Anasazi Ridge Petroglyphs

It’s been a while since i posted on my blog. Mainly i’ve been using Facebook, and/or Google+ for short-form items. But this is rather interesting and a proper blog entry seemed more appropriate.

Over the Christmas break, we visited a few different petroglyph sites. This one, known as the ‘Anasazi Ridge Petroglyphs’ was especially interesting because one of the murals (is that the right word?) is actually a map of the sky. You can see the explanatory image here:

If you like, you can read about it in more depth here:

And if you are ever in St. George and want to check them out, this page has good directions:

Move over Scotty

Who comes to mind when you think of the greatest engineers of science fiction? I give it a 90% chance that you probably said ‘Scotty’ or ‘Dr. Who’.  Both good choices to be sure.  But we often forget the other guys.  Who can fix a time machine using a can of peaches and a wad of bubble gum?  That’s right – Bill and Ted baby.  Be excellent to each other!  But wait … I think this adorable creature might have them beat.  He built an interstellar communications device using a coat hanger, an umbrella and a speak and spell.  Nobody is badder than E.T. Phooooone Hooome.

Fish vs Robots

Do Star Wars, Star Trek, Buck Rogers, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, Babylon 5, Red Dwarf, V, and even War of the Worlds have it all wrong? If we or other aliens were to travel into space and go to other worlds, would we really be living inside of spaceships that attempt to mimic our native environment?

The following article (provocatively titled ‘Biological Intelligence is Only a Transitory Phenomenon’) suggests that the answer is no. And not just no, but “hell no, that’s just stupid, what are you thinking?” Here are some quotes from the article to give you a flavor of what they’re talking about:

any aliens exploring the universe will be AI-empowered machines. Not only are machines better able to endure extended exposure to the conditions of space, but they have the potential to develop intelligence far beyond the capacity of the human brain.

I think it very likely – in fact inevitable – that biological intelligence is only a transitory phenomenon, a fleeting phase in the evolution of the universe … If we ever encounter extraterrestrial intelligence, I believe it is overwhelmingly likely to be post-biological in nature.

The two scientists compared that approach [i.e. spacesuits and space ships] to “a fish taking a small quantity of water along with him to live on land.” They felt that humans should be willing to partially adapt to the environment to which they would be traveling. … “Altering man’s bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space,

So, are they right? Is it a silly idea to think that we want to go somewhere (let’s say Mars for arguments sake) that we aren’t adapted to, without changing outselves? Suppose we could alter our physical selves with gene thereapy, cyborg implents, etc.. so that we could live on Mars without a big bubble and/or terraforming the planet. Is that a better way to go? Or should we build the portable fish tank to take with us as we explore the cosmos? I can see arguments on both sides.

Pro fish tank: We aren’t ourselves anymore if we change. How can we be human and want what humans want if we’re part robot, part martian?

Pro fish tank: We can share all the cool things we have here with those elsewhere (be they aliens or other human visitors). You won’t be able to experience that if you haven’t brought along the right environment.

Pro post-biological: When in Rome …

Pro post-biological: If you change the place you’re going to, you might destroy whatever it was you were going there for in the first place. Disrupt the habitat, kill off the locals (intentional/unintentional), etc..

Pro post-biological: If you adapt to live in the environment you inhabit, you can experience it as it is, not via some proxy.

Pro post-biological: You don’t have to worry about the bubble cracking and all your air leaking away. You also don’t have to worrya bout too much or too little gravity or light, etc..

Pro fish tank: Space ships are cool. So are shelds, lasers, photon torpedos and cloaking devices.

Pro post-biological: Space suits are not comfortable or easy to wear, and they simply will never ever be fashionable.


Full article can be found here.

