Great Balls of . . . Fools Gold Found in Mexico

article-2318151-1995A25C000005DC-373_634x427Archaeologists from the Mexico National Institute of Archaeology and History recently discovered a 2000-year-old secret chamber buried under an ancient pyramid temple in Teotihuacan, Mexico.

And in that chamber, the archaeologists’ robot discovered hundreds of golden metallic spheres made out of pyrite, otherwise known as Fool’s Gold.  Luckily, a flying drone was there to capture the images.

No this isn’t the next Indiana Jones film. This is real, folks.

Interestingly, the name Teotihuacan means “the place where men become gods.”

Of course the big questions are: Were the mysterious spheres part of some kind of burial ritual? Was the placement of the spheres relevant? Is there some natural quality to the material that was valued, perhaps for its sound or its luminous quality?

Or maybe it was just a game played by ancient guardians of the tunnel to pass the time (Maybe they kept dropping the balls into the pit by mistake — “Oops, I’m not getting that one!”).

I guess it’s one more piece of the mystery behind an ancient civilization that disappeared suddenly in the year 700. For mere, here’s the full article.

Robocolypse Now: Man Charged with Shooting Police Robot

060419_gort_lgRemember Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still? Well, we’re getting closer to that. Nowadays, in special cases of dangerous shootouts or where a bomb is suspected, police send in robots to scope out the problem.

On February 23rd, Ohio police sent two robots into a home where a man was making threats and had fired a gun in his house. The man, who was as drunk as Rooster Cogburn on a bad day, shot at one of the robots. Allegedly, the injured robot was undeterred and the distraction allowed police to come storming in with a stun gun. The man was arrested at the scene. This is the first case I’ve heard where a man was charged with shooting a robot.

No word on the robot, but I assume he/she is in stable condition.

Now in case you’re thinking the police robots are indestructible behemoths like this…

Gen3_Police_Robot-md

 

Not quite. The police robots look more like Wall-E or that cute robot in Short Circuit. Definitely not a Transformer type. This is a typical police robot below …

bomb_robot061407

Makes you want to tremble in your shoes just looking at it, right? No? Well, at least it works, and it does save lives. In this case, police found two AK-47 rifles and lots of ammunition.  I wonder what the robots looked like to the drunk guy?

I”m still holding out for Gort. Klaatu Berada Nikto.  Here’s the full article from PopSci.

 

Objects in the Telescope Are Closer Than They Appear

Kepler-telescopeOr at least Earth-like planets are. NASA’s Kepler space telescope has revealed potentially billions of Earth-like planets within 13 light years of our sun.

Specifically, there are a huge number of sun-like red dwarf stars that have been identified in our galaxy (like 75 billion of them), many with planets orbiting around them. Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics estimate that six percent of red dwarf stars in the galaxy could hold Earth-like planets. That’s almost 5 billion potential Earth-like planets.

Now that they know where to look, future NASA missions will be able to explore further and test for signs of life.

According to NASA, “Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone.”

Click here for the Huffington Post article on the topic. And here’s more about the Kepler Space Program.

Dr. Evil would have fun with this one. Cue Austin Powers dramatic space music…

 

Where Was That Photo Taken? U.S. Spy Agencies Want to Know

Osama_bin_Laden_compound2

Bin Laden’s Compound (and Image Stash) Sajjad Ali Qureshi via Wikimedia

For anyone who saw Zero Dark Thirty, I’m sure you’d agree it was fascinating how they were able to draw inferences from  observing aerial images of the building they hoped Osama Bin Laden was hiding out in.

But what about all the photographic evidence they found in the computers retrieved from the building?

According to a report in PopSci, IARPA (the US Intelligence advanced research agency) recently launched a program called the Finder Program, which will enable a human analyst to use software to determine where any photo was taken, based on supporting evidence. It would then produce the GPS coordinates.

This would certainly be useful in assessing terrorist, propaganda, organized crime, and other intelligence photos.

If you have expertise in this area, they’d love to hear from you.

Just think; with software like that, you could win all those magazine contests that ask: Where was this photo taken?

If You See a Flying Humvee, You’re Not Drunk

Flying HUMVEECue the Flight of the Valkyries music from Apocalypse Now. Here come the flying Humvees. At least if DARPA (the U.S. Defense  research organization) gets its wish.

Designs for the so-called Transformer (TX) Program have already entered the prototype phase, with ground and flight demonstrations slated for 2015.

