An "Eh oh!" "Uh oh!": Teletubbies stolen

From the BBC:

Dozens of figures from the Irish Republic's National Wax Museum have been damaged or stolen after a "rave" party at a warehouse, officials say. Models of famous children's characters, including Teletubbies and Bob the Builder, [as well as film villains Hannibal Lecter and Freddie Krueger,] were among those taken from the museum's collection in Dublin.

Japanese money grows in the sky, mailboxes

The AFP reports:

Residents of a Tokyo apartment building are baffled after a total of 1.81 million yen (15,210 dollars) was found in 18 mailboxes by Saturday, a police spokesman said ... Since June, dozens of city halls and other public buildings across the country have reported finding neatly packaged envelopes full of cash in men's restrooms ... [On July 25], bills worth 960,000 yen were inexplicably seen "falling" in front of a convenience store ... The largest single dropoff so far was in the ancient city of Kyoto on July 23, astonishing a 67-year-old woman who found an envelope containing 10 million yen of stacked bills in her mailbox.


The C.H.U.D. live under Tokyo!

The Japan Times Online reports:

Shun Akiba, a former high-level foreign reporter, has identified hundreds of kilometers of Tokyo tunnels whose purpose is unknown and whose very existence is denied ... Shun claims to have uncovered a secret code that links a complex network of tunnels unknown to the general public. "Every city with a historic subterranean transport system has secrets," he says. "In London, for example, some lines are near the surface and others very deep, for no obvious reason."

With Shun's book now in the fifth edition (though unfortunately not yet translated into English) there's been talk of these tunnels before, such as on the excellent BLDGBLOG, where one comments about the ill comparison to London:

[London's] subsurface tubes are limited to the earliest lines. It's very disruptive to build a subsurface tunnel; the District Line along the Thames, for example, was built as part of a wholesale redevelopment (the Victoria Embankment) which also included sewers and roads ... Of course, some lines are a bit deeper than others, but that's usually determined by a mix of interchanges (can't have two tubes at the same level, unless they're parallel) or geology (you want good clay, which is also the reason the Tube didn't impinge much on South London).

Another comment on a private mailing list suggests the... oddness of a country building nearly 1500 kilometers of unmapped tunnels in an earthquake-ridden city, where one would expect constant destruction and decay. (And did you lose the C.H.U.D. reference? You've missed an excellent movie, but stay away from the sequel!)


Leather and wood doth a prosthesis make

BBC News reports:

An artificial big toe [known as the "Cairo toe"] found on the foot of an ancient Egyptian mummy could be the world's earliest functional fake body part, UK experts believe ... Lead researcher Jacky Finch said: "The toe dates from between 1069 and 664BC, so if we can prove it was functional then we will have pushed back prosthetic medicine by as much as 700 years." Colleagues at the University of Salford will also be testing a second, even older ancient Egyptian big toe which is currently on display at the British Museum. This artefact, from between 1295 and 664BC, is made from cartonnage, a kind of papier-mâché made from linen, glue and plaster.


Mysterious Symbols in your Walls?

From the AP:

It was a 3-foot-by-10-foot section of timeworn brick wall, its predictable rows abruptly interrupted by three distinct, deliberate-looking triangular shapes ... Painstakingly preserved from a 175-year-old building in lower Manhattan, the brickwork symbol is part of a tantalizing historical whodunit.

The triangle has traditionally been used to represent the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity. Some scholars, while stressing the need for more research, think the Pearl Street symbol evokes esotericism — efforts to delve for divine meaning in numbers, geometry, nature and elsewhere. The symbol was even the subject of a presentation at an academic conference on esotericism in Amsterdam in 2005.

And, if you want to see things that aren't there:

Alec Rawls' [book] documents a long list of Islamic and terrorist memorializing features in the Flight 93 National Memorial ... The primary feature, he says, is the giant central crescent of what originally was called the "Crescent of Embrace" design. A person facing into this half-mile wide crescent – still present in the superficially altered "Bowl of Embrace" redesign – will be oriented almost exactly at Mecca.

Reminds me of my own local library in Concord, New Hampshire, which supportedly has the Nazi symbol in its stone edging. It certainly does, but evidence of foul play? A sekrit Nazi plot to corrupt American youths who no longer know what a library is?


Earth from Sagittarius Dwarf, not Milky Way?

Purportedly, "new" evidence from the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) project suggests our solar system may actually be from the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy, and that this is the cause of Earth's global warming.

