Jim Mastro

Writing, and all things in between


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Another Look at Quantum Strangeness

Readers of my blog may remember a previous post with a similar title, wherein I posited the idea of Phased Uncertainty to explain why macroscopic objects don’t behave like subatomic particles. Obviously, I’m not the first person to wonder about this, but now with the advent of more sensitive new technologies, more and more physicists are actively seeking to answer the question.

A little background. According to current Quantum Theory, no particle has a fixed position, energy, or momentum. Each one exists in a multitude of states, all at the same time. In a way, each particle can be considered a wave, and it is described mathematically by a wave function. It is only when someone actually looks at it that the particle’s wave function “collapses” and it takes a definite state. Werner Heisenberg came up with this idea, that it was the very act of measuring that makes the wave function collapse and the particle take on definite properties.

So the question is, if all subatomic articles exhibit this behavior, why don’t macroscopic objects? At what point (or at what size) do quantum rules end and Newtonian rules begin?

Some physicists are trying to find out. H. Dieter Zeh (now deceased) suggested that in the macroscopic world the wave function of each particle becomes “entangled” with the wave functions of all the other particles around it, making it impossible to keep track of the zillions of interactions going on. He called the process “decoherence.” Basically, the wave function describing all the possible states a particle could have “decoheres” when it mingles with the wave functions of all the particles around it. (This sounds a lot like the “phased uncertainty I propose in the aforementioned post.) Unfortunately, the theory doesn’t explain why a particle would take any particular state, which is what we see when we measure it.

Another hypothesis is known as Continuous Spontaneous Localization, which posits that wave function collapse is a random but rare event that is constantly occurring, and it has nothing to do with measurement. Even though it’s rare, the sheer number of subatomic particles in a macroscopic object make it inevitable that collapse will occur. However, this doesn’t seem to explain (unless I’m missing something) why enough of the particles in an object would all collapse to the same state, especially if collapse of any single particle is so rare.

So here’s what I’ve been thinking (and keep in mind that I am not a physicist and couldn’t begin to explain any of this in mathematical terms, which is really the only thing that counts). We know molecules are stable; we’re surrounded by them and composed of them. The only way any molecule could be a stable construct is if the wave functions of the composite atoms (protons, neutrons, and electrons) all collapsed to the same state as soon as the atoms joined up. In other words, much like Zeh’s decoherence, at the instant two or more atoms join to form a molecule, they entangle and assume the same physical state. If this didn’t happen, molecules could never form, because the composite atoms would each remain in their own undefined state, unable to coalesce into a stable structure.

Why this happens, of course, remains unexplained, but it seems to me that there must be an as-yet undiscovered and undefined natural law (or force) that causes it to happen.

Of course, this could all be wildly off the mark, and physicists are probably chuckling and shaking their heads at my naivete. But a lot of crazy ideas have been put forward (and are still being put forward) regarding quantum physics (the “Many Worlds” hypothesis, for example), so I’m not afraid to give it a shot. Besides, entanglement is a proven phenomenon, though no one knows exactly how and why that happens either. Perhaps if the mystery of entanglement is solved, that will explain why atoms become instantly entangled and assume the same physical state when they join to form a molecule. Or vice versa.


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Fighting Systemic Racism

The president of the university that my son attends recently sent out a request for community members to offer their thoughts on how the university system can combat systemic racism. Below are my thoughts:

How Educational Institutions Can Combat Systemic Racism

It begins with history. In particular, American history has traditionally been taught from a Eurocentric point of view. It is a history couched in the immigrant experience, the frontier experience, the escape from political and religious persecution, the escape from poverty, and the hope for a better future. It is taught as political revolution, the very idea that a government can be formed to serve the people instead of the other way around. It is taught as the contentious but generally successful blending of many cultures and languages into a single entity. These are valid points, but they are only part of the story.

The fact that there were people already living in the land before all these immigrants arrived is generally little more than a side note.

To begin to address the roots and history of systemic racism, it is necessary to approach the teaching of American history from the perspective of both native Americans and African Americans. These perspectives should be required in the curriculum. They should be taught side by side with the Eurocentric perspective and given equal weight.

First, native Americans. What history, culture, and religion informed their lives pre-invasion? What was their experience of seeing their ancestral homelands invaded, their freedom to roam the land denied, their people killed indiscriminately? How should they have responded, if not by fighting back? For truly, the history of America is rooted in genocide. The truth of this genocide must not be obscured by the prevailing Eurocentric narrative of “bravely taming a frontier.”

The roots of racism lie in the propensity of people with more advanced technology to view people with lesser technology as inferior. Certainly, that was the case with most European settlers, who viewed native Americans as “savages” because they did not build cities, or ships, or firearms. The concept of living in harmony with the land and not taking more than was necessary was as alien to the European invaders as was the European concept of “conquering” or “subduing” the land was to native Americans. Those opposing viewpoints are perfectly expressed in the native American view that the land owned the people, whereas Europeans subscribed to the view that people owned the land.

