Interview with Grant Cameron - Consciousness and UFOs

Here's a very interesting interview with the Canadian journalist and author Grant Cameron. Grant has delved into many subject. He started investigating Near Death Experience (NDE) phenomena, then moved into UFO investigations, simply because UFO encounters were occurring in his neighbourhood near the border with the United States. He worked in-depth in that area for many years, and then came to the startling conclusion (as it was for him at the time) that mind and consciousness was the real topic of importance, as mind and consciousness were the basis for all reality. This conclusion connected with his UFO investigations, as it became clear in his discussions with senior figures in the military black-projects and UFO domains that ESP or Extra-Sensory Perception was the primary way for pilots of advanced craft to operate their vehicles. This fundamental required ability does crop up in other UFO encounter stories, particularly that of the Hill abduction, described in the book 'The Interrupted Journey'. Grant makes some significant claims in his interviews, in particular that Hilary Clinton was going to disclose the UFO situation when she became president. Sadly, we'll never know the truth of this for sure, as America supposedly elected a Klu Klux Klan sympathiser instead.

Here's another interview with Grant on the subject of 'Tom DeLonge, Steven Greer and evil aliens'. Grant eloquently explains how Greer and DeLonge are 'messiahs', individuals fed information by the military and security services so that they can feel genuinely motivated to talk about what they have been told is going on. Unfortunately, as I've noticed with Greer over the years, nothing useful is ever released. By comparison, Paul Laviolette's writings are far more useful, as he's worked stuff out using science and engineering, not through testimonies fed to him by dubious sources. Grant makes it clear that he doesn't think DeLonge (with his evil aliens belief) and Greer (with his belief that all aliens are lovely) are lying, just that they are being fed dubious information by insiders with their own secret agendas. Recommended.

'Secrets of Anti-gravity Propulsion' by Paul Laviolette - book review

My last blog entry was a review of Paul Laviolette's video talk on antigravity technology and the theoretical physics behind it. In this blog entry, I'm reviewing his book 'Secrets of Antigravity Propulsion'. I'm pleased to say that it is an excellent book. Many books on the subjects of UFO technology, free energy and secret space programmes are often light on solid theory and therefore hard to believe but Dr Laviolette's book is thick with quality physics and solid experimental evidence. Dr Laviolette is qualified and experienced as a physicist and engineer and shows it with his in-depth descriptions in the book of sub-quantum kinetics, an alternative theoretical description of the fundamental behaviour of reality. On the science direct website, there is an article by Laviolette describing this theory, entitled 'The Cosmic Ether: Introduction to Subquantum Kinetics'. The abstract reads:



Jim Marrs - Remote Viewing Aliens talk

Years ago, I went to the Czech Republic with several friends. Before we left for Prague, my Czech friend took me aside and said; 'I know you're vegetarian and that's okay with me but I need to let you know that if you tell people in Prague that you don't eat meat, they'll think you're mad. Just tell them that you have an illness and you'll be fine.'

This, I think, is a big problem with people; if you talk to someone about something that's outside their comfort zone, their 'sphere of expectation', more likely than not, they'll think you're mad. Bertrand Russell was wise in saying; “do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” Unfortunately, it won't stop you getting locked up.



The Twelfth Planet by Zechariah Sitchin - book review

I have to start this review with a confession. Although Zechariah Sitchin’s ‘The Twelfth Planet’ has been around for a very long time (I now own the 30th Anniversary Edition of the book), I’ve never read it up to now because I felt that its main ideas were too far out to be possible. To explain my scepticism, here's what Sitchin was stating, to the best of my knowledge:

1) The Annunaki, the gods of Ancient Sumer, were from another planet, Nibiru, in our solar system, whose very long, eccentric orbit meant it wasn’t near to Earth for most of a ten-thousand year orbit.
2) The Annunaki were on Earth in ancient times for mining purposes.
3) The Annunaki created a hybrid human, a mixture of themselves and Homo Habilis, four-hundred-thousand years ago, so that they had a worker available to do the back-breaking mining activity.

I was very sceptical about those three ideas for rational reasons. Firstly, I concluded that point 1 wasn't true, as there was no evidence at that time of an eccentric, long-orbit planet around our solar system. I was also very sceptical of point 2 and 3, because I felt that a race from another planet would find the mining and transport of raw metals to another planet far too costly in terms of resources for the activity to be worthwhile.

But this scepticism may have been misplaced. Recently, several scientific developments seem to have boosted Sitchin’s theory. There has been the discovery that a planet around our sun may be a reality, thanks to the studies of orbital anomalies in the Kuiper Belt, the large region of comets on the edge of our solar system. There has also been the genetic discovery that the changes in genes required to turn Homo Habilis into Homo Sapiens are so extensive, specialised and mutually dependent that it’s almost impossible that they could have occurred purely through natural selection. Thirdly, just last week, a scientific report was published describing the discovery of Homo Sapiens bones in an ancient mine in Morocco, bones that have been reliably dated to 300,000 BC, two-hundred-thousand years before Homo Sapiens was supposed to have developed in Africa.

All the above three scientific discoveries are ground-breaking and seem strong enough to force the scientific establishment to rewrite their understanding of major subjects. What’s more, all three discoveries support Sitchin’s theories about the Annunaki. If these ‘gods’ did create a hybrid annunaki-habilis person, Homo Sapiens, four-hundred-thousand years ago, then it would explain both the bizarre acceleration of genetic changes from Habilis to Sapiens and the presence of Homo Sapiens in a mine, three-hundred-thousand years ago.

Because of these developments, I put aside my earlier misgivings and read Sitchin’s book. I’m very pleased I did because it’s an excellent scholarly study. Sitchin’s decision to learn cuneiform as a way to really find out what the Sumerians were saying is exemplary. The book is also very readable and engaging. His ideas may still sound crazy but at the moment, from a scientific point of view, Sitchin’s theory is actually the most plausible theory for our current state on this planet. An ancient, technically advanced race colonising Earth half a million years ago, then hybridising Homo Habilis to create a worker-slave, is actually the most plausible explanation of why Homo Sapiens is here, how our civilisation arrived, appearing from literally nothing in 4,000BC, and where we need to look for answers and further understanding of ourselves and our past. I therefore heartily recommend the book.

'The mystery of the crystal skulls' book review

As a break from UFO articles, I thought it would be a good moment to review a book I've very much enjoyed; 'The mystery of the crystal skulls' by Chris Morton and Ceri Louise Thomas. This is a fat paperback describing the authors' journey in investigating and uncovering information about certain crystal skulls, in particular the Mitchell-Hedges skull, found in the 1920's by Anne Mitchell-Hedges and her father in a Mayan pyramid in Central America.

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To be honest, I've never read much on crystal skulls, as I've viewed them as being of only minor significance amongst the many strange anomalies present on our planet. Morton and Thomas's book proved me wrong on this matter, as they've put together a great documentary story, along with a wealth of data, not only about the major crystal skulls available to study in the world but also the views of the indigenous people connected to those skulls. The story includes solid science, folk tales, psychic readings, bizarre conspiracies, secrets and predictions about our future.

The star of the book is definitely the Mitchell-Hedges quartz, rock-crystal skull. Not only is the skull the most well-known skull, the book includes a report on analysis of the skull by the Hewlett Packard laboratories. The staff there used their skills in fabricating pure quartz crystals for electronic devices to analyse the skull's construction and internal make-up. Their report makes it clear that the skull isn't just a carved piece of rock; its piezo-electric properties, prismatic properties, purity and crystal patterning clearly belong to something created by a very advanced culture. And yet, it was found in an ancient Mayan pyramid. Read More...

Hostage Crisis: Earth!

This article is partly a review of a very interesting book called; ‘The Missing Times: News media complicity in the UFO coverup’ by Terry Hansen and it's also about a very strange idea that bubbled up in my brain after reading the book.

Firstly, I'll talk about Hansen’s book. ‘The Missing Times’ focusses on how the extremely large number of compelling UFOs incidents that have occurred worldwide in the last seventy years have been covered up and ignore by the U.S. media. The book does a very good job of investigating this issue and how local news is filtered to remove such stories before it reaches the major media outlets, but the book is also a very good study of the more general matter of how any topic that is frowned on by the establishment is covered in the mainstream media (i.e. television, film, books, newspapers etc). As Hansen shows, using exhaustive and detailed references, the major U.S. televisions channels, film studios and newspapers and the ones here in the U.K. all follow a very narrow line of what is and what isn’t eligible for print/broadcast. It is a filtering mechanism that Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore would certainly agree is present. Read More...

Animated Aldous Huxley interview

Here's a very good animated version of an interview with the writer Aldous Huxley, recorded in 1958. Huxley wrote 'Brave New World', a classic work of dystopian prophecy.

In the interview, Huxley paints a picture of what we have to watch out for in terms of totalitarian control. Sadly, I think Huxley's warnings have mostly come to pass. Nowadays, our Western society may not have the obvious flavour of a communist/fascist totalitarian state but that is not because we are free of such control, it is simply that the powers-that-be have chosen a more glamorous, mesmeric system which still suits their needs and keeps us drugged but productive.

Huxley tellingly stated towards the end of the interview that the ideal result for the controllers is that the masses they control don't know they're enslaved or that they even
like their servitude and enslavement. This is not such a far-fetched situation. Tragically, many slaves in history have rejected freedom and returned to slavery because slavery guarantees food and lodging; freedom doesn't. For those that contest that we are still free, it's worth noting that even the mainstream press now accept that our emails are read, our internet browsing is collated and examined, we are identified automatically on CCTV, our social networking profiles are psychologically analysed, our smartphones movements are tracked, we can be detained without access to a lawyer for a month, we can be legally watched without evidence being required. The list is long. Some say that this keeps us safe but from what? Fear is a great controller, as Goering himself once pointed out. Read More...

John Cleese on Political Correctness and upsetting people

I stumbled upon this very enjoyable short video interview with John Cleese on Youtube:

The interview includes an absolute gem of a comment from John:

"If people can't control their own emotions, then they have to start trying to control other people's behaviour."

I very much agree with John's point that a culture of not wishing to upset people becomes a dangerous form of censorship. I talked about free speech in
a previous blog post and emphasised how important it is for people to be able to say virtually anything because without that freedom, we are very close to a society with many of the features of 1984.

