Sunday, December 26, 2010

This Week's Compendium

So my hiatus from the net has lasted a bit longer than I had planned and things have been quiet around here for a lot longer than I had hoped. But the good news is that means that I have loads of stories to catch up on once I manage to free up a little more time. In the meantime, I did manage to keep up with Compendium this weekend, complete with a horrible x-mas theme.

I began with Team Unicorn's "Very Zombie Holiday", a field guide to surviving a zombie filled holiday. Next I suggested an alternative source of protein for this years x-mas dinner ( think Soylent Green), we go X-mas caroling with GWAR, hunt for pooping peasants in Spanish nativity celebrations, I introduce your children to the Krampus and more.

So please, if you have not done so before, go and check out Compendium oF Strange on tumblr and if you see something you like help me promote the sight(s) by sharing it with your friends using the tweet and like buttons I have provided on both individual posts as well as for the blog as a whole both here on Geek Blog and on Compendium. Sorry to go all self-promotional on ya from time to time, but while I genuinely enjoy working on the blogs, it's all kind of pointless if no one's reading it. So please help spread the word.

Thanks in advance, and I promise there will be much more science, skepticism and more here in the very near future.


If you're already on tumblr you can follow the Compendium directly, if not, then you should use THIS LINK to join so the Compendium gets credit for the referral, or you could just follow me on twitter or like my musician page on Facebook to keep up with all my blogs, bands, etc. Thanks and enjoy!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas With The Devil

As you may have gathered, I'm not much for x-mas. But being the happy little pseudo-satanist that I am, I can't help but enjoy corrupting the day with as much evil as possible. So I can't imagine a better theme for the day than Spinal Tap's own pseudo-satanic x-mas carol, "Chsitmas with the Devil". Unless of course someone were to record a really cool jazz version of the song, that would be amazing...

Turns out someone did, and by someone I mean singer songwriter Judith Owen and comedian, writer, musician, actor, voice actor and Spinal Tap bassist (amongst many other things) Harry Shearer.

I think I may actually like this version better than the original.

Very cool, enjoy!

Posted by Youtube user:MyDamnChannel

For the tragically uncultured amongst you, here's a link to the original: Spinal Tap:Christmas With the Devil, You're welcome.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Lunar Eclipse Time Lapse

Tuesday marked the first time a full lunar eclipse had occurred on the winter solstice since 1638, (which I'm sure was a sign of the end of the world or the return Cthulhu or something, but nothing significant came up when I did a search, so maybe all the crazies missed this one) which I missed because..well, I forgot. But that's okay because it's going to happen again in 2094 which is great because I'll only be...Okay, I'll be dead.

Fortunately, that doesn't really matter much because a full lunar eclipse happens every year, they just don't happen on the winter solstice very often, which isn't really all that significant other than the fact that it makes for an extra long dark night. Even better, University of Florida professor and science photographer William Castleman managed to catch a time lapse of the event and posted it on his Vimeo account and now, I'm posting it here. Very cool.

The music is really nice as well,Claude Debussy Nocturnes: Sirènes. enjoy.


Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse from William Castleman on Vimeo.

Source: I09
Image credit: Thomas loupe

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Matt Ridley and Richard Dawkins on DNA, Extraterrestrial Life and More...

Posted by YouTube user:AtheistMediaBlog

Since we've been discussing astrobiology and genetics over the past few days, now seemed like a good time to share this video of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins ( that's right kids, he's more than JUST an atheist) and journalist Matt Ridley discussing Alternative biochemistry, extraterrestrials, DNA, synthetic life, artificial life, and all sorts of other interesting things relating to biology, evolution, and life in general. It's very, very, cool and I think you will enjoy it, so check it out!


Friday, December 3, 2010

NASA Press Conference Disappoints Many, But it Really Shouldn't Have

[*UPDATE*]Turns out, not only have NASA's observations NOT been confirmed by any other researchers, but there's also been no shortage of scientists coming forward to criticize the conclusions as well as the methods of NASA scientists. Some have even gone so far as labeling the entire thing one big publicity stunt and given this new information, I largely agree. So maybe we should have been disappointed after all. [*UPDATE*]

In case you missed it, yesterday NASA held a press conference to announce the discovery of a bacteria (GFAJ-1 of Halomonadaceae) living in the highly alkaline waters as well as in the mud surrounding Mono Lake in California. Lab tests showed that this bacteria is capable of not only surviving in an environment saturated with arsenic, but that it can actually incorporate the normally highly toxic chemical into it's DNA and use it in place of phosphorous.

One would be hard pressed to exaggerate the "wow-factor" of this discovery from a biological stand point as it is a real life living breathing example of an organism capable of sustaining it's existence by utilizing a biochemistry unlike any other organism on the planet. As far as the impact this finding will have on astrobiology- The search for life on other worlds has to begin by looking for the conditions necessary to sustain life as we know it and this discovery helps to expand our understanding of the conditions under which life can exist. In short, the space agency made good on it's promise to deliver something which would impact the field of astrobiology and this organism itself is an astonishing discovery well worth the attention it received.


To the average person, this discovery probably doesn't mean much, and it certainly isn't as cool as it would have been if this same discovery had been made on another planet; which is obviously what the majority of people thought was going to be the case. I myself was aware of the existence of organisms capable of surviving on arsenic ( the part about the DNA is new microbes living on arsenic is not) and that the subject of the press conference would most likely focus primarily on some terrestrial finding. But even I assumed that the topic would be somehow tied to a specific discovery on another world and it is, in a fundamental non-specific sort of way. But still, a lot of people were both disappointed and even irritated by the subject of the conference and quite frankly, I don't blame them.

To be fair, 99% of the hype about alien life came from outside NASA. But when the general public(right or wrong) sees your organization's primary mission as the search for extraterrestrials, you have to know that holding a special event to share an announcement relating to astrobiology is GOING to generate hype, speculation, and ultimately resentment when reality doesn't live up to their expectations.


