Fantastic World

Fantastic and magical things in our world, and how they relate to fantasy fiction.

On the search for E.T.s

Fantastic World

Many of the people think “the truth is out there” about extra-terrestrials and alien spacecraft (and I consider myself on the fence on this issue). They are deciding to do something about the long history of government denials and possible cover-ups. They plan to build an E.T.-catcher of sorts—a satellite that will capture information and images that suggest alien spaceship behavior. The CubeSat for Disclosure, which is still awaiting crowdfunding for its $50,000 budget, will beam information to local citizens and bypass government bodies.

Dave Cote, the prime mover behind the CubeSat project, is a Canadian who is sick of listening to government denials of E.T.s that have been reported by various believable sources.

“We have former astronauts, military personnel, police officers, and the former defense minister of Canada come forward stating that extraterrestrial UFOs are real, and that we are being visited,” Cote said in a press release. “How can this be ignored or brushed off as nonsense?”
video of CubeSat (warning, this is long)
He says the CubeSat will be put into low orbit and use infrared, electromagnetic and radiation sensors, as well as two cameras set to photograph at 360 degrees.

“Maybe we’ll get data readings and pictures of solar-flared-caused auroras; maybe we’ll capture images of some very interesting meteors; and maybe, we’ll actually capture a verifiable craft,” Cote said. “All we can do is try, and by doing this our way, we can open-source the data to you, the individuals.”

The nano-satellite will have an orbital lifespan of about three months before it burns up on reentry, so Cote better get a lot of data in a short amount of time.

The government of any country will not be able to hide the data, he told the Huffington Post.

“This is all ours,” he told the news service.

It’s certainly worth a try because the U.S. government has been notorious in refusing to release information on cited UFOs, leading to such cult groups as believers in the recently revived “The X-Files.” The authorites can’t say everyone who’s seen an odd craft in the sky is crazy. Whether they’ve seen evidence of extraterrestrial life is another, arguable subject.

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Dino Disaster

FANTASTIC WORLD

Most of us know what killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. It was a giant comet that smashed down somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving strange conical-shaped depressions all along the seabed near South Carolina. These were where the trailing comet embers buried themselves in the sea at tremendous velocity. (There are other proofs of the comet’s crash, but that’s the easiest one to remember.)

That’s all well and good, but why did the earth get hit by a comet, when this sort of even is rare in the planet’s history? Sure there was that recent asteroid in Russia, but it was tiny. Their was a large cometlike explosion in Siberia in the early part of the 20th century, cutting down swaths of forest. But, not much else is known about giant space bodies hitting the earth.

Now, a researcher named Lisa Randall says that dark matter is the cause of a sudden influx of comet activity in the prehistoric age. She claims that dark matter (which makes up much more than the regular matter that you and I can see), could have come sweeping by the Milky Way causing “a tiny perturbation in space, amounting to a flicker in the gravitational force that can knock comets out of the solar system’s Kuiper belt or the Öort cloud just outside and send them towards the Earth, according to Phys.Org news.

But would dark matter do this? Scientists are discussing whether dark matter could congregate into a disk at all, much less kicking out comets from the Milky Way. Not much is known about dark matter, but many skeptics say that dark matter would group together into a halo-like array rather than forming a disc similar to the Milky Way. To get around this argument, Randall says there are different kinds of dark matter that behave in different ways. And that’s where the discussion goes off into the, um, stratosphere for me.

However, Randall is a world-renowned cosmologist, and a great number of astrophysicists are saying her viewpoint is certainly credible.

I would be a bit more intrigued by this subject if it would predict what’s around the corner for us concerning future comets and asteroids. I rencently reported that writer Graham Hancock is convinced we are due for a big one, and that a comet probably sank the world into a deep freeze starting the great Ice Age. However, here Randal is mum on anything that is any closer than 65 million years ago.

Still, I’m looking for that comet deflector or asteroid sheild that NASA is supposedly working on. Never too soon guys, or we’ll be as extinct as a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Read more here’

 

 

 

 

 

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Mars as Planet B?

Source: Mars as Planet B?

