Wake up, Nefertiti!

Fantastic World.

Lots of strange news has been coming out of Egypt lately. First, some scientists, using infrared and modulated thermography (don’t ask me what that means) have been peering through the rocks of the pyramids of Giza, looking for hidden hallways and empty chambers. The Scan Pyramids project, which was launched in October of last year is looking for some tantalizing things. Looking for areas with poor insulation, cracks, and openings in the seemingly smooth-sided pyramids, the project leaders hope to find cavities and chambers beneath the rocks.

Lost treasure chambers? A long-forgotten library of priceless books? Who knows? But it will take the rest of this year for Scan Pyramids to work it out..

However, while those scientists use drones to take images of the pyramids, other Egyptologists surmise they may have found the tomb of the fabled Nefertiti, the queen of Akhenaten. He was the pharaoh who became a heretic when he proposed a religion based on a single god—the Aten, or sun disk. Almost nothing is known of what became of Akhenaten and Nefertiti after their fall from grace, but many Egyptologists believe that Nefertiti was a co-regent with her king during his later years of rule. When he died, she might have become the mysterious Smenkhare, a pharaoh named in the Egyptian histories, but one who left no royal tomb.

Nefertiti, often called the most beautiful woman in history, also seemed to disappear into nowhere. Her tomb and body has never been found.

Now, Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves believes that her tomb is behind that of Tutankhamen, the famous boy king’s. When Howard Carter found “King Tut” in 1922, the opening of the tomb was the wonder of the world. Here was the burial place of a boy of about 19, who had only been on the throne shortly. The tomb appeared to be hastily put together with many items recycled from other burials.

Tut was the son of Akhenaten, but no one is sure who his mother was. It could have been Nefertiti or it could have been Kiya, a minor wife of Akhenaten. The excitement comes into the story when Reeves identified what he called two doorways or entrances behind the current walls of Tut’s burial chamber. They may lead to just more storage chambers or to another royal tomb.

Reeves builds a case that Nefertiti was Tut’s mother, that she was interred first in the rock-cut tomb. Then, when Tut died so suddenly, room was made at the front of Nefertiti’s tomb for the boy’s remains. So, if someone were to drill behind one of those doors, there just discover an astonishingly lavish tomb dedicated to the royal queen.

Reeves peppers his theory with a lot of details that people other than Egyptologists can’t follow, such as saying Tut’s tomb is in a corridor that turns right, rather than left, indicating it was originally for a queen. He also says that items in Tut’s tomb were not designed for him, and that the famous gold mask that lies in the Cairo Egyptian History Museum does not even resemble the boy king at all.

No one will really know if Nefertiti is behind he door, but former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass, who has no more power in Egypt, disregards the whole theory. He says no one should be drilling on that priceless tomb door. That’s because he thinks he already found Nefertiti’s body (which was broadcast on a cable television program and proved to be most unconvincing.)

So, keep tuned. There are power upheavals in Egypt everyday, and no one knows who might authorize drilling behind Tut’s tomb. However, as geologist and Egyptology fan Robert Schoch, Ph.D., reports, the tourism industry is in such bad shape that it would be easy to understand  if Egypt would take the gamble to take a peek behind the wall.

The world is waiting for Nefertiti to arise.

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The Man Who Fell to Earth

It may seem odd for a fantasy writer to be fashioning an ode to rock star/actor/artist David Bowie. But who was Bowie but a fantasy character? He changed personas as often as many people change attire. He was never content to stay in one phase of artistic or musical development, but kept pushing for more and for…ch..ch…changes. As a lover of fantasy and magic, nothing enchanted or intrigued me more.

In all of Bowie’s transformations and new stances, his different moods always seemed to catch me at a significant time in my life, making him all the more worthy of examining.