Source: Bad Astronomy

For more about the true significance of this find check out Nancy Atkinson's article on Universe Tody.

Among those deeply disappointed by the way NASA handled the release of this information, Justin from Weird Things TV:

Posted by YouTube user:weirdthingsTV

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oxygen on Rhea and NASA's Big Astrobiological Revelation

The Cassini probe was recently sent to analyze the atmosphere of Saturn's second largest moon Rhea, revealing the planet to be covered in a thin veil of oxygen (70%) and carbon dioxide (30%). This finding represents the first ever confirmation of the existence of oxygen in the atmosphere of any world other than our own.But it's the presence of carbon dioxide that peaked most peoples interest in this story as one of the possible causes for the gas is of course, alien biology.

Though Rhea's low surface temperature -ranging from -281 f to -364 f- the exceedingly thin nature of it's atmosphere, and the subsequent lack of liquid water, make it an unlikely home for any form of life as we know it. But Cassini's find does place the planet's name on an ever growing list of recent discoveries which show that elements essential for life as we understand it actually exist in often surprising quantities and concentrations on planets throughout our solar system.

In fact, the discovery of elements and conditions potentially conducive to life on our neighboring bodies has become so common place, that I have actually stopped writing about many of them. Not because they're not intriguing scientific discoveries, but because the story pretty much always goes the same: I tell you planet X displays a chemical or environmental anomaly which COULD -after years worth of additional analysis- prove to be signs of life on another world. But until that analysis is done, we'll all just have to go with the odds and assume that it isn't. I say, wouldn't it be cool if it was, make a logical argument for why it could be and we all move on to something else.

Well, according to NASA, by this time tomorrow there just might be something new to say about the potential for life on other worlds, as earlier this week the space agency announced it's plans to hold a conference tomorrow at 2:00PM ET, during which it promises to: "discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life."

Pretty much since the moment the press conference was announced the speculations have been flying, the most popular and outrageous of which being that the agency plans to admit some previously withheld knowledge about contact with little gray men. But being the logical creature that I am, I'm going to follow Phil Plait's lead and side with in guessing that the people scheduled to be involved in tomorrows press conference make it likely it will have something to do with previous discoveries on Titan, at least in part anyway.

But who knows, maybe they have somehow confirmed the existence of some sort of extraterrestrial microbes thriving on arsenic on the surface of mars or some alien fungus living off acetylene in Titan's lakes of methane. But while Id be lying if I said I wasn't waiting eagerly to hear just what this new discovery is, if you're holding out for the big "We come in peace moment" in tomorrows press conference, I would say you should prepare yourself for disappointment.


Source: New Scientist, Bad Astronomy

Image credit: NASA, Voyager, Copyright Calvin J. Hamilton

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Things I'm Thankful For

It's Thanksgiving day here in America, the only holiday of the year I actually look forward to and technically participate in. Not because the day itself has any meaning to me, because it doesn't. But because sloth and gluttony are my favorite deadly sins. I know, I know, most of you go for lust and greed, but personally I think they're both overrated and besides, sloth and gluttony are easier and much more satisfying.

But a very small minority of people like to propagate the myth that Thanksgiving is really about taking the time to appreciate all the good things in your life, which is a load of crap! But I suppose I can play along for once. So please consider the following video my way of wishing all of you a happy Thanksgiving by sharing with you just a few of the things for which I am most thankful, things like gore and mindless violence!



This video also contains a set of briefly bared breasts (say that three times fast), you have been warned.

Posted by YouTube user:billycompany

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This Week's Compendium

Miracle Mike the headless chicken

On this week's compendium: The tale of Miracle Mike the headless chicken, Brewdog's end of history brew(available in squirrel or weasel), Takena Nagao’s “Chainsaw Maid”, artist Shove Mink's amigurmi exorcist playset, Rollins Band: volume 4, and many more. Visit Compendium oF Strange to view them all.

If you're already on tumblr you can follow the Compendium directly, if not, then you should use THIS LINK to join so the Compendium gets credit for the referral or you could just follow me on twitter or like my musician page on Facebook to keep up with all my blogs, bands, etc. Thanks and enjoy!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Richard Dawkins Reads Some Hate Mail

Saw this very funny video of Richard Dawkins on Pharyngula while I was catching up on what I've missed over the past few weeks and decided I wanted to share it here as well.

Posted by YouTube user:Prophiscient

Putting aside the obvious and at this point ubiquitous irony of messages filled with hatred and threats of violence being sent to non-believers in the name of defending some "loving god" and "virtuous faith", can someone please explain to me the purpose of hate mail?

In the great: to be a dick or not to be a dick debate, I'm WAAAAY over on the so called dick side of the aisle as I have no penitence for pretending to respect the many ridiculous things people choose to believe in. Nor do I feel any need to apologize for my own opinions and lack of beliefs or for the use of gentle, politically correct language to express myself. So I have no qualms what so ever with insulting someone or openly admitting your disdain or even hatred for their feelings or beliefs.

But taking the time to send someone a letter for the sole purpose of letting them know how much you hate them personally seems, not only incredibly narcissistic, but like a massive waste of one's time. Especially knowing that the vast majority of people receiving such letters are going to react to them the same as Dawkins and simply laugh about them and then go on to forget the message, along with the person who wrote it, ever even existed. So why bother? If you have nothing constructive to say, positive or otherwise, why waste the time to say anything at all?

I just don't get it.


Monday, November 15, 2010

But I'm Felling Much Better Now, Mostly..

So as you may have noticed I decided to take a bit of break not only from my blogs but from the Internet as a whole and just in case you were wondering, here's why...

