Friday, March 25, 2011

Fortean / Alternative News: Military Experiments, ATC Blunder and Are We Martians?

The 7 Most Outrageous Military Experiments

livescience - A super soldier program produces Marvel superhero Wolverine in the movie "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," along with rivals Sabretooth and Weapon XI. Now LiveScience looks back on real experiments that the U.S. government ran on soldiers and citizens to advance the science of war.

The military didn't replicate Wolverine's indestructible skeleton and retractable claws. Rather, they shot accident victims up with plutonium, tested nerve gas on sailors, and tried out ESP. While some of the tests seem outlandish in hindsight, the military continues to push the envelope in seeking new warfare techniques based on cutting-edge science and technology.

"My measure of success is that the International Olympic Committee bans everything we do," said Michael Goldblatt, former head of DARPA's Defense Sciences Office, while talking with reporters. And that's not a Hollywood script.

7. Nerve gas spray

Threats of chemical and biological warfare led the U.S. Department of Defense to start "Project 112" from 1963 to the early 1970s. Part of the effort involved spraying different ships and hundreds of Navy sailors with nerve agents such as sarin and VX, in order to test the effectiveness of decontamination procedures and safety measures at the time. The Pentagon revealed the details of the Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) project in 2002, and the Veterans Administration began studying possible health effects among sailors who participated in SHAD. This was just one of many chemical warfare experiments conducted by the U.S. military, starting with volunteer tests involving mustard gas in World War II.

6. Hallucinogenic Warfare

Psychoactive drugs such as marijuana, LSD and PCP don't just have street value: Researchers once hoped the drugs could become chemical weapons that disabled enemy soldiers. U.S. Army volunteers took pot, acid and angel dust at a facility in Edgewood, Md. From 1955 to 1972, although those drugs proved too mellow for weapons use. The Army did eventually develop hallucinogenic artillery rounds that could disperse powdered quinuclidinyl benzilate, which left many test subjects in a sleep-like condition for days. The National Academy of Sciences conducted a study in 1981 that found no ill effects from the testing, and Dr. James Ketchum published the first insider account of the research in his 2007 book "Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten."

5. Falling near the speed of sound

When the U.S. Air Force wanted to find out how well pilots could survive high-altitude jumps, they turned to Captain Joseph Kittinger, Jr. The test pilot made several jumps as head of "Project Excelsior" during the 1950s. Each time involved riding high-altitude Excelsior balloons up tens of thousands of feet, before jumping, free falling and parachuting to the desert floor in New Mexico. Kittinger's third record-breaking flight on August 16, 1960 took him up to 102,800 feet, or almost 20 miles. He then leaped and freefell at speeds of up to 614 mph, not far from the speed of sound's 761 mph, and endured temperatures as low as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Pacifist guinea pigs

Most soldiers don't sign up to fight deadly viruses and bacteria, but that's what more than 2,300 young Seventh-Day Adventists did when drafted by the U.S. Army. As conscientious objectors during the Cold War who interpreted the Bible's commandment "Thou shalt not kill" very literally, many volunteered instead to serve as guinea pigs for testing vaccines against biological weapons. Volunteers recalled being miserable for several days with fever, chills and bone-deep aches from diseases such as Q fever. None died during the secretive "Operation Whitecoat," which took place at Fort Detrick, Maryland from 1954 to 1973.

3. Rocket rider

Before man could launch into orbit and to the moon, he rode rocket sleds on the ground first. NASA scientists developed decompression sleds that could race at speeds of more than 400 mph before screeching to an abrupt halt, and early testing often had fatal results for chimpanzee subjects that suffered brain damage. Starting in 1954, Colonel John Stapp of the U.S. Air Force endured grueling tests that subjected his body to forces 35 times that of gravity, including one record-setting run of 632 miles per hour. As a flight surgeon, he voluntarily took on the risks of 29 sled runs, during which he suffered concussions, cracked ribs, a twice-fractured wrist, lost dental fillings, and burst blood vessels in both eyes.

2. Get your plutonium shot

As the United States raced to build its first atomic bombs near the end of World War II, scientists wanted to know more about the hazards of plutonium. Testing began on April 10, 1945 with the injection of plutonium into the victim of a car accident in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to see how quickly the human body rid itself of the radioactive substance. That was just the first of over 400 human radiation experiments. Common studies included seeing the biological effects of radiation with various doses, and testing experimental treatments for cancer. Records of this research became public in 1995, after the U.S. Department of Energy published them.