For those readers that think upsetting someone is always bad, here is a scenario: You find out that your best friend's wife is having an affair. If you tell your best friend, he will be very upset but many people would agree that you should tell him regardless because he will eventually, after gaining a greater understanding of what is going on in his life, appreciate what you've done even though it has brought him a period of misery. Upsetting one or more people
because you care about them and that you believe they need to know that news can be applied to many other matters, of greater and lesser importance. It might not make you very popular but if you instead put popularity before moral duty, that places you in the realm of sociopathic narcissists and/or cowards. It's the unpopular, difficult but caring actions that help move us forward as a species. Long may they continue.

'Need to know' - Timothy Good UFO book review

It's time again for another review of a UFO book and this one's from Timothy Good. To some extent, Good's books always fall into the same pattern. Within their pages, he records in clear, accessible form, a long list of reported encounters between people on Earth and UFOs. These cases include encounters between a wide variety of people - military personnel, ordinary people, scientists, engineers, doctors - and alien craft and beings. From my point of view, after reading Good's books and other publications on the subject of UFOs from various authors, after reading so much material, it becomes very difficult for me to think of the UFO subject as any other than a very real and extremely important part of our planet's history since the Second World War.

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, if UFOs are visiting our planet (and that is logically highly likely, considering the number of stars and planets in our galaxy), then it is also logical that the U.S. military and its allies would be keeping the UFO matter under wraps. As far as I can tell, without even touching on the subject of UFOs, anything of any importance in our world is, by default, kept from us all by our power elite. It therefore makes perfect sense that UFOs would fall into this category. Anyone who is sceptical of such a belief would do well to realise that such a situation is a logical inevitability. To recap, it is highly likely that alien races exist in our galaxy and also that some of them will have the technical ability to visit us. Unfortunately for us, it is also a fact that our species currently exists in a situation where a tiny percentage of us possess most of our resources and wealth. What's more, that tiny minority have control of an enormous amount of military power on our planet; an insane amount for a supposedly intelligent species. It is therefore inevitable that if and when aliens do visit, our power-elite will grab all valuable information and material on the matter and keep it from the rest of us using money and force of arms. Read More...

'The Interrupted Journey' book review

When it comes to the topic of UFOs, there is a marked difference between many peoples' casual impression of the whole field and how the subject appears when you make an effort to investigate it. The casual impression is that it's a fringe topic with only a few really meaningful events and that most of it is silly people saying daft things to get in the papers. I don't say this to sound elitist because I've had that view myself for many years. It is only recently, when I've had the time and energy to investigate the subject, that I've realised how different the issue of UFOs is when one does a in-depth study.

If one properly investigates the subject of UFOs, then a very different world comes into sharp focus. As Timothy Good has explained in many books, there is an enormous amount of evidence all around our planet of human encounters with UFOs. It's certainly true that many of those encounters have little physical evidence and rely for a large part on eye-witness testimony. Such reports can therefore be dismissed as too thin for serious analysis, but there are also a very large number of reports that have many respectable witnesses and a host of supporting evidence, for example the UFO encounter in Rendlesham Forest. It is also clear that military forces around the world are grabbing as much of the physical evidence as they can and censoring reports before they reach the mainstream media. This is especially true of the United States military who have soldiers in more than 150 countries around the world (considering there are only officially 196 countries in total, this is a huge slice). If we also consider the simple fact that most Western media outlets will not publish anything that is marked classified, for sensible reasons, It is hardly surprising that if the U.S. military decides to put a lid on the UFO phenomena, it would become a fringe and murky subject. Read More...

Noam Chomsky on what we learn in school

The video below is a short but very interesting speech from Noam Chomsky in response to a question about the truth and agendas in Western education. At first, Chomsky's comments about education can seem very anti-establishment, iconoclastic and a bit extreme. Part of me, when I was watching it, though 'Noam, aren't you being over the top?' But I think he's right. It is very hard to break free of indoctrination, especially if it starts its work on you when you're young and continues throughout your life; It's even worse when there's very few people around who are willing or able to spot the indoctrination. The control the indoctrination creates is so strong that even though I've spent years discovering how wrong the textbook view is on critical subjects, I still feel uncomfortable stating it openly.


'Unearthly Disclosures' by Timothy Good book review

Unearthly Disclosures by Timothy Good is all about UFOs and visiting aliens. I liked it. Timothy Good seems to know his stuff; he writes very well and he seems to have several high-up contacts in the US military and other relevant organisations. The fact that the book has a forward from Lord Hill-Norton, ex-Chief of the UK defence staff and chairman of NATO, shows that Good is respected in some influential circles.

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The best part, I think, of ‘Unearthly Disclosures’ is that the author does not seem to be working on behalf of the establishment. In my recent review of ‘Encounter in Rendlesham Forest’ by Tim Pope, I commented that Pope, who is ex-MoD, seems earnest and thorough but also seems to be giving a filtered version of what happened. It’s interesting to note that in Good's latest(ish) book 'Earth, an alien enterprise', he reports that Pope confessed in recent years that he worked in a government unit set up deliberately to rubbish the whole subject of UFOs. Pope did say ‘sorry’ but the damage was done. In comparison, I can find no indication that Good is distorting or covering up anything in this book, which is both refreshing and encouraging. Read More...

'Unconventional Flying Objects' by Paul Hill - book review

Most of the time, when people talk about UFOs or Unidentified Flying Objects, they tend to fall into two main camps. Some parties declare that UFOs are a delusion, 'swamp gas', 'venus', weather balloons or some other item that would be found out within ten minutes of close inspection. Other parties immediately produce wildly fantastic explanations and theories as to UFOs purpose and origin, also without good supporting evidence. Both attitudes are understandable but don't help us develop a better, accurate knowledge of what's actually going on.

By comparison, Paul R. Hill, a very experienced aeronautical engineer with an excellent grasp of physics and engineering concepts, decided to approach the matter of UFO's in a very different way. He adopted the following strategy.

1) Assume that UFOs are real devices but are not defying the laws of physics, that they are functioning machines, albeit advanced ones.
2) Collate observations on UFOs, especially observations carried out by skilled personnel, such as military observers and engineers.
3) Use the collated information to identify patterns of behaviour by the UFOs, their emissions (radiation etc), their weight (ground imprints) and any and all factual evidence that can be used to deduce the mode of their operation.

By doing this, Paul Hill came up with fascinating and scientifically sound possibilities as to how the UFOs operate and whether or not it is feasible for those craft to have come from planets around other stars. Read More...

'Encounter in Rendlesham Forest' book review

'Encounter in Rendlesham Forest' is a non-fiction book about the now infamous incident in a forest in East Anglia in the U.K. in 1980. The book is written by Nick Pope who, by his own admission, was an MoD employee for many years before becoming an author. The kindle version I read was published in 2014 and the book is relatively new and includes recent material and references.

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For those who haven't encountered the Rendlesham Forest incident, it is probably the most significant and well-documented UFO event in UK history. It is often referred to as the 'British Roswell'. One night, just after Christmas in 1980, something landed in the Rendlesham Forest, close to the Bentwater U.S. air force base. U.S. servicemen were told to investigate the presence in the forest of strange lights. Two of them encountered a triangular craft of advanced design. The craft later took off. The next night, more activity occurred in the forest. Many servicemen investigated this event and what they found is now the subject of many books and articles. Read More...

Fascinating talk on advanced propulsion by Dr Tom Valone

One of the problems of investigating the topic of UFOs is that there is an awful lot of woefully unscientific material out there on that subject. It's not a lot of fun watching videos or reading books that seem, at first glance, to be a possible treasure trove of valuable information, only to find that they are stating facts that are physically impossible, even when one accepts that mainstream science is on the wrong path regarding many important aspects of reality and ourselves.

Fortunately, there are some people who are interested in the field of UFOs, mind over matter, spirits and other officially 'crank' topics, who do have a solid scientific understanding. One of them is Dr Tom Valone. Below is a talk he gave at the X-Conference a few years back on the subject of advanced propulsion systems, UFOs and what their flight behaviour (as far as can be observed) may be telling us about what is possible in terms of interstellar transportation.

During the talk, Dr Valone touches on a physics matter that has intrigued me for many years. He explains that the perceived ability of some unidentified flying craft to execute high-speed, right-angle turns indicates that their designers have developed technology that reduces or negates inertial mass. Dr Valone points out in his talk that it may be possible to reduce inertial mass by creating a very-high-voltage electromagnetic environment. Traditionally, inertial mass and gravitational mass for an object are assumed to always stay the same - this is known as the Equivalence Principle - but this assumption may be flawed. In certain exotic systems, involving high voltages, the inertial mass, possibly created by the object's interaction with the vacuum energy field, could be reduced.

Interestingly, I explored this possibility in an article a few years ago but not with regard to UFOs. Instead, I postulated that stars, being high-voltage, high-pressure, high-temperature plasma balls, may have a much lower inertial mass than their gravitational mass. This would explain why stars orbit the centres of their galaxies much faster than they should, a phenomenon that has caused mainstream physics to conclude that the universe is full of dark matter. I'll try and mention this interesting idea to Dr Valone; he may find it fascinating! :-)

The Oddest UFO I've ever seen

There is a lot of material about UFO's on the web. Usually, the UFO concerned takes the form of a disc-shaped aircraft, or possibly a cigar-shaped one. I think, to be honest, that it's a bit dull that UFO's would mostly be disc-shaped aircraft. In a way, it's more likely that such craft aren't alien visitation vehicles, on the simple grounds that if an alien civilisation does visit us, they're likely to be thousands or millions of years ahead of us in terms of technology and would have abandoned metallic, aerodynamic vehicles long ago. It's more likely that such disc-vehicles are the property of advanced human groups on Earth, who have secretly taken a few leaps ahead of the rest of us in technology and come up with these disc-shaped vehicles.

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But one UFO sighting doesn't follow the standard disc-vehicle pattern at all. In the following video, a man in Portsmouth, UK, shows the footage he'd been amassing over years, documenting the activity of very strange flying objects near his home. For those viewers who are surprised that Portsmouth would be a hot-bed of such activity, it's worth noting that the town is a key U.K. military naval port. One particular piece of footage, recorded by the man, is especially fascinating, as it shows the oddest UFO I've ever seen and it shows the object in impressive detail. I definitely recommend readers viewing the footage. The documentary is a little long-winded, so it might be worth skipping forward now and then. Here it is:

Isn't it fascinating? What is that device? I have no idea but it does seem to possess an ability to hover and move through the air without any need for wings or rockets or a jet engine or propellers even a gas bag. In a sense, it's the best UFO I've ever seen footage evidence for because it is completely alien. No one would come up with such a flying device. This sort of encounter I think shows why it's so hard to be a responsible science-fiction writer, because there seems to be advanced stuff out there that makes no sense at all, so how can one write believably about it? I think I'll stick to writing stories about people in metal boxes; it's so much easier.