Space wizards

I read an excellent article yesterday talking about “space wizards” in general, and Spock in particular.  It got me to thinking about something that’s always seemed obvious to me: there is a fine line between science fiction and fantasy.  They’re really two sides of the same coin.  Magic and technology – they’re not so different, really.  You can make amazing things happen either way.  One is usually portrayed with shiny buttons, gadgets, and cool looking space toys.  The other is portrayed with wands, natural forces and willpower.  But the net effect is the same: things that are out of the norm occur.
The typical hero’s quest story always contains a wise wizard figure.  Whether that’s Gandalf, Merlin, Dr. Who, Spock, Yoda, or Dumbledore, they’re always there.  Whether they weild the force and a light saber, or wave their magic wand.  Whether they cite magical incantations or blurt out technobabble, they serve the same purpose.  To guide the young hero towards the big bad to save the world.
I imagine a universe where there are civilations that take both evolutionary paths.  Some go down the road of science and technology.  Some take up magic.  You can travel around the universe in a shiny metal spaceship, a small blue box or just teleport yourself wherever your thoughts can take you.  But just because some planets have wizards doesn’t mean that others can’t have spaceships.
Just imagine writing a series of novels where the two co-exist, and maybe even interact for the first time.  What happens when the enterprise bumps into Sauron?  Or when crashes on a planet and gets kidnapped by elves?  There are some very interesting cross-overs that could occur.
Some wizards already blur the line.
Yoda.  He lives in a very science-fiction universe.  He uses a light saber and flies around in spaceships.  Yet he also weilds a magical force that let’s him move things around with his mind, shoot energy fields and lightning bolts from his fingertips, see visions of the future, and commune with the dead.
Q.  He (and the entire Q race) live in a very science-fiction universe.  But they seem to have magical powers.  They snap their fingers and can travel across the universe.  They can manipulate time, create alternate realities, wisk things into and out of existince on a whim, and generally alter the fabric of reality all with their mind.
So what is Q, what is Yoda?  A wizard?  A space wizard?  Spock and Dr. Who are more traditional space wizards.  They use their extreme intelligence and combine it with technology to do amazing things.  Gandalf and Dumbledore are more traditional fantasy wizards who cast spells and use their arcane knowledge to do amazing things.
But in the end, they all serve the same purpose and they’re all wonderful and amazing.
Oh, and here’s the article that kicked off my random thoughts for today.

Comet Hartley 2


On Oct. 20, Comet Hartley 2 will pass just over 11 million miles (18 million km) from Earth. During October it should be easily visible in small telescopes, binoculars and — from sites with dark enough skies — even with the naked eye.

As October begins, Comet Hartley 2 will be in the constellation of Cassiopeia, which at dusk will be positioned halfway up in the northeast sky; through Oct. 5 it will be passing below and to the right of the famous “W”-shaped formation composed of five bright stars.

The comet then moves into the constellation of Perseus on Oct. 6 and before dawn on the morning of Oct. 8, it will be situated only 0.7 degrees below and to the right of the famous Double Star Cluster. The cluster supposedly marks the sword handle of Perseus and is often touted as one of the most impressive star clusters in the entire sky.

On the morning of Oct. 10, the comet will appear to almost touch the 4th-magnitude star, Eta Persei. On Oct. 17, it will enter the boundaries of the constellation Auriga, and on the morning of Oct. 18, Hartley 2 will be about 1.2 degrees above and to the right of the star Epsilon Aurigae and 3 degrees below and to the right of the brilliant zero-magnitude star Capella.

Between Oct. 15 and 20, within about a half hour of 4:00 a.m. local time, the comet will be passing almost directly overhead.

Even after Hartley 2 makes its closest approach to Earth, it will become part of another close approach of a different kind. On Sept. 5, more than five years after its July 4, 2005, rendezvous with Comet Tempel 1, NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft will begin beaming down the first of more than 64,000 images it’s expected to take of Comet Hartley 2.

The spacecraft will continue imaging Hartley 2 during and after its closest approach on Nov. 4, when it will pass to within 430 miles (692 km) of the comet’s nucleus, providing an extended look at the comet.

Why the moon landings were NOT a hoax

This is copied from the following URL ( and provides compelling arguments that the moon landings did in fact happen. Combine this with the Mythbusters episodes where they debunk the moon hoax theories, and what more could you need? :)


The ultra-competitive space race culminated in a contest between the Soviet Union and the United States, to see which nation would be first to put a man on the moon. Leaving aside the obvious political leverage of the American success, it was a seminal moment in human history. Men had long dreamed of reaching the moon, and it represented the culmination of years of research, technological innovation and the spirit of adventure.

While at the time it captured the hearts and minds of the millions of people who watched the live footage, it was, in a way, inevitable that people would seek to diminish the glory of the achievement, perhaps to discredit a government they were disillusioned by. Is it a coincidence that the first book claiming the moon landings were faked was released in 1974, the same year that the Watergate scandal did untold damage to the integrity of the Presidential office?

It is far easier to present the facts as they were and to offer a few of the major arguments that prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the moon landings were genuine, that Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin did, in fact, make the journey of a lifetime and set foot upon the moon.

The Soviet Union Did Not Dispute It

At the height of the Cold War, winning the space race represented a massive feather in the ideological cap of the anti-Communists. As such, if there had been any way to discredit the United States, you can be sure the Soviet Union would have found it. The political damage they could have wrought would have been enormous had they been able to discredit the moon landings. Given that the Soviets were still suffering from the embarrassing climb-down of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, any opportunity that would have allowed them to embarrass the United States would surely have been grasped with both hands. The fact that in the 40 years since that momentous occasion in human history, not one person from the Soviet camp has produced evidence to dispute the veracity of the moon landings, is as telling as any other evidence you care to name. It has been suggested that the Soviets were in on the hoax; this is too ludicrous for words, especially in an era when tensions between the two countries were so high. It is suggesting complicity in something which would be immensely damaging to their own regime, and that’s simply absurd. Forget the arguments; the deafening silence from the Soviet camp is as incontrovertible as any other evidence.

