; rightly or not, they believe his death reflects deep corruption at MIT and Harvard. Image Source: 4chan.

As authorities respond to the spread of the coronavirus, public trust dissolves into paranoia. It is hard to trust officials when so many disturbing things were happening prior to this pandemic. Even with the best containment measures, governments and hospitals will not be able to contain the medical tsunami. Failures may be so catastrophic that they will look orchestrated or premeditated, even if they are not.

Combine that disaster with economic failure and restrictions on citizens' movements, communications, and activities, all on a stage set to sweep aside civil rights. An economic Gordian knot could be conveniently cut by means of the pandemic response. At the same time, the public will be immobilized and partly decimated. This is not a nice coincidence.

Even red-pilled and black-pilled anons are surprised. They nursed alienation from the 'normies,' whom they regard as wage slaves, for two decades. Anons' distrust of the establishment is so complete that they regard everything labeled 'good' as 'bad,' and vice versa. Yoichi Shimatsu's quotation above in relation to the late Aaron Swartz is emblematic of these priorities:
"Striking at the nerve center of the military-corporate-pharmaco-porno complex is an ethical duty not a crime, one of the few available means to defend constitutional law."
Anons cannot decide now whether soldiers are being shuttled around countrysides to help them in an eleventh-hour coup against Deep State actors - or if the military are ready to imprison dissenters in quarantine camps.


To some extent, this nervousness extends to the mainstream public, made worse by mixed messages from governments and media and the fact that this nCov crisis reminds everyone of 9/11. Compare a semi-official statement about tanks moving now into London, UK with a citizen's observation. Like 9/11, this pandemic will shape the global landscape for another twenty years. Like 9/11, the devastation will not just be measured in terms of loss of life. Unless there are serious, far-reaching changes to shift things away from the current technocratic drive to control the very thoughts inside our heads, this pandemic will be remembered in terms of a powerful loss of faith in existing politics and society. That trend will probably overturn most systems of authority today, whose leaders assume that they will consolidate power through this crisis, not be flushed away by it.


"Harness Biology as Technology"

The public have good reason to doubt the integrity of the global establishment. Things were hardly ideal before the pandemic began. Below is a screenshot of a 12 November 2015 report in Nature about bat virus research at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is one of the reasons anons - and the Chinese government - claim that the coronavirus had a (partially) American source. There are also reports about an explosion at a Russian biolab, known as VECTOR, from September 2019. There is a Harvard connection, and a Canadian connection, to this crisis.

Image Source: Nature via 4chan. Click to enlarge.

The main thing to take away from this speculation is that it is not all paranoia and disinformation. Gain-of-function research was certainly taking place in top level biolabs over the past few years. Chinese scientific publications from Wuhan were full of it. The money was there for it and the Chinese were not restraining their scientists with red tape or regulations. There was an ethical debate about reckless behaviour in this field within the scientific community.

This is before we get to highly questionable genetic experimentation with tools like CRISPR. And it is also before we get to strange innovations in quantum computing, artificial intelligence, biotech, and nanotech, all of which overlap in the worst ways with genetic experiments. It is easy to dismiss lunatic conspiracy theorists who have been rambling for years about vaccines, chemtrails, and retweeting Julian Assange's warnings against smart dust. But they have a point: DARPA has stated that its goal is to "harness biology as technology."

Public fear is justified, because the scientific and tech communities have not restrained themselves. They have not moved forward in careful ways. They have been held back only by the availability of funding and legal jurisdictions. No one appears to have lost sleep over whether certain experiments should even have been attempted. Lines are and were being crossed all over the place. Researchers have been arrogant and deceitful in their practices and this time, the Petri dish blew up in their faces.

At the same time, specialists in the arts and humanities have failed. They normally act as critics to indicate a larger moral context when science, technology and engineering get out of control. Gone are the greats like Jacob Bronowski, who could stand in a human ash pool at Auschwitz and state: "we have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power." Bronowski warned repeatedly that knowledge must move forward with integrity, and that anyone who did not pair integrity with knowledge would lose the light of true understanding and any power and authority that might accompany that understanding. Only Bronowski could have pleaded for the integrity of science in terms of the Auguries of Innocence by William Blake:
"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour"
I discussed Bronowski's assessment of physics in the 20th century as an "immortal work" in my 8 April 2011 post, Worlds within Worlds.

The Jacob Bronowskis are gone. The most vocal practitioners in the arts and humanities have become compromised by politicized navel-gazing. Unlike researchers in the sciences, they barely get funded anyway. And when they do, it is for the worst reasons, to bolster Franken-science with Orwellian goodthink. I get the impression that the only permitted 'soft' fields around cutting edge 'hard' scientific research are espionage, finance, politics, and marketing. The classic commentator from the humanities, who once played a crucial role in scientifically- and technologically-advanced societies, has devolved into a controlled environmental activist pawn like Greta Thunberg. At least the pandemic has mercifully forced her off the world stage.

As an individual, I have tried on this blog to meet the moral obligation to society of a person based in the humanities and the arts, by holding up a philosophical mirror to the Millennial march progress. In the past two decades, there are a lot of bloggers and vloggers in the alt-media who have also done this, as well as some trolls and hacktivists.

In order to grasp the myriad of scientific and technological experiments, tests, trials and research groups which were underway at a single point in time, I selected one month as an example. In February 2016, I tried to track down as many science and tech reports as I could in the mainstream English-speaking press or in institutional press releases. I summarized my findings in one post: Science and Tech: Headlines and History in February 2016.

I barely scratched the surface of what was currently being pursued in labs and test facilities in the United States, let alone worldwide. The footage I remember above all was of a Cape Cod warehouse, in which DARPA was repeatedly flying small, very expensive quadcopter drones into cement walls. I had hoped to make this type of post a monthly digest, but there was simply too much information for me to catalogue. It was overwhelming. I reflected on this big picture in the post, The New Millennium's Gothic Moment.

