The Undreamed World

Forget Exoplanets. Here’s
the Ninth, the X & the Quirky

When things get rough on the ground, we can always look up. Seven and half billion currently trudging along on this big rock can take solace that the universe is vast and beautiful and always available. It’s also uncaring and violent, but we won’t get into that today.
Part of this soothing feeling is because we don’t know what’s up there. Astronomers wonder if there’s an undiscovered giant orbiting the sun. And another Earth-sized one. And a quirky object too. Or none of the above. We learn a lot by simply not knowing much.
But it’s fun to wonder. Or is it? The cosmos is so disproportionally big that no single mind can wrap itself around it. Large but short of infinity, it baffles and ignores us, while we dream on. Or have nightmares about it. It doesn’t care, but to us, it’s the stuff of, well, you know.
Heard about Nemesis, the sun’s evil twin? Or the identical Earth hidden behind the sun? Both are reasonable guesses, but their currency can only be exchanged at an imaginary box office at the end of the galaxy. One of them is actually a sci-fi movie plot. We may find out some day, but math will probably get there first.
The breakthrough era of exoplanet discoveries and look-alike solar systems has nothing on such suspicions. They date back to the 1800s, when hot-as-the-sun disputes drove many an even-tempered scientist to near madness. Math always gets there first. But even after a century, we’re still way too far behind.

THE SECRET TRANS-NEPTUNIAN COLOSSUS
Planet 9 has been orbiting the slumber of astrophysicists since they first studied the solar system. Something massive has been disturbing Earth’s siblings practically from the universe’s inception and wild youth, back in 2016 minus 4.6 billion years ago. Maybe we’ll find out what.
Mankind owes Percival Lowell the hunt for this ninth planet. His calculations missed the giant but led to the discovery of Pluto, 15 years after his death, a century ago last year. But Pluto can’t explain the orbital disturbances, and that likely doomed it too.
In 2006, the International Astronomical Union downgraded it to dwarf planet, giving grief to many. That left the spot #9 empty, and astronomers have a hunch that its next occupant resides in the area beyond Neptune, a kind of suburbs of the solar system, if you’d insist.
But we may be still years away from direct detection. After all, those outskirts lay at least 300 times farther from the sun than the Blue Planet, and whatever lurks there it’s simply too hard to spot from our backyard. But we might. Just hold off the welcome B-B-Q for now.

A POSSIBLE BRAND NEW TWIN OF EARTH
Taking about burbs, the Kuiper Belt, an area fraught with debris possibly left over from a planetary explosion, and from where most comets come out shooting, may be the neighborhood of yet another unknown object. But this time, it’s of a cozy, Earth-sized scale.
Astronomers suspect that it’s the source of disturbance of the Belt’s 600 objects they’ve been monitoring. Considerably closer to us, and much smaller than Planet 9, it’s been nicknamed Planet 10, but not everyone wants to be quoted on that or even is on board about it.
The scientific community has a healthy skeptical attitude about new claims, specially something they may missed for so long. Humans love a thrill, however, and the spectacular discovery of a new planet (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Gatekeeper of Outerspace
* Heed My Leaps
* Worlds Away

Continue reading

Wacky Dates

Pick a Day & Give It a Spin,
So Life Won’t Grow Too Stale

Calendars would be a boring way of marking time if we didn’t assign each day with a different meaning. In fact, some days no longer fit within a regular sequence of numbers and need to be movable, so to fulfill their main function: making us forget the inexorability of time.
Then again, holidays, specially those named after people and events, are also boring. Thus the wacky dates we pick to honor an odd occurrence, or a rare fetish, even an artifact made memorable by a work of fiction.
Tomorrow is Hug Your Cat Day, for instance. In the U.S., pretty much every day of the calendar has been appropriated, often unduly, by a war battle, a religious imperative, or perhaps worst, an industry seeking exposure. Boring, boring, boring. And let’s not get started with those for which many make a wise point in skipping altogether.
But finding a way to make a day feel different – apart from the reality that, indeed, no two are alike even though it all feels the same to most – is not an American monopoly. Around the world, people memorialize the weird, the bizarre, and the quirky, as if their hold on life depends on it.
It’s also human to name things, moments, even parts of one’s anatomy. It all fits within the confines of that other inexorability: sameness, or our fear of succumbing to it, and disappearing without trace. Which winds up happening any way, in one way or another.
But some of these out of the ordinary dates extrapolate not just that sameness, but also the 24-hour expiration time of each day, either spilling into a festival, or taking place at different places, so to make sure everyone gets in that opportunity to stand out.
Curiously, festivals such La Tomatina, which is a late August movable feast that looks like a pagan orgy in red, have the exact opposite effect: who can be singled out in a sea of bodies digging in the mud of smashed tomatoes? So much for a collective longing to be unique.

