Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Revisionist History

Several years ago I came across the book “Underworld”, by Graham Hancock.

For those of you not familiar with Hancock, he is a modern day “explorer” who has investigated and written about some very intriguing topics, from ancient astronomy to the Ark of the Covenant. What makes him interesting is that he takes a completely unbiased view of the things he researches and pushes no agenda in his conclusions, leaning neither toward science, religion, superstition, or conventional wisdom.

In the book “Underworld”, he explores some very interesting “ruins” in several parts of the globe that are located under approximately 100 feet of water. He posits that these may in fact not be “ruins” at all in the conventional sense, but that they may in fact be the remains of human architecture that was originally built above sea level, only to have since been covered with water.

(You can see a few of the startling photographs here; take a look and make your own determination)

What Graham suggests is that at one time, sea levels were around 100 feet lower than they are today, and that these human-made ruins were covered up as frozen water from the last ice age melted and joined the oceans around 20,000 years ago.

That’s kind of interesting. What was also very interesting to me is that, in the book, he had a map of the globe showing how the land masses of the earth would have looked if the oceans were 100 feet shallower than they are today.

One of the things that caught my eye was that in this scenario, the present day Persian Gulf would not have existed at all; the entire area currently covered by the waters of the Persian Gulf would have been dry land!

What was immediately intriguing to me about this is that both the Tigris & Euphrates rivers empty into the Persian Gulf. The Tigris & Euphrates are two of the four rivers that the Bible uses to mark the geographical location of the Garden of Eden. The locations of the other two rivers – the Pishon and Gihon – along with the Garden itself, are unknown.

I remember thinking at the time, “What if the Biblical Garden of Eden – along with the Pishon and Gihon rivers – are all actually located beneath the Persian Gulf?"

An exciting speculation? I thought so. True, the Biblical and scientific timelines don’t match up, but if you could account for that, it would certainly explain a lot.

Having that brief look into my “mental history”, you can understand why the following article caught my eye a couple of weeks ago:

Lost Civilization May Have Existed Beneath the Persian Gulf
The article is quoted:

Veiled beneath the Persian Gulf, a once-fertile landmass may have supported some of the earliest humans outside Africa some 75,000 to 100,000 years ago, a new review of research suggests.

At its peak, the floodplain now below the Gulf would have been about the size of Great Britain, and then shrank as water began to flood the area. Then, about 8,000 years ago, the land would have been swallowed up by the Indian Ocean, the review scientist said.

How interesting is that? In addition to the fact that we now have Hancock’s speculation merging with current scientific research, we now have a scientific timeline (8,000 years) much, much closer to the Biblical flood account in Genesis.

That certainly doesn’t prove anything, and it still leaves a thousand questions unanswered, but it is interesting. And, it also raises – inadvertently – another question: If the Persian Gulf did indeed “swallow up” that land, where did the water come from? The last Ice Age, remember, was 20,000 years ago, not 8,000. Or was it?

Ahhhhh! Don’t you just love a good mystery!

But while we’re at it, why don’t we throw a little more wood on the fire? Here’s a couple of paragraphs from an article that started working it’s way around just yesterday (emphasis mine on bolded items):

A Tel Aviv University team excavating a cave in central Israel said teeth found in the cave are about 400,000 years old and resemble those of other remains of modern man, known scientifically as Homo sapiens, found in Israel. The earliest Homo sapiens remains found until now are half as old.

The accepted scientific theory is that Homo sapiens originated in Africa and migrated out of the continent. Gopher said if the remains are definitively linked to modern human's ancestors, it
could mean that modern man in fact originated in what is now Israel.
Source: Researchers: Ancient human remains found in Israel

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know; the timelines aren’t even close. Still . . . very interesting to see “science” continuing to dovetail with myth, legend & religion despite it’s best efforts not to.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Ridiculous Island

I was going to start this off by saying that I’m not a big fan of Jules Verne’s writing, but I decided against it.

I mean really, who am I to criticize him? After all, Verne was – along with H.G. Wells – one of the Founding Fathers of Science Fiction, and he was an enormously successful author back in a day when books didn’t just roll off the presses like rain.

He brought us 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Around the World in 80 Days. His most successful titles are still widely read today, and his work has inspired dozens of movies either directly or indirectly.

But . . . ?

Yeah. But.

I don’t know how to explain it other than to guess that I’m just spoiled. I love his imagination; I’m just not a big fan of his writing. The best I can explain is that – in my mind at least – he doesn’t tell a story so much as he tells what happened.

And that in itself wouldn’t be so bad except that he doesn’t really even do a good job of making me believe “what happened”.

Well Blaine, it is science fiction after all . . .

No! See that’s just it. I can believe him when he tells me about the wild submarine, the expedition to the earth’s core, or the “bet” to circumnavigate the globe in two and a half months. He’s got me. I’m in.

The problem is when he tries to tell me about the things that I should have absolutely no trouble believing in at all – that’s where he loses me.