1. Seeing infrared

The U.S. Navy wanted to boost sailors' night vision so they could spot infrared signal lights during World War II. However, infrared wavelengths are normally beyond the sensitivity of human eyes. Scientists knew vitamin A contained part of a specialized light-sensitive molecule in the eye's receptors, and wondered if an alternate form of vitamin A could promote different light sensitivity in the eye. They fed volunteers supplements made from the livers of walleyed pikes, and the volunteers' vision began changing over several months to extend into the infrared region. Such early success went down the drain after other researchers developed an electronic snooperscope to see infrared, and the human study was abandoned. Other nations also played with vitamin A during World War II – Japan fed its pilots a preparation that boosted vitamin A absorption, and saw their night vision improve by 100 percent in some cases.

NOTE: the worst part is that these are just the ones we know of...Lon


MIT: Are you a Martian?

MIT - Are we all Martians? According to many planetary scientists, it's conceivable that all life on Earth is descended from organisms that originated on Mars and were carried here aboard meteorites. If that's the case, an instrument being developed by researchers at MIT and Harvard could provide the clinching evidence.

In order to detect signs of past or present life on Mars — if it is in fact true that we're related — then a promising strategy would be to search for DNA or RNA, and specifically for particular sequences of these molecules that are nearly universal in all forms of terrestrial life. That's the strategy being pursued by MIT research scientist Christopher Carr and postdoctoral associate Clarissa Lui, working with Maria Zuber, head of MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), and Gary Ruvkun, a molecular biologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, who came up with the instrument concept and put together the initial team. Lui presented a summary of their proposed instrument, called the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes (SETG), at the IEEE Aerospace Conference this month in Big Sky, Mont.

The idea is based on several facts that have now been well established. First, in the early days of the solar system, the climates on Mars and the Earth were much more similar than they are now, so life that took hold on one planet could presumably have survived on the other. Second, an estimated one billion tons of rock have traveled from Mars to Earth, blasted loose by asteroid impacts and then traveling through interplanetary space before striking Earth's surface. Third, microbes have been shown to be capable of surviving the initial shock of such an impact, and there is some evidence they could also survive the thousands of years of transit through space before arriving at another planet.

So the various steps needed for life to have started on one planet and spread to another are all plausible. Additionally, orbital dynamics show that it's about 100 times easier for rocks to travel from Mars to Earth than the other way. So if life got started there first, microbes could have been carried here and we might all be its descendants.

If we are descendants from Mars, there might be important lessons to be learned about our own biological origins by studying biochemistry on our neighbor planet, where biological traces erased long ago here on Earth might have been preserved in the Martian deep freeze.

The MIT researchers' device would take samples of Martian soil and isolate any living microbes that might be present, or microbial remnants (which can be preserved for about up to a million years and still contain viable DNA), and separate out the genetic material in order to use standard biochemical techniques to analyze their genetic sequences.

"It's a long shot," Carr concedes, "but if we go to Mars and find life that's related to us, we could have originated on Mars. Or if it started here, it could have been transferred to Mars." Either way, "we could be related to life on Mars. So we should at least be looking for life on Mars that's related to us."

Even a few years ago, that might have seemed like more of a long shot, but recent Mars orbiter and rover missions have clearly shown that Mars once had abundant water, and many of the conditions thought to be needed to support life. And although the surface of Mars today is too cold and dry to support known life forms, there is evidence that liquid water may exist not far below the surface. "On Mars today, the best place to look for life is in the subsurface," Carr says.

So the team has been developing a device that could take a sample of Martian soil from below the surface — perhaps dredged up by a rover equipped with a deep drill — and process it to separate out any possible organisms, amplify their DNA or RNA using the same techniques used for forensic DNA testing on Earth, and then use biochemical markers to search for signs of particular, genetic sequences that are nearly universal among all known life forms.

The researchers estimate that it could take two more years to complete the design and testing of a prototype SETG device. Although the proposed device has not yet been selected for any upcoming Mars mission, a future mission with a lander or rover equipped with a drill could potentially carry this life-detection instrument.

No instrument has been sent to Mars specifically to look for evidence of life since NASA's twin Viking landers in 1976, which produced tantalizing but ambiguous results. An instrument on the Mars Science Lander to be launched in the fall will investigate chemistry relevant to life. The instrument from the MIT-Harvard team directly addresses Earth-like molecular biology.

Christopher McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA-Ames Research Center in California who specializes in research related to the possibility of life on Mars, says this work is "very interesting and important." He says, "it is not implausible that life on Mars will be related to life on Earth and therefore share a common genetics. In any case it would be important to test this hypothesis." But he adds that there is another motive for doing this research as well: "From an astronaut health and safety point of view and from a return-sample point of view, there is more to worry about" if there are organisms closely related to us on Mars, since a microbe that is similar is much more likely to be infectious to terrestrial life forms than would a totally alien microbe — so it is very important to be able to detect such life forms if they are present on Mars. In addition, this method could also detect any biological contamination on Mars that has been brought by spacecraft from Earth.

