Saturday, 28 February 2009

'Giant leap for the first man...'

'The earliest human footprints made 1.5million years ago have been discovered in Kenya.

Two sets of prints were left by Homo ergaster, an early ancestor of modern humans, in separate rock layers near Ileret in northern Kenya.

Laser scanning revealed that the creature walked the same way as people do today.'


Thursday, 26 February 2009

Rebuilding the Temple...

'Brick by brick, tiny figure by tiny figure, Alec Garrard has painstakingly worked for 30 years on an astonishing recreation of Herod's Temple.

But despite spending all that time and effort the retired farmer believes he won't finish it in his lifetime as he keeps finding things to add to it.

In contrast, legend has it that the original construction of the entire complex lasted only three years, although historians believe it took far longer.

It was his fascination for religion and buildings which first started Alec on the Biblical project which now measures 20ft by 12ft and is housed in a seperate building in his garden.

His version is so impressive that some of the world's top archaeologists and experts from the British Museum have come to view it.'


Friday, 20 February 2009

Barmaids I Have Loved (Part I)

Continuing the Conisholme Reflections, see here.
For the continuation of this article, see BTB.

January 10. Conisholme is unusual by British standards: a small village without so much as a pub. (But there is an ice cream parlour, Applebys, est. 1913.) And so I take a bus into Louth, 'the capital of the Wolds', to find somewhere to put my feet up before my reluctant return to Caer Lud and the Tamesis. Very quickly I perceive the depth of history in its pretty Georgian streets. From those strange roadnames- like Orme Lane, echoing Ormus, the name adopted by the Priory of Sion in 1188, following the 'Cutting of the Elm' (the orme) in Gisors- to the towering spire of St James's Church, there is a certain air of mystery which increases as twilight descends.

At the intersection of Northgate and Eastgate, the principal thoroughfare, a small plaque marks the point where the Greenwich Meridian passes. A few yards away, the spire- at 295 feet, the highest of any parish church in the country- reaches gracefully to the skies, as though the two factors were related in some way. Of course, it can't be so; the meridian was only established in 1851, and the spire dates to the sixteenth century. And yet... the placement of these lines seem often to be guided by concerns beyond the arbitrary, despite received wisdom. The greatest of these esoteric axes is Paris, widely accepted as the Prime Meridian for two centuries before London's usurpation; but Greenwich is no slouch either.

Apart from Louth's soaring spire, Waltham Abbey in Essex is another highlight: boasting a star-spangled ceiling dating from the nineteenth century, memorably described by Iain Sinclair as 'a conceptual umbrella carried into the Essex countryside.' Designed by William Burges, this ceiling was in place shortly after the creation of the Greenwich Meridian, which may explain its chronometric theme. And yet the church (of Holy Cross and St Lawrence) is also the burial site of Harold Godwinson, the last king of Saxon England before the imposition of the 'Norman yoke' in 1066. There are other legends, too, which suggest that Waltham Abbey was (and is) a special place, long before the Prime Meridian put it at the centre of time and space.

The concatenation of Louth, the Meridian and its proximity to Conisholme, 'England's Roswell', where something very strange is reputed to have happened a few nights ago, is not lost on me; and as I process the length of Eastgate and Upgate, like many a goddess trail before and since, the Mason's Arms seems pregnant with meaning. If you can negotiate your way out of Merseyside after a bender on nothing but innocence, Louth (in theory) should be a breeze. But when I adopt the position at the oak-panelled bar, I realise the place is deceptive; this is no pub, it's a labyrinth. And getting out of here is not going to be easy... Not when a woman's power to induce involuntary ritual in a man like myself, wired to the Dreaming Mind, is so great; and God's Own Barmaid is pouring the IPA. And not when the pub is screening live World Darts from the Lakeside Club, Frimley Green.

There aren't many people who would attest to the spiritual qualities of the sport of darts; but they are there, if you care to look. The novel London Fields is Martin Amis's panegyric to the game; of 'casual darter or arrowman' Keith Talent, 'you could almost hear angels singing when, on those special nights (three or four times a week), Keith laid out the cigarettes on the arm of the couch and prepared to watch darts on television.' And darts imagery was at the forefront of the Conisholme event, with the 'one bolt to bind them' of Lord Shiva serving as a metaphor for every perfect bullseye: every true (or, as Talent would prefer, sincere) dart foreshadowing the collapse of the whirlybird, Tripura.

Was it unconscious Shaivite devotion on my part which informed my fascination for this game? Its origins, in its modern form, date only to the medieval period; though, like chess, cards and cricket, there are hints of a darting secret history of much older vintage. The board, for example, may well represent a stylised cross section of a tree, in which case its antiquity may be very great indeed. And if such reflections evoke pastoral thoughts- of the Greenwood, and Robin of Loxley- I was in the right place for them. Just over twenty miles from Louth is the county town of Lincoln, one of many places with a claim on the legend of the proto-darter, Robin Hood.