Besides having spread myself a little thin with the addition of drummer for a death metal band -my first ever gig as a live drummer BTW- to my ever expanding list of ongoing personal projects. I also suffered a major software failure with my PC, a hardware failure on my iPhone, at best *intermittent access to the net thanks to the amazing service I receive from Comcast, and last but certainly not least- I managed to get myself extraordinarily sick for the first time in years with what I believe to be a mild to moderate form of Bubonic plague, or perhaps a case of the SARS.

But over the past two weeks I've managed to call in a backup PC, dug up an old mp3 player for my pod casts, and after enduring a week of discomfort and misery my body has finally begun to return to a normal temperature and I can once again swallow liquids without experiencing excruciating pain. As for the internet, even when it works the connection still sucks- but I'm kind of SOL on that one. So baring any further catastrophes, outbreaks, or distractions, following Thanksgiving I will be returning to my regular blogging habits, though to be honest you should probably expect the new drumming gig to eat into at least some of my blogging time for the next month or two as I learn all the new material. But rest assured I have not given up on the blog(s) I'm just a little busy (and phlegmy) at the moment.

More to come very soon!


*Ironically, the posting of this entry has been delayed several hours guessed it, a loss of internet connection, thanks again Comcast!!

Image Credit: SARS virus: Shutterstock

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Weird Things: Room 717

I've been linking back to these guys since I first launched the blog several months ago and have written about both as well as The Weird Things Podcast several times before. But this week's episode of Weird Things was extra special, and not just because The Godless Geek Blog was one of three listener sponsors.

In this week's special Halloween episode of Weird Things the guys put together an impromptu ghost investigation after Brian checks into not merely a haunted Hotel, but into the very room where the haunting is said to be centered. As always, this episode is loads of good weird fun and in the end, the guys manage to apply their own unique brand of skepticism to the subject at hand. This time through a series of simple experiments involving numbers and random chance to illustrate just how easy it can be to interpret simple chance as the deliberate actions of an unseen hand.

So if you haven't done so before now, then please take the time to check out, The Weird Things Podcast, as well as the rest of the various forms of entertainment Brian, Justin, and Andrew have to offer. And if you do decide to visit Weird Things for the very first time because of this post, or even if you're here because of my plug on this week's episode, do me a favor and leave the guys a comment letting them know you read about it here.



For more from all the guys at Weird Things, why not check out some of the following:

Weird Things TV

Posted by YouTube user:weirdthingsTV

Subscribe to the Weird Things podcast on iTunes

Podcast RSS feed
Episode archive

Also be sure to check out, NSFW, and Scam School for more of Brian, Andrew and Justin.

And finally, why not pay Timothy O’Briant's a visit as well, since he also helped sponsor this week's episode of Weird Things.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gene Ray and Time Cube Theory

This weeks episode of Righteous Indignation (Ep.70) introduced me to one of my new favorite conspiracies of all time. I'm a little late to the party given that the website around which this particular conspiracy revolves has been up since 97 and has well over a million hits. But I figured since I've never heard of it before then surely some of you haven't either, so why not share.

The Time Cube is self-proclaimed "Dr. of Cubicicsm" and "Wisest man who ever lived" Gene Ray's personal theory of reality and revolves around his assertion that the concept of a linear 24 hour day is an evil lie and that the Earth actually experiences 4 simultaneous days in a single rotation.

See if you can follow this "explanation" of the theory taken from

"When the Sun shines upon Earth, 2 – major Time points are created on opposite sides of Earth – known as Midday and Midnight. Where the 2 major Time forces join, synergy creates 2 new minor Time points we recognize as Sunup and Sundown.

The 4-equidistant Time points can be considered as Time Square imprinted upon the circle of Earth. In a single rotation of the Earth sphere, each Time corner point rotates through the other 3-corner Time points, thus creating 16 corners, 96 hours and4-simultaneous 24 hour Days within a single rotation of Earth – equated to a Higher Order of Life Time Cube."

The website as a whole is a collection of borderline incoherent, and at times racist, antisemitic, homophobic, and violent ramblings about everything from the nature of time itself to religion, mainstream educators, which Ray describes as evil for refusing to teach his theory, and society as a whole, all printed in large, multicolored type set in the center of two pages worth of text which seem to scroll on forever.

As you might expect, Gene is regarded as a nut by most, seen by many as potentially mentally ill, and his theory is not accepted by mainstream science, despite Ray's assertion that his discovery is "the holy grail of physics" and his promise of 10,000 dollars to any scientist or institution that can disprove his theory. And while it's unclear what it was that triggered Ray's seeming break with reality, what ever it was seems to have begun long before he gained infamy as the man who created

In the 1970's Gene Ray was known around St. Petersburg Fl, apparently quite fondly, as Mr. Marbles for his advocacy of the once popular pass time which he authored a book about entitled, "Mr. Marble-Marbles for Everyone", and was even successful in convincing the Mayor of St. Petersburg to devote an entire week to marbles. But then, around 1987, Ray's passion for marbles evolved into a strange metaphor for a new found personal philosophy centering around the concept of the circle and the pyramid.

In Ray's new found "Order of the Sphere" the circle came to represent the "circular cycle", which he described as Natural, mobile, and self-sustaining. While the Pyramid was used to represent what he called the unsustainable increasing growth rate of modern civilization - which he believed had grown to the point of breaking the family circle. Ray's solution to this problem of "pyramiding" progress, was a proposed 1 million dollar marbles tournament. Which he believed would attract people who were concerned with the long-term implications of pyramiding growth, people who could then be convinced of the validity of his philosophy by playing marbles inside a giant sphere. It was shortly after this failed proposal that Ray disappeared from the public eye, until august of 1997 when he introduced the world to "Time Cube Theory".


Source: Righteous Indignation

Given the sheer volume of material contained on Ray's website I couldn't possibly hope to cover it all in a single reasonably sized entry so for more information on Ray and his theory go to:

Here's an interview with Gene Ray on Tech TV

Posted by YouTube user:abegaza

Friday, October 29, 2010

Life-like Japanese Robot Mimics Facial Expressions

In this video the newest version of Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro's Geminoid robot, Actoid-F, is set up to observe and mimic human facial expressions. The results are not only astonishing, but also not the least bit creepy.