The Number of Photographs

It seems obvious to the point of absurdity, but the sheer number of photographs — none of which show anything terrestrial — is pretty compelling evidence. Much has been said about light sources, errant shadows and so forth, but this is all based on how light behaves in Earth’s atmosphere. The moon has no atmosphere to speak of, and so refraction and reflection will be slightly different. The Lunar Module was covered in reflective paneling, and so would have had a major effect on the way light was reflected onto the surface. Undulations in the moon’s surface would also have an effect on shading. The lack of stars has also been cited as proof, but the cameras were set to daylight exposure and would not have picked up the stars anyway. We should also consider the fact that the astronauts — who were extremely well trained photographers by the time of the mission — were there to photograph the moon, not the view of the stars from the moon’s surface. The sheer number of photographs which were taken, and the absence of anything more than weak circumstantial evidence, is a strong argument.

Rock Samples Are Universally Acknowledged As Being Non-Terrestrial

The Apollo Program, between missions 11 and 17, collected some 382 kilograms of moon rocks, which were brought back to Earth for analysis. Every scientist who has studied these rocks has accepted that they are of non-terrestrial origin and there is no peer-reviewed article that contradicts the claim they are from the moon. Moon rocks have a very specific geological composition which is distinct from both rocks on Earth and other celestial bodies, such as meteorites. Accusations that these samples could have come from lunar meteorites are specious; the first lunar meteorite was not discovered until the 1980s, and up until now, only 30 kilograms of lunar meteorite rock have been discovered — less than ten percent of the mass that was brought back from the moon. Added to this is the fact that lunar rocks are not subjected to the same geological processes as those on Earth, and the rocks brought home were found to be in excess of 600,000,000 years older than the oldest known rocks on Earth. If you need any more evidence, the composition of those lunar rocks is identical to Soviet samples. Had there actually been a difference, you can be sure the Soviets would have pointed it out.

No One on the Inside Disputed It

It is interesting to note that out of all the people who have claimed the moon landings were faked, not one of them had any direct involvement with the program. As Dr. James Longuski, a professor of Aeronautics and Astronautic Engineering has pointed out, the sheer scale of the project would have made it impossible to keep everybody quiet. Over the course of the Apollo project, he estimates that over 400,000 people, or the equivalent of a small city, were involved in working on the project. The odds of every single one of them choosing to keep silent for over forty years, and not producing any evidence, or a memoir, or an overheard conversation suggesting the landings were faked, is another hugely compelling argument. There is so much money to be made by the person who definitively proves the Moon landings were faked, that someone would surely by now have tried to capitalize on that. The fact that no one has suggests that there is no hoax.

It Happened Again…And Again…And Again

As Charlie Duke, an astronaut on the Apollo 16 mission said, “We have been to the Moon nine times. Why would we fake it nine times, if we faked it?” It is a pertinent question and it does seem that if you are going to tell a lie, it is far easier to do it once and then stop, than to keep exaggerating the lie over the course of the next few years. Sooner or later somebody would have made a mistake to give the game away. The fact that nobody did, again, illustrates the fact that indeed, these astronauts did make it to the moon. With six separate Apollo missions actually reaching the Moon, and each time making multiple moonwalks, it seems a ridiculously elaborate hoax, at a cost of millions, if not billions of dollars to perpetrate. While the moon landings were incredibly difficult and dangerous, the evidence we have presented here offers a convincing argument of the truth behind the matter. While ridiculously elaborate and misguided conspiracy theories add a frisson of mystery, they should never be allowed to diminish what was an incredible achievement.

Lord British and the Immortality Drive

I was listening to a podcast today which was an interview of a true “geek hero” of mine: Richard Garriott. I suppose a little history is in order. Richard, aka “Lord British” is well known for creating the Ultima series of games. These were amazing for their time, and even today they are worth replaying now and again. Sure the graphics have aged, but the storylines never get old. I have very fond memories of the hours and months that i used to put into these games as i was growing up. I’m not a big game player, but i loved every minute of Ultima. And the few games that i do tend to play nowadays always seem to be similar (in concept) to Ultima in one way or another.

