; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Daily 2 Cents: Terraforming Mars May Be Possible -- Alien Invasion Warning? -- Cyclist 'Saw Goblins' During Race

Terraforming Mars May Be Possible

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to create organisms that will turn the Red Planet a shade of green, at least according to a reporter who had access to their recent conference. As with most things DARPA does, there’s not a lot of publicly available details about the plan. DARPA denies that terraforming Mars in anywhere in their sights. But comments made by Alicia Jackson, deputy director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, seem to indicate that it is at least a hypothetical possibility.

A Big Announcement

In the distant future, if humans want to take a stroll outside on Mars, the planet will need some serious “redecorating” through a process called terraforming. Basically, we need to add plants, algae and other organisms that undergo photosynthesis in order to generate gases that build the foundation of an atmosphere. With an atmosphere in place, Mars will begin to look and feel a lot like Earth.

Terraforming Mars sounds like a job for generations far into the future — or a plot line written for Hollywood’s Matt Damon — but DARPA may be helping bring it nearer.

“For the first time, we have the technological toolkit to transform not just hostile places here on Earth, but to go into space not just to visit, but to stay,” Jackson said at a DARPA-hosted biotech conference this week, according to Vice’s Motherboard.

Step By Step

The project’s centerpiece presently is software, called DTA GView, which maps genomes is fine-scale detail and gives scientists a new way to mine this genetic library for ideal traits. The long-term plan is to pick and choose preferred genes from a number of species, combine them, and create a new organism. It’ll all start with simple bacteria and microorganisms, but more complex organisms are on the radar.

Mars likely won’t be the first place these customized creatures will operate. DARPA could use specifically engineered organisms to rehabilitate tracts of land on Earth devastated by natural or man-made disasters. Organisms could take a wasteland and make it green once again, Motherboard reports.

There’s still a long way to go before rainforests are growing on Mars, but it’s certainly exciting that terraforming Mars is no longer a completely fantastical idea. - DARPA Is Supposedly Engineering Organisms to Make Mars Livable


Cyclist 'Saw Goblins' During Race

Ultra-cyclist Shusanah Pillinger says she "saw goblins" as she made history by completing the 3,004-mile Race Across America (RAAM) last month.

The 39-year-old Briton completed the race from California to Maryland in 12 days, nine hours and 14 minutes.

She said hallucinations during her "witching hour" were common.

"It's weird, but once you've seen it, you're not quite as shocked. None of them look particularly friendly. A lot of them are ugly looking," she said.

Pillinger became the first British woman to complete the RAAM. Only seven British men have achieved the feat, with Chris Hopkinson the first in 2005.

She made it 2,150 miles into her RAAM attempt last year before breaking her collarbone.

Pillinger said cycling in "extreme weather" was one of her biggest challenges, particularly through the Californian desert.

"It was about seven degrees higher than last year and I was overheated at one point and had to be taken off the road to be cooled down by my team," she told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. "My body temperature went up to about 39.5C.

"When we got to the Appalachians we were in big storms, really threatening black skies which I have never seen before. There were rain drops like the size of golf balls.

"I was so distraught that I thought my race would be ruined by rain."

When asked whether she would have any interest in completing the race again, Pillinger said: "I think it's done.

"No one can take away the fact I was the first British woman to do it. I've set a time that I think is reasonable for other women to have something to aim for." - RAAM: Shusanah Pillinger 'saw goblins' during 3,004-mile race


One day while fishing...

Two fishermen in Whitianga, New Zealand, nailed a massive 63kg catch, but it was a bit hairier than they'd bargained for.

Glen Dobbs and a friend, named only as Adrian, were out fishing in a tournament over the weekend when they encountered a wild boar swimming a few kilometres off the coast of the Coromandel town. They were cruising along on their way to a fishing spot when they noticed a black shape bobbing up and down right in front of them and it was the pig swimming way out in the ocean.

Luckily they had a solid hull because they hit the pig doing about 15-20 knots. It floated up behind the boat and they turned around and went back. The baffled pair struggled to haul the tired animal out of the water, before putting it out of its misery with a fishing knife. Once the bewilderment wore off, they set to gutting it in the hope of keeping the meat.

"As soon as we gutted it and chucked all of that over, heaps of sharks came around and that was the end of the fishing," he said. "We put up with the smell for a couple of hours, and in the end, I said, mate, we've got to chuck the rest over. I've been fishing heaps and I've never seen anything like it," Mr Dobbs said. The pig didn't win the men the competition.


Deep Thoughts...

I was asked by a reader if I was worried about an impending 'rise of the machines.' My response was "not really...just so there's a robot capable of finding my TV remote control and glasses." Lon


Alien Invasion Warning?

We’ve all seen crop circles and heard various theories about them: they are naturally occurring, they are the work of pranksters and, most believably, they are the work of aliens from another planet marking out landing coordinates for the inevitable invasion and colonization of our world.

But this latest one really takes the biscuit for creative design.

The intricate crop formation appeared seemingly overnight in Torino in Italy in late June – and has baffled locals and experts alike.

If it was the work of moonlighting pranksters it is estimated it would have taken a team of up to 15 people to etch it out in the space of a night.

And very quickly at that.

That’s 15 tight-lipped people, of course, who wouldn’t want to brag about their handiwork after a few glasses of vino.

Which brings us back to the most likely theory – that of an impending alien invasion. - Most intricate crop circle yet warns of alien invasion


Tourists Photobombed by 'The Watcher'

-Ghostly apparition photobombed two sisters at tourist attraction night tour

-Emma Surgenor, 32, took a photo of her sister Lauren at Edinburgh vaults

-She was shocked to find what appeared to be 'The Watcher' behind Lauren

-18th century ghost of The Watcher apparently seen by hundreds of visitors

This eerie photograph is thought to show the ghostly apparition of a man dubbed 'The Watcher' photobombing a tourist at the Edinburgh vaults.

Emma Surgenor and her sister Lauren were given a fright when they looked back at their pictures from a tour of the 'haunted' Scottish tourist attraction.

In one, what appears to be the 18th century ghost is seen ominously standing behind Lauren. Read more at Terrified tourists photobombed by 18th century ghost



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