This kind of test is something we have the ability to do, he says, and therefore, although such an experiment has not yet been formally approved, "it seems improbable to me that we will do a serious search for life on Mars and not do this test."


Air Traffic Control Abandoned as Two Passenger Planes Try To Land

gizmodo - Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, two DC airliners approached Washington DC's Reagan National Airport. They waited for guidance from air traffic control. And waited. And waited. And waited. They never got a response.

The two pilots—responsible for the safety of a combined 165 passengers—managed to land only by coordinating between themselves, giving each other regular status updates and confirming with their airlines which runway they were supposed to approach. A third plane was able to land a half hour later, only after ATC had been restored.

As The Washington Post points out, planes land at small airports without air traffic control guidance all the time. But at a major hub like Reagan, maintenance workers are crossing over runways late at night, sometimes towing jets in their wake. The only way incoming pilots are aware of their positions is from air traffic control.

So what happened? No one's saying yet, but there seem to be two distinct possibilities. One is that the operator somehow got locked out of his tower, which happened two years ago at the much smaller Teterboro airport. The other is that he simply fell asleep early into the graveyard shift.

Pushing tin is no easy job, and a few hiccups—the average number of errors is 1 in 84,000 flight operations, or double that in NYC—are inevitable. But a mistake on this scale could have had grave consequences. And while the FAA has ordered Reagan to place two air traffic control officers on the midnight shift, that's kind of like putting up a stop sign only after a schoolbus collides with an ice cream truck. And makes you wonder how many other major towers are understaffed, just waiting for the next lockout.

NOTE: there will definitely be a stink about this since most of Congress uses Reagan International. Personally, I don't like the place....I get a 'bad feel' there. Use BWI or Dulles if you can...Lon


The relic, said to be a thorn from Jesus's crown, has been kept at Stonyhurst College, in Clitheroe, Lancashire, for the last 200 years. The thorn has Mary Queen of Scots's pearls twined around it

'Thorn from Jesus's crucifixion crown' goes on display at British Museum

dailymail - It was plundered in the Fourth Crusade, sold to French royalty and has spent the past 200 years in safekeeping at a British public school.

Now a relic claimed to be a thorn from Jesus's crown is to go on display at the British Museum.

And while no one can doubt the item's rich history, there is less evidence to support the claims of its provenance.

The Crown of Thorns is said to have been seized from Constantinople, the imperial capital of the Roman Empire, in the Fourth Crusade - around AD 1200 - and was later sold to King Louis IX of France while he was in Venice.

King Louis kept the religious relic in the specially-built Saint Chapel and thorns were broken off from the crown and given to people who married into the family as gifts.

The thorn at Stonyhurst College - a 400-year-old Jesuit boarding school - was said to have been given to Mary Queen of Scots who married into the French royal family and she took it with her to Holyrood in Edinburgh.

And following her execution in 1587, it was passed from her loyal servant, Thomas Percy, to his daughter, Elizabeth Woodruff, who then gave it to her confessor - a Jesuit priest - in 1600.

The Jesuits brought it with them to the college and it has been kept at the Ribble Valley college ever since.

Now it is to be loaned to the British Museum in London for a new exhibition, Treasures of Heaven, inspired by saints, relics and devotion in medieval Europe.

Jan Graffius, curator at Stonyhurst, said: 'It is an incredible object and we are really delighted that it will form part of the British Museum exhibition. It is a priceless treasure.'

Catriona Graffius, a sixth former at the college, was invited to take part in the production of a podcast guide for the exhibition.

She was interviewed to give a pupil's perspective on her school's precious possession, and said: 'I was asked to describe the thorn, which has Mary Queen of Scots's pearls twined around it.

'The thorn is placed in a chapel at Stonyhurst every year in Holy Week.'

The British Museum exhibition features sacred treasures of the medieval age, which have been collected from more than 40 institutions and many of which have not been seen in the UK before.

The thorn will sit next to rare loans from the Vatican, including from the private chapel of the popes and the Sancta Sanctorum.

While the majority of objects date from between AD 1000 to 1500, some of the earliest pieces include a late Roman sarcophagus dating from between AD 250 and 350.

The exhibition will open in June 23 and run until October 9.


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Have you had a sighting of a flying humanoid or huge bat-like creature in the Chicago, Illinois metro area or nearby? The entity has also been referred to as the 'Chicago Phantom', 'Chicago Mothman', 'Chicago Owlman' & 'Chicago Man-Bat.' Please feel free to contact me at - your anonymity is guaranteed. Our investigative group is conducting a serious examination of his phenomenon. We are merely seeking the truth and wish to determine what eyewitnesses have been encountering. Your cooperation is truly appreciated. You can call me directly at 410-241-5974 as well. Thanks...Lon Strickler #ChicagoPhantom

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