Monday, February 26, 2007

The Battle of Los Angeles - 65th Anniversary

Late at night, on February 25, 1952, strange flying objects in the sky over southern California created a scary scene right out of such movies as Independence Day or War of the Worlds. Air raid sirens awoke the residents of Los Angeles, and hundreds of thousands of eye witnesses watched the 37th CA Brigade fire a barrage of anti-aircraft shells at the invaders.

The reports as to the number of UFOs descending upon Tinsel Town are varrying. In the very early morning of the 25th, an unidentified object was picked up by radar about 120 miles west of Los Angeles. The information center was later flooded with calls concerning incoming "enemy planes" even though the object disappeared on radar while over the ocean.

Just before 3 AM, enemy planes were spotted near Long Beach, and minutes later, a coast artillary colonel reported seeing about 12 enemy planes flying towards Los Angeles. Soon, four batteries of artillary fired anti-aircraft shells at the UFOs.

The UFOs dropped no bombs, and despite being hit with over 1440 rounds of ammo, none of them crashed or suffered any damage. The UFOs simply hovered south, and quickly disappeared over the ocean south of Long Beach.

The next day, the following headline story ran in the Los Angeles Times:


Below is the inside page on this story that also ran in the Los Angeles Times on February 26th:

That top picture is actually a photograph of spotlights hitting the UFOs while anti-aircraft shells are being fired at it. We'll take a closer look of that one picture in a second. But as you can see, lots of shrapnel from the missiles also fell upon L.A. Six civillians were killed and others were injured.

Below is that top picture from the inside page article. This picture came directly from the negative, so it's much clearer than the photo from the 1942 newspaper article. If you look very closely, you see some very interesting things...


First of all, from this very clear picture, you can make out only one object - and it's triangular. Secondly, those little bursts of light underneath its hull is probably the explosions from the anti-aircraft shells. Now remember, this is 1942 - the time of "flying saucers." Those explosions could be mistaken as UFOs flying in formation, as many witnesses stated. Finally, it's interesting how the spotlights have converged onto one single spot. Later, the military would conclude there were NO enemy planes over Los Angeles. Yeah right. So what were the spotlights trained on? And what did the artillary unit shoot at?

But since L.A. was blacked out during the raid, other witnesses had a pretty clear view from their position. One witness, named Kate, lived on the West Side of L.A. She said that everyone thought it was the Japanese (even after the war, the Japanese insisted they never sent planes over Los Angeles). But when she went to her window to see, the sight amazed her:

"It was huge! It was just enormous! And it was practically right over my house. I had never seen anything like it in my life! It was just hovering there in the sky and hardly moving at all. It was a lovely pale orange and about the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. I could see it perfectly because it was very close. It was big!"

Following the "battle," the military began it's investigation. The Navy said there were no enemy aircraft at all. The Army went back and forth until saying it was a false alarm. And the Air Force said they didn't think there were any enemy planes above. After an investigation and hearing, the War Department disagreed and concluded that there were at least one to five planes that flew above Los Angeles, and were probably meant to figure out the coast's defenses.

If that's true, then they're admiting that their artillary unit guarding the West has to be the absolute worst marksmen in the universe.

Tens of thousands saw something over Los Angeles. And apparently, the military must've seen something when they were aiming at it and fired nearly 2000 rounds. The War Department and the military's disagreement simply deepens the mystery.

If something like this were to happen today, I wonder what Hollywood would do at such a moment. Will Smith's character was very heroic in the film Independence Day, but I think if Will Smith saw a gigantic craft hovering above his L.A. mansion, he'd probably soil his pants.


"I just shat in my drawers."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fun Facts Friday

Since I'll be at Micky's Place for the rest of the week, I thought it was a great time to introduce Fun Facts Friday. I'll be posting some of the more unknown facts about various scientific topics that I hope entertain and enlighten (and gross you out).

Have a great week, and enjoy.

Human Biology: The average human loses 200 head hairs per day. (Maybe that's what happened to Britney Spears).
Chemistry:
Peanuts is one of the ingredients that goes into making dynamite. (Almonds make a great Chinese star).


