Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Modern ghost stories vary. This one is of more than

passing interest. Henry_Allen

Dave Juliano's Story from

It started when I was three years old. One night I

awoke to find a small child-like figure in my bed

with me. He was about 2 feet tall and had the

features of a small child, but its head was swollen

well beyond a normal size. It was wearing a blue gown

with the hands not visible at the end of the sleeves.

It was moving its mouth and talking in gibberish. The

figure was as real as I was, and it was surrounded by

a kind of glowing haze. I ran to my parents' bedroom

and woke up my dad, but, of course, he told me to go

back to sleep. So I returned to my room and now the

figure was standing on my bed. I grabbed a pillow and

covered my face and jumped on the bed. It was gone.

That started something that would last the next 26


I'll condense the years up until 1990. Those

appearances, while still frightening, never really

made me feel threatened. During this period, which

included teenage years, I saw the figure with the

same frequency. My bedroom is located at the end of a

hallway with 2 other bedrooms before mine. At the

other end of the hallway is a landing that blocks the

view to the steps. From my bed I could look out my

door and down the hall to the landing and the top of

the steps. I always knew right before the figure

would appear, because the hair on the back of my neck

would stand up and I would get uncontrollable chills.

The figure would then appear either on top of the

landing or come around the base of the landing and

start down the hall toward my room. It never seemed

to pay any attention to the other rooms at all. I

would normally panic and either shut my door or run

into my parents' room and sleep on the floor. Imagine

finding your 18 year old son curled up on your

bedroom floor when you wake up in the morning. My

parents and sister didn't really fully believe that I

was seeing this apparition. I also would stay up

late, being the night person that I am, and watch TV.

In my living room, we have the stairs that lead up to

the 2nd floor. It has a wooden railing on it that

goes the length of the last 4 steps. I would often

see the figure on the steps watching me from the 3rd

or 4th step and then disappear. The only real changes

during this time period were that the figure was

losing its color and becoming more transparent.

Now things will change drastically. A neighbor, with

some knowledge of this sort of activity, told me to

confront the figure and tell it to leave and never

come back. I was to tell it that I was its power

source and I was shutting off the power. I did this

and enjoyed about a year of no sightings. Around this

time, I told the story to my girlfriend of the time.

She thought that its description sounded like a baby

with water on the brain and still wearing its gown

from the hospital. She thought that it was a lost

soul trying to contact me to help it with some task,

so that it could finally rest in peace. I started to

look into the house's history and my family's. The

house sits on land that was farmland and a dirt road

only 150 years ago. The land was owned by one man and

he had his farm and homestead around the area of my

house (the main house of his estate is one block from

my house and is still standing) My house is 40 years

old and we are the 2nd family to live in it. The

couple before us had no children that we know about.

I have a sister 3 years younger than me and no other

siblings. I have asked my parents if they had a child

that died that I was unaware of, but they didn't. So

after all my checking, I found nothing that could

explain the apparition.

After a week of thinking about the interpretation my

girlfriend had given, guilt of banishing the figure

overcame me. I asked it to come back one night and

told it I would help it. The very next night the

sightings started again , but with much greater

intensity. I can say now, NEVER do what I did, once

it's gone, let it stay gone. The sightings would

happen more frequently and sometimes they would

terrify me. The figure looked the same but something

was very different. I was sure what it was, but now

there was another force in addition to the familiar

figure. I began to see small black colored creatures

which I can only describe as imps. They were solid

black, 1-2 feet tall and ran around on all fours.

They appeared mostly in the living room and coming

from the hall closet.

Now to explain the rest of the house set up that

pertains to the story. The man that lived here before

us started to dig out a basement, but he never

completed it. All that remains is a 3-4 foot crawl

space accessible from outside the house. The hall

closet was to be the stairs down to the basement. He

had started making the stairs going down but he

boarded it all up when he stopped digging the

basement. The stairs going up to the 2nd floor are

directly over the would-be basement step and the hall

closet. So there are 2 ways from inside the house to

access the crawl space, if you really wanted to, rip

up the 3rd or 4th step of the stairs or knock out the

back of the closet. I began to make the connection

between where the figures appeared and where the

access ways were.

The sightings got more intense and sometimes they

even drove me from my house. Normally, my dog would

sense the small figure and act funny when it was

around, but now when the imps appeared my dog would

be in a very deep sleep and I could never wake him

up. I would either leave the house and stay over at a

friends. Sometimes I would be knocking on her door at

2 a.m. terrified. Other times, if I was able to get

between them and the steps, I would make a run for it

to my room or my parents' room, because, even these

creatures would not venture in the bedrooms. My

mother was noticing my moods and I had told her about

the new happenings so she told me to get her the next

time I saw the figure or imps. The next time I saw

the figure upstairs coming down the hall, I ran into

her room and woke her up. I led her out into the hall

where the figure still was. I pointed to it and it

began to back away and go down the steps. I chased it

down to the 3rd step where it vanished. While she

could not see it, she could tell by my eye movements

that I was watching something moving across the hall

and steps. I think that's when my family started to

believe a little.

I became used to these new additions because they

never did any harm but they did make me feel very

uneasy. The figure was becoming even more

transparent. Certain lamps in the house would go on

and off by themselves often with other witnesses

around. I would hear the TV go on in the middle of

the night when I knew no one was downstairs. I had

theorized that the figure needed help to appear

because it was slowly fading away. I assumed the imps

were helping him, but the figure was still fading. I

was waiting for a new addition to the cast, so the

figure could still appear, since I still hadn't

figured out what it wanted me to do.

The sightings stopped again for a few months. I spoke

with a parapsychologist , but then decided to leave

well enough alone. I didn't want things getting

worse. I decided to go into the crawl space and check

out the area under the stairs. I took my dog down

there with me and I crawled to the area. There had

not been anyone under there for years before this. I

found an Old Maid playing card with not a bit of dust

on it right under the 3rd step. We have wall to wall

carpeting so this did not fall through the joints. I

hadn't seen that deck of cards for over 20 years, but

here was one. It had one corner that looked like it

had been dipped in acid, but the rest was in good

shape. I took it and put in a pocket bible and put it

in my car.

