New species of archaic humans seem to pop up pretty frequently these days. If you accept the evolution by natural selection model, then the human lineage is less of a linear progression from primate ancestors, and more of a messy demolition derby of sub-species which came and went, branching out into dead-end alleys of development. Only one line survived the ravages of the last few hundred thousand years – us. The remains of the rest, the human species which didn’t make it and succumbed to extinction, like Homo floresiensis, are being dug out of caves around the world.
The latest of these discoveries are the Homo naledi hominins, who appear to have lived in southern Africa some 300,000 years ago around the same time that early humans were emerging as a species (1). The remains of these hominins was discovered in the complex Rising Star system of caves in South Africa a couple of years ago (2). The bones littered a pit-like chamber which was very difficult to access. The bones provide palaeontologists with a curious set of archaic specimens. The small skull size of Homo naledi, providing space for a brain just half the size of a modern human, indicated a primitive hominin.
The small brain size led the palaeontology team, led by the maverick academic Lee Berger, of Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, to conclude that the species had lived perhaps 2 – 3 million years ago. The shape of the skull was suggestive of early Homo species, including Homo erectus, Homo habilis or Homo rudolfensis. However, various aspects of the skeleton more closely resembled modern humans – their wrists, the feet, the lower part of the pelvis, some of their teeth (3). It’s a very odd mix indeed:
““You could almost draw a line through the hips—primitive above, modern below,” said Steve Churchill, a paleontologist from Duke University. “If you’d found the foot by itself, you’d think some Bushman had died.”” (2)
Subtitled “Legends, Mysteries, and the Alien Connection to Eternal Life”
New Page Books, 2017
Is it so ridiculous to imagine that our ancestors were visited by hyper-advanced beings from space? It would be entirely natural for them to consider such beings to be gods. It’s not just the ‘magical’ technology on view, their level of knowledge, or their awe-inspiring presence. Perhaps these visitors were indeed effectively immortal. In the last decade or so, futurists have begun to seriously consider a world where aging is eradicated – or at least seriously curtailed. Gene therapy, cloning, stem cell research, advances in medicine – potentially a potent brew of treatments which might, together, offer a fabled fountain of youth to Humanity.
As Nick Redfern argues in his latest book about the ancient gods and their alien connection, if interstellar space-farers were just a few centuries more advanced technologically than us, then it is quite reasonable to imagine that they had already cracked aging. Indeed, one might even add that extending lifetimes considerably would be a mandatory requirement to interstellar exploration, given the timescales involved. In other words, the very presence of spacecraft in our ancient skies millennia ago implies that the pilots are effectively immortal.
But … we’re jumping ahead of ourselves. Firstly, what of the evidence for such a contentious claim?
It’s a year since proposed the existence of Planet Nine (1). Despite the fact that its discovery remains elusive, there have been a great many academic papers written on the subject, and no shortage of serious researchers underpinning the theoretical concepts supporting its existence. Many have sought evidence in the solar system which indirectly points to the perturbing influence of this mysterious world; others have provided data which have helped to constrain the parameters of its orbit (by effectively demonstrating where it could NOT be). Throughout 2016, I have been highlighting these developments on the Dark Star Blog.
At the close of 2016, two further papers were published about Planet Nine. The first of these delves more deeply into the possibility that Planet Nine (Brown’s new name for Planet X, which seems to have caught on among astronomers keen to distance this serious search from, well, the mythological planet Nibiru) has a resonance relationship with some of the objects beyond the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt which it is perturbing. These kinds of resonance relationships are not unusual in planetary orbital dynamics, so such a suggestion is not that odd, even given the eccentricities of the bodies involved here. The new research, from the University of California, Santa Cruz, bolsters the case for this kind of pattern applying to Planet Nine’s orbit:
“We extend these investigations by exploring the suggestion of Malhotra et al. (2016) (2) that Planet Nine is in small integer ratio mean-motion resonances (MMRs) with several of the most distant KBOs. We show that the observed KBO semi-major axes present a set of commensurabilities with an unseen planet at ~654 AU (P~16,725 yr) that has a greater than 98% chance of stemming from a sequence of MMRs rather than from a random distribution.” (3)
Their randomised ‘Monte Carlo’ calculations provide a best fit with a planet of between 6 and 12 Earth masses, whose eccentric orbit is inclined to the ecliptic by about 30 degrees. They are unable to point to a specific area of the sky to search, but provide a broad-brush region which they favour as most probable. Dr Millholland has also helpfully provided a 3D manipulable 3D figure of the cluster of extended scattered disk objects allegedly affected by the purported Planet Nine, alongside their extrapolated orbit for it (4). Read More…
One of the accusations levelled at the late Zecharia Sitchin was that he was not able to read and translate the cuneiform scripts of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and other ancient Mesopotamian cultures. There aren’t that many people who can read cuneiform, and Sitchin was not a recognised linguistic scholar of ancient languages. As a result, it’s easy for scholars to question his ability to read, transliterate and interpret the ancient Mesopotamian writings.
