Thursday, April 30, 2009

Galactus, is that you?

More on the giant space blob that seems to be a supernova from the early days of the universe.

From CNN:

The star which exploded was 30 to 100 times larger than our own sun, and when it died, it gave off "about million times the amount of energy the sun will release in its entire lifetime," Berger told CNN by phone from Harvard University, where he is an assistant professor of astronomy.

Its death throes produced so much energy that "momentarily, we can essentially see it anywhere in the universe," Berger said. The object, known as GRB 090423, is about 200 million years older than the previous record-holder for oldest object ever seen.
Full story...
Reports have indicated a tiny silver man on a surfboard may have preceded the explosion. Looks like Big G may have had himself a buffet!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Indeciperable, Ancient Language Cracked by Artificial Intelligence

It seems that Hal and Skynet have teamed up to unlock a 4,000-year-old mystery by deciphering symbols long thought to be just "decorative". As it turns out, the elaborate pictograms from the Indus Valley were actually an ancient language.

Wired has the story:
An ancient script that's defied generations of archaeologists has yielded some of its secrets to artificially intelligent computers. Computational analysis of symbols used 4,000 years ago by a long-lost Indus Valley civilization suggests they represent a spoken language. Some frustrated linguists thought the symbols were merely pretty pictures.

"The underlying grammatical structure seems similar to what's found in many languages," said University of Washington computer scientist Rajesh Rao.

The Indus script, used between 2,600 and 1,900 B.C. in what is now eastern Pakistan and northwest India, belonged to a civilization as sophisticated as its Mesopotamian and Egyptian contemporaries. However, it left fewer linguistic remains. Archaeologists have uncovered about 1,500 unique inscriptions from fragments of pottery, tablets and seals. The longest inscription is just 27 signs long.
Fascinating! No word on when the supercomputers will turn against us. Read more...

Props: Pic borrowed from

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mysterious Blob Found in Universe's Past!

I'm not sure what to make of this article, since most of the scientists seem to be unable to make anything of it either. So here's MSNBC's best shot at explaining:
A strange giant space “blob” spotted when the universe was relatively young has got astronomers puzzled.Using space and ground telescopes, astronomers looked back to when the universe was only 800 million years old and found something that was out of proportion and out of time. It was gaseous, big, and emitted a certain type of radiation, said study lead author Masami Ouchi, an astronomer at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, Calif.

Scientists don’t even know what to call it. So they just called it a radiation-emitting “blob.” They used that horror-film staple 34 times in their peer-reviewed study, which will be published in next month’s edition of the Astrophysical Journal. More formally, they named it Himiko, after a legendary ancient Japanese queen.

Read me...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Four New Egyptian Temples Discovered!

Looks like four new temples have been uncovered near the Sinai region that may have been used to impress foreign dignitaries in ancient Egypt.

From the Star Tribune:
Archaeologists exploring an old military road in the Sinai have unearthed four new temples amidst the 3,000-year-old remains of an ancient fortified city that could have been used to impress foreign delegations visiting Egypt, antiquities authorities announced Tuesday.

Among the discoveries was the largest mud brick temple found in the Sinai with an area of 70 by 80 meters (77 by 87 yards) and fortified with mud walls 3 meters (10 feet) thick, said Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.


Astronaut Confesses: We're Not Alone

Well duh! No really, c'mon, does anyone think we're really the only ones in the universe? Likely not, but just in case you were a UFO conspiracy nut, now you've got reason tell everyone you were right.

Former Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell has gone on the record (again, technically this is his second admission) about the actual existence of extra-terrestrials and their vacation plans here on Earth. He says he has said he's witnessed UFOs.

From CNN:
Mitchell, who was part of the 1971 Apollo 14 moon mission, asserted Monday that extraterrestrial life exists, and that the truth is being concealed by the U.S. and other governments.

He delivered his remarks during an appearance at the National Press Club following the conclusion of the fifth annual X-Conference, a meeting of UFO activists and researchers studying the possibility of alien life forms.

Mankind has long wondered if we're "alone in the universe. [But] only in our period do we really have evidence. No, we're not alone," Mitchell said.

"Our destiny, in my opinion, and we might as well get started with it, is [to] become a part of the planetary community. ... We should be ready to reach out beyond our planet and beyond our solar system to find out what is really going on out there."

For the full article....

Now, whether you believe him or not, is entirely up to you. As for myself? Well, let me just tell you a brief story. When I was in college I worked for the student organization that put on campus events. I did the A/V set up (yes, I'm an audio/video geek) anytime we had a speaker come to give a presentation in the student union. One of my close friends was the president of the student org that brought presenters, talent, etc. to the school to speak--so I often met the "celebrities" before or after the events.

One of these speakers happened to be Ken Mattingly, another Apollo mission astronaut. You might remember in the film Apollo 13, Gary Sinise's character--the guy who was grounded and had to help get them home by training in the simulator. Yeah, he had a cool car too. That's who Sinise was playing.

Anyway, he came to talk about the Apollo mission and his experiences aboard the Space Shuttle. Afterwards he answered audience questions. Now, this was sort of sad because there wasn't a huge turn out, maybe 50 people or so. Inevitably, someone asked him about "aliens" and "have you ever seen a UFO". My buddy, the organizer guy, froze with fear. He was a NASA freak himself, he went to space camp, he knew all sorts of Apollo lore. He respected the astronauts like they were gods. I could see that he was mortified by someone asking this question.

To his credit, Admiral Mattingly didn't flinch, perspire, or even wiggle an eyebrow. He answered straight out. "Yes." He proceeded to explain that in various missions he spent in space he--as well as other astronauts--witnessed strange objects. Objects that moved in deliberate trajectories. He also specifically denied that it could have been space junk or some other phenomenon. The admiral was convinced it was something intelligent and non-man made.

Afterwards, my buddy and I joked around with Mattingly. He graciously signed my copy of the Apollo 13 soundtrack on CD (the liner notes). He was able to switch gears for a moment and even made a joke about being a fan of Gary Sinise. But if we were waiting for the punchline it never came. In truth, we were still stunned by his comments. As much as I thought this guy was the real deal--I began to think he'd spent too much time in space. It wasn't until about 3 years later that I began to doubt that assertion.

After college, I managed, of all things, a cable access station. We didn't have much programming and I was sick of putting crappy imported (i.e., tapes mailed to the station) shows on the air. Somehow I manage to get on a mailing list for a couple of PR agencies that sent out screener tapes for movies. Previews really. I'd get free passes and swag. I attempted to turn this material into a film review show. (That's another story for another time.)

The important part of this story is that I was invited to come to an HBO screening of "From the Earth to the Moon" a mini-series produced by Tom Hanks and based on the book "A Man on the Moon" by Andrew Chaikin. I was all excited, being a NASA nut and brought our craptastic video camera and mic set up to seek an interview with the author. Thinking it would be impossible to get a one-on-one, I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself the only one with a video camera. Mr. Chaikin agreed to an interview and was very genuine and pleasant. He was also extremely good at his job.

See, in order to research his book he slogged through mountains of archives, film footage, and historical records. He also went astronaut hunting. If you read his book--and what he told me then--was that astronauts by nature are loners and several of those from the Apollo era aren't keen to do interviews anymore. So he had his work cut out for him. Some of them were near impossible to speak to. Which is where Admiral Mattingly comes back into our story, because he was notorious for avoiding interviews.

Chaikin on the other hand was very personable and easy to interview and happy to talk about his research and tracking down Apollo personnel. Afterward, while I was putting the equipment away, I decided to tell him my little ghost story from my college days--about how a retired astronaut had us all spooked about aliens.

Mr. Chaikin got a look of surprise across his face. He said, that it was amazing that Mattingly was doing appearances and even more amazing that he was so open about his supposed experiences. Chaikin told me that Mattingly must have been serious about what he was saying--because the Admiral doesn't kid.

Since that conversation, some 11 years ago, I have thought long and hard about what I learned from these two men. One was/is literally one the most highly trained individuals on the planet. A military man, a pilot with reserves of patience and exceptional powers of lucidity that he's tempered through years of endurance training in extreme conditions.

The other was a meticulous researcher and observer. The descriptions of the men and women he interviewed in his book are surprisingly crisp in detail and revealing in character. To date, no other book has emerged as well-researched in due diligence and balanced with candor and astute recognition of the psychology of its subjects.

When I think of these two individuals that I met and shook their hands, I see no intent to mislead. I can't think of any reason why a principled man such as Mattingly would blurt out something so controversial without he, himself believing it. And I can't think of a reason to doubt Chaikin on his professional assessment of Mattingly's personal nature and character. So here, in my brain, are these experiences. And late last fall Mitchell comes into the picture with his story about seeing non-terrestrial craft while he's in space.

Now that you've heard my story, what would your take be were you in my positioin? I think you can already guess mine.

P.S. For the record, the Admiral said he never had a cool car like Sinise did in the movie...but he wished he did!

New Antarctic Creatures Discovered

Sea monsters, sea "squirts," and translucent octopi oh my! Yes, Antarctica truly is the final frontier on this small blue-green world. I've long wondered what lies beneath the ice that covers the forgotten continent. Well below the waves, an iridescent octopus flutters in the frigid depths:

Live Science has a nice in-depth article....

Captains Cousteau and Nemo would be proud!

Another City of the Dead

This one lies in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Complete with mummies (of course!). It's not a new discovery--this is a travel article. What better way to spend your next holiday or vacation by digging up old friends! CNN's Paul Sussman gives a great first-person account of his own expedition.


A few years back, when I was working as part of an archaeological mission in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, I unearthed a slab of white limestone covered in ancient paint smears. More of that later. First, however, I should tell you about the 3,000 year-old gold jewelry.

I found the jewelry in a tomb known as KV56 (all burials in the Valley of the Kings are designated with a KV number, the most famous being KV62 -- Tutankhamun).

Among other objects, we pulled out a series of lotus-shaped gold necklace pendants, a miniature beaten-gold head of the goddess Hathor and a rectangular gold pectoral (chest-plate) link stamped with the cartouche, or royal name, of the pharaoh Seti ll (Davis had found 13 similar links which can now be viewed in the Cairo Museum). Exquisitely worked and perfectly preserved, these objects were the first, and to date only items of jewelry to have been found in the Valley since Howard Carter unearthed Tutankhamun in 1922.

Necropolis Unearthed!

This is a page right out of the Mummy. A veritable "city of the dead" was discovered recently. From the Boston Globe:

ROME - Workers renovating a rugby stadium have uncovered a vast complex of tombs beneath Rome that mimic the houses, blocks and streets of a real city, officials said yesterday as they unveiled a series of new finds here.

Culture Ministry officials said that medieval pottery shards in the city of the dead, or necropolis, show the area may have been inhabited by the living during the Dark Ages after being used for centuries for burials during the Roman period.


Archeologists restoring the imperial residences on the Palatine Hill, the heart of ancient Rome, believe they have discovered the underground passageway in which the despotic Emperor Caligula was murdered by his own guards.

The hill, which is honeycombed with ruins of palaces and villas, has also yielded frescoes and black-and-white mosaics in the first century BC home of a patrician, the ministry said in a statement.


BBC has their take...

"Dragons" Munch on Indonesian Fisherman

This story actually terrifies me. Lizards are weird and repulsive right? Well imagine a big one-- longer than you are tall--chasing you down and munching on you until you bleed to death. Oh, and it carries deadly venom [not bacteria]* in it's saliva...

So at the very least, you'll be hurting big time, for a long time to come....if you survive. That poor guy ended up bleeding to death when Komodo Dragons tried to make a meal of him.


/props to CNN.

*Updated on 5-20-09, per new findings that indicate komodo's use venom not bacteria in their saliva as previously thought.

Hobbits Discovered!

No, not the cute, cuddly, furry-footed, Elijah Wood variety. This kind:

...and that's supposedly a female. Well an artist's conception anyway. Scary, huh? I'm not sure that's even the "hobbit" they found, but it's definitely post-worthy material. It's those eyes (shudders).

Anyway, you've probably heard about this already from a few years back. But that one wasn't the real deal. This time, scientists are confident about their findings of a race of 'little people'.

In an astonishing discovery that could rewrite the history of human evolution, scientists say they have found the skeleton of a new human species, a dwarf, marooned for eons in a tropical Lost World while modern humans rapidly colonized the rest of the planet.

The finding on a remote Indonesian island has stunned anthropologists like no other in recent memory. It is a fundamentally new creature that bears more of a resemblance to fictional, barefooted hobbits than modern humans.

Yet biologically speaking, it may have been closely related to us and perhaps even shared its caves with our ancestors.


Nat Geo has more as well...

Discover Magazine has even more...

4,000 Year-old Temple Discovered....

Perhaps one of the oldest known religious sites was discovered recently--a temple dating back to antiquity.

From the MSNBC article:
NICOSIA, Cyprus - An Italian archaeologist claimed Friday to have discovered Cyprus' oldest religious site, which she said echoes descriptions in the Bible of temples in ancient Palestine.

Maria Rosaria Belgiorno said the 4,000-year-old triangular temple predates any other found on the east Mediterranean island by a millennium.


Playing catch up....

Well I've had this idea to do this blog for a while. And while I'm sure it's not a new or even original thought, I have always considered it to be a nice way to catalog great source material for stories, scripts, etc. I think I held off because I couldn't really picture how it would flow. But tonight I finally decided to just start--and sometimes that's what's needed. That and a good name for the blog, which I'm still not sure about, but at least I finally picked one. Some of the stories for a while here will seem old, and that's because I haven't jumped on this when I started seeing stories. So for a while at least, you'll see some older articles. If I get the opportunity, I'll try to sprinkle in some newer finds.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Crossing the Threshold...

Ever read a news story and thought that it sounded like a plot from a movie? Or seen a story on a newly discovered creature or scientific discovery and imagined what it would be like in a story or game? Well this blog is all about those "truth is stranger than fiction" aspects of our world that could actually become seeds in a growing imaginary saga. Think of this as part X-files, part Indiana Jones, part DaVinci Code. Or just think of it as a place to get new ideas for that project your working on.

So where does this goofy title come from? In Greek mythology, the hero Theseus was cast into a mysterious underground labyrinth and stalked by the half man-half bull minotaur. He used his wits to surprise and slay the beast, but he still had to escape the treacherous maze. He took with him no torch or lantern to light the way in the darkness below. He had only a spool of thread, which he unfurled as he entered the maze so he could find his way back out by touch alone. The thread was his anchor to the outside world and his way home. Without it, his adventure would have come to an untimely end forever trapped in the twists and turn of the labyrinth. And without the notion of it in his story, his his quest might not have had captivated generations of adventure seekers since.

So take note: this is your gate to a world of adventure that lies around every corner of the globe. Like the thread in the maze, you can pick up clues that might serve to inspire you as you weave your own weird, mystifying, and fantastic tales. Get ready to follow the THREADS OF ADVENTURE!