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.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Oldest Monastery in Europe 'Discovered'

Hermit's cave and shrine, near St. Athanasius monastery in Bulgaria. Image Source: novinite.

Once upon a time, the sign that the times were changing was the institutionalization of the local hermit's cave. Countryside animist shrines, already revered by people in far-flung areas, often evolved into early Christian religious centres and monasteries. Archaeology forums and religious newsgroups recently reported that archaeologists have confirmed a local folkish site, a cave and shrine near the Monastery of Saint Athanasius, is the oldest such institution in Europe, founded in 344 CE. St. Athanasius apparently resided in the cave, although other accounts maintain that he slept in the neighbourhood Roman fortress as he passed through the region:
Bulgarian archaeologists have uncovered what they believe is the oldest Christian monastery in Europea [sic] near the village of Zlatna Livada in southern Bulgaria.

According to latest archaeological research, the St. Athanasius monastery, still functioning near the village, has been founded in 344 by St. Athanasius himself, reports the BGNES agency.

Until now, the Candida Casa monastery, founded in 371 AD in Galloway, Scotland, was believed to be the oldest Christian monastery in Europe, followed by the St. Martin monastery in the Pyrénées-Orientales, France (373 AD).

Archaeologists have examined objects in a hermit's cave and shrine located near the present St. Athanasius monastery in Bulgaria, and found evidence that the great saint might have resided there.

Additional studies in archives at the Vatican have confirmed that St. Athanasius was present at the Church Council in Serdica (modern Sofia) in 343 AD.

He then travelled on to Constantinople and is believed to have stopped in the area of present Zlatna Livada, which is located in Thrace on the ancient way between Serdica and Constantinople.

... St. Athanasius of Alexandria (296/8-373) was for a long time Bishop of Alexandria, and is revered as one of the greatest Christian saints.

He did extensive work in theology and was one of the key figures in establishing the dogmata of Christian faith that are still accepted by Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians alike.
I have not found any online academic reports on the archaeological study, so cannot confirm what was discovered at this already-known cave and local shrine. One sign of our times is the rededication of historic sites to solidify claims which are currently relevant. Perhaps this story has a bigger, Millennial picture.

The article implicitly ties several historical elements together. By associating the folkish cave with the saint, it combines Thracian and Hellenistic background links to Bulgarian Christian culture.

Maybe there is something more: an older Bulgarian report from 2007, here (English translation here; there is another report here with English translation here), offers an identical story as the one that recently circulated in forums in early 2012.  The story - which names its 2004 source as Rosen Milev of the Balkan Media Academy (Балканмедия - this institution, incidentally, had nothing to do with archaeology; it was an EU-bridging journalist networking outfit or NGO project, established in Bulgaria in 2000, during the heady heights of EU promotion, see here and here) - does not name any archaeologists. This article has photos of the monastery as well as the cave and adjacent holy springs, reputed to have curative properties. This reputation extends back to Thracian times. 

The article describes a local legend that St. Athanasius was traveling from the Council of Sardica in 343 CE. He  arrived in this area of modern-day Bulgaria during an epidemic, and discovered that the local spring, 300 metres from the Roman fortress where he was staying, had reputed healing properties. He told the locals that the epidemic would end if they built a monastery and church right next to the cave, which was the entrance to the Thracian sacred site. Commenters on this story remark that the monastery, built in the 9th century, is popularly considered to be the spiritual basis of the Second Bulgarian Empire in the 14th century.

Whatever its bases, this story has become a typical Millennial online urban legend, a seemingly authoritative account, with layers of time juxtaposed: a site with mystical origins in the Iron Age was appropriated by Christianity; the Christian monastery remained powerful through the Middle Ages and into the modern period, followed by a nationalist subtext ironically rebranded for Big Europe by the EU's publicity machine at the turn of the Millenium.

Regardless, this cave and spring - cast and recast across the ages in contemporary terms - constantly dominates the local mentality.  The real question is, why this constant? Why is this site considered across all time periods to be so powerful?  Is it because some part of our sensibility simply has not changed since pre-historic times?

You can see one room inside the monastery in the video below the jump.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Photo of the Day: 2012 Supermoon over the Grand Canyon

2012 Supermoon from the Toroweap Viewpoint at the Grand Canyon, © by Jason Hines. Image Source: HuffPo.

Hat tip: Ghost Hunting Theories; The Garden of eZen.

Close Encounters with a Time Capsule

Image Source: (29 March 2012) © Jakub Perka @ Picasaweb.

Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind  (1977) starts with World War II airplanes found in the Mexican desert, miraculously in perfect condition, after having disappeared 30 years before. Gizmodo reported on 10 May on a similar eerie discovery (although no accompanying sign of aliens): a Polish oil worker, Jakub Perka, discovered a crashed P-40 Kittyhawk which has been preserved in the Western Desert in Egypt, 200 miles from the nearest town for 70 years.