A DAY TO NOT STAND STILL
But mostly, whacky holidays are created in the spirit of fun, including the Indian Cow Procession Day (Nov.8) or the Thai Monkey Buffet Festival (Nov. 28), despite their sanctimonious pseudo-homage to animals. In the end, they could as well dive into the mud just for the sake of it.
Others, if not spectacularly dull like Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day (Jan.17), are at least kind of sophomoric such as Pillow Fight Day (April 4). And then there are those loaded with political correctness, such as the Buy Nothing Day, a nemesis for the ignominious Black Friday. No fun.
Of course they don’t come close to the ominousness of Meteor Day (Nov.6, and you know what it means). Instead, the rest of us would rather side up with the jocose, semi-fictitious Festivus (Dec.23) and, just for good measure, be totally, unwaveringly biased towards Global Orgasm Day (Dec.22).

IF IT QUACKS LIKE A DUCK
A favorite of quirky minds, and perhaps one with the best subtext among our mundane ephemeris, is the upcoming Dead Duck Day (June 5), which marks a scientific breakthrough: the ‘first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard.’ The back story is funnier than that, though.
It all started in 1995, when a male duck crashed against the glass wall of the Rotterdam Natural History Museum and died on the spot. Then, to the astonishment of everyone, another male mounted the corpse of the bird and proceed to copulate with it for 75 minutes straight!
The unusual event, and origin of the quacky, er, Continue reading

Village People

Three Towns: Sudden Slumber,
Aging Dreams & Cozy Oblivion

In one, people are falling asleep without warning. In another, they’ve dropped out long ago. And yet, the other shelters the mentally afflicted. There are places we move to, and places we’d rather stay clear of. And then there are the ones we visit for a life-changing experience.
This being the first day of Spring in the northeast, despite the snow forecast, discerning globetrotters would be already pressed to plan that skew, cultural-enhancing time off. Let us introduce them to three places capable of matching their inquisitive minds. Still with us?
There would be little sense in talking about the blue of the Caribbean sea, or the gusts of the Mongolian steppes. There’s even less to tell to those seeking the familiarity of pool attendants and the exotic sway of foreign shores. Let them go and pray that they keep their memories for themselves.
It’d also be unsound to send light-headed travelers to places where daily gunfire chases away beauty, and extreme poverty strips locals of dignity. Let’s let that to unsavory tourist guides, with their slick packages and greased brochures, and take a moment to mourn those stranded in bloody beaches.
Still, it’s a vast and mostly uncovered world, if one cares enough to learn while traveling, and leave a gentle impression before returning. Just like Sahara sands cross the Atlantic and fertilize the Amazon Rainforest, a journey should sow some seeds for every root uncovered.
Then again, why invoke a haboob, or a bad pun, to make a cross-pollination point? A trip is often worthier for the places it opens up within the traveler’s mind than the ones visited by the body. Thus our urge to introduce these towns, where residents may have something to uncover within you.

DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES IN KALACHI
Few outside this town of less than 700 people in Kazakhstan had heard of it before 2010. That’s when the outbreak of a still unidentified malady was first reported: people would suddenly fall asleep and remain like that for hours and even days. It continues to happen.
Five years later, and countless outbreaks since then, Continue reading

Dime a Dozen

Who’ll Notice If These
12 Street Kids Are Gone?

