Saturday, June 19, 2010

Homo Futurus

Today on Far Future Calling we continue our year long celebration of the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s publication of “On the Origin of Species” by presenting a somewhat controversial documentary concerning the future course of human evolution.

Homo Futurus is a controversial because it presents a theory regarding the mechanism driving the evolution of humans from primates to modern man that is distinctly non-Darwinian. The theory being proposed challenges the presently accepted evolutionary premise that genetic mutations and environmental pressures are the prime influencers for natural selection. It also speculates on humanity's long term future evolutionary path. So prepare to take a glimpse at the faces of our descendants.

Homo Futurus Part One

Homo Futurus Part Two

Author’s Note:

I recently learned that Anne Dambricourt Malassé, the French palaeoanthropologist featured in the documentary “Homo Futurus” was associated with an organisation called UIP, a French institute dedicated to promoting Intelligent Design, What struck me about this documentary was the appearance of South African palaeoanthropologist Phillip Tobias, well known for his research at Sterkfontein on Australopithecus and Homo Habilis at Olduvai Gorge. The documentary gave the impression that Tobias appears to support this research. Whether the result of clever editing on the part of the producers or Tobias’ actual opinion is something I would really like to look into. But, it should be noted that in recent years Phillip Tobias (along with such luminaries as David Attenborough and Daniel Dennett) has also lent his support to another controversial hypothesis concerning human evolution namely the Aquatic Hypothesis.

When I was in college I took several elective courses in Anthropology and Biological Anthropology and Tobias is a well respected researcher in this field. So his appearance in the documentary did lend it some legitimacy.

I must admit though, that the research concerning the shifting of the sphenoid, bone situated at the base of the skull in front of the temporal bones and basilar part of the occipital bone, and its role in the evolution of the primate/hominid face and cranial vault did intrigue me. It may prove to be a very important tool in the classification of hominid skulls.

The idea that evolution is following a trajectory leading to greater and greater complexity is not unique to Intelligent Design. In fact you find it hinted at in such fields as diverse as Artificial Life and SETI.
Even Simon Conway Morris seems to believe that complexity is an evolutionary certainty. In fact many leading biologist, foremost being Ernst Mayr, have been critical of SETI because of this idea.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Arthur C. Clarke:The Man Who Saw The Future

It was one year ago today that Arthur C. Clarke went on his final odyssey into the infinite. Today on Far Future Calling we would like to pay homage to the Man who inspired three generations of men and women to pursue careers in science and space with his visionary writings.
Sir Arthur was and will always remain the…….
The Man Who Saw the Future

Referred to as a genius, this one man think tank is considered the ultimate futurist by his devoted fans. How is it that Clarke's views of the future, as described in his many novels, have often become very present realities, such as videophones, laptop computers, E-mail, the space shuttle and cloning? One thing is for sure, Arthur C. Clarke is one of the most celebrated science fiction authors of our time. His novels 2001: A Space Odyssey and most recently 3001: The Final Odyssey, as well as more than 60 other titles have inspired generations of people, propelling us into the future, setting our minds free to explore.

You can purchase this wonderful documentary from AMAZON.COM
And, for your viewing pleasure and in order to honour Clarke’s contributions to the genre of science fiction we have:
The Martians and Us -From Apes to Aliens Episode 1.
A series about the history of British science fiction. This edition looks at our relationship with aliens, from Wells' invading Martians to the Daleks, via 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Midwich Cuckoos, and the Mekon. It also explores the genre's preoccupation with the big questions of evolution, and includes interviews with Arthur C Clarke, Brian Aldiss, Doris Lessing and Steve Jones.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Let There be Light….

In the Beginning, in a burst of pure radiant energy, light came into being and in that brief instant of creation the Universe came into existence some fourteen billion years ago. Within the first three minutes of the big bang pure energy condensed into matter. From this matter stars and galaxies came forth and through the process of nuclear fusion, heavy elements were forged in the hearts of distant and massive suns. It is the existence of these elements that make the existence of living things a possibility. We owe are very existence to that very instance when the laws of physics through accident or design (depending on your philosophical and religious proclivities dear reader) declared, eons ago –“Let there be Light”.