Chambers and tunnels under the Giza Plateau

While browsing through YouTube, I came upon this fascinating documentary in which Andrew Collins and colleagues explain their discovery of chambers and passages under the Giza plateau. As the documentary explains, Collins and his associates developed a belief that the Giza pyramids were laid out to match the Cygnus or 'Swan' constellation. They therefore concluded that the place matching the star Deneb, the main star of Cygnus, should be of great significance. They followed up on their idea, along with well-researched information they gathered together, and found an entrance leading to multiple underground chambers and passageways.

The progress of the researchers has a familiar ring. As has often been the case when enthusiasts have tried to discover the secrets of the Giza site, one person has almost always obstructed their efforts. Zahi Hawass, the head of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo at that time, first stated categorically that there were no underground chambers at the Giza site, even though the researchers had found and photographed underground chambers. He then barred the entrance to the temple concerned. He followed that up by taking a film crew down those same passages but made no effort to explore further. This tactic of Hawass's, of rubbishing theories and then blocking access to the site so that no one can explore further, has occurred multiple times. For example, after Jean-Pierre Houdin developed a sound theory of an inner ramp within the Great Pyramid, he went to Giza and discovered a collapsed corner of the pyramid wall, high up, exactly where an inner ramp could have weakened the pyramid's outer shell. Houdin had a quick look and then rapidly found the site barred to any access. Since that time, no one has been allowed to explore that collapsed corner. Similar events may happen again. Hawass is currently not the head of Egyptian Antiquities, possibly having been sacked (again), but it is possible he may be reinstated, which has also happened before.

I haven't posted a lot of information about new development at Giza in the last few years. Some readers might find this strange, as I did a lot of research on Egypt and I developed an explanation for why and when the Great Pyramid at Giza was constructed. To put it succinctly, the Great Pyramid was built between 3000 BC and 2800 BC in order to take advantage of an extremely rare celestial event; the passage of a star almost directly over the celestial North Pole. This transit occurred in 2787 BC and the star concerned was Thuban, or Alpha Draconis, 'Thuban' is Arabic for the snake and although the star is not the brightest star in the Draconis (or Dragon) constellation, it was designated a long time ago as the constellation's most important star.

The discovery of this solution has been a very strange experience for me. After developing this answer to the mystery of the Great Pyramid's construction and writing about it, I did assume that the answer, based entirely on straightforward astronomy and the Great Pyramid's physical attributes, would be rapidly disseminated, accepted and repeated by others. The solution can't be dismissed as an interpretation as there is no interpretation involved. No translations or hypotheses are required; it's a simple case of geometry and astronomical observation. And yet, I've seen no indication that anyone has picked up this ball and run with it. What's more, my attempts to directly pass on the information to others - researchers, magazines - has met with stony silence; It's all very odd. Understandably, I think, such a complete void of encouragement and interest has sapped my enthusiasm and I've focussed my energies on other topics instead.

I'll keep plugging away whenever possible. In the meantime, do enjoy the above documentary.

The mysterious history of New Zealand

While trawling through the enormous mixed-bag that is YouTube, I found this very interesting New Zealand documentary exploring the history of New Zealand. The documentary puts forward a convincing case that the Polynesians who settled in New Zealand around eight hundred years ago did not find it empty of human occupation. Instead, they found pale-skinned, ginger and blonde-haired peoples already living in NZ. What's more, the distinct culture of Maori New Zealand we see today, with its designs, totems and figures, was not brought to that land by the Polynesians but instead was a mix of their culture and one inherited from the inhabitants already living in New Zealand. The documentary goes on to report that genetic analysis, carbon dating and other tests on mummified bodies, bones and sacred sites in New Zealand make it clear that a race of people did arrive in New Zealand around 3,000 years ago. This group was originally from Persia and its members had already created communities in places as far apart as Easter Island, Peru and Western Ireland, with a distinct culture common to all those places.

Sadly, the documentary also reports that attempts in New Zealand to highlight this new evidence have been deliberately ignored and suppressed, to the point of authorities banning further excavation and classifying scientific discoveries. Yet again, it would seem that certain white males in power in the Western World are making very sure that a flawed version of our history is enforced. As Orwell once said; 'He who controls the present writes the past'.

Thing Explainer book review

Amid lots of blog posts about dark forces controlling society, the seismic flaws at the heart of orthodox science, the tragic underbelly of human behaviour and the future collapse of civilisation, it's good to talk about something fun. I've recently finished reading Randall Munroe's 'Thing Explainer' hardback science book and I heartily recommend it. Munroe's filled his book with lovely diagrams of important devices (e.g. the Curiosity Rover, a skyscraper) and has followed the neat plan of only using a lexicon of one thousand popular words. This way, he never burdens and confuses the reader with technical jargon and also gives us a fresh view of familiar devices by describing them in simple terms. Munroe is known through his xkcd website which is also lots of fun, especially for those who like Dilbert and think Unix is an elegant and quite beautiful operating system (which I personally do).



It's available from all good bookshops and is a delight. Buy it, read it from cover to cover, laugh and be fascinated. After that, give it to someone you love, while downplaying the fact that you've actually read it first, all the way through, and pretend instead that you always had them in mind when you bought the book [Note: To do this effectively, do not read it in the bath].

Aldous Huxley letter to George Orwell

The current edition of New Philosopher magazine includes a copy of a fascinating letter written by Aldous Huxley to George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) after he read a first edition copy Orwell's famous book, '1984'. I thought I'd reproduce it here in its entirety, as I think it touches upon a very important subject, that Orwell's dark dystopia was very perceptive and prescient in its warnings and ideas but missed a key point, that it wasn't the most efficient system of population control. Here's the letter:

Dear Mr Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the middle of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor eyesight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on ‘Nineteen eight-four’.

Agreeing with all that the critics that have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once once, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals - the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution - the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at the total subversion of the individual’s psychology and physiology - are to be found the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen eight-four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in ‘Brave New World’. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognisance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile and the rest. Read More...

Twelve important psychology experiments

I thought it would be a good time to go over all the psychology experiments that I've encountered over the years, ones that have been fascinating and revealing studies on human behaviour. It's not a comprehensive list, for sure, but it is a good list, I think, full of revealing content. It starts out fun and harmless and becomes darker as it progresses, so you can stop at any point if you become too saddened by human nature.

I haven't included psychology experiments showing 'psi' effects, such as work done by Daryl Bem, Robert Jahn and others; I think they're better off in their own list. I also haven't included experiments about cognitive bias, although there are lots of interesting ones for that subject (e.g. anchoring bias, halo effect, priming, framing etc). My favourite cognitive bias example at the moment is the 'UP TO 50% OFF' sale signs we see here in Britain all the time. Many people will see these signs and expect items inside to be 30% off or 40%. In fact, the sign does not state this at all. In fact, what the sign says is exactly the same as saying; 'NO MORE THAN 50% OFF.' Imagine what the customer would think if he or she saw a sign like that stuck on the shop window? Read More...

State of Surveillance - Edward Snowden

I like Edward Snowden. I think he's a hero. I also think it's very funny that some people, for years, attested to the fact that the U.S. Government and the U.K. Government were eavesdropping on everyone in their respective countries and that this claim was declared a ludicrous, paranoid conspiracy theory. Lo and behold, when Edward Snowden told everyone that he'd been working for the NSA and he had proof that that was exactly what the government(s) were doing (along with GCHQ, according to some of the evidence), the establishment view of that matter rapidly switched from 'it's ridiculous' to 'it's necessary to combat terrorism'. Suddenly, it wasn't a ludicrous conspiracy theory at all but simply a necessary 'deception'. I've often though that there's only a small gap between ridiculous and obvious; Snowden's revelations seem to support that idea!

In this youtube video, which I found on the interesting website, VICE host Shane Smith interviews Snowden and talks about what can be done to stop someone hacking your smartphone and recording everything you do, including what you say and where you go. Snowden gives some very interesting advice on the matter, along with comments on the broader matter of civil liberties.

I thought I'd add a few thoughts on the 'how not to be monitored by secret groups' topic. As I've got a computer science degree, plus professional experience, I do have some useful knowledge on the matter. Firstly, Snowden is absolutely right that if your smartphone is hacked, you'll have a very hard time discovering the fact. To be honest, if you are concerned about being snooped on, the only safe smartphone is no smartphone. Use random pay-phones if possible. Use old phones that are barely sufficient for calls and messages, as it'll be harder for snoopers to install useful eavesdropping software. These are the only safe-ish options. I've blogged before about the potential power of smartphones to hypnotise people while they sleep (which sounds outlandish but is perfectly feasible) and so I'm a big fan of minimum or no smartphone usage for anyone worried that they are being 'got at'.

When it comes to laptops, it is still very difficult to spot hacking and eavesdropping but there are ways to check if it's occurring. If you're connected to the internet via a router or switch, watch the packet activity light on the router. If it's chattering away when you've turned everything off to do with the internet, something funny is going on. Unplug the power to the laptop and work off its battery. If the battery is going down surprisingly quickly when all you're doing is typing an article, it's possible the laptop is sending information about you wirelessly while hiding that fact from your desktop status icons. (Clandestine groups may have hacked your laptop but they still need power to run their apps). Shut your laptop down when you're not using it; this shortens the time available to secret groups to hack your computer. You can also check your system logs to see if your computer was booted up when you weren't around. Turn on your firewall and turn off bluetooth, if possible. These acts don't guarantee that you won't be hacked (far from it!) but they do make it harder for anyone who's trying. Ultimately, assume that everything you put on your laptop or smartphone will be monitored. If you end up in a situation where you do need to hide information, store it in your head and pass it on verbally by whispering into someone's ear in a nightclub; that should be relatively safe. :-)

One final note. A lot of people respond to Snowden's revelations with 'I don't care if they're watching us, I've got nothing to hide!' For those people, I would say; 'you have nothing to hide from moral people but what if those people turned into Nazis or get taken over by Nazis?' The French Underground was rightly admired for their work in the Second World War. They'd have had a terrible time doing anything if France had introduced comprehensive surveillance before the War, for any reason. Snowden calls this problem 'turnkey tyranny' and he's right. For anyone not concerned about this threat, I'd check out the latest news from the U.S. Presidential elections…

The Noetic Universe by Dean Radin - book review

The Noetic Universe, by Dean Radin, senior scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, is a solid exploration of the current evidence for psi - the abilities of our minds to influence the physical world and other related abilities. I've reviewed quite a few books and videos by Dean Radin, mostly because he's a measured, thorough, careful and clearly intelligent scientist working to show reliable evidence for psi abilities. In a sense, he's continuing the work of Robert Jahn and others in trying to convince the world that our minds are not frothy side-effects of our functioning brains but are in fact the shapes of reality.

