Pierced Eyeglasses

The idea of hanging eyeglasses from a piercing or a combination of piercings or even transdermal implants is something that a lot of us have toyed with — as I was writing this, my old boss Tom Brazda reminded me that almost ten years ago we made a set of them built around a 10ga bridge piercing (with both left and right-handed threading to make it adjustable). That said, I don’t think we ever took pictures, so maybe I’m making it up because I want to steal James Sooy’s thunder. He’s who sent me this gorgeous example of a piercing-mounted set of eyeglasses:

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Creative Art

Digital Photography and digital printing is now an acceptable medium of creation and presentation by major museums and galleries, and the work of digital artists is gaining ground, through robotic installation, net art and software art. But the work of digital painters and printmakers is beginning to find acceptance as the output capabilities advance and quality increases. Internationally many museums are now beginning to collect digital art such as the San Jose Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum print department also has a reasonable but small collection of digital art. Online art galleries are becoming popular as well and sites like Art Over America find ways to encourage the production of digital art.

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Knights Templar

According to legend, the Knights Templar was founded in 1118 to protect tourists headed for Jerusalem. There the small band of warrior monks established a headquarters. In due course, they somehow managed to gain possession of the Ark of the Covenant, which they hid for safekeeping.

Even though the Templars swore allegiance to the Pope, their beliefs were not exactly orthodox. They believed that Jesus Christ had conceived three children with Mary Magdalene, who moved to France after the crucifixion. Their progeny married into royalty; hence, there existed members of the French nobility who had divine blood in their veins. The Knights Templar eventually dedicated themselves to protecting the lives of these descendants of Jesus, the Merovingians.

But when they weren’t busy doing that, they managed to amass a financial empire with vast holdings. The Templars created the first international banking system. Pilgrims heading off to the Holy Land would deposit money with a local branch, in exchange for a letter of credit, redeemable just about everywhere along their route.

By the dawn of the 14th century, the Knights Templar had become Europe’s dominant religious order. They were more than 7,000 members strong. They held almost 900 castles. And they controlled unimaginable wealth in land, gold, and let’s not forget that Ark of the Covenant.

In France, King Philip IV owed the Templars a lot of money, which he didn’t really feel like repaying. So he hatched a scheme with Pope Clement V. In 1307, the Pope summoned Jacques de Molay, the group’s Grand Master, to Paris. There they were supposed to enter negotiations on merging the Knights Hospitallers with de Molay’s group. No such luck. Instead, he and his staff were arrested by King Philip and turned over to the Inquisition. Philip’s men swept through the country, in just two days arresting 15,000 men associated with the accused.

Some of the Templars escaped to Portugal, where (for a few years) they enjoyed the protection of its king. Others were rumored to have fled to Switzerland and Scotland, but there is no documentation of this.

The Pope forcibly disbanded their organization in March 1312, announced in a Papal Bull accusing the Templars of having fallen “into the sin of impious apostasy, the abominable vice of idolatry, the deadly crime of the Sodomites, and various heresies.” Plus, renouncing Jesus and spitting on the cross.

In March 1314, Jacques de Molay was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Inquisition. The sentence was announced during a public ceremony at Notre Dame cathedral. In exchange for his full confession, de Molay had received leniency. But before they could stop him, de Molay suddenly retracted his confession:

“I confess that I am indeed guilty of the greatest infamy. But the infamy is that I have lied. I have lied in admitting the disgusting charges laid against my Order. I declare, and I must declare, that the Order is innocent. Its purity and saintliness have never been defiled. In truth, I had testified otherwise, but I did so from fear of horrible tortures.”

So, instead of life in prison, de Molay and his subordinate Geoffroy de Charnay were burned alive three days later. They were taken to the Isle of Javiaux in the Seine, not far from Notre Dame. There they were slow roasted over a pile of hot, smokeless charcoal. It took hours for them to die. Finally their ashes were collected for relics by Augustinian monks.

Eventually, the Church took possession of the assets belonging to the Templars. No word on whether the Ark of the Covenant was taken to Rome.

Today, the Knights Templar is the name of a branch of Freemasonry. It seems rather doubtful that the modern organization could ever conclusively trace its lineage back to their medieval namesake… but then again, everybody used to think the Coelacanth was extinct. So who knows?

The ‘Wow!’ Signal

There is only one scenario under which the scientific community will ever accept that we are not alone: aliens land on the White House lawn, obliterate the government with their superior proton ray weapons, and enslave all of humanity. One wonders, then, what is the point of having a large and expensive program to Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, if scientists are simply going to ignore any results the program generates?

