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, January 12, 2013

Surrealism in the Afternoon

Image Source: Pedopolis.

Today's conspiracy theories revisit 18th, 19th and early-to-mid 20th century superstitions, Penny Dreadful tales, malicious gossip about royalty and aristocrats, and prejudices. Our updated versions of yesterday's chatter include wild rumours about Princess Diana, Freemasons, Illuminati, Bilderbergers and the like. These rumours are part of a popular culture which as become ever more sinister since the Second World War. Clearly, many wartime propaganda techniques developed by the Nazis and Allies were absorbed by the marketing industry in the post-war period.

The shock of that war, how it transformed and twisted our sensibilities, is still little understood. But there is much evidence suggesting that the horror of World War II was subconsciously absorbed into mainstream society and became instrumentalized within pop culture's institutions.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mars Colonists Sought for 2023 Settlement

Image Source: Tech Cocktail.

The future is here. As in, now. The start-up Netherlands space colony group Mars One is hopping to the head of the line, past other Mars colonization projects. Their recruiting call is going out now, in the first half of this year, for Mars colonists to depart in 2023. This is a non-returning mission. You will live out the remainder of your life on the Red Planet. Training will begin immediately. The mode of transportation is the Mars One Dragon, carried by the Falcon Heavy Launch Vehicle, made by SpaceX, founded by Gen Xer Elon Musk.

The Mars One executive, co-founded by Gen X Dutch enterpreneurs Bas Lansdorp (an engineer) and Arno Wielders (a physicist), claims the whole project will be paid for by the fact that the entire process, from selection of the colonists to the launch and execution of the mission, will be carried out on Reality TV (Hat tip: Spaceports). Have a look at their names. They could go down in history.

The required attributes for colonists are pretty straightforward. You must be 18 years or older; in good physical and mental health; be resilient, adaptable and curious; have the ability to trust; and be creative and resourceful. It is projected to be the biggest media event in the history of the world. A purely private enterprise, it will bypass governments and all the 'political mumbo jumbo.' For more, go to Spaceports.

Retrofuturism 23: Baby Boomers and Alien Astronauts

The Galle smiley face crater on Mars. Other smiley face craters have been found elsewhere on Mars and Mercury. Image Source.

My blog series on Retrofuturism departs from the term's normal definition of past visions of the future. Here, I define the term differently to describe symbols from the past which are appropriated for the current purpose of painting pictures of the future.

In addition, one earlier post in this series returns to Baby Boomers' ideas in the 1960s as they were originally conceived. Occasionally, this blog will be examining ideas from that era and assessing their impact now.

One of the more curious corners of the often-stereotyped Boomer preoccupation with esoteric spiritualism in the 1960s and 1970s is the notion that that generation was somehow celestially blessed. Unseen worlds of magic, transcendental universes, and the very heavens lined up to bequeath a great destiny to them: from the Age of Aquarius to the alignment of the planets, to pseudo-science and astrology, a bizarrely egotistical mythology evolved that the universe recognized the brilliant fate of this generation.

NASA's Viking 1 Orbiter view of a face on Mars (1976). Image Source: NASA via Al Jazeera.

That mythology encompassed a host of 70s' fads: UFOs and aliens, ESP, telekinesis, the Bermuda Triangle, ghosts, exorcists and demonology, and New Age magic. These fads got mixed up with the popular understanding of space exploration. In 1976, a face on Mars, which disappeared when photographed from another angle and over time, was heralded in the tabloids as proof of an alien civilization.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Violence, Heartbreak, Change

Jyoti Singh Pandey, the girl who died after New Delhi's vicious gang rape on 16 December 2012. Image Source: The Poor Mouth.

2012 ended with savage violence: an Oregon shopping mall shooting on 12 December; the unspeakable 14 December Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut; also on 14 December, 22 children were slashed by a knife-wielding attacker in an elementary school in Chenpeng village, Henan province, China; and on 24 December, New York firefighters were shot by a suicidal arsonist.