The Noetic Universe is a relatively dry book as Radin goes to great lengths to explain the thoroughness of the experiments he's carried out over the last few decades. This can be a bit dull at times, so some readers may want to skim some sections but it is necessary for him to show that he's being very scientific about the whole process. For readers after a book talking about the links between Western Science, psi and Eastern Philosophy, I'd recommend his book 'Supernormal', which I've previously reviewed. His videos are more accessible but obviously not as comprehensive; they could be a good beginning for people interested in his work.

There are one or two errors in the book. For example, Radin comments that there isn't any solid research on NDE's or Near Death Experiences and that we have to rely on anecdotal stories. This isn't correct; Dr Pim Van Lommel carried out a fascinating study of NDE's in his cardiac ward, which he describes in his book Consciousness Beyond Life, which I've previously reviewed. I'm not criticising Dr Radin, as it's highly likely Dr Van Lommel's book came out after my edition of 'The Noetic Universe', but I thought it was worth mentioning.

At the end of 'The Noetic Universe', Radin talks enthusiastically about the growing interest in psi by ordinary people and is hopeful that its solid scientific basis which eventually cause psi to be accepted by the scientific establishment. He feels that the inertia, cognitive dissonance and an inability of senior scientists to change their mindset has been holding it back up to now. Unfortunately, after studying the subject for many years, I don't think this is the case. Radin wisely describes the huge benefits to human-kind if we develop our latent or semi-latent psi abilities but he misses a key point; any group that has already developed its psi-abilities will have a huge advantage over everyone else, enabling it to generate great power and wealth. That group would be likely to then work very hard to make darn sure that no one else developed such psi abilities, in particular remote viewing (a skill discussed in Radin's book). I've explored this scenario in my psi earth articles. It would be great if Radin is right and I am wrong - I would like very much like that his hopes to come true - but with our current social structures, which I've described in my article 'why psychopaths and secret clans rule us all', I think the latter is more likely to be true. Hey ho.

Overall, I do recommend 'The Noetic Universe' for anyone who wishes to read a thorough, scientific, clear description of the evidence that our minds do affect reality. If you want something that covers that area but is more fun, covers a wider territory and has less graphs, I heartily recommend my book 'How science shows that almost everything important we've been told is wrong.' Yep, it's a blatant plug but give me a break; this is my website. ;-)

Everything is a rich man's trick

For many years now, I've been writing articles exploring the strange and depressing fact (in my view) that what is actually true about reality, physics, history, archaeology, politics and a host of other important topics doesn't seem to match the official view at all. Several of these ideas are present in the anomalies section of this website, as well as popping up in previous blog articles and in my latest non-fiction book 'How science shows that almost everything important we've been told is wrong'. In a nutshell I would say:

The more important the topic, the more erroneous the official explanation.

This trend seems to be true with regard to how reality comes into being, the origins of the humans race, the origins of civilisation, the reason behind our major wars, how our leaders are chosen, major tragedies and others. This doesn't mean that all conspiracy theories are true - some of them are pure fancy - but it does make the old adage knowledge is power ring true. In many ways, it is logically inevitable that ourselves - the masses - are being lied to by at least some of the groups in power. We are clearly on a very violent planet where psychopaths hold great power, enough to obliterate nearly all of us (the events of 2016 would, I think, have made this clear). These groups and individuals, by their very nature, want as much power and control as they can get. It is therefore inevitable that they would do their best to make sure that the people they control have as little empowering information as possible.

A very interesting video documentary on youtube seems to agree with this view. It is called 'Everything is a rich man's trick'. It's three-and-a-half hours long, which is way too long for a youtube documentary and it could definitely have benefitted from being shortened or split into two or three smaller documentaries. I very much enjoyed the first two hours and found some of the material eye-opening, even for someone like me who's read/viewed a lot of material on the subject. I wasn't totally convinced by all the ideas/theories put forward, there are clearly at least a few factual mistakes in the documentary and the last hour becomes quite erratic and polemical but it is still an impressive piece of research.

The documentary focuses on the connection between the Nazis and wealthy industrialists in the U.S. and the JFK assassination. Some of its content reinforces the idea I discussed in my last blog post that top-down hierarchies can inevitably help secret societies gain control of major institutions, companies and the military. Some of the content is simply jaw-dropping.

Unfortunately, the presenter's call for revolution at the end of the documentary is, I think, naive. Revolutions are very risky endeavours, can involve huge bloodshed and often don't bring improvements to a country as they can be hijacked by very shadowy characters. A far better plan is to systematically improve a country's institutions, such as was done in post-war Britain. The demise of that wonderful programme is another story but I'll blog about that later; one (or four) grand conspiracies is probably enough for one day! :-)

Mysteries of our Ancient Past documentary

There aren't a lot of documentaries exploring controversial evidence about our ancient past in Britain nowadays (readers can come to their own conclusions about why that is so). The United States does have the interesting 'Ancient Aliens' series but that it is very whizz-bang and, not surprisingly, very preoccupied about evidence of alien visitations. In fact, they see aliens in so many pieces of controversial evidence that it becomes ludicrous at times, but there's no doubt it can be fun to watch and there are some fascinating nuggets in many of the episodes.

Here is a more measured documentary from Europe, exploring strange evidence about our ancient past. It includes well-known writers in the field such as Colin Wilson, Eric Bauval and Christopher Dunn. I very much enjoyed the documentary and was happy with a lot of its content, apart from the last fifteen minutes when it strayed into the theory of crust displacement. Although I don't feel that crust displacement is impossible, I think other, more established natural events can explain what happened at the end of our last ice age. For example, I am particularly convinced that our planet was bombarded by a shower of meteorites, the Younger Dryas Impact event, which itself could have been caused by the strange Planet X or Nibiru entering our inner solar system again as part of its 17,000 year orbit.

If I find more interesting documentaries, I'll post them up here. It can be very tedious, trawling through youtube, looking for decent documentaries, and so I'll try and act as a filter, posting those programmes I find that I think are worth watching.

'Arrival' film review

I'd been looking forward to watching 'Arrival' for the last few months and, fortunately, it didn't disappoint. I do like thoughtful science fiction movies and although Hollywood can produce some absolute turkey sci-fi films, along with a steady stream of macho-xenophobic-US-centric tosh, they can also make some excellent offerings. Contact with Jodie Foster was excellent, so was Gravity (which was actually filmed mostly in London's Soho), along with the Stephen Soderberg remake of 'Solaris'. I even liked Matt Damon's 'The Martian', or at least until the schmaltz and woefully impossible orbiting times in the latter half of that movie tarnished the story.

Arrival revolves around Amy Adam's character, an academic linguist who studies language structures as well as knowing multitudes of languages fluently. Although the film is supposed to be about the aliens, it's really about her as a mother, (mild plot spoilers) overcoming a family tragedy. For anyone who blurts out 'but that's exactly the premise of Sandra Bullock's character in Gravity!' I can only say that it seems to currently be the view in Hollywood that the only type of woman who can reach out to the stars and be intelligent and resourceful has to have seriously suffered as a mum. Read More...

Christmas, Spirituality and The Apartment

At this time of the year, a lot of people get heartily involved in the popular elements of Christmas. That's great, but many people don't often know the origins of such elements. For example, the popular figure of Santa Claus is actually based on a Lapland ogre with a bright red face who was said to climb down the chimney and devour the children in their beds. Food was left out on Christmas night in a bid to prevent the monstrous humanoid from chomping on the kiddy-winkies. Parents traditionally told their children this story for reasons I'm not too clear on. Later, St Nicholas became the visitor that children would get if they were good and the ogre would come if they were bad, a figure that was later morphed into 'Black Pete', a man covered in soot, possibly from his hostile, chimney-based approach.


Other people focus on the Christian story; a baby in a manger, along with a big, bright moving star and three kings or Magi who visit the infant, bringing gifts. This whole scene, oddly enough, is strongly connected to Ancient Egyptian beliefs. In Ancient Egypt, the star Sirius, associated with the god Osiris, the brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere, was 'born' at the beginning of the Egyptian Summer when it rose above the horizon. Its arrival was always accompanied by the Three Kings stars, a.k.a. Orion's Belt. Also, the word 'Magi' is the root word of 'Magician' and originates with the Zoroastrian religion popular in Persia in the centuries before Christ, a religion from which the cult of Mithra was born.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens and here’s my review. Warning, there are plot spoilers.