... the astronomers are answering questions that have baffled scientists for decades and proving that our own Milky Way is consuming one of its neighbors in a dramatic display of ongoing galactic cannibalism. The study published in the Astrophysical Journal, is the first to map the full extent of the Sagittarius galaxy and show in visually vivid detail how its debris wraps around and passes through our Milky Way. Sagittarius ... is getting stretched out, torn apart and gobbled up by the bigger Milky Way.

The Viewzone article then goes on to state:

It has been postulated that this is the real reason for both global warming since higher energy levels of the Milky Way are almost certain to cause our Sun to burn hotter and emit higher energies. Indeed, temperatures have been seen to rise on virtually all the planets in our system. This seems quite apart from any local phenomenon like greenhouse gases etc.

Which echoes another article from June 26th, 2007: the Sun and its attendant satellites, including Earth, get consumed by the Milky Way, the higher energy levels in this much larger galaxy will cause the Sun to burn hotter, and to emit higher energy. This, scientists say, is one reason temperatures have been rising steadily in all plants in our solar system.

Both articles, however, are based on a press release issued by 2MASS back in September of 2003, and the published Astrophysical Journal article (entitled "A Two Micron All Sky Survey View of the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy") makes no mention of Earth or our solar system "actually belong[ing] to" the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy. The closest we get is that "Majewski and his colleagues [are] surprised by the Earth's proximity to a portion of the Sagittarius debris."

Are the assertions that we're from another galaxy random postulations or merely "supporting evidence" for galactic warming?

There has been a decent amount written about galactic warming, including evidence of global warming on Neptune's largest moon ("Triton [seems] to have heated up significantly since the Voyager space probe visited it in 1989."), Pluto (where "atmospheric pressure has tripled ... indicating a stark temperature rise"), Mars (the Mars Odyssey orbiter "has spotted seasonal changes like the advance and retreat of polar ice"), and Jupiter (which may be "in the midst of a global change that can modify temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit").

On the other hand, does The Accidental Weblog have it right?

It's since spread from there, of course, the way bullshit generally does. One Dan Eden of 'Viewzone' ... another woo-infested site, apparently, though I'm not clear on whether they're affiliated with CureZone -- has now done a story on it. His story was every bit as weirdly credulous as was Perkins Erwin's... and ends in a similarly long, fun, new agey cloud of incomprehensible fog about energy levels and so on...

Bad Astronomy spends a fair bit of time debunking the claim that our solar system is from Sagittarius Dwarf:

I talked to Steve Majewski, the lead author on the horribly maligned scientific paper about the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy. He thanks me for saving him the trouble of having to debunk the claim himself. :-) He has updated his original page about all this with a disclaimer saying the Viewzone article is wrong, too.

Said disclaimer:




35,500 people saved at BBC's Big Weekend

A few handfuls of people saved 35,500 unsuspecting music-goers from being mind controlled at the BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend on May 19th and May 20th. I was one of those handfuls and the "neural override" plot, triggered by the words "Frozen Indigo Angel", was foiled on day two by disabling four of the five necessary transmitters. It all happened as part of the alternate reality game Perplex City.

WikiNews has more from Paul Williams, who also helped stop the plot:

With a group of players on the ground, and tens of others gathering in chatrooms across the internet, neither side had any idea of what to expect. Paul Denchfield informed the players that they had to find "key words" with various colours, shapes, and numbers. These would then form sets which, when put into a private interface (intended for Third Power operatives assisting Cyrus Quinton[, the mastermind behind the neural override]), gave the players map pieces. Players collaborated for hours on these sets until, finally, the entire map was completed. Players then discovered that small marks on the maps could be joined to create triangles, which showed the locations of the transmitters.

The discovery of the triangles on the completed map (with triangles) earned yours truly personal thanks at the end of day one. With the transmitter locations discovered, we all rested uneasily for day two, when the transmitters would be placed and it'd be our job to disable them. WikiNews and Paul Williams continue:

Players on the ground were given the task of disabling four of the the five transmitters that were being put into location throughout the day. This consisted of first finding a rotary padlock combination for the containing box, and then "cutting the red wire" within. The online team worked to relay messages from Paul to the ground team, as he was informing them of when the transmitters were in location (via a link to Perplex City's Violet Kiteway).