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When cats were gods in Egypt

Cats have pretty much taken over the Internet. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t send me a cat video or I don’t get streams of cat photos on Facebook. So, why not take a look at a time when cats were really popular—when they were worshipped as animal representations of gods in Ancient Egypt.

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Historians figure that cats basically domesticated themselves when poking around human habitats and finding tasty goodies, mice and rats,  in the granaries of great civilizations. Humans, when they found that cats dispensed with vermin, became friendly with the animals and tolerated, if not encouraged, their presence. This happened in about 2,000 BC (or earlier)  and some say the Persians were the first to take in cats and the brought them to Egypt.

Egypt had an incredibly complex religious system with most of the gods taking on animal shape, or quasi-human shape (with animal heads and human bodies). These were not to be taken literally, and though the sacred animals in Egypt were treated better than many humans, Egyptians always knew that the animals were simply symbols of the mighty gods who ran their lives.

The Egyptians took to the cat with a vengeance (other sacred animals were bulls, ibises, jackals, hippopotomi, some snakes, and falcons). Although there are not many artistic representations of cats until about 2400 B.C., although there is a tomb relief from as early as the 6th Dynasty (2250 BC) that shows a marsh scene with a cat climbing a papyrus stalk to rob bird’s nests. (Always into trouble, even millennia ago.)

Cats usually didn’t show up in tomb art early on, but in the New Kingdom, after 1550 BC, cats became common in depictions of domestic scenes. Cats were often shown under the chair of a noble couple. Children were often shown in the same position, obviously drawn smaller than in life.

Official priestly observances of Egyptian religion didn’t always show what the populace believed, and it seemed to take until the New Kingdom for references to the Great Cat (Bast or Bastet, depending on what authority you consult), who was first lauded for its ability to kill snakes, and thus thwart the evil serpent Apophisis, who attacked the sun-god Ra on his nightly journey to the underworld.

There were two sides to the cat in Egypt, one, Sekhmet, honoring the lioness side of the feline, and Bastet, who represented the home-loving and gentle cat. Bastet also was well regarded for her superb mothering skills.

However, no town was as involved with cat worship as Bubastis, which boasted a large cattery, a cult devoted to cats, and mummification and royal burial of deceased cats.

Mummifying animals became important in the Egyptian civilization’s Late Period, and there are whole cemeteries of bulls, baboons, crocodiles, and dogs. Cat coffins were made in the shape of a cat and often had bronze heads. Large cemeteries of cat mummies were found in Beni Hasen, Bubastis, and Saqqara. People also donated bronze statuettes of cats to local temples to make sure they stayed on the good side of the goddess Bastet.

There is some disturbing evidence that not all the cats in the kitty coffins died a natural death. Most put this down to overpopulation in the catteries. Then, as now, cats can multiply like rabbits.

Still, there is no doubt that Egyptians loved their little furballs, probably more than modern cat owners do. There is a great deal of cat statuary that shows them draped with jewelry and with pierced ears for earrings.

How many Internet pictures have you seen with cats sporting earrings?

 

 

 

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What’s inside the Egyptian pyramids?

Fantastic World


Every wonder what is really inside the pyramids of Giza and the surrounding area? There have been rumors for centuries of hidden chambers, filled with either precious scrolls or beautiful treasure. There even was a team that set out for Giza in the 1990s and found with ground-penetrating radar that there is a large rectangular, box-shaped, hollow anomaly hidden in the area in front of the Sphinx’s paws. No one has ever excavated the area, so no one knows if it’s a hidden chamber or not.
But it’s not the Sphinx, but the pyramids that soon will be investigated internally by the “Scan Pyramid” program, which is sponsored by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. The scans and tests have been initiated, designed and coordinated by the Faculty of Engineering of Cairo and the French HIP Institute (Heritage, Innovation and Preservation). Cosmic particles, infrared thermography, photogrammetry, scanner and 3D reconstruction will be used to peer into and reconstruct what is inside of the pyramids. Researchers of international renown and three major universities, the Faculty of Engineering of Cairo University, Université Laval of Quebec and Nagoya University of Japan, will lend their expertise to the project.
The scanning project is due to start in early November. It will focus on  on the site of Dahshur, about fifteen kilometers south of Saqqara: the South pyramid, called the Bent; and the North pyramid, called the Red, both reputaed to have been built by Snefru (2575 – 2551 BC). On the Giza plateau at about twenty kilometers from Cairo (see map), it will study the pyramids of Khufu (the Great Pyramid) and Khafre, said to be built by the son and grandson of Snefru. (Actually no one knows who built these specific pyramids, because the identifying factors are so vague and no actual names–except that of Khufu–have been found of any of the pyramids.)
The company Iconem plans to created a 3-D representation of the field of Giza using drones and photogrammerty, the since of making measurements from photographs.

