20th Century Monoliths

The great pyramid at Giza was built from 2,300,000 stone blocks, each weighing many several tons. Two smaller pyramids brings the total over 5 million blocks. They were carved flat and square with great precision and transported over river and land from quarries a few miles to several hundred miles away.

The standard account from archaeologists is that this was accomplished by people who had not yet invented the wheel, or smelted iron tools. Doesn’t it stretch common sense to imagine this could be true?  Can you imagine 10% of the population, perhaps 200,000 people spending their entire lifetimes cutting, measuring, and polishing huge pieces of stone with other, smaller stones?

I think they knew something we don’t know. I don’t imagine backhoes and hydraulic cranes, but some kind of technology that is both alaien to us, even unimaginable, and also quite powerful and reliable.

A slight and unassuming 20th Century Latvian immigrant to Florida claimed to have re-discovered their secret.  He spent 28 years building his own stone sculptures cutting, moving and 10-ton pieces cut from coral/limestone with no power tools. How did he do it? He was fond of saying “it’s not hard once you know how.”

Coral Castle Museum, Leisure City, Florida - The Coral Castle is fascinating. Take the tour to hear the story about a lonely little man with a reported penchant for levitation who built a castle from giant coral rocks for the woman he loved. She never came to him but you can see from the grounds that he had big plans for a wife and several children. He carved bathtubs, cradles, armchairs and lots more out of the stone.

Our Galaxy Blew its Stack the Day Before Yesterday

A black hole at the center of the Milky Way exploded 3.5 million years ago —and may explode again very soon.

Back when I went to school, some time in the middle of the last century, galaxies were thought to be just collections of stars that were attracted to each other and fell into mutual orbits as they coalesced.

It was the need to come up with an explanation for quasars that changed that. Quasars are very, very far away, and yet they manage to be quite bright. That implies enormous amounts of energy. Eventually, we figured out that there was matter falling into giant black holes, each one as massive as a hundred million suns.

Gradually, astronomers came to realize that many if not most galaxies have black holes at the center. The center of our own Milky Way is obscured because to see it we have to look through the thicket of gas and dust that has collected in our galactic disk. But we can see through to the galactic center using x-ray telescopes or radio telescopes, and eventually a consensus formed that our own galaxy hosts a black hole.

Most objects in the sky are flattened by spinning.  Stuff gets into and out of them most easily in a direction perpendicular to the spinning disk. In 1987, I wrote my dissertation about streams of hot gas that spew out from disant galaxies, and we see these as bright plumes. Paradoxically, the plumes from our own galaxy, so close to home, are harder to see. But now they’ve been spotted and interpreted.

Live Science article

Image result for active galactic nucleus

Ballooning out of both poles of the galactic center, two gargantuan orbs of gas stretch into space for 25,000 light-years apiece (big enough that they would be spread across the night sky, if we could only see ), though it’s visible only in ultra powerful X-ray and gamma-ray light. Scientists call these cosmic gas orbs the Fermi bubbles and know that they’re a few million years old. … According to a study to be published Oct. 8 in the preprint journal arXiv.org, the Fermi bubbles were created by an epic flare of hot, nuclear energy that shot out of the galaxy’s poles roughly 3.5 million years ago, beaming into space for hundreds of thousands of light-years. 

If cave men really did see this event, it would have stretched across half the night sky.  The research paper estimates the total output at 1056 ergs over 300,000 years. That works out to a plume as bright as the Milky Way, but extending in a perpendicular direction across the sky.


When cells need to quickly acquire a new metabolic trait to survive, their best option may be to borrow one from other organisms. Horizontal transfers can move a few genes between cells, but the chances of horizontally acquiring the complete suite of genes for a complex metabolic pathway are vanishingly small. So the easiest solution is often for cells with dissimilar abilities and complementary needs to merge, explains John McCutcheon, an endosymbiosis researcher at the University of Montana. These mergers are not uncommon in nature. Secondary and tertiary mergers are even known to have occurred, producing the cellular equivalent of a set of nested Russian dolls.

One such Russian-doll merger occurred about 100 million years ago, when the small insects called mealybugs acquired a bacterial endosymbiont, Tremblaya. Subsequently, Tremblaya acquired several other bacteria including Moranella. Eventually the others were lost and only Moranella remained. It’s not known how long the Moranella endosymbiosis has been going on, but it is probably on the order of tens of millions of years. The result is that the mealybug cell contains a bacterium that contains another bacterium – an arrangement discovered back in 2001 by Carol von Dohlen, a biologist at Utah State University.