When I was a kid listening to the mainstream Beatles, Bowie caught my ear singing “Space Oddity,” (“ground control to Major Tom…”). I had just seen Stanley Kubrick’s monolithic “2001: A Space Oddity,” and I caught the way Dowie was both having fun with the grandiosity of the film, but also retaining the ultimate mystery of the cinematic ending. Major Tom is lost adrift in space just the Starman lands on Jupiter for a terrifying transmogrification. What did it all mean? Did it matter? It was magical and inspiring and I loved it.

Years later, I was just as  intrigued with his role as an alien in Nicolas Roeg’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” an arty flick about a desperate being who comes to Earth to save his dying planet. Bowie appears to Earthlings as a brilliant inventor who creates technology that makes him wildly rich. But for all his brilliance, he fails to bring water back to the people on his fading planet. Bowie’s character is left on Earth, out of touch and out of time, as his planet dies. It was so mystical and beautiful that it made me cry. I think in that role, Bowie showed me how truly affecting he could be.

I’m sorry to say that I lost track a bit of Bowie during his “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” years. I even was in London during the glam-rock phase (when “The Rocky Horror Show” was the biggest thing on the stage.) I happened to be in my big-shot jazz and intellectual phase then. (Eye roll, please.) I had to catch Ziggy on the rebound years later when I was listening to records I had missed in the college years.

But Bowie grabbed my attention big-time when Ziggy died and he morphed into the powerhouse rocker of the “Rebel Rebel” era. The song (“hot tramp, I love you so”) affected my burst-out-in


to-the-world outlook at the time, along with “Suffragette City,” and “Diamond Dogs.” It was hot, pounding rock that drove a party as well as the Rolling Stones.

Then the rocker was gone and a character known as “the thin white duke” stepped on stage. He was a different from Ziggy as you could imagine—a suave, well-groomed man in a while suit, dripping with ennui. I, trying to bring up a toddler as a single parent, could appreciate the mood. So, I sopped up the manner and distance of the duke, but looked for Bowie’s next change.

While he was going through those moods, Bowie recorded such pop smashes as “Fame” (with John Lennon), “Heroes” (with Brian Eno, anticipating the fall of the Berlin wall), and “Fashion” (with Robert Fripp). These just kept us spinning on the dance floor waiting for more. (Interestingly, “Heroes” is now topping the charts, when it only rose to No. 47 when it was released in 1977).

By the time Bowie recorded “Let’s Dance” (“put on your red shoes and dance the blues”) he was a bona fide American rock star, minus the crazy hair, odd costumes, and heavy backstory of the past. In his short, combed blonde hair, a t-shirt and pants, he just stood for who he was—a great singer and musical stylist. And he looked forever young. It was as if nothing could change David Bowie now.

Yet, I could tell he was becoming moodier and more mature with 2013’s “Where are We Now?” but nothing prepared me for his sudden, and final, role change of Jan. 9. Although there were rumors in New York of Bowie having cancer, and he was opening a show he co-wrote called, eerily, “Lazarus” (the man Jesus was said to have risen from the dead). When I was in New York last, all my attention was on the musical “Hamilton.” Bowie eluded my vision.

I haven’t been able to get a hold of Bowie’s last album, “Blackstar,” which is sold out everywhere (and my Internet streaming situation isn’t good). But I have heard parts of the work. Surely the biggest clue he gave us about his next transformation were the opening words to the song “Lazarus” (“Look at me. I’m in heaven.”)

It’s the last role I ever would have considered for the biggest fantasy figure I’ve ever seen in my existence. David Bowie now in the afterlife.

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Dino Disaster


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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The Beta Connection/Why Writers Need Test Readers

Every now and then I take a break from stories about our fantastic universe to write about the business of being an author.

Most people think that when the writing of a manuscript is done, and the edits are finished, then it’s time to send the novel on to the publisher. That’s not correct. It now is time to send the manuscript out to trusted readers (some just folks who like to read, some professional writers), and find out how the book feels to them.

Most writers are working in closed room, living the novel in theirown minds. The smart ones go to regular writers groups to get feedback on chapters. But even the writers group members are not reading the book as an whole, as it was intended to be seen. So how to get the published book experience from prospective readers. Beta readers.