The sightings started again, only very small. I would

call my girlfriend on the cordless phone and tell her

it's happening again and then walk upstairs while

still on the phone with her. The next time was the

worst of all. The figure appeared very bright, like

it did years ago, but it didn't look very happy. The

imps appeared again but they were more bold this

time. Then a 7 foot tall man- shaped black figure

appeared. It looked like it was either made of smoke

or some liquid. It looked semi-solid and you couldn't

see through it. At the same time, the room was filled

with imps and a bearded old mans face took shape on

the wall and started mumbling. The face was about 6

foot high and 4 foot wide. The familiar figure looked

like it was sorry for doing this to me. I left the

house and sat in my car until dawn.

I knew I had to confront this new entity and try to

drive it away. I also figured that if it wanted me,

it was going to get me either way, so I had nothing

to lose. My sanity, life and maybe my soul were on

the line and I honestly believed this was the only

way to stop it before it branched out. I was the

original power source, so I was going to shut off the

power. The next night I prayed for protection and the

strength to drive this evil away. I had a bible handy

as I sat up as usual listening to my CD's. About 2

a.m., I noticed my dog was in one of those deep, deep

sleeps and I began to look around. The figure and the

Tall black figure appeared along with the rest of the

apparitions. I informed them in the calmest voice I

could get at this time, that I was taking away their

power and they had no hold on me or power over me. I

told them I, my family and house was protected by God

and they could not harm us. I walked right past the

tall figure and the imps moved out of my way. I

walked right up the steps and never looked back.

That was about 2 years ago and I have not seen them

since. We placed a bible on the stairs and a cross in

the closet to block off their entrances. I still feel

there is a presence there that tries to get me to let

in it. I still hear bumping and walking around, but

the apparitions are gone, banished to the crawl space

I assume. They will not get another portal in here so

they will remain there. We did have the house blessed

years ago, every where except the crawl space. I

think that might be the answer to end it all for


Footnotes 1998:
I have learned alot since I first put my story to

paper. I now realize that many of my reactions to

the majority of the encounters were, while natural,

not necessary. The house was haunted by an

earthbound spirit and when I had asked it to leave,

it stopped contacting me, but was still there. It

never harmed me and was only trying to get my

attention. Because I didn't understand what was

happening, I reacted the way everyone else would,

with fear. I did tell it it could come back and the

way I did it caught the attention of other earthbound

spirits in the area and one non human one. The

majority of the experiences after I opened the door

back up were with human spirits, some not as friendly

as the original one who also came back. While there

was one encounter with something I believe was a non

human entity, the majority of the other spirits were

earthbound human spirits. In regards to the black

imps, let me just say that these may have been either

type of spirit, I'm still not sure at this point. I

have researched them further but I am unable to say

with out a doubt that they were evil. I believe

the tall black figure was evil though.

Updated Happenings in the Dave Juliano's House: Jan.


Alot of people ask me what's been happening recently

so here is a brief account.

I moved out of my parents house last January, not

because of the hauntings, but I moved in with my

fiancé. This is the last "event" that occurred about

2 weeks before I left.

I had been doing my normal work on the web pages and

decided to go to bed about 2 am. I walked up the

stairs and down the hall. As I passed my parents

bedroom door I dropped a paper that I was carrying

and I bent over to pick it up. As I was getting back

up, the door knob of my parents room starting turning

and the door opened up about 4 inches. A female

called my name and I said "what?". I was startled at

first because it had surprised me, then I said

"what?" again and opened the door myself. Both my

parents were sounds asleep and my mother who was

laying closes to the door, was facing away from the

door. This was not the first time I had heard a

woman's voice talking to me, but this time it was

very close, like she was talking right next to me. I

got a little spooked by this simply because the

hauntings had been relatively quiet for almost a

year, with the exception of the "knocking" I had

heard in the attic on and off. I went back downstairs

to get my dog and bring him upstairs with me. He

noticed nothing and we went to bed. As I lay there I

started to notice some collectibles I had hanging

from the ceiling on fishing line began to move. The

windows were closed and no air movement in the room

enough to move these items at all. As I watched, and

my dog noticed this too, the items began to swing

wildly around the room. I was still shaken up a bit

by what happened earlier with the voice. I began to

go through my ritual of banning the spirits from

being there and sending them away. After about 10

minutes of this, it all stopped. I got the

impression that the spirits knew I was leaving

shortly and wanted to give me one last parting shot.

I hadn't been through an episode this active and

confrontational in a while , so me and the dog paid a

late night visit to my fiance and spent the rest of

the night there to insure uninterrupted sleep.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The, Uhhh, "Real" Kazakhstan

You'll have fun, fun, fun till Big Daddy takes your freedom away..Henry_Allen

Kazakh president scraps term limits -- for himself

Reukazakhstanpresident_ Kazakhstan's president signed a constitutional amendment today that would allow him to remain president for the rest of his life.

Buried at the end of a Kazakhstan Today story that lists all the changes that Nursultan Nazarbayev approved is this paragraph: "Besides, Kazakhstani parliament voted for Constitution amendment that says that the first president Nursultan Nazarbayev is able to be elected without number of terms limit."

The amendment suspends term limits for the country's first president -- Nazarbayev -- and allows him to run for re-election for as long he lives.

The head of the parliamentary commission on constitutional amendments explains his thinking to Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.

"Given the first Kazakh president's historical role, we have decided to approve lawmakers' proposals to lift restrictions on the number of [consecutive] presidential terms for him," Yermek Zhumbayev says.

Earlier postings:
• The burdens of a Kazakh journalist named 'Bolat' in the wake of 'Borat'
• Borat, defender of a free press!
• State Department: Borat's been victimized
• Only in Kazakhstan ... they didn't spell check their currency

Posted by Mike Carney at 01:42 PM/ET, May 22, 2007 in Asia

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Other "Immortality"

....But the blood is still the life. Chart the DNA, or Draw the Knife. The blade is made of glass and steel, the Monitor reveals the Code that
Explodes the mythology or mere mortality. Helpless is not Knowing, Know the stain that strains fiction from truth. Henry_Allen

Give Me Immortality Or Give Me Death!
By RU Sirius
May 18th, 2007

Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death!

