Friday 5 January 2024

zoo hypothesis (11. 246)

Via tmn, the supposition of renowned astrophysicist Enrico Fermi (see previously, one of several observations, later expanded and championed by others, why we might appear to be alone in the Universe) that advanced extraterrestrial civilisations are keeping terrestrials in the dark about their existence and holding humans under a technological veil is gaining traction—especially in the light of seven decades on, how many exoplanents we have found that could harbour life. Perhaps, like Star Trek’s Prime Directive, there is a general consensus towards stewardship and insulating primitive cultures so not to influence their beliefs and outlook but it hardly seems like something that would be universally adhered to across the vast distances and time of space—though I guess it would only take one to throw a veil over us and any civilisation capable of exploring the Cosmos could surely do so under cloak, at least to us—but I suppose there could be glimpses and difference factions of aliens that think humans and their ilk would benefit and should be afforded a more inspiring and aspirational view (why let us see the stars at all and keep us happily content with our geocentric point of view). What do you think? I suspect the Great Silence is a combination of factors (see above) with intelligence out there being too alien for our comprehension, maybe that we are kept creatures and possibly too uninteresting to be bothered with.

Friday 15 December 2023

radio silence (11. 189)

Weird Universe points us to an event that took place in mid-August 1924 in the US that reminds us this other potential coordinated effort to make astronomical observations more successful and reminds how from the earliest days of the communication medium, forerunners like Guglielmo Marconi, Lord Kelvin and Nikola Tesla believed that radio transmissions could be exchanged with extraterrestrial civilisations, the existence of intelligent life on Mars being widely accepted. With the Red Planet approaching its closest point to the Earth for nearly eight decades, scientists at the Naval Observatory used a blimp to lift a “radio-camera” to an altitude of three kilometres and arranging with broadcasters along the eastern seaboard to observe an hourly five-minutes’ cessation of transmissions in order to eliminate interference from terrestrial sources and increase the chance of intercepting a message from Martians. Military cryptologists were on stand-by to decipher any alien signals.

synchronoptica

one year ago:  assorted links to revisit plus Last Christmas

two years ago: Gingerbread Dreamhouses, artist Brad Holland plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: more links worth the revisit, Esperanto Day plus Trivial Pursuit

four years ago: more links, the Nobel banquet plus Lisztomania (1975)

five years ago: even more links, the mythos of Zermatism, Wort des Jahres plus early Home Office

Tuesday 21 November 2023

7x7 (11. 129)

last mile-problem: 2003 ad from a defunct automotive line lampooning the absurdity of cars—especially redesigning cities around them 

broken record: the cover of the UN’s Environmental Programme Emissions Gap Report  

whistle-blower: ufologist who testified before the US Congress urges declassification of documents on alien technology for America to get ahead of the coming, catastrophic leak  

whole heap of zing: new studies may have found the culprit in the phenomenon of the red wine headache  

oculi mundi: a gorgeous and interactive collection of antique and ancient depictions of the world to peruse—via Maps Mania  

keith number: seemingly recreational, rare and hard to find repetitive Fiboncci-like digits whose sum are a whole of its parts 

the marshmallow test: famous experiments in psychology recreated in LEGO

synchronoptica

one year ago: an early exercise craze

two years ago: assorted links worth revisiting

three years ago: the Nurnberg Trials (1945), more links to enjoy, artist Magritte plus cardboard cat shrines

four years ago: more Words of the Year, a Trump appointee turns, Martha Gellhorn plus reforming Ukrainian exonyms

five years ago: the Mayflower Compact, more links to enjoy, a ram registry plus the backstory of an IKEA poster

Saturday 14 October 2023

foia, foil (11. 057)

Given that large language models are designed to guess the next word and fill in the gaps in strings of text, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that ChapGPT has been enlisted to try to unredact partially declassified documents. Of course, it would be difficult to impossible to check the accuracy of the AI since that information has not been released. What is surprising, however, is that users seem to primarily if not exclusively using the these capabilities to read censored names and locations on documents from NASA on UFO sightings—not that that isn’t an exciting topic worthy of pursuit, at least it used to be, until congressional hearings that seemed to be directed by The History Channel (a rather low information operation posing as educational television) turned apparent government secrecy about the nature of unidentified aerial phenomena into a seminar for the aggrieved in general. I wonder what happens when someone takes on more consequential redactions and what that might mean for future disclosures.  