Writers generally will find about four trusted friends or associates and ask them to go at it: is the book fun to read? how are the characters? Is the dialogue believable? Did I make any egregious mistakes?

Usually, if your test readers are good, you’ll find out in a couple weeks, maybe three, if your work passes the Everyday Reader test. You have to be careful to pick out readers who like your genre


(I once sent a manuscript of an Egyptian novel to someone who told me she hated reading about Egypt.). They also must be pretty fast readers who have time in their busy lives to breeze through your writing. And lastly, they must be at least decent at grammar and spelling, so they can point errors out to you. And believe me, errors will get past you, no matter how careful you are.

Also tell the test readers this is not an edit. You don’t want a manuscript that’s bleeding red ink with things they’d like to change. This is your book and you don’t want anyone telling you how they would write it. You’re pretty much done with the book and you only want big-picture comments, especially those that tell you if you described a landscape all wrong or if a character always reacts to bad news with stomach pains (these you can vary with headaches and gasps, etc.) Beta readers also can point out repeated words, a real bugaboo of mine.

I wasn’t as lucky as I usually am on my last group of beta requests. One treated it as an editing job (although some of the changes she made were lifesavers), one said she’d be done in two weeks and then suddenly was off the radar. Another had an illness in the family (excused, obviously). And the last sent it in late, but had great info in her comments.

Using the two usable beta reads I had, I was able to add in some seriously needed changes, fix grammatical goofs, and get the state of Connecticut so it sounded right. (I’ve only been there once, and made a few crucial errors.)

Without the comments from my beta readers, I doubt I’d have the air-tight novel I have now (or so I believe). My publisher is busy until the first of the year, so it will go off to him then.

Not too many people know that the best writing is somewhat a group effort, with test readers and professional editors all playing a part.

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Mars as Planet B?

Source: Mars as Planet B?

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Mars as Planet B?

Fantastic World

A protestor’s sign at a Paris gathering devoted to the study of climate change read: “There is no Planet B.”

Well, not now, anyway. But scientists are increasingly turning to Mars as a planet that might be hospitable for human colonization. In October, NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) declared that colonizing Mars in 20 years was an “achievable goal.”

If you are wondering why the forbidding red planet with its subzero temperatures and almost nonexistent atmosphere is getting a second look, scientists explain that it all has to do with the discovery of water on Mars by the latest NASA lander. Just a few years ago, critics were wondering if the lander was worth its $2.5 million price tag. No longer, the discovery of water has made scientists take a new look at Mars.

“Mars is obviously the logical next place to expand our capabilities and getting Earth crews there,” Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin told CNBC in a recent interview. Aldrin is famous as the second man to walk on the moon. He said sending humans to Mars would  be an achievement “that’s unparalleled in humanity.”

Despite Mars’ thin nitrogen-based atmosphere and ferocious dust storms, many researchers are looking at ways to change conditions to make the red planet habitable for humans. (No word on how they would warm the icy planet up.)

It’s Mars or we tough it out on earth should a calamity hit, says Jim Greene, director of NASA’s planetary science. That’s because the earth runs a risk of being hit by a huge asteroid. Recently, NASA revealed that it was monitoring a 480-meter asteroid that could collide with the Earth sometime in the next four decades. British astronomers are even more forbidding, saying there’s a good likelihood that a large space comet or asteroid could cause world panic, if not disaster.

“Asteroids cross our orbit frequently and we know we’re going to get hit again,” Green told CNBC. “It’s not a matter of if, but when.”

Gulp! And where’s the news on the technology that would break up such a meteor before it hits Earth? No reports on anything functional yet. Frankly, I think they better get working on that before they think they can terra-form Mars.

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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.


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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Did snake get his fangs into Cleopatra?

Fantastic World

Sometimes people just can’t a good legend alone. Take the story of Cleopatra VII of Egypt, the last ruler of the Egyptian civilization. After she and her lover Marc Antony made a number of tactical blunders against Octavian of Rome, they were trapped in Alexandria, while Roman soldiers slew many of the Egyptian troops.