According to transhumanist Michael Anissimov, there’s an even chance that we’re

looking at immortality or existential destruction in the next 20-40 years.

Anissimov is only 23-years-old but he’s already become an important figure in

the transhumanist movement. While still in high school, he became founder and

director of the Immortality Institute. He’s been active with the World

Transhumanist Association (WTA), and he is currently Fundraising Director, North

America for the Lifeboat Foundation.

Lifeboat Foundation describe themselves as “a nonprofit organization dedicated

to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive

existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies,

including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI as we move toward

a technological singularity.”

Anissimov also blogs regularly at Accelerated Future.

I interviewed him for my NeoFiles Show. Jeff Diehl joined me.

RU SIRIUS: Let’s start off talking about immortality. And let’s talk about it

personally. Do you want to live forever?

MICHAEL ANISSIMOV: Oh, absolutely! For sure!

RU: Why?

MA: Because I have at least a thousand years of plans already. And in those

thousand years, I’ll probably make another thousand years of plans, and I don’t

see any end to that cycle.

RU: Do you see the quality of life improving for yourself and for most human


MA: Yes, I do.

RU: Because I don’t know if I want to live forever under Darwinian conditions.

It gets tiring.

MA: I agree. It does. We need to take control of our own evolution before this

would be a planet really worth living on. I don’t think that thousands of years

of war would be good for anyone. So things do need to improve.

RU: Yeah. Even having to pay… who can afford a thousand years?

MA: (Laughs) Well, you’ll work for a thousand years…

RU: It’s very expensive!

MA: Yeah, people are dying to retire. So it would help out if we had the robots

doing a little bit more of the work.

JEFF DIEHL: So what’s your itinerary for the next thousand years?

MA: I want to go spelunking in every major cave. I want to climb the highest

peak on every continent. I want to write, like maybe at least ten nonfiction

books and ten fiction books. Mmmm…

RU: Some people have done that in a lifetime.

MA: I know!

JD: Yeah, you’re not very ambitious, man — come on!
See also…
» Create an Alien, Win A-Prize
» Why Chicks Don’t Dig The Singularity
» Death? No, Thank You
» Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams

MA: (Laughs) Think of ten possible lives you could live, and then think that you

don’t necessarily need to choose between them. You could live them back to back.

RU: On the other hand, you could pop your consciousness into several bodies and

have them all living simultaneously for only a hundred years. Would that be the

equivalent of living a thousand years?

MA: I don’t think so. I think that would just be like having kids. Copying

yourself would give rise to multiple independent strains of consciousness.

RU: Maybe there could be some kind of central person who could be taking in all

of the experiences.

MA: There could be some information exchange, but…

RU: Aubrey de Grey, of course, is the hacker-biologist who has become very well

known for saying that this is quite plausible in the near future. Is there any

progress that he’s pointed to, or that you can point to, since he really

proclaimed the plausibility of immortality some time around the beginning of

this century?

MA: Yeah. Recently Peter Thiel, former CEO of Paypal, offered three million

dollars in matching funds for projects related to this. And they’ve started

coming up with ways to actually use over a million dollars, I believe. They have

the MitoSENS project and the LysoSENS projects.

RU: What are these projects about?

MA: Well, with LysoSENS — lysomal junk is this stuff that builds up between

cells. And our natural metabolism doesn’t currently have any way of breaking it

down. So researchers are trying to exploit the law of microbial infallibility —

the notion that no matter what organic material you’re talking about, you’re

going to be able to find a microbe that can eat it. So they’re searching for

microbes that are capable of breaking down this junk. And they’ve been looking

in places like… next to a Burger King, because people throw burgers on the

ground and stuff like that. So there are special bacteria there that learn how

to break down these organic compounds. And some of these researchers have even

gotten permission to get soil samples from the people that run graveyards

because that’s where you’d expect to find the bugs. Basically, they’re looking

for specialized microbes that can dissolve that lysomal junk.

RU: IBM recently announced a naotechnology breakthrough. They said that “the

breakthrough marks the first time chips have been made with a self-assembling

nano-technology using the same process that forms seashells or snowflakes.” This

sounds like a really big deal.

MA: Yeah, it is! It’s not the same thing though as molecular manufacturing,

where you basically have a molecular assembly line that places each atom, one by

one. It’s not quite as intelligently controlled or productive, but it is a large


RU: Yeah, the word jumps out at me — “self-assembling.” That sounds… you’re not

too excited?

MA: (skeptically) Ehhh. I mean, it’s pretty exciting but people have been

playing around with this stuff for a while

RU: OK. Let’s move on to your current work — The Lifeboat Foundation This

foundation is focused on existential risk, which is a board game, I think: Camus

v. Sartre.

MA: (laughs) Not exactly!

RU: I don’t know how you win. It’s probably like Waiting for Godot: A

Tragicomedy in Two Acts — the board game never arrives.

Anyway, in the discourse currently going around among people who are part of the

transhumanist schemata and transhumanist world — there seems to be a turn from

optimism towards a dialogue that’s sort of apocalyptic. And the Lifeboat website

seems to reflect that. Do you think that’s true?

MA: I think it is true to a small extent. I think it’s actually reflective of

the maturing of the transhumanist movement. Because it’s easy to say…

RU: “It’s gonna be great!”

MA: Particularly when the dotcom boom was happening, everyone was, like, “Oh,

the future’s gonna be great. No problems.” You know… “We’re making shitloads of

cash. Everything’s going to go well.”

Now, we’ve had seven years of George Bush. We’ve been involved in two wars. We

understand that reality isn’t always peachy keen and we’re going to have to deal

with the consequences.

RU: So are people in the transhumanist world as worried as they sound, or is it

partly political – trying to be responsible and ease concerns among people who

are perhaps more paranoid than technophiles like yourself?

MA: No, it’s very genuine. The more you understand about powerful technologies,

the more you understand that they really do have the potential to hose us all,

in a way that nuclear war can’t.

RU: Give me your top two existential risks.