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Writing Fantasy—Where Those Ideas Come From

This blog is mainly for relating news of the fantastic and seemingly magical things that go on in our world and the universe. However, I’ve been asked to write about my own work with fantasy fiction, as well. So from time to time, I’ll write about how I go about writing fantasy, which I base in the current world. (I don’t do sword and sorcery writing.)

The thing most people ask me is where I get my ideas. I’m not sure why they ask this, because everyone comes up with ideas in unique ways. Some just have flashes of brilliance, others do research for years. I’m in between the researcher and flash-of-insight kind of writer. For my first book with the Story Plant, The God’s Wife, I had done years of reading on ancient Egyptian culture and religion. In the midst of all this reading (which was done for

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my own enjoyment), I discovered that there was a type of ancient priestess in the early dynasties, the 18th Dynasty, and in New Kingdom,  called the God’s Wife of Amun. She was supposed to be the earthly wife of Amun or Amun-Re, who was the chief god of the leading triad of gods during the New Kingdom and then later in the waning years of the Egyptian civilization. (Egyptian religion is so complicated that books have been written trying to describe it, but just accept that Amun was the top dog.)

I also traveled to Egypt, when it was safe, with John Anthony West, who lead an extraordinary tour of the pyramids, Sphinx, and great temples. I did research over there too. Plus I learned what the land was like, how the Nile smelled (surprisingly sweet), and how ancient Egyptians depicted themselves in artwork.

Because the God’s Wife was married to the head god, she trumped all the male priests in the temple. Some Egyptologists contend that she was second in power to the Pharaoh, because religion and government were the same in that era. She often came from the Pharaoh’s family.

Also. earlier I had seen a Polish movie, “The Double Life of Veronique” by director Krzystof Kieslowski, translated into English. I was fascinated by this tale of two women who shared the same soul. I decided to make my fictional God’s Wife share a single soul with a contemporary-era Chicago dancer who is to dance the lead in a production of “Aida,” based in ancient Egypt. I leave it up to the reader to figure out how this can be (although I hint strongly a the parallel universe theory). Eventually, they have to merge.

In retrospect, I wish I had put the single soul concept in my promotional material, because many people didn’t understand the dual plot. I did change my Amazon description to make this clearer.

For “Dateline: Atlantis” I read so much about the fabled disappeared continent (or large series of islands) that I don’t know where to start. The idea just grew in my head about a reporter who discovers an underwater world and the romance, murder, detective work, and near deadly underwater encounter all grew out of that. Some plots just do themselves.

I must give special credit to Graham Hancock’s many books about the possibilities of pre-Ice Age civilization as my guiding lights. Hancock, a real reporter, stood out from some of the loonies who wrote strange. unbelievable books on Atlantis. For my next writing project, Hancock is an  influence again, and the story involves, somewhat, a killer comet heading towards earth.

My books are published by the Story Plant, a great, innovative, independent publishing company,

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DNA tests may answer Machu Picchu questions

FANTASTIC WORLD

Machu Picchu is a traveler’s dream destination. Standing 8,000 feet above sea level, the ancient Incan monument is one of Peru’s most beautiful locations. However, although archeologists estimate it was built in the 15th century, they have no idea what Machu Picchu was intended to be—palace, temple, settlement, resting plot for the dead?

The building, which goes up the side of a mountain, is a technical marvel because the huge stones used to build Machu Picchu are fitted together without mortar, yet you cannot fit a piece of paper between the blocks. There are also steeped terraces that not only provided spaces for planting but also guarded against flooding.