Image Source: 2001: A Space Odyssey via 4chan.

Surreal Reality: The Garden of Earthly Delights

Notice that mainstream reporting on nCov and COVID29 consistently draws attention away from any moral failing on the part of the scientific community. Were researchers playing with fire in Promethean bioweapons projects? Rather than broach these concerns, the MSM fail in their duty, and paper over the cracks. They fixate on pandemic numbers and manage public behaviour. No one is allowed to get to the bottom of preexisting problems which may have lain at the root of what has occurred.

The only reason this comes as a surprise to the public is that we were not paying attention, and we trusted our governments and universities to monitor top level biolabs. That wasn't happening.

As a result of the lies and cover-ups, no one knows what is really going on. We can't get a real grip on this thing. No one is being held accountable. We could even be in the early stages of World War III, and be blind to it. A Canadian anon expressed the Underground's sentiment:
"we can only speculate as to whether coronavirus is a nothing burger or not. if you trust the media, or politicians, or the corrupted scientific establishment you are naive. but you cant totally discredit them either. we can just speculate and guess as to whats going on because everyone everywhere is a lying piece of shit.

should you be worried or not i dunno, flip a coin, 50/50

maybe this is the best possible response, maybe its the worst possible response. feel free to speculate but dont pretend like you know fuck all, you are just a dumb fucking peasant like everyone else and you dont have access to accurate information. who the fuck does?"
This uncertainty creates a surreal atmosphere. No one knows what exactly is happening in this pandemic, how it started, and where it is going. This has led to disillusionment about some leaders, and to jokes and criticism at their expense, which they may or may not deserve. More seriously, it has led to accusations between Chinese and US governments about the origins of the nCov virus.



An American veteran's response to Lijian Zhao on 4chan: "dude when I was in the army there wasnt even enough money to fart outside let alone poison a bunch of bats in wuhan." Where the uncertainty about reality goes, actual reality follows.

Image Source: 4chan.

Image Source: 4chan.


This prepper earned his beer. Image Source: 4chan.



See all my posts on Epidemics here and here.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The People Who Want to Microchip People


Image Source: CBS News.

In an earlier post, I noted how the BBC is promoting human microchipping as well as larger tech-body implants. Their poster boy for this cause, colour blind guy, Neil Harbisson, merits a special 'cyborg' passport status.

Image Source: NYT.

Image Source: Munsell Color.

The subcutaneous chip was first developed by Siemens in the United States. The human microchip implant was invented by Kevin Warwick: "He is known for his studies on direct interfaces between computer systems and the human nervous system, and has also done research concerning robotics." You can read backgrounders on human microchip technology, here and here.

If this practice becomes widely accepted, it will become an automatic, mainstream practice, and children will be microchipped at birth. There are already brain chips which can affect moods and behaviour. Let this go further, and subcutaneous implants will become an organic user interface. They will also constitute an assault on the integrity of the bodies and minds of individuals both as individuals, and as members of society. Soon, it won't be necessary to talk about human rights and freedoms, because the preconditions for them will be medically removed and technically absent. For a disturbing, unconfirmed original sources on this endgame, see here.

The BBC promoting microchipping for Humans (29 January 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

The Body, Colonized

China Behavior Rating System V/S Sweden Microchip implants | Must watch technology (18 June 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

Of course, rhetoric which promotes rights and freedoms will remain. The political speeches will continue, but rights and freedoms will be erased in reality. Lip service will be paid to these archaic constructions until it is no longer necessary to do so, and people have forgotten them, or been reprogrammed. Expect whatever slavery that follows to be labeled as a new type of freedom. The Chinese have a saying about manipulation and the acquisition of power: point to a deer, and call it a horse.

Human microchipping is part of a new field called 'biointerfaced nano-engineering.' Another catch-all term is 'wearables,' created by firms like Proteus and MC10. This is not the path to convenience, progress or enlightenment. It is the path to slavery. Although it seems that the human body must become the next technological platform, it is not inevitable. Do not do it. Do not accept it.

This post is not a Luddite screed. It is a plea to save the best potentials of technology and keep them on a course that will not destroy us. We are entering a new stage in the Tech Revolution, in which we have to learn to take responsibility for progress and innovation. Thus far, citizens have been accepting actors on the receiving end of research projects released via big tech companies. These were experimental prototypes, presented as exciting consumer goods. Electronic goods were marketed with various political and socio-economic messages to make them palatable in the capitalist endeavour to build self-identity from the outside in.

Image Source: Go into the Story.

We were entranced in the first decades of the Tech Revolution by the gadgets and rapid software upgrades. Most people believed in the opening act that they acted as consumers inside the pre-existing capitalist model. They did not understand that that old system had already been effectively outdated and internally destroyed; only an illusory shell of that model persists as a form of mass behavioural control.

We can all be forgiven for assuming that consumerism was how tech was introduced into our reality. But it never was.

Although glitzy, futuristic marketing campaigns created the illusion that technology turned people into empowered, connected consumers, each new level of hardware and software between the 1980s and the 2010s blinded technophiles to the fact that they were never consumers at all. They were increasingly-conditioned lab rats, running through monitored environments, inside the biggest human behavioural study ever conducted.

Now, things must change. It is time to wake up. It is time to grow up. We can be forgiven for trusting those big corporations, helmed by intelligence agencies and Promethean research groups, as benevolent guides in the opening act of the Tech Revolution.

Image Source: Film Connection.

But we cannot be forgiven if we sleepwalk into Act Two, and deliver our children into immersive slavery. In transhumanism, the commodity is not the microchip or its successor technologies. The commodity will be a new type of interbody imperialism and colonization, developed under the banner of building safer, more efficient societies. This will be a coercive, predictable, micro-legalized system, based on live feed maps of humankind's biological processes, mass consciousness, and psychological and physical reactions as a collective of living beings.