MA: Well, as Dr. Alan Goldstein pointed out on your show a couple of weeks ago,

Synthetic Life is a huge risk because life is inherently designed to replicate

in the wild. So life based on different chemical reactions could replicate much

more rapidly than what we’re accustomed to, like some sort of super-fungus. I

think that’s one of the primary risks. And the second risk would be artificial

intelligence — human-surpassing artificial intelligence.

RU: So you’re concerned about the “robot wars” scenario — artificial

intelligence that won’t care that much for us? Do you have any particular

scenarios that you’re following?

MA: Well, I’d like to caution people to be careful what they see in the movies.

Because this is one of those areas where people have been speculating about it

for quite a few decades, and so much fictional material has been built around


RU: Actually, I believe everything in Terminator I.

MA: (Laughs) If you really look through those shows in a critical way, you see

that they’re full of blatant holes all over the place. Like, they can send a guy

through time, but they can’t send his clothes with him through time? (Laughs) In

reality, I think that artificial intelligence is potentially most dangerous

because it might not necessarily need to have a robotic body before it becomes a

threat. An artificial intelligence that’s made purely out of information could

manipulate a wide variety of things on the internet. So it would have more power

than we might guess.

RU: You’ve written a bit about the idea of Friendly AI. (We had Eliezer

Yudkowsky on the show quite a while back, talking about this.) Do you see steps

that can be taken to ensure that A.I. is friendly?

MA: Yeah! I’m totally in support of Eliezer and the Singularity Institute. I

think that they’re one of the few organizations that has a clue. And they’re

growing. I think that you’ve got to put a lot of mathematical eggheads working

together on the problem. You can’t just look at it from an intuitive point of

view. You can actually understand intelligence on a mathematical level. It’s a

lot to ask. I think that friendly A.I. will be a tremendous challenge because

there’s just a lot of complexity in what constitutes a good person. And there’s

a lot of complexity in what constitutes what we consider common sense.

RU: Do you think the breakthrough might come through reverse engineering the

human brain?

MA: It’s possible but probably not.

RU: Good, because I don’t think human beings are that friendly. I think the

friendly A.I. has to be friendlier than human beings.

MA: It definitely does. And one way we could do that is by creating an A.I. that

doesn’t have a self-centered goal system. All creatures built by Darwinian

evolution inherently have a self-centered goal system. I mean, before we became

altruistic, we were extremely selfish. A reptile has eggs, and then the eggs

hatch and he just walks off. He doesn’t care about his kids. So this altruism

thing is relatively recent in the history of evolution, and our psychology is

still fundamentally self-centered.

JD: Isn’t trying to plan for the nature of these future AI’s kind of absurd

because of the exponential superiority of their reasoning… if they even have

what we would call reasoning? Can we really plan for this? It seems like once

you hit a certain threshold, the Singularity, by definition is incomprehensible

to us.

MA: I initially had the same issue. It seems impossible. But ask yourself, if

you could choose, would you rather have an A.I. modeled after Hitler or would

you rather have an A.I. modeled after Mother Teresa?

Regardless of how intelligent the A.I. becomes, it starts off from a distinct

initial state. It starts off from a seed. So whatever it becomes will be the

consequence of that seed making iterative changes on itself.

JD: But maybe in the first nano-second, it completely expunges anything that

resembles human reasoning and logic because that’s just a problem to them that

doesn’t need to be solved any more. And then beyond that — we have no fucking

clue what they’re going to move onto.

MA: It’s true, but whatever it does will be based on the motivations it has.

JD: Maybe. But not if it re-wires itself completely…

MA: But if it rewired itself, then it would do so based on the motivations it

originally had. I mean, I’m not saying it’s going to stay the same, but I’m

saying there is some informational similarity — there’s some continuity. Even

though it could be a low-level continuity, there’s some continuity for an A.I.

Also, you could ask the same question of yourself. What happens if a human being

gains control over its own mind state.

RU: How we understand our motivations might be distinct from how we would

understand our motivations if we had a more advanced intelligence.

MA: That’s true.

RU: I’m going to move on to something that was on the Lifeboat web site that

confounded me. It’s labeled a News Flash. It says, “Robert A. Freitas Jr. has

found preliminary evidence that diamond mechanosynthesis may not be reliable

enough in ambient temperatures to sustain an existential risk from microscopic

ecophagic replicators.”

JD: (Joking) I had a feeling that was the case. (laughter)

RU: What the hell does that mean?!

MA: Robert’s a bit of a wordy guy, but maybe I can explain it. You have an STM

(Scanning Tunneling Microscope.) It’s like a little needle that’s able to scan a

surface by measuring the quantum difference between the two surfaces. Diamond

mechanosynthesis would just be the the ability to have a tiny needle-like

robotic arm that places a single or perhaps two carbon atoms onto a pre-

programmed place. So, in life, we are all based on proteins. Carbon isn’t

slotted in like in a covalent sense, which is the way that people that are

working on nanotechnology are thinking of working. They’re thinking of putting

together pieces of carbon, atom by atom, to make a covalently bonding carbon.

Robert’s saying that it might be that the ambient temperature of the environment

is too hot for that needle to work. So you’d need to have it in a vacuum or

super-cooled environment for it to work.

RU: You did a good job of explaining that. Moving on, there’s some talk on your

site of the idea of relinquishment, which is deciding not to develop

technologies. Is that even possible?

MA: Instead of relinquishment, I like to talk about selective development. You

can’t really relinquish technology too easily. But you can develop safeguards

before technologies reach their maturity. And you can develop regulations that

anticipate future consequences instead of always taking a knee-jerk reaction and

saying: “Oh, this disaster happened; therefore we will now regulate.”

RU: Of course, it’s not really possible to regulate what everybody everywhere on

the planet is doing.

MA: No, it’s not.

RU: Are you familiar with Max More’s Proactionary Principle?

MA: (skeptically) Mmmm I’m…

RU: Too obvious?

MA: No, I don’t fully agree with it. I do think that the Precautionary Principle

has a point.