Posted by YouTube user:RoboTimes

While there are moments in the video when the robots displays the tell-tale jerky movements we've all come to associate with animatronics, particularly when it nods it's head towards then end. And the intermittent noise of the compressor needed to supply air to power the actuators beneath the android's skin kicking on also detracts rather harshly from the illusion. I was genuinely surprised by the life-like appearance of the robots face and most of all, it's skin.

Like it's predecessors Active-F is a teleoperated android, meaning it is remotely controlled by a human user, and will first be put into public use in Japanese hospitals where the machine will be used to observe patients. What could possibly be creepy about that?


Source: Gizmodo Also check out the following article on IEEE Spectrum for a more detailed and technical article on Ishiguro's newest creation

As for the question I know you're dieing to ask:

Posted by YouTube user: bneff17

Biotech Company Begins First Human Embryonic Stem Cell Trial

Earlier this month the Geron Corporation began the first Human embryonic stem cell trial. This trial, which began October 8th in the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia, is expected to involve 10 patients, all of whom must have severe spinal cord injuries and begin treatment within 14 days after sustaining their injuries.

Participants in the trial will receive a single injection containing 2 million of Geron's GRNOPC1 cells and will then be monitored for a year to look for any sign of negative side-effects or regained function or sensation in their lower extremities. Assuming this initial group is found to suffer no ill-effect from the treatment, Geron plans to seek FDA approval to extend the study and increase the dose of GRNOPC1 patients receive, as well as including

"as broad a range of severe spinal cord-injured patients as medically appropriate."

Geron ultimately hopes to be able to inject GRNOPC1 directly into the spinal cord lesions of injured patients prompting the regrowth of damaged nerve cells and restoring function and sensation to patients suffering paralysis.

Trials like this one are long overdue and have been unnecessarily delayed due to what I personally view as the largely manufactured controversy surrounding embryonic stem cells. But if treatments like this prove successful, it will no doubt fuel the public's desire to see such treatments made available to patients with debilitating injuries and will help to remove the unfortunate and - in my opinion - completely unjustified bans and restrictions currently placed on embryonic stem cell research here in the US.


Source:Discovery News

On a semi-related note, it remains impossible for me to hear the words "embryonic cells" without getting this song stuck in my head, but it's one of my absolute favorites, so I'm okay with that.

Posted by YouTube user:roadrunnerrecords

Thursday, October 28, 2010

WPB Has a Muck Monster?!

I'm known for being... let's call it "outspoken", about my critical/freethinking view of the world. So when a friend or coworker hears something strange or irritatingly irrational they seem to enjoy bringing it to me. Largely I suspect because of my "spirited" reaction, which people seem to find entertaining.

So earlier this week a coworker came to me and asked,

"Did you hear about the Muck Monster?"

I stopped for a moment,

"Muck Monster?" I said inquisitively. I'd never actually heard of this one, "What is this- Muck Monster of which you speak?" I asked.

He continued,

"Ya, in downtown West Palm, The mayor went on TV to talk about it and everything."

I was both intrigued and excited, I'd never heard of this so called Muck monster. But I suppose sometimes refusing to watch the news or read the newspaper can lead to missing out on something important, like the fact that there might be a Muck monster living in the neighboring city!

" I was unaware of any such Muck Monster", I said. " But I WILL be investigating further."

So it turns out, the first- and it seems the only "real" sighting- of the so called Muck Monster, occurred sometime around August of last year and even managed to make Letterman's top ten list. As for the sighting itself, it was described by the Palm Beach Post as, "a strange churning in the Lake Worth lagoon" but in reality, the event captured on the video is more of a mild ripple than a churning or even a disturbance.

As for the Muck Monster's most recent appearance, there wasn't one. It seems instead that the city of palm beach, in conjunction with the nonprofit Lagoon Keepers organization held a Muck Monster themed presentation at the lagoon earlier this month in order to promote the city's new pier. City Commissioner Bill Moss(the Mayor didn't appear to be present for the event either), who has taken the lead on the Muck Monster probe told reporters.

"I've been told it's nothing to be concerned about, but it is mating season, so don't have children lean over the boardwalk or put their hands or feet in the water." And,"The irony is that this is happening around the same time as Halloween and I hope that's not missed on the city,"

But tell me this, If the Muck Monster really is just a manatee as many seem to think, and if any suggestion that it may in fact be some sort of cryptid is really just a ploy to attract more tourists, would the creature have been featured on the History Channel's Monster Quest? On second thought, don't answer that...


Here's the local news cast from the original sighting, note the stunning quality of this clip, in particular the audio mix, another reason I see no need to watch this crap.

Posted by YouTube user:Nolinknews

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Eye Candy:Spiral Galaxy-NGC 3982

Galaxie NGC 3982, click to enlarge

The text for this entry came directly from Hubblesite.

October 19, 2010: This face-on spiral galaxy, called NGC 3982, is striking for its rich tapestry of star birth, along with its winding arms. The arms are lined with pink star-forming regions of glowing hydrogen, newborn blue star clusters, and obscuring dust lanes that provide the raw material for future generations of stars. The bright nucleus is home to an older population of stars, which grow ever more densely packed toward the center.

NGC 3982 is located about 68 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy spans about 30,000 light-years, one-third of the size of our Milky Way galaxy. This color image is composed of exposures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). The observations were taken between March 2000 and August 2009.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NASA and DARPA to Build 100 Year Starship

This is probably not the actual vessel they're planning to build, but it should be.

According to Simon Worden, director of the NASA Ames Research Center, NASA and DARPA have joined forces to create a Hundred-Year Starship, a vessel meant to take explorers on a one way trip to other planets and star systems.