There has to be a moment when we recognize that the integrity of our bodies and souls is worth more than a few everyday conveniences. We are not meant to become 'the Borg.' Planting a gadget in your body is not a form of self-improvement that is good for the environment. To believe this reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the body as an environment in itself, and of the body as an organism functioning within the larger natural environment.

I suspect that what will happen is that humankind will split into two camps. One group will absorb technology fully into the mind and body with erotic abandon. They will love the quasi-sexual interface, and will mistake the enhanced experience for an authentic upgrade.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Wonders of the Millennial World 9: The Speed of Consciousness


Image Source: pinterest.

One of the questions which I pursue on this blog is whether or not human consciousness is manifesting on the Internet, in the psycho-anthropological myth-space of virtual reality, or as an alternate way of being, or in zeroes and ones, or in the physics of quantum computing. If human consciousness operates collectively on the Internet, it raises a subsequent question of whether that online consciousness can alter actual, real world reality.

The Big Bang Theory: Schr├Âdinger's cat from Season 1, Episode 17, The Tangerine Factor (19 May 2008) © Warner. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

This sounds bizarre, but the relationship between mind and matter remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of modern science. In my 2015 post, A Quantum Christmas, I outlined the origins of the mystery: when we measure matter, matter changes. And quantum entangled matter shows that we can measure an entangled particle, and its unmeasured twin will change too.

This means that matter has some other way of existing beyond our perception and we have an effect on matter which we do not understand. At the quantum level, matter changes from a previous, indefinite state before we look at it, where it exists in all places at once. After we look at it, it acquires a definite, measurable state. The impact our observations have on reality is exerted at a speed of three trillion metres per second. This is how fast our observations travel to transform reality into fixed states. We might call it the speed of consciousness.

Try to assess this, and find further, via the double slit experiment, that before we measure matter, when it exists in an indefinite state, it acts like a wave of energy. Measure the matter, and it becomes definite, fixed, and the wave 'collapses' to behave like particles.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Wonders of the Millennial World 8: The Kaleidoscope


Image Source: World Arts Film Festival.

Posts on this blog have asked about the impact of technology on traditional life, a destabilization of norms, and a dislocation from stable geographical and economic bases. The shift from static to kinetic applies in media as in life. Perhaps the dynamic Millennial existence resembles a kaleidoscope, where identity, time, memory, place, beliefs, the virtual and real, constantly tumble and lock into new realities. All elements are moving pieces which come together in a way that resembles living systems. The trick to see this is depth of perspective.

Naturally occurring fractal pattern, cells in a cross-section of a plant stalk. Image Source: pinterest.

Neuronal cells. Image Source: Eye of Science.

"Equivocal kaleidoscope. Ai Weiwei welded 150 bicycle frames into an impressive installation. The work is not only a reference to cars taking over the streets in China, but also to a prominent show trial. Several years ago, a young Chinese man was arrested and mistreated for not registering his bicycle. He was later sentenced to death." Image Source: DW.

Microphotograph of the ovary of a flower by Ray Nelson. Image Source: The Daily Polymer Arts Blog.

Image Source: Hotel-R.

Electric pulses from a human brain cell. Image Source: 123RF.

Trippy 014: Psychedelic particles randomly pulse and flow (Loop). Image Source: Shutterstock.

Human Cerebral Cortex, Alfonso Rodr├şguez-Baeza and Marisa Ortega-S├ínchez, scanning electron microscope (2009). Image Source: pinterest. Compare with the brain cell gif in my post, Making Memories.

Marker art installation by artist Heike Weber (2013). Image Source: Bored Panda. Compare with the installations of artist Clemens Behr.

See my earlier post on Microphotography.
See all my posts on Wonders of the Millennial World.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Science and Tech: Headlines and History in February 2016


The world's first flexible smartphone lets you hold and use your mobile phone like an old-fashioned book. Gif source: Engadget.

Recent scientific and high tech headlines struck a positive note, with some discordant undertones. Several cutting-edge experiments create synthetic or mechanical versions of what we already have in organic form, revealing the underlying meta-mentality of researchers. The European Commission's Digital Single Market announced the arrival of the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' in late January, 2016. In early February, there was a discussion at Quora about converting energy into matter: E=mc2 says energy and mass are interchangeable. Are energy and matter states of a same thing? Is matter a rigid form of energy? Great discoveries, such as the possible cure for blindness this week, are beneficial; yet that same desire to overcome physical debilitation, limitations and illnesses becomes problematic in other examples, as when parents assert the right to edit their children's genes.