Mathmatics:
111, 111, 111 X 111, 111, 111 = 12, 345, 678, 987, 654, 321 (Okay, I admit that was really nerdy, but cool!).

General Biology: Nearly 70% of ALL organisms in the world are bacteria. (In my seventh grade science class, a girl named Jennifer was reading outloud and said "orgasm" instead of "organism." Everyone in the class laughed their asses off [even though half of us had no idea what was so funny]. But our teacher did not find that amusing).

Friday, February 16, 2007

Mystery Voices in the Air

Growing up, one of my most favorite things to do was to play with my father's shortwave radio. It was rectangular and had this flip up map of the world. The map showed all the different time zones and such, and it was fun to listen to radio shows from across the globe. My father had a CB radio in his van, and was even able to tune my radio to his and he'd talk to me on his way to work.

Often times, I'd hear really strange sounds coming from the radio - very weird transmissions. Morse code, weird music, and the voices. The voices spooked me out the most. Sometimes it was male, more often female. Several times, I swear it was a child's voice.

The voice would often just drone on and on, saying a series of numbers over and over again. Then the whole transmission would repeat itself. My dad's explanation was that it was probably the airport or something. The voices sometimes spoke in Spanish, other times it sounded more like German.

For years, I would just listen to the voices saying their numbers - wondering what the hell it all meant. Who was sending this message? And more interestingly, who was receiving them? Eventually, the shortwave radio wasn't as interesting to me, and I forgot all about it.

Until I started doing some research...

The phenomona of strange transmission via shortwave frequences is called Number Stations. These mysterious transmissions are heard all over the world, and the voices are in a mulitutde of languages. The voices are most often a woman, but can also be male, a child, or mechanically generated. Sometimes the transmission will begin with a little music, or the word "attention" can be heard. Then the voice will be reading a series of numbers, letters, or phonetic alphabet (i.e. "Charlie" for the letter "C"). The transmissions will normally follow a very tight schedule, and each might last hours.

So what exactly are these Number Stations???

The most popular theory is that it's a method for undercover spies to get their orders. To transmit messages via shortwaves is not that difficult, but more importantly, it's cheap and simple for your undercover spy. You can get a shortwave radio from Wal-Mart for $20.

Why use shortwave signals? Why not use cell phones or the internet? With the advent of technology, it's become even easier to intercept messages from a phone or a computer. With shortwave signals, the messages are often coded orders.

If the spy is using a one-time pad to decrypt these numbers, the code is unbreakable. The numbers or letters being broadcast from Toronto to Bejing are easy to listen to, but they're meaningless unless you have the "key" to decoding them and receiving your messages. (Russian spy book of one-time pads pictured left).The spy decodes the numbers into letters, back into numbers, and then into letters once more to get the message. He then burns the one page key. It's random, it's encrypted, and it's impossible for anyone to break.

The world's governments will not admit to using Number Stations, although recently, the US government accused Cuba of having a spy on American soil. The "Atencion" number station was believed to be the method by which Cuba's spies would receive their orders. Ana Belen Montes was accused by the CIA of being a Cuban spy when her laptop was recovered, and the "key" to decrypting those shortwave messages was found.

Click HERE to hear a real sample of the famous "Atencion Number Station."

One of the most famous Number Stations is the "Lincolnshire Poacher." I remember hearing this one when I was in highschool while listening to the shortwave radio. It's pretty cool. It begins with the English folksong, and then goes into it's coded voice message. The voice is female, and you'll notice that at the end of a series of numbers, she will raise her voice on that fifth and final number. This transmission is believed to be from the British Secret Intelligence Service being sent from the island of Cyprus. Listen for yourself right HERE. James Bond indeed!

One Number Station I find a little creepy is one called "Swedish Rhapsody." It begins with a few beeps, and then this little Swedish song would play as if from a music box. I would instictively run for money as it sounds just like the ice cream man. Then this freaky kids voice starts saying numbers in what I think is German. It even says "achtung" between five number sets. Listen to "Swedish Rhapsody" HERE. I've read this Number Station is still quite active, and for those with shortwave radios, you can here it on three frequencies simultaneously at: 4779, 5340, and 6779 on Saturday evenings.