I came across this issue first-hand in 2003 when appearing in a short university project documentary alongside some noted British Sumerologists and astronomers, discussing Planet X (1). The Sumerologists, curators from the British Museum in London, were sceptical of Sitchin’s knowledge of cuneiform, and his expertise with the ancient languages that used this script:
Christopher Walker (Deputy Keeper, Cuneiform Collection, British Museum): “It’s basically a very subjective interpretation of individual pictures, individual ideas. But he [Sitchin] doesn’t actually sit down and work with the texts. And people think this is a nice idea, this is a nice story, let’s have the next chapter of the story…It’s like Harry Potter.” (2)
Dr Irving Finkel (Assistant Keeper, Cuneiform Collections, British Museum): It is very easy to use Sumerian and the Sumerian culture as your explanation for things because hardly anyone in the world can read Sumerian, and if you can give the impression you can read these texts you can say what you like. And I do think this is a factor. The number of people who can read Sumerian reliably and properly you could fit into this room. I think it would be a bit of a squeeze, you would have to move the furniture, but you could get everyone in the world onto this room.” (2)
There’s a general disillusionment with experts these days. Sometimes, experts get it horribly wrong: Economists failing to see a looming crash, or bursting of an economic bubble; environmental scientists cooking the books to solidify their stance on climate change; politicians expounding doom and gloom if a particular decision is made, only to see markets lift when it comes to pass. This may be a similar situation. Read More…
The two moons of Mars have always presented planetary scientists with something of a mystery. These tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos, whizz around Mars at no great height at all: Phobos whips around the red planet in less than 8 hours, at a height of only 3,700 miles – the closest of any moon to its parent planet. I say ‘parent’ advisedly because a new theory of the origin of these peculiar little moons suggests that they emerged from a major impact between mars and a dwarf planet. It has generally been assumed that they were captured asteroids, but the relative circularity of their orbits argued against such a capture. Work on the possibility of a catastrophic origin was carried out last year by two separate teams of researchers, after decades of battling intense scepticism within the scientific community (1). An important finding of the modelling at that time was that the resultant debris would circulate around the red planet at a relatively low altitude, which is in keeping with the orbits of the two extant moons.
More recently, further computer modelling of various impact scenarios carried out by one of those teams has narrowed down the range of masses of an impactor to about the size of Pluto. The resultant debris field was initially far more extensive than the two moons left today:
I received some correspondence recently from an anonymous writer who was discussing the length of Nibiru’s orbit with respect to the Babylonian Sar (1). In his/her email, Caesar’s comet came up – an event which is said to have taken place in 44 BCE, shortly after the assassination of the Roman dictator, Julius Caesar. The appearance of this star, thought to be a very bright, daytime comet (indeed, possibly the brightest comet in all recorded history), was recorded by the Romans and the Chinese – although there are actually very few descriptions of such a remarkable comet at the time it took place, which has led some scholars to doubt that this was really an historical event (2). it is said to have appeared for about 7 days, and may have had a magnitude as high as -4, similar to Venus at its brightest. This comet, if such it was, is not a short-period comet, and may have either disintegrated during its perihelion passage, or returned back to the outer solar system (at which point it may be about 800 AU away by now.
A week on from Caltech’s announcement, Dr Mike Brown and Dr Konstantin Batygin, the two astrophysicists proposing the existence of their ‘Planet Nine’, sketched out the range of orbits which their object might be moving through, including its all-important approximate perihelion and aphelion positions. Essentially, Brown and Batygin consider the perihelion position of the Planet Nine body to be in a broad region around the zodiacal constellations Scorpius/Sagittarius (R.A. = ~16hrs), whilst the aphelion positionof Planet Nine is likely in the equally broad Orion/Taurus area (R.A. = ~4hrs) (1,2).
Image credit: Caltech