Not only will this baby be a roadworthy aircraft, it’ll need to be able to stop on a time for vertical takeoff and landing; be light enough to fly but strong enough for heavy road duty (and resistance to small arms fire); and be as easy to drive and pilot as a car.  Now we’re talkin’

Hey, if it doesn’t work out, they can always use the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang design. I’m sure Dick Van Dyke wouldn’t mind.

chitty-chitty-bang-bang

It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

It’s incredible how far and wide-reaching misconceptions can spread, and certainly the Mayan “end of the world” prophecy for December 21st, 2012 is no exception. I know from my nonfiction writing (much of which is based on history) that falsities run rampant, even in history books and, dare I say, TV shows. So I shouldn’t be too surprised.

The first hint that you’re being misinformed is when you come across an article or website that highlights the classic circular sun stone calendar that looks like this:

Aztec Calendar

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly legitimate calendar. It’s just that, well… it’s NOT MAYAN!!!  It’s Aztec! The Mayans never even saw this calendar.

So, anyone passing it along as the Mayan calendar and then making predictions of the end of the world, is not exactly starting off on a credible foot. Unfortunately, about 90% of the websites I’ve seen on the Mayan calendar mistakenly reference the Aztec calendar (and even the popular cartoons, like the one below).

maya_cartoon

In actuality there are three Mayan calendars, the civil calendar (the circular Haab calendar, pictured below, which covers about 52 years — the average lifespan of a person at the time), the ritual/sacred calendar (Tzolkin, which is also circular and interlocks with the Haab calendar), and the one in question, the long count calendar. Below is a picture of the Haab calendar (note the Disney-esque cartoon-like center, which easily differentiates this from the Aztec sun stone):

mayan-calendar

 

This is the long count calendar, which is the one everyone’s been talking about with regard to the apocalypse. It’s a column — not circular.

Mayan-Calendar-300x200

 

Now, as for that pesky 12/21/12 reference. To understand that, it’s important to understand how the Mayan long count calendar works.

One B’ak’tun is 144,000 days or about 394 years. 20 B’ak’tuns make up a Piktun.

There are higher orders as well (20 Piktuns make up a Kalabtun, 20 Kalabtuns make up a Kinchiltun, and so on), all of which are referenced in Mayan tablets when depicting events in the distant future.

We are currently nearing the end of the 13th B’a’ktun (which began in the 15th century). The next B’ak’tun starts December 21st, 2012. The current Piktun doesn’t end until the year 4772.

The only mention of the 13th B’ak’tun (the end of which correlates to December 21st, 2012) is on the following stone tablet.

tortuguero_2012_1

The section highlighted makes reference to the 13th B’ak’tun as a time when a new god, dealing with change and wisdom, will reign, and generally a big celebration occurs at the change of a cycle. There is no reference to the end of the world or anything remotely resembling an apocalyptic event.

Overall, the Mayan calendar depicts 5 columns that work sort of like an odometer, with the leftmost column representing B’ak’tuns (it starts at zero and bumps up one cycle every 394 years), then, moving left to right, the next four columns are …

Katuns (cycles approx every 20 years), Tuns (cycles approx yearly), Uinals (cycles every 20 days), and Kins (cycles every day). There is some debate whether the B’ak’tuns reset to zero after 13 B’ak’tuns or 20, but most scholars say 20.

So, on December 21st, the Mayan calendar would look like:  14.0.0.0.0. On the 22nd, it would look like 14.0.0.0.1, and so on.

Keep in mind, there are higher orders than B’ak’tuns, as I mentioned, and these are references on other tablets, but they’re not part of the Mayan calendar per se. Why?

The same reason our computer systems in the last century only had two digits for the year (the famous Y2K problem). It seemed good enough at the time.  Either that, or they ran out of room, like the cartoon says (albeit showing the wrong calendar).

For those familiar with Y2K, when we hit the year 99, every computer programmer in the world was scampering to change their systems to a 4 digit year (though some people kept a 2 digit year and coded their systems to bump up the century if the year was less than 40 — which means we’ll have the same problem again in 2040). But I digress.

In any case, what we have is the Mayan equivalent of the Y2K problem. Nothing more, nothing less. Of course, people into new age science may talk about the alignment of the planets and stars, and there may be some some truth in that (the Mayans, after, all, were brilliant astronomers), but I’ll leave you to decide what that does or doesn’t mean for world consciousness.

As for the rise of a new Mayan god, keep in mind, the ancient Mayans also believed in bloodletting and human sacrifice.