The study of the fundamental nature of light has been a central theme throughout the Intellectual History of humanity. Answering the question – “what is light?” has been a major preoccupation of all major areas of human endeavour be it Religion, Philosophy or Art. The quest to understand and decipher the mystery of radiance gave rise to modern science. In fact, the twin pillars of modern science – Relativity and Quantum Mechanics owe their development to solving the mystery of the true nature of light. And, it is through the analysis of starlight that humanity has begun to understand its place in the Cosmos. So my dear readers, in the earnest hope that this New Year and the years to follow, will always be radiant with the promise of hope and good fortune for each and everyone of you I would like to offer you the following documentary for your viewing pleasure: Simon Schaffer's fantastic four part documentary "Light Fantastic" that was produced for BBC 4. In the episodes that follow science historian Simon Schaffer takes on a voyage of discovery through time to follow humankind’s quest for enlightenment to discover the true nature of light.

1. Let There be Light

Greek and Arab scholars and later Europeans such as Descartes and Newton all tried to understand light to gain a better understanding of God. Episode one shows how much of modern science's origins came from the desire to penetrate the divine nature of light.

2. The Light of Reason

The second programme explores the link between the development of practical tools that manipulate light and the emergence of new ideas. For example, Galileo's observation that the sun did not go around the earth, was made with a telescope that had been invented for Venetian soldiers and traders.

3. The Stuff of Light

Episode three charts the discovery of the true nature of light and its impact on the modern world. All of today's technologies - electricity, mobile communications and our ability to illuminate the world 24 hours a day - stem from unravelling the mystery of light.

4. Light, The Universe and Everything

In the final programme Simon Schaffer finds that as more people were able to manipulate light, the more puzzling and tricky it became. This led to investigations into the strange relationship between light, the eye and the mind, and the development of new technology such as photography and cinema.

The Year Ahead

The New Year ahead of us promises to be an exciting one for those of us on Discovery Enterprise and the associated blog sites Cosmic Visions and Far Future Calling. This New Year of 2009 AD promises to be one of many New Beginnings in the exciting world of Discovery, Exploration and Science.

Many of our devoted readers know that we at Discovery Enterprise are closely associated with the Atlantica Expeditions - First Undersea Colony Project. At this very moment the Atlantica Expeditions Team is assembling the New Worlds Explorer (NWE) and it will be nearing completion this weekend. The New Worlds Explorer, designed by Dennis Chamberland, is designed as a companion habitat and engineering model to the Leviathan Habitat, scheduled for construction soon. Both habitats will be used to support underwater crews on the longest manned underwater mission in history in 2010. The New Worlds Explorer is scheduled for deployment in 2009. As for other news – it looks like the submarine Dan Scott Taylor II will be delivered in January! It looks like it is going to be a busy and eventful year as the Atlantica Expedition crew embarks on its quest to commence humankind's exploration and settlement of the last great frontier on Earth - the Undersea World of Aquatica.

The year 2009 also marks the celebration of four major anniversaries connected to the History of Science and Exploration. 2009 marks the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth on 12th February, 1809 and the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s publication of “On the Origin of Species” on 24th November, 1859. The year 2009 will also mark the 400th anniversary of the use of the telescope to view the heavens by Galileo Galilei and the publication of Johannes Kepler's Astronomia Nova in which he presented his three laws of planetary motion. In connection with these events the year 2009 has been declared the International Year of Astronomy.

Moreover, it will also commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1st landing by human beings on the moon's surface on July 20th, 1969. This year will also see the launching of the Kepler Mission on March 6th, 2009 an astronomical satellite currently being developed by NASA to search for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. It will observe the brightness of over 100,000 stars over 3.5 years to detect periodical transits of a star by its planets.

And on July 11th, 2009 will see the test launch of the Ares I-X which will be a suborbital test flight in of the Ares I spacecraft. This will be the first major step, in NASA’s ambitious plans to return to the Moon, with the eventual goal of establishing a permanent human presence there. So stay with us dear readers and join us on new voyages of exploration and discovery during the exciting year ahead.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Existing in the Multiverse

It all began with Copernicus when he displaced humanity from its exalted central status in the cosmic scheme of things and then with Darwin who showed that humanity may not be the handiwork of God sculpted from the dust of the earth and imbued with the very breath of the Almighty with the stuff of life and spirit. Now, following on the work of twenty century physicist Hugh Everett it appears that the science of the twenty first century has begun to fully embrace the notion of the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum physics and is poised to reveal that we ourselves may not be unique but, are each and everyone of us, one of an infinite multitude of quantum Doppelgangers existing in the multiverse of infinite possibility.

This many-worlds interpretation of cosmic existence cuts to the very core of perhaps the ultimate of existential questions concerning who each and every one of us is and the ultimate question of personhood. The philosophical questions concerning the individual self and our place in the universe that naturally emerge when confronting this theory are, to say the least, very disquieting. What does it mean to be me? Does the notion of an immortal soul or the notion of personal salvation in some after life have any real meaning within the context of twenty first century science? Does the notion of a personal and loving God, looking out for our personal wellbeing and the salvation of each and every one of us, still relevant today? When confronting this theory from a personal perspective one may enter the Twilight Zone of the soul.

If this theory of cosmic existence ever receives empirical confirmation how will it affect humanity’s perspective concerning its place in the cosmos? If we were privileged to take a glimpse at the philosophy and religious theology of a century or two hence what will we see? How would the notion of a multiverse shape the thinking and zeitgeist of our descents? Will humanity descend into a new age of nihilism? Or see itself as an integral part of some greater whole in a much, much wider scheme of existence writ large. It would be very interesting to see how the ideal of a multiverse will shape the philosophy, religion, art, literature and science of a future age. These are indeed very sobering and disquieting thoughts that humanity will one day have to confront. Yet, again if it’s ever proved that we indeed inhabit a multiverse it will open the vast new realm of infinite possibility and new worlds and realms of existence to explore.

The Universe - Parallel Universes
Some of the world's leading physicists believe they have found startling new evidence showing the existence of universes other than our own. One possibility is that the universe is so vast that an exact replica of our solar system, our planet and ourselves exists many times over. These Doppelganger Universes exist within our own Universe; in what scientist now call "The Multiverse." If proof is found it will change our lives, our minds, our planet, our science and our universe.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Are humans destined to acquire real life super abilities through the efforts of genetic engineers who are mining the random genetic mutations acquired by some members of our species that give them fantastic capabilities? Random mutations that allow some individuals to withstand and survive frigid temperatures, perform fantastic feats of mental calculation and who can see and taste music. Since the beginning of life on Earth human evolution has been driven by the random forces of natural selection. But, now with the advent of genetic manipulation our species is on the verge of directing the course of humanity’s evolutionary future. Will our species diverge into two distinct species of humans leading to a new gulf in social and economic disparity –the genetically enhanced and the genetically inferior? Those gifted with superior intelligence and longer longevity and those without. What does the brave new world of tomorrow being ushered in by biotechnology hold for us?

For answers to these and other thought provoking questions watch the following documentary “Real Super Humans and the Quest for the Future Fantastic” and meet some real people with real super powers. Super powers caused by random genetic mutations. And learn about the scientists who are unlocking the genetic secrets behind these gifts. The work of these researchers is placing humanity on the brink of bequeathing these powers to our children. Prepare to meet the Real Super Humans.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Real Life Chrononauts

"The thing the Time Traveller held in his hand was a glittering metallic framework, scarcely larger than a small clock, and very delicately made. There was ivory in it, and some transparent crystalline substance. And now I must be explicit, for this that follows--unless his explanation is to be accepted--is an absolutely unaccountable thing. He took one of the small octagonal tables that were scattered about the room, and set it in front of the fire, with two legs on the hearthrug. On this table he placed the mechanism. Then he drew up a chair, and sat down. The only other object on the table was a small shaded lamp, the bright light of which fell upon the model. There were also perhaps a dozen candles about, two in brass candlesticks upon the mantel and several in sconces, so that the room was brilliantly illuminated. I sat in a low arm-chair nearest the fire, and I drew this forward so as to be almost between the Time Traveller and the fireplace. Filby sat behind him, looking over his shoulder. The Medical Man and the Provincial Mayor watched him in profile from the right, the Psychologist from the left. The Very Young Man stood behind the Psychologist. We were all on the alert. It appears incredible to me that any kind of trick, however subtly conceived and however adroitly done, could have been played upon us under these conditions.