The final transmitters that were required to be disabled were located in the VIP area of the event, which the players were granted access to by Paul. Both were disabled by 6:00pm BST, crippling the Third Power's operations for the day. Paul announced the end of the event with a final Twitter message, reading "WE DID IT! FOUR TRANSMITTERS DOWN, CYRUS RUN OUT OF TOWN, AND THE BIG WEEKEND IS SAFE. NICE WORK AND THANKS! ENJOY THE MUSIC!". Online players had been informed that this was not yet the end of Frozen Indigo Angel - and that the prizes will get bigger yet.

Paul Denchfield's final vidcast from that day is congratulatory and a sighed relief, but alludes to the next leg in the journey to stopping Cyrus Quinton: he escaped in a van filled with equipment which, it turns out, were instruments from Big Weekend performers. If you find them, they're yours to keep.

Perplex City at BBC'S Radio 1 Big Weekend

The Third Power, villains from the Perplex City alternate reality game, are set to test their subliminal messaging technology at Radio 1's Big Weekend, hosted by BBC Radio 1 on May 19th and 20th. Can you solve the puzzles in time to get free festival tickets and stop the promised "neural overrides"?

Violet recaps the build-up on her blog:

Having followed a lead which started with my upstairs neighbour complaining about delays in the postal service, we discovered that the mail from the shadowy Apolyton Institute was being tampered with ... we know that someone from Apolyton sent Cyrus [of The Third Power] the plans for [an] extremely dangerous device. We don't know exactly what it does yet, but the words "neural override" don't make me feel warm all over. Part of what Cyrus is doing involves subliminal messaging: he's planning a huge test of this technology this coming weekend at a big music festival on Earth: Radio 1's Big Weekend. And like I say, an enormous crowd of people all having their neurons overridden... well, at the very least they're going to want their money back.

This is also the first merging of two separate alternate reality games (ARGs): Perplex City and Frozen Indigo Angel, which details a cover-up at the BBC involving those three words and the firing of Paul Denchfield, a producer for Radio 1's vodcasts. His blog has a number of vidcasts covering the events over the past few months, but only recently was the connection between the two games revealed:

In the BBC, I found a black-and-white board game. It turned out that the counters spelled out a web address in braille, leading us [to the secret files of the man behind the whole Frozen Indigo Angel project]. His name is Cyrus Quinton, and FIA is a subliminal messaging scheme building up to something huge at the Big Weekend ... Looks like Cyrus and the FIA technology come from Perplex City too, and Violet has a bit of a history with him.

How can you save the throngs of Big Weekend event-goers from a nefarious brain scrub? Masquerade as an agent of the The Third Power and solve the daily puzzles to receive festival tickets. Once there, keep an eye out for further instructions and how to meet up with the other moles... er, players. Fervent Perplex City players congregate at Perplexorum and you can get up-to-minute developments as they happen.

Perplex City Needs Plumbers: Stories ARG Begins

I've previously reported about Perplex City's season 2 and, while the new puzzle cards have been out for months, today was our first taste of the "Stories" alternate reality game (ARG) itself, with a new puzzle, new videos, and new sites. From an email sent out to interested players:

Hi, It's Violet. A while ago, you signed up to hear news about Perplex City. I can't say this is news exactly but... I need your help. A situation here has got completely out of control and I just can't deal with it by myself. So, help? My weblog's found a new home ... and I've found a new actual home. I'm not going to be able to solve this one without you.

One of the new videos teases us with "a particularly juicy mystery is--", only to be interrupted by her sheer frustration for dripping pipes and miserably powered showers:

And it's not just the drips. The water pressure is low, and my morning shower has turned into a morning trickle! Gah! Look, I know this is hardly the high-octane sleuthing you signed up for, but.. could you help me out with this? Kurt had found a plan of the building's plumbing. Can you please find out where these drips are coming from?

Along with Violet's water torture, there's a new edition (and site) for the Perplex City Sentinel, and a fully archived history of the Season 1 ARG, something which few other ARGs have provided. As before, players have centralized the discussion and problem solving at the services provided by Perplexorum, and I'll continue to provide ongoing coverage of this new season.

Rameses II's pots: makeup, not organs

From the New Scientist:

The blue jars arrived in the Louvre in 1905. They carry the name of Rameses II, and seemed to contain embalmed organs, including a trace of what appeared to be heart tissue. Yet Rameses's actual mummy still has its heart - the one organ ancient Egyptians left inside mummies so it could be weighed in the afterlife by the god Thoth ... [Jacques Connan of the University of Strasbourg, France] concludes that the jar probably held scented ointment made by heating aromatic wood in fat, of the type Egyptians used to anoint their heads, and sacred images.



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