Using ancient DNA gathered from 170 individuals who are buried at the Peruvian site, Dr. Brenda Bradley, associate professor of anthropology at George Washington University, and a team of researchers have been analyzing the genomes of the skeletal remains to try to understand who the residents were and from where they came. Back in 1911, Hiram Bingham studied the “lost city of the Incas,” (so-called because the Incans abandoned the site in the 16th century). He dug up many bones and relics, which were housed at the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven until 2012. They were then moved to the Peru-Yale University International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture. Before the bones were transferred Dr. Bradley and her team got a chance to get DNA samples.

Dr. Bradley plans to use the latest methods to sequence the DNA samples.

Machu Picchu

“With ancient human DNA, you always have to worry about contamination,” Dr. Bradley said to  the website Phys.Org. “If you replicate the experiment in a different lab with different researchers, and you find the same results, that is the gold standard.”

Most researchers believe the giant building was a royal retreat, a Camp David of sorts for visiting dignitaries and guests. This is where Emperor Pachacuti would have held court for meetings. Archeologists say the building shows that people were often crafts specialists brought in from other areas of the empire.

The genetic analysis will look at what the relationship were between the people there, and whether they were of the same ancestral lineal

“One thing that makes Machu Picchu so interesting is the idea that actually the population buried there doesn’t reflect just a local population,” Dr. Lars Fehren-Schmitz of the University of California, Santa Cruz, told Phys.org.

Machu Picchu was a pre-Spanish conquest building and shows the amazing abilities of the Incans, who did not rely on European methods of building.

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Three…two…one…blub, blub….

Climate  changes challenges us in plenty of ways. There are droughts all over the earth, flooding in others, the polar ice is melting endangering polar bears and other Arctic animals. But who’d think that NASA would be up against problems from a warming planet?

Rising seas are the problem and it just so happens that NASA’s prime launch centers are based right on the water. The most famous site is the Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral, Fla.), which is threatened by shrinking dunes and a damaged shoreline, according to Discovery.com.

Apparently, NASA made the decision many years ago to launch its spacecraft over water because any falling debris or crashes of spacecraft would not harm people. (I guess harming whales and dolphins is okay.) However, the problem now is that climate change is causing these launch areas to become unstable—not now, but surely in coming years.

The other NASA facilities are close to rising water, including the Langley Research Center and the Wallops Flight Facility, both in Virginia. And don’t forget that the Johnson Space Center center is perilously close in Houston to the Gulf of Mexico. Plus, the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana is below the water level of Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River near New Orleans.

“The nation’s problem is also NASA’s problem,” said Micheal J. Carlowicz, the chief technical writer at the agency’s sciences ad exploration division. He told Dicovery.com that “Sea level rise hits especially close to home because half to two-thirds of NASA’s infrastructure and assets stand within sixteen feet of sea level.”

Researchers have concluded that the NASA coastal centers almost are certain to become vulnerable in the future.

So before any proposed manned Martian flight, we may be seeing a launch center moved far inland.

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Nature’s Sex Change

Fantastic World

It’s taken as a given that by the time you’ve reached 12 years old, you know if you’re a male or female. However, scientists have discovered that, due to a quirky gene dysfunction, some young girls in a small town in Indonesia are finding out—surprise!—that they are really boys.

The sudden sex change is the result of a rare genetic disorder that occurs because of a missing enzyme which prevents the production of a specific form of the male sex hormone – dihydro-testosterone – in the womb. When the child is born, it appears to have female genitalia, and the parents go about raising their baby as a girl.

The Telegraph of London interviewed, Johnny,  a young man of 24 from the Indonesian town who remembers wearing a red dress to school, where he rarely played with the girls. He was named Felicita and first started showing signs of maleness when he was nine. For this person, the sex change was not stressful or traumatic, because he already felt like a boy.

“When I changed I was happy with my life,” Johnny told the newspaper.

The number of girl-turned-boys is so large that the local town has a name for them: “guevedoces,” which literally means “penis at 12.”

Strangely, some of the guevedoces decide not to change their female names and go on as “Maria” or “Catherine.”

These unusual children were first discovered by Cornell University endocrinologist Dr. Julianne Imperato in the 1970s.  But now more cases are being reported in the Sambian villages of Papua New Guinea.