Moving on. Richard made his millions and did very well for himself. Since then he’s used his money to do some amazing things, such as go on African safari’s, ride to the bottom of the ocean on research subs (more than once), take a few trips to Antarctica. Little things like that. And recently he followed his father’s footsteps and went into space. The podcast tells the amazing story about how he was told as a young boy that he’d never be able to be an astronaut due to his poor eyesight. He determined he’d make it anyway. And now he has. Bravo! He’s someone who made the most of his opportunities, and did it in a way that didn’t suck. :)

Personally i’m a big believer … if you are lucky enough by whatever means to find your way into an extraordinarily unique and valuable location or circumstance … wherever it might be … i find that the experience is far richer, and far more fulfilling, and far more personally interesting when you can go beyond that [tourism] and find ways to bring back real value from that experience. And i don’t mean specifically commercial value as in making money, i mean value as in scientific value, or find knowledge that you can bring back and share with people that adds meaning to the experience you’ve just had.

He also mentioned that after a zero-g flight with Stephen Hawking, that the two have been working on ways to extend mankind’s reach beyond earth in case of the untimely demise of the human species (you know – asteroid impact, supernova explosion, alien invasion, zombie apocalypse, whatever the case might be). He put together a program called Operation Immortality, which is “a time capsule with the digitized DNA of select video game players and space aficionados

Star Trek

Now that Star Trek has been out long enough for anyone to see it who cares to, i thought i’d write some of my thoughts and impressions. Let me just start off by saying that the movie was amazing in every respect. The storyline, the acting, the visual effects, the music. All top notch. Whether you’re a Star Trek fan or not, this is a great show.

I’ve seen it multiple times and have several more showings lined up. Each time i’ve gone in looking at it from a different angle, trying to spot different things. And each time i’ve come away quite satisfied. From the very first scene where the bad guys come through the rift in a ship that just looks like evil incarnate, and Kirk sr. saves his wife and newborn child (Kirk) by sacrificing himself and his ship, you just know the movie is gonna be good.

This is definitely a series “reboot”. The essence of the original show is there – you’ve got all the main characters and the setting of a futuristic world with a federation of planets. You’ve got Vulcans and Romulans. There’s time travel, humor, tragedy, love, explosions, technobabble, and even a red-shirt. How do you reboot a franchise that has 40 years of television shows, movies, multiple series, and a rabid fanbase? You create an alternate timeline! That way, even though it’s still Star Trek, you’re not bound by all that canon. You have creative freedom to take the story and characters in new directions. And i, as an avid fan, think this is wonderful. I’m excited to see what happens next. More movies? Another television series that starts up where the movie[s] left off? Bring it on! Just don’t forget to explain what happens to the admirals dog. That’s all i ask :)

Now granted, many of the major events that occurred in the original timeline can be avoided now. For example, who’s to say we’ll ever meet Khan? I mean, the Enterprise just randomly bumped into him in the original series. The universe if different, the timing is different. It’s almost certain that Khan will just continue to float in space forever until the life pods eventually give out. Khan will never get stranded on seti-alpha five, Spock won’t have to die saving the ship, and Kirk and crew won’t have to go rogue to get him back (which may or may not work anyway since Vulcan is npw destroyed and who knows if they even still have the ability to reuinite body and spirit?).

But there are two events that i think are still going to happen, regardless. Things that were set in motion long before the timeline was altered, and would be completely unaffected by the changes to the timeline. One: VGER. Yes, everyone’s favorite probe that got sucked into a black hole and emerged on the far side of the galaxy. It’s still slowly traveling back to earth, assimilating all the knowledge it can. Eventually the big spoiled brat arrive looking for the creator, and if the Enterprise isn’t there to greet it .. who knows what might happen? Two: The wales are still extinct. The super whale ship from deep space is still gonna come knocking on earth’s door looking to find out what happened. And someone’s gonna still have to go back in time to save the wales. Right? Right? Of course, those events are still 30 years in the future from where we’re at now in the reboot, so there’s plenty of time to think about how to resolve them.

I can’t wait to see it again. I can’t wait to see the next movie. I can’t wait for a television series. My trek geek is alive and well once more. Bravo to all involved.

Future cosmologists won’t have a clue. But do we?

I was listening to a podcast today with a panel of cosmologists. It was actually more entertaining than you might think. Or maybe i’m just a geek. Anyway… :)

One subject that came up was the idea that given the fact that everything in the universe is moving away from everything else at an increasing rate, eventually in the “far future” (we’re talking trillions of years here), a future cosmologist would see nothing in the night sky but the local stars of the galaxy. Everything else will have receded into invisibility beyond all possibility of detection. They’ll know nothing of the true nature of the universe. As far as they’ll ever be able to determine, they are completely alone in a dark cosmos.

The interesting point made was “how do we know we’re not in a similar situation”? There could be any number of interesting things about the universe that we can’t observe. Things that if we did know about would give us a completely different view of things.