RU: Maybe I should say what it is. Basically, the Precautionary Principle says

that with any technology we’re developing, we should look ahead and see what the

consequences are. And if the consequences look at all dire, then we should

relinquish the technology. And Max More argues that we should also look at the

possible consequences of not developing the technology. For instance, if we

don’t develop nanotechnology, everybody dies.

MA: Well, I don’t think that would happen.

RU: I mean, eventually… just as they have for millennia.

MA: Oh — everyone will age to death!

RU: Right

MA: No, I agree that the balanced view looks at both sides of the equation. The

Precautionary Principle’s kind of been tarnished because there are people that

are super-paranoid; and people who use it as an excuse to rule out things that

they find ethically objectionable like therapeutic cloning.

RU: Well, you could take anything as an example. Look at automobiles. If we had

looked ahead at automobiles — we could debate for hours whether they were a good

idea. There would probably be less humans on the planet and there would probably

be less distribution of medicine and food and all those things. On the other

hand, we might not be facing global warming. It might be nice that there are

less humans on the planet.

MA: Yeah, but in practice, if some invention is appealing and has large economic

returns, then people are going to develop it no matter what.

RU: On the Lifeboat site, you have a list of existential risks. And people can

sort of mark which existential risk they want to participate in or work on. I’d

like to get your comments on a few of the risks that are listed. But before I go

down a few of these things on the list, what do you think is up with the bees?

MA: The bees?

RU: The honeybees are dying off. Einstein said we wouldn’t survive if…

JD: … there’s some contention about whether he actually said that. I heard that

somebody tried to find that quote, and they weren’t able to find it.

MA: What does this have to do with the bees?

RU: Einstein said that if all the honeybees died off, we’d all be dead in four

years, or something like that.

JD: Yeah, because of the natural cycles that they support. Somebody else

debunked that.

RU: Well, he was no Einstein. You better look into the bees because that could

be an existential risk.

So here’s one of the risks – or the risk aversion possibilities — listed on the

site: Asteroid Shield.

MA: Well, someone once said that we’re in a cosmic shooting gallery and it’s

only a matter of time before we get nailed. I wouldn’t consider this to be a

high priority, but in the interest of comprehensiveness, it would be a good idea

if we had a way to deflect asteroids. Serious scientists have been looking at

this issue and they decided that knocking it out with a nuclear bomb wasn’t

really going to work so well. It’s too expensive and too unpredictable. So

they’re talking about attaching small rockets to slowly pull an asteroid off


JD: I recently read one idea — collect a lot of space junk and create one big

object to alter the gravitational…

MA: Or you can put a little electro-magnetic rail gun on the surface and

progressively fire off chunks of the asteroid, which will also alter its course.

Even if you altered the trajectory of an incoming asteroid by a tiny amount, it

would probably miss because earth is just kind of like a tiny dot in space. But

right now, we don’t have the capability. So if an asteroid were coming next

year, we would be screwed.

RU: Right. And people have started talking about it. I mean, there has been sort

of an advance in the level of paranoia about asteroids that come anywhere near

us in recent years.

MA: One asteroid came about half of the way between us and the moon a while ago.

JD: Was it big enough to kill us?

MA: No. It was a hundred feet across, though — not bad.

RU: So how much chaos would that cause? I guess that would depend on where it


MA: Measured in megatons, I think it would be about one Hiroshima.

JD: Oh, okay. We can handle that… as long as it doesn’t land in San Francisco.

MA: (laughs) Exactly! So I don’t think the asteroids are an immediate concern.

But it helps people comprehend the notion of extinction risks.

RU: The former NASA astronaut Rusty Schweickart has become involved in fighting

off the asteroids. He used to be part of the L5 Society. I think Ronald Reagan

would say it’s a way of uniting all the people of earth to fight against an


MA: Yeah!

RU: I think he talked about that in terms of aliens, not in terms of asteroids.

MA: Well, I think all existential risks, including the more plausible ones, do

serve a function in uniting humanity, and I think that’s a nice side effect.

RU: The particle accelerator shield — what’s that about?

MA: Some people think — as we engage in increasingly high-powered particle

accelerator experiments — something bad could happen. One standard idea is a

strangelet, which is similar to an atom but much more compact. If a strangelet

could absorb conventional matter into itself, and do so continuously, it could

absorb the entire planet.

RU: Sort of like a black hole.

MA: Yes, very much like a black hole. It’s another one of those situations where

we want to instill a sense of caution in the minds of scientists. We don’t want

them to just dismiss these possibilities out of hand because it potentially

threatens their funding. We want them to actually give it a little bit of


RU: OK, what about “seed preserver.”

MA: Oh, yeah! Well that’s actually being done right now! The Norwegian

government built a seed bank on some far north Arctic island. They’re shoving

some seeds in there, so I guess when the nanobots come, or the nuclear war comes

and 99% of humanity is all gone, then we’ll be able to go there, withdraw the

seeds, and create life anew.

RU: You seem to be a believer in the Singularity. For me – maybe yes, maybe no.

But I find it amusing that Vernor Vinge could give a talk titled “What if the

Singularity Doesn NOT Happen”, the implication being that the idea that it might

not happen is a real stretch. Do you ever feel like you’re in a cult — that

people who believe in this share a peculiar reality?

MA: The word Singularity has become a briefcase word. People kind of want to put

their pet ideas into it, so the actual idea has become kind of unclear in the

minds of many people. To me, the Singularity is just the notion of an

intelligence that’s smarter than us. So if you say that you don’t believe in the

Singularity, it means that you believe that human beings are the smartest

possible intelligence that this universe can hold.

RU: I guess what I don’t believe is that it necessarily becomes a complete

disjunction in history.

MA: But don’t you think that homo sapiens are a quite complete disjunction from,

say, homo erectus or chimps? We share 98% of the same DNA. So what if you

actually used technology to surpass the human mind? I think you’d have something

substantially more different from homo sapiens than homo sapiens was from their


RU: Do you think it’s more likely that we’ll develop machines that are more

intelligent than us and keep them exterior to us; or will we find some way of

incorporating them into us? It seems to me, if you look at the passion that

people have for being on the net, and being able to call up and get and link to

all the information and all the intelligence on the planet, people are going to

want this inside themselves. They’re going to want to be able to have as much

information and as much intelligence as everybody else. They’ll want to unite

with it.