(Side note: It is important to recognize that native Americans did not always treat the land with respect. Their arrival on the continent coincided with the disappearance of most of the existing megafauna, and although that correlation has not been proven to be rooted in causation, human incursion and over-hunting is the most likely explanation. Nonetheless, by the time of the European invasion, native Americans had largely come to realize that their continued existence required a sensible use of resources.)

By defining native Americans as essentially inferior, because they did not have the same technology or because they did not use the land as Europeans thought it should be used, made it easy to justify taking the land away from them. After that, forcing them onto ecologically impoverished lands, denying them basic rights, destroying their history and language and culture, and keeping them in poverty just reinforced the idea that they were inferior, an idea that obviously still exists in the mind of many white Americans today.

A similar attitude informs the way Africans were treated. Again, it was easy to think of them as savages (for the same reasons Europeans thought of native Americans as savages – or even as less than fully human), and thus it was easy to justify enslaving them. Their experience is discussed in some American history texts these days, but it is still little more than a side note. (When I was in high school and college, the subject hardly got cursory attention.) Part of the reason may be the paucity of first person accounts, since most slaves were denied an education and thus were not able to read or write. But enough material exists that the African American experience can be given the attention it deserves.

What was their experience of being forcefully removed from their homeland and delivered into bondage? What was their experience of having their own history, culture, ancestry, and language ripped from them?

In a way, African Americans are (apart from native Americans) the only true Americans. For while most white or Latino Americans can point to their cultural ancestry (French, Norwegian, English, Honduran, Mexican, Irish, Italian, and so on, or some combination thereof), most African Americans cannot. They only know that sometime in the past their ancestors were ripped from the continent of Africa, but of their ancestral country, culture, or language they know nothing. This is the only country they’ve ever known. Even their surnames are the names of long-ago slave owners.

Even after emancipation, African Americans were never given true freedom, or the equality that derives from it. Jim Crow and segregation kept them down and ensured they were never given the opportunities afforded whites. The idea that African Americans are somehow inferior to Caucasians has been promulgated down through the centuries and through generations of parents to their children and grandchildren. Even now, white Americans can look at the fact that so many black Americans live in poverty, that black families own a mere fraction of the wealth of white families, that so many inner cities consist of poor black American communities, and still think that shows they are somehow inferior.

What is missing from this self-serving attitude is that centuries of slavery, subjugation, oppression, and denial of opportunity – approved and abetted by the white majority – are the root cause of the situation. Any group of people subjected to the same systemic racism and oppressive treatment would be in the same position. Even when a group of African Americans managed to pull themselves out of the situation and create a level of prosperity for themselves, it was forcibly and violently removed by the white establishment (e.g., the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, the introduction of crack cocaine to African American communities by the CIA in the 80s and the subsequent use of the “war on drugs” to destroy the Black Panther movement and justify the incarceration of so many blacks). It’s never been that black Americans can’t aspire to and reach the same level of economic prosperity and accomplishment as whites, it’s that they’ve never been allowed to do so by the prevailing white establishment.

As part and parcel of this sad picture, the concept of a “police force” was founded in the race patrols of the early south. At their very inception, then, police forces were imbued with the idea that African Americans were inferior, that they must be controlled, that they must be kept down, and that the maintenance of law and order was dependent on it. This attitude has, like a cultural history, been passed down from generation to generation, with most police officers today likely unaware of its genesis.

To begin to address this systemic racism, all of this information needs to be included in school curricula, from elementary school though post-secondary education. We need to fully understand our history, not just the Eurocentric, Western-Civilization, sugar-coated version of it most of us are fed. Columbus was not a brave explorer, he was an opportunistic, greedy, genocidal racist, as were so many so-called “explorers” after him (e.g., Cortez, Pizarro). Equal blame must also go to the opportunistic, misguided, self-righteous, and racist “missionaries” who followed in the “explorers’” blood-soaked footsteps.

Until we all know the truth, it will be hard to make any progress. And it begins with educating the children.


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Surfing

As important as surfing is to me, it seems odd that I have never posted about it. Perhaps now is a good time, since it keeps me from posting about the insane political situation in this country, and I promised myself I would never post about politics on this blog.

The question is: why is surfing so important to me? It’s a difficult question to answer, although William Finnegan did a pretty good job in his memoir “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.” (Interesting point: I was surfing on Oahu at exactly the same time as Finnegan. He was over by Diamond head; I was in Ewa beach. But his experience of the surf, the island, and the culture was exactly the same as mine.) From a scientific standpoint, I can say that surfing in well-formed, big waves delivers a dose of hormones that don’t normally mix: adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin. The first drives the fight-or-flight response, giving you heightened awareness and increased blood flow to the muscles. The second raises awareness and drives feelings of pleasure. The third promotes feelings of happiness and contentment. As a bonus, the intense physical effort involved in surfing big waves releases endorphins, giving you a bit of a “high.” So in effect, surfing a big wave gives you both fear and pleasure, combined with a heightened sense of awareness, a strange combination that surfers call the “stoke.” This article explains it all better than I could: “Your Brain on Surfing.”

