Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for September, 2008

WETI: Wait for Extraterrestrial Intelligence


1) WETI is the new SETI
To find our place in the universe has been an underlying theme of scientific exploration for more than 5000 years or thereabouts. A critical part of this endeavour is to determine whether life and intelligence are rare commodities or rather the ubiquitous and unavoidable result of cosmic evolution. In more popular terms: Are we a freak of Nature or is the Galaxy teeming with smart, bug-eyed creatures with lots of tentacles? There are only two ways to obtain an unambiguous answer to the question: We can either actively search our galactic environment and find intelligent beings, or such beings could conduct a search and find us. The first approach is already being used in a wide variety of large-scale and well-funded projects. The second approach, on the other hand, has hitherto been left to amateurs, and has never been attempted in a rigorously controlled scientific setup. Naturally, this is goal of the newly founded WETI Institute.


2) The Brake equation, and other ideas about absolute truth
The Drake equation, first given by Franke Drake 1960, is widely used as a tool to quantify the odds of finding intelligent life in our Galaxy. Much less famous, but significantly more sophisticated is the Brake equation, developed in the 1970s by the Danisch cyberneticist Michael F. Brake (1903-1984), who also invented the popular deceleration apparatus.
By introducing the factor fs, the Brake equation puts limits on research efficiency: For all fs>1/N, WETI is more efficient than SETI. The Brake equation is also much more transparent regarding the inherent uncertainties in the task at hand. Finally, by adding he term B, the equation ingeniously allows for its own non-existence.

3) Not quite a joke
It seems appropriate to ponder the actual usefulness of WETI. Where do we come from? Where do we go? Can we have coffee in between? Thanks to the WETI Institute, the process of answering these questions turns into a social experience – a global, conscious waiting process.
You can think of WETI as an interstellar bus stop. Without it, most people do not even know why they spend their time at this stupendously boring place. With WETI, everyone at least knows that they are waiting. This gives their seemingly eternal standing-around new purpose, and with fierce determination they continue the long wait.

4) Our plan to rule the world
Distributed computing and community interaction are vital parts of our activities. We will offer a free computer program for download that will make use of the idle time of your computer to very efficiently wait in the background. Modern computers can wait several million times each second. By exploiting this currently unused waiting potential, we will collectively create the biggest waiting power ever applied to any problem on Earth. Furthermore, to establish a strong scientific foundation for the waiting process, we invite experts of all disciplines to join the Effortless Action Committee (EAC) – our think tank to provide guidance and substance. Membership is free and does not come with any obligations. Further information is available on our website: weti-institute.org

[via Posthuman Blues]

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Steamships of the Gods


“In a find that has stunned archaeologists and anthropologists, a vast wall of about 1500 paintings chronicles the history of Aboriginal contact with outsiders, from Macassan prows and European sailing ships to 19th-century steamships and a World War II battleship.

Alongside exquisite rock art more than 15,000 years old are paintings that capture some of the 19th and 20th centuries’ most important technological innovations – a biplane, bicycle, car and rifle – as well as portraits of church ministers, sea captains and traders.”

Sydney Morning Herald: The rock art that redraws our history

And as any UFO enthusiast will think, these are also interesting because they indicate how aboriginal cultures would depict alien technological artifacts. The detail and precision with which they depicted those (sea) ships and even a biplane is amazing.

Quite different from undetailed circular things that some interpret as flying saucers, but could actually be an indefinite number of things, including completely imaginary visions. Amid these representations, Dogu figurines and the Fergana painting could be exceptions…

Except that they aren’t. More on Dogu figures here, and soon a post about the Fergana… hoax.

Not to sound like a boring debunker, though: it’s not only possible that some ancient rock art depicted contact with aliens. I think it’s actually more probable than the chances either you or me will contact aliens in our lifetime.

These depictions could have been made after a contact at any point over thousands and thousands of years, versus the short decades that are our own lifetimes. It’s not foolish to look for evidence of ancient contact, or at least, it’s logically less foolish than to look for a casual close encounter this (or the next) night.

Unfortunately, and I can’t emphasize how much this is a sad – and puzzling – fact, there’s no evidence of ancient contact.

Bonus link: The Last Cargo Cult

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Don’t Trust Anyone, Children


CHILDREN from an Edgware school were made to believe aliens had landed in their playground by teachers and police.”
From Harrow Observer: X-files come to classroom

Now, this is some news I surely had to read about on Anomalist and then scour Google to find more. Perhaps as part of The Conspiracy, such a bizarre item didn’t come up on any of my usual news channels.

From the Harrow Times (from where the photo above came from):

“When children came into Stag Lane Middle School, in Collier Drive, this morning they found a small section of their playing field cordoned off behind police tape and a forensic expert taking samples from strange markings on the grass.

Teachers have spent the last two weeks mocking up “alien” hand prints, as well as strange symbols, and todays stunt forms the final chapter of an exercise staff hope will stimulate their imagination and teach creative writing skills.”

I thought at first that children must have been terrified. But apparently, that was not the situation. Just read this:

Donte Nelson, 10, of Edgware, said: “I’m not scared of the alien because I’ll keep it and put it in my pocket. They’ve got big heads and small bodies.”

Touching, isn’t it? Maybe the authorities are hiding the little ones that snapped in some cage? In the website of the school, there is already a comment apparently from a student:

i think alien day was very suprising as to have a head teacher to do all of that just to see the excitement and imagination on our faces is the best thing ever!!!

On second thought, I have already expressed my opinion about that. The whole notion that people will suddenly go crazy when authorities reveal we are not alone is a huge myth.

That could happen, depending on a number of factors, but there’s no actual evidence to support it with any certainty. And some evidence suggesting most people will quickly accept the New World Order.

This bizarre school exercise and the reactions from the kids seem to be yet more evidence about that. If only such an experiment was tried on a whole city, perhaps just for some hours, or in a military base, we would know if civil order would collapse.

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Seeing Exoplanets – and much more


Scientists from the University of Toronto announced last week what may be the first direct image of an extrasolar planet orbiting a star similar to our own Sun. The pale orange dot was imaged around the 1RXS J160929.1-210524 star, some 500 light-years from Earth, and is around eight times bigger than Jupiter.

There’s still no confirmation that the object is indeed going around the star — if it is, then besides being an extrasolar planet, it’s also an intriguing find due to its size and huge distance from the star — more than ten times farther than Neptune is from the Sun. Current theories to the formation of planetary systems would have some trouble to explain such a huge planet so far from its star. Perhaps something like this game?

Fact is, there are now more than 300 known extrasolar planets throughout the Universe. Almost all of them were detected indirectly, but there were quite a few possible direct images before this one, going from the TMR-1 ten years ago to the 2M1207b announced in 2004. This latest one could be the first exoplanet detected directly around a star similar to our Sun.

This is all the more amazing, since two decades ago, we didn’t know any, not even one single planet beyond our solar system. In 1988, Canadian astronomers announced the discovery of a planet around Gamma Cephei, but the data was uncertain, and it was confirmed only many years later. It was only in 1992 that a planet was confirmed around pulsar PSR 1257+12, and then finally in 1995 Mayor and Queloz from University of Geneva publicized the definitive discovery of a planet in orbit of the 51 Pegasi star.

Ever since, with exoplanet detection receiving more attention (i.e. funding), we detected these hundreds of planets and estimate that more than 10% of the sun-like stars we see in the sky have planets going around. Probably much more than that.

In another astronomical news this week, researchers from the Supernova Cosmology Project, using data from the Hubble space telescope, reported the discovery of a "mysterious" object.


Detected initially in Februrary 2006 in an "empty" area of the sky, outside any observable galaxy, the object gradually increased its brightness more than 120 times in three months. Only to decrease it in the next months and vanish again. Spectral analysis showed that "in addition to being inconsistent with all known supernova types, is not matched to any spectrum in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey database" of vast numbers of objects.

"We suggest that the transient may be one of a new class", said the astronomers who will publish their work in the Astrophysical Journal. That is, they may have found a completely new kind of object in the Universe. Among billions and billions

Astronomy is still a field full of mystery and surprises, which are only reinforced by our vast knowledge extending billions of light-years from our home planet. In particular, the latest direct image of an extrasolar planet was captured from a ground telescope, in Hawaii!

In a recent discussion, astrobiologist Jill Tarter from project SETI mentioned the series of intriguing signals recorded by the project, including a short pulse detected last year. Asked if she thought the signal was artificial, she pondered that:

"like Jocelyn Bell with the pulsars, when we come up with anomalies, we ought not to totally ignore them. If you can’t say that it’s black holes colliding or some other phenomenon, then let’s go back to thinking about some technologist somewhere who figured out how to do this."

In fact, it’s unlikely the object detected by the Hubble is artificial, and despite the hundreds of exoplanets detected, our technology is still a distance away to detecting really Earth-like planets. Neither has SETI been able to confirm any of its anomalous signals.

Nevertheless, we can hope all of these matters will be answered by another one. A matter of time. If only we search for it, of course. [h/t TDG]

Direct Imaging and Spectroscopy of a Planetary Mass Candidate Companion to a Young Solar Analog;
Discovery of an Unusual Optical Transient with the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Fire Angel in Israel

“In a road near Jerusalem, towards Emaus, an alleged angel of fire appeared in front of a bus of the religious group of preacher Rene”.

Straight to the point: the “fire angel” is just the reflection of the Sun inside the bus camera’s lens system. Also known as flare, or Mr. Flare, in the Captain Disillusion Universe:

The video of the flare in Israel is not that interesting, but I shared it here due to the commotion that can be heard in the background.

The people – evangelical Brazilian Christians visiting Jerusalem – are screaming "Glory to the Lord!", "Manifest thyself!" and other things. Towards a simple reflection from the Sun, which disappears every time the bus pass through a shadow, either from road signs or tunnels, cannot be seen to the naked eye, only through the video monitor, and moves as the bus makes turns. You can watch other videos of the crazied bunch screaming to the flare.

I should also note that last year, a flare was sold in Colombia as a ghost. Mr. Flare can make his show to the gullible. Do not be fooled, in fact he’s just a sideshow.

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