MA: I think that would be a great thing, as long as people don’t go using their

intelligence for negative ends.

JD: Do you think this would happen gradually. Or do you think there would be

this point in time where lots of people make choices like whether or not to

merge? And then, maybe, the people who are afraid of that will want to stop

people from doing it, and conflict…

MA: I think it could actually be somewhat abrupt, because once you have a

superior intelligence, it can create better intelligence enhancement techniques

for itself. So it could be somewhat abrupt. But I think that these smart

entities could also find a way of keeping humanity on the same page and not

making it like: “Oh, you have to choose… If your brother or your sister is not

going into the great computer, then…”

RU: I think if it happens soon enough, it will be viewed as just another way of

going online. You know, to young people, it will be just… “Yeah, this is how

everybody’s going online now.”

MA: But if you had implants in your brain, it would be permanent.

RU: Do you think chaos is built into life? As the Artificial Life people have

been saying, life happens on the boundary between order and chaos. If chaos is

an element of life, can machines include chaos?

MA: Well, uh — hmm. I think that people overestimate the power of chaos.

RU: As a Patti Smith fan, I have to disagree.

MA: (Laughs) Well, it’s such an appealing idea — chaos. But if you take a look

at human blood and compare it to some random bit of muck you find in the ground,

you’ll see that it’s highly regulated, and there are huge complements of

homeostatic mechanisms in bodies that are constantly ordering things. Relative

to the entropy in the air array outside; inside my body is a very orderly place,

Life forms are very well organized pieces of matter.

RU: Right, but if you achieve complete homeostasis, then nothing happens.

MA: That’s true. Life does have to be on that boundary so it is challenging

RU: Here’s a quote from an interview with you: “The idea of the Singularity is

to transcend limitations by reengineering brains or creating new brains from

scratch, brains that think faster with more precision, greater capabilities,

better insights, ability to communicate and so on.” OK. That sounds good, but

what about pleasure, play, creativity, eroticism… and whatever it is you get

from magic mushrooms? Where does all that go?

MA (Laughs) I think all that’s very important. I think about all those things.

RU: So you think that can be built that into the singularity?

MA: Yeah. Oh, for sure…

RU: David Pierce is the one person who really sort of deals with those ideas.

MA: Well, it’s not really too PC to talk about it. But when you take a

psychedelic, you’ve changed your brain chemistry. With mushrooms, you flood your

brain with this one psilocybin chemical. With technologies that let you actively

change your own mind, it would be less of a shot in the dark. More precision

modifications would be possible. And you could turn it on and off like a light

switch, too. You could have much more control over it.

RU: Looking forward to it!

Thursday, May 10, 2007


The ideosyncratic early French Chapter Serial "Les Vampires" is the subject of an essay in process now I am working on. The youtube flic is Chapter II. Is it about crooks, cupernatural crooks, vampires, or sort of vamps? Stay tuned....Henry_Allen

From goatdog's movies

In Paris, in the depths of World War I, a vast criminal empire, the Vampires

(not the blood-sucking variety), holds the city in a death grip. Nobody knows

who might be a member, and nobody knows when they will strike next. Residents

are so terrified of the gang—it can't be fear of the war, which is never

mentioned—that they don't leave their homes. Into this terrifying situation goes

Philippe Guerande (Edouard Mathe), an intrepid reporter who vows to solve the

mystery of the Vampires. With the assistance of his somewhat faithful and mostly

hapless sidekick Mazamette (Marcel Levesque), he attempts to track down the gang

and their leaders, the Grand Vampire (Jean Ayme) and his consort, the beautiful,

mysterious, and dangerous Irma Vep (Musidora).

This grand and sprawling serial, produced in 1915 by auteur Louis Feuillade, is

one of the great masterpieces of the cinema. In its ten episodes, ranging in

length from 15 to 60 minutes, Feuillade and company use the entire city of Paris

as their set, and they create something unlike anything I've seen before. That

it manages to be gripping through almost all of its nearly seven hours of screen

time is an amazing feat. It combines slapstick comedy, edge-of-your-seat

suspense, pretty amazing outdoor shooting and stunt work, and dramatic pathos in

a thoroughly enjoyable mix. The film isn't like a lot of Hollywood serials: each

episode has its own story, but each one advances the plot a little more, and the

episodes don't all end in cliffhangers. It doesn't need them. Each episode is so

perfectly mounted that a cliffhanger at the end might have been a little too

much. It's enough to be left wondering what horrible things the Vampires would

be up to next; thankfully, since I rented it on DVD, I got to find out right


Over the course of the episodes, Guerande and Mazamette come closer and closer

to defeating the Vampires. The film doesn't pull any punches: in the first

episode, the gang has beheaded a city official, and Feuillade and company

weren't afraid to have the head show up in a hatbox. For this, its glorification

of the criminal element, and its depiction of the Paris police as a bumbling

bunch of fools, several episodes of the film were banned from French screens.

Guerande and Mazamette do most of their sleuthing with guns blazing and by

themselves, with little assistance from the police, who tend to mess things up

anyway. Among their adventures, they solve the murder of a famous ballerina,

decode the Vampires' secret code book, capture the leader of a rival gang,

recover money stolen from a rich American businessman, and foil an elaborate

bank robbery. Captures and escapes abound, as does wanton murder and mayhem,

including the Vampires' free use of cannons to achieve their ends. Along the

way, the cast of the Vampires changes: the Grand Vampire gives way to Moreno,

the rival gang leader; Satanus, the true head of the Vampires; and Venomous, an

expert poisoner who ends up in charge. But Irma Vep is always present.

It's a travesty that Irma Vep and Musidora, the actress who played her, weren't

household names in the United States. She's one of the most magnetic characters

in film history. She's a strong female character, which is rare, and she's a lot

smarter than most of the men around her. Throughout the film, she reveals

herself as a dancer, an expert in disguise, an expert shot, an acrobat, and

surprisingly resilient woman. She often appears, to our pleasure, wearing the

uniform of the Vampires, a skintight black outfit that she fills most admirably.

She's a breath of fresh air to those of us who are sick of modern stick-figure

anorexic movie starlets. As the film progresses, the Vampires modify their

goals: instead of involving themselves in crime, they just want to kill off

Guerande and Mazamette. Through it all, both heroes find true love, which

ratchets up the stakes, as the Vampires target everyone and anyone involved in

their lives.

The DVD contains a beautiful restoration of the film. It includes the original

color tinting, which was used in silent films to indicate location or time of

day: blue for night, brown for indoors, yellow for outdoors, etc. The last

episode is a little washed out from age, and sometimes characters' faces appear

as white blobs, but overall it's very watchable. There's an orchestral score,

and while I don't know if it is based on the music that originally accompanied

the film, it works perfectly. There aren't a lot of extras, which is too bad,

because for once I would like to have read a little more about the film.

A lot of silent films, to be honest, are little more than historical artifacts,

and most viewers don't have the patience to sit through them. This is one

example of a relic from a bygone era that stands on its own as a great film with

both historical importance and relevance. The film's plotlines will be familiar

to just about everyone who has ever seen a mystery or an action film, but

they're presented here in a way that few of us have seen before. It's completely

accessible to modern audiences, and I hope that some of you go out and rent it.

It's worth the six-hour time investment.

Shock And Awe-We pay the price of Lies

1. We owe the Kurds,they like us. We should guarantee an Independent Kurdistan.
2. Otherwise, we are unwelcome, it was a lost and wrong cause - not responsive to Islamism, but an exacerbation of it.
3. Out now. Screw their sectarian war.Henry_Allen

The Right's Parallel Universe

By Richard L. Fricker
May 9, 2007

To understand how the United States got itself into its current fix, it’s helpful to understand that the American Right and its powerful media apparatus have created a kind of parallel universe that has its own internal logic that sort of makes sense even if the “reality” isn’t exactly real.

So, on the Iraq War, everything is going pretty well except, as Fox News reminds its viewers, the “liberal media” keeps hiding all the positive developments from the American people. Plus, the only way to explain hostility toward George W. Bush is to postulate that his critics are consumed by irrational hatreds. The Right’s reality-divergent narrative exists on domestic policy, too.

For instance, Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and a medical doctor, explained in an April 23 speech at the Tulsa Press Club why a single-payer health insurance system like Canada’s is a sure failure and why the U.S. system of private insurance, often paid by employers, works so much better.

Coburn noted that the auto industry and many other old-line U.S. companies want a national health insurance program to get medical costs off the backs of employers and help them compete with foreign rivals that don’t pay for employee health insurance. But the senator offered anecdotes why that wouldn’t be a good idea.

“I talked to the head of General Mills,” the giant food manufacturer, Coburn said. “They have lots of employees in Canada. … I said what do you do when one of your Canadian employees gets really sick? They said they bring them to America because the Canadian system isn’t working well for acutely ill people.”

Commenting on the British medical system, the senator said, “When you look at England, the average length of time from the diagnosis of cancer to the onset of chemotherapy in England now is eight months. How many of you would be satisfied with that?”

However, like much of Fox’s happy talk about Iraq, Coburn’s scary comments about the health programs in Canada and the United Kingdom don’t square with the facts.

General Mills denies it has a program to send Canadians to the United States for treatment of serious illnesses and the U.K. cancer treatment program operates well within acceptable medical standards.

“It is true that, in certain circumstances, a General Mills employee in Canada could visit a doctor in the U.S.,” General Mills spokesman Tom Forsythe told me. “It would likely involve a U.S.-based employee on assignment in Canada. It does not happen often, and it could not be described as routine.

“However, there could be and have been cases where routine surgery, for example, (hernia, knee arthroscopy, some scans) could be done more quickly in the U.S., and an employee may visit a doctor in the U.S. for that procedure. I do not know the number, but it would be small.”

David Jensen of the government-run Health Canada said the health care budget for fiscal year 2005-06 was $37.9 billion, of which only $55.6 million was paid to U.S. doctors and healthcare facilities. That included care or treatment for Canadians vacationing in the U.S., students, and persons assigned to the U.S. by Canadian companies.

In short, there was no stream of Canadians surging into the United States for medical treatment as suggested by the senator from Oklahoma.

UK Care

When I sought comment from the Kings Fund, the health care oversight organization for the United Kingdom, I was directed to a 2006 study on cancer treatment.

According to the study, “Patients who visit their GP with symptoms that suggest cancer must be given urgent referral to secondary care under the two-week target established by the Cancer Plan. In June 2006, 98.9 percent of people with suspected cancer were seen by a specialist within the target time.”

The report continued, “The plan also set a target of a maximum one-month wait from diagnosis to first treatment for all cancers, which was meant to be achieved by the end of 2005. Some 99 percent of patients diagnosed with cancer start treatment within 31 days.”

Kings Fund senior associate Tony Harrison said Coburn’s information was “not correct, assuming that chemotherapy is the first line of treatment, which of course it may not be.” In reference to the 2006 study, Harrison said, “You will see that targets that have been set for referral to start of treatment are now largely met.”

As for Coburn’s claim about an eight-month wait for chemotherapy, Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy director of the American Cancer Society, said the point could be misleading since any treatment plan depends on a patient’s condition when the cancer is discovered.

“We do not have a single standard of care,” Lichtenfeld said. “We really don’t have good studies from diagnosis to cure.”

In other words, Coburn’s assertion about an eight-month window has no real point of reference in treatment plans since other strategies might be employed besides chemotherapy.

Still, Coburn’s horror stories about medical care in Canada and the U.K. have been part of the Republican mantra in the ongoing fight to prevent a universal health care system from being established in the United States.

Bizarre Myths

The Oklahoma senator has become notorious for making extreme statements that are later revealed as bizarre urban myths.

During his 2004 race for the Senate, for instance, Coburn was taped saying a campaign worker from Coalgate, Oklahoma, told him “lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they’ll only let one girl go to the bathroom.”

The Coalgate superintendent of schools expressed outrage at the ludicrous claim, which was met with ridicule by many other Oklahomans. Nevertheless, Coburn was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Coburn also has argued that condoms promote sexually transmitted disease, that abstinence education prevents teenagers from having sex, and that silicone breast implants are good for women’s health. All these positions have been challenged by government studies and expert medical opinion.

Coburn, as a new member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2005, opined while pondering a bill restricting class-action suits, "You know I immediately thought about silicone breast implants and the legal wrangling and the class-action suits off that.

"And I thought I would just share with you what science says today about silicone breast implants. If you have them, you're healthier than if you don't. That is what the ultimate science shows. . . . In fact, there's no science that shows that silicone breast implants are detrimental and, in fact, they make you healthier."

At the time, Coburn made that statement silicone breast implants had been banned in the United States for more than a decade because of cases of implant leakage and other health complaints from women.

In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration did approve the implants return to the U.S. market, although a subsequent European study and many doctors have continued to raise questions about possible protein buildup around the implants and other safety issues.

Other medical experts, including the scientists cited by the FDA, argue that the preponderance of studies fail to show that silicone implants are detrimental to a woman’s health, but they don’t claim the implants make women healthier.

Richard L. Fricker is a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based freelance reporter/writer and two-time winner of the American Business Press Editors Award for Investigative Journalism. He writes regularly for the Swiss newsweekly Sonntags Blick and Fricker can be reached at .

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Related? Unrelated? Good? Bad? The long hot Summer on the red planet. What if the ice melts? The Times of Londo says its getting hot; the BBC says there is ice enough for an ocean. Sail the Martian Sea? Henry_Allen

From The Sunday Times
April 29, 2007
Climate change hits Mars

Mars is being hit by rapid climate change and it is happening so fast that the red planet could lose its southern ice cap, writes Jonathan Leake.

Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s. This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.

Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.

The mechanism at work on Mars appears, however, to be different from that on Earth. One of the researchers, Lori Fenton, believes variations in radiation and temperature across the surface of the Red Planet are generating strong winds.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, she suggests that such winds can stir up giant dust storms, trapping heat and raising the planet’s temperature.

Fenton’s team unearthed heat maps of the Martian surface from Nasa’s Viking mission in the 1970s and compared them with maps gathered more than two decades later by Mars Global Surveyor. They found there had been widespread changes, with some areas becoming darker.

When a surface darkens it absorbs more heat, eventually radiating that heat back to warm the thin Martian atmosphere: lighter surfaces have the opposite effect. The temperature differences between the two are thought to be stirring up more winds, and dust, creating a cycle that is warming the planet.

'Up to half' of Mars may have ice
By Neil Bowdler
BBC News

Scientists in the US say that initial data from a new way of scanning Mars has shown up to half of the Red Planet's surface may contain ice.

The new method of scanning for water offers vastly more accurate readings than before, they say.

The data could prove vital for the Phoenix Mars Mission which launches this August and which will put a lander on the surface to dig for ice.

The new data shows wide variation as to how deep below the surface ice exists.

Seasonal changes

The deposits - far beyond the ice that is known to exist in the planet's North Pole - could be so large that were they to melt, they would deluge the planet in water forming an ocean.

Up until now, scientists had been able to search for water deposits using a spectrometer fixed to the orbiting Mars Odyssey spacecraft.

It is a device that measures nuclear radiation coming from a planet to detect different materials.

However, only readings that are accurate to within several hundred kilometres can be obtained.

Now Dr Joshua Bandfield of Arizona State University has devised a new method for detecting ice.

By comparing seasonal changes in thermal infrared patterns, detected by the same Odyssey spacecraft, he says he can make readings accurate to within just hundreds of metres.

Dr Bandfield said water ice in terms of surface area would be "probably roughly a third to a half".

Though there is plenty of water ice, the new thermal imaging data also shows that there is considerable variation across the planet in terms of how far down ice can be found.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/05/02 22:17:13 GMT


Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Pilot spots 'UFO' over Guernsey
A commercial airline pilot has reported seeing two unidentified flying objects in the sky near Guernsey.

The bright yellow flat disc shapes, estimated to be twice the size of a Boeing 737, were spotted on Monday, 12 to 15 miles north east of the island.

Captain Ray Bowyer was flying an Aurigny plane from Southampton to Alderney when he saw the objects through binoculars.

Mr Bowyer said he was "pretty shook-up" by the sighting.

"This is not something you see every day of the week - it was pretty scary," he said.

At first he thought it was the sun reflecting from greenhouses in Guernsey. He said the objects were bright like the sun, but did not hurt his eyes when he looked at them.

The stationary objects were also observed by other aircraft and the passengers on the plane.

Disappearing pilot

John Spencer, deputy chairman of the British UFO Research Association, said: "These types of sightings have been reported by pilots - generally accepted to be reliable and sensible observers - since the 1940s and they have excited attention to this day.

"Such light effects are often popularly thought to represent alien visitors but many UFO researchers believe they more likely represent natural, atmospheric, phenomena not yet fully understood by science.

"However, a similar encounter in 1978 over the Bass Straits in Australia, where the pilot was in radio contact with the ground throughout, resulted in the pilot never being heard from again, so these phenomena are important to study."

This is the sort of sighting that is taken seriously and should be investigated thoroughly
Nick Pope, former UFO investigator for the MOD

Nick Pope, who used to investigate UFOs for the Ministry of Defence said: "While no witnesses are infallible, pilots are trained observers and less likely than most people to misidentify something mundane.

"The MoD's UFO case files contain several reports from civil and military pilots, some of which were correlated by radar. This is the sort of sighting that is taken seriously and should be investigated thoroughly.

"While most UFOs can be explained as misidentifications of aircraft, weather balloons, satellites and suchlike, a small percentage are more difficult to explain. This is one of the most intriguing sightings I've heard about in recent years."

A current spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence, said that while it does monitor air space for any unusual foreign objects which might pose a threat, they would not be carrying out an investigation in this instance.

Are you in the area? Did you witness these unidentified flying objects? Send us your experiences using the form below.

You can send your pictures and moving footage to or text them to 07725 100 100

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Story from BBC NEWS: