Posts Tagged ‘aliens’

Excuse me, sir, but there’s arsenic in my DNA!

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Mono Lake, where the arsenic bacteria was discovered

Yes, the big NASA press conference was not about aliens, but instead about a very peculiar type of bacteria.

The discovery is being published in this week’s issue of Science, entitled ‘A Bacterium That Can Grow Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus’ and has already been written about by pretty much every science blogger out there.

So rather than bore you with my own re-hash of all the other posts I’ve read on this subject, I will direct you to the best one I’ve read so far. It is by Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science. Enjoy!

Mono Lake bacteria build their DNA using arsenic (and no, this isn’t about aliens) by Ed Yong.

UFO Over NYC! Run! Run For Your…Oh Wait, Nevermind.

October 16, 2010 3 comments

UFO Sighting Above Manhattan (Twitter @mobius1ski / October 13, 2010)

You may have seen some of the headlines. They weren’t just in tabloid newspapers either:

Local Group Investigates UFO Reports in Manhattan (NBC Connecticut)

Mystery shiny objects floating over Manhattan spark UFO frenzy (New York Daily News)

UFOs Spotted Over NYC Prompt Panic, 911 Calls (Chicago Tribune)

UFO over Manhattan Caught on Tape (CBS News)

Said Peter Bryant,one of the witnesses,

I saw five or six lights shining in the sky. There was no way that thing was a balloon.There was something weird about it. Light just doesn’t reflect off balloons like that. If Martians were to land anywhere, New York is a much better location than some backwoods town in the Midwest.

Another witness compared what he saw to the “creatures from ‘Predator’.”

Indeed, around 1:30 in the afternoon on October 13th, the Federal Aviation Administration began receiving calls about the strange lights in the sky over West 23rd Street in Manhattan.

But alas, it was not Martians or the aliens from the (possible) exo-planet Gliese 581g. Looks like Peter Bryant was on the right track, he just didn’t want to believe it.

It seems a Westchester Elementary school was holding an engagement party for Andrea Craparo, one of their teachers (aww). They had about 40 pearl balloons filled with helium and around 1 pm the wind blew a bunch of them away.

From the New York Daily News, the day after their original story:

“UFO? They’re crazy – those are our balloons!” said Angela Freeman, head of the Milestone School in Mount Vernon. “To me it was the most automatic thing. But it’s all over YouTube.”

Andrea Craparo and her students pointing to a news story featuring UFOs, which actually were their party balloons. Image from New York Daily News

Some of the sightings could also be explained by a tourism promotion event held on Broadway in Times Square for the centennial of the Madrid’s Gran Via on Wednesday, which included the release of several bunches of yellow balloons into the sky.

A tourism promotion in Broadway Times Square involved releasing many yellow balloons which could have contributed to the UFO sightings. Image from Chicago Tribune

I know whats it’s like to “Want to Believe”. I’ve written a previous blog post about my coming of age into the world of science. And as I’ve said before, there is much more exciting things in the world of real science, than that of pseudoscience.

As the great Carl Sagan once wrote,

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

My Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies: #5 – E.T.

August 4, 2010 1 comment

#5 – E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial (1982)

So I’ll share a secret with you guys. When I was about 5 years old my parents sat me down to watch this movie with them. They loved it, so they figured I would.

Well I got through most of it just fine. I enjoyed the antics of E.T. and Elliott, even though I didn’t quite understand why E.T. was acting “funny” when he drank beer.

But when it got to the part where E.T. got sick, and they found him in a ditch extremely pale and dying, I RAN out of the living room, into my bedroom and slammed the door.

I didn’t watch the movie again for 15 years.

When I finally did watch it again I actually made it through the whole thing, and of course it was awesome. I was still quite worried that E.T. might die, but I powered through right to the final scene.

And WHAT a final scene. I don’t think there is a single image more recognizable in movies that Elliott on his bike with E.T. flying across the moon. Great stuff Spielberg!

So this story of an alien who gets left behind on Earth and befriends a young boy gets #5 on my spot. Only more great movies to come people…

Elliot: He’s a man from outer space and we’re taking him to his spaceship.
Greg: Well, can’t he just beam up?
Elliot: This is *reality*, Greg.

Full List:

#10 – The Terminator (1984)

#9 – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

#8 – The Fifth Element (1997)

#7 – Aliens (1986)

#6 – Blade Runner (1982)

#5 – E.T. (1982)

#4 – Jurassic Park (1993)

#3 – V for Vendetta (2005)

#2 – Star Wars Trilogy (1977 – 1983)

#1 – Back to the Future (1985)

My Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies: #7 – Aliens

August 2, 2010 1 comment

#7 – Aliens (1986)


Two things I’ve just realized are: that James Cameron makes awesome movies, and the 1980’s was a great decade for science fiction.  

After Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ did a great job creating one of the scariest monsters in a movie, let alone a science fiction movie, James Cameron took the helm for the sequel.  

And while I greatly enjoy the dark and suspenseful ‘Alien’ by Scott, Cameron turned the sequel in a slam-bang action adventure and I’ve watched it dozens of times. This movie has one of the best suspense elements I’ve ever seen in a movie too: the motion detector. The slight “beep…beep” of the motion detector the marines use and knowing there is something out there coming at them, and not being able to see it, is just great movie making.  

I also really love Sigourney Weaver. This series turned ‘Ripley’ into one of movie history’s strongest female characters.  


“They’re coming outta the walls. They’re coming outta the goddamn walls. Let’s book!” 

Full List: 

#10 – The Terminator (1984) 

#9 – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) 

#8 – The Fifth Element (1997) 

#7 – Aliens (1986) 

#6 – Blade Runner (1982) 

#5 – E.T. (1982) 

#4 – Jurassic Park (1993) 

#3 – V for Vendetta (2005) 

#2 – Star Wars Trilogy (1977 – 1983) 

#1 – Back to the Future (1985)

Do I Believe in UFOs? Of Course!

June 16, 2010 2 comments

Unidentified Flying Objects. When you break it down, it doesn’t sound all that special does it? Just something in the sky that we don’t know what the hell it is. So, sure I believe in UFOs.

But the more popular interpretation is that ‘UFO’ means ‘alien spacecraft’. So do I think that UFOs are aliens coming to visit little old us?

My Grandfather loved UFOs. He had all the TV specials on tape, books, and loved to talk about how aliens may be visiting the planet.

As a result, I was pretty into UFOs when I was growing up. I thought for sure there were aliens visiting us all over the world. How could there not be? With roughly 250 billion starts in the Milky Way galaxy, don’t the odds support the existence of life SOMEWHERE?

That may very well be the case, but as I got older and a bit more educated, I realized that things just weren’t adding up about these UFOs…

First it was the crop circles. Pretty beautiful really. What started off as simple circles evolved into intricate designs with mathematical undertones. Could this be aliens attempting to communicate with us? Mathematics has always been hypothesized as a kind of ‘universal’ language. But then again, if these aliens had the technology to fly thousands, if not millions of light years to reach Earth, wouldn’t they have a better way of communicating than imprinting an image into a field of wheat?

And with so many crop circles getting reported, not one person managed to get a photo or video of them being created. It was all starting to smell fishy. (This is not even mentioning the many people who have come forward and admitted they were hoaxers creating the circles for their own enjoyment.)

Of course there is also the plethora of video and photographic ‘evidence’.

All those TV specials sure made them convincing. But after reading some more, shall we say ‘reputable’ sources, it turned out that most of those images and videos were simple fakes. I was getting exasperated. Why didn’t the UFO specials on TV just say that the pictures were fakes? To a 10 year old, this was all quite disheartening. I had grown up with this magical feeling that aliens were here. This dream was being torn away by lame “science”.

But what about the photos and videos that couldn’t be explained as a hoax? Is it plausible that aliens made it Earth, only to be caught on camera by a family videotaping their vacation? Or could it be something more down to Earth? There are all kinds of natural phenomena that could be taken as a UFO. Take these lights over Norway taken a couple years ago.

Pretty spectacular. But aliens? I don’t think so. Turns out it was a missile test. Meteors, satellites, even secret government planes like the F-117 can easily explain many sightings, without resorting to the visitation of extraterrestrials.

Needless to say, science had totally burst my bubble. Aliens probably weren’t visiting us.

I was sad.

But fear not!

As it turns out, science had in store a vast catalogue of REAL science that was even more exciting than lights in the sky. Quantum entanglement, cosmology, wave-particle duality, string theory, the list goes on and on.

The moral of the story? We all like to believe in something special. But it doesn’t have to be aliens, or ghosts, or channeling, or any other pseudoscience. The real world has a lot more to offer than those bad TV specials ever will.