“By a quirk of chance Dr Imperato’s research was picked up by the American pharmaceutical giant, Merck. They used her discovery to create a drug called finasteride, which blocks the action of 5-α-reductase. It is now widely used to treat benign enlargement of the prostate and male pattern baldness. For which, I’m sure, many men are truly grateful,” according to Dr. Michael Mosely of the BBC, who is presenting a British special on how the human body develops.

So far, the condition is extremely rare in the world, and seems to have developed in these small towns because the villagers were so isolated. But because the disorder is well-known and accepted in the Dominican Republic, the country now has three sexual categories: male, female and pseudohermaphrodite.

Imagine how we would deal with this issue if it popped up in the U.S. And we thought transgender folks have it tough.

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Of comets and the end of the world

Graham Hancock

Graham Hancock

Fantastic World

British best-selling author and journalist Graham Hancock (and one of my favorite writers) reports that after more than 20 years of research, he has come to the conclusion that the floods that came at the end of the Great Ice Age (12,800 years ago give or take a few millennia) were almost certainly caused by a great comet or meteors hitting the earth. The floods, known world-wide by various myths such as Noah’s Flood, tales of rampaging waters destroying the homes of the Cowichan people of British Columbia, the Pima of Arizona, the Inuit of Alaska, the Uiseno of California and the Obijawa of the Canadian grasslands, and many more. All over the world, in most ancient cultures, there is a tale of giant deluge swamping the earth.

Most of this has been dismissed by historians who consider myths to be nothing more than tall tales meant to entertain the people around campfires. There also was a prevalent geological theory that change happens to the earth gradually, and that no sudden events transformed the earth or its climate. However, by the 20th century, this gradualist view was being challenged by Russian scientist Immanuel Velikovsky, who said violent events, such as earthquakes and comet strikes had accounted for some of the most drastic changes in the world’s long geological history. By the 21st century, we take it as a given that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a comet.

But Hancock, in an interview with England’s The Daily Mail, goes even further to suggest that a giant comet strike, well detailed by the Ojibwa, was to blame for the ancient melting of the ice caps and the sudden plunge into a watery, cold world. He says that some survivors sailed the earth looking for toeholds where they could once again spread the knowledge of cosmology, writing, and healing. He traces legends of historical holy men and gets into the long-held debate of whether Egypt was settled by such wise people who introduced them to writing and mathematics. It’s a valid argument because Egyptologists still can’t explain how a full language, with beautiful characters, rose out of a desert of no known culture.

Hancock figures the comet’s flood happened about 12,800 years ago. Civilizations older than Egypt such as Babylon, have almost no artifacts left behind, whereas Egypt is replete with carvings, artwork, even the pyramids that many argue were not tombs but places of safekeeping for documents and precious objects. Hancock also goes on to describe Gobekeii Tepe in Turkey, which has the oldest work of monumental architecture in the world, with pillars weighing 20 tons. Gobekeii Tepe is said to be 12,000 years old.

How can Hancock be sure a comet wiped out the early earth? There are nanodiamonds present in the layer of earth that was formed in the Younger Dryas, or the epoch between 10,800 BC and 9,800 BC. These microscopic gems are formed under conditions of great shock, pressure, and heat. They are often recognized by scientists as signs of comet or asteroid impacts.

And the crater? It would have melted long ago when the ice caps unfroze.

But don’t feel so safe about our world now. As scientists have been telling us, there are plenty of giant comets and meteors that could collide with the earth, causing another catastrophe. Many laser-defense systems have been designed, but it’s unclear whether the Earth really has anything in place right now to avoid doomsday. Hancock says such destructive comets could arrive in as little as 15 years when we cross the Taurid meteor stream.

Well, I’m not going to spend nights up worrying about this. Someone will come up with a meteor shield in that time—won’t they? But Hancock’s material is fascinating and certainly the stuff that fantasy readers (and, yes, that include you Atlantis believers out there) will simple devour.

His new book is “The Magician’s of the Gods,” now on sale in the U.K. We here in the U.S. will either have to wait or do what I’ve done with Hancock books I couldn’t wait to get my hands on: order from http://www.Amazon.co.uk. No advertisement here, but I’ve found them fast and surprisingly cheap.

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