There’s more to it than that, though. When you are out in the surf, you are essentially in the wilderness. Under your board is an ocean full of wildlife, most of which you can’t see. There is something thrilling about being immersed in untamed nature just a few meters from civilization. People walk along the beach and cars drive by, as schools of fish swarm beneath you, western grebes pop up next to you, and harbor seals jump onto your board. (Yes, this really happened — to a guy a few feet away from me.) Then you take off on a wave, shoot down the face, crank a turn, and fly along a wall of green water as it drives you toward the beach, knowing that at any moment the wave could pitch and throw you into the rinse cycle. There’s something almost spiritual in the experience. In a very real sense, you are dancing with the ocean.

It gets even better when wildlife joins in the fun. Pelicans scoot by, riding the pressure wave in front of the water wave, their wings almost brushing my hair. I’ve had bottlenosed dolphins swim beneath me, jump out of the water next to me, and surf waves right in front of me. That is real magic.

Not long ago, someone named Ioana Alcmena Curiteanu sent me an article entitled “Wildlife Encounters: The 5 Best Places on Earth to Surf with Dolphins.” Although it’s designed to promote a surf travel company, it appealed to my love of marine mammals, and especially to my joy at surfing with them. I have resolved to surf at least two of the places mentioned in the article: Sri Lanka and Costa Rica. And if dolphins join me in the lineup, so much the better.

I find as I get older that surfing is taking on an increased importance. When I was younger, it seemed like I had all the time in the world, and if I didn’t surf for a year (as was the case when I spent a year in Antarctica), it didn’t seem to matter all that much. Now I see things quite differently. My stamina isn’t what it used to be, and it takes a lot more effort to stay in shape. My days of surfing a short board in big waves are far from over (I was surfing double-overhead waves in San Diego a few months ago, when other people couldn’t even make it out, and I had some of the best rides of my life), but I can see the horizon. The yearning to be in big waves while I still can is becoming stronger every day. It is that yearning that has made me realize how important surfing is, and has always been, to me.

A friend of mine once said that every time you go in the ocean, you are baptized. I think he was right; there is an almost religious overtone to surfing, and it has nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of a supreme being. For me, surfing is life.

(No, that’s not me in the photo; I surf with my right foot forward. But I have been on waves as big and beautiful as that.)


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Is The Universe Hiding Something?

Not very long ago, astronomers and astrophysicists realized something was wrong with the Universe. The Universe is expanding, but the speed of that expansion is increasing. It shouldn’t be. The gravitational pull of the Universe’s mass should be slowing it down, or at least it should be maintaining the same speed. For it to be speeding up, something has to be accelerating it.

In addition, the stars on the outer fringes of galaxies rotate around the galactic center at a much faster rate than they should, based on the amount of matter in the galaxy (according to both classical and modern physical theory).

To explain the first of these phenomena, physicists have postulated that some sort of energy suffuses the Universe but is currently undetectable, and this energy is pushing galaxies apart at an ever increasing rate. They call it “dark energy.” To explain the second phenomenon, they postulate that there is another form of matter that is also currently undetected. This so-called “dark matter” surrounds galaxies and provides the additional mass (and gravitational influence) required to explain the curious motion of the stars.

Physicists have come up with a variety of hypothetical particles that they think could comprise dark matter. Some of it could be hot (i.e., fast moving), but if all of it were hot it wouldn’t explain the observed motion of stars and galaxies. So most dark matter theorists think at least 95% of it is cold, i.e., slow moving. Of this cold dark matter, they feel the most likely candidate is a “weakly interacting massive particle,” or WIMP. These WIMPs would rarely or never interact with regular matter, or even with other WIMPs, but they would form clouds whose gravitational attraction would form stars into galaxies and affect the stars’ rotational velocities.

Other possible dark matter particles might be self-interacting via dark electromagnetism that allows them to exchange dark photons and form dark atoms. The dark electromagnetism would not affect “normal” matter, but the dark matter would form disc-like structures alongside the disc of normal matter in galaxies, and their gravitational influence would also affect the motion of normal matter.

Several experiments are underway to try and detect at least some dark matter particles, especially WIMPs, but so far these attempts have been unsuccessful.

In reading about all this, I was struck by the idea that maybe physicists were bending over backwards to come up with increasingly complex theories to explain their observations when a simpler one might be better. In a way, it reminded me of the way astronomers in the 16th Century developed epicycles to explain the motion of planets in order to adhere to the notion that the Earth was the center of the Universe. When Copernicus showed that the Earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around, the motion of the planets was explained much more simply and elegantly.

Some physicists have made this same comparison, though they reject it because the idea of dark matter explains observations so well. Well, so did epicycles, at the time.