I loved the first three Star Wars movies. I've mentioned this before and although I've written critical articles about ‘What on Earth is an underwater monster doing in a trash compacter on a metal space station?' and 'Why is Star Wars an allegory for conception?', I still love those first three films to bits. There are so many good aspects to them. In fact, here's my extensive list of all the things I liked about the first three Star Wars movies:

A Star Destroyer looming over the camera. (Awesome!)
A tall guy in black who’s powerful in the Dark Side of the Force, wears a mask and striding around corridors with stormtroopers. (Boo!)
A plucky Rebel putting vital data crucial to the Cause into a chirpy, loyal droid. (Drama!)
A plucky rebel who’s captured by Imperial Forces but resists torture designed to extract reveal information. (Laugh in their faces, dude!)
Rebels escaping from a Star Destroyer (Ha ha! Outsmarted those evil goons!)
Rebel fugitives crash-landing on a desert planet. (Dramatic and desolate…)
A vulnerable droid finding a down-at-heel desert town filled with exotic but unfriendly aliens. (it's a Western with Fantasy Characters! Neat…)
That same droid making friends with a young hero who’s a ‘diamond in the rough’; poor but strong in the force. (Yay!)
The young hero zooms around in a Land-speeder (Two-stroke anti-gravity!)
The heroes escaping the Imperial Forces in the Millennium Falcon using their brilliant dog-fight skills.
A young, inexperienced hero fighting off tie-fighters in the Millennium Falcon gun-copula.
Harrison Ford as Han Solo charming the audience by making fun, wise-ass remarks.
Harrison Ford suddenly realising he’s in big trouble and switching to ‘fire-fight’ mode.
Lots of running around darkened corridors.
The heroes hanging out in a bar with lots of ugly or strange aliens while a band plays cool music.
A small but very wise alien explaining the Force to the heroes. (Philosophy!)
A hero experiencing a scary vision as part of understanding the Force. (Creepy…)
A bad character turning out to be actually a good character’s offspring, or vice-versa. (Shock!)
C3PO talking too much when he should really shut up. (What an endearing dork!)
The Rebel Forces preparing for battle on a forested planet, which looks a lot like a World War 2 fighter airfield in Norfolk, England. (Goodness Gracious!)
The Imperial Forces preparing for battle and looking a lot like Nazis. (Double Boo!)
Carrie Fisher bantering acerbically with Harrison Ford. (Isn’t she a peach?)
Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford embracing. (Ahh, it was inevitable..)
The Death Star threatening the forested Rebel planet. (Those poor trees!)
The young heroes avoiding StormTroopers on the Death Star, using their wits and acrobatic skills. (Go Team!)
Han and Chewie walking across on an ice planet and moaning about it being cold. (it’s a Buddy movie too!)
The Dark Side Knight of Blackness suffering conflicting thoughts about being on the Dark Side (Well, who wouldn’t?)
The young heroes fighting stormtroopers in a forest (White really shows up on dark green).
A confrontation on a high gantry. (The Bridge of Kazadhum meets Cloud City)
A hero falling off a high gantry. (Is he a tumbler or a diver?)
An Emperor of the Dark Side who shows what prolonged malevolence does to one’s skin complexion. (evil destroys collagen).
A light-sabre fight, especially one where the scenery gets chopped up.
The young hero growing strong in the force, surprising the bad guy. (Ha ha! Gotcha!)
The Rebel base command room pointing out a weak spot in the Death Star. (It’s Bletchley Park all over again!)
X-Wing Fighters attacking the Death Star.
An X-Wing Fighter pilot shouting ‘I’ve got one on my tail!’
Rebel fighters flying through the guts of the Death Star.
X-Wing Fighters fly along a trench on the Death Star.
X-Wing Fighters blowing up the Death Star.
X-Wing Fighter pilots saying; ‘let’s go home’ after they blow up the Death Star.
And finally, most importantly of all, a wise, old, bearded Jedi Master in loose clothing (monks can kick ass!).

It’s a long list, isn’t it? There are so many things to love about the first three movies, with the exception of the Ewoks, who were daft. So, if you like the above list too, you'll be doubly pleased because… the new movie IS THAT LIST!! I’m not joking. You can take a print-out with you into the cinema if you like and tick the items off as you go. They all happen, roughly in that order.

Such a situation sounds brilliant, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it isn’t, because a few things have changed since 1977. For example, in 1977, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher were young, sparky and fresh with a point to prove in the first movie and now they’re… not. They do a valiant job in the new film’s scenes but they look like they need a lie down half-way through each one. There’s also the niggly problem that if you bung in all the above elements into a two-and-a-bit-hour movie, there’s no room for a coherent script, or believable changes in characters’ behaviour, or, well, basically anything. In the new film, characters appear out of nowhere for no reason, characters suddenly have skills with no explanation. Characters change allegiance for the briefest of reasons, and then back again, and back again like some sort of moral ping-pong. The new film is basically a cobbled-together derivative fan-movie smorgasbord that's bereft of inspiration, but does have a very big budget.

To be fair, there are some new elements in the film that haven’t been seen before. For example, we now know that good stormtroopers bleed but bad stormtroopers don’t. Also, Death Stars have got bigger, but they’re still stupidly designed. In addition, that red-crayfish-alien rebel general from ‘Return of the Jedi’ hasn’t changed at all, indicating that he’s either immortal or that he’s very old and wrinkly but it’s just very hard to tell when someone’s a crayfish. Oh, and there’s a new stormtrooper outfit that looks like it’s a medieval suit of armour, which I can only guess is there for merchandising reasons, as the character who was wearing it was completely superfluous to the story and seemed to have gatecrashed the set.

That’s pretty much it. I’m a big fan of J.J. Abrams; I think his reboot of Star Trek was inspired but his foray into Star Trek seems to have been shoved through the Disney corporate product mincer and turned into Jedi sausages. Ketchup, anyone?

Climate change books review

At the moment, the COP21 climate change summit is taking place in Paris. The conference is into its second week and the news reports say that the negotiators are working through the night to try and sort out a binding agreement amongst the countries taking part. As it's going on, I thought it would be a good moment to review two climate change books; ‘Storms of my Grandchildren’ by James Hansen and ‘Six Degrees’ by Mark Lynas.

James Hanson is possibly the most well-known climate scientist in the world today. He has been conducting research and campaigning to tell people how serious is the threat of climate change to the entire planet. In his book, Hansen thoroughly and extensively explains how he and other climate scientists have gathered the evidence that shows what the huge emission of carbon dioxide is doing to our planet and the likely outcome of this act. Hansen focuses particularly on evidence from Earth’s past. By studying what happened in historic episodes of global warming (particularly the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum or PETM), Hansen shows how easily and quickly the Earth’s climate can shift to a very different state. He also draws on evidence on what’s been happening to our planet in recent, recorded history and how this matches the pattern of change from previous-era events.

Hansen’s book is excellent for anyone who wants to be convinced of the depth of research that supports the climate change reports and predictions. Unfortunately, it isn’t the easiest read and I found it sluggish at times. Hansen also, I think, makes the mistake of apportioning blame to different groups. There seems little benefit to this strategy, as one of the biggest problems of the 'humanity and climate change' situation is one shared by nearly everyone; the vast majority of people on Earth who can burn fossil fuels do burn them, and in large amounts. Also, the ecological catastrophe that is approaching will punish everyone. We’re effectively all in this together.

'We are not alone' book review and Martian thoughts

This week, I've been reading 'We are not alone' by Dirk Schulze-Makuch and David Darling, a popular science book that reports on and explains the evidence for life in other parts of our solar system and what form that life might take.

The book's first half focusses on Mars and the evidence for life on that planet. That particular topic has been in the news this week. There's been lots of media discussion and NASA press conferences about the significance of tell-tale trails on the martian surface, particularly running down from certain cliffs and mountains. As 'We are not alone' points out, this evidence has been known for ten years or more, and so it's surprising that it's being reported as such a big deal now. The cynic in me would wonder if it's something to do with the release of Matt Damon's latest movie 'The Martian', but that's probably just a coincidence.

As Darling Schulze-Makuch's book explains, the story of evidence for life on Mars kicked off with Percival Lovell and his claims for Martian 'canals'. In truth, Lovell was simply re-iterating an Italian astronomer's observations of 'canali' on Mars, which is Italian for 'channel', but Lovell's embellishments and conclusion that Mars was inhabited by a civilisation struck a popular chord.

Later on, probably the most important episode of 'life on Mars' evidence came from the Viking lander expedition. Devices on the Viking lander found evidence of life in the Martian soil. This evidence should, at least if NASA had followed its own rules, have been enough for scientists to declare that life does exist on Mars, but certain scientists on the NASA panel had their way and the evidence was eventually dismissed as inconclusive. Read More...

Two decades of great science-fiction movies

I think it was so much better in the olden days… No! That's not true! I do not want to be an old, boring moaner with rose-tinted spectacles! (At least not all the time) That being said, I do want to say that there really was a brilliant twenty-year period in U.K. and North American science-fiction cinema that started in 1962 and ended in 1982. For various cultural and historical reasons, it just seemed to be a time when film-makers had the freedom, opportunity, motivation and inspiration to create a lot of clever, inventive, disturbing and memorable science-fiction ideas and scenarios. It really was a golden age. I was going to waffle about each film, but that would take a lot of time, so I thought I'd just show the posters in rough date order, one for every year. Here goes:

Oliver Sacks - Three wonderful books

Oliver Sacks sadly passed away a few days ago. He was a fascinating, brilliant and warm man and he contributed immeasurably to both clinical neuropsychology and public knowledge and interest in that field. Here's three of his books that I can heartily recommend.
'The man who mistook his wife for a hat' is the book that began my love for Oliver Sacks' writing. In it, he describes several patients that he worked with that had suffered some form of injury to the right hemisphere of their brain. The fact that it was a right hemisphere injury was of critical importance. A left hemisphere injury can cause serious problems to a person's ability to operate in society, but they are of an understandable nature. When the right hemisphere is damaged, the effects are very strange indeed. Read More...

'The Day After Roswell' - book review Part II

After writing my recent review of 'The Day After Roswell' by Philip J. Corso, I remembered two more interesting things in the book that I didn't cover in my first review. Neither of them are actually about U.F.O.'s or aliens, which, I think, shows how much stuff is present in Corso's book; it really is a treasure trove of thought-provoking material.
First off, in between the hard-to-believe alien stuff in Corso's book, Corso also touches on an oddity in America's space exploration programme; why haven't the United States put a base on the moon? I wrote an article on this subject a while back. In the article, I described some of the military benefits of having a base on the moon and why it is a major mystery why the United States or Russia still don't have a base on our moon.

In his book, Corso discusses, at length, the U.S. military's interest and plans in setting up a moon base, a plan hatched in the late fifties and designed to be completed by the mid-sixties. Corso makes it clear that General Trudeau, his commanding officer, was involved in a plan to land on the moon and then establish a base there, with the moon landing being simply one step in a larger process. The reasoning laid out in Corso's book is more extensive than my comments in my article, which not surprisingly for a major U.S. military project, but the essential premise is the same. The moon is the high ground and anyone who establishes a base on it will have a huge military advantage. Corso dedicates an entire chapter to the project and adds an appendix with photocopied briefing documents, detailing what became known as Project Horizon. But, as we all know, there is no moon base. Corso explains why; his answer is logical but it involves UFO's, so its veracity is a matter for debate. Read More...