Meanwhile, let’s all have a Mayan-like party (minus the human sacrifice) and celebrate the end of the 13th B’ak’tun and the beginning of the 14th on December 21st!

2000 Year-Old Computer a True Mystery

Imagine finding a sophisticated computer device from the 2nd century BC with 30-70 precision-engineered moving parts that could predict the movement of the sun, moon, and planets in our solar system?

Well that’s exactly what was discovered by a sponge diver in 1900, over a century ago, in a Roman shipwreck off of the Greek island of Antikythera. Dubbed the Antikythera Mechanism, the device still baffles modern day technologists.

It took a century to even figure out how it worked and what it was used for, and even then, the solution involved multiple nations and several disciplines of expertise.

Experts believe it was part of a cargo looted from Rhodes en route to a celebration in Rome given by Julius Caesar. The mechanism now sits in the Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Some cite its origins to the Greek mathematician Archimedes (c. 287 BC – c 212 BC), as the Roman philosopher Cicero made mention of General Marcus Marcellus taking home several of Archimedes’s machines. Whether those machines and this device are of the same ilk remains to be seen.

This begs a few questions:

  • Did this machine have some specific end goal in mind or was it merely for astronomical study?
  • Where did this technology disappear to? (we know that much technology, including plumbing, was lost with the Dark Ages).
  • Was there a higher intelligence involved or was this simply a matter of ancient peoples being much more brilliant than we give them credit for?

(For instance, the ancient Chinese had flushing toilets, as did the Romans. Yet in the 1800s, the British were using chamber pots. Indeed, toilets were literally “reinvented” at least 5 times throughout world history, the last time after the cholera epidemic in England)

  • What other advanced technologies existed in ancient Greece that were lost?

For more, check out the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project website. Also, here’s the Wikipedia entry on the topic.

 

Evidence of Time Travel? You Decide

There’s been lots of speculation over the years as to whether time travel is possible or not.  Of, course, some of the most respected minds in the world have their own opinions on the matter. Take Stephen Hawking, for example.

In a recent interview, Hawking said, “I have experimental evidence that time travel is not possible. I gave a party for time-travelers, but I didn’t send out the invitations until after the party. I sat there a long time, but no one came.”

Of course, several years back, he also famously asked, “If time travel is possible, where are all the time travelers from the future?”

There’s actually an interesting  philosophy website that tackles this question head on.

Meanwhile, another website, Stranger Dimensions, offers a handful of photos as possible evidence of time travel. The photos range from a 400-year-old-Chinese coffin with a rare Swiss watch inside to a woman on a cell phone in a Charlie Chaplin movie. You decide!

BUT . . . after you decide, see this list of debunked time travel myths. Of course, that still leaves the watch in the Chinese tomb as the most puzzling source of evidence yet.

 

 

NASA’s Curiosity Sparks Bizarre Mars Chatter Amid True Beauty

From a large circular boulder to UFO-like objects in the sky, the Internet is abuzz with rumors and speculation about various anomalies captured by NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars.

Here’s a Huffington Post article that includes some interesting video and slideshows.

Of course, some of these very anomalies have already been debunked, as this article on NBC news shows, including a horizon anomaly (aka impact cloud), flying saucers (aka dead pixels), white dot UFOs (aka photoshopped), ancient fingers/shoes/animals (aka rocks), and so on. I’m still waiting to hear about the above-mentioned boulder (pictured).

But amid all this chatter about strange sightings, some true beauty has been captured, as in this photo below (which looks a lot like some terrain I visited in Iceland). Additional stunning photos can be found in this CBS News article.

 

 

As an aside, did you know that a day on Mars is 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth? Who says you can’t buy time? I’m ready to move there. Maybe I’ll get more done.  Apparently, NASA personnel working on the project, are supposed to set their clocks according to Mars time, and one family of a NASA flight director for the mission has followed suit.

Mystery Package to Be Opened in Norway

A 100-year-old mystery package left by a local politician  is set to be opened this Friday, August 31st 2012, in a small village in Norway.

The man, Johan Nygard, left the package with the mayor on August 26th 1912 with instructions not to open it until 100 years from then.  He claimed the contents would “benefit and delight future generations.” Whether he meant in that village alone or the entire world remains to be seen.

Interestingly enough, someone actually remembered that it’s supposed to be opened. I can’t even remember to take the trash out on Sundays.

In a touch of “life imitating art,” readers of The Kronos Interference may notice a slight parallel, as the book has its own mystery package plot element.

Here’s the full article.