Take a good look at these faces. If we were to pull your heartstrings, picture them dreaming of being doctors, artists, teachers, even presidents of their countries. Chances are, however, they’ll never make it. Both statistically and in real life, it’s likely they’re already gone.
Despite their resemblance to kids you know, they only count as dehumanized figures of ignored treatises on the homeless, the war, infant mortality, hunger, prostitution, slavery. Not to break those strings, but you may pass daily by them and not even notice.
Yes, they have stories, and much good to contribute to the world, and who knows, maybe among them there’s someone who one day could even save your life. But that doesn’t mean much.
And yes, there are a lot of people who spend their waking hours, and sleepless nights, working and wondering what to do, so unrelated children will be cared for just as if they belong to families and loving friends and an empathetic society. But most of them do not, and won’t get a chance to even know what that means.

You’re still free to wonder about whatever happened to Alex or Indira, after they posed with their sleeping cots, and you may search on the Internet for the identity of those two Cambodian boys, sleeping embraced on a set of steps. We added the photographers’ names just in case.
You may also inquire around about those two girls, among thousands of others, who seemed so happy with the bottles of water they’ve retrieved amid the rubble of Gaza. Or you may wish that those two boys, who’ve crossed the border of Syria to Turkey with their families, have found shelter.
We won’t stand on your way. In fact, we’d even appreciate if you could help finding out who are those four American kids, sleeping in what seems to be an abandoned room, Continue reading

Booking the Summer

Six Reads to Befriend
in the Next Four Weeks

Hard as you may, you won’t find many book reviews on this site. Hardly any. Ok, one or two; at this point, we’re not too sure. Nevertheless (a word people often invoke in the presence of books, for some reason), authors are kind enough to keep sending us some for our consideration.
This being summer’s last month in the North, and summer being a season when even those with idle minds, get themselves a book or so to read, for some reason, it may be as good a time as any to offer you, avid reader, six more items to pack along with your beach gear.
None too soon, to be sure, as August is also known to suffuse with angst some of us who can’t even afford taking vacations, let alone having unrequited thoughts about Labor Day, fall, end of the year, whatever. That, of course, and the year’s biggest Supermoon, mad dogs, and werewolves.
We insist, though, these are no reviews, and if they may, for a sentence or two, resemble one, you’re allowed to call it quits and deny under oath that you’ve read it first here. Regardless (another word that people, etc.), you may take with you the basic info that’ll be provided free of charge.
That, by the way, is exactly our terms for accepting books to write about. Thus, feel free to take your pick among the themes permeating our list. Mystery, adventure, science, personal miseries, and thoughts about the awareness of animals may sound just like what one may seek to dwell on, in these last dog days of heat and sweat.
Finally, you ought to know that we haven’t finished reading some of them. But before you curse at us, let us offer you the tenor of our off-key intent: you won’t be biased neither by our personal take on them nor by commercial pursuit, so you’ll be freer to browse them at your own volition, as you would at a bookstore.
We won’t tell you our favorites either, or which order we’re following reading them. For we’ll be reading each one of them, as you read this. Thus, it’s just like we’ve preceded you at that bookstore by just a few hours, and already grabbed a half dozen tomes, so you don’t have to take time away from that cocktail of yours. Enjoy the reading.

NEW MEXICO ADVENTURE
Jack Purcell, editor of the popular So Far From Heavens blog, puts his THE LOST ADAMS DIGGINGS, Myth, Mystery and Madness, as ‘a study of a legend and the men who believed in it at a time when men were still inclined to believe in such things.’ He spent decades following a century-old trail of a gold and silver treasure, which eluded many an explorer before.
It’s a fascinating account that combines successive searches for the diggings, that preceded him, with his own tenacious path uncovering clues and old maps. What Purcell’s discovered is now up to you to find out, having him as your trustworthy guide. NineLives Press, 2003.
A SPACE ODYSSEY
Edgar Mitchell is a member of one of the world’s rarest communities: he’s one of the 12 men who’s walked on the Moon. His EARTHRISE, My Adventures as an Apollo 14 Astronaut, is an earnest account by the pilot of the 1971 mission’s lunar module, curiously narrated with his Boy Scout sedated voice, not that of a Navy fighter with an Ph.D. degree from MIT.
There are, however, thrilling passages, as during the struggle to bring the plagued Apollo 13 back to Earth, or when he talks about a long-distance Extrasensorial Perception Continue reading