I think there might be another explanation that does the job without inventing a whole menagerie of new but undetectable particles.

For some time now, physicists have entertained the idea that we might live in a multiverse. That is, in addition to the universe we inhabit and which we can observe, there might be other universes, perhaps even an infinite number of universes. What if one of those universes were right next to ours? What if both our universes occupied the same meta-space, with gravitational effects from each one leaking across the dimensional divide to affect the other?

Current astrophysical theory makes this a possibility, and it doesn’t require conjuring up what seems to be a whole menagerie of semi-mythical particles and energies.


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Have You Been Here Before?

The title of this post is a purposeful riff on the title of my previous posts that discussed the possibility that beings from another planet (or planets) visited Earth in the past. This post, however, is of a decidedly more metaphysical nature.

Every major religion (and perhaps every religion), past and present, holds as one of its central tenets that some form of consciousness survives physical death. The idea is universal enough that I don’t think I need to give any examples. For now, let’s just assume all these religions are right.

Certainly there is some anecdotal evidence to support the idea, such as the many documented cases of people reporting near-death-experiences (NDEs). (Actually, in the name of accuracy, they should be called “death experiences,” because the people are clinically dead — for a while.) Not everyone believes in their veracity, but there are enough cases where people have been revived and have related information they couldn’t possibly have known, had their consciousness not traveled to a distant location when they were dead, that it is difficult to discount the concept out of hand.

Obviously, in order for consciousness to survive death, there has to be a “soul” or “spirit” or whatever you might want to call it. The great eastern religions maintain that upon leaving the body the soul either joins the universal soul (Taoism) or else reincarnates, coming back to the world in some form time and time again (Buddhism, Hinduism). The three major monotheistic religions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) maintain that you get one shot. One life, one chance to make good, then it’s heaven or hell, depending on the choices you make.

What evidence is there for that? None, really. No one has ever come back from a NDE to say “Whoa! I hooked up with Saint Peter and even though I couldn’t understand what he was saying (I think he was speaking Aramaic or something), heaven looks really awesome!” Or, “Yikes! the dude really does have horns and a forked tail! Man I am going to church from now on!” No, we simply have to take the word of the religious texts and the clergymen who interpret them for us (setting aside for now the idea that this dogma is one of the ways these religions maintain control over their adherents).

On the other hand, there is considerable evidence that we come back to this world repeatedly, living a different life in a different body each time. There are numerous anecdotal accounts of people recalling past lives under hypnosis, or having true deja vu experiences at places they’ve never been before, or waking up from a brain injury speaking a different language fluently. There are also well-documented cases of young children knowing intimate details about people they’ve never met and distant places they’ve never  even heard of, much less visited. These are things they could not possibly have known in their current lives. The evidence here is compelling, but it’s still anecdotal, and from a scientific standpoint anecdotal evidence is really no evidence at all.

Fortunately, there is actually scientific evidence (or, at least, evidence collected through the scientific method). A few decades ago, a psychologist named Helen Wambach began using past life regression as a therapeutic tool, not because she was particularly interested in it or believed it was real, but because she found it useful for helping her patients. However, she found herself intrigued by the compelling and detailed stories her patients were recounting. She also found it surprising that none of the patients she hypnotically regressed claimed to have been famous or important people. If the past life stories were fantasies, as critics claimed, Wambach expected her patients to contrive elaborate stories about being kings or otherwise historically important figures. Instead, the lives they described were mundane and unassuming. Intrigued by this, she decided to apply the scientific method to past life regression, to see if there was any truth to these stories of reincarnation.

There are certain things we know about the past, from biology, history, and archeology. We know that the ratio of men to women has remained a fairly constant 1:1 through time. We know the kinds of foods people ate in different parts of the world, and how that changed over time. We know what clothes they wore, from animal skins to rough cloth to finely woven fabrics. We know what tools they used. In the evolution of eating utensils, for instance, the fork started with two tines, went to three tines decades later, and finally to the four tines we see most often today. All of these things are verifiable.

In her study, Dr. Wambach hypnotized people not individually but in groups of ten or fifty or even a hundred. By the end of the study, she had hypnotized thousands. These were people from all walks of life and from all over America, all of them strangers to each other. And she didn’t just have them tell their past life stories. In fact, she wasn’t really interested in their stories. Instead, for each time period she took them to, she asked simple, mundane, testable questions. What is your sex? What is the color of your skin? What are you eating? What utensils are you using? What are you wearing? What kind of structure are you living in? At the end of the study she collated the data and compared them to the historical and archeological record. And they matched.

Perfectly.

In their current lives, like most of us, few of her subjects knew much, if anything, about these mundane facets of history. Who knew how the fork evolved over time? I certainly didn’t. And there was no way for all those thousands of strangers from all over the country to have colluded with each other, over the course of years, in order to provide Wambach with the exact same answers to these questions for each historical period. Nor was it possible for them to discuss their answers with each other ahead of each session, not only because they had never met, but also because no one knew what the questions would be, and no one except Dr. Wambach knew what time periods she would be researching at each session.

