Paper Planes

404 Pages, Old Hoaxers
& Staying Dry in the Rain

This being Summer Solstice time, it seems appropriate to bring you these stories, each with a temporal slant. One would not be possible a few decades ago; another no longer makes much sense; and yet the other one is ageless. So, no sweat, we’ve got you covered.
On the Internet, no one knows you got lost; or that you landed on a ‘Not Found’ page. The Society Against Quackery would not tolerate such nonsense 130 years ago. And yet, since time immemorial, there’s been Virga, a special kind of rain: the type that doesn’t make you wet.
What? Didn’t they use to count paper planes on New York City streets? Or holes in Blackburn Lancashire? Indeed they did, so it shouldn’t shock you if we pick the odd or the unusual for a summer read, rather than the bloody or the bombastic. For there’ll be plenty of that too.
There’s a new Pride Flag with a welcome element of racial tolerance. And, yes, the season’s proverbial love stories already abound, along those from the 1967 Summer of Love. And the breeze, and that girl from Ipanema, and all cliches about heat and hurricanes.
Since warm days go by faster in the north, they’ll still be filled with talk about ice cream and beaches, parties and drought. Just as Earth will keep on getting warmer, and this sort of conversation feels like sand inside one’s swimming suits. Blame us for wanting you to take it easy.
THIS CALL CANNOT BE COMPLETED
So what’s wrong with searching and not finding? Not acceptable these days. See, even when one lands on uncharted territory, it’s no longer an excuse to avoid making assumptions. Or post your cluelessness on Facebook. No opinion should be spared. Thus the 404 pages.
Which is now as entertaining as if you’d reached a site about scientific curiosities. Museums, institutions, companies, and individuals, all jockey to come up with clever ways to cushion your crushing results. It’s Ok, the image and wording seem to say. Here, see how funny this is.
As for the code number, like a lot of what still compounds our journeys online, it had a nerdy origin, such as some room number in a building once fully occupied by an electronic brain, as it was know. Or it was by chance, depending of who you find still wondering in the space formerly known as cyber.
THE OLD FLIM-FLAM DEBUNKERS
Way before Tim Berners-Lee was born – the World Wide Web inventor just turned 62 last week – or there was need for Snopes, a group of Dutch skeptics recognized the potential harm hidden behind human gullibility. And decided to mount a defense against those who’d gladly take advantage of it.
If the Internet metastasized the power of deceivers, in 1881, snake oil salesmen, mystics, end-of-the-world profiteers, and an entire array of their ilk, were already doing irreparable damage out of others’ (more)
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Earth Cavities

Worlds Inside, Real & Imagined,
Offer Insights Into Human Psyche

‘Why may we not suppose four ninths of our globe to be cavity?’ Edmond Halley’s 1692 Hollow Earth theory was rightly debunked for its faulty science. But it did lend, at least for a while, credence to a recurrent feature in ancient mythology, folklore, and legends.
No pun intended but underneath it all, he too was drawn to the allure of tunnels, caves, and the underground. The hidden and the obscure are innate to our psyche and beliefs, just as natural or manufactured burrows, are ideal temples for practical and mystical needs.
‘Descend, bold traveller, into the crater of the jökull of Snæfell, (…) to attain the centre of the earth. I did it. Arne Saknussemm.’ Two centuries after the Isaac Newton collaborator made famous by a comet had given up on his idea, Jules Verne concocted his own atemporal version of the enduring myth, in the best-selling novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Halley, an accomplished scientist thought to have been instrumental for the 1687 publishing of the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, was ironically betrayed by what’s deemed a flaw of the revolutionary treatise: Newton’s erroneous attribution for the mass of the Moon.
By overweighting that mass in relation to Earth, by a factor of 1 to 26, instead of 1:81, the man responsible to our understanding of gravity laws unwittingly gave room to Halley’s supposition: Earth should be hollow, possibly inhabited. And the source of the Aurora Borealis, too.
None of this is detrimental to the two genius of science, or our debt to them. But Halley’s hypothesis did hit a resonant note, if not for its sacred past, then for a long string of mentally ill visionaries and phony prophets, way back from the Enlightenment to, sadly, our days.
BELOW THE BOTTOM
Even before antiquity, caverns were considered places of power, dwelling of spirits of good and evil, passages to other worlds. Many peoples and tribes, some whose descendants still walk among us, believed that the’d come from the Earth’s insides, and were supposed to return there someday.
All civilizations had some reference to the underworld, the Hades, the place where the dead lived. Dante Alighieri placed the Christian hell under our feet, so the faithful would live in fear and don’t stray. Throughout history, burials may have been so popular presumably for reasons other than just recycling.
Even today, some believe that UFOs actually come from beneath us. And just like vampires, fly out at night from hidden entrances in the poles. But the fact is, even if it were scientifically possible for this rock to have a giant hole inside, without cracking, it wouldn’t be big enough to accommodate all theories about it.
SECLUDED CATHEDRALS
To be sure, nature is not shy of keeping us away from its secrets, and often land or underwater caves are as inaccessible to most humans as the outer space is. Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the world’s largest cave, has its own jungle, rivers, and climate. And lethal challenges and a roll call of dead people too.
Its exploration is beyond most people’s athleticism and endurance. Just like astronauts are a special breed, so are cave enthusiasts. Also, due to Earth’s volatile geological and seismic configuration, while there may be even bigger caves yet to be discovered, some may suddenly cave in or shape up overnight.
Just as their enclosed universe will remain intimate and challenging, so will one’s connexion with those places. They may serve as a meditation sanctuary or a spot to hide, and the strength of one’s (more)
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Rainforest Rundown

The Amazon’s Ancient Wonders,
Current Misery & Its Worst Foes

When Colltales started, seven years ago this Earth Day week, the environmental disaster du jour was BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve survived that, but many species haven’t. Now the still living, breathing, exuberant Amazon Rainforest may be where our next big screwup will take place, as proof that little has changed.
We’re still as likely to discover a Stonehenge-like monument, or 2,000-year old earthworks, or a 3,600-square-mile coral reef where the Amazon meets the Atlantic, as we’re to find that our taste for burgers is killing the jungle, deforestation rates are again on the rise, or that the Brazilian president is actually out to to cash in the forest.
Did we mention the neck-breaking pace of murders of green activists? Or the river of flowing boiling water? Nothing in the Amazon is mild or accommodating; it’s either an explosion of millions of still unknown species, or the soul-crushing wildlife and climate change indifference, shared by many Brazilians.
That’s why scientists fear the worst: not just that we won’t get to learn all that’s there for millennia to be discovered, but that today’s staggering beauty and power of the Rainforest will be reduced to a vast desert of its sandy soil, unprotected by the canopy and terminally exposed to the elements.
It’s ironic, then, that a deranged Brazilian conspiracy theory, dear to xenophobic and fanatics alike, is about some secret society of wealthy individuals, that’s supposedly been working to yank the forest out Brazil’s control and ownership. Suddenly, that prospect seem better than the current reality.

STONEHENGE, GEOGLYPHS & REEFS
Think about indigenous tribes? think again, for it was a cattle ranch foreman who stumbled upon some rocks piled up on a curious position, in what it’s now known as a thousand-year Stonehenge formation, probably built for the same purpose as the one in the U.K. And just as mysterious.
Just like the even older miles of earthworks, geoglyphs as deep as 16 feet and wide as a mile, proving the forest as home to some busybodies centuries before Europeans came to loot it. The discovery opens a new chapter into the history of the Amazon, one that unfortunately we may not get to finish reading.
Nature kept pace with all this human activity, and in unexpected ways too. Where the mighty Amazon reaches the sea, the crash of two powerful forces is long known as the Pororoca. That’s where lies miles of previously undiscovered coral reefs, coated most of the year by the river’s thick mud. Ready for swim?

BURGERS, MINERS & SLAVES
Not so fast. That juicy staple of American cuisine, now massively popular all over the globe, has something else questionable about it, besides being made of slaughtered cows: its smoky, ashy, scorched-earth rainforest sauce. No other way of putting it: cattle in the Amazon was always a bad idea.
But the meat industry is not the only woe helping clearing the forest: mining projects may deliver another blow to the entire region, if environmental regulations are eased as the Brazilian government plans. Even as is, (more)
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World Snatchers

Relax, There’s a Chance It
Will All End Up With a Blast

The danger of normalizing something so terminally outrageous is that it makes us all numb, complacent, vulnerable. Suddenly, yesterday’s inconceivable is today’s inevitable, and what we’ve been resisting against for millennia finally breaks through and flips us all into ashes.
Take meteorites, for instance – what? you thought we were talking about something else? One just zapped by Earth this week and didn’t even make to the front pages. NASA says there may be a couple more with our street address on them, heading our way. What then?
There’s an underfunded agency tracking so-called near Earth objects, sizable enough to cause harm. But size was relative in the dinosaur demise, 65 million years ago. Bigger rocks have hit the planet before and after, with little notice or damage. Luck us.
Still, if the risk is in the angle and substance, not scope or even speed, so be it. Few remember but in 2013, the world was expecting an asteroid to pass at large, when out of the blue, another, unknown, exploded over the skies of Russia. Luck was indeed in the angle.
Call us paranoid but when the eruption of the Vesuvius finally made it to the headlines of the day, it’s likely that the lava was already eating the town by its borders. And even if it caught some overly worried like us in its wake, most of the cautious had already made out of the joint.

THE HARMLESS FLEET & THE UNDETECTED KILLER
The unsettling thing about 2017 FU102, the near-Earth asteroid that zapped by us Sunday, was not that it passed at 0.6 times the mean distance of the Moon, but that it’d been discovered only four days before. Ok, so it was a 10-meter rock, that at the most, would’ve probably smashed a car, if it’d crashed.
But by the same measure of anticipation, had it been a thousand times bigger, even with over a year of advanced notice, there’d still be little for us to do. What, with our current state of affairs, many would’ve likely spent millions trying to prove that it was all NASA’s invention.
At the end of the day, it is the luck of the draw that we haven’t been hit yet. And, to some extent, spending millions trying to come up with a way to divert these civilization killers may not count on many supporters. But the alternative sucks: what to do in the waiting months till the inexorable?

METEOR SHOWERS & THE NEW FIREBALL SEASON
There are many who appreciate regularly scheduled meteor showers, multiple annual night presentations sponsored by nature, going on since before we came into the picture. On the 22nd this month, for example, we’ll have the Lyrid Showers, and who knows what does heaven have in store for us.
But the er big stars of every year is the Perseid, on August, the November Leonid, and the Geminid in December. There are more, some not big enough to have a name. By all accounts, showers are benign and entertaining, when it doesn’t rain, of course. Kids love them, perhaps because they happen late in the evening.
Another thing altogether is dealing with the term Fireball Season, possibly coined by H.R. MacMillan Space Centre astronomer Derek Kief. One can’t help it but to fear the implicit ominousness of such (more)
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Stay Awake

Top Reasons to Have
Nightmares in October

Despite all fake blood and make-believe spooks, plus the prospect of wholesome fun at movies and parties, the only dread still linked to Halloween is the obscene bite U.S. retailers snack out of it. So, at the intersection of what’s left of a pagan ritual, and the irony of grownups dressed up as bloodsuckers, here’s our own fright list.
True, nothing to bury you alive, or squeeze your sphincter to the point of constipation. Just five anxiety-driving reasons to refill your meds, and toss and turn all night in bed. You know, the usual suspects: fears about the future, or the past, or the future turning into the past, and, of course, crawling creatures and robots.
Now, the ability of some to still be scared means that somehow they care. And not many of us carry the burden of giving anything two flying er schmucks. But for those who do, sorry about the cliché but be afraid, be very afraid. Thus, this abridged inventory for the sake of offering anyone a warning shot about what may lie ahead. Consider yourself warned.
It may serve other purposes as well. Feel free to design a costume based on it, shocking enough to impress jaded friends and floor that cute Michael Meyers who struck your fancy at last year’s parade. In the process, you may exorcise that nasty heartburn. Just add spark and pointed teeth and voilá: even bad news take a break, sometimes.

cincoWE’RE IN THIS MATRIX, YOU SEE
Leave it to Wall Street to create new distractions, so while we get busy on social media, banksters subtract yet another dime from our future. But Bank of America Merrill Lynch may have broken new ground, even to seasoned con artists like, well, not us. It’s about the Matrix, you know?
In a note to clients, the bank that was found liable for mortgage fraud and paid in 2013 a $1.27 billion fine (in a government ruling since overturned), pompously warns that ‘It’s conceivable that (…) future civilizations could have decided to run a simulation of their ancestors,’ which means you, Keanu Reeves, and everyone else.
We’ve heard that before, of course, which makes one wonder, hey, where did I leave my wallet? For, while BoA, and every deranged preacher you never heard of, may be flashing their cards for our attention, about a future only they know about, it’s simply common sense to swoosh your cape and walk away, just in case.

quatroTHE EVIL THAT (MADEUP) MAN DO
You know that one: a lot of people are afraid of clowns, so why not start a crazy clown wave, with blurry video and threats to little children, just so we’re all on the same page? It’s on everywhere, and in the minds of publicity hounds, who’re smacking their heads, thinking, why haven’t I come up with such genius idea?
Hold on to your big shoes, Bozos, it’s all a fad. And the backlash is already apace, with mobs chasing down recovery pervs just because they’ve got the wrong shade of orange hair. Oh, sorry, that was a Trump rally. Nevertheless. Let’s keep an eye on those whose appearance is no cause for alarm, instead.
Or get rid of this paranoid mania, disseminated by not so clueless officials, that if you see something, you should tell on them to your local war weaponry-equipped Squad team, even if you have no proof of wrongdoing, or are out to get your poor Uncle Bob. That doesn’t mean your kids should like clowns again. Are you crazy? they’re creepy.

tresIT’S HAIRY, CRAWLS & CAN HEAR YOU
This is arguably the most frequent character in people’s nightmares, so it’s no wonder that every October there are some kind of unbearably frightening news about them. For if cats rule the Internet, spiders reign over everyone’s worst possible scenario. But until now, we were not supposed to shush in their presence too.
A new study found that spiders have an acute sense of hearing, and do hear you talking trash about them from across the room. So much for ears: they don’t have them. Still, you can hardly, if ever, hear them back. Until, of course, it’s too late, you’re covered with them, and… STOP!
They’re actually wonderfully creatures, crawling on this earth for some 380 million years. They nurture their young and occasionally eat their mates, but hey, who’ll miss them anyway? (more)
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Head & Tails

Who Is the Mad Dog 
Murdering English Cats?

Maybe it’s Internet envy. You know, people who hate you just because you’re all over the Web. And your name is Justin Bieber. The culprit is unlikely to be among cat’s biggest enemies (no, not dogs): bird lovers. But watch out: the U.K. has a serial kitty killer on the prowl.
Nothing cute about it, though. Someone is beheading cats in the South London Croydon neighborhood, and police has no clues, other than the killings are gruesome and ostensible: the psycho leaves mutilated bodies where their human companions can easily come across them.
Again, it may have to do with Internet access and its magnifying effect. For justAtop a Mountain, in Calp, Spain (Aleksandr Osipov:NatGeo)a few decades ago, serial killers were known mostly by law enforcement agents. Now, you need to ask your Uncle Bob to please, shut up already, when he babbles about them as if they were his pub buddies.
Their creepy habits, pathology, and biographies are a constant theme of family dinner conversations, and inspiration to countless movie plots; best seller books and even songs have been written about them, and everybody seems to have heard of that lonely soul who married one in jail.
That’s how most of us know of a particularly haunting trait they all seem to share: an early childhood taste for torturing and murdering small animals. Thus, the British press, not particularly known for nuanced coverage, sobriquet for the newest psychopath: Croydon Cat Ripper.

BLOOD SPREADING OR COPYCATS?
Cats have attracted extreme passion or fear throughout history, and the overstatement needs no emphasis. From ancient Egyptian adoration to Dark Ages‘ obscurantism to redemption through the Black Plague, the domestic feline trajectory with humans has been as vertigo-inducing as a roller coaster.
But once clichés are set aside, a richer picture emerge, of a creature with a rare appeal, both aloof and Zen-like tempered; independent, suffused with mystery, and yet, resolutely loyal to those who (more)
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Thinking With Tentacles

Mad Penguins & Whale Accents
in the Court of the Octopus King

Research into the natural world has been a reliable way of gauging our walk on this planet, and where we’re probably heading to. But a new approach, devoid of any rancid anthropomorphism, has offered fresh insights into animal intelligence. And the results are remarkable.
Heard the one about whales with a Caribbean accent? Or penguins having sex parties wilder than drunken priests? But no one was ready to witness an octopus opening a jar from inside, or sneaking out at night to feed on crabs nearby, before returning to its tank. Or not.
What these and other animals prove is that cognitive ability is not a human monopoly. In fact, whenever the need to compare them with us is subtracted from the equation, crows, cephalopods, and pigeons, to name a few, can outsmart a thinking bloke often in a radical way.
Evolution has proposed alternatives to some species so far from our own, that they could be almost aliens raised in Pluto for we know. Since we no longer equate physiology with identity, it’d be better get acquainted with mental prowess that owes nothing to rationality.
Not that we even apply it to everything, and yes, to us, there is something wrong with that. But elephants have always cried of sadness, and chickens do side up with individuals in danger. We were just too busy trading their tusk for the ivory, or simply eating them, to pay any attention.

ADÉLIES JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN
Let’s get this out of the way: penguins are not humans, thus morality is not an issue, even if a colony, in the distance, looks like a black-tie cocktail party. And for belting out loud, the Adélies have nothing on the singing lady Adele. But when it comes to parties, theirs do get wild.
During Capt. Scott‘s second, and doomed, trip to Antarctica, between 1910-13, George Murray Levick wrote of widespread necrophilia, males sexually coercing young chicks, before killing them, and shock, having sex with other males. To him, it was ‘depravity,’ and his notes (in Ancient Greek, to harden access to them) went missing.
Till now: they’ve been uncovered and bad ‘science’ journalism have ensued, of course. But the biggest recent news about the Adélie had nothing to do with sex. In February, it was reported that 150,000 penguins died, after being landlocked by the fracture of a giant iceberg.
But it was a hoax, better researched stories have confirmed. Neither sex fiends nor massacred by climate change, yet, penguins are just, once again, being victims of bad reporting. Why we care has nothing to do with humanity either: they just look like us. We’re already changing their history. Time to tell their stories way better, too.

DEEP SONGS & ACCENTED CLICKS
Since at least the 1970s, news about whales is always surprising, even as their numbers keeping receding towards extinction. The size of their brains, rich social lives, their songs, complex and uniquely identified with their pods. And then there’s the loneliest of them all.
The fact that research into these massive but elusive species has reached such a level of sophistication is, in itself, (more)
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