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Posted: 23 Feb 2015 08:53 PM PST
By Nick Curtis
On a different planet - Nick Curtis imagines a message from 'Martianaut' Maggie Lieu to her parents back at home
Mars Mission, British Martianaut Maggie Lieu’s Log
Day One: Stardate 22/02/2025.
Hello Mission Control.... Just kidding! Hi mum, hi dad, or should I say earthlings!
Well, me and Bruce the Australian Martianaut finally touched down beside the Herschel II Strait on the red planet today, the last of 12 pairs to arrive - though as you know it was touch and go. Ten years of training and research almost went down the drain when Google got hit by a massive retrospective tax bill and had to withdraw all its branded sponsorship from the starship at the last minute:
fortunately Amazon stepped in, on the agreement we install its first matter transference delivery portal (“It’s there before you know it”) here. And rename the ship Bezos 1, of course
The trip was textbook, with both of us uploading videos on how to apply makeup and bake cupcakes in space direct to the Weibo-spex of our crowdsource funders in China - great practice for The Great Martian Bakeoff on BBC 12 next year (subscribers only). The one hairy moment was a near miss with that Virgin Galactic rocket, Beardie IV, that went AWOL five years ago. We were so close we could see Leonardo diCaprio’s little screaming face pressed against his porthole. And Kim Kardashian’s bum pressed against hers - though it’s looking kinda old now and I hoped we’d seen the last of it.
So what can I tell you? When we landed the others threw us a party with full fat milk, rare beef and waffles (the only official space superfoods since it was discovered that kale and quinoa cause impotence). The landscape is pretty barren, just acres of rolling sand and no one in sight, sort of like Greece after it left the Eurozone and the entire population moved to Germany. Or like the so-called Caliphate after Islamic State finally perfected its time machine and managed to transport itself and all its followers back to the 12th century.
The temperature outside is about 20c, so a lot cooler than it is at home since the ice caps melted. There’s water here, but not as much as is now covering Indonesia, Holland and Somerