Posts Tagged ‘Extraterrestrial Life’

Radio 3 Programme Tonight on the Voyager Interstellar Record

August 29, 2017

Tonight, 29th August 2017, at 11.00 O’clock Radio 3’s contemporary music show, Late Junction, has an edition marking the 40th anniversary of the golden record, which has taken sounds from Earth into interstellar space aboard the Voyager space probe. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

Late Junction marks the 40th anniversary of the Voyager Golden Record, a sonic time capsule sent into space by NASA to transmit earthly music , sounds and languages to extraterrestrials. A committee chaired by Carl Sagan selected the contents of this ‘message in a bottle cast into the cosmic ocean’. Nick Luscombe wonders what sounds we would send out into the universe were we to do it again, as well as playing the best bits from the original Golden Record, including a Navajo field recording, mariachi from Lorenzo Barcelata and court gamelan music from Robert Brown.

New SF Series Coming to Channel 4: Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams

August 28, 2017

Last Sunday I caught this trailer on Channel 4 for a new science fiction series, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

The title is obviously an homage to Dick’s most famous work, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which became one of the great, classic SF films of all time, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

The series will consist of ten, self-contained episodes, each based on a different Dick short story, starring some of film and TV’s top actors. These include Timothy Spall, Steve Buscemi, Jack Raynor, Benedict Wong, Bryan Cranston, Essie Davis, Greg Kinnear, Anna Paquin, Richard Madden, Holliday Grainger, Anneika Rose, Mel Rodriguez, Vera Formiga, Annalisa Basso, Maura Tierney, Juno Temple and Janelle Monae.

One of the executive producers is Ronald D. Moore, who worked on the Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space 9 and Voyage, as well as Battlestar Galactica and Outlander.

More information, including plot summaries, can be found on Channel 4’s website at http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/philip-k-dicks-electric-dreams And Den of Geek, http://www.denofgeek.com/uk/tv/philip-k-dick-s-electric-dreams/50380/philip-k-dicks-electric-dreams-7-reasons-to-get-excited.

This looks really promising. Den of Geek say in their article that the anthology format already recalls Channel 4’s Black Mirror, and The Twilight Zone. I have to say I wasn’t drawn to watch Black Mirror. It was created by Charlie Brooker, and was an intelligent, dark examination of the dystopian elements of our media-saturated modern culture and its increasing reliance on information technology. However, it just wasn’t weird enough for me. Near future SF is great, but I also like spacecraft, aliens, ray guns and robots. And this promises to have some of them, at least.

Channel 4 have also produced another intelligent, critically SF series, Humans, based on the Swedish series, Real Humans. With Black Mirror, it seems Channel 4 is one of the leading broadcasters for creating intelligent, mature Science Fiction.

Rush Limbaugh: Evidence of Flowing Water on Mars Is Leftist NASA Plot

August 20, 2017

Here’s another right-wing gasbag, who should lose his radio show. In this clip from two years ago – 2015 – host Sam Seder of The Majority Report comments on Rush Limbaugh’s pronouncements about signs of flowing water on today’s Mars by NASA. NASA announced that they had found evidence that water still flows today on the Red Planet at the right season. The space agency states that this is a survivor from the period, 3 billion years ago, when the planet was much warmer and wetter than today, and a great ocean may have covered the entire northern hemisphere. The discovery is of immense importance in the search for possible life elsewhere in the solar system.

This is science, but it’s too much for Rush Limbaugh, who sees a conspiracy where there is none. NASA is part of the leftist plot to delude the world into believing in global warming, and this announcement, he goes on to suggest, may be part of it. He ridicules his producer, Sneedley, who was excited and enthusiastic about NASA’s announcement. Limbaugh then declares that he is a ‘big time science guy’ who gone past ‘science 101’. He then goes on to cast scorn and suspicion about the announcement. It’s part of some leftist plot being pursued by the agency, but he doesn’t quite know what yet. But it’s probably about global warming. Soon, he predicts, they’ll announce that they’ve found a graveyard.

Limbaugh’s a Republican broadcaster, who’s been a fixture of American right-wing radio since the 1980s, loudly applauding Ronald Reagan and ranting about how the ‘Leftists’ are trying to destroy his country. In the clip, Seder and his co-hosts and producers ridicule Limbaugh not only for his scientific ignorance – what, pray, is ‘Science 101?’, as well as the way he has openly sneered at and belittled his producer.

They then conclude the programme by further mocking him. They imitate Obama’s voice to declare that Islam is the one true religion. The Martians rejected this, which is why they were hit by a devastating drought. That’s why Obama is going to declare shariah law, and have a child from every White family in the mid-West sold into slavery in the Middle East.

This is to poke fun at Limbaugh, and the stupid, paranoid opinion amongst many American Republicans that Obama is a secret Muslim advancing the plans for an Islamic takeover of the US.

The clip shows much of what’s wrong with the American right’s attitude to science, their massive ignorance, which they think shows how perceptive they are, and their stupid paranoia about ‘leftists’. Which in this case, means anything and anyone, who isn’t as crazily right-wing as they are.

I’ve put up several pieces here about the possibility of life on Mars, and the use of certain genetically modified organisms to terraform the Red Planet. I know that several of the readers of this blog have science backgrounds and similar interests. I’ve put this up because I thought people might like to see just how stupid and ignorant Limbaugh, and by extension, his audience, is about this whole issue.

Firstly, as Seder points out, when NASA made the announcement they said it was about the state of Mars 3 billion years in the past. It’s nothing to do with global warming.

Absolutely correct. Planetary scientists now believe that there was a period during the early history of the solar system, when Mars was warm and wet. I think the National Geographical mentioned this when they did a piece on Mars in the 1980s or ’90s. It’s also discussed in Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic SF novel about the colonization of Mars, Red Mars.

What killed Mars was not global warming, but global cooling. Mars has no tectonic plates, and so it is theorized that the planet’s atmosphere was not renewed through releases of gases released from its rocks through geological forces. Over millions or billions of years, the atmosphere evaporated into space. The surface pressure is about 5 milibars – that of a laboratory vacuum. Without an atmospheric blanket to focus and increase the sun’s light, the planet cooled. Without atmospheric pressure to sustain it, water rapidly sublimates into vapour on the Martian surface. What water has survived is locked up in the ice caps, and may be as permafrost below the Martian surface.

Mars has never been cited as a warning of the dangers of global warming. That’s always been Venus. Venus lies closer to the Sun than Earth, and so has suffered runaway global warming as ever increasing amounts of carbon dioxide was released from its rocks. The result of this is that the planet is covered by a permanent cloud layer. Surface temperatures reach something like 400 degrees C, the rain is sulphuric acid, and its surface pressure is enough to squash a human flat. If you want an example of how different the histories of Mars and Venus are, go have a look, or read, the chapter ‘Blues for a Red Planet’ in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Sagan was a major believer in the threat of global warming, and in that episode of his epic science history blockbuster, explicitly drew a parallel between Mars’ fate and that of our own world, if we don’t cut carbon emissions.

As for finding a graveyard on Mars, some scientists have speculated on the possibility that we may find fossils of the creatures that may have lived on Mars, far back in ancient geologic time. There are also serious scientists, who have suggested that we should look for evidence of advanced extraterrestrial civilisations in the planets of our solar system. Our solar system lies in a part of the Galaxy, where the stars are an average of a single light year away from each other. That’s a short enough distance for an advanced civilization to make the difficult journey across interstellar space to another solar system. And the solar system is so old, about 4 billion years if not more, that it is statistically likely that intelligent life has arisen elsewhere in our Galaxy. And just as the Earth orbits the Sun, so the Sun orbits the centre of the Galaxy, taking 225 million years to complete one revolution. This is long enough for our Solar system to have come close to one of those other stars, harbouring alien life.

So signs of an extraterrestrial civilization may well exist on Mars. However, Mars has been dead for so long, that it’s unlikely that there exist any remains of an indigenous Martian civilization on the planet’s surface. In their entry ‘The Surface of Mars’, subtitled ‘Desert’, in their book Catalogue of the Universe, astronomers Paul Murdin and David A. Allen write

If once great cities stood here, they have crumbled to unrecognizable shapes. If trees bowed before moist zephyrs, they have returned to the dust whence they rose. If aircraft landed here, they too have vanished, or been buried beneath unknown depths of sand and rocks. (pp. 205-6).

Not all scientists are convinced that the features NASA suggested was evidence of flowing water were actually produced by it. Others believe that the marks on the surface may instead be produced by the release of other chemicals in liquid form from the underlying rock.

But if liquid water still flows on Mars, albeit it occasionally, not only does it augur well for the possible survival of some life, even if only primitive bacteria, but it also makes the planet more hospitable for possible colonization.

NASA’s claim to have found evidence of surface liquid water was therefore immensely exciting. And Limbaugh’s producer, Sneedley, was actually absolutely right to be excited about it. It’s his host, Limbaugh, who’s ignorant. And dangerously so.

No-one expects ordinary people to be experts on science. Science has advanced at such a rate that it’s too much for many ordinary people to keep update with scientific advances, some of which can be very arcane to laypeople.

But we do need people to be reasonable well-educated. And especially about threats to the planet, like global warming. It’s why there’s a need for good scientific writers and broadcasters to explain the issues clearly.

Limbaugh with his stupid denial of global warming, and his paranoid suspicion that NASA is part of some larger ‘left-wing’ plot, is actually doing the opposite. He’s disparaging real science and trying to keep people ignorant in order to promote his own, extreme right-wing views.

He’s also a danger on racial issues. A day or so ago I reported that Trump had cut funding for FBI and Department of Homeland Security initiatives against White racist terrorism. This included a charity, Life After Hate, that helps former Nazis leave these organisations without being attacked by their fellow stormtroopers. It’s a real danger. Matthew Collins, one of the founders and leaders of the anti-racist/ anti-religious extremism organization, Hope Not Hate, had to migrate to Australia in the 1990s after he appeared in a documentary exposing the violence of the NF and BNP. Obama had given $400,000 to the charity. He would have funded them sooner, but he was prevented from doing so by the ravings and possible denunciation by Limbaugh.

It’s debatable, however, how long Limbaugh will actually carry on. Far from being the influential Republican spokesman he thinks he is, his radio station in recent has been haemorrhaging sponsors and advertisers. His ratings have fallen to the point, where fewer people listen to him than to College radio stations with the range of only one or two miles. The only thing keeping him on air is money from Republican and similar extreme right-wing think tanks. If they pull out, he’s off the air.

Alex Jones: KKK Are Leftist Jewish Actors Creating Division

August 20, 2017

I blogged a few days ago about a report on one of the American left-wing internet news shows about a particularly odious comment about Charlottesville from the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones. Alex Jones is the head of the conspiracy internet show, Infowars, and its website, Prison Planet. As I’ve discussed many times before, Jones believes – or pretends to believe – in all manner of outre conspiratorial ideas. At their heart, however, is his unwavering belief that the ‘globalists’ in charge of politics and industry are paedophile Satanists, who worship and are possessed by demons, and are intent on enslaving and destroying humanity. Their ultimate aim is to create a one-world state. Among their weapons are socialism, feminism and gay rights, which he has described as ‘a transhumanist spacecult to create a genderless human being’. Oh yes, and they’re intent on taking away good, freedom-loving Americans guns.

In this clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, co-host Michael Brooks plays the clip from Jones’ Infowar broadcast in which he talks about how he protested the Klan. Jones states that back then there was no Antifa protecting him. He’s clearly a bit miffed at that, though depending how far back he was protesting – Jones has been around for a long time – the organization as such may not have existed back then. Brooks wonders why Jones was protesting. Was he protesting against their racism, or because he thought they were a front group funded by George Soros?

And then Jones gets very sinister. He claims that when the hoods came off, the Klansmen were all FBI infiltrators, played by ‘leftist Jewish actors’. He then states that they were so Jewish, they looked like the cast of Seinfeld. And concludes that Leftist Jews are posing as the Klan in order to create division.

Brooks and his team joke about Jones’ statement about the supposed actors impersonating the Klan looking like the cast of Seinfeld. Brooks states that the show had the weirdest portrayal of New York. They were no Black people, but also no inbred WASP-ish types.

I’m sure I don’t need to go into how dangerous and sinister Jones’ comments are to the readers of this blog. But just to make it absolutely clear, this is verging dangerously on the stupid, genocidal conspiracy theories at the heart of Nazism. Hitler believed that ‘Marxist’ Socialism – meaning everything from the Communist party to the reformist SDP and trade unions – and capitalism were both Jewish strategies for enslaving the Aryan race. The modern variant of this is that the Jews are still intent on establishing themselves as the rulers of the world, and are attempting to destroy the White race through racial intermixing, and the promotion of homosexuality and other forms of depraved sexuality, including Rock and other Black musical genres.

Now Jones hasn’t promoted these long discredited and murderous theories yet, but by talking about ‘leftist Jewish actors’ attempting to create division, he’s not very far away.

And especially as the stupid theories of government collusion with extraterrestrials produced a further theory in the 1990s that the American and other governments were cooperating with the aliens to enslave humans. These theories, at least those promoted by the infamous Bill English in his book, Behold a Pale Horse, drew extensively on the Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This is the spurious document at the heart of many of these theories of Jewish world domination. It’s supposed to be the minutes of a secret meeting of Jewish leaders outlining their plan to seize global power and enslave gentiles. It has inspired Nazis and Fascists all over the world. It was even supported by the right-wing press in Britain, until some of them woke up to how fake and dangerous it was, and turned against it.

The Protocols of Zion are absolutely fake. They were put together by the Okhrana, the Tsarist secret police, in order to encourage the last tsar, Nicholas II, to persecute the Jews even more harshly. Nicholas II believed in the old blood libel, that Jews murdered Christians during Passover and used their blood in the matzoh bread eaten at this Jewish holiday. He had a young man, Beilis, repeatedly tried for this non-existent offence, to the point where even some of his most anti-Semitic advisors realized that it was discrediting his regime.

English and the other conspiracy theorists took care when citing the Protocols to try to make their ideas seem more acceptable by excising, or rather, explaining away the Protocols’ anti-Semitic content. Where the text said ‘Jews’, they claimed it really meant ‘Illuminati’, the 18th century conspiratorial group under Adam Weishaupt, which infiltrated the Freemasons. The Illuminati have been blamed as the secret actors behind the major political events of world history, such as the French Revolution, and are intent on destroying Western, Judeo-Christian culture. One of the female leaders of the British Fascist movement in the 1920s was a very strong advocate of these claims. I can’t remember if it was Nesta Webster or Rotha Orne Linton. One of the two, anyway. Whoever it was, she was an alcoholic, who had been given this privileged information by the spirit Duc de Orleans, one of the aristocrats involved in fighting the French Revolution.

I think the John Birch Society in the 1960s also claimed that the Illuminati were responsible for the decline of civilization and the rise of Communism, so that today there is a distinct subculture around the world of ultra-Conservative people, who really believe it. Many of those, who believe in the existence of the Illuminati genuinely aren’t anti-Semites, and would probably be horrified if you called them that. But by citing the Protocols in his stupid UFO conspiracy theory, English did much to rehabilitate them. One bookshop in the north of England even stocked the wretched thing because of this.

Jones calls the ‘globalists’ he thinks are, in Jon Ronson’s phrase, ‘the secret rulers of the world’ the Illuminati. I don’t think he’s anti-Semitic, but by promoting these absurd views he’s coming dangerously close to the real, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that form their basis. The right-wing political scientist, Daniel Pipes, in his book Conspiracy Theories, discusses how these theories first blamed the Freemasons when they emerged after the French Revolution. During the 19th century the Jews were introduced into them as allies and collaborators of the Freemasons. The final revision came in the 20th century, when the Jews were blamed as the prime cause of the liberal revolutions and left-wing dissent, displacing the Freemasons.

You can see from this that it’s only a very short step from Jones’ ranting about the Illuminati, who include ‘Leftist Jews’ as just one of the groups collaborating with them, to the full bilge of The Protocols.

This isn’t just an American problem. People have access to the internet all over the world, so that I’m sure Jones has viewers in many different countries. One of his co-hosts, Paul Joseph Watson, is British, and he’s also had David Icke on his show. I’m therefore very show that he has more than a few followers in Britain. He was even interviewed over here by Andrew Neil, who was far less than impressed with his sanity when Jones started ranting about gun rights.

I don’t know how many people honestly take Jones seriously. Certainly there are any number of videos on YouTube taking the mick out of him, using carefully edited excerpts from his show. These show him ranting nonsensically, including one where he screams ‘I am a fluoride-maddened chimpanzee’.