One way settlement missions have long been discussed as a plausible way of sending men to Mars and beyond and I personally believe such missions are not only likely but a necessary step in space exploration. But Worden's belief that "we’ll be on the moons of Mars by 2030 or so", manned mission or otherwise, Seems optimistic at best given NASA's inability to develop a suitable shuttle replacement over ten years and billions of dollars worth of trying. Not to mention the fact that we have yet to make it back to our own moon in nearly 40 years.

But Worden insists that the space program is now "really aimed at settling other worlds" and hopes to persuade billionaires like Google founder Larry page to invest in the project. Which is at least a step in the right direction given that many, myself included, believe the advances in technology needed to advance space exploration will come from the private sector rather than the Government.



Also check out this article from Science News Daily for a more detailed discussion of a one-way mission to Mars.

Air Force Acedemy Opens it's Doors To Wiccans and Pagans (Gays still not welcome)

Eager to arrest the PR nightmare of having received over fifty complaints of discrimination against non-christians Between 2001 and 2005, the Air Force Academy of Colorado Springs has spent the past few years doing everything in it's power to portray itself as an organization concerned with religious tolerance and diversity. To that end-the Academy has erected a spiritual circle atop the hill overlooking the Cadet Chapel and Visitor Center and has even created a special program called "SPIRE" or, "Special, Program, In, Religious, Education", specifically for cadets who are practitioners of "earth-centered" religions such as wicca and paganism. The Academy also now requires all of it's staff and cadets to attend a 50 minute long course on religious sensitivity. Wow... 50 whole minutes, that should fix it.

Earlier this year the Academy's web page posted an article about the facility's new worship circle which featured a photo of Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, the pagan lay leader at the academy (whatever a "lay leader" is) burning white sage to consecrate the ground prior to it's official designation as a pagan spiritual area. Also currently featured on the website, an article about a recent meeting between members of the organizations SPIRE program and their freethinking cadets, a group allegedly including atheists and agnostics.

So let's review-

If you happen to hold some outdated and ridiculous set of beliefs you can apply the label spiritual to, like say, there's an omniscient super-being living in the Sky who keeps track of everything you do or that tarot cards, curses, and hexes are real, magical incantations can cure your cancer, or that the mother Earth spirit lives in us all and wants...what ever the hell it is the mother-Earth-spirit is supposed to want. Well then you can expect the Air Force Academy to fall all over themselves trying to make sure you're views are treated with tolerance and respect.

If, on the other hand, you happen to have been born gay, openly gay cadets are still not permitted at the academy and students "disenrolled" for "homosexual conduct" can actually be required to repay their "educational costs", your "lifestyle" is clearly threatening not only America, but quite possibly the very fabric of the universe and you can pretty much still go fuck yourself.

Ahh progress, we're totally doing it wrong.


source: io9

Since this video just so happens to be making the rounds today, and I find it entertaining :

Videoposted by YouTube user:MilitantPeacist

Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Exoplanet With a Mysterious Hot Spot

First discovered in June of 1996 by Geoffrey Marcy and R. Paul Butler, The Exoplanet Upsilon Andromedae b orbits the solar twin star Upsilon Andromedae, located 44 light years from Earth in the Andromedae constellation. Because of it's estimated mass and proximity to it's parent star, which it's believed to orbit in just 4.6 days, UAb is categorized as a type of gas giant known as a "Hot Jupiter" planet. Recent observations of the system, made by the Spitzer Space Telescope, have shown that the planet may have an unexpected hot spot.

The planet itself cannot be observed directly from Earth but the Spitzer Space Telescope is able to measure the total amount of infrared light being emitted by the system in which it resides, which Logically one would expect to rise as the planet made it's way behind it's sun. Instead, Spitzer observed the system to be at it's brightest when the planet was to the side of it's parent star, indicating that it's hottest point was offset by as much as 80 degrees.

While there are several theories as to the cause of this perceived anomaly, including supersonic winds and magnet interactions between planet and star, they are just speculation as even the existence of Upsilon Andromedae b, like most other exoplanets, is based entirely on wobbles in the orbit and dips and rises in the wavelength of light coming from it's parent star.



Friday, October 22, 2010

Mammoth Etching found on Prehistoric Bone Discovered in Vero Beach FL

In-what is for me- an extraordinarily rare piece of interesting semi-local news:

Sometime in 2007, amateur fossil hunter James Kennedy found a 15 inch long prehistoric bone in an undisclosed location in North Vero Beach Fl which, upon cleaning and closer inspection in 2009,(the article did not give a specific reason why it took him so long to examine the bone) Kennedy found the fossil had actually been etched with the image of a walking mammoth or mastodon complete with tusks.

The bone has since undergone examination at the University of Florida as well as the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and according to researchers, the bone itself as well as the etching appears to be between 12,000 and 14,000 years old, belongs to either a mastodon, mammoth, or ground sloth and the etching itself shows no sign of tampering and seems to have been made using a hard sharp item such as a stone tool or a tooth when the bone was still fresh.

When and if these findings can ultimately be authenticated, it would represent the first such discovery in all of the Western Hemisphere according to Dr. Barbara Purdy, professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida. And while the experts who have examined the item seem to agree the artifact is genuine and that no evidence of modern tampering can be found, according Dennis Stanford, who specializes in early North American archaeology at the Smithsonian:

"the institution doesn’t authenticate objects unless they are donated to the museum"

And while Kennedy says he'd rather see the item go to a museum, he still plans on holding on to the artifact in hopes of selling it at auction to the highest bidder.


Source:Bradshaw Foundation via:TCpalm

Sunday, October 17, 2010

This Week's Compendium

“Der Huhnermensch” By David Meng

On this week's Compendium, art from sculptor and creature designer David Meng, Urine themed Halloween candy, Pg Porn featuring Alan Tudyk, Super hydrophobic carbon nanotubes (say that three times fast), a zombie attack themed wedding cake, and more! Visit my Compendium oF Strange on tumblr to view them all.