'The Day After Roswell' by Philip J. Corso - book review

A few months ago, I began a fresh look into the U.F.O. topic, as a result of aimless youtube wandering. It was a very interesting experience. After watching several of the Sirius Disclosure testimonies, I was amazed at the number of testimonies from respected professional, educated, senior people, including a Rear Admiral, stating that U.F.O.’s do exist but that the secret services and military sections of the major governments of the world have been hiding the facts from the general population for the last seventy years (or more).
Following on from that surprising claim, I sought out and read ‘The Day After Roswell’ by Colonel Philip J. Corso. This book is about the United States' military’s encounters with U.F.O.’s since the Second World War and, in particular, Corso’s own involvement. By his own, account, Corso was very much in the thick of it. He received artefacts from crashed alien spacecraft and passed them on to private defence contractors so that they could examine the advanced technology and replicate it, thereby developing valuable new technologies. All of this was done in secret and, according to Corso, was responsible for huge advances in key technologies on Earth. It’s astonishing stuff and I can imagine many people would simply reject it as a lie. But is it?

Let's be logical

Corso' book is certainly official 'kook' territory but, before judging and sentencing it, let’s think rationally about the likelihood of its key assertions. Firstly, it's become clear to all of us in recent years that the intelligence agencies and militaries of the world are definitely hiding things from their citizens. After Edward Snowden’s recent revelations about the N.S.A. and G.C.H.Q.’s email and phone snooping, along with a whole host of recent scandals in which the western military and spy establishments ignored laws, due process, peoples’ lives and other rather important things, it’s pretty much a ‘given’ that our spooks are hiding stuff from us.

'Command and Control' by Eric Schlosser - book review

This week, I've been reading Eric Schlosser's 'Command and Control', an extensive and comprehensive non-fiction book that looks into the history of nuclear weapon safety in the U.S.A. since the Second World War. Schlosser wrote the excellent 'Fast Food Nation' and this book is just as thorough and just as alarming. Schlosser's book makes it clear, using an exhaustive list of events, that it's pretty much a miracle that a nuclear weapon didn't accidentally explode in the United States in the last sixty years.
I'm a supporter of CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and so I was keen to read this book to be as knowledgeable as possible on such an important subject. I came to the decision, several years ago, that I would rather be killed by a nuclear weapon than be even partly responsible for dropping one on millions of other people. There are many visceral examples of what such a nuclear strike would do in books and television, from an excellent passage in the book 'Doomsday Men', that I recently reviewed, as well as the harrowing and brilliant series 'Threads', made by the BBC (when the Beeb was being brave). I heartily recommend both items, but be aware, the Threads programme pulls no punches at all.

'Command and Control' is a thick wedge of a book. Schlosser exhaustively reports on the history of nukes in the U.S. and the cold war. To be honest, there were sections that I skipped, as page after page of descriptions of missiles and strategies can get dull. Fortunately, the book switches between this history and the recounting of a particular event; a disastrous accident that occurred at a Titan II missile silo. Schlosser's account of the accident is riveting. His writing reminded me a lot of Stephen King's 'The Stand', with the same approach of giving each character's back story, before narrating what happened to them during the accident. I wouldn't be surprised if Schlosser starts writing fiction soon, he's certainly prepared the ground.

Heisenberg: Physics and Philosophy - book review

This week, I've been reading 'Physics and Philosophy' by Werner Heisenberg. Heisenberg was one of the leading lights of the Quantum Physics generation in the early twentieth century. He was the prime discoverer of the Uncertainty Principle; that it is impossible to know both the velocity and position of a subatomic particle at the same time.

I'll say, straight away, that 'Physics and Philosophy' is a dry read; the book is never going to succeed as a mainstream popular science book. Heisenberg writes like a physics professor giving a church sermon, but he also writes with an air of calm authority. He isn't polemicist or a demagogue. There's no sign that he has an axe to grind. As a result, the book reads as a benchmark of sober thought on the philosophical implications of what physicists discovered in the early twentieth century.

During his book, Heisenberg stays very much in the middle ground of the philosophical interpretations of quantum physics. He never concludes that the mind is required for matter to appear out of the quantum realm, unlike Wigner and Von Neumann, but neither does he follow the lead of Einstein and doggedly advocate the Classical Physics viewpoint of an external reality that is present and real all the time, whether we observe it or not. Instead, he talks calmly about what he thinks we can reliably conclude from the experimental evidence and the mathematics, and how that is elegant and beautiful and sufficient just by itself. Read More...

'Lovelace and Babbage' - graphic novel-ish review

A graphic novel-ish has come out recently that is fun, well-researched and beautifully drawn. It's called:

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

It's by Sydney Padua and it's based on her web comic that ran for several years. Padua worked in Hollywood as animator for years before writing the webcomic and it shows; her illustrations are effortless, consistent, accurate and full of expression and life, which (take it from me) takes absolutely donkeys years and a bazillion hours to master. I must note that the book isn't a graphic novel; instead, it is a series of short stories about Ada Lovelace (seen by many as the first computer programmer) and Charles Babbage (seen by many as the inventor of the first computer) in an alternative universe created by Padua in which Lovelace doesn't die young and they both get to make the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine. Along with each page of these stories are a big pile of footnotes, showing how much research Padua has done on the subject.


SpaceShipOne - it's a nail-biter

Here's another good documentary from YouTube. This one's about Burt Rutan, a famous airplane designer, and his efforts to win the X-prize, the competition set up in the U.S. to reward the first private company to take passengers into space on two separate trips, less than a fortnight apart. In other words, a competition to encourage the development of a privately designed, constructed and tested commercial spaceship.

I only knew a little about the SpaceShipOne project before I watched the video, and I had no idea how they had got on with their craft, so I found the documentary both exciting, intriguing and a complete nail-biter. I really didn't know what was going to happen at any point in the documentary and because they were doing a lot of the project work on a shoe-string, with an entirely new design of craft, without wind-tunnel testing or advanced simulations or an exhaustive series of tests to cover every possible potential problem, it really felt as if there could be a disaster at any point in the story. Gripping stuff (Note: it's not 1080p and it's actually only an hour-and-a-half long).

Travel to the stars by exploding atomic bombs

I discovered this fascinating programme on youtube yesterday. It's an old BBC4 documentary about Freeman Dyson and his project to design a spaceship that travels into space, propelled by detonating a series of nuclear explosions.

I found the documentary both engrossing and bizarre. Throughout the program, the people involved in the project were convinced that it was a viable and brilliant way to send humans into space and the other planets in our solar system. They pointed out, sensibly, that rocket motors did not produce enough power to effectively fling humans to the edges of our solar system, or our nearby astral neighbours. Chemical rockets were good enough to go to the moon, but that's about it.

This all made sense, but at no point in the documentary did anyone say 'wait a second, how on Earth are you going to accurately steer this craft as you explode nuclear weapons under its 'spring plate'? Also, how are you going to safely detonate a whole series of nuclear bombs under this 'spring plate' without them frying the crew with radiation or running the risk of one of them blowing up while it's still inside the bomb bay? The practical problems seem endless, and yet they carried on with idealistic zeal. Fascinating stuff.

'Supernormal' book review and Influence Idea thoughts

The purpose of this article is to review a book, but I thought I’d chat some more about the Influence Idea and 'Reality is Light' before the review, as they are connected. Just a quick note: The links in the following paragraphs connect to the larger articles I’ve written about these ideas, available elsewhere on this website, so feel free to switch to them if you'd like a fuller explanation.

To start off with, I'll explain the Influence Idea again, briefly. It's surprisingly simple. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that everything in our physical universe becomes more disordered over time; this is called Entropy, but something strange is going on because Life becomes more ordered over time. Life grows, develops and reproduces, constantly increasing order in the universe. Since Life exists in the universe, and is clearly acting entirely against Entropy, and Entropy governs all physical things in the universe then, logically, Life must be being created and maintained by a non-physical, positive, organising influence originating from outside physical reality.

'The New North - the world in 2050' book review

Climate Change is gathering pace and causing major changes to our planet, heating it up, year after year. This warming isn't uniform - some areas aren't warming at all - but the Arctic is warming the most of all. This change is not only affecting the wildlife and lives of the indigenous people of that area, it is also opening up brand new oil and gas fields that can now be economically exploited. As its permafrost melts - an effect that could release apocalyptic amounts of methane and CO2 as microbes digest the defrosted plant matter - governments, corporations and indigenous communities are frantically making plans to manage the new resources now opening up to access in this remote and relatively inaccessible region of the world.

In 'The New North - the world in 2050', Laurence C. Smith reports on this topic with a wealth of solid evidence and researched information, but in a strangely unfocused way. In places, he approaches the topic from a personal perspective, making it the book a little less dry, but he seems less concerned about the environmental effects of the burst of new mining and oil drilling and more about the economic opportunities. Read More...

Light Years book review

Light is utterly fascinating. Recently, I've developed the sneaking suspicion that reality is just light. Although physicists talk extensively about subatomic particles such as neutrons, protons, neutrinos, muons, electrons etc, as far as I can tell, none of these subatomic particles can be directly detected or observed. All we ever see are light patterns. Although subatomic particles could still exist, their existence is actually only inferred from light phenomena; it is hypothetical. According to the strict rules of science, the existence of subatomic particles should therefore only regarded as an idea, not as a fact, which is a fascinating idea in itself.

Brian Clegg doesn't mention this idea in his book. Instead, he takes the reader on a historical journey, tracking the development of our understanding of light from Ancient Greece all the way to the latest manipulations of light in the laboratory. Read More...

Doomsday Men and Dr Strangelove

Here's a quick book review of a book I've just finished called 'Doomsday Men' by P.D.Smith. The book is all about the history of atomic research, from Madame Curie onwards, and how it became used to build the ultimate military weapon, the hydrogen bomb and its fictional but apocalyptic dark sibling, the radioactive 'cobalt bomb'.

I enjoyed the book. It was pretty clear from early on (in fact, P.D.Smith admitted as much himself) that the author had been writing a biography of Leo Szilard, an admirable and brilliant Hungarian physicist who had to leave his home in Budapest when Nazism and anti-Semitism emerged in central Europe. He ditched up in London and finally emigrated to the United States. Unlike other brilliant Hungarian physicists who ended up playing a major role in the development of atomic power and the atomic bomb (such as Von Neumann and Edward Teller), Szilard was a compassionate and ethical man. Read More...

Winter popular science books

Up here in the upper part of the Northern Hemisphere, we're into the depths of January where it gets dark and cold and Christmas has become a vague memory. To help everyone get through the long evenings before Spring, here's a review of some popular science books I've read recently.