For me, this is compelling evidence. Intrigued by the evidence in her book, I had myself hypnotically regressed, and I experienced snippets of lives that were as real as the one I’m living now. Yes, I have come to believe that reincarnation exists.

Unfortunately, it raises an uncomfortable question: If we live multiple lives, as both men and women, at different times and places, and as members of different races, then who exactly are we?

If our consciousness does return to the physical world time and time again to inhabit different lives, does that make us extraterrestrial parasites, inhabiting and manipulating helpless humans like something out of Star Trek? Or are we symbionts that need human vitality for our existence, and in return we provide our hosts with consciousness, conscience, and motivation? Again, straight out of Star Trek.

Or are we instead part of a universal consciousness, complicit in the development and evolution of life, creating sentient life forms so we can leave the spiritual world and experience the physical?

Of these three possibilities, only the last one seems makes any sense to me. If we were parasites or symbionts, why would we enter a body (or stay in one) that was doomed to live a life of misery and pain? However, if our short physical lives are really only a small part of a much larger existence, well, it would be as though we were actors going on stage, and actors sometimes play some heart-wrenching parts. But then the question is: Why? Why do we bother?

For that, I have no answer.

For those who are interested, Dr. Wambach’s book is titled Reliving Past Lives: The Evidence Under Hypnosis. It’s long out of print, but you can still find used copies online.


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The Missing Factor

Interesting things often happen to me in the transitional phase between sleep and wakefulness. In that twilight zone where I am neither fully asleep nor fully awake, it seems that the intuitive, creative side of my brain is most active. During that time, solutions to vexing problems (usually related to a writing project) come to me, seemingly out of the blue. Other thoughts also occur to me, often regarding subjects I wasn’t even aware I was thinking about.

That happened again just the other morning. But before I reveal it, a little background.

Whether or not life is inevitable, given the right circumstances, is a problem that has vexed biologists (and philosophers) for some time. Since we only have one example – Earth – it is impossible to draw any firm conclusions. That is one reason why so much effort continues to go into searching for evidence of life beyond our planet. Much of this effort is directed at Mars right now, but there is also considerable effort to identify Earth-like planets around other stars. In addition, the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project continues its decades-long search for signs of another civilization. If any hard evidence of extraterrestrial life were to be found, even simple, unicellular life, it would change the equation dramatically.

So far, however, there has been nothing firm. So scientists are forced to base their conjectures on what can be found here, on our own planet. That evidence is certainly suggestive. Bacterial and other unicellular life has been found thriving in such unlikely places as undersea thermal vents, near-boiling hot springs, within rocks in Antarctica, in perpetually dark and frigid Antarctic lakes, and even miles underground. If life can exist in those places, it seems it can exist anywhere.

Many of these places are proposed as the place where life may have originated, since many of them mirror conditions on our planet when it was very young, with its extremes of temperature and anoxic, even toxic, environments. Other scientists propose that life originated elsewhere and the Earth was seeded by bacteria hitching rides on comets and meteors. Recent evidence that some bacteria can survive prolonged exposure to the frigid airlessness of space gives credence to that view. However, that doesn’t solve the problem of how life originated. If it didn’t evolve here but was simply introduced here, it still had to evolve somewhere. Claiming that Earth was seeded just kicks the can down the road.

Nonetheless, based on the foregoing, it seems increasingly likely that life is indeed inevitable. If and when we do discover extraterrestrial life, that argument becomes much stronger. We may be forced to conclude that the physical laws that organize our universe make it impossible for life NOT to develop.

That’s where the “missing factor” mentioned in the title of this post comes in. It was this thought that suddenly occurred to me in my half-awake state: If the physical structure of our universe does indeed make life inevitable, then physicists must take that into account. No theory meant to describe our physical universe could be considered complete without factoring in its propensity to produce life. In other words, the inevitability of life might be as fundamental to the structure of our universe – and as fundamental to the equations that describe that structure – as the relationship between matter and energy or the existence of photons and neutrinos.

I encourage physicists to develop such a theory. Like any theory, for it to be valid it must make predictions that are testable. Equations could be developed that would predict under what conditions and how frequently life would form, based on the known physical structure of the universe. We will continue to search for extraterrestrial life, and sooner or later (if our civilization survives long enough), we will either discover enough of it to confirm the theory, or we will find nothing at all and the theory will be ruled invalid.

I predict the former.


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Perfection (And: Where To Find It)

I had to re-blog this amazing, short post by James Radcliffe. He may or may not agree with me, but his conclusion is the very definition of Zen.

James Radcliffe

I spent this weekend in the mountains.

It may sound strange but I get a lot of work done in the hills. Ideas for pieces of music and writing; revelations about love, life, truth and beauty – you name it – they all seem to come more easily than when I’m staying in the city.

I guess it could be the silence or the wide open spaces; it could be the change in environment or the result of amore primal mode of living. Hell, it could be divine intervention for all I know.