The flood of news in such a short amount of time reveals vast resources diverted to these spheres, with very little to no resources comparatively devoted to putting this work into human perspective. The headlines show how difficult it is to keep track of the explosion of innovations on an ongoing basis; and they reveal how necessary it is to do so (hat tips: Engadget, ErekAlert, Graham Hancock):
  • Quartz (3 February 2016): Germany is getting closer to nuclear fusion—the long-held dream of unlimited clean energy
  • BBC (11 February 2016): Einstein's gravitational waves 'seen' from black holes
  • BBC (11 February 2016): Why you really should get excited about gravitational waves
  • Engadget (12 February 2016): Watch DARPA's tiny drone do 45 MPH indoors, autonomously ... and then crash into countless expensive pieces
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (12 February 2016): Researchers Create ‘Mini-Brains’ in Lab To Study Neurological Diseases
  • Independent (13 February 2016): Chinese nuclear fusion scientists achieve temperatures three times hotter than the sun The temperatures were roughly equal to a 'mid-sized thermo-nuclear explosion'
  • Guardian (14 February 2016): Race is on for next breakthrough as physicists target dark matter: Scientists from South Dakota to Australia seek material believed to make up quarter of universe as researchers in China investigate another mystery particle
  • University College London / EurekAlert (15 February 2016): Virtual reality therapy could help people with depression: "Patients in the study wore a virtual reality headset to see from the perspective of a life-size 'avatar' or virtual body. Seeing this virtual body in a mirror moving in the same way as their own body typically produces the illusion that this is their own body. This is called 'embodiment'. While embodied in an adult avatar, participants were trained to express compassion towards a distressed virtual child. As they talked to the child it appeared to gradually stop crying and respond positively to the compassion. After a few minutes the patients were embodied in the virtual child and saw the adult avatar deliver their own compassionate words and gestures to them. ... 'People who struggle with anxiety and depression can be excessively self-critical when things go wrong in their lives,' explains study lead Professor Chris Brewin (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology). 'In this study, by comforting the child and then hearing their own words back, patients are indirectly giving themselves compassion.'"
  • Engadget (15 February 2016): Johns Hopkins grows tiny brains in petri dishes for lab testing: "Most new drugs tested on mice don't work on humans, because we're 'not 150-pound rats,' says Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School's Dr. Thomas Hartung. He and his team believe the 'mini-brains' they've designed and grown in the lab are better test subjects for drug development, since they're derived from human cells. These mini-brains are truly tiny at 350 micrometers in diameter, or about the size of a housefly."
  • PhysOrg (15 February 2016): No more keys or cards? Technology goes under the skin
  • Guardian (15 February 2016): Cancer researchers claim 'extraordinary results' using T-cell therapy ‘This is unprecedented’ says researcher after more than half of terminally ill blood cancer patients experienced complete remission in early clinical trials
  • Guardian (16 February 2016): WHO paves way for use of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika: Consequences of Zika outbreaks could be ‘staggering’ says WHO as it advocates further trials and assessments for controversial mosquito control techniques
  • Ars Technica (16 February 2016): The NSA’s SKYNET program may be killing thousands of innocent people: "Ridiculously optimistic" machine learning algorithm is "completely bullshit," says expert: "Last year, The Intercept published documents detailing the NSA's SKYNET programme. According to the documents, SKYNET engages in mass surveillance of Pakistan's mobile phone network, and then uses a machine learning algorithm on the cellular network metadata of 55 million people to try and rate each person's likelihood of being a terrorist."
  • Engadget (16 February 2016): Doctors reveal they can 3D print body parts and tissue
  • Sky News (16 February 2016): 'Extraordinary' Cancer Breakthrough Revealed: Terminally ill patients are left symptom free after treatment with modified cells - described as a "potential paradigm shift"
  • Discovery News (16 February 2016): Hawking: Gravitational Waves Could Revolutionize Astronomy
  • Engadget (17 February 2016): Flexible smartphones may be coming sooner than you think
  • EurekAlert (17 February 2016): DNA evidence shows that salmon hatcheries cause substantial, rapid genetic changes
  • EurekAlert (17 Feburary 2016): New predictor of cancer: When your biological age is older than your chronological age, the risk of getting and dying of cancer rises
  • EurekAlert (17 February 2016): Progress toward an HIV cure highlighted in special issue of AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses
  • Yahoo (17 February 2016): The Hubble Space Telescope Just Snapped Photos of the Biggest Black Hole We've Ever Observed: "So how big is it, exactly? Well, according to our best estimates, the supermassive black hole is roughly 21 billion times the size of the Sun, and its event horizon (an area so dense and powerful that light can’t escape its gravity) measures 130 billion kilometers in diameter. That’s about 15 times the diameter of Neptune’s orbit around the Sun, according to scientists at the Hubble Space Telescope."
  • PhysOrg (18 February 2016): Five-dimensional black hole could 'break' general relativity: "Ring-shaped black holes were 'discovered' by theoretical physicists in 2002, but this is the first time that their dynamics have been successfully simulated using supercomputers. Should this type of black hole form, it would lead to the appearance of a 'naked singularity', which would cause the equations behind general relativity to break down. The results are published in the journal Physical Review Letters."
  • Guardian (18 February 2016): Robots could learn human values by reading stories, research suggests. Scientists have been running tests where artificial intelligences cultivate appropriate social behaviour by responding to simple narratives
  • Baltimore Sun (18 February 2016): Woman's blindness apparently reversed by stem cell treatment
  • Economist (20 February 2016): Wireless: the next generation. A new wave of mobile technology is on its way, and will bring drastic change
  • Daily Mail (20 February 2016): Earth really IS special: None of the 700 million trillion planets in our known universe are similar to our own, study finds
  • HuffPo (20 February 2016): Lost Tapes Reveal Apollo Astronauts Heard Unexplained ‘Music’ On Far Side Of The Moon. "If you’re behind the moon and hear some weird noise on your radio, and you know you’re blocked from the Earth, then what could you possibly think?"
  • Science Alert (22 February 2016): NASA researchers are working on a laser propulsion system that could get to Mars in 3 days. "There is no known reason why we cannot do this."
  • Wired (22 February 2016): Nasa's laser-powered engine could get us to Mars in 72 hours (if it works)
  • Reuters (22 February 2016): Brazil to fight Zika by sterilizing mosquitoes with gamma rays
  • Science Daily (22 February 2016): Bat 'super immunity' could help protect people
  • PhysOrg (22 February 2016): Study shows plants appear able to forget memories when they are not useful
  • Science Alert (23 February 2016): NASA has been inundated with a record number of astronaut applications. Real-life space cadets
  • Space.com (23 February 2016): Plans Being Devised for Human Outpost Near the Moon
  • Discovery News (23 February 2016): Self-Driving Flying Car to Take Off in Two Years
  • Nature (23 February 2016): Should you edit your children’s genes?
  • ErekAlert (23 February 2016): DNA 'Trojan horse' smuggles drugs into resistant cancer cells
  • ABC News (23 February 2016): Vaccinating wildlife with GM viruses could stop diseases jumping to humans, scientists suggest
  • Engadget (23 February 2016): Boston Dynamics presents the 'next generation' Atlas robot. Google's humanoid robot-builders have created a version that's smaller, lighter and more agile
The confirmed discovery of gravitational waves (11 February 2016), when two American research institutes recorded the merging of two black holes a billion years ago, has huge implications. Image Source: BBC via Twitter.

