The Red Planet may well be a dead planet, but deep down we all seem to want to find that extraterrestrial intelligence is (or at least was) present on Mars. From the Face on Mars through to Bigfoot on Mars, news stories continue to be written about photographic anomalies on our second-nearest planetary neighbour (no doubt assisted by the relatively large number of missions that have placed satellites in orbit and rovers on the ground there).
The latest anomaly creating a buzz is a 'light on the horizon' snapped by NASA's Curiosity rover four days ago (April 3) soon after reaching a new study area known as the Kimberley (see the pic above - click for full-size image). But before you get too excited, there's a problem: Curiosity takes stereo pictures with two different cameras, and the 'light' only shows up in the right hand camera, despite both taking pictures simultaneously. This suggests that the 'light' is not truly out there on the horizon, but is instead an imaging artifact of some kind. Indeed, Doug Ellison, visualisation producer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), explicitly stated on Twitter today that it was an artifact caused by "a cosmic ray hit". Such glitches have caused Mars confusion before, such as this story about a Martian base.
What I found odd though is that another image taken by Curiosity, a day earlier, also showed this 'light' artifact - and this glitch too was precisely on the horizon line:
The camera is positioned differently, it was taken a day earlier, and yet the 'light' is on both occasions on the horizon. I thought perhaps that such glitches might manifest in areas of high contrast (e.g. where ground meets sky/distant mountain range) in an image, so I asked Doug Ellison on Twitter whether that was the reason for the similarity in location. His reply was that it was actually, quite simply, a coincidence that was bound to happen at some stage:
@DailyGrail Doesn't need a reason. Statistically over 100,000's of images, that will happen (and any other coincidence you fancy)
— Doug Ellison (@doug_ellison) April 8, 2014
@DailyGrail The fact that it's in one 'eye' but not the other means it's an imaging artifact and not a real 'thing' in the terrain. Period.
— Doug Ellison (@doug_ellison) April 8, 2014
I bow to the experts on these matters, but I still find that explanation slightly unconvincing. Maybe there's a better one: the Martians are trying to blind the rover...
(Caveat for the sake of those without a drop of humour: that last statement was a joke).
Update: Last night I checked Curiosity's track maps and consulted Google Earth's Mars view to get a feel for the direction the images are looking. What I found piqued my interest even further. The bottom image in my post was taken on Sol 588, the top image a day later on Sol 589. During that time the Rover moved slightly to the south, and in both cases is looking west(ish), firstly from the north-side of a mound in the foreground and subsequently on the south-side. If you look at where the light is in relation to the mountain range in the background (use the quite recognisable 'two-level' mountain directly behind the 'light' in the top pic for reference), you'll notice that the 'light' would be in pretty much the same position on the terrain a couple of hundred metres away, if parallax is taken into consideration. Which tends to lift the possibility in my mind that it could very well be a physical object (shiny rock, electrostatic dust devil, Nephilim) rather than a cosmic ray camera artifact (though the issue of only being in one of the stereo cameras remains suggestive of a cosmic ray artifact).
Update 2: A few about-faces today on the cosmic ray artifact explanation. Doug Ellison, who in his reply to me was certain it was a CR, is now saying "I've done a complete 180. 589 could be a CR hit. 588 isn't. It hides behind a hill behind the two eyes... if one triangulates between the two observations, one finds a point on a small ridge line. That point is also visible in Sol 580 MastCam imagery that shows a tall, thing [sic], bright rock at the exact same point". And Justin Maki, lead scientist on Curiosity's engineering cameras, has told Alan Boyle that it could be the light is the glint from a rock surface reflecting the sun.
Want to explore the sacred sites of the world, but don't have the cash to live your dream? While you're saving your pennies, this might be the next best thing: the Google Maps team has created a 'Street View' exploration of the temples of Angkor, Cambodia, allowing you to 'walk around' (virtually) the ruins of the ancient seat of the Khmer Empire:
The temples at Angkor each have a unique story — whether it’s the way they were built, the ancient Khmer cities they sit on, or the artwork they contain. To give you the most complete picture, our team used all the tools available to us: Street View cars, Trekkers and tripods to carefully photograph the exteriors and interiors of Angkor’s temples as they stand today.