Whatever the reason, I always have a notebook ready.

This micro-blog is one of my favorite captures from my time away:

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Have They Really Been Here Before? Part 5

I thought I was finished with this subject, but then another piece of evidence suddenly came to mind. I found myself pondering why people look so different from one another. I’m not just talking about differences between races, which are significant, but also differences in height, hair color, skin tone, and facial features within races. The differences are significant enough that even wild animals can recognize individual humans.

Yet wild animals all look the same. Yes, there can be small differences in color patterns and facial features, but a lion still looks like any other lion, one impala looks like another, elephants, chimpanzees, zebra finches, grey seals, wolves, giraffes, and so on — they all look pretty much exactly the same (within species). You certainly don’t see blonde chimps, red-haired chimps, bald chimps, super-hairy chimps, tiny chimps, giant chimps, big-eared chimps, small-eared chimps, long-nosed chimps, and squash-faced chimps. All chimps look pretty much the same.

But you know which species of animals don’t all look the same? The ones we have genetically manipulated through selective breeding. Look at dogs, for example:

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Who would ever conclude that all of these creatures are the same species? Yet they are. There are other examples, too. Cats, rabbits, lab rats — pretty much every species we’ve genetically manipulated shows huge morphometric variation.

Just like humans.

One consistent meme in ancient manuscripts is that humans were altered by other beings. In the Sumerian “myths,” the Annunaki altered early humans to make them better laborers. In Genesis, the gods (yes, plural — look it up) made us “in their own image.” Could the variation among humans be evidence of such manipulation, just as the variation among domestic animal species is demonstrably due to our manipulation of them?

Since we have now sequenced the human genome, and since one group of researchers will soon attempt to recreate the human genome piece by piece through chemical synthesis, making it possible for us to directly manipulate our DNA, the idea that our ancestors were genetically manipulated is not so far-fetched.

In fact, as far as I can see it’s just one more piece of evidence indicating that we were, at one time in the distant past, not alone in the galaxy.

 

 


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Have They Really Been Here Before? Part 4

In this final installment of my four-part blog, I’ll offer some final thoughts on the possibility that our planet was visited in the past by technologically advanced beings.

For instance, I find it interesting how archaeologists will comment that ancient cave paintings and petroglyphs  are so accurate and true-to-life that the animals they represent can be identified by species:

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But at the same time, they claim images like these are purely symbolic:

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Nor can they explain why some “purely symbolic” stone carvings so accurately represent space-suited individuals:

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The fact that these petroglyphs and carvings are found all over the world, in cultures that had no contact with each other at all, makes them even more mysterious. Just as mysterious, in fact, as the similarity in megalithic structures all over the world (Middle East, Central and South America, Southeast Asia) and the precision in stone carving used to make them, even though the people who supposedly built these things, again, had no contact with each other.

There seems to be no end to the mysteries, such as these eerily accurate descriptions of apparent nuclear explosions from the ancient Indian text, the Mahabharata (a vimana is a flying machine):

“Gurkha, flying a swift and powerful vimana hurled a single projectile charged with all the power of the Universe. An incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as the thousand suns rose in all its splendor […] The cloud of smoke rising after its first explosion formed into expanding round circles like the opening of giant parasols…

“It was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas…

“The corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. The hair and nails fell out; pottery broke without apparent cause, and the birds turned white. After a few hours all foodstuffs were infected…A thick gloom swiftly settled upon the Pandava hosts. All points of the compass were lost in darkness. Fierce wind began to blow upward, showering dust and gravel….

The earth shook, scorched by the terrible violent heat of this weapon. Elephants burst into flame and ran to and fro in a frenzy… over a vast area, other animals crumpled to the ground and died. From all points of the compass the arrows of flame rained continuously and fiercely.”

Recent excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in India have uncovered flattened, highly radioactive skeletons. There is no apparent cause for the sudden death visited upon these people.

Or this from Genesis 19:

And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.

Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;

And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

Recently, archaeologists have been excavating a site (Tall-el-Hammam”) they believe to be that of Sodom and Gomorrah, and their research has revealed the cities were destroyed by an intense “heat event.” Not only that, but the area apparently remained uninhabitable for 600 years.

Couple this with the abrupt disappearance of Sumerian civilization, described thusly in a Sumerian text:

On the land fell a calamity, one unknown to man;
one that had never been seen before,
one which could not be withstood.
A great storm from heaven…
A land-annihilating storm…
An evil wind, like a rushing torrent…
A battling storm joined by a scorching heat…
By day it deprived the land of the bright sun, in the evening the stars did not shine…
The people, terrified, could hardly breathe;
the evil wind clutched them, does not grant them another day…
Mouths were drenched with blood, heads wallowed in blood…
The face was made pale by the Evil Wind.
It caused cities to be desolated, houses to become desolate;
stalls to become desolate, the sheepfolds to be emptied…
Sumer’s rivers it made flow with water that is bitter;
its cultivated fields grow weeds, its pastures grow withering plants.