In Twenty-First Century Grail, author Andrews Collins gets his first good look at a key found in the yard of St. Margaret's church in Binsey at the very moment that Wayne Rooney scores his first goal for Everton; as Collins and friends repaste in the Bricklayer's Arms in North Oxford. 'A moment more contradictory in atmosphere there could not have been,' Collins writes. My own revelation- of the Conisholme 'landing' as a metaphor for the imminent fall of Tripura- was meagre in comparison, but garlanded with a similar fortuity. As I pushed away my ballpoint, the Tony Buzan pie-charts and scribbled marginalia, I did so just as Ted Hankie completed a maximum 161 checkout on his way to victory in the Lakeside semi-final. Not only is Hankie better known as 'The Count' (and is a man with a pronounced obsession with vampires, often donning black capes and throwing plastic bats into the crowd), his opponent on this occasion was one Martin 'The Wolfman' Adams, so named for a beard which affords him a certain resemblance to a lycanthrope.

Shiva, in Indian mythology, is closely associated with the lunar god Chandra; having been granted the moon by the Devas and Asuras, he is often depicted with the crescent on his head. And like the dart-chucking Lord Shiva, vampires and werewolves are also creatures of the moon. As I ducked beneath the frosted glass and peered up into the sky, I realised that the match- and my first visit to Conisholme- coincided with the first full moon of the year, traditionally known by the Algonquin as the Wolf Moon. And for the second month in a row, I recalled, this moon was very special: corresponding with its annual perigee (the point at which it is closest to Earth.) December's full moon was ever rarer: coinciding with the closest perigee in a fifteen year cycle.

Was this the Cosmic Joker at work, bestowing a patina of synchronicity upon my Tripura speculations? Considering the significance of lunar placement to the Tripura mythology- nakshatra Puskya, the alignment intuitively described by John Harrison as 'a hole where the moon was shining through'- I couldn't but imagine it was. And the darts, too, seemed to fit with the whole. The tournament, I realised, had begun on January 3: the first match had ended only hours before Shiva launched his red dart at the turbine's spinning cities in the early morning of January 4.

I later discovered that January 10 was also a significant day in the Hindu calendar; one which echoed the theme of alignments so prominent in the language of Conisholme. (The three cities of Tripura are on consecutive, overlapping spheres of earth, heaven and sky; they are in complete physical alignment only once in an age, at nakshatra Puskya. Louth, evoking Lugh and his milky chain, recalls galactic alignment in 2012; and is built over the terrestrial axis of the Prime Meridian.) Paush Poornima, full moon in the Hindu month of Paush, sees thousands of pilgrims gather in Allahabad (or Prayag, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh), to bathe at the spot where three sacred rivers converge: the Ganga (believed to have descended to Earth through a lock of Shiva's hair), the Yamuna and, significantly, the Saraswati- the celestial river of legend. The precise location- about seven miles from the centre of Allahabad- is known as Triveni Sangam; and is further venerated as the site of the inaugural sacrifice made by Lord Brahma after his creation of the world.

Very interestingly, Allahabad- and Triveni Sangam itself- are close to India's equivalent of the Prime Meridian: at 82.5 E longitude, the basis of Indian Standard Time. Running at +5.30 hours GMT, its chronometric hub is at the Allahabad Observatory, a few miles away in the town of Mirzapur.

Respect the darts ... More to follow...

Monday, 16 February 2009

'Pill to erase bad memories...'

'A drug which appears to erase painful memories has been developed by scientists.

The astonishing treatment could help sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder and those whose lives are plagued by hurtful recurrent memories.

But British experts said the breakthrough raises disturbing ethical questions about what makes us human.

They also warned it could have damaging psychological consequences, preventing those who take it from learning from their mistakes.'


'Alien life may be all around us...'

'Forget little green men on Mars - aliens could be right here on Earth, a leading scientist has claimed.

Cosmologist Paul Davies said it was 'entirely reasonable' to believe that we share the planet with a form of life different to anything we know of.

This 'life, but not as we know it' might be lurking in poisonous lakes or deep under the sea or could even be inside our bodies.

Professor Davies said: 'It could be right under our noses, or even in our noses. It could even be that "weird life" and real life are intermingled.'

... Professor Davies, of Arizona State University, said any aliens that do exist on Earth will be too small for the naked eye to see.

Their unusual biochemistry could allow them to thrive in arsenic-rich lakes or in blistering hot vents underneath the ocean.

There is even a theory that alien particles, a tenth the size of bacteria, live inside our bodies and trigger the formation of kidney stones, the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual conference in Chicago heard.'