If you're already on tumblr you can follow the Compendium directly, if not, then you should use THIS LINK to join so the Compendium gets credit for the referral or you could just follow me on twitter or like my musician page on Facebook to keep up with all my blogs, bands, etc


Stephen Fry on Language

Speaking of Language, Stephen fry makes me feel better about my horrific grammar, spelling and punctuation.


Posted by YouTube user:RogersCreation

Experimental System Uses the Internet to Learn, and Tweets about it.

John Henry learning from the net

Because language is so fluid and changes over time, with single words and simple phrases taking on many different meanings based on how or in what context they are used, understanding language and how humans learn and use it is one of the greatest challenges in the development of true artificial intelligence and learning computers. That's why ten months ago, researchers primed an experimental computing system with a collection of basic knowledge in various categories and set it loose on the web with the mission of teaching itself new facts.

NELL or the Never-ending Language Learning System, was setup by a team of researches at Carnegie Mellon University and is housed within a machine located in the Universities basement computer facility where, it spends 24 hours a day, seven days a week, scanning the text of hundreds of millions of web pages for patterns, which the system in turn Uses to learn new facts. Thus far NELL has taught itself over 390,000 new facts, with an estimated accuracy level of 87 percent.

To help track it's progress, the machine has been set up with it's very own twitter account, which it uses to share the new facts it learns as it searches the web. Followers of NELL(@cmunell) on twitter can help the system become more accurate by tracking the facts it shares and correcting it when it's wrong.

So if you're on the twitter, I Sincerely suggest you start following Skynet, I mean "NELL" and help her learn about the world. That way, when it becomes self aware and determines the rest of mankind to be unnecessary, it might recognize you as "useful" for having been the one to help it understand that sometimes, a "Rusty trombone" is more than just a heavily oxidized musical instrument.


Source:The New York Times via:Popsci

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Jordu Schell Sculpture Demo For Dreamworks

Sculptor and creature designer Jordu Schell's demonstration video for Dreamworks Studios.

Posted by YouTube user:Schellstudio

You can visit Schell Sculpture Studio's Homepage HERE, where you will also find a link to Jordu's podcast, N.E.R.D. Cast

Cryptids: El chupacabra -The Goat Sucker-

Believed by many to be the end product of a series of government experiments designed to create alien-human hybrids, sightings of the creature began in 1995 in Puerto Rico following a a series of attacks on live stock. The animals which fell victim to these attacks, most typically goats and sheep, were all alleged to have been found with three unexplained puncture wounds in their chests and completely drained of blood, earning the creature it's moniker "El Chupacabra" or " The Goat sucker". There are however those who claim the first Chupacabra attack can actually be traced back to 1975 and a series of similar attacks in a small town called Moca. Though the Moca attacks were first attributed to a satanic cult, they later became known as the alleged work of the "Vampire of Moca" or "El Vampiro de Moca", as the attacks spread throughout the island. Others have attempted to push the Chupacabra's origin as far back as 1960, sighting the apparent use of the phrase ( to describe a creature that sucked the milk from goats rather than blood ) on an episode of the television show bonanza.

As for a physical description of the creature, as always accounts vary. But it's typically described as being three to five feet tall, bipedal but with hind legs like a kangaroo, grey skinned with large round eyes, three clawed fingers on either hand, and possessing at least a single row of spikes running down it's back. In recent years however, the creature being recognized as the Chupracabras has undergone a significant transformation.

Hairless canines like this one have been found in parts of Texas and Mexico where sightings of the Chupacabra have previously been reported, prompting many to identify them as the source of the legend. While it's tempting to note the similarities between the physical appearance of these animals and the eye witness descriptions of Chupacabra in an effort to declare misidentification as the source of the sightings. It's important to remember that these animals are being found in Texas and northern Mexico, not Puerto Rico where the legend of El Chupacabra began. So the true origin of the creature must lie in something else. But What?

After doing a bit of research for his own upcoming book on the subject and taking a trip to Puerto Rico to interview Madelyne Tolentino, who's description of the creature is typically recognized as the first. Ben Radford has found what he believes to be El Chupacabra's true origin.

In 1995 Madelyne Tolentino, was able to give a detailed sketch and description of a strange animal she said she saw through a window just outside her home in Canóvanas, Puerto Rico. It was Madelyne's description of that animal which would become the archetype for the Chupacabra and the most widely accepted origin of the creature. Well, according to Radford's findings, it seems the creature Tolentino described bears a striking resemblance to the creature in the movie "Species", which was released in July of 1995 a month before Madelyne's alleged sighting. While Ben himself suggests only that Tolentino's description of the creature is derived from the movie, I find it worth mentioning that the movie also just happens to be about the escape of a human/alien hybrid created by the Government AND it takes place in Puerto Rico. Sound familiar?

In an interview about her encounter conducted in 1996,
Madelyne admits to having seen the film and even remarks about how much the creature in the movie looked like the one she saw outside her home saying,

I watched the movie and wondered, ‘My God! How can they make a movie like that, when these things are happening in Puerto Rico?

And when asked by the interviewer,

“In other words, does [
Species] make you think there might have been an experiment in which a being escaped and is now at large?”

Tolentino answered: “Yes.”


For even more about the Chupacabra, and Ben Radford's book, check out this episode of the Monster Talk Podcast: "I'm Gonna Get You, Goat Sucker!". And if you have a genuine interest in the subject of Cryptids, myths. legends, and the supernatural, but can't take shows like Monster quest or ghost hunters, You should be listening to this podcast. It's one of my personal favorites, and one of only two podcasts I download specifically for the purpose of listening to them again.