But at this point, the laughter has to stop. It’s beyond a joke. Jones is becoming dangerous. Not to the ‘globalists’ – the real corporate heads, who run multinational industries responsible for enslaving millions in sweatshops and trashing our planet’s already fragile ecology. He already embraced one, when he had Trump himself come on his show and gave his support to the orange buffoon during his election campaign.

He’s a danger to ordinary people, and particularly the Jews. It starts with them, before going on to the other racial and political groups Nazis and Fascists hate and fear – people of colour, gypsies, socialists, communists, trade unionists, gay and transgender folk. Other religions or sects, which are deemed to be subversive and dangerous. The Nazis persecuted either the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Seventh Day Adventists – I’ve forgotten which, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular messiah. They and Mussolini also banned the Freemasons, and Fascist Italy also carried out a campaign against the Waldensians, a Protestant sect that had its origins way back in the 12th century with the merchant, Peter Waldo. And, as disabled rights activists have rightly pointed out, the Nazis also murdered the disabled and mentally handicapped.

For all his loud liberatarianism, Jones is coming perilously close to promoting the kind of lies that led to the death of nearly 12 million people in the Nazi death and concentration camps. These comprised 6 million Jews, and 5 1/2 million others, rounded up, persecuted and murdered because of their political or religious beliefs, or, as in the Roma, for their race. The Nazis also despised as untermenschen the Slavonic people of eastern Europe. Russian POWs were also worked to death and murdered in the camps as slave labourers.

I dare say this genuinely horrifies Jones. But as I said, he’s coming very, very close to promoting the same ideas and attitudes that created the Third Reich and its horrors.

It’s time the plug was pulled on his programme, and it was taken off the air.

7 Earthlike Worlds Discovered Around Star Trappist-1

February 25, 2017

More awesome space news! This week, NASA announced that their Spitzer telescope had discovered a system of seven worlds orbiting the ultra-cool red dwarf star, Trappist-1. The star takes its name from the Belgian operated observatory, which found it. Astronomers from Liege university discovered two of these worlds. Three of these rocky worlds lie in the planet’s habitable zone, which means they could have life, and all of them have temperatures which would permit liquid water to exist. Because of the star’s small size and extremely cool temperature, they are closer to their star than Mercury is to the Sun. This video from the Kepler Telescope Channel also looks forward to the development of spacecraft that will be able to reach something like lightspeed, so that humanity may at some point in the future be able to expand into space. And at just 39 light years away, Trappist-1 and its worlds are a suitable nearby target for exploration. The scientists, who made the discovery, also say that the planets are so close together, that you’d be able to see all of them from the surface of one of the planets. They would loom larger than Earth’s Moon, and it would be possible to see even clouds and geological features on their surface.

Organic Material Found on Asteroid Ceres

February 25, 2017

This is fascinating, as Star Trek’s Mr Spock would put it. Scientists at NASA have found organic molecules on the surface of the asteroid, Ceres. They can’t tell at the moment what these molecules are, but they believe they’re similar to Kerisite, and came from within the planetoid, rather than being carried to it by a comet striking its surface.

This short video from D News discusses the recent finding, pointing out that this provides further evidence to support the possibility that life exists elsewhere in the universe.

Ceres is the largest of the asteroids, or minor planets, orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Most of them are quite small, and have been rightly dubbed ‘flying mountains’. Ceres, however is about 500 miles in diameter.

There has been evidence before that the organic molecules forming the building blocks of life exist in the asteroid belt. These chemicals have been found in meteorites that have landed on Earth. However, with some of these the evidence has been extremely debatable. One of these meteors came down in Orgueoil in France. However, the organic molecules they found may have had a far more mundane origin, as the person, who’d discovered it had stored it in his fridge. I think it had got covered in butter, amongst other things.

I found another video on this discovery, which suggested that there may also be an internal ocean on Ceres, and that the organic molecules on its surface may indicate that it has life, even of only a very primitive kind, underneath in its oceans. This would be, in the words of Zaphod Beeblebrox, ‘amazingly amazing!’ if true. I suspect there isn’t such an ocean and no life there either, but we won’t know for sure until this is investigated further.