One Number Station is called "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." A rock band called Wilco named an album after this mysterious transmission. I'm not sure about the accent the woman's voice has, but I'm thinking French. She says "yankee hotel foxtrot" a bunch of times, and then says "message, group 1" and says a bunch of other stuff. Listen HERE.

Sometimes, a country doesn't like Number Stations broadcasting secret messages to potential spies. So what do they do? They jam them! An example is the Chinese Firedragon Jammer that was known to originate from the island of Hainan in the South China Sea. You hear the secret code from a female voice, and then you hear music that makes you want to pass the pu pu platter! Listen HERE.

One Number Station is called "Ready Ready." It's interesting because the lady giving the numbers and then says "ready, ready" is talking with a fake British accent. Some believe this one is from Yugoslav Intelligence. Listen HERE.

This final example has been linked to the Israeli Intelligence Service, MOSSAD. The woman's voice is giving the secret code using phonetic alphabets and numbers. It sounds as if the phonetic alphabet is used as some sort of identifier, just before the numerical code. Listen HERE.

What orders are being given out in this clandestine method? Meeting places for undercover spies? Call to arms for terrorist sleeper cells? Or perhaps orders to assassinate someone is a message being sent over the airwaves.

The funny thing is, one would think since the end of the Cold War, these kinds of secret transmissions would've at least slowed down. But the contrary is true, as Number Stations enthusiasts have noted that it's picked up since 1990.

Exactly what are these mystery voices in the air saying?


The mystery continues...



For more Number Station recordings, go to The Conet Project by Iridial to listen to more.
Or, get a shortwave radio and just start listening.

Monday, February 12, 2007

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The greatest discoveries blossomed out of people having the guts to step forward and say, "I'll be first." Who can forget scientific heroes like...

Colonel John Stapp. The man "strapped" himself to a sled with a rocket on it in order to learn more about g-forces and the human body. Col. Stapp wanted to devise safer gear for pilots, so he tested his theories on himself. Sure, he broke various limbs and had blood vessels in his eyes explode from time to to time while hurling himself at nearly 600 mph on a rocket, but this man's work saved lives.

Daniel Alcides Carrion. This Peruvian medical student couldn't just idly stand by why people were dying of some strange new disease called "Yellow Fever." He had his fellow students inject him with the virus, and from contracting the disease and studying it, he discovered that "Yellow Fever" and another illness, verruga peruana, were actually two different manifestations of the same virus. Daniel Carrion died from yellow fever less than four weeks later, but the guy is a hero!

Bob Helms. Author of Guinea Pig Zero: An Anthology of the Journal for Human Research Subjects makes a living as a human test subject. This former laborer's pay ranges from $250 - $400 PER DAY! This man has had blood drawn, urine and poop samples taken, x-rays...all in the name of science... and moola! Mr. Helms says of his job: "Sometimes the work amounts to showing up on time, not being afraid of needles, and not eating anything that will disrupt the study." Most of the time, he says that he is ''essentially getting paid to be a couch potato.''

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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Serendipity Baby! Part 2

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" but "That's funny..."
-- Isaac Asimov

What is serendipity in the scientific world? Simply put, it is making a great discovery by complete accident. Many of our world's greatest finds have been "mistakes." Columbus discovering the New World is an example of how a goof can become gold.

In a post from last July, Just One Suck Can Show A Lot, I wrote about a few serendipitous scientific discoveries. Very recently, however, it seems good luck has struck the scientific community once again.

Katherine L. Schaefer, Ph.D., a research assistant professor within the Department of Medicine, Gastroenterology and Hepatology Division, at the University of Rochester Medical Center and her fellow collegues might have stumbled upon a new treatment for cancer due to a lab SNAFU.

The researchers were originally looking for new ways to reduce inflammation seen in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, bowel diseases that cause pain and diarrhea. Specifically, they were comparing the effect on inflammation of encouraging the action of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma protein (PPARgamma protein) against discouraging it with inhibitor compounds.

The team conducted these experiments using colorectal cancer cells for their experiments because they originate from normal gut cells and share some of their qualities. Unlike normal gut cells, however, cancer cells don't die when removed from the gut wall. That's what makes cancer cells so dangerous. The damn things just don't die. But it also makes them great for studying.

