Earth is an alien planet. For evidence, look no further than the 'water bear', or tardigrade - one of the toughest creatures you'll find, able even to survive in space:
Is this an alien? Probably not, but of all the animals on Earth, the tardigrade might be the best candidate. That's because tardigrades are known to be able to go for decades without food or water, to survive temperatures from near absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, to survive pressures from near zero to well above that on ocean floors, and to survive direct exposure to dangerous radiations.
The far-ranging survivability of these extremophiles was tested in 2011 outside an orbiting space shuttle. Tardigrades are so durable partly because they can repair their own DNA and reduce their body water content to a few percent. Some of these miniature water-bears almost became extraterrestrials recently when they were launched toward to the Martian moon Phobos on board the Russian mission Fobos-Grunt, but stayed terrestrial when a rocket failed and the capsule remained in Earth orbit. Tardigrades are more common than humans across most of the Earth.
Pictured above in a color-enhanced electron micrograph, a millimeter-long tardigrade crawls on moss.
(hat tip @AnomalistNews)
While 'Area 51' may be almost a household name today, twenty years ago it was only just coming to public attention through the work of independent researchers. In the early 1990s one researcher in particular, Glenn Campbell, was instrumental in bringing press attention to the secret military base at Groom Lake in the Nevada desert - rumoured by some to be a repository of secret alien spacecraft technology - largely through his self-published guide to the location, the Area 51 Viewer's Guide. Campbell has now published this seminal document online for free as a PDF, and you can grab a copy for yourself from his website (make sure you check out the terms and conditions before doing so):
In UFO research, it can be hard to distill the truth from the overwhelming ocean of rumors, ideologies, hyperbole, hoaxes and false perceptions. All of these things are rampant here, so I have chosen in this document to stay as close as possible to concrete, undeniable fact. This is a guide not to UFOs themselves but to the many practical matters concerning the hunt for aerial objects in the vicinity of the "Black Mailbox," the remote highway location north of Las Vegas where many visitors claims to have seen UFOs. This document reviews the geography of the region, the references available, local accommodations and services and many other practical topics of interest to visitors. Much of this information should be helpful to any traveler passing through the area regardless of their views on flying saucers. It should also be of interest to aviation enthusiasts in search of secret "Black Budget" aircraft built entirely by humans.
This book is an anomaly. It is a guide to hunting for UFOs and secret aircraft, but I do not honestly believe you are going to see any. In over two years living in this area, I have never seen any light in the sky I cannot explain or any military device that I would regard as particularly secret. There are a few intelligent UFO stories emanating from the military area that I think deserve serious attention. These concern the claim that the U.S. government may have had extraterrestrial hardware in its possession and may even have been in contact with aliens themselves. That is different from the claim-fostered by the less reputable media and by a certain local merchant - that you can come here to this remote desert highway and see flying saucers in on demand. This is ridiculous. The "Alien Highway" is a myth that, regrettably, I helped create by drawing attention to this area. It serves the human need for rituals and things to buy, but it does not bring us any closer to the truth.
This document reflects a certain period in my investigation of Area 51, ending around Dec. 1993, when I was collecting a general base of geographical knowledge about the area. I continue to update this Viewer's Guide on an irregular basis to reflect changes in the facts initially reported, but I will not pursue any new avenues of investigation here.
If spotting a saucer at Area 51 is unlikely, I hear you ask, then why then bother consulting the guide in the first place? Because, as Campbell says, "a saucer-watching expedition has a certain nostalgic appeal, and nothing can be more pleasant in the summer than setting up a lawn chair under the crystal clear desert skies, miles from anywhere, with the dream of seeing something out of the ordinary". I like his thinking.
For those interested in more up to date tales of Area 51 incursions, in the spirit that Glenn Campbell mentions above, make sure you check out Blair MacKenzie Blake's wonderful article in Darklore Volume 7, "Dirt Roads to Dreamland" (grab a copy from Amazon US or Amazon UK), in which he tells of his expeditions to the famed secret base along with his good friend Danny Carey, drummer for the best band on the planet, Tool.
Watch the video above on as high a resolution as possible, full-screened on a monitor as big as possible. It's enough to make me shiver in awe.
Eruptive events on the sun can be wildly different. Some come just with a solar flare, some with an additional ejection of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME), and some with complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun's atmosphere, the corona.
On July 19, 2012, an eruption occurred on the sun that produced all three. A moderately powerful solar flare exploded on the sun's lower right hand limb, sending out light and radiation. Next came a CME, which shot off to the right out into space. And then, the sun treated viewers to one of its dazzling magnetic displays -- a phenomenon known as coronal rain.
In scenes reminiscent of the Hollywood movie Armageddon, a meteor shower has lit up the skies over Russia, with the shockwaves blowing out windows and injuring at least 250 people.
People in the Chelyabinsk and Sverdlovsk regions reported seeing "burning objects" in the sky, which also fell on the cities of Yekaterinburg and Tyumen - a sparsely populated area of about 500km (310 miles).
About 600 sq m (6,000 sq ft) of a roof at a zinc factory collapsed, the Associated Press quoted an interior ministry spokesman as saying.
The Chelyabinsk region is Russia's industrial heartland, an area that has many factories, a nuclear power plant and the Mayak atomic waste storage and treatment centre.
The emergencies ministry said that thousands of rescue workers had been dispatched to the area to provide help to the injured.
Officials say that the shower began after a large meteorite disintegrated above the Urals mountain range and partially burned up in the lower atmosphere - resulting in fragments falling earthwards throughout the Chelyabinsk region.
Coming just hours before the close pass of 2012 DA14, some in the region may well have been thinking the end had come as a series of massive explosive sounds echoed around the region:
I've been saying for years that in the modern era of CGI special effects, all UFO videos are worth nothing without at least some independent verification of the sighting. And the YouTube video above is the perfect illustration of that, with its incredibly realistic rendering - take a look at it.
What's that you say? It's a very stylish looking alien craft, but you can see that it's obviously a fake that's been composited into the footage? Actually, that's the sucker punch. The mind-blowing revelation about this UFO footage is that *everything* in the video is CGI - the car, the sky, the entire environment:
“UFO Over Santa Clarita” was a painstakingly crafted joke played by Aristomenis “Meni” Tsirbas, the director of the 2007 computer-animated film Battle for Terra who has also contributed visual effects and animation work to movies like Titanic and Hellboy and several Star Trek television series. A long-time champion of “photorealistic” CGI, Tsirbas and his team spent about four months mimicking the look of an accidental extraterrestrial encounter captured on a smartphone.
And until now, Tsirbas hadn’t revealed the truth to anyone outside a handful of friends.
“The point of the video was to prove that CGI can look natural and convincing,” Tsirbas told Wired. ”Everybody assumes the background and car are real, and that the UFOs are probably fake, especially the over-the-top mothership at the end. The general reaction is disbelief, so I usually have to prove it by showing a wireframe of the entire shot to prove that nothing is real.”
Mars just keeps throwing up surprises: the Curiosity rover has imaged a metallic-like protuberance emerging from a rock:
Visible in the image above, the protuberance appears to have a high albedo and even projects a shadow on the rock below. The image was taken with the right Mastcam on Curiosity on Sol 173 — January 30, 2013 here on Earth...
...the protuberance seems different than the rock on which it sits – it could be composed of material more resistant to erosion than the rest and similar material could be within the rock, or it could be something that is “grown” on the rock. However, it looks fairly smooth, and in fact it is not covered by dust as is the case for metal surfaces that tend to clean easily.
But “small” is the operative word here, as the little protuberance is probably about 0.5 cm tall, or even smaller.
The full image from NASA/JPL can be found here.
Late last year our good friend Matt Staggs posted a link to the "Nervous Breakdown Reading List: Occult and High Weirdness". This got me to thinking that once the Christmas craziness had settled down, a fun project might be to compile a list of books that any Fortean should definitely have on their bookshelf. But how to approach the compilation?
My thought was that the process could be done in two-steps. Firstly, I'll put out a general call (first one below) for NOMINATIONS of books to a certain Fortean category (to simplify things a bit). From that list of nominations, a short-list will be compiled based on the number of nominations, which will then be PUT TO A VOTE to determine the order of importance. I'm thinking some parts of the process may end up being a little organic, but this should provide us with a reasonably fair end result.
So, to kick things off, I'm going to start with the 'Alien' category, which at the moment comprises everything from UFOs and abductions to astrobiology and SETI. Given the broadness of this category (with some elements likely even mutually exclusive), I may have to separate the nominations into sub-categories - but I might wait to see what kind of numbers we have first:
The Essential Fortean Booklist
Category: ALIEN (UFOS, SETI, alien contact etc)
Please list a maximum of ten books that you think are required reading/reference material for a Fortean, in the comments section below. This may be for a number of reasons, from historical through to scientific importance. Note: this means it does not necessarily have to be the *best* or most *scientifically valid* book on a topic - the criteria is that it deserves to be on the bookshelf.
Note that the number of nominations may be crucial in making the short-list, so you shouldn't decide to not post a certain book just because it has already been mentioned.
A one or two line blurb accompanying the nomination describing the reason for its importance is encouraged and appreciated (and may end up being used in the final presentation of books)!
(You will need to be registered as a Daily Grail user to nominate and vote, to avoid spammers/self-promotion/poll-crashing by external sites.)
I look forward to seeing your recommendations!
Update: Nominations are now closed, but please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments for those who read this thread in future.
The Joe Rogan Experience is a fun video interview podcast hosted by comedian and TV personality Joe Rogan, which delves into plenty of the topics that we cover here on TDG (they've recently had Graham Hancock and Steve Volk). The most recent instalment (above) has Joe hosting astrophysicist and science populariser Neil deGrasse Tyson, and I really enjoyed it. Somewhat suprisingly, because JR and NdGT are at fairly opposite ends of the spectrum in many ways - Rogan describes himself as "a person who's not scientifically inclined, and prone to conspiracy theories", while Tyson is an outspoken (and IMO, often condescending) science promoter who often makes fun of conspiracy/fringe proponents. So I was ready for a fairly awkward, snarky, back and forth - but instead, the conversation actually takes a little from both sides and turns out to be a really fun, respectful exploration of scientific topics, both orthodox and fringe.
(NSFW language warning)
In case you were starting to feel a little self-important as we set out exploring 2013 A.D., I give you a quick immersion in the Total Perspective Vortex. To be clear: that's the view off the edge of our little planet and into the abyss of the Milky Way galaxy.
Larger version here, if you dare.
(Photo by Andrew Hara, via @SETIInstitute).