Here’s one glaring example of what I’m talking about that I ran into while reading “The Mysterious Island” a few weeks ago. (The “five brickmakers on Lincoln Island” refer to the castaways who have become stranded on the island. In this passage, they are building an oven so that they can begin forging metal from raw materials to make tools and weapons.):

Generally bricks are formed in molds, but the engineer contented himself with making them by hand. All that day and the day following were employed in this work. The clay, soaked in water, was mixed by the feet and hands of the manipulators, and then divided into pieces of equal size. A practiced workman can make, without a machine, about ten thousand bricks in twelve hours; but in their two days work the five brickmakers on Lincoln Island had not made more than three thousand, which were ranged near each other, until the time when their complete desiccation would permit them to be used in building the oven, that is to say, in three or four days. - excerpt from “The Mysterious Island” (Chapter 13), by Jules Verne

Did you catch that? In case you missed it, here it is again in slow motion: “A practiced workman can make, without a machine, about ten thousand bricks in twelve hours”.

Okay. Now, let’s forget for a moment that, within just a few days of becoming stranded on the island the castaways have already learned how to make usable bows & arrows and have become proficient in hunting big game with them. Let’s push the “I Believe” button and submit that it is possible that one of the castaways could have knowledge & abilities eerily similar to the Professor from “Gilligan’s Island”.

So far, not so tough. I have a big imagination, and I want to believe.

But . . . A practiced workman can make, without a machine, about ten thousand bricks in twelve hours?

My imagination just broke. Why? Because that’s just not possible.

In case you don’t have a calculator, ten thousand bricks in twelve hours breaks down to about 833 bricks per hour, or 14 bricks per minute, or 1 brick every 4.3 seconds.


For 12 hours straight.

Not possible.

By way of comparison, last week I had to mail out 81 letters. I timed myself on how long it would take me to affix address labels to them.

Bear in mind, I’m sitting in a comfortable chair at a clean desk with all my envelopes and labels ready to go right in front of me, and while I wasn’t trying to set a land speed record, neither was I sandbagging. Elapsed time: 9 min, 45 seconds. Or one envelope every 7.2 seconds.

So that’s what I mean when I say that Verne loses me on the things that he should have no trouble making me believe – ordinary, everyday, commonplace tasks.

The puzzling thing to me with this particular thing was, How could he have erred so badly?

Verne was an educated man who came from a privileged French family. His father was a successful lawyer and his family spent their summers at their country home on the Loire River. Verne studied law himself until he began writing.

Is it difficult to believe that Verne never made a brick in his life?

That perhaps he saw a “practiced workman” make a single brick in a matter of seconds at a country fair once and extrapolated his “ten thousand bricks in twelve hours” from that, never considering that it was simply impossible for any human being to maintain that kind of output for any sustainable length of time?

I don’t know. What I do know is that he apparently saw nothing unbelievable about it, which would suggest that even everyday tasks were science fiction to Verne.

So who cares right? Big deal.

Well, ask yourself this: Who is it that makes the decisions in our world on what is made, how much of it is made, and how fast it is made? Who decides how many animals a single man can slaughter in the course of a day, or how many brackets can be welded in an hour? Who makes decisions about what kind of food we should eat and how it should be produced?

Is it the people who actually know how to do these things, or is it, more possibly, people from privileged families who sit in Ivory Towers around lacquered mahogany boardroom tables? People who – like Verne – have only the merest suggestion about how to do any of the things that they have been charged to manage?

What if all of our important decisions regarding government, manufacturing, agriculture, medicine, etc., were being made by people just like that?

Yeah, maybe you’re right. It is just science fiction after all . . .

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Disappearing Into the FOG

I seem to have a knack for predicting the future, or, barring that, at least making pretty good educated guesses. I haven’t been keeping track, but since writing “What So Proudly We Hailed”, three years ago, I’ve seen roughly two dozen concepts from the book come to fruition in the real world, ranging from mandatory healthcare to RFID implants that can kill the wearer remotely.

Here’s another interesting news article I read today:
FTC proposes Do Not Track tool for Web marketing

Compare that with the below excerpt from “What So Proudly We Hailed” written in the summer of 2007:

FOGNet was the first company to take advantage of the situation. What FOGNet did was allow you to log into their system first, at which point you would receive a randomly generated IP address. From there you could then surf the web, visit chat rooms, send email – whatever you wanted – and no one could trace anything back to you. No “cookies”, no electronic trail; nothing. And no one could access FOGNet’s records either, because they didn’t have any. They didn’t have any storage at all. No disc, no tape; nothing at all. Everything just passed through and anything you did just vaporized in the next instant.

Their company slogan was “Disappear Into the FOG”, and that’s exactly what millions of people did.

The only problem was, you were still trusting someone else – yet another corporation – to provide your anonymity, and it wasn‘t long after FOGNet and a couple of other like startups hit the scene that the first scramblers entered the market. Scramblers did essentially the same thing – scrambled your IP address so you looked like a different user every time – but it was hardware that you could buy and own, and in doing so, not have to put your faith into a service provider like FOGNet, because, let’s face it, who really knew how benevolent they were either?

Huh. Pretty good shootin', don't you think?