Oct 202017

Archaeologists find gates of Hell in Saudi Arabia

Lovecraft warned us. But did we listen? Noooooo.

Using satellite imagery, archaeologists have claimed to have found hundreds of artificial structures in the Middle Of Nowhere, Arabia, that they estimate are about 9,000 years old. The structures are in ancient lava domes, vary in size up to 1,700 feet in length, are assembled crudely from rocks, and in some cases were covered over by lava flows meaning that whoever built these things built them on *active* lava domes.

Looking at the site on Google Maps, there are a lot of roads and whatnot in the area, so the locals must’ve known about this place all along.


 Posted by at 12:43 pm
Oct 192017

Some interesting recent developments:

Atlas Of The Underworld

When a continental plate is subducted beneath another, you’d imagine that it would melt away to liquid hot magma and become part of the gooey inner mess. but as it turns out, some of these plates can stick around in a more or less solid state for a *long* time, and they can be mapped using seismic tomography. Around a hundred of these slabs have been mapped out, down to several hundred kilometers in depth, still recognizably more-or-less solid chunks drifting in the mantle. This means that there *could* *maybe* *possibly* be some really interesting things down there where we’ll almost certainly never get to see them. Say, 300 million years ago something truly remarkable evolved on some small continent… say, an archosaur developed smarts *real* fast and became human-smart and built a whole civilization on their island, then they were wiped out by disease or aliens or a high tax rate married to an unwise nanny-state system of government. Their cities of concrete and stone were buried under dust and mud and ash, then fifty million years later the plate was subducted. Meaning that a hundred miles below your feet there might still be recognizable evidence of a far-pre-human terrestrial civilization, one you’ll almost certainly never get to hear about.


Detection of intact lava tubes at Marius Hills on the Moon by SELENE (Kaguya) Lunar Radar Sounder

These aren’t piddly little tubes, either. These are big enough to plant whole cities within, inside where they’d be protected from radiation and thermal cycling.

 Posted by at 9:54 pm
Oct 192017

Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers

The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years …. When the total weight of the insects in each sample was measured a startling decline was revealed. The annual average fell by 76% over the 27 year period, but the fall was even higher – 82% – in summer, when insect numbers reach their peak.

Wipe out 75%of skeeters and I’ll smile and nod (although that’ll still be really bad news for birds and bats tat eat them). Wipe out 75% of the pollinating insets like bees… and that’s just plain Not Good.

Pesticides are assumed to be largely responsible for the decline in flying insects. Like antibiotics, a good case can be made for assuming that modern societies have become to dependent upon them. Solutions would seem to include things like genetically modified food crops that don’t need pesticides, creating synthetic foodstuffs in factories (“So how’s the Soylent Green?” “It varies from person to person.”) and contracting with the Drax Corporation to do some spraying over high population density regions like NYC, LA, India and China.

 Posted by at 11:52 am
Oct 172017

Interesting if true:

FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow

The basic claims are not new, but the claims that the FBI knew about it and essentially sat on it… that’s new.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

 Posted by at 10:31 pm
Oct 162017

A Russian company is apparently providing “hoverbikes” to the Dubai police. The bikes are overgrown quadcopters with nicely exposed rotors, perfect for chopping into bystanders.

To be sure, these things look cool, but I’m just as glad that I’m not one of the cops beta testing them.

The payload seems to be about 100 kilos, flight time about 30 minutes. That’s really not too shabby. Come back in a few years and these things might really be some kind of practical; extend the arms some, increase the rotor size (meaning a lower disk loading and a somewhat quieter system), improve the batteries and computer system, shave off weight with new/better composite structures, and you might have something that could be hauled around on modified ambulances and/or fire trucks for rescues from buildings and in the back end of beyond. Militaries could well want them, especially if they are optionally-manned.


 Posted by at 10:24 pm
Oct 152017

Rumors have swirled for decades that the footage might exist somewhere…

17 Minutes of Lost ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Footage Found

In short: footage was trimmed after the premiere by Kubrick, who felt that the 17 minutes slowed the pacing of the flick. From the brief descriptions of the bits cut… yeah, they actually seem pretty dull, likely to add little to the story. There’s no interest in recutting the footage back into the movie to make a new “directors cut” or some such, but a lot of hope that it’ll show up on a future Blu Ray release. The footage was found in a vault in a Kansas salt mine, and is apparently in pristine condition.