This reads like a textbook example of the aftermath of a nuclear explosion to the west of the city, with its resultant radiation contamination and poisoning. When you consider it in light of Sodom and Gomorrah’s heat event and the discovery early in the 20th Century of Libyan Desert Glass, it’s even more intriguing.

Libyan Desert Glass (LDG) is the name given to a mysterious layer of green glass found in the Libyan desert (west of Tall-el-Hammam). The glass was somehow formed by an intense heat source that turned the desert sand into a greenish glass. There is no sign of a meteor impact, but even if there was, it would not produce the observed structure and distribution of the LDG. However, the LDG is almost identical to the trinitite glass formed at the Alamogordo, New Mexico site where the first atomic bombs were tested.

Obviously, this could all be nothing more than wild speculation – and I’m quite certain many people will see it that way. There is certainly no shortage of websites and books “debunking”  what is affectionately called the “ancient alien theory.” Some of these criticisms are valid, but I find most of them to be unconvincing, as though the writers are really reaching, as if desperate to “prove” this ancient alien theory wrong.

Frankly, I don’t see why. I don’t see anything absurd about it. To me, it’s simply another possible explanation for the many anomalies we have found, and as such it should be open to consideration and testing. There is no convincing reason why it should be dismissed out of hand.

Now, I will readily admit it is perfectly reasonable that all the things I’ve mentioned — the pyramids, the stone carvings, the petroglyphs, the jet-like gold trinkets, the ancient descriptions, the LDG, the “heat event,” and so on — have mundane, terrestrial explanations. But sometime the explanations put forth seem outlandish all on their own, and sometimes there simply is no reasonable explanation. The pyramid builders used ramps? Where are they? The jet airplane is really a fish? The spacesuit is a shaman outfit that just looks like spacesuit? The ancient Indians and Middle Eastern tribes had such amazing imaginations that they contrived flying machines and weapons that behaved exactly like nuclear devices? Ancient people built stone structures of such amazing physical and mathematical precision using stone or bronze tools, and moved 200-ton (or larger) blocks over great distances with manpower alone?

Maybe so. I can’t say either way. Here’s the thing, though: On the one hand, each of these anomalies and mysteries requires its own, separate (often unconvincing) explanation. On the other hand, one simple explanation covers them all at once: technologically advanced beings visited our planet in the distant past.

Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best one.

Which brings me back to my original question: Could it be that some of the events I describe in my science fiction trilogy, Children of Hathor, actually be true? I thought I was just making it all up, but now I’m beginning to wonder…

 


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Have They Really Been Here Before? Part 3

In this third installment of my musings, I’ll look at a very large (literally) and imposing bit of evidence: ancient stoneworks.

The idea that extraterrestrial visitors are responsible for some of the more dramatic of the Earth’s ancient stone structures has been around for a long time. Its proponents and its detractors have been equally forceful in their arguments. Let’s put all that previous discussion aside and try to look at the concept objectively.

First of all, it’s not impossible that stone age or iron age humans constructed these imposing edifices found all over the world, from Egypt to Central and South America to Southeast Asia to Easter Island. Frankly, though, I consider that explanation highly unlikely. For one thing, how is it that neolithic peoples quite suddenly developed these very impressive abilities to quarry multi-ton blocks of stone, transport them over great distances, and use them to construct enormous and mathematically precise structures? Would you not expect to see early models, with the sophistication increasing with each iteration? And yet, these structures seemed to spring into being overnight, archeologically speaking. It’s as though we suddenly built the space shuttle without ever going through the early phases of propeller and jet aircraft development.

Even more puzzling, why did this ability just as suddenly vanish, even though people still lived where the things were built? In some cases, it was the same people. Structures built afterward, if they exist at all, are stunningly primitive in comparison. Pyramids built in Egypt after the great pyramids were small and shoddy, as though the builders were desperately trying to copy what their supposed forefathers had built.

I have never seen an adequate explanation for this.

And then, of course, there is the amazing precision and sophistication of these structures. It is not entirely certain that we could build some of these things today, with the most modern tools and techniques.

I will restrict myself to discussing just two specific examples, though there are many from which to choose. First, because I have been there, let’s look at the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, near Cuzco, Peru. These impressive walls are composed of granite stones, some weighing up to 200 tons, and many of them fit together so precisely that you cannot slip a butter knife — or even a piece of paper — between them. Take a look:

Sacsayhuaman1

Sacsayhuaman2

Sacsayhuaman6

Sacsayhuaman5

The fortress and the city it once encompassed were (apparently) built by the pre-Inca Killke culture, about which little is known. I am dubious. Even with today’s precision tools and lasers, it would not be a simple task to re-create this structure. There’s another troubling aspect. As long as you had to painstakingly carve out granite blocks from a quarry, why not carve them all square? It would be so much easier to build a wall this way. Instead, the structure is built like a jigsaw puzzle. It is very difficult for me to accept that a primitive culture using stone tools carved these massive blocks to fit together so closely in such a dizzying array of shapes.