During the experiments with the PPARgamma modulators, the cancer cells kept dying before she could finish gathering data.

“I made a calculation error and used a lot more [PPARgamma proteins] than I should have. And my cells died,” Schaefer said.

Dr. Lawrence J. Saubermann heard her complaining that she kept killing her cancer cells, and quickly realized just what they might have accidently discovered: A potentially new treatment that "pretty much every epithelial tumor cell lines we have seen,” Schaefer reported. (Epithelial cells line organs and also make up skin).

It also killed colon tumors in mice without making the mice sick, the team reported in the journal International Cancer Research.

More tests are needed, but the research looks promising.

For fun, here are another few scientific wonders discovered by complete accident:

Velcro. Georges de Mestral was a Swiss engineer that would walk his dog near the Swiss Alps everyday. He noticed that there were these annoying Burdock seeds that would stick to his dog and his clothing. His curiosity got the best of him, and after examining how these seeds stuck to stuff, he invented the hook and loop fastener system used in Velcro. Drunken idiots that don the Velcro suit and hurl themselves against a loop-stripped wall thank you.

Asparatime. James Schlatter, a G.D. Searle & Co. chemist, was working on a new tetrapeptide in connection with an anti-ulcer project they were working on. He accidentally spilled some aspartylphenylalanine methyl ester on his hand. Later in the day, he licked his fingers to pick up a piece of paper and tasted something very sweet. He went back to the lab and tasted what was left over in a test tube (something I don't recommend other chemists to try). Sure enough, it was tasty! Dieters and diabetics thank you.

The World Wide Web. Despite what many think, Al Gore did not invent the internet. Two physics researchers, Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreesen wanted to build a tool for researchers at CERN (a Swiss Physics laboratory) could exchange ideas and publish papers. The two put together a language called HTML, a system called ENQUIRE, and a browser called Mosaic. And the world wide web was born. Horny people downloading porn thank you.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Alien Hand Syndrome

And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast [it] from thee...Matthew 5:30


Imagine if one of your hands had a mind of it's own. Our of nowhere, your hand would begin moving and doing things without your controlling it. What if you were in the middle of a job interview, and one of your hands tried to pick your nose? It sounds like a nightmare, doesn't it? However, to those suffering from Alien Hand Syndrome (AHS), it's a nightmare come true.

I did a post on several rare and bizarre syndromes back in 2005 here. I did mention alien hand syndrome, but I feel compelled to do this whole post on the topic.

A person with this very real and disturbing sickness feel that at certain times, they do not have any control over one of their hands. The alien hand will feel independent from the rest of the body, and will move uncontrollably - as if it had a mind of it's own. Patients feel that their hand is not their own and is possessed by some other entity.

The alien hand could make 'involuntary' jerking movements, it might unbutton a shirt, or even try to hurt the sufferer. There have been stories of people being choked by their own hand in the middle of the night.

That gives me the heebie jeebies.

How did these poor people get this awful syndrome?

Often, patients will develop alien hand syndrome after some type of brain trauma, particularly to the corpus callosum, the bridge between both hemispheres. People with this condition might find their non-dominant hand actually acting completely on it's own. For example, a right-handed person trying reach for the remote control might get slapped by his left "alien" hand.

With damage to the parietal lobe of the brain, a patient might also find one of their hands suddenly goes rogue. The alien hand will often do very purposeful stuff, like unzipping pants, dialing a phone, lighting a cigarette, or flipping through a book.

If a person's frontal lobe is damaged, they could find that their dominant hand will often grab stuff and not let go. Often times, the patient might have to pry the object out with his non-dominant hand.

Scientists are still pretty baffled by this condition, as there are so many complicated variables involved. There is no cure.

Although the exact nature of this strange affliction remains somewhat a mystery, it hasn't stopped Hollywood from using alien hand syndrome to spice-up story lines. Here are just a few examples of AHS in television and films:

Liar Liar: Jim's Carey's character loves to tease his son by unleashing "The Claw." His right hand would suddenly act on it's own and try to attack his kid. That's a great defense should he accidentally abuse his son.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: Comedic genius Peter Sellers plays the wheelchair bound Dr. Strangelove. His gloved right hand would try to choke him to death or give a Nazi salute. One of the funniest scenes in the film is when Dr. Strangelove is fighting with his right hand for control over his wheelchair.

