Posts Tagged: ‘STBYM Best of 2011’

Neil deGrasse Tyson is probably the last person to suggest NASA falsify the threat of alien invasion to play on humanity’s fears. I also doubt he’d suggest that the space agency exploit America’s religious conservative movement with “proof” that said aliens are governed by demons.

But just for the sake of argument, let’s you and I go there.

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It’s easy to overlook the power of lies. While truth-telling is mentally and physically a normal activity, lying forces us to fake typically subconscious inflections and movements. We construct facts to fabricate a false page of reality and then — via our incredible memory-prediction framework — project that false page of reality into the past or present. In doing so, we remake our own perceived reality and/or that of another.

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My wife audibly rolled her eyes during the trailer for the upcoming “Cowboys & Aliens” sci-fi flick and after reading an essay in Journal of American Culture by Patricia Felisa Barbeito, I have to admit my head’s spinning a bit at the way this particular cultural fear loops back to the American West.

As I discuss in the HSW article “What Are UFO’s Really” (and this accompanying Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast episode), aliens are ultimately a kind of cultural sock puppet that our mind sheaths over the sort of extraordinary experiences that rock our world views out of whack.

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Radiolab’s recent “A Clockwork Miracle” episode concerns a sixteenth-century mechanical monk, but Jad also briefly mentions the wonders of a robotic pooping duck from the 1700s. Yep, you read that right: a centuries-old automaton designed to digest food and poop it out like a duck.

The fabulous digesting duck was the handiwork of Jacques de Vaucanson, a French engineer who excelled in the creation of automatons — specifically “philosophical toys” (curios that combined science and amusement) composed of clockwork gears and moving parts. Here are just two of his creations leading up to the duck:

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Prior to my recent visit to the World Science Festival, I had only heard whispers of the mysterious Panna II Garden Indian Restaurant in New York’s East Village. Now I have experienced it for myself and must dedicate my remaining years to deciphering what I witnessed. The rumors told of twin Indian restaurants, their doors opposed atop a flight of stairs. Word also had it that highly aggressive barkers from each restaurant worked the sidewalk, fighting like hyenas over each passing potential customer. Let’s go inside and solve the cosmic mystery.

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I spent yesterday afternoon researching toilet innovations for a future article and, as interesting as pooping technology gets, I wasn’t expecting it to result in a blog post. But here we are, considering the fact that INCNERATING TOILETS EXIST. Yes, while some of you may think nothing of pooping into a mechanical box of fire, the prospect is a rather new idea for yours truly. Let’s watch a video about the technology and discuss the pros and cons

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previously blogged about Jewish, Christian and Islamic ritual in orbit and how we’ve had to rethink traditionally terrestrial rituals and observances. It seems that bearded prophets out of antiquity didn’t even consider the possibility of space stations. But Mormonism is a slightly different matter as Joseph Smith founded the first Latter Day Saints church less than 200 years ago. Despite the religion’s frontier roots, Mormon cosmology takes other planets and even the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life into account.

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Science continues to alter the shape of religious belief, so how does devotion to a god change in orbit? Would long-distance space travel require the use of on-ship burial plots for Jewish or Muslim astronauts? And what happens if the Christian rapture or some comparable end-of-days event were to occur while you’re in space? Certainly, these are far from pressing theological or scientific concerns, but the topic of religious belief in space continues to pop up. Here are some quick examples in Judaism, Christianity and Islam:

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John Carpenter’s 1986 film “Big Trouble in Little China” is the greatest film ever made. Sorcery and martial arts? Check. Semi trucks and monsters? Check. A biting commentary on U.S. foreign policy? You’ve got it. And like many of Carpenter’s films, there’s a little space science thrown in where you’d least expect it. I mean, just look to the antimatter and tachyon transmission plot elements in 1987′s satanic zombie romp “Prince of Darkness” or the terraforming in “They Live.” It shouldn’t surprise anyone that even a Carpenter Kung-fu flick full of Chinese legend would also pack in some cosmology.

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We all want to fit in, but at the same time we want to stand apart from the crowd. We’re thrilled when we’re the first to discover a new musical artist, but then we’re disappointed when our friends don’t jump on the bandwagon with us.

If you suffer from Clonal Pluralization of Self, however, life has an unhealthy compromise for you. This particular delusional misidentification syndrome boils down to the belief that there are many physically and psychologically identical copies of you in the world.

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