Thursday, 12 February 2009

'Lunacy and the Full Moon...'

'Across the centuries, many a person has uttered the phrase “There must be a full moon out there” in an attempt to explain weird happenings at night. Indeed, the Roman goddess of the moon bore a name that remains familiar to us today: Luna, prefix of the word “lunatic.”

Greek philosopher Aristotle and Roman historian Pliny the Elder suggested that the brain was the “moistest” organ in the body and thereby most susceptible to the pernicious influences of the moon, which triggers the tides.

Belief in the “lunar lunacy effect,” or “Transylvania effect,” as it is sometimes called, persisted in Europe through the Middle Ages, when humans were widely reputed to transmogrify into werewolves or vampires during a full moon.'


Tuesday, 10 February 2009

'Angel of the South is equine Goddess...'

'The giant outdoor sculpture set to grace the Kent countryside and already dubbed the "Angel of the South" will be a £2m white horse.

The horse will be double the height of Antony Gormley's Angel Of The North

The structure - as tall as Nelson's Column - has been designed by former Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger.

It was selected by Ebbsfleet Landmark Project from a shortlist of three contenders for the public art project in North Kent.

Wallinger said: "This is a tremendously exciting project. There was some very tough competition and I am honoured that the horse has won through."'


Artist Mark Wallinger's racehorse Riviera Red, on which the monument could be modelled, won the 2.40 at Lingfield yesterday.

'Turbine UFO mystery solved...'

'Claims that a huge wind turbine was destroyed in a collision with an alien spacecraft were dismissed by a report into the mystery yesterday.

Sightings of 'lights in the sky' near the scene in Conisholme, Lincolnshire, prompted worldwide speculation that a UFO had torn off the 165ft blade.

But an inquiry by the company that made the turbine has ruled out any extraterrestrial involvement.

An interim report from the firm, Enercon, has concluded bolts securing the blade to the hub of the turbine failed due to 'material fatigue'.

Further tests are now being carried out to establish whether problems with any of the 'supporting components' led to the problem.

Dale Vince, managing director of Ecotricity, the company that runs the farm, said: 'We hope to have the results back in a few weeks.

'It's a job of separating cause from effect now. We can see which bits are broken, but which bits failed first is what needs investigation.'

Sean Tierney, of the nearby Hull UFO Society, said the 'bright lights' spotted near the scene were probably just Chinese lanterns.

He said: 'Most people don't understand these floating lanterns can perform amazing aerobatics if they are caught in gusts of wind.'


I'm sure every fraudulent 'mystic' who claims to speak on behalf of 'ET'- and I can think of one or two- will be rubbing their hands together in glee to see their prejudices confirmed by such a respectable source.

'The damage to one of Ecotricity's wind turbines on Fen Lane, Conisholme, was not caused by a UFO a report has concluded.

Speculation reached fever pitch after a the Louth Leader reported a number of local people seeing strange lights in the sky in the vicinity of the wind park.

But, following several weeks of forensic examination of the turbines components the manufacturer, Enercon, has today ruled out 'collision' as a possible cause.

An interim report has concluded that bolts securing the blade to the hub of the turbine failed due to 'material fatigue'.

The bolts used to attached the blade to the hub of the turbine exhibited classic signs of fatigue failure.

Enercon have ruled out bolt defect due to the nature of the failure and the investigation is now looking into 'supporting components' - those parts on either side of the bolts.'


Is it the bolt or not?

'So it wasn't a bird; it wasn't a plane; it wasn't a piece of ice "about the size and weight of a cow". Nor, disappointingly for conspiracy theorists, was it an alien spacecraft.

It is five weeks since a wind turbine in Lincolnshire mysteriously shattered, amid reports of strange flashing lights and dazzling "tentacles, like an octopus" in the night sky. Deprived of other obvious explanations, the Sun concluded in a front page story that the turbine's 65ft blade had been struck by a UFO.

The Guardian later seemed to have solved part of the mystery, revealing that the "strange lights" had almost certainly been caused by a firework display hosted by the parents of Emily Bell, the paper's director of digital content, but the cause of the broken turbine remained unexplained.

Yesterday, however, the turbine's manufacturer published the preliminary results of an investigation into its failure, revealing a rather more prosaic culprit: a broken bolt.

The mystery began early in the morning of 4 January, when the 300ft turbine, one of 20 at a site run by Ecotricity off the Lincolnshire coast at Conisholme, near Grimsby, was found to have shattered the previous evening.

A number of neighbours contacted local newspapers to report seeing strange lights. Dale Vince, Ecotricity's managing director, told the BBC that the UFO theory was "the best ... that we have currently got", though he added that a cow-sized piece of ice, perhaps falling from a passing plane, would also do it.