Futurama: The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings: On this TV cartoon show, Fry is a terrible holophonor player and wants to win the one-eyed Leela's love. So Fry makes a Faustian deal with the Robot Devil. The Robot Devil and Fry exchange hands, and suddenly Fry is a world-renowned holophonor musician. Here's an excerpt from this episode:

Leela: I've been a fool. A fully justified, prudent fool. (touches Fry's hands) Aaah! They're so cold!

Beelzebot: (off screen) And yet hell is so hot! Ahhahahahah! Can I have my hands back now?

Fry: No!

Beelzebot: (off screen) You're not nice!


Maybe O.J. Simpson has Alien Hand Syndrome.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

To Beg For Amputation

I read this article in The Guardian, and it shocked me. At first, I felt that "Susan Smith" was just a selfish woman. However, after reading about her life and why she wants her legs amputated, I realized that she has a real illness.

Science is not even close to figuring out why people suffer from what's being called Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). I think before you can understand the biology and/or psychology behind this terrible sickness, you need to understand a sufferer's struggles.

Below are some exceprts from Susan Smith's article:

I was six when I first became aware of my desire to lose my legs. I don't remember what started it - there was no specific trigger. Most people want to change something about themselves, and the image I have of myself has always been one without legs.

As a teenager, in the privacy of my own home, I used to play by myself at being an amputee. I would pretend I had one leg, strapping the other one up behind me and wearing oversize trousers so there was no shape.


Two years ago, I told [my husband] that now was the time and I was going to remove my left leg. My first attempt was in March 2005. Of course I was scared of dying, but I had got to a point in my life where I could no longer fight it.


First I needed to freeze and kill the leg so that surgeons would amputate it afterwards. I ordered dry ic
e pellets. I put on layers of pantyhose, because you do not want it sticking to you, spread it in the back of the car and sat with my leg immersed in it for one hour. The pain was indescribable: it hurt so much I passed out a few times. I was scared, but more so of failure.

I had not damaged the leg enough to have it amputated in hospital, so the following September I made a second attempt, and this time I stayed in the dry ice for four hours. My husband drove me to hospital, but they refused to amputate. Incredibly, they said the wounds were superficial and that I would be walking within a few months.

I slowly recovered my strength back at home. But the leg became so infected that there was a danger of the bacteria getting into the bloodstream and killing me. After nine months of agony, I told my GP that if I didn't see someone fast, I would take off the leg myself. Within two days I had an appointment with a different surgeon.

The amputation, last June, went without a problem, and my left leg was removed from just above the knee. I felt better as soon as I came round.

I already feel more complete now that one leg is off. I have always been an outgoing kind of person, but my confidence is much higher now as my body is more like I want it to be.
Removing the next leg will not be any easier than the first; the pain will be horrendous. But I have no regrets about the path I have chosen. In fact, if I regret anything, it is that I didn't do this sooner. For the first time in my life, I can get on with being the real me.


Susan's experience carries the typical BIID symptoms. This seems to begin in childhood, around 5 or 6 years old. There are several theories as to the cause of BIID, but this is such a relatively new mental illness and modern medicine doesn't have all the answers. The three prevailing theories are:

1. A child sees an amputee and somehow, that transfers to the child's mind that this is the ideal body image.

2. A child sees the attention and sympathy an amputee receives and longs for that as well. This soon becomes a strong desire to become an amputee.

3. Finally, there's a some sort of short-circuit in the brain's cerebral cortex that's in control of a child's limbs.

There are no official treatments for BIID. A person with this illness will simply try to figure out a way to have their limbs removed. Some will beg a surgeon to do it, others will become so desperate like Susan, they hurt themselves so that a doctor will have no choice but to amputate.

But there's a personal liberty issue involved with this. Is the desire to amputate a limb much diffreent than any other form of self-mutilation like getting a tatoo or any body piercing? Many would suggest that it's a person's right to have an arm or leg amputated if that makes the person happy and feel complete.

Regardless, hopefully modern medicine can begin to unravel this disorder and provide more help to its sufferers.