A 3D printed, human-size ear (16 February 2016). Image Source: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine / Engadget.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chimeran Consciousness


Still from the dark sci-fi film, Splice (2009), which depicted a secret lab experiment with a human-animal chimera as the main character. Image Source: Collider. The trailer is here, and full film (while the link lasts) is here © Warner Bros., reproduced under Fair Use.

On 6 January 2016, MIT Technology Review published an article about US government monitoring of the bio-tech sector as labs create human-animal chimeras and farms grow human organs inside pigs and sheep. The National Institutes of Health expressed concern because embryonic chimeras are in danger of developing expanded human consciousness and tried to slow the rapid pace of scientific experimentation by cutting labs' funding. It didn't work; the labs immediately found money elsewhere:
The effort to incubate organs in farm animals is ethically charged because it involves adding human cells to animal embryos in ways that could blur the line between species.

Last September [2015], in a reversal of earlier policy, the National Institutes of Health announced it would not support studies involving such “human-animal chimeras” until it had reviewed the scientific and social implications more closely.

The agency, in a statement, said it was worried about the chance that animals’ “cognitive state” could be altered if they ended up with human brain cells.

The NIH action was triggered after it learned that scientists had begun such experiments with support from other funding sources, including from California’s state stem-cell agency. The human-animal mixtures are being created by injecting human stem cells into days-old animal embryos, then gestating these in female livestock.

Based on interviews with three teams, two in California and one in Minnesota, MIT Technology Review estimates that about 20 pregnancies of pig-human or sheep-human chimeras have been established during the last 12 months in the U.S., though so far no scientific paper describing the work has been published, and none of the animals were brought to term. ...

The experiments rely on a cutting-edge fusion of technologies, including recent breakthroughs in stem-cell biology and gene-editing techniques. By modifying genes, scientists can now easily change the DNA in pig or sheep embryos so that they are genetically incapable of forming a specific tissue. Then, by adding stem cells from a person, they hope the human cells will take over the job of forming the missing organ, which could then be harvested from the animal for use in a transplant operation.

“We can make an animal without a heart. We have engineered pigs that lack skeletal muscles and blood vessels,” says Daniel Garry, a cardiologist who leads a chimera project at the University of Minnesota. While such pigs aren’t viable, they can develop properly if a few cells are added from a normal pig embryo. Garry says he’s already melded two pigs in this way and recently won a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Army, which funds some biomedical research, to try to grow human hearts in swine. ...

The worry is that the animals might turn out to be a little too human for comfort, say ending up with human reproductive cells, patches of people hair, or just higher intelligence. “We are not near the island of Dr. Moreau, but science moves fast,” NIH ethicist David Resnik said during the agency’s November meeting. “The specter of an intelligent mouse stuck in a laboratory somewhere screaming ‘I want to get out’ would be very troubling to people.”

The chance of an animal gaining human consciousness is probably slim; their brains are just too different, and much smaller. Even so, as a precaution, researchers working with farm-animal chimeras haven’t yet permitted any to be born, but instead are collecting fetuses in order to gather preliminary information about how great the contribution of human cells is to the animals’ bodies. ...

[S]cientists will have to prove that human cells can really multiply and contribute effectively to the bodies of farm animals. That could be challenging since, unlike rats and mice, which are fairly close genetically, humans and pigs last shared an ancestor nearly 90 million years ago.

To find out, researchers in 2014 decided to begin impregnating farm animals with human-animal embryos, says Pablo Ross, a veterinarian and developmental biologist at the University of California, Davis, where some of the animals are being housed. Ross says at Davis he has transferred about six sets of pig-human embryos into sows in collaboration with the Salk Institute and established another eight or 10 pregnancies of sheep-human embryos with Nakauchi. Another three dozen pig transfers have taken place outside the U.S., he says.

These early efforts aren’t yet to make organs, says Ross, but more “to determine the ideal conditions for generating human-animal chimeras. ... My view is that the contribution of human cells is going to be minimal, maybe 3 percent, maybe 5 percent. But what if they contributed to 100 percent of the brain? What if the embryo that develops is mostly human? It’s something that we don’t expect, but no one has done this experiment, so we can’t rule it out.”
The US National Institutes of Health investigation is entitled, NIH Research Involving Introduction of Human Pluripotent Cells into Non-Human Vertebrate Animal Pre-Gastrulation Embryos. Researchers who brought their work up for scrutiny remain frustrated by its negative public image because they see the medical value of their contributions.

Nevertheless, this is why this blog has repeatedly defended the education and financial support of professionals and practitioners from the so-called useless or unprofitable arts and humanities, to comment upon moral and philosophical aspects of the approaching Singularity. For my 2013 post on the human-animal genetic experiments, go here. See the NIH public enquiry from November 2015 below the jump.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Orthodox Christmas: Life in the Adjacent Possible


Image Source: The Culture Concept.

Any apiarist, keeping watch over a hive of bees sleeping through the winter, would tell you that civilization can only function under certain circumstances. Apiculture is one of the world's oldest professions. It is a founding pillar of agriculture. In colony collapse disorder - now threatening beehives across Europe and North America - workers stock up a hive but then abandon their helpless queen. The plague is blamed on pesticides, pathogens, and mobile phone towers, with bee-keepers reporting that roughly one third to one half of their hives have been dying over winters every year for the past decade, despite various high tech solutions. It is hard to say how new this disaster is. There were reports of 'mystery diseases' and 'disappearing diseases' in hives in 1918-1919 and in the mid 1960s. Whatever the causes, the insects' tiny world of flowers and pollination remain critical to human survival. In 2010, the United Nations estimated that the worth of global crops pollinated by bees was 153 billion euros, or "9.5 per cent of the total value of human food production worldwide."

