Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Nebra Sky Disk

In 2001, this mysterious artifact showed up on the international antiquities market, and the man attempting to auction it off foolishly and naively made it no secret that it had been dug up from a Saxony-Anhalt gravesite in Nebra by amateur treasure hunters in 1999.

What the man apparently didn't realize was that what he did was illegal. But even if he had obtained the disk by legal means, all archaeological artifacts are the property of the state in Saxony-Anhalt. The disk was seized by police and placed in the hands of the state archaeologist, Dr Harald Meller.


As part of a plea bargain, the illicit owners led police and archaeologists to the site where they had found it together with other remains (two bronze swords, two hatchets, a chisel and fragments of spiral bracelets). Though no witnesses were present at the first discovery, archaeologists have opened a dig at the site and have uncovered evidence that support the looters' claim (in the form of traces of bronze artifacts in the ground, as well as matching earth samples found sticking to the artifacts)...

The discovery site identified by the arrested metal detectorists is a prehistoric enclosure encircling the top of a 252 m elevation in the Ziegelroda Forest, known as Mittelberg ("central hill"), some 60 km west of Leipzig. The surrounding area is known to have been settled since the Neolithic, and Ziegelroda Forest is said to contain around 1,000 barrows.

The enclosure is oriented in such a way that the sun seems to set every solstice behind the Brocken, the highest peak of the Harz mountains, some 80 km to the northwest. It was claimed by the treasure-hunters that the artifacts were discovered within a pit inside the bank-and-ditch enclosure. The signifiance of the site to prehistoric dwellers is underlined by the proximity to the much older Goseck circle.

Like Stonehenge and the Antikythera Mechanism, the Nebra Sky Disk appears to be an astronomical instrument that demonstrates greater knowledge of the solar calendar and stellar movements on the part of its creators than previously supposed.

A documentary about the artifact, Secrets of the Star Disc, airs Monday, March 1, 1pm on the National Geographic Channel.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Darcy James Argue

Great article on Darcy James Argue in the Boston Herald, all about his DIY jazz orchestra that plays a conglomerated metachronistic music he labels as Steampunk:

“My approach has been to take this very old-school instrumentation and hack it to try to force it to play music it wasn’t really designed to do, and use it to re-create electronic music effects acoustically,” said Argue, who studied with NEC orchestra guru Bob Brookmeyer and earned a master’s degree in 2002. “I am definitely inspired by steampunk ideas about our relationship to technology (and) the whole do-it-yourself aesthetic.”

See video clips of the Darcy James Argue Secret Society here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mardi Gras 1941

Spotted this on Dieselpunks tonight: great color footage of the 1941 Mardi Gras. 1941 was the first year a female krewe paraded (Krewe of Venus), although Les Mysterieuses, Carnival's first female organization, staged its premiere ball in 1896.

Click here to view it!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Post-Avatar Depression

Yeah, I saw this one coming from a long way off.

First this story started taking shape on the woo-woo circuit, and now it's hit the big time: the phenonemon of Post-Avatar Depression is real enough that even CNN is taking it seriously.

Thousands of people are experiencing severe depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the controversial James Cameron blockbuster film. Some have become so immersed in the film's reality that they find themselves obsessing over it. CNN quotes one unfortunate soul as saying:

"That's all I have been doing as of late, searching the Internet for more info about 'Avatar.' I guess that helps. It's so hard I can't force myself to think that it's just a movie, and to get over it..."

Other moviegoers, according to CNN, have expressed feelings of disgust with the human race because of the film's effect on them. Others report a disengagement with reality. Still another said:

"When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning. It just seems so... meaningless. I still don't really see any reason to keep... doing things at all. I live in a dying world."

What these people are reporting are exactly what many others have reported after undergoing various epiphanies and satoris, hyper-lucid dreaming, induced eidetic imagery, remote viewing, scrying, astral projection, past-life regression, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, and other practices best not spoken of here.

It's also akin to something I've always called "The Narnia Effect". When I read The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe as a child, even then I thought how unrealistic that the children would enter the magical land of Narnia and stay there for years, then return through the portal in time for supper at home, where only hours had elapsed. It was immediately evident to me that the children would have become so matured, so changed by those years of experience in faraway magical lands, that their parents and peers would have immediately noticed the drastic personality change. More to the point, the children would most likely be unable to function in their humdrum old normal schoolkid lives. Not after having the adventures they did. Not after growing up for years in a time-compressed track of an alternate reality.

That's precisely what these people are apparently feeling, so dazzled and bowled over are they by the fascinating and beautiful 3-D world of "Pandora" that Cameron has crafted. Another quote from a sufferer:

"One can say my depression was twofold: I was depressed because I really wanted to live in Pandora, which seemed like such a perfect place, but I was also depressed and disgusted with the sight of our world, what we have done to Earth. I so much wanted to escape reality."

If there is a solution, it's to try to learn to spiritually multitask - to hold these different realms in your head at the same time, keeping your feet in multiple worlds 24-7. Sure, it'll make you seem erratic, cloudy, foggy, bipolar, inconsistent, self-contradictory, confused, vague, disassociated and absent-minded - just like your humble chronicler - but hey, it's better than having your body sit here in a near-coma of mopey unfunctionality while you're traveling in that land which lies an inch behind your forehead.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Sound of Space

"In Space, no one can hear you scream."

That was the tag line for Ridley Scott's film Alien, and it's generally assumed to be an absolute truth, since we've all been taught that space is a vacuum in which sound does not travel.

However, the actual truth is more interesting. While it may well be that humans cannot hear another human screaming in space (assuming they didn't die instantly from exposure to space anyway), sound waves do travel through space. Space is actually not the total vacuum it's made out to be, and atoms of gas that pervade the entire universe give it what might be defined as an atmosphere of sorts - albeit a very, very thin one.

Even if a human could live unprotected in space long enough to listen for that scream, they still wouldn't hear it, though. Not enough atoms would strike that person's eardrums to perceive the sound. But that doesn't mean the sound waves aren't there.

In 2003, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory announced their discovery that the Perseus galaxy cluster, some 250 million light-years away, was emitting a constant B-flat tone. That note has been sounding, the researchers said, for about 2.5 billion years. It's extremely low and bassy - 57 octaves below below a piano's middle C, to be precise.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Radioplane

One of the first major unmanned drone planes was the Radioplane, invented by Hollywood actor and remote-control toy plane hobbyist Reginald Denny.

Denny was well known for screen appearances in the 1922 production of Sherlock Holmes, George Cukor's Romeo and Juliet, Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca, and the Cecil B. DeMille musical Madam Satan (a film noted for, among other things, an amazing zeppelin sequence, as seen below). But he soon found himself wearing the hat of a major military contractor when the idea of his Radioplane took off - literally - during World War II.

15,000 Radioplane drones were manufactured by Denny's company for the Allied Forces during World War II, and there was an young woman working at the Van Nuys Radioplane factory named Norma Jeane Mortenson (pictured above). In 1944, Army photographer David Conover took her picture in the assembly plant for Yank magazine, and told her she had star potential as a model.

He was right. After a bleach job, a makeover and a name change, Mortenson went on to worldwide fame as Marilyn Monroe.