Image Source: (29 March 2012) © Jakub Perka @ Picasaweb.

The report:
In what historians are calling the aviation equivalent to finding King Tut's tomb, a World War II fighter plane has been found in the Sahara desert 70 years after it crashed. Even more impressive, the plane is perfectly preserved—it hasn't been touched and hasn't even been seen until now.

The discovery of the single-seater fighter plane, a RAF Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk, was made by Jakub Perka, a Polish oil company worker who was exploring the desert in Egypt. It's amazing to see the plane in such good condition, the cockpit is still intact and the plane was even loaded with ammunition, until it was removed by the Egyptian government for safety reasons. It's like finding a time capsule hidden in the sands of time.

The plane was supposedly flown by Flight Sgt Dennis Copping, who was 24-years-old at the time. He was ordered to fly the plane to a British airbase in northern Egypt for repairs but ended up crash-landing the plane in June of 1942. No one is quite sure why he had to crash-land, there are bullet holes in the plane, but Copping was never seen again.

... See more pictures of the World War II fighter plane here. [Telegraph UK, Daily Mail, Vintage Wings]
The Kittyhawk's cockpit. Image Source: BNPS via Telegraph.

See videos of the airplane and the Close Encounters opening scene below the jump. Sadly and inexcusably - according to reports - the story was made public, and experts from the RAF Museum in London have not traveled to the site quickly enough; scavengers have been picking over the plane and removing items from the site for over a month since it was discovered.

The Problem with Memory 5: Future Memory

Mnemosyne, Titan Goddess of Memory. Greco-Roman mosaic from Antioch. 2nd century CE. Antakya Museum. Image: Theoi.com.

Remember this post, in which I described the Web Bot that predicts the future, based on linguistic patterns monitored by algorithms on the Internet? It looks like Social Psychologists may substantiate some Computer Scientists' wild theories about precognition. On Twitter, Kate Sherrod commented: "Intriguing. Conducting reversed versions of standard memory tests may have uncovered a form of 'future memory.'"

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Do Animals Predict Earthquakes?

Image Source: NPL via BBC.

There is an Old Wives' Tale that animals behave peculiarly before earthquakes and other natural disasters. This superstition has some substance. National Geographic discussed it, as did PBS. Some researchers think that animals can hear quake disturbances before humans can.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Millennial Mysteries: Mass Deaths of Dolphins, Fish, Birds, Animals Continue

In April 2012, HuffPo reported that since February, 3,000 dead dolphins have washed up on Peruvian shores, as have thousands of dead anchovies. In addition, 1,200 pelicans have died (other reports from the end of April put the number at 538); other dead seabirds include boobies (54) and gannets. On 30 April 2012, the Peruvian Production Ministry was investigating pelican deaths, stating: "They did not show evidence of having been washed up dead by the sea. The mortality appeared to have occurred on the beach." Scientists have not explained why the dolphins are dying, although they assume it has to do with oil companies' activities along the coast and their possible use of underwater sonar. The Peruvian Production Ministry is still testing the causes of dolphin mass mortality in this case. For other reports, see here and here.

Hundreds of dead pelicans have been found on the Peru coastline, "along a 70-kilometer (43-mile) stretch of beaches around San Jose Bay, located in Lambayeque region" (April 2012). Image Source: Hispanically Speaking News.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Scientists Gain Control of Body's Biological Clock

Image Source: Bhavanajagat.

On 29 March 2012, Nature published findings (here) from scientists working under Professor Ronald M. Evans, at Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory (Hat tip: Machines Like Us). They have discovered the switches inside cells which regulate the body's biological clock and determine when we sleep and eat.  Disruption of the brain's biological clock - for example, through excessive night time activity - is a major cause of life-threatening diseases. The ability to control the biological clock promises to remedy these problems; the research confirms that our health is intimately connected to the movements of the sun and earth:
"This fundamentally changes our knowledge about the workings of the circadian clock and how it orchestrates our sleep-wake cycles, when we eat and even the times our bodies metabolize nutrients," says Evans. "Nuclear receptors can be targeted with drugs, which suggests we might be able to target REV-ERBα and β to treat disorders of sleep and metabolism."

Nurses, emergency personnel and others who work shifts that alter the normal 24-hour cycle of waking and sleeping are at much higher risk for a number of diseases, including metabolic disorders such as diabetes. To address this, scientists are trying to understand precisely how the biological clock works and uncover possible targets for drugs that could adjust the circadian rhythm in people with sleep disorders and circadian-associated metabolic disorders.