Cleopatra took shelter in a nearby temple and refused to come out, sending servant girls for her her food and necessities. When it became apparent that Octavian meant to capture Cleopatra and parade her, vanquished, through the streets of Rome,snake-947367_1920-300x224she decided on suicide. The legend is that she had servant girls sneak in poisonous snakes, hidden in a basket of figs. When two servants allowed themselves to be bitten by the so-called asp (out of loyalty to their queen), then Cleopatra took the snake to her chest and it gave her the killing bite.

Well, according to Dr. Andrew Gray, curator of herpetology at Manchester Museum, the local poisonous snakes around Egypt would have been much too big to have hidden in a basket of figs. The snake in question had to either be a cobra or a viper (“asp” is an old word for a viper or cobra), and both tend to be about four to five feet long. Also, there is only a 10 percent chance that the poisonous snake’s bite would be deadly because often they give “dry bites” (non-venomous) just to keep annoying creatures, like humans, away. They need to conserve their venom, Dr. Gray told Phys.org, because they rely on it for hunting for food.

The idea that the cobra or viper would bite two serving girls first before finally chomping on Cleopatra is most unlikely, he said.

“It just wouldn’t happen,” he said. “That’s not to say they (cobras) aren’t dangerous: the venom causes necrosis and will certainly kill you, but quite slowly.”  It also would be a quite painful death and not the quick suicide of the Cleopatra legend. In the old story, Octavian became suspicious when no one came in and out of the temple, so he sent in soldiers, who found Cleopatra on a bed, with an asp on her chest.

Hard to say what really happened, since archeologists still haven’t found the tomb of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, thus her body or mummy cannot be examined.  Meanwhile, the royal city of Alexandra remained a major city in Egypt for many decades until it was so riven with earthquakes and storms that much of the populace moved inland and founded Cairo. Cleopatra’s palace and her pleasure island were recently discovered by divers, who say that most of the buildings showed signs of earthquake damage.

Did Cleopatra commit suicide at all or did Octavian just kill her? Most likely she did commit suicide as she was a proud woman and the last of her line. She did not want to be mocked at the hands of the Romans. Her son by Julius Caesar had already been killed by Roman troops, and with her radiant youth and sex appeal fading, she probably found no further reason to go on living.

Cleopatra will always be strongly associated with snakes, in any case. She kept hundreds of non-poisonous royal pythons in her palace and wore a crown with a snake on it. She was also considered the living embodiment of the goddess Isis, who could take on the shape of a snake.

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Playing keep-away from the Islamic State

Fantastic World

The terrorist group ISIS or ISIL is doing more than slaughtering and enslaving large populations in the Middle East, it also is destroying much of Iraq’s and Syria’s precious ancient artwork.

Not only have priceless statues and shrines been demolished, but the sacred writings that chronicle Iraq’s history are at risk of being lost forever. So, technicians at the Baghdad National Library are taking steps to preserve the writings digitally.

Most of the writings, telling of sultans and kings of old, are written on crinkled, yellowing paper are in fragile condition. Some manuscripts are torn from years of use and from aging. Others were partially burned dying the last Gulf War. Some are virtually fossilized over time. Restoring precious Iraqi document

Employees of the museum are using specialized techniques to preserve the most precious documents.

“Once restoration for some of the older documents from the Ottoman era, 200 to 250 years ago, is completed, we will begin to photograph those onto microfilm,” Mazin Ibrahim Ismail, head of the microfilm department, told U.S. News and World Report. This process will preserve the writings and help them survive any future threat. ”

The books that have fossilized into stone are the hardest to restore, said Fatma Khudair, a senior worker in the restoration department. “We apply steam using a specialized tool to try to loosen and separate the pages. Sometimes we are able to save these books and then apply other restoration techniques, but with others, the damage is irreversible.”

In 2003, when the United States and other countries invaded Iraq, arsonists set fire to the library, destroying 25 percent of its books and 60 percent of the archives.

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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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