The details of the Indian gang rape of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey continue to unfold day by day. The female victim's name was released on 5 January by her father, Badri Singh (Hat tip: The Poor Mouth). She was disembowelled during the rape on a bus. After the girl and her male friend were thrown into the street without their clothes and begged for help, passersby looked at them but did not help them (see my earlier posts on the bystander effecthere and my very first post on this blog, here). The police finally appeared and spent half an hour arguing over the correct hospital jurisdiction.

As Aristotle said, only beasts and gods live beyond the city walls. To cross the boundaries of what once defined civilization is to face an unthinkable choice between the two. The alternative is to step back and remember what makes us human beings.

Image Source: Mirror.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Virtual Slavery

Opiate of the masses: in 2012, gaming was worth USD$9.7 billion in China. Image Source: Dvice.

You don't need big bad government and corporate conspiracies to subjugate people in the days of the coming Singularity. All you have to do is hop online and look around. I noticed the advent of virtual serfdom a few years ago, when an eminent professor for whom I worked had one secretary whose main job was simply to answer his e-mails. People with real power do not go online and waste countless hours of their lives in virtual worlds. They hire others to waste their lives for them. Think of all the hours you have spent online since 1995. Undoubtedly some of it was productive - and creative - in online environments. But what about the time that wasn't? What could human beings have accomplished in the real world in the past fifteen odd years if many of them had not been plugged into the drug of the Millennium? Yes, we get a great deal out of the Internet and can communicate and socialize in ways never before imagined. But the next time you relax into the warm fuzzy cyber embrace of the Internet, ask yourself: to whom am I giving up my freedom, and for what reward?

Happy Birthday, Professor Hawking

Brain Pickings celebrates Stephen Hawking's 71st birthday today with a 1991 documentary (directed by Errol Morris, music by Philip Glass) about the famous physicist, who stated:
Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in.
To see the film, go here or here. In the documentary, Hawking remarked (starting at 0:13:05) that cosmology of an expanding universe does not preclude the existence of a Creator (something he later disputed) but it does limit the timeframe in which the universe might have been created. Hawking's fascination with time as the key to the cosmos also prompted him to ask: why do we remember the past, but we don't remember the future?

From the cover of A Briefer History of Time (2005). Image Source: Skeptic.

Earth's 17 Billion Cousins

Image Source: BBC.

BBC reports that astronomers working with the Kepler telescope estimate that one in six stars in our night sky harbours at least one Earth-sized planet:
Astronomers say that one in six stars hosts an Earth-sized planet in a close orbit - suggesting a total of 17 billion such planets in our galaxy. The result comes from an analysis of planet candidates gathered by Nasa's Kepler space observatory.

The Kepler scientists also announced 461 new planet candidates, bringing the satellites' total haul to 2,740. Their findings were announced at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in California.
Since its launch into orbit in 2009, Kepler has stared at a fixed part of the sky, peering at more than 150,000 stars in its field of view.

It detects the minute dip in light coming from a star if a planet passes in front of it, in what is called a transit.

Desert Secrets and Alien Cathedrals

Sweeney's report claims this is the secret New Mexico bunker of the Church of Scientology. Image Source: Google Earth (near Mesa Huerfanita and Trementina, New Mexico) via Live Science. Knowledge of these aerial symbols and the Church's involvement at this site has been public since at least 2005.