synchronoptica

one year ago: Denmark plans a Synthetic Party led by an AI,  the first rail route in Japan (1872), more radio calling cards plus a song from English Beat

two years ago: Faust (1926) plus the architecture of Hรฉlรจne Binet

three years ago: special meal requests plus more natic movements in plants

four years ago: nominees for Word of the Year, Germany’s Mushroom of the Year plus New York City through an AI lens

five years ago: the world’s first motion picture (1888),  Apollo 7 transmits from the Moon (1968), The Watersons, The Bells of Rhymney plus diplomatic tensions between the US and Turkey

Sunday 17 September 2023

begleiten wir die orion und ihre besatzung bei ihrem patouillendienst am rande der unendlichkeit (11. 006)

Debuting on this day in 1966 on the West German public-service broadcaster ARD, nearly parallel to Gene Roddenbury’s Star Trek, Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion was the country’s first televised science fiction series set in not too distance future of a united, space-faring Earth following the voyages of a starship commander and crew who patrol the galaxy monitoring for threats. >Pointedly notorious for their defiance of superiors, the complement includes a officer of the GSD (Galakistcher Sicherheits-dienst) military intelligence service assigned to keep the Orion under check—and while the crew do not trust Lt Tamara Jagellovsk, over the arc of the seven episodes of the first and only season of the show, they ultimately develop feelings of respect for her—which is reciprocated by her omitting certain liberties taken in her mission reports to higher headquarters. Cyborgs (Roboter) are also prominently featured as guards and domestics but their use is shown to be problematic and prone to malfunction. Other fictional technologies include the Astroscheibe, which serves the same function as the view screen on the bridge of the Enterprise, Lichtweferbatterie—-photon-torpedos, รœberlichtantrieb—Warp Drive, and while no transporter capabilities exist (famously improvised as a way to cut out the expense of depicting launch and landing scenes), the Orion often docks at deep-sea bases, modern and beautiful cities built underwater. The main antagonists were an extraterrestrial species referred to as Frogs. Despite the series’ short run, it quickly achieved cult-status with re-runs and novelisations continuing the story and limning out the characters. The entire run is available online with subtitles.

Tuesday 12 September 2023

it creeps and leaps, and glides and slides across the floor (10. 998)

Released in US theatres on this day in 1958 and billed as a double feature with the less memorable I Married a Monster from Outer Space, the science fiction horror film introducing Steve McQueen in his first leading role is premised on an amoeba like alien that arrives in a small Pennsylvania community via meteorite, growing larger as it incorporates living matter. Unable to kill the creature, they discover that chill paralyses it and rendering locomotion with pseudopodia impossible and the frozen Blob is airlifted to the North Pole—with the ominous pronouncement that they can stop the terror but not kill it, “as long as the Arctic stays cold.”

synchronoptica

one year ago: the Chaos Computer Club (1981), medieval dog names plus the beach photos of Philip Barlow

two years ago: the Battle of Marathon, a sudden revelation plus more nearby abandoned places

three years ago: doom loops, traffic planning and civil engineering, Lascaux Cave rediscovered, flights to nowhere plus the invention of the written word

four years ago: Bonanza (1959) plus the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany (1990)

Friday 1 September 2023

8x8 (10. 977)

diyarbakฤฑr: archeologists discover a massive subterranean city under the Roman garrison at Zerzevan 

aaro: the Pentagon launches a website to explore declassified information on unidentified anomalous phenomena, via Slashdot—also watch this instead 

space for kitchen aerobics: the latest oversized monstrosity from McMansion Hell—previously

the parable of the pig: philosopher Pyrrho’s hog as a model of tranquillity in a ship on a stormy sea—from Futility Closet happily back after a hiatus  

queso de cabrales: a hunk of artisanal cheese from Asturias fetches a record-setting price—via Strange Company 

a directory of wonderful things: an expert curated selection of weird and delightful corners of the internet  

chatgop: a conservative media outlet may have interviewed an AI generated Donald Trump 

colossus of constantine: plans to restore the monumental statue of the Roman emperor built as a triumph for his victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge

Saturday 19 August 2023

8x8 (10. 951)

egress: the oldest door in Britain, a side-entrance to Westminister Abbey—via Strange Company  

hold on to my fur: another collaboration with the Kiffness—this time with a talkative orange cat from China  

isokon estate: Lawn Road Flats housed those displaced by WWII and its share of espionage  

i want to believe: vintage UFO photos taken by Eduard Albert “Billy” Meier in Switzerland in the mid-70s made iconic when featured on the X-Files up for auction—via Things Magazine 

meow-practise: a limited-run series in the tradition of American day-time soap opera classics like General Hospital and All My Children but with a feline twist   

countdown: both Russia and India have Moon missions next week with the goal of being the first to reach the lunar south pole—via Super Punch  

no dark sarcasm in the classroom: impressively, researchers recreate Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” by analysing listeners’ brain scans but we wonder—like in the above duet—there isn’t an element of backmasking and suggestion—via Kottke  

ingress: the oldest known cat door at Exeter Cathedra

synchroptica

one year ago: the daguerrotype process is gifted to the world (1839) 

two years ago: the Ninety-Five Theses as an email, the Treaty of Rawalpindi (1919) plus the Lithuanian sun goddess

three years ago: the launch of Sputnik 2 (1960) plus the album cover art of Milton Glaser

four years ago: more Brexit omnishambles plus the Pan-European Picnic of 1989

five years ago: assorted links to revisit

Tuesday 8 August 2023

33 spaceships for another planet (10. 931)

Via friend of the blog Nag on the Lake, we thoroughly enjoyed contemplating these otherworldly compositions by Karla Knight that use schemata and alien glyphs to craft evoking something ancient and pictogrammatic. Check out Knight’s whole portfolio here and explore how her work is a study in evolving diagrams and flow-charts.  

synchronoptica

one year ago: Nixon resigns (1974) plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: your daily demon: Berlith plus another MST3K classic to enjoy

three years ago: motivational sessions for the long-distance runner, Xanadu (1980) plus a selection of LEGO user-interfaces

four years ago: Abbey Road (1969) plus more on the very American problem of gun violence

five years ago: more McMansion Hell,  a World War I Allied advance, Trump brand asbestos plus more links worth the revisit

Saturday 5 August 2023

akte x (10. 926)

Our gratitude to the always interesting Maps Mania for referring us to the Anomaly Observatory has been documenting paranormal activity focused mainly on Berlin and environs since 2008 but monitoring the unexplained—from the mundane to the phenomenal—which deviates dangerously from the norm. Like with this instance with the map centred on this location on the Museuminsel recounting how one night last December a torrent of water washing away hundreds of exotic fish causing huge and disruptive flood appeared, nearly eliding over the fact that the source was the sudden and catastrophic explosion of a hotel aquarium, it is difficult to tell if it’s an earnest investigation or a facetious commentary on such endeavours but regardless wonderful weird and dedicated to urban mythos. More to explore at the links above.

synchronopitica

one year ago: Que Sera, SeraThe Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), assembling the globe by various demographic factors plus more city map generators

two years ago: assorted links to revisit,  identifying the location of a sketch by Leonardo plus a Beatles single with an equally good b-side (1966)

three years ago: America tries to ban TikTok, the invention of telegraphy was first dismissed as a gimmick, more links to enjoy, an alternate ending to The Giving Tree plus the Portsmouth Sinfonia

four years ago: air traffic controls in the US strike (1981), the craze of purikura plus a look at the hodiernal verb tense

five years ago: a preview of Star Trek: Picard, a planned remake of 9-to-5 plus more links worth revisiting