A mealybug sits on a stem.Read more from Quanta Magazine.

What is algorithmic art?

No photo description available.

“By inputting latitude and longitude, time/date stamps and colours from my original photographs taken on location to create a base fractal, my aim is to interact with the pattern created until I can see a direct correlation with its natural source. What evolves is a fusion of two distinctly differing fields – the absolute rules of the fractal algorithm and the imagination of the artist acting on sensory and actual recollection. What I aim to portray is the memory of place as it appeared in a snapshot of time, almost like a retinal imprint that remains when the eyes are closed”.No photo description available.

More images and stories at the web site of Vienna Forrester

3 Angels: nurse, policeman, doctor

When I was 14, I was pronounced dead in an Emergency Room at a hospital in Monterey, California. A doctor was in the lobby, explaining to my mom that I had gone into a Type 1 diabetic coma and they had lost me.

A nurse burst through the doors and yelled at the doctor, “We got him! We got him back!”

The doctor ran back into the ER and as the IV of insulin and saline and the intensive care from the team of caretakers took hold, I came back to life, awakening from a coma the next day, my mom by my side.

“Thank god!” she said. “I’ve been praying all night. Thank god you’re alive.”

In a moment of clarity I have rarely felt since and don’t recall ever having felt previously, I said, “It wasn’t god. I chose to come back.”

But I didn’t know the whole story.

I didn’t know that while I was slipping in and out of consciousness the day before, in the hotel room bed where my mom had taken my younger brother and me (how we got there is a whole other story!), my mom decided to take my brother to the pool while I slept. She sat in a lounge chair next to a woman while my brother swam and played.

They struck up a conversation.

“What are you doing here?” the woman asked my mom.

“I’m getting away from my husband with my boys for a while,” my mom answered, neglecting the part about how she hadn’t told my dad where we were, and that she was self-medicating with drugs and alcohol and had openly talked about walking off into the ocean and never coming back.

“Where’s your other boy?” asked the woman.

“He’s upstairs in the room,” my mom said, adding, “he’s been sick.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” replied the woman. “What’s wrong with him?”

“I think it’s just a bad flu,” said my mom, leaving out the tremendous pain I had been having in my ribs, the twenty pounds I had lost, the sickenly sweet odor coming from my skin, my insatiable thirst and utter lack of appetite.

When I told my mom it was me, not any god, that wrestled myself from the great deity Death, I did not know the whole story.

I didn’t know that the woman by the pool turned to my mother and said, “I’m a nurse, would you like me to take a look at your boy?” When my mom led her into the room, and the nurse saw me, I must have been a sight because she wasted no time in exclaiming, “Get this boy to a hospital…NOW!”

I didn’t know that had that woman not offered to help, just then, just there, just in time, I would have died in that hotel room in just a few more hours.

I remember the bellman from the hotel picking me up and loading me into his car when I lost consciousness. I didn’t know that he was pulled over for speeding on the way to the hospital. I didn’t know that the patrolman took one look at me lying down in the back seat writhing in pain and said, “Follow me!”

He led us, siren blaring, lights flashing right to the ER doors.

I didn’t know he had radioed ahead and a team was waiting for us and wheeled me right into the caretakers on duty that day.

One of them was one of the leading endocrinologists in California, who happened to be making teaching rounds there. He was able to diagnose me instantly and get to work on saving my life.

I didn’t know that while I was fighting for my life, pitted against a disease that had already ravaged my body and nearly extinguished my spirit, a series of circumstances and people seemed to be there, all of them just in the nick of time.

Had any one of these happened even five or ten minutes later, who knows?

I didn’t know most of these things until I was taking care of my mother 40 years later and she told me the whole story.

Do I believe that God, or the Divine or some sort of conscious entity or entities conspired to save me that day?

Honestly, I don’t believe that. It seems egotistical to me when so many others die every day who surely deserve life as much as me.

But what happened, happened. And I am full of gratitude and wonder at all the human angels who were there that day, helping to keep me alive. Was there some god, as my mom believed until she passed away a few years ago? Or was it my personal choice to return from another realm?

I don’t know, and maybe that’s not even the right question. But now I feel forces, people and even Mother Earth rooting for me to deepen into the gift of life I have, and give back in return.

Todd Lejnieks