The Time Traveller looked at us, and then at the mechanism. `Well?' said the Psychologist.

`This little affair,' said the Time Traveller, resting his elbows upon the table and pressing his hands together above the apparatus, `is only a model. It is my plan for a machine to travel through time. You will notice that it looks singularly askew, and that there is an odd twinkling appearance about this bar, as though it was in some way unreal.' He pointed to the part with his finger. `Also, here is one little white lever, and here is another.'

The Medical Man got up out of his chair and peered into the thing. `It's beautifully made,' he said.

`It took two years to make,' retorted the Time Traveller. Then, when we had all imitated the action of the Medical Man, he said: `Now I want you clearly to understand that this lever, being pressed over, sends the machine gliding into the future, and this other reverses the motion. This saddle represents the seat of a time traveller. Presently I am going to press the lever, and off the machine will go. It will vanish, pass into future Time, and disappear. Have a good look at the thing. Look at the table too, and satisfy yourselves there is no trickery. I don't want to waste this model, and then be told I'm a quack.'

There was a minute's pause perhaps. The Psychologist seemed about to speak to me, but changed his mind. Then the Time Traveller put forth his finger towards the lever. `No,' he said suddenly. `Lend me your hand.' And turning to the Psychologist, he took that individual's hand in his own and told him to put out his forefinger. So that it was the Psychologist himself who sent forth the model Time Machine on its interminable voyage. We all saw the lever turn. I am absolutely certain there was no trickery. There was a breath of wind, and the lamp flame jumped. One of the candles on the mantel was blown out, and the little machine suddenly swung round, became indistinct, was seen as a ghost for a second perhaps, as an eddy of faintly glittering brass and ivory; and it was gone--vanished! Save for the lamp the table was bare.

Everyone was silent for a minute. Then Filby said he was damned.

The Psychologist recovered from his stupor, and suddenly looked under the table. At that the Time Traveller laughed cheerfully. `Well?' he said, with a reminiscence of the Psychologist. Then, getting up, he went to the tobacco jar on the mantel, and with his back to us began to fill his pipe.

We stared at each other. `Look here,' said the Medical Man, `are you in earnest about this? Do you seriously believe that that machine has travelled into time?'

`Certainly,' said the Time Traveller, stooping to light a spill at the fire. Then he turned, lighting his pipe, to look at the Psychologist's face. (The Psychologist, to show that he was not unhinged, helped himself to a cigar and tried to light it uncut.) `What is more, I have a big machine nearly finished in there'--he indicated the laboratory--`and when that is put together I mean to have a journey on my own account.'

`You mean to say that that machine has travelled into the future?' said Filby.

`Into the future or the past--I don't, for certain, know which.'

After an interval the Psychologist had an inspiration. `It must have gone into the past if it has gone anywhere,' he said.

`Why?' said the Time Traveller.

`Because I presume that it has not moved in space, and if it travelled into the future it would still be here all this time, since it must have travelled through this time.'

`But,' I said, `If it travelled into the past it would have been visible when we came first into this room; and last Thursday when we were here; and the Thursday before that; and so forth!'

`Serious objections,' remarked the Provincial Mayor, with an air of impartiality, turning towards the Time Traveller.

`Not a bit,' said the Time Traveller, and, to the Psychologist: `You think. You can explain that. It's presentation below the threshold, you know, diluted presentation.'