With more than 90,000 new panoramic images views, we hope Cambodians and others around the world can experience these cultural and archaeological treasures in an entirely new way. Whether it’s revisiting iconic sites such as Bayon Temple in time for the Khmer New Year or studying the Ramayana’s Battle of Lanka bas relief carvings within Angkor Wat, Street View can help you more easily explore Angkor’s rich heritage.
From the tree-covered ruins of Ta Prohm, through to the amazing carvings of Angkor Wat, there's hours of fun in this one - get into it.
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'In unseen worlds, science invariably crosses paths with fantasy.'
- Phil Plait asks "Did a skydiver almost get hit by a meteorite?"
- Mississippi trail cam captures strange object spooking deer.
- Bigfoot hunter Rick Dyer confesses to another hoax.
- A university lecturer claims to have photographed fairies in the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire. Dr Beachcomber gets to the bottom of it.
- Boulder carved with mysterious face discovered after falling off a Scottish cliff.
- Extract from Daisy Campbell and John Higgs' interview with Alan Moore - voicing FUCKUP in Campbell's play of Robert Anton Wilson's 'Cosmic Trigger'.
- Remembering Terence McKenna.
- Teller's version of Shakespeare's The Tempest takes magic literally.
- Ten ancient stories and the geological events that may have inspired them.
- Are animals fleeing Yellowstone a sign of an impending eruption?
- The Junkie Genius: new biography reveals the extremes of William S. Burroughs.
- Visions of the Impossible: Jeffrey Kripal explains how ‘fantastic’ stories unlock the nature of consciousness.
- Why physicists make up stories in the dark.
- Time to build a real Jurassic Park?
- Why psychics don't win lotteries.
Quote of the Day:
Long live transfinite mountains, the hollow earth, time machines, fractal writing, aliens, dada, telepathy, flying saucers, warped space, teleportation, artificial reality, robots, pod people, hylozoism, endless shrinking, intelligent goo, antigravity, surrealism, software highs, two-dimensional time, gnarly computation, the art of photo composition, pleasure zappers, nanomachines, mind viruses, hyperspace, monsters from the deep and, of course, always and forever, the attack of the giant ants!
“However vast the darkness…"
- Unlocking the multiverse?
- Enceladus’ subsurface ocean.
- Life in Enceladus’ dark water could inspire new era of exploration.
- When the Arabian Desert went green.
- Earth to the Moon: The liquid link?
- La Luna’s birthday unveiled?
- A new twist to dark matter mystery?
- The Cuban revolution will be tweeted, thanks to U.S. agency.
- Clinton echoes Reagan on UFOs… and Werner Von Braun?
- Maps… You’re doing it wrong.
- Conjuring ‘ghosts’ with the Philip Experiment.
- The genetic flight of the hummingbird.
- Dinosaur chase, reconstructed.
- Growing organs, one stem cell at a time.
- When tsunamis ruled the oceans.
- Have a light breakfast.
- Superman vs. Gravity.
- Color pixels promise new clarity.
- HAL vs. Jobs.
- Lego Batmobile, circa 1966.
- Spreading the love, one graham cracker at a time.
- This week’s evidence of the looming robot uprising… Roo-‘bots.
Quote of the Day:
“...We must supply our own light.”
Last month on the Grail was the biggest reader numbers ever. Welcome to all you new Grailers!
- In need of a lubricant so that you can slide something large into the Forbidden City? The ancients knew what to use: ice.
- Demons, mummies and ancient curses: should the British Museum be afraid?
- Ground up mummies were once an ingredient in paint. Spreading the curse, one coat at a time…
- Ancient mummy has tattoo of an angel on her inner thigh.
- The Gobekli Tepe of Ireland? 10,000-year-old settlement found in Cork.
- New discoveries challenge orthodox beliefs on humans' arrival in the Americas.
- A Good Trip: Researchers are prescribing psychedelics to help cancer patients deal with their situation - and it's working.
- Ultra-thin graphene might allow us to wear contact lenses with infrared vision in the future.
- Just a few days on from last week's new planet discovery, another new dwarf planet has been found in our Solar System.
- Hamster wheel to Alpha Centauri: Massive spaceships could be fuelled by human exercise.
- Alien abduction, Scarlett Johansson-style. Silver Screen Saucers reviews Under the Skin.
- Body swapping: the science behind the switch.
- Can a psychic help you with your grief?
- Frontiers in Human Neuroscence published a paper about precognition. Burn them!
- Embracing the unexplained - how 'fantastic' stories unlock the nature of consciousness.
- The 8-year-old exorcist saving Brazil's slums.
- 12 strange vintage photos of séances.
- Home is where the heart is (buried under the floorboards). The childhood home of Jeffrey Dahmer, site of his first killing, is up for sale. Would you live in it?
Quote of the Day:
The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God.
New research is revealing the secrets of ancient mummies of the British Museum. Using CAT scanners and infra-red reflectography, new details about the mummies' lives have been uncovered, such as the angelic tattoo found on the inner thigh of a 1300-year-old Sudanese woman:
One of the mummies, whose remains were found just seven years ago, was so well preserved that archaeologists could almost make out the tattoo on her skin on the inner thigh of her right leg with the naked eye. Infra-red technology helped define it more clearly.
The woman, aged between 20 and 35, had been buried wrapped in a linen and woollen cloth and her remains had mummified in the dry heat. The tattoo has been deciphered by curators and spells out in ancient Greek – M-I-X-A-H-A, or Michael.
The owner of the tattoo was a woman who died in about AD 700 and lived in a Christian community on the banks of the Nile.
The tattoo represents the symbol of the Archangel Michael, who features in both the Old and New Testaments. The symbol has previously been found in ancient churches and on stone tablets, but never before in the form of a tattoo.
“You can see her tattoo really clearly using infra red reflectography,” said Dr Antoine, “The tattoo on her right inner thigh represents a monogram that spells Michael in ancient Greek.
“She is the first evidence of a tattoo from this period. This is a very rare find.”
It's April 1 folks. I've done my best to filter out the foolishness, but might still be worth doubling-down on your dose of caveat lector before you begin exploring today's new briefs...
- Spanish couple claim to have found the Holy Grail. Chaos ensues.
- National Geographic Channel pulls Nazi War Diggers series from air after outcry over shoddy excavation techniques and disrespect for the dead.
- Graham Hancock "horrified" by the latest developments at Stonehenge.
- Under pressure from religious leaders, Darren Aronofsky's Noah now features a disclaimer.
- Was Noah a shaman?
- Smoke and Mirrors: Occult detectives and the first paranormal investigations.
- Bigfoot hoaxer's dummy maker reveals his secret.
- Exorcist director says the film worked because he made it "as a believer".
- Tomb of the Mothman? Inside the eerie TNT storage bunkers of West Virginia.
- Some reflections on children's memories of past lives.
- The Society for Psychical Research has received a £750,000 donation from the estate of the late Nigel Buckmaster.
- Real Apollo 11 training photos look like prep for a fake Moon landing. If someone finds Kubrick in one of those images, shout out...
- Could galactic empires exist without faster-than-light travel?
- Will we ever…travel in wormholes?
- Has this new discovery by astronomers confirmed there is a 'Planet X'?
- Related: Scott Sheppard discusses his discovery of the new dwarf planet in the outer reaches of our Solar System, and what it means.
- Japan told that its whale science is non-science, and ordered to halt Antarctic whaling.
- The 14 greatest hoaxes of all time.
Quote of the Day:
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
I'm pleased and proud to announce the latest book release from Daily Grail Publishing today: Talking With the Spirits: Ethnographies From Between the Worlds (Amazon US and Amazon UK), a scholarly anthology of essays, edited by Jack Hunter and David Luke, on the phenomenon of spirit mediumship in various cultures around the world - from good old-fashioned British Spiritualism through to more shamanic manifestations in other corners of the world:
Talking With the Spirits is a cross-cultural survey of contemporary spirit mediumship. The diverse contributions to this volume cover a wide-range of ethnographic contexts, from Spiritualist séances in the United Kingdom to self-mortification rituals in Singapore and Taiwan, from psychedelic spirit incorporation in the Amazonian rainforest, to psychic readings in online social spaces, and more. By taking a broad perspective the book highlights both the variety of culturally specific manifestations of spirit communication, and key cross-cultural features suggestive of underlying core-processes and experiences. Rather than attempting to reduce or dismiss such experiences, the authors featured in this collection take the experiences of their informants seriously and explore their effects at personal, social and cultural levels.
Here's the chapter and author listing:
- Believing Impossible Things: Scepticism and Ethnographic Enquiry • Fiona Bowie
- An Agnostic Social Scientific Perspective on Spirit Medium Experience in Great Britain • Hannah Gilbert
- Spirits in the City: Examples from Montreal • Deirdre Meintel
- Mediumship and Folk Models of Mind and Matter • Jack Hunter
- Cyber Psychics: Psychic Readings in Online Social Spaces • Tamlyn Ryan
- Spirit Possession in East Africa • Barbara Stöckigt
- Developing the Dead in Cuba: An Ethnographic Account of the Emergence of Spirits and Selves in Havana • Diana Espirito Santo
- Mediumship in Brazil: The Holy War against Spirits and African Gods • Bettina Schmidt
- Psychedelic Possession: The Growing Incorporation of Incorporation into Ayahuasca Use • David Luke
- Anomalous Mental and Physical Phenomena of Brazilian Mediums: A Review of the Scientific Literature • Everton Maraldi, Wellington Zangari, Fatima Regina Machado, Stanley Krippner
- Spirit Mediums in Hong Kong and the United States • Charles Emmons
- Vessels for the Gods: Tang-ki Spirit Mediumship in Singapore and Taiwan • Fabian Graham
Hard disk recovery = News Briefs recovery. Was NOT looking forward to to rewriting the news on my iPad from a photo of my frozen Mac screen!
- The first transparent 3D-printed skull has been successfully implanted.
- Speaking of see-through heads: glass brain - an anatomically-realistic real-time 3D brain visualisation.
- Still speaking of see-through heads: a transparent head might foil facial recognition software, but won't stop scientists recognising the face you're thinking of.
- Whales are cool and all, but this is getting desperate, no? How whale faeces help slow Antarctic warming.
- Mirage Men - how the US government created the UFO myth §now online.
- Wirral mathematician solves secrets of stonehenge.
- How to prove the paranormal: scientists discuss.
- Quantum experiments show how time emerges from entanglement.
- Just don't blame the bankers: former World Bank senior council says a "second species" on Earth controls money & religion.
- Suspended animation trials on humans begin.
- Could "Ancient Egyptian" glyphs found in Australia rewrite history?
- Researchers are giving psychedelics to cancer patients to help alleviate their despair - and it's working.
- James Lovelock: 'Instead of robots taking over the world, what if we join with them?'.
- Demons, mummies and ancient curses: should the British Museum be afraid?.
- How to unmake a sea serpent: the case of the Scoliophis Atlanticus.
- Controversial glow-in-the-dark plants go on sale.
- How to bake scientifically accurate cake planets.
- 10 of the most bizarre books ever written.
Quote of the Day:
One man practicing kindness in the wilderness is worth all the temples this world pulls.
If you haven't seen Darren Aronofsky's Noah yet, do yourself a favour and see it. It's copping a lot of criticism from atheists & believers alike, both sides completely missing the point of storytelling and mythology. Allegory isn't that hard to find in the dictionary. It's their loss, Noah is a fantastic movie.
Sir Anthony Hopkins, who plays Noah's grandfather Methuselah, gave this brief but fascinating interview about his approach to playing Methuselah, the film's shamanic themes, & why he gave Noah a hallucinogenic brew to speak with God. I have an inkling Aronofsky's read Persephone's Quest by R Gordon Wasson (Amazon US/UK), and possibly The Holy Mushroom by J.R. Irvin (Amazon US/UK). Professor Benny Shannon suggested a few years back that Moses may have been on a psychedelic trip when he received the Ten Commandments, so the idea of entheogens influencing Judeo-Christian religion has been around for a while. Combining Noah's visions, psychedelic trip, and affinity for all creatures great and small, Aronofsky has certainly built a case for a Biblical shaman.
Russell Crowe drinking a psychedelic beverage when he thought he was getting a nice cup of tea is just one reason why Noah is a lot deeper than just the flood myth (uh, pardon the pun). The film Noah began as a graphic novel (Amazon US/UK), and although both the comic (gorgeously illustrated by Niko Henrichon) and the film follow the Biblical story fairly faithfully, there are enough differences to make them completely different beasts. io9 recently spoke with Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel about creating Noah, and why it should appeal to atheists, believers, and everyone in between.
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