A BBC Panorama reporter, John Sweeney, has recently published a book on Scientology entitled Church of Fear. Last month, news about the book revealed that he visited the Church of Scientology's secret apocalyptic doomsday bunker (or its vicinity) out in the New Mexico desert without permission:
"Just dial up Mesa Huerfanita on Google Earth and you’ll find a nearby mountain scarred by a long concrete strip with a short leg at the northern end pointing east. That’s the loony church’s private airport. A zig-zag white line from the strip heads north. That’s the church’s private road. It leads to the two linked circles — invisible from the land below. The spot is north of Roswell — a town linked to UFO sightings. My mobile phone signal dies as soon as I turn off the freeway. This is harsh country like something from a John Wayne western. The closest settlement, Trementina, is virtually a ghost town. But an old local gives me directions to Trementina Base: Take the dirt track, drive for 30 miles, then you’ll find a gate. After passing through a rocky gulch we come to a gate marked No Trespassing. Gingerly, we pass through and drive on. Two more gates are marked No Trespassing. Trementina Gulch is the creepiest place I’ve ever been. We decide to turn back but try again after getting firmer directions. ...  
But we turn one last corner and Marc and I are suddenly confronted by a massive steel gate, secured by a combination lock and guarded by two security cameras. I press an intercom button. A voice says “Hello” in what sounds like a Scandinavian accent. I announce that I’m John Sweeney and ask nicely for a tour. We are not invited in and the intercom simply spouts white noise. ...
We stop the night at a Best Western hotel in the small town of Las Vegas, New Mexico. At 1am Marc receives four mystery phone calls to his room. 
Each time the caller hangs up as soon as Marc answers. Both our rooms were registered in my name. They got the wrong room. But still impressive, in a way, because I didn’t book in advance and paid cash." 
The bunker, built in the 1980s, contains a vault with the writings of L. Ron Hubbard protected by three 5,000 pound stainless steel airlocks. There are actually two properties associated with the Church in the area, but one was traded to the U.S. government in 1992 (Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management Number: G-910-G3-0006-4210-04; NMNM 83264). The complex (apparently still in the hands of the Church and not the Government and the land exchange weirdly specifies surface property only) purportedly contains a secret alien cathedral, built to welcome otherworldy visitors when they turn up. The desert is marked with insignia which can be seen from the air, presumably to welcome curious aliens (and humans).

Two New Mexico properties associated with the Church of Scientology, which were traded bewteen the Church and the U.S. Government. Image Source: Wiki.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Last of Their Kind: Scottish Wildcats

Image Source: Peter Cairns via Scottish Wildcat Association.

The Independent reports that an effort is afoot in the Scottish Highlands to save the Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia) from extinction:
"2013 will decide whether the wildcat lives or dies,” said Steve Piper of the Scottish Wildcat Association (SWA). “It really is a deciding year. At present the consensus is that true wildcats still survive in Scotland, and that, with a significant and unified effort, they can still be saved and gradually brought back to a healthy population.”

A national action plan to protect the species will be launched in the new year by a broad spectrum of Government agencies, charities, gamekeepers and national park authorities – the first time that a truly national effort has been made to save the wildcat.

Experts from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Forestry Commission Scotland and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland are already involved in field surveys to determine the precise size of the remaining population. The best estimates place it at around 400 true wildcats, but the species’ nocturnal and shy nature, and its similarities to domestic and hybrid cats mean that no one knows exactly how many there are.
The wildcat's similarity to a large feral domestic tabbycat belies its importance as Britain's last indigenous wild feline, which once roamed all over the British Isles (Hat tip: Graham Hancock).

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Finding Your Twin in the World

BBC and other major news outlets recently covered Montreal-based photographer François Brunelle, who tracks down real world doppelgängers and photographs them. These people are unrelated and are total strangers. Brunelle even finds look-alikes of different sexes. Since he gained publicity through the media, people approach him for portraits if they have located a look-alike. Bored Panda:
Canadian photographer François Brunelle proves this in this twin photo series “I’m not a look-alike!”, where his almost identical models are not even related. The artist has been studying the human face since 1968, when he first started of as a photographer at the age of 18. He is now set to make 200 photos of the look-alike couples and publish them as a portrait book.
All images are © François Brunelle and are sourced from Bored Panda and the Daily Mail, where you can see more twin photos; the Mail lists the names of the subjects and the dates of the photographs.