Monday 3 July 2023

9x9 (10. 853)

lost animals: a short story by Geoff Manaugh who exorcises haunted houses with mundane equipment  

clippit: discontinued Microsoft Office Assistant resurrected as a ChatGPT add-on—see previously  

space10: IKEA reimagines a line of flatware encouraging the use of abundant, locally sourced materials—see also 

all-domain anomaly resolution office: newspapers of record passed on the bombshell story of US government programme to reverse-engineer captured extraterrestrial technology—via Slashdot 

i do not want my name to be a thing: John Hancock explains his outsized signature on the Declaration of Independence—see also 

duty to bargain: Google joins Meta in pulling its headline aggregators from Canada over the so called “link tax” 

not to put too fine a point on it: the origins of a selection of hackneyed idioms 

the ganzfeld procedure: a cheap, easy and effective sensory-deprivation technique

short fiction: six-word sci-fi prompts

Saturday 10 June 2023

unified floating object (10. 798)

From Hyลryลซ-ki-shu’s “Archives of Castaways” of the late Edo period when the island nation’s isolationist policies and suspicions of foreigners was still prevailing, we learn about the strange, illustrated account of a fishing crew salvaging a mysterious saucer-shaped utsuro-bune (่™š่ˆŸ, a hollow vessel) off the eastern coast of Japan in 1803. 

Bringing this boat ashore for investigation, they discovered strikingly beautiful young woman with red and white hair and speaking no known language inside, clutching a wooden box she refused to release. Pictures show her unusual dress and equipage as well as alien symbols. Speculating on the nature of this visitor and close encounter at the time (an ever since), villagers from Jลshลซ thought this woman might be a Russian or Bengali princess fleeing an unhappy marriage, guarding either her dowery or husband’s severed head in the box and pragmatically, not wanting to draw unwanted attention from the lord of the prefecture rather than out of fear or xenophobia, and decided to send her back to where she came from in her well but bafflingly provisioned and seaworthy boat. More at the links above.

Friday 19 May 2023

9x9 (10. 752)

x-date: unless a compromise is found to work with the statutory debt ceiling, the US could default on paying its bills and unleash chaos in global financial markets 

the house of mouse: Disney is cancelling plans for a billion dollar Florida annex—and shuttering its immersive Star Wars experience resort hotel—in an ongoing feud with the state’s arch-conservative governor  

garbage patch kids: creepy dolls being washed ashore are auctioned off to benefit marine habitats—see also 

superimposition: researchers at the Zurich Institute of Technology create the world’s largest ‘Schrรถdinger’s Cat” 

the great silence: we are probably not alone in the Universe but we might as well be—see previously  

random access memory: previously unreleased tracks from retired duo Daft Punk  

interior design: browser-based application to create and share voxel rooms, via Waxysee previously  

byte-dance: American state of Montana passes a ban of the social media platform TikTok over conflated fears of violations of users privacy  

seat at the table: G7 summit hosted in Hiroshima—with nuclear deterrence on the agenda

Wednesday 10 May 2023

8x8 (10. 730)

grift for the mill: New York congressional representative George Santos (previously) surrenders to federal authorities for arraignment on thirteen counts of criminal deceit and defrauding donors 

choose or loose: following the shuttering of Buzzfeed and the uncertain future of Vice, Paramount shuts down MTV News, cutting a quarter of its global workforce—see more, see also

in-go-nom-pa-shi: a Plains Indian Sign Talk primer—via Nag on the Lake 

i want to believe: UFO-hunters’ grassroots surveillance network project to scan the skies 

past-exonerative tense: copaganda and other choice of tone that normalise police violence—see also  

krรณlewiec: Poland renames the Russian exclave with a native endonym, in what is deemed a hostile act by Moscow  

content farms: AI chatbots being used to generate dozens of breaking news sites to draw advertisers—via the new shelton wet/dry  

townhall: CNN takes a big risk in giving Trump a platform with a live studio audience—see previously