First up is Waking the Giant by Bill McGuire. Bill is a very experienced scientist working in the field of geophysics, vulcanism and other related stuff. In the book, he explains that when our planet's climate changes, it generally doesn't do it in a smooth manner. It is far more likely, almost inevitable, that the changing conditions will trigger a major event which will then trigger other related major events. For example, if a glacier warms and melts, a large lake can form in the middle of the glacier. Eventually, this huge body of water is being held back by a wall of ice. When this wall breaks, the vast amount of water can catastrophically flood an area. This, for example, occurred towards the end of the last ice age forming the Minnesota Scablands. As McGuire points out in his book, this huge shift in weight on the Earth can cause the crust to rise up. This can cause major earthquakes, which in turn give rise to eruptions, as the pressure on subterranean magma chambers is lessened by the shifts in water and cracks are created by the earthquakes, giving the magma access to the surface. These subsequent eruptions release ash and gases into the atmosphere, which alter the climate, triggering other climactic events. McGuire makes it clear that Earth's recent physical history is not a steady change but instead, is one of calm periods punctuated by episodes of mayhem. McGuire ends the book with a warning; that climate change we're experiencing will have a similar affect and we need to prepare for what it will bring.

I really enjoyed Michael Brooks' '13 Things that don't make sense'. It's still one of my favourite popular science books. Brooks follows that success with this new book about what goes on behind the scenes in science; what the scientists really get up to and how they behave with each other. The world of scientific research is often depicted as one populated by shy, low key, grey-haired men working away diligently and carefully discussing and analysing each other's work and I have personally met scientists in that mould but, to be honest, they're in a minority. In my experience, scientists nowadays are invariably bright, alert, pragmatic, borderline-obsessive men and women who love what they do and put their heart and soul into it. They're also a very emotional bunch with strong opinions, friends and in many instances, bitter enemies (which makes them pretty much like any other workplace). Brooks' book entertainingly tells stories that reinforce this view, stories of heroes and heroines, of sexism, lying, fabrication, courage, idealism, ego and luck. It's lots of fun and I heartily recommend it.

In a similar vein to Brooks' 'The Secret Anarchy of Science' is Peter Pringle's 'Experiment Eleven'. This is the story of the discovery of Streptomycin, an extremely important antibiotic that brought fame, wealth, high scientific standing and a Nobel Prize to one man. Unfortunately, as the book explains, he wasn't the one who discovered Streptomycin. The man who discovered it gained only pain, heartbreak, betrayal and penury as a result of his find. 'Experiment Eleven' is a story of how the lure of money and scientific fame propelled a man to lie about his role in an important discovery and conduct a base feud against the man who did discover the crucial agent that saved so many lives in the latter half of the twentieth century. As it says on the cover, the New Scientist magazine thought it was a 'riveting and heartbreaking book'. It is an engrossing and heart-rending story and I'm glad I read it.

Last up in my winter list is 'Why does E=Mc2' by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. I'm a bit confused as to why there's two authors to this book. It seemed when I read it that the whole text was written by one man. Then again, I didn't notice much of a change of style when I read 'Good Omens' by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, so perhaps I'm just rubbish at spotting who writes what. Anyway, 'Why does E=Mc2' is a good book. It's the most technical of all the books reviewed here and it does require a good understanding of physics and mathematics. That approach does make the book a drier read than, say, Michael Brooks' books, but that's not a criticism as it means the reader is introduced to some fascinating concepts relating to Relativity. For readers who prefer fun science, I'd say choose something else. For a reader who wants to learn a bit more about Relativity than is usually found in popular science books, I'd say definitely give it a go.

BBC Documentary: Order and Disorder

A very good BBC documentary is available on YouTube that explores how European scientists developed the Laws of Thermodynamics and our understanding of entropy. For anyone interested in the Influence Idea, or in fact just generally interested in science, it's well worth a look:

With respect to the Influence Idea, the presenter, Jim Al-Khalili, does discuss the existence of living things in a Universe ruled by entropy at around the fortieth minute of the programme. He and other contributors make the claim that the universe's random, disordered, chaotic behaviour has thrown up life by some act of chance. Unfortunately, they do not discuss how life, even if it had started in an act of incredible coincidence, continues to increase order in the universe in direct opposition to entropy. Apart from that bit of woolliness, it's a very well made programme and a fascinating exploration of the history of thermodynamics.

Quantum Physics books

The development of Quantum Physics in the first half of the twentieth century is a fascinating story. In forty short years, while Europe staggered through the Great War and headed inexorably to the Second World War, a group of mainly young physicists developed an entirely new way of understanding the Universe and physical reality. In 1900, the common view among physicists was that the workings of the universe had been largely solved and the only work left to do was to fill in a few gaps but, like many leaps forward in science during human history, solving these 'gaps' led these researchers and experimentalists to develop an entirely new field of physics and a sea-change in how the universe worked. The Classical View of reality - that the universe was something predictable and ultimately completely knowable that functioned whether or not a person was measuring it, was observing it - was destroyed. Instead, the experiments and the mathematics that matched the observed phenomena stated something fundamentally different - that nothing 'physical' existed outside of measurements. Until someone observed or measured the properties of the fundamental particles of the universe, those particles did not exist in any real sense. There was only the probability of those particles existing. This view became known as the Copenhagen Interpretation, after the Physics Institute in Copenhagen and its leader, Neils Bohr.

'Quantum' is an excellent book and a first-rate chronicler of that tumultuous time in physics. It cleverly combines a thorough biography of quantum physics and the (mostly) men who developed the field, along with a strong human story, that of the ongoing tussle between Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr. Einstein may have developed Relativity and transformed our understanding of light, motion and gravity, but he was never happy with the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics. He refused to accept that there was nothing outside of our observation of reality, or that the presence of a fundamental particle could be no more than probability, or that the universe's foundations were impossible to know fully. In the latter part of Einstein's life, he watched the physics community move almost to a man to the Copenhagen Interpretation but he did not budge, making his life in physics both an astounding success and a bitter failure.

The book ends with a chapter discussing the puzzles created by quantum physics that have still not been adequately resolved. First and foremost is the question: 'If physical particles only come about through observation, how did the universe start, since there was no one to observe it?' The book also discusses the Schrodinger's Cat thought experiment, much admired by Einstein, and the puzzling questions it asks. Unfortunately, the book doesn't mention at all the conclusion of John Von Neumann and Eugene Wigner, that our minds create reality from the quantum realm, as this does solve the riddle of Schrodinger's Cat. This puzzle is also investigated at length in John Gribbin's excellent book 'Schrodinger's Cat'. Gribbin does a great job of exploring the strange world of quantum physics without drowning the reader in complex mathematics or being so shallow as to distort or lose the important scientific elements. Gribbin also ignores the Neumann-Wigner hypothesis. He lumps for the Many Worlds Hypothesis, although he candidly states that it is a personal preference, rather than a logical decision.

The physicists involved in the development of Quantum Physics were an odd lot, but none was odder than Paul Dirac. Dirac was English, brilliant and quite eccentric. His capacity to remain entirely silent, even in social company, and respond to any question with utter logical sparsity made him almost world-famous. I found Dirac to be a fascinating character; I wish there were more people in the world like him. Farmelo's book is an exhaustive biography. To be honest, I flagged towards the end but that's not a criticism as the author has done a fine job of balancing readability with thoroughness. I'd bet a very large sum of money that the writers of the hit US comedy 'The Big Bang Theory' based their lead character, Sheldon, on Dirac. Dirac was brilliant, odd, but in his own way his eccentricity showed up the daftness of much of life. He may have behaved like a robot sometimes but he was loyal, caring, emotional and just as human as everyone else.

Recommended graphic novels

I think I've recommended graphic novels before but it's been a long time, so I thought I'd do it again.

Here are eight great graphic novels, in no particular order:

1. Watchmen - Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

This was a big game-changer of a graphic novel from Alan Moore, the writer of V for Vendetta, when it first came out. It is a story about flawed, real super-heroes. They are dissected, in fact almost vivisected and in the process, they are made both complex and realistic; becoming flawed human vigilantes or cold, distant superheroes that turn out to be entirely alien to the people they try to help. Very much an adult book and a venerable classic of the genre.

2. Pyongyang - Guy Delisle

This is an example of 'graphic novel as travelogue'. The author, Guy Delisle, spent time in North Korea while working from a French-Canadian animation company. While he was there, he drew this graphic novel diary of his experiences. It paints an entertaining, startling and quite disturbing picture of the North Korean totalitarian state. Since then, Delisle has written/drawn about Shenzhen (in China), Jerusalem and Burma. All those stories are accessible, funny, perceptive, warm and revealing.

3. Maus - Art Spiegelmann

Maus may be the most important graphic novel ever written, in terms of its legacy, its impact, its influence on other writers and its ability to make a horrific subject accessible and readable without every diminishing the tragedy of what happened. Maus, originally in two parts, is about the Jewish Holocaust, based on the author's father's memories of surviving those years. Spiegelmann made an inspired decision when drawing the story to make the characters anthropomorphic, to give them human bodies but animal heads. The germans are cats, the poles are pigs and the jews are mice (as far as I can remember). Its a must-read book (a term that's often over-used when reviewing works but is absolutely true in this case).

4. Safe Area Gorazde - Joe Sacco.

Joe Sacco, like Guy Delisle, has used the graphic novel genre as a tool for investigative journalism, to tell readers about what happened to the author when he or she was in that place, a visual diary that gives immediacy and focus to a time and place in our recent history. Sacco talks about the Bosnian War and the siege of Sarajevo in this book, along with its horrors, tragedies, courage and, sometimes, high farce. It is a powerful story, eloquently told in Sacco's pared-down narration and clear, accessible artwork.

5. Blacksad - Juanjo Guarnido (artist)

Blacksad is in more traditional territory for a graphic novel. It's a series of hard-boiled. fifties. detective-style stories very much in the mould of Raymond Chandler. The twist in this case is that the characters are anthropomorphic, i.e. human bodies and animal heads, just like Maus or Rupert Bear.

What elevates Blacksad above many run-of-the-mill graphic-novel murder stories is the sheer brilliance of the artwork. Guarnido was trained in fine art and has worked as a key animator for Disney in Europe. All the stories' frames are painted in watercolour. For beauty, dynamism, skill and atmosphere, they are without peer. 

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6. The Red Tree - Shaun Tan

Does Shaun Tan do graphic novels? It's hard to say. They're not 200 pages long but they are visual stories, or sequential art. For me, the Red Tree is my favourite. It's a simple story that would appeal to children and adults and it is utterly beguiling. Each page is a large, single picture that creates a single emotion through an image. As the story progresses, the reader becomes lost in the tale, with its minimal but crucial text, until the tale ends with a low-key, resonant, beautiful finish. I get emotional just thinking about it. Highly recommended.