In mammals, the circadian timing system is orchestrated by a central clock in the brain and subsidiary clocks in most other organs. The master clock in the brain is set by light and determines the overall diurnal or nocturnal preference of an animal, including sleep-wake cycles and feeding behavior. ...

The scientists also found that the REV-ERBs control the activity of hundreds of genes involved metabolism, including those responsible for controlling levels of fats and bile. The mice in which REV-ERBα and REV-ERBβ were turned off had high levels of fat and sugar in their blood—common problems in people with metabolic disorders.

"This explains how our cellular metabolism is tied to daylight cycles determined by the movements of the sun and the earth," says Satchidananda Panda, an associate professor in Salk's Regulatory Biology Laboratory and co-author on the paper. "Now we want to find ways of leveraging this mechanism to fix a person's metabolic rhythms when they are disrupted by travel, shift work or sleep disorders."

Monday, May 7, 2012

Private Spaceflight Watch: SpaceX Marks the Dawn of a New Era

The Falcon 9 at Cape Canaveral. Image Source: Fox.

Last year, when the Space Shuttles made their final flights, the Americans marked the end of an era of publicly-funded space exploration (see my posts on this here, here, here and here). This month, SpaceX, under the leadership of Gen Xer Elon Musk, picks up the baton and carries that legacy forward.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled today to launch the first private mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida to the International Space Station. This historic, unmanned flight is delayed, likely until May 19.

A test crew, a mix of NASA and SpaceX personnel, recently evaluated SpaceX's Dragon crew capsule; for details, see the SpaceX Website. For a gallery on SpaceX's ISS mission and NASA contracts, go here.

Musk spent his entire private fortune on the earlier parts of this project, and saw it through some narrow spots. This launch is another of these moments. If it succeeds, the Americans will mark the beginning of a new era when private companies, rather than governments, challenge the 'final frontier.'

Artist’s rendition of the Dragon spacecraft docking at the International Space Station. Image Source: SpaceX.

See all my posts on Space Exploration.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nuclear Culture 7: Nuclear Sun Sets in Japan, Surrounded by Lunar Symbols

Image Source: AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye via Yahoo.

Caption for the above photo: A traditional "Koinobori" carp-shaped banner for Children's Day flies at a rally protesting against the usage of nuclear energy in Tokyo, Saturday, May 5, 2012. Thousands of Japanese marched to celebrate the last of this nation's 50 nuclear reactors switching off Saturday, shaking banners shaped as giant fish that have become a potent anti-nuclear symbol.

Perhaps the universe, or our legendary version of it, is trying to tell us something.  Signs of a tension-filled, but passionate and ultimately beneficial, turn of the tide are everywhere this weekend. In Japan, all the nuclear power plants were shut down on May 5. Nuclear power, humanity's attempt to harness a 'little Sun,' has been roundly countered by spring's super-lunar symbolism. This symbolic solar-lunar opposition has been evident throughout May 5 and 6.

Prometheus as Alien

The ancient astronauts theory is a theme in Ridley Scott's upcoming Alien prequel. These are theoretically Italian cave paintings in Val Camonica, purportedly dated 10,000 BCE. Image Source: Wiki. This is image is in the public domain in the USA.

Ridley Scott has released another Prometheus trailer in the UK (see below the jump; Hat tip: Alien Prequel News), with new footage of the antagonists. This film promises to be a sci-fi game-changer. He has borrowed heavily from all the Millennial conspiracy theories and cultural fashions, from the aliens-built-the-Egyptian-pyramids to H. R. Giger's Atomkinder-as-aliens. Set in 2085, Scott's film offers a cultural meditation on how pre-history is finally catching up with the atomic age, and the synthesis is horrifically internalized via the Millennial singularity. Reel FX Art:
"In Greek mythology, Prometheus (Ancient Greek: Προμηθεύς, "Forethinker") is a Titan, the son of Iapetus and Themis, and brother to Atlas, Epimetheus and Menoetius. He was a champion of mankind, known for his wily intelligence, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. Zeus then punished him for his crime by having him bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day, only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day. The Prometheus myth has been treated by a number of ancient sources, in which Prometheus is credited with (or blamed for) playing a pivotal role in the early history of mankind."
Although in the film, 'Prometheus' is simply the name of a spaceship, Scott's story evidently reimagines the Prometheus myth so that Prometheus was an alien. What does this really signify? Scott is touching on the devasting insight of the turn of the Millennium, when the deep past and far future come crashing together on the Internet. The Web allows data from any time or place to be randomly juxtaposed and reinterpreted. In other words, our technology is destroying humanity's perspective of the flow of history. In tech-driven virtual realities, historic artifacts are anachronistically interchangeable: time is radically out of control. Perhaps Scott's aliens here will symbolize that loss of temporal control. The film opens June 1.