We are also expected to believe that the blocks were lowered into place by raising them on logs and them removing the logs one at a time. How does one do this in such a fashion that the block slips perfectly into place, married to the blocks on either side, all of which were carved separately, and so perfectly that a piece of paper won’t slip between them? Frankly, I don’t buy it.

Sacsayhuaman is far from being the only anomaly in this part of the world. There are unexplained megalithic structures in Bolivia, as well as the well known ruins in Mexico and Central America. The ancient and mathematically precise city of Teotihuacan near Mexico City is particularly mysterious. Even the Aztecs didn’t know who built it; it was abandoned long before they arrived on the scene.

However, now I want to turn to the other side of the world and what is probably the best known and most contentious ancient structure: the Great Pyramid at Giza.

The three major pyramids on the Giza plateau are the Pyramid of Khufu (the Great Pyramid), the Pyramid of Khafre, and the smaller Pyramid of Menkaure. All are named for the pharaohs for whom they were supposedly built as tombs between 4500 and 5000 years ago.

PyramidComplexAerial

The problem is, they were actually built around 12,000 years ago. Evidence for this comes from the pattern of erosion on the Sphinx, which was built at about the same time. The erosion pattern on the limestone could only be caused by water, but rainfall in this area of Egypt is about the same today as it was 5000 years ago. That is, it’s not common. The periodic but rare downpours the area receives would not have been enough to produce the erosion we see. However, between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago, the area was much wetter, with plenty of rainfall.

Erosion

erosion3

Then there is the matter of the pyramids’ construction. There have been a lot of theories put forth in an attempt to explain how it was done, none of them very satisfactory. One recent theory proposes that the Egyptians didn’t carve and move the limestone blocks but instead created a limestone slurry that they then poured into molds to create the blocks forming the pyramids. This theory does not take into account the white cement between the blocks (totally unnecessary if the blocks were poured) or the existence of quarries. Nor does it explain how they got the slurry to the top.

The most common theory is that the Egyptians built ramps upon which they could roll the blocks on timbers up to the the pyramid level where they were needed. The problem with this theory is that the ramps would have had to be as massive an engineering undertaking as the pyramids themselves, and there is no trace of any such constructions.

To my mind, though, the biggest mystery is the interior construction of the Pyramid of Khufu (also called the Pyramid of Cheops). An awful lot has been written about this subject, so I won’t go into it here in depth, but it’s worth looking into because the mysteries are numerous (such as how and why the massive granite slabs were carefully put into place above the so-called “King’s Chamber” or why that same chamber shows signs of intense heat). Instead, just take a look at the internal structure:

Inside Khufu8

Put aside all preconceptions, everything you’ve heard or read about this pyramid and just look at it. Here’s a closer look at the “King’s Chamber”:

Inside Khufu5

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And the “Grand Gallery”:

Grand Gallery4

Grand Gallery

Grand Gallery3

If you look at all this, it becomes very clear that this structure was never meant to be a tomb. There are no hieroglyphics extolling the virtues of the king who was supposed to be buried there. In fact, there are no hieroglyphics at all. Khufu’s name appears only once, as only as a bit of graffiti etched onto an obscure wall well after grave robbers had broken in. And those grave robbers never found anything: no bodies, no treasures, nothing. The chambers were empty.

The passageways have low ceilings and are uncomfortable to navigate. They were clearly never meant for humans to use. The Grand Gallery is tall enough, but it’s absurdly tall, and like the ascending and descending passageways, the slope is too steep to comfortably walk, either on the two narrow ledges on either side or the recessed center. That’s why steps and rails have been installed for tourists.

The builders would have had to dig the subterranean chamber before construction began, but then why leave it unfinished? They would have had to put all the interior structures in place as the pyramid was being built, but if you’re going to do that, why not make it sensible and navigable? If you’re going to have to carry in bodies and afterlife treasures, why make it so you have to climb up (or down) a 26 degree slope, bent over at the waist, and squeeze through a small opening at the end? And what on Earth is the purpose for those heavy granite slabs cantilevered against each other in layers above the “King’s Chamber?” What purpose could the Grand Gallery possibly serve if the whole structure is simply a tomb?

There are many, many other things about the Great Pyramid that don’t make sense. There is plenty of information on the web and in the many books written about the subject. Graham Hancock’s “Fingerprints of the Gods” is a good place to start. The bottom line is, it makes as much sense to call the pyramid a tomb as it does to say it was built to store grain.

But if the pyramid was never meant to be a tomb, then what was its purpose? Your guess is as good as mine. All I can say is, when I look at the bizarre design of the interior, it doesn’t look like something humans would build. It just doesn’t make sense from a human perspective. It is nothing like anything else ever built, anywhere, anytime. Frankly, it just looks alien.

Inside Khufu3