 Posted by at 10:59 am
Oct 142017

For all the arguments about whether the BFR-based suborbital/fractional-orbital transport system is technologically or economically feasible, there’s one firm argument that can be made that says that it’ll never become successful: the TSA and similar government bureaucracies.

New Rule: Residents In Nine States Will Need Passports For Domestic Flights in 2018

If you are a resident of Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina or Washington, come January 22, 2018, you’ll actually need to have something like a passport to hop a flight to somewhere else in the US, because your state issued drivers license/ID card ain’t up to federal snuff. Come October 1, 202, other states may also no longer be able to use their drivers licenses.

According to the DHS, here’s a current map of which states are in compliance. Presumably a lot of the states in blue – under review – will be approved by 2020, but who knows.

 Posted by at 4:25 pm
Oct 142017

Police arresting nine people a day in fight against web trolls

In Britain, you can actually be arrested for posting comments that “cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another.”

Once again: you can be arrested for annoying someone. Couple that with the BritGuvs determination to crack down on vaguely-defined “far right” speech online, and hoo boy, glad I’ve got that First Amendment thing. Here, when some idiot troll starts causing annoyance, I can simply hit the “ban user” button and the problem is solved. Or, heck, simply ignore them. But in Britain? Call the cops, I guess, someone said something I didn’t like.

No, no, no way in hell that this sort of system could *ever* be abused, nosiree.

An interesting summary of some of the many laws regarding speech and computers in the UK includes a paragraph on the communications Act of 2003:

Sending by means of the Internet a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or sending a false message by means of or persistently making use of the Internet for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety is guilty of an offence liable, on conviction, to imprisonment. This wording is important because an offence is complete as soon as the message has been sent: there is no need to prove any intent or purpose.

Say, that’s neat. You can be arrested and sentenced to imprisonment for annoying someone without even having intended to.

Sadly, even Utah isn’t immune from the scourge of the easily offended delicate snowflake. The local news last night had a story about a guy who set up a Halloween display (Halloween is *big* in Utah… I’d say it’s right up there with Christmas in terms of interest, enthusiasm and maybe even money). His original display? I larfed my keister off. Because it’s funny, that’s why:

Having just watched “The Purge: Election Day” less than a week ago, I got the gag. But apparently there are a lot of humorless would-be British-style speechcops out there in Facebookland, and even in the guys own neighborhood.

Utah man says his ‘purge and purify’ Halloween sign isn’t racist or political

People saw the “MAGA” and promptly assumed that the homeowner was promoting racist violence. Oy.

As a result of the online and IRL backlash, the homeowner changed the display, rewording to to be more accurate to the tagline of the movie:

As sad as this tale was here in Utah, imagine if the guy had been living under British laws. He could have *easily* been arrested, especially since the people who were offended – or at least who pretended to be – claimed that the message was right wing.

FFS. If you can’t have fun with murder and bloodshed and horror on Halloween… what *can* you have fun with?

Still, the laws are what they are. One can hope that people in Britainland will start overloading the police with complaints about *everything* online that annoys them. How about online photos of Communist mass murdering psychopaths on Irish postage stamps? Surely that’s annoying to any Brit who suffered directly or indirectly at the hands of communism.

 Posted by at 12:09 pm
Oct 132017

There is a long history of putting various monsters from pop culture on postage stamps. Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Mummy, various critters from myth and folklore.


Well, Ireland has added a new monster to the mix:

Che Guevara anniversary stamp approved by Cabinet

Sure, why not. Throw in a Nazi or two as well, so long as you’re celebrating leaders of genocidal ideologies.

 Posted by at 5:18 pm
Oct 122017

Ummmm… when an entire neighborhood has been burned to ash… shouldn’t the Post Office just sorta sit on the mail for a while, rather than delivering it to, well, nowhere?

Beyond the flat-out bizarre sight of the mail being delivered to ruins, the footage is just extraordinary. Scenes of whole areas of houses reduced to just a steel structure, presumably a foundation that the house sat on. note how the steel structures are largely sagging and twisted, even though JET FUEL CAN’T MELT STEEL ARRRGLE BARGLE.

What’s especially extraordinary is the sight of a whole neighborhood burned to ash… with every house on the other side of the street seemingly intact. Utterly ruined lots with intact houses mere feet away. You gotta wonder if that was due to the wind patterns, or if the surviving nearby house was being deluged with water, or if it was just dumb luck.


 Posted by at 10:01 am