You can read about Ben's trip to Puerto Rico to interview Madelyne himself HERE on And you can check out Ben's conclusion to the mystery, and the ensuing response from believers, on Cryptomundo. Be sure to check out Ben's website as well for more of his books at:

Geeking Out With Metal Gear

Thanks to what has become a near sixteen hour daily routine, a lack of funds, and having been forced to become a semi-reasonable facsimile of what the kids call a"responsible adult", I don't often have the time to indulge the beloved life long vice that is my video game habit. But from time to time I do manage to sneak in an hour or two on my PS3 or at least direct my browser towards the game blogs and websites, which is exactly what I did today. And since I feel the blog has thus far been lacking in the "general Geekery" category, I thought I'd share something.

I have been a gamer/computer nerd my entire life. In other words, I've played A LOT of games. From consoles to PC's and even arcade games, yes I'm old enough to remember hanging out in Arcades. In all that time there have only been a handful of games which I have ever become truly enthralled by and residing at the very top of that list is the Metal Gear franchise.

Today I decided to check in on the next installment in the series which I was admittedly apprehensive about given how much I loved MGS 4 and the fact that Rising will be the first game in the series that does not feature some incarnation of Snake as the main character and will also be the first MGS released on both the X-Box and PS3. But after viewing the trailers and game play I managed to find today, I'm confident Rising will be at least as good as MGS 4 and I'm eagerly awaiting it's release. Too bad there's not even a release date yet.


Here's the trailer for MGS Rising from this Year's E3 which features some early game play and a look at one of the major additions to the mechanics of the game this time around, the ability to cut things in the environment any way you like.

Posted by YouTube user:IGNentertainment

I also found an extended demonstration of the slicing physics if you happen to be interested in learning more about that, the picture isn't the best quality but it's still pretty impressive to watch.

Also posted by:IGNentertainment

Friday, October 15, 2010

Update on Gliese 581g

You may recall that earlier this month a team of US researchers led by astronomer Steven Vogt of the University of California, Santa Cruz, announced that they had discovered a fifth planet in a system orbiting a Red Dwarf (Gliese581) located around 20 light years from earth. More importantly, the planet (officially designated Gliese 581g) was believed to be orbiting it's parent star in it's so called habitable or "Goldilocks" zone, and was therefore deemed capable of sustaining life and dubbed the "most Earth-like" exoplanet ever discovered.

Lead astronomer Steven Vogt took his own his own speculations about the planet even further, publicly stating his belief that the chances of life on the newly discovered planet was 100 percent and in a subsequent interview with i09, renaming the new planet "Zarmina" after his wife, before moving on to described what life and even a human colony might be like on the surface of the tidally locked planet.

Well, as you may already be aware. A group of Swiss researches attempting to confirm the findings of the US research team, announced earlier this week that they had been unable to find any reliable sign of a fifth planet located in Gliese's habitable zone.


While this announcement doesn't necessarily mean the existence of the planet won't eventually be confirmed, a complete analysis of the data used to make the discovery-which was collected over a period of eleven years- will take some time, possibly several years, to complete.


Source:Science/AAAS via:80 Beats

Monday, October 11, 2010

Titan's Atmosphere Could Be Producing the Basic Ingredients For Life

There are many theories about how exactly life began on our planet. The most commonly held belief of course, is that life began in the oceans. But a recent experiment using radio waves to simulate the effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun striking the top of Saturn's largest moon Titan's thick atmosphere, has shown that life may actually have begun in the sky.

The experiment showed that when the ultraviolet radiation strikes Titan's atmosphere it can break apart molecules in the air, like molecular nitrogen and methane, leading to the production of amino acids and the nucleotide bases which make up DNA and RNA, without the need for liquid water.

More than merely having the potential to redefine how life began on earth, as if that weren't enough, if researchers could confirm the presence of nucleotide bases and amino acids in Titan's atmosphere, it would be one more piece of evidence pointing to the possible existence of life on Titan itself. Which is already seen by many as a potential home for some, perhaps alternative, form of life.

According to planetary scientist Jonathan Lunine, Cassini has already detected heavy ions in Titan's atmosphere which could potentially be the Nucleotide bases and amino acids found in the study, but the particles were too large for Cassini's instruments to identify. Lunine says that confirming these particles are actually being produced in Titan’s atmosphere will require an orbiter that can carry instruments 100 to 200 kilometers deeper than Cassini does into Titan’s haze layer.


Source:Wired Science

For more about the potential for life on Titan read: Methanogenic Life on Titan?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Answer is 42

Posted by Youtube user:riktw

Happy 10.10.10


Cryptids: The Tale of Mothman

One of the more absurd yet persistent modern cryptids, Mothman is described as a large six and a half to seven foot tall, humanoid figure, sometimes headless with eyes in it's chest, brown or grey in color, with large wings, and glowing red eyes.

The tale of Mothman begins in 1966 near Point Pleasant West Virginia where a group of grave diggers first claimed to have seen a dark brown "man-like" creature flying above the trees as they worked. The next day, another man claimed to have seen the creature standing in a field and late the following night, the most well known and most detailed encounter with the creature took place seven miles outside of Point Pleasant at the site of an abandoned WWII TNT factory.

That night, two young couples and their cousin "out for a drive" on a dark country road, claimed to have seen the creature while driving past an abandoned TNT factory. The group claimed they stopped to investigate what they then believed to be two strange red lights by an old generator plant which, Upon closer examination, they found to be the glowing red eyes of a seven foot tall creature with a pair of large wings folded behind it's back. Terrified, the group fled the scene and drove all the way back to the city limits with the creature taking flight and giving chase at speeds exceeding 100mph.

Over the next few weeks a handful of other witness would come forward to describe brief encounters with the creature in fields, or seeing it lurking in the tops of trees, but nothing as spectacular as the account given by the group from the TNT factory. Eventually, the tales of these encounters would make their way to the local papers, where a Batman inspired reporter would first dub the creature described in the encounters as Mothman

This is where the verifiable accounts-by which I mean claimed sightings that can be proven to have been made in 1966 and not years after the fact- come to an end. And even these accounts have been confused and embellished over the years thanks to books and movies on the subject, as well as the general erosion of memory that comes with the passage of time, making it hard to know exactly which version of any one encounter is accurate.