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7. Amulet - Kazu Kibuishi

This is a graphic novel for youngsters (I would say 8 to 12 age group). High quality drawings, an engaging, dramatic story and there are five books to collect. The story tells of a family who move to a house in the country belonging to a deceased relative. The kids realise that there was much more to the relative than they expected. The daughter finds an amulet and is transported into a different land where dark forces are after the precious item now bound to her.

Amulet looks lovely, is lots of fun to read and is a great alternative for a parent wanting their child to enjoy graphic novels without, for example, having to deal with the somewhat dated style of Asterix (which I still have a soft spot for, but often deems wordy and tedious when I read it nowadays).

8. Persepolis - Marjan Satrapi

A visually striking, engaging, thoughtful and dramatic story about a young woman's life in Iran and her time in Europe. As in Sacco's work, the graphic novel format is again used to visually show a part of the world and a time in history that we don't hear much about in the west and about which we often have distorted and downright false views. Excellent.

Five positive clothing brands

As the Christmas period has begun and everyone’s thinking about presents, I thought I’d recommend some ethical clothing brands. Each one in the list is either selling clothes or shoes made from ethical materials or in an ethical way or prioritises good working conditions and rights or possibly all three. Here they are:


Think! are an Austrian company. They make very good shoes, really lovely shoes. I’m starting to worry that I’m behaving like a character from ’Sex and the City’, a female one, as I keep admiring my Think! pair of men’s shoes as though they’re a pair of Jimmy Choos or Mahnolo Blahnick (I think I put all the ‘h’s’ in the right place). Fortunately, Think! shoes are also manufactured in a good way, as they use vegetal dyes, taken from the ground bark of plantation trees, rather than toxic chemical dyes. They also manufacture their shoes in Europe, from what I’ve read, although it’s hard to dig out a lot of this info. From what I can tell, they’re doing good stuff.


Howies! They’re based in Cardigan Bay (in Wales) and they sell organic cotton ’T’ shirts with very funny designs. I haven’t bought the ‘Labrador’ top shown above, but I’m sorely tempted. Organic cotton is easier on the environment than normal cotton, wears better and contains less chemicals. As in many other areas (food, transport, housing), it’s worth noting that a person can go down the environmental route for entirely selfish reasons, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog article.
They don’t even need to care about the planet, as they’ll benefit personally from those choices with improved physical and mental health. I haven’t seen this view pushed by environmental charities yet, but it might work quite well. On the manufacturing front, Howies ’T’ shirts are made in Portugal, as far as I know, and their UK staff go surfing regularly and draw silly pictures of themselves, which sounds like a great way to work.

I’ve owned several Howies ’T’ shirts for many years now and they are very well made. None of the ones I’ve bought have worn out at all (so far). They show no signs of fading, don’t come apart at the seams, have a great texture, don’t shrink and are easily the best cotton tops I’ve ever bought. Howies did have a shop in Carnaby Street but their rents shot up so they had to close it down. They also do merino wool tops, which is also a great material, although I’d recommend the New Zealand merino as the Australian merino has been associated with less than friendly husbandry practices on the sheep. Hopefully, the Ozzies have stopped that now.

Next up, Sativa bags. This company sells bags and clothing made from hemp. Hemp is an excellent alternative to cotton for heavy fabrics, as it requires far less pesticides, is naturally antibacterial, ‘breathes’, blocks 95% of UV light and is very strong. I’ve been using a sativa bag and a hat for five years or so, and they’ve done a great job. The bag is wearing a bit at the corners, which is natural I guess for a fabric bag, but it is otherwise fine. I know that a bag made from leather would have lasted longer, but leather is a heavier material and has a bigger environmental impact, so I’m very happy with the Sativa choice.

Rohan is a UK company that makes outdoor clothing. When I looked into ethical practices in clothing manufacturing, I thought that most of the companies would be making a lot of effort, since their customers are actually out and about in that environment and would probably care a lot about what happens to it. This has been sort of true. Ayacucho clothing supports schemes to help the Ayacucho region of South America. I haven’t bought any of their clothing yet, so I can’t review it. I was hoping to say good things about Craghopper gear, as I’ve really enjoyed using their Kiwi trousers, but their ethical statement seems thin on actually commitments. To be honest, I found it to be an exercise in saying a lot but not actually doing much. The only thing they seem to make a serious effort in is complying with REACH legislation, but REACH is mainly a chemical code of practice for European manufacturers and Craghoppers use factories in China and Bangladesh. Hey ho. Perhaps they do more but haven’t put it on their website? I don’t know.

Fortunately, Rohan does actually commit to something on their website. They’re members of the Ethical Trading Initiative, set up partly by Clare Short, among others, a UK politician that I’ve admired for doing positive work during the Blair government. As with many influential and positive people in this country, you can usually tell how much good effort a person is making by the amount of stick they get from the popular press; it’s a sort of inverse-acclaim rule.

I’ve used Rohan clothing and it’s very good stuff; well made, cleverly designed and enjoyable to wear. They also have a returns policy whereby if you find a fault in an item of theirs that you bought, you can take it back and they’ll fix or replace it. Check on their site for the exact terms.

Last but not least, BAM! Or more helpfully, bamboo clothing uk. Bamboo is a brilliant material for soft clothing, like socks, underwear, base-layers etc. It’s a superior alternative to cotton in that it wicks sweat away (like merino wool), is soft to the touch, flexible and relatively hard-wearing. It is also a material that grows easily. I’m wearing a bamboo top, bamboo underwear and bamboo socks while typing this very article and they feel great on my skin. I know I’m drifting into girly comments here - it’s like the Think! shoes all over again - but in this modern, urban world, I can say these things with impunity. I even use moisturiser! There, I’ve said it! I’m a wimpy urbanite softie and proud of it! Moving on… Bamboo clothing is more expensive than the mainstream cotton versions, but as it’s naturally anti-bacterial and wicks away sweat, you can wear it for longer before it gets smelly. You therefore need less of them and the costs kind of even out. I can’t go into more detail because I’d be revealing my laundry habits and I have been criticised by members of the fairer sex in the past for such habits so I think I’ll leave it be.

There we go; five ethical clothing brands (relatively speaking). They don’t know me and certainly haven’t paid me to say these things, but I’m saying them anyway. I think they make great stuff and they’re going in the right direction too.

Mmmm…. soft to the touch…. :-)

Bertrand Russell's ten principles for creating and communicating new ideas

blogEntryThumbnailHere's another gem from Brainpickings weekly. I've mentioned Bertrand Russell recently, with regard to the excellent graphic novel Logicomix that centres around Russell and other mathematicians' search for logical truth. Here he is again with a profound list of recommendations for anyone wanting to investigate the world and explain what they've found; it's from the December 16, 1951 issue of The New York Times Magazine, at the end of the article “The best answer to fanaticism: Liberalism.”. You can find the brainpickings article here. Personally, I found the line 'Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric' particularly appealing. ;)


Ten sci-fi and fantasy novels that aren't really about sci-fi and fantasy.

Science fiction and fantasy novels; aren't they lame? Well, not necessarily, although the genre is often seen as the domain of nerds and fans of mediocre literature. In some cases that view's probably understandable. When a novel is a piece of escapism, when the story is purely designed to give the reader fun and thrills with little in the way of thoughtful insight, such literature can be seen as little more than pulp fiction. The problems for sci-fi don't end there. Many readers are reluctant to read any story that has lots of technical references and descriptions and are worried such content will make the novel incomprehensible, confusing or just plain boring. As a result, large sections of the reading public avoid sci-fi and fantasy like the plague with the more high-brow dismissing it as shallow and the rest dismissing it as nerdy tech-fetishistic junk or social-inadequacy-fuelled escapism.

But there are science fiction and fantasy books out there that defy such categorisations. They do this because their purpose is not escapism or a glorification of technology but a piercing and insightful analysis of the human condition and our place in the world. This, essentially is what all great literature is about. The stories that linger in our thoughts, that we treasure, are the ones that give us a moment in time where we look at ourselves with clear eyes; sometime with a heavy heart, sometimes with a spark of joy.

Here's a list of ten science fiction and fantasy novels that, I think, do just that. They are all still clearly science fiction and fantasy novels, containing technology and mythical characters respectively, but those genre elements are vehicles, tools that are used by the author to talk about subjects all great literature is concerned with; love, loss, identity, morality, fear and hope.

Off we go...

Nobody's a hero - ten honest war movies

War is a great subject for a movie. You've got danger, heartache, drama, scenes of great intensity; all the emotions you could wish for. There is, though, the tiny problem that war is a horrible, monstrous event that brings nothing but despair, sadness, pain and loss to everyone apart from psychopaths and people in administrative positions.

A lot of war movies skirt over this problem. They also gloss over the fact that people, in every country, behave in unexpected ways in war. Some people who are supposed to be good behave horribly and some people who are supposed to be bad behave nobly. This is the reality of war, alongside the large amounts of weapons, injuries, death, suffering, atrocities, acts of self-sacrifice and flags. Read More...

Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'

My odd review of Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' is up on the sci-fi now web site here. They wanted sci-fi/fantasy book reviews and that's what I came up with. Here's the text:

When I was young, I thought people were much nicer to each other. This, I think, was down to the sci-fi books I read. When things went wrong in them, people pulled together, showed their mettle, overcame the odds like stars in a matinee war movie. It was a glowing, warm idea that was seriously dented when I saw ‘When worlds collide’


My favourite cycling books and films

A friend asked me recently to recommend some cycling books and films. Instead of just telling him, I thought I'd stick them on my blog so everyone can check them out.

First off, an absolute gem of a French animated movie called 'Belleville Rendezvous'. There's not much dialogue but there doesn't have to be. The expressions and actions tell you everything you need to know. A young french lad is given a bicycle and it transforms his life. With the help of his grandmother, he becomes a professional racer (incredibly skinny apart from HUGE thighs). He takes part in the Tour de France but ends up in the broom wagon. From there, he is kidnapped, taken to New York and made to take part in a 'simulation' Tour De France ran by gambling gangsters. Strange, magical, often hysterically funny. The only criticism I would have is that the middle section about the three old ladies - the Belleville triplets - drags on a little too long. Apart from that, brilliant.