Forty Seven

The Legendary Tower of David, in Caracas (Iwan Bann) Click for Video

Twin Baffling Towers &
a Prefab Random Number

The 47What links two unfinished skyscrapers, an unjustified fervor toward a two-digit number, some touches of sci-fi lore, and a whiff of a possible hoax? why, an infamous famine, lots of greed, and gumption to find conspiracy in everything.
Thus, there’s the year 1847 in Ireland, then a tower in Venezuela that became the world’s tallest slum, another in Spain said to have been built without elevators, and a still unexplained drive towards making the number 47 the sum of all values.
In the age of the Internet, anything has the potential to become a ‘proven’ fact, a sinister possibility, a malevolent hoax, and the stuff dreams are made of, all rolled into one big scheme of beliefs, hollow at the center, and devoid of a shred of evidence.
Its face value, though, can at times emulate a deeper meaning, and lend purpose to many an empty life, just like a lie, even without ever adding to the truth, still gathers enough zest of it to shine like a fake diamond and fool just like anyone.
We happened upon the number 47 by chance but were never impressed about it. Even before arching back to the 19th century and the luck of the Irish, its only feeble connection with those buildings was how many stores they both carry up the sky.
But then came the ‘official society,’ the conflicting prefab theories by Trekkies and Douglas Adams buffs, an inordinate amount of mumble-jumble, and the likelihood, always present, that some lunatic fringe group is laughing out loud about it all.
It’s possible. It wouldn’t be the first time we were the butt of an inside joke. But stepping over sleeping beasts is also part of life, and while some cheerfully spend time concocting ways to amuse themselves, many more have to climb up and down 47 floors.
The Intempo Tower, in Spain (Jamie Condliffe)
QUOTE-UNQUOTE MINDS
‘Forty-seven is the most commonly occurring two-digit random number.’ That’s how a Website dedicated to it defines its appeal. Just like that. The ‘proof’ presented is almost as flimsy: ‘the extraordinary number of times the number 47 occurs in factoids.’ We’re done here.
It’s far from the truth, of course. In fact, it’s doubtful that any mathematician would concur to such a bombastic affirmation. Then
Continue reading

Man Made

We Build Automata So to
Mend Our Broken Dreams

‘We’re not computers, Sebastian, we’re physical,’ says Replicant Roy Batty to the brilliant but emotionally stunted genetic designer J.F., in Blade Runner, after he asked Roy and Priss to ‘do something.’
We’ve been asking these quasi-beings that we create to ever so closely resemble our own likeness, to do things for us since at least the 300s BCE, when mathematician Archytas built his steam powered dove.
From that first artificial bird to today’s wonders of modern animatronics on the screen, and Japanese robots all around, we’ve built a hefty utopian timeline of artificial bodies, made of assorted materials or other body parts. No wonder, they also litter the stuff of our nightmares.
Designed to obey, first, then to go where no human could possibly survived, as Philip K. Dick envisioned, we seemed to have this immemorial angst of beating god at his own game and develop a more faithful companion than our own kind, only to get frustrated, if they’d grow too loyal, or killed, if they’d turn on us.
Fictionally, of course. Even though we should’ve known better by now, we still pursue a variety of traditions of supernatural beings doing things for us or to us, creating and destroying our world at will, acting just like summarized versions of the supreme invisible deity billions believe controls our every move on this planet.
From the Golem to Godzilla, from Adam to Frankenstein, we’re transfixed by the thought of being capable of creating or even conceiving another animated body, made of mud or plastic, that could sooth our desperate loneliness in a vast, totally indifferent universe.
It could as well be that we’re just bored, or no longer can stand any of the other 6,999,999,999 bodies cramped and imprisoned in this tiny rock, swirling steadily but completely out of our control, and dream of Continue reading