Image Source: My Greek Spirit.

The remarkable way bees organize themselves remains symbolically powerful. Their honey production makes their system seem much friendlier than the terrifying laws that govern your average ant hill. Any agricultural society would see bees as the civilized agents of the natural world, a properly arranged mini-society with a sweet output.

Today, 7 January 2015, is Eastern Orthodox Christmas. Due to the traditional symbolism of the apiary, beeswax candles are held in special esteem in Orthodox rituals. At Mystagogy, John Sanidopoulos explains that for Orthodox Christians, beeswax candles symbolize purity, adaptability of the heart, forgiveness of sins, and divine grace garnered from the wax's floral sources. Candlelight and the sweet smell of burning beeswax recall summer days to illuminate and banish darkness caused by fear, corruption and misery.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Quantum Christmas


Jim Al-Khalili explains in a TED talk: robins may fly south in winter due to a process called 'quantum entanglement.' Image Source: Digital Photographer / Michael Williams.

Destiny and faith should be foreign concepts in the realm of science. But perhaps quantum physics will devise a formula for them. This possibility started in the 1930s, with Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Niels Bohr (1885-1962) arguing whether or how objective reality could be measured, because observing something changes its nature into what we would call a subjective reality. Of course, the distinction between objective reality - which religious people sometimes associate with God - and subjective awareness - the world limited by our individual perceptions - is a very old problem. The 16th century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) wrote: "We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn." The central question of religion asks: how are we flawed and animal humans connected to the larger order of the universe? Science asks the same question.

Image Source: Archillect.

To determine if it was possible to measure objective reality, Einstein and Bohr proposed a thought experiment to measure one particle of light, or photon, without affecting it. To do this, they proposed to measure a second particle that was related to the first one, and infer the nature of the related, but unmeasured, first particle. Then they encountered a curious problem. Their measurement of the second particle affected the nature of the first one, but they could not determine how the impact of their actions had been transferred to the first particle, especially because that information traveled instantaneously, that is, faster than the speed of light, which violated Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The distance between the photons did not matter either. They could be close together or on opposite sides of the universe. Einstein did not like this. Wiki:
[I]f a pair of particles is generated in such a way that their total spin is known to be zero, and one particle is found to have clockwise spin on a certain axis, then the spin of the other particle, measured on the same axis, will be found to be counterclockwise; because of the nature of quantum measurement. However, this behavior gives rise to paradoxical effects: any measurement of a property of a particle can be seen as acting on that particle (e.g. by collapsing a number of superposed states); and in the case of entangled particles, such action must be on the entangled system as a whole. It thus appears that one particle of an entangled pair "knows" what measurement has been performed on the other, and with what outcome, even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which at the time of measurement may be separated by arbitrarily large distances. ...

The counterintuitive predictions of quantum mechanics about strongly correlated systems were first discussed by Albert Einstein in 1935, in a joint paper with Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen. ... They wrote: "We are thus forced to conclude that the quantum-mechanical description of physical reality given by wave functions is not complete." ... 
Following the EPR paper, Erwin Schr├Âdinger wrote a letter (in German) to Einstein in which he used the word Verschr├Ąnkung (translated by himself as entanglement) "to describe the correlations between two particles that interact and then separate, as in the EPR experiment." He shortly thereafter published a seminal paper defining and discussing the notion, and terming it "entanglement." In the paper he recognized the importance of the concept, and stated: "I would not call [entanglement] one but rather the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics, the one that enforces its entire departure from classical lines of thought."

Like Einstein, Schr├Âdinger was dissatisfied with the concept of entanglement, because it seemed to violate the speed limit on the transmission of information implicit in the theory of relativity. Einstein later famously derided entanglement as "spukhafte Fernwirkung" or "spooky action at a distance."
In 2013, Chinese physicists clocked the speed of 'spooky action at a distance.' They proved the speed of information as it moves through quantum entangled states is more than four times the speed of light, or three trillion metres per second. Their research paper was published in Physical Review Letters, vol. 110, listed here.

Quantum entanglement. Image Source: Glitch.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ursula Le Guin's New Year


Image Source: South Willard.

The new year celebrates new beginnings as one casts the past aside. It is a difficult to judge how to do this. With every passing year, Millennial conditions diverge more radically from the past. Perceptions must expand to deal with the global exchange of knowledge and technological and scientific advancements. We must find new ways to understand the world, to interpret the cloud of data.

Reality and the larger reality: courtesy of Graham Hancock's Daily Alternative News Desk, recent headlines herald one discovery after another. Every day, new boundaries are breached. Scientists explore the mysteries of matter to the point where matter disappears. Look again at something mundane, and it reveals a trove of secrets, while past certainties crumble in confusion:
  • Russia Today: 'Noah's Ark': Russia to build world first DNA databank of all living things (26 December 2014)
  • Hurriyet Daily News: Massive ancient underground city discovered in Turkey's Nev┼čehir (28 December 2014): "With 2014 soon coming to an end, potentially the year’s biggest archeological discovery of an underground city has come from Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nev┼čehir, which is known world-wide for its Fairy Chimneys rock formation. The city was discovered by means of Turkey’s Housing Development Administration’s (TOK─░) urban transformation project. Some 1,500 buildings were destructed located in and around the Nev┼čehir fortress, and the underground city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings had started. TOK─░ Head Mehmet Erg├╝n Turan said the area where the discovery was made was announced as an archeological area to be preserved. 'It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered,' said Turan. The city is thought to date back 5,000 years and is located around the Nev┼čehir fortress. Escape galleries and hidden churches were discovered inside the underground city."
  • Newsweek: The campaign to prove Shakespeare didn't exist (29 December 2014)
  • PhysOrg: Scientists race to save 'books' in the burning 'library of life' (29 December 2014)
  • Wired: Machine intelligence cracks genetic controls 29 December 2014): "Most genetic research to date has focused on just 1 percent of the genome—the areas that code for proteins. But new research, published Dec. 18 in Science, provides an initial map for the sections of the genome that orchestrate this protein-building process. 'It’s one thing to have the book—the big question is how you read the book,' said Brendan Frey, a computational biologist at the University of Toronto who led the new research."
  • The Independent: Large Hadron Collider ready to delve even deeper than 'God particle' as it switches back on at double power (29 December 2014)
  • PhysOrg: Study reveals new half-light half-matter quantum particles (29 December 2014): "In a pioneering study, Professor Menon and his team were able to discover half-light, half-matter particles in atomically thin semiconductors (thickness ~ a millionth of a single sheet of paper) consisting of two-dimensional (2D) layer of molybdenum and sulfur atoms arranged similar to graphene. They sandwiched this 2D material in a light trapping structure to realize these composite quantum particles. 'Besides being a fundamental breakthrough, this opens up the possibility of making devices which take the benefits of both light and matter,' said Professor Menon."
Technocrats and scientists are blindly confident as they manipulate and extend our knowledge of reality. But they often lack the training, intuition or perspective to assess the human consequences of their protean experiments.

The tools we use to understand the expanding world are out of date. The best of the past departs in the blink of an eye. Yet the worst of the past lives on, zombified, in political ideologies, pop philosophies, corporate strategies and contemporary world views. How did this mismatch between reality and perception happen? In the latter half of the 20th century, reality became a commodity, subject to the demands of corporate profit and organization, of advertising and of disaster capitalism. Marketing agendas restrict reality's accepted boundaries and punish activity which defines reality beyond those agendas.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mars Colonizers and the Secrets of the Universe


Image Source: BBC.

Space exploration will tell us the secrets of the universe. This is because space exploration is a synthetic act. It demands a united vision from, and intense cooperation among, diverse experts. It will require a Millennial convergence of many fields of research and knowledge, which have been divided and sequestered through overspecialization over the past two hundred years. No matter the focus - from cryptocurrencies to the relationship between anti-ageing and cancer - every area of human endeavour and study seems set for epiphany. We are coming from many different paths to a higher consensus of understanding which we cannot yet see.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Evolutionary Babylon


"A rainbow-colored beast from the margins of a fifteenth-century text." Image Source: Public Domain Review via Paris Review.

The Justin Bieber mugshot is already an Internet meme (do not click here or here and don't don't don't click here (told you not to)). Fortunately, there are other things to think about, like the origins of life. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old physicist at MIT, thinks that he has identified the physics that underlies the difference between inanimate and animate matter. The thermodynamic theory, which complements Darwin's theory of evolution, is outlined in Quanta Magazine, and summarized below the jump.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, with the Tower of Babel in the background ("probably 19th century after the first excavations in the Assyrian capitals"). Image Source: Wiki.

Already, critics are queueing to attack England's ideas. But is this simply because his concept has appeared in many guises, to researchers working in various fields, each of which has a field-specific language and set of research precedents? Is the theory of the origin of life a modern Tower of Babel?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cells That Reverse the Arrow of Evolutionary Time


Fission yeast aka Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Image Source: University of T├╝bingen.
 
Catastrophic failure or progressive decline? These are alternatives in cellular degeneration. For example, some cells, such as cancer cells, do not age. One commenter at Naked Science Forum notes: "some mutations which cause cancer are not actually causing excessive cell division but a mutation upon the gene which controls programmed cell death... so they don't die when they should and you thus end up with accumulation."

Similarly, researchers have found a type of yeast that does not age (that is, it does not show cellular damage and wear as cells divide over time), but rather, it gets younger as its cells divide. These particular yeast cells do die, but as a result of sudden, catastrophic failure at any given moment, rather than through a progressive decline.
Under favorable conditions, the microbe, a species of yeast called S. pombe, does not age the way other microbes do, the researchers said.

Typically, when single-celled organisms divide in half, one half acquires the majority of older, often damaged cell material, while the other half acquires mostly new cell material.

But in the new study, researchers found that under favorable, nonstressful growing conditions, S. pombe (a single-celled organism) divided in such a way that both halves acquired about equal parts of old cell material. "As both cells get only half of the damaged material, they are both younger than before," study researcher Iva Tolic-N├Şrrelykke, of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany, said in a statement.

What's more, previous research has shown that when cells divide and continuously pass on old cell material, the cells that get the old material start to divide more slowly — a sign of aging. This has been seen in microorganisms such E. coli and the yeast S. cerevisiae.

But in the new study, S. pombe cells showed no increase in the time it took for them to divide, the researchers said.

That's not to say that S. pombe cells don't die. Some cells did die in the study, but the deaths occurred suddenly, as a result of a catastrophic failure of a cellular process, rather than aging, the researchers said.

The researchers said they are not arguing that any given component of S. pombe cells are immortal. If a particular component of a cell is followed for a long enough time, the researchers believe the cell that harbors this component will eventually die. But "the probability of this death will be constant rather than increasing over time," the researchers wrote in the Sept. 12 issue of the journal Current Biology.

During unfavorable, stressful conditions, S. pombe cells distribute old cell material unevenly, and the cells that inherited the old material eventually died, the study found. Also, during stressful conditions, S. pombe showed an increase in division time.

Although there's no way to know for sure why the researchers did not detect aging in S. pombe under favorable conditions, one likely explanation is that the cellular damage is being repaired at the same rate that it's being formed, said Eric Stewart, a microbiologist at Northeastern University in Boston, who was not involved in the study.