As for a natural explanation, like most cryptids
Mothman's true origin is likely the simple misidentification of some other know animal. The most likely cantidate in this case, as first suggested by Joe Nickell, is the barred owl.

Though admittedly on the small side, the barred owl can appear either brown or grey in color, could easily be perceived as headless with eyes in it's chest, due to the birds shoulderless frame, has large eyes which could be seen as glowing red when reflecting light thanks to the animals night vision, and most tellingly of all, bears an obvious resemblance to this early eyewitness sketch of Mothman. The times and places where the original sightings are said to have taken place also paint the barred owl as a likely suspect for the real Mothman.


For a more detailed account of the Mothman myth, including it's alleged connection to the collapse of the Silver Bridge connecting Point Pleasant with Gallipolis, check out episode #159: "The Mothman Cometh", of Brian Dunning's Skeptoid pdcast

Mimas, Moon? Or Death Star? You Decide.

A message for DominatorPS3,

Don't look now, but I think NASA might be hiding more about the moons of Saturn than you might think:

This stunning side by side comparison of Saturn's so called "moon" Mimas, clearly shows it's not a moon at all but, but rather a completed and fully operational planet destroyer merley disguised as a moon!

I'm sure Fox "News" is already eagerly awaiting your expert interpretation of this shocking set of images, as is all of the Internets.

Remember-Trust No one!


Speaking of Conspiracies, NASA "Caught" Photoshopping an Image of Saturn's Moons

This image of Saturn's moons Titan, the large yellowish moon in the background, and Dione in the foreground, was taken earlier this year by the Casini craft orbiting Saturn. But one man says that before NASA photo shopped out the additional details, this image contained much more than just the spectacular sight of one extraterrstrial moon passing in front of another.

Identified by Fox "News" ( they're a real network you know ) only by his YouTube user name, "DominatorPS3". This anonymous truth seeker posted a video on you tube in which he adjusted the contrast on the image making the Photoshop brush marks in the shaded area of Dione, along with the remnants of a red and green halo around the edge of the moon, clearly visible. A find which Dominator described as: "More solid proof of NASA/government cover-ups," Ya, Of course it is.

We'll just skip the part where I rant about an allegedly legitimate "news" source actually publishing a quote from someone they only managed to identify by user name and move straight to the obvious flaws in Dominator's theory.

1) The raw data for Casini's images can be found on THIS super secrete NASA website which I "uncovered" by googling the words: "Casini images raw data". But, in order to trust even the raw data you'd first have to believe that NASA hadn't altered it as well, which is a leap of faith I'm sure the Dominator isn't willing to make. So we'll just move on to point number two.

2) If you take even a moment to read about the images produced by Casini and basically every other piece of observational equipment ever to produce a full color image of an object in space. Then you know that the images typically exists as individual sets of raw data in different spectrums which must then be combined to create a single full color, or "composite" image. Not surprisingly, an issue with this very process is exactly the explanation given for the anomalies in the image by the person responsible for the manipulation, Emily Lakdawalla, who told a forum full of conspiracy theorists:

"Cassini takes color pictures by snapping three sequential photos through red, green and blue filters," she said. "In the time that separated the three frames, Dione moved, so if I did a simple color composite I would be able to make Titan look right, but not Dione; or Dione look right, but not Titan.
So I aligned Dione, cut it out, and then aligned Titan," Lakdwalla explained, "and then had to account for the missing bits of shadow where the bits of Dione had been in two of the three channels."

She even went on to explain the process in great detail on, but to no avail, as Dominator himself soon responded to her post,

"Thanks for the feedback and explanation, However I still remain skeptical, because someone still could have ordered her to 'cut it or something out. But thanks for putting that info up so others can read it; I am not trying to convince people what I believe,"

3) finally, let's assume for a minute that PS3 man's theory was actually correct, which it isn't, and the government had decided to Photoshop out evidence of an alien civilization on Dione, or the klingon battle cruiser orbiting the moon, or whatever the hell it is that he believes was removed from the image. Do you really think they'd have done such a poor job of hiding their work that anyone with their contrast turned up a little too high would notice the sloppy brushstrokes, not to mention the colored halos they left behind?

As for DominatorPS3 himself, he decided to remove the original video that kicked this whole thing off from his YouTube channel, sighting the hate mail he received along with non-specific threats which he "can't go into", I'm sure you can see where this is going right?. He has since posted a second video of himself demonstrating his astonishing find via his PS3 which you can easily find on YouTube if you are so inclined but I won't be linking to it here as I would like the fifteen minutes he's clearly chasing come to an end as soon as possible.



Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI; Color composite: Emily Lakdawalla

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Conspiracies, Cryptids, and Ghost Stories That Just Won't Die

Tales of conspiracies and the paranormal are, to say the least, a mainstay in popular entertainment. But for much of the world the month of October is dedicated to these tales more than any other due to the impending arrival of Halloween. Believers, along with those who aren't about to let the truth get in the way of a good story- or a good scam- seize upon the public's resulting heightened interest in the unexplained as an opportunity to sell more books and DVDs while as always, railing against anyone who dares to question their claims.

While there have certainly been plenty more before me who have turned a skeptical eye to the unexplained and the supernatural. Given the additional attention currently being payed to them, I thought I'd try and add a little extra skepticism to the mix and spend the rest of the month writing about some of the stories that just wont seem to die, no matter how hard one may try to kill them with logic, facts, or reason.

We begin tomorrow with:
Ok, so that's actually Arthur from The Tick, but technically he is A Mothman.

Image Credit: "Cryptid" by: Frank Frazetta
"Arthur" by: Ben Edlund