`Of course,' said the Psychologist, and reassured us. `That's a simple point of psychology. I should have thought of it. It's plain enough, and helps the paradox delightfully. We cannot see it, nor can we appreciate this machine, any more than we can the spoke of a wheel spinning, or a bullet flying through the air. If it is travelling through time fifty times or a hundred times faster than we are, if it gets through a minute while we get through a second, the impression it creates will of course be only one-fiftieth or one-hundredth of what it would make if it were not travelling in time. That's plain enough.' He passed his hand through the space in which the machine had been. `You see?' he said, laughing.

We sat and stared at the vacant table for a minute or so. Then the Time Traveller asked us what we thought of it all.

`It sounds plausible enough to-night,' said the Medical Man; 'but wait until to-morrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.'

`Would you like to see the Time Machine itself?' asked the Time Traveller. And therewith, taking the lamp in his hand, he led the way down the long, draughty corridor to his laboratory. I remember vividly the flickering light, his queer, broad head in silhouette, the dance of the shadows, how we all followed him, puzzled but incredulous, and how there in the laboratory we beheld a larger edition of the little mechanism which we had seen vanish from before our eyes. Parts were of nickel, parts of ivory, parts had certainly been filed or sawn out of rock crystal. The thing was generally complete, but the twisted crystalline bars lay unfinished upon the bench beside some sheets of drawings, and I took one up for a better look at it. Quartz it seemed to be.

`Look here,' said the Medical Man, `are you perfectly serious? Or is this a trick--like that ghost you showed us last Christmas?'

`Upon that machine,' said the Time Traveller, holding the lamp aloft, `I intend to explore time. Is that plain? I was never more serious in my life.'

None of us quite knew how to take it.

I caught Filby's eye over the shoulder of the Medical Man, and he winked at me solemnly.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Is time travel possible? Would you like to become a real life Chrononaut? Will we ever be able to transverse the fourth dimension as easily as we transverse the three spatial dimensions of length, breath and height? And if it were possible to travel through time freely what will this reveal to us about the fundamental nature of reality? Will our forays into the fourth dimension reveal to us that we inhabit an infinite multiverse were any conceivable historic outcome is possible? Will we discover alternate realities in which Hitler was victorious and the Nazis won the Second World War or the American Revolution ended in disaster for the American Colonists and the British still rule the Americas? Or will we discover that time is in fact linear and that altering history will lead to strange mind boggling paradoxes?

In just a few decades Time Travel may indeed leap out of the realm of science fiction and become science fact or in the very least communication across the fourth dimension may prove feasible through the exciting work of
Dr. Ronald L. Mallett.

Dr. Ronald Mallett’s "
Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality" is an autobiographical account of his quest to build a working time machine which is at once poignant and exciting in that it conveys a sense of what its like to be on the cutting edge of some really far out physics and how this has been intertwined with his very personal desire to save his long dead father.

The following 2003 BBC documentary "The World's First Time Machine" chronicles the work of Dr. Mallett's cutting edge work and covers the possibility of alternative universes and paradoxes that come with time travel.

The World's First Time Machine

Another interesting documentary comes from the series Mega Science: Time Travel which covers the work of other real life chrononauts.

Mega Science Time Travel

If real life chronautics isn’t your cup of tea then do the next best thing and watch George Pal's 1960 Science Fiction Classic The Time Machine.

Forget that silly remake in 2002! This is the original and best movie adaptation of the story. After scoring popular hits with “When Worlds Collide” and “The War of the Worlds”, special-effects pioneer George Pal returned to the visionary fiction of H.G. Wells to produce and direct this science-fiction classic from 1960. Wells' imaginative tale of time travel was published in 1895 and the movie is set in approximately the same period with Rod Taylor as a scientist whose magnificent time machine allows him to leap backward and forward in the annals of history. His adventures take him far into the future, where a meek and ineffectual race known as the Eloi have been forced to hide from the brutally monstrous Morlocks. As Taylor tests his daring invention, Oscar-winning special effects show us what the scientist sees: a cavalcade of sights and sounds as he races through time at varying speeds, from lava flows of ancient earth to the rise and fall of a towering future metropolis.

The Time Machine

Also, make it a point to read the exciting sequel to Wells’ all time science fiction classic “The Time Ships” by Stephen Baxter published in 1995 to commemorate the centennial of the publication of Wells’ scientific romance.