For instance, the SETI apparatus lit up with an incoming narrow-band radio signal from outer space on August 15, 1977 — exactly the sort of signal the system was looking for, a signal so extraordinary that the astronomer on duty scribbled “Wow!” on the printout. And while no one knows to this day what caused the signal, any scientist will tell you it sure as hell wasn’t alien life.

Of course, there is some ground for skepticism. The signal did not offer a blueprint for clean, efficient solar power. Nor did it contain a cure for cancer. Nor did it read “To Serve Mankind.” No, the first thing that outer space had to say to the world was the following bit of profundity:

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OK, that wasn’t exactly the content of the message. It’s actually a transcription of signal intensities over about 60 seconds, but that little string of characters is what prompted astronomer Jerry Ehman to write the infamous Wow! on a hard copy of the signal.

The SETI Project consists of a battery of radio antennae pointed toward outer space and listening for any sign of life out there — whether reruns of “I Love Alien Lucy” and “Alien Star Trek”, late-night alien Cinemax or a notice that the planet has been scheduled for demolition.

The problem, of course, is that aliens are not likely to speak English or send messages in conformant ASCII code. Therefore, SETI just listens for anything that sounds unnatural or out of the ordinary. Whenever something like that actually happens to pop up, SETI immediately declares it the result of radio-band interference from passing helicopters, terrorism or sunspots, then everyone goes home safe in the knowledge that there are no aliens. This costs millions of dollars per year, which, shockingly, is not underwritten by taxpayers.

The signal was received by the “Big Ear” Ohio State University Radio Observatory, which almost 20 years later was razed — much to the future embarassment of Ohio Wesleyan University, which owned the land and is responsible for transforming the site of possibly the first ever message from intelligent life in the universe into the back nine of a nearby golf course.

That’s assuming, of course, that the Wow! signal ever amounts to anything. Ehman, the scientist who immortalized himself with those three little letters (plus exclamation point), has gone over the data at some length and feels that the source of the transmission remains unexplained.

Ehman listed the possibilities that he and his colleagues have ruled out in a 1997 article marking the 20th anniversary of the signal’s reception:

* Signal from an asteroid or planet in this solar system: None were in the right position. Plus, it would still be a spooky weird signal even if it did come from one of them.

* Aircraft or non-extraterrestrial spacecraft: Prohibited from narrow-band frequencies in the appropriate range, plus the signal would have been moving perceptibly had it originated with a local craft, and it wasn’t.

* Ground-based transmitter: Banned from using the Wow! frequency, plus this was ruled out for very technical reasons having to do with the arrangements of Big Ear’s antenna array. Ehman concedes that a land-based signal could have bounced off a piece of space debris. However, this possibility is, statistically speaking, roughly on a par to a bank shot off a pool table accidentally knocking an eight-ball into orbit only to have it land in the middle of the array.

* Gravity lens: A gravity lens is produced when very heavy objects far off in the cosmos warp the space around them so exorbitantly that it produces the same effect as a magnifying glass (for pretty much the same reasons a magnifying glass works). While this is possible, it doesn’t actually explain the signal — it just means it came from farther away.

* Twinkling radio waves: Like stars, radio waves sometimes twinkle because of atmospheric interference. As with the gravity lens, this could be true, but it explains little.

* Satellite: No official satellites were in the proper location at the time of the signal, and satellites are prohibited from narrow-band transmissions in the frequency. Still, a secretive military-industrial satellite could have been sending some secretive message to some secretive recipient. We note that George W. Bush met his wife Laura in August of 1977, but we are certainly not suggesting that Laura Bush is some sort of Soviet-era sleeper agent programmed to become a ticking time bomb when stimulated by a satellite radio signal produced by technology now in the hands of al Qaeda. So please, people, don’t walk away from this article with that impression.

Ehman believes that the signal may very well have originated with extraterrestrials. Of course, if you had received the signal, you would want to believe that too. Other scientists have a considerably more skeptical view of the Wow! signal.

For example, in 2005, Dan Wertheimer, a SETI researcher who would himself like to be listed in the history books, told New Scientist magazine: “We’ve seen many signals like this, and these sorts of signals have always turned out to be interference.” Of course, the fact that other signals have turned out to be the result of interference is not the same thing as saying you have evidence that the Wow! signal was the result of interference.

Despite all this scientific jibber-jabber, no one seems to want to talk about the elephant in the room. At the very moment the Wow! signal was received by the Big Ear, another historic event with tremendous interstellar ramifications was taking place just a few hundred miles to the South — Elvis Presley was sitting in a dentist’s chair being treated for a toothache.

Presley returned home from his appointment and “died” the following morning. Obviously, the Wow! signal was received by the King’s fillings, no doubt calling him to the mountaintop where he would hitch a ride to the stars, perhaps to meet his higher destiny — as a quaint zoo exhibit peforming three times nightly in a casino on Betelgeuse Five.