Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Daikaiju Attack!

I've just started a new, free, serialized online novel:


Daikaiju means "Giant Monster," and the story will contain all the action and adventure of a classic Godzilla feature written in my usual breezy modern style.

Get your giant monster fix today!  Then tune in every weekend for the next exciting chapter!


WEIRD OR WHAT: End of the World

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/28/13

The show starts by positing that some people (Nostradamus in particular) have been able to predict the future.  At this point, I'll cry "Bullshit!" but they continue anyway, starting with "secret" Mayan predictions of the end of the world, in 2012. (Maybe this show was supposed to be released earlier, 'cause we're still here in 2013.)  This "astronomer" believes that a supervolcano, Yellowstone Perhaps, will erupt (last year), bringing cataclysm.  One survivalist plans to build underground shelters around the country and the world, and has recruited people to live in them.  (He refers to the show date being 2011.)  Are we nuts yet?  An anthropologist says it's happened before; we should be worried. But Jake Lowenstern of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory isn't worried.  He points out the worriers are exaggerating statistics, and even those stats are based on too small a sample to forecast accurately.  He also points out that most Yellowstone eruptions have been on the scale of a Hawaiian volcano -- and Yellowstone has numerous minor eruptions that may relieve the pressure for even that.

In a commercial break, the show points out that the first doomsday prediction was that the world would end in AD 666.  How did that work out?  Ready to stop listening to kooks yet?  I am, but the show continues -- and, as a public service, so do I.

Next up is the idea that solar flares may kill us all.  Do low sunspots portend an impending "big one" of solar flares.  One "scientist" even believes that alien ships are causing flares.  An actual scientist, though, believes that the changes are caused by changes in the sun's magnetic fields (and perhaps poles).  No problem for us, he insists.  Yet, a journalist believes that a big solar flare would wipe out our technological society -- blacking out everything.  Proof, please.

Finally, futurist Ray Kurzweil believes that in 20 years, computers will be operating at human levels.  He also believes man and machine will merge by the mid 21st century, and he doesn't find that scary.  He thinks we will keep our humanity, but transcend the limitations of our biology.  One philosopher fears that computers may become aware enough to do things we don't want -- like Skynet.  Robitics maker Noel Sharkey thinks humanoid robots are a long way from taking over the world -- because there's no evidence that might happen, and robots are just not smart.  "They're not bright enough to be called stupid," he says.  They can't even feed themselves.  They're incapable of exceeding their programming.  The real problem, he says, will be the misuse of robots as weapons by humans -- not danger from evil or rogue robots.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

WEIRD OR WHAT? Ancient Mysteries

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/28/13

Is there a star child? Did dinosaurs live with humans? Did Ancient Egyptians have airplanes?  Let's see what the show says...

A strange 900-year-old skeleton found in Mexico is believed by some to be a human-alien hybrid, or outright alien - based on its weird appearance.  This has been suggested by UFO "experts" who've seen the skull.  But neurologist Steven Novella believes it is merely a deformed human with hydrocephalus.  Other scientists suggest that cradle-boarding may have changed the shape of the child's skull.  The owner of the skull claims to have a 2003 DNA test showing the father of the "starchild" was not human.  A 2011 test makes him believe that neither of the child's parents are human.  Apparently, there has been no peer review of this "evidence."

An ancient Peruvian stone seems to show an long-extinct fish.  Digging up more stones, the doctor who owns the stone believes that many show scenes of creatures long dead -- including dinosaurs, which might even be alive today.  Acheologist Ken Feder believes that the Peruvian stones show all the signs of a classic archaeological hoax -- created when it became clear there was a market for them.  The show gets an art student to re-create the stones using simple techniques.  Is it easier to believe that known archaeology must be completely overturned, or that some folks wanted to make a fast buck?  One author thinks the stones are indeed, old, but not first-hand experience.  Instead, he believes the Peruvians got information about the dinos from a more knowledgeable civilization: Atlantis.  Ri-i-ight.

In Sakara, Egypt, archaeologists turn up something that looks like a model of a bird -- though some think it resembles an airplane.  Did the Egyptians have planes?  It's a theory that appeals to people who believe the ancient astronauts hoax.  But Egyptologist Katya Goebs scoffs, noting bird symbolism was very important in Egypt, and bird objects in tombs were common -- perhaps it was a toy for a child's tomb.  The suggestion of launching gliders from the tops of pyramids seems, at best, absurd.  But one "expert" claims that the ancients had _all_ the technology we have, including flight, balloons, and electricity -- despite the fact that _no_ ancient reporters have ever mentioned any of this.  A model builder on the show builds a model of the bird, and even with a suggested tail, the plane still doesn't fly.  The model builder suggests the object may have been a wind vane (weather vane).  And that seems to work better.

Again, the show doesn't make any conclusions, but, to me, at least, the science seems much more compelling than the speculation.