But just because the study researchers did not detect aging in favorable conditions doesn't meant that it's not occurring. "They're trying to show the absence of something," in this case, aging, Stewart said. "Showing the absence of something is a nearly impossible challenge," he said.

S. pombe growth under favorable conditions could potentially serve as a model of nonaging cell types, such as cancer cells, the researchers said.
On the logic of non-ageing cancer cells, I have seen reports that cancer cells are resistant to radiation. Researchers ask: did this condition arise in reaction to radioactive treatments? Or does cancer's radioresistance precede radiation treatments? The conventional wisdom is that cancer involves a genetic predisposition that is triggered by an external factor. Is cancer a body's misguided reaction against radiation, other pollutants in the environment, or viruses? I have seen reports that cancer cells burn sugar, unlike normal cells, which burn oxygen - which is an argument to stop eating sugar if I ever saw one. Is the way cancer works - or the way other non-ageing cells work - the grim key to immortality?

Researcher Paul Davies - author of The Goldilocks Enigma - wrote a 2012 report for The Guardian to ask if cancer is actually a way that a multi-cellular organism can regress to the single-celled organism model, where cells do not seem to age. Thus, he postulates, cancer essentially reverses the normal course of evolution from single cell to multicellular organism, even as the disease reverses the clock on cell death processes. But the question remains: why does cancer do this? What purpose is an evolutionary reversal trying to serve? Davies and an Australian physicist, Charles Lineweaver, maintain that cancer de-evolves a sufferer of the disease at the cellular level. The disease serves to activate increasingly archaic genes in a body as it spreads. Lineweaver claims that cancer is a "default cellular safe mode." From The Guardian report:
In the frantic search for an elusive "cure", few researchers stand back and ask a very basic question: why does cancer exist? What is its place in the grand story of life? Astonishingly, in spite of decades of research, there is no agreed theory of cancer, no explanation for why, inside almost all healthy cells, there lurks a highly efficient cancer subroutine that can be activated by a variety of agents – radiation, chemicals, inflammation and infection.
Cancer, it seems, is embedded in the basic machinery of life, a type of default state that can be triggered by some kind of insult. That suggests it is not a modern aberration but has deep evolutionary roots, a suspicion confirmed by the fact that it is not confined to humans but is widespread among mammals, fish, reptiles and even plants. Scientists have identified genes implicated in cancer that are thought to be hundreds of millions of years old. Clearly, we will fully understand cancer only in the context of biological history.
Two relevant evolutionary transitions stand out. The first occurred over 2 billion years ago, when large, complex cells emerged containing mitochondria – tiny factories that supply energy to the cell. Biologists think mitochondria are the remnants of ancient bacteria. Tellingly, they undergo systematic changes as cancer develops, profoundly altering their chemical and physical properties.
For most of Earth's history, life was confined to single-celled organisms. Over time, however, a new possibility arose. Earth's atmosphere became polluted by a highly toxic and reactive chemical – oxygen – created as a waste product of photosynthesis. Cells evolved ingenious strategies to either avoid the accumulating oxygen or to combat oxidative damage in their innards. But some organisms turned a vice into a virtue and found a way to exploit oxygen as a potent new source of energy. In modern organisms, it is mitochondria that harness this dangerous substance to power the cell.
With the appearance of energised oxygen-guzzling cells, the way lay open for the second major transition relevant to cancer – the emergence of multicellular organisms. This required a drastic change in the basic logic of life. Single cells have one imperative – to go on replicating. In that sense, they are immortal. But in multicelled organisms, ordinary cells have outsourced their immortality to specialised germ cells – sperm and eggs – whose job is to carry genes into future generations. The price that the ordinary cells pay for this contract is death; most replicate for a while, but all are programmed to commit suicide when their use-by date is up, a process known as apoptosis. And apoptosis is also managed by mitochondria.
Cancer involves a breakdown of the covenant between germ cells and the rest. Malignant cells disable apoptosis and make a bid for their own immortality, forming tumours as they start to overpopulate their niches. In this sense, cancer has long been recognised as a throwback to a "selfish cell" era. But recent advances in research permit us to embellish this picture. For example, cancer cells thrive in low-oxygen (even zero-oxygen) conditions, reverting to an earlier, albeit less efficient, form of metabolism known as fermentation.
Biologists are familiar with the fact that organisms may harbour ancient traits that reflect their ancestral past, such as the atavistic tails or supernumerary nipples some people are born with. Evolution necessarily builds on earlier genomes. Sometimes older genetic pathways are not discarded, just silenced. Atavisms result when something disrupts the silencing mechanism.
Charles Lineweaver, of the Australian National University, and I have proposed a theory of cancer based on its ancient evolutionary roots. We think that as cancer progresses in the body it reverses, in a speeded-up manner, the arrow of evolutionary time. Increasing deregulation prompts cancer cells to revert to ever earlier genetic pathways that recapitulate successively earlier ancestral life styles. We predict that the various hallmarks of cancer progression will systematically correlate with the activation of progressively older ancestral genes. The most advanced and malignant cancers recreate aspects of life on Earth before a billion years ago.
Ancient genes remain functional only if they continue to fulfill a biological purpose. In early-stage embryo development, when the basic body plan is laid down (also in low-oxygen conditions, incidentally) ancestral genes help guide developmental processes before being switched off. Every human, for example, possesses tails and gills for a time in the womb. Significantly, researchers have recently identified examples of early-stage embryonic genes being reawakened in cancer.
The deep links between evolutionary biology, developmental biology and cancer have huge implications for therapy, and also provide an unexpected reason to study cancer. By unravelling the details of cancer initiation and progression, scientists can open a window on the past through which we can gain tantalising glimpses of life in a bygone age.
You can see a further article for online from Lineweaver in Physics World at http://www.physicsworld.com/cws/download/jul2013. This is a special issue made free to the public, which deals with the physics of cancer.