In fact, discovered Enercon, the firm which made the generator, the bolts securing the blade to the turbine's hub "exhibited classic signs of fatigue failure". Though the bolts themselves had shown no flaws, it seemed a component part on either side had "induced stress in the bolts beyond their design limits".

The humdrum truth, Vince admitted yesterday, was "a bit disappointing", though he defended his decision to entertain the possibility of alien involvement. "Personally I believe in life from other galaxies, and a lot of people do. I can say, however, at this stage we have eliminated collision and therefore aliens."

He is not quite ready to declare the mystery definitively solved, however. "I still don't think the firework display explains the flashing lights ... they don't tend to hang around in the way these lights are said to have done. There was no scorching, nothing burned or melted, so the lights, whatever they were, were certainly not associated with the turbine failure."


Monday, 9 February 2009

'Wired to the data hive...'

'It sounds like science fiction - contact lenses that transmit TV shows and tattoos that let us feel the emotions of the actors on screen.

Yet experts believe both could be reality within ten years.

They say the constant miniaturisation of technology will lead to TV sets being shrunk to the size of contact lenses and powered by body heat.

Channels could be changed by voice commands or a wave of the hand, says a report on the future of home entertainment.

Ian Pearson, a 'futurologist' who advises companies on new technologies, said of the TV contact lens: 'You will just pop it into your eye in the morning and take it out at the end of the day.'

Digital tattoos, meanwhile, will pick up on the emotions portrayed by actors in TV shows and create impulses allowing us to feel the same emotions.'


Tuesday, 3 February 2009

'University prepares students for technotronic era...'

'Preparing for the day when machines will take over the human race sounds like the stuff of sci-fi novels, conspiracy theorists or Hollywood blockbusters.

But Google and Nasa are already getting ready for such a day.

The technological heavyweights have lent their support to a new university that will prepare scientists for an age when computers will be cleverer than humans.

Singularity University will be based in Nasa's Silicon Valley campus and will host its first class of 30 graduates this summer.

The name of the unconventional school comes from futurist Ray Kurzweil's theory of Singularity - a period of rapid technological advancement in the near future.'


'Ghostly faces and Little People...'

'Following his wife's death six years ago, David Stannard has become accustomed to spending quiet evenings alone at his home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.

So it came as a surprise to the 73-year-old when he looked up from his television one evening to discover he was sharing his living room with two RAF pilots and a schoolboy.

'The pilots were standing next to the TV, watching it as if they were in the wings of a theatre,' he says.

'The little boy was in a grey, Fifties-style school uniform. He just stood there in the hearth looking puzzled. He was 18 inches high at most.'

Mr Stannard's guests never said a word and vanished after 15 minutes. That night, he says, the walls of his house, which had always been white, looked as though they had been redecorated in patterned wallpaper with a brickwork effect.

The next morning he was caught off-guard again when he found a fair-haired girl standing on his sofa. She also appeared to be from the Fifties, but was life-size, wearing a short skirt and pink cardigan, with chubby knees, white ankle socks and ribbons in her hair.

'I watched her for a while,' he says. 'She didn't move much. Then she was gone.'

It would be easy to dismiss Mr Stannard's story as the bizarre imaginings of an elderly mind. Fortunately, he knew he wasn't losing his mind; neither was his house haunted.

A few weeks earlier he had been registered blind, though he was still able to watch television if he sat at a certain angle. He'd been warned that as his eyesight deteriorated, he might experience visual hallucinations in the form of Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS).'


Monday, 2 February 2009

Joker at the End of the World (Part I)

The first part of this article is now up at BTB. (For anybody with problems gaining access to the site, I am aware of these and have asked Blogger to sort it.)

For a pass, please e-mail me. (A Googlemail or Blogger ID are required.)


Sunday, 1 February 2009


'All Australians could be implanted with microchips for tracking and identification within the next two or three generations, a prominent academic says.

Michael G Michael from the University of Wollongong's School of Information Systems and Technology, has coined the term "uberveillance" to describe the emerging trend of all-encompassing surveillance.

"Uberveillance is not on the outside looking down, but on the inside looking out through a microchip that is embedded in our bodies," Dr Michael told NSN News.'


'7/7 survivor due to give birth on anniversary of attacks...'

'A woman who lost her legs in the July 7 bombings is expected to give birth on the anniversary of the 2005 attacks.

Martine Wright, who was one of the most seriously injured survivors, said she had exclaimed 'Are you joking?' after hearing the baby was due on 7/7.

In an interview with the News of the World, she said: 'When the doctor realised the significance of what it meant, she just blurted out, 'Oh my God'.

'I was so shocked. It's such a powerful date, it's great to think something so joyful could happen on the anniversary.'