Monday 3 April 2023

9x9 (10. 652)

eieren blazen: egg blowing was all the rage in the Netherlands in the 1950s  

autofill: Google search recommendations illustrated  

sim card: a mobile phone museum, with a special exhibit of the ugliest—via Messy Nessy Chic  

horsell common and the heat ray: the 1978 War of the World’s concept album featuring Yes and Richard Burton  

vexing vexillogy: CGP Grey grades US state flags—see previously 

airspace: Alex Murrell on the ‘Age of Average’—via Kottkesee also  

if the engine jumps the track: another in a series of derailments—thankfully this time with no fatalities—yields some amazing photographs but a few beer or two, via Super Punch 

katkhakali: the dance of the ‘speaking hands’ about the myth of Kali and Travancore, a 1981 Soyuzmultfilm short  

peepshi: a complete guide to deconstructing Easter candies for festive onigiri

Tuesday 21 March 2023

8x8 (10. 627)

everthing everywhere all at once: chaotic “Foketoken,” informed by “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” was inspiration for the screenwriter  

a most maddening canvas: Moby Dick (previously) and AI  

ipcc: UN climate committee issues dire warning, with steps to take immediately  

aperiodic monotiles: a non-repeating shape to cover a flat surface has possibly been discovered—see also  

sky critters: a 1978 book that proposes UFOs are biological organisms evolving parallel to humans virtually unnoticed  

la vรฉitable histoire d’amรฉlie poulain: a short film finally revealing the true story of ostensible 2001 romcom  

bardolatry: Google’s AI chatbot released to the public in the UK and US 

hotdog hands: outtakes from the Academy Award winning film—via Miss Cellania

Monday 26 December 2022

the duchess and the dirt water fox are calling (10. 362)

Originally telecast on this day in 1992 with the MST3K treatment—having previously attained somewhat of a cult following by its inclusion in Elvira’s Movie Macabre in 1984, the 1965 scif-fi movie from the Woolner Brothers (also with the credits Hercules Unchained, Hercules and the Captive Women, Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman and Hillbillies in a Haunted House) follows the plot of a mysterious agent, Dr Kolos, of the Intergalactic Council tasked with replacing prominent human scientists with android doppelgรคngers in order to take over the Earth. The alien plan is foiled by intervention from the US National Intelligence Service.

Friday 2 December 2022

al taglio (10. 356)

Via Web Curios, we appreciated the referral to Planet Pizza, a Pioneer or Voyager space probe style project to impart to extraterrestrials not only the the basic concepts of maths, space-time coordinates of our Solar System, chemistry and the nature of the sender (and recipient) but also—as an express end in itself—wonderfully detailed and over-thought set of instructions on how to make said sender’s universally enjoyed dish, which is a bit defining and representative of all humanity in its variety and variation as well.

the helen of troy (10. 353)

Closing this day in 1972 after just seven performances to relentlessly panned reviews and confused audiences, the futuristic rock musical by George W George and Peter Hall—featuring a cast that included Raul Julia and Irene Cara—this flop tells the story of outcasts living on an asteroid (Ithaca) set a millennium from the present time. The protagonist (Julia) pilots a clam-shell shaped garbage scow christened with the title name collecting space junk but that was the only clear aspect of the convoluted narrative, the synopsis contained in the programme not helping to clarify what was going on. Listen to an original cast demo tape here of one of the fourteen musical numbers of the two act play.

Wednesday 12 October 2022

lingua cosma (10. 215)

Though somewhat unclear whether mathematician Hans Freudenthal intended his constructed language to be practically applicable or just a thought-experiment and heuristic for thinking about how we might hurdle a potential language-barrier, his Lincos (a portmanteau of the above, see previously) was designed to be decipherable by any extraterrestrial life form—free of terrestrial syntax or context—and conducive to radio transmissions as part of the SETI program, it was meant to primarily convey propositional logic and universal constants. This narrow-band of communication—a bridge, however did not dissuade senior lecturer in Digital Media Studies at the University of Roehampton Richard Carter from anthologizing this alien-icebreaker in a collection of poems called Signals, which of course limn our limits of expression amongst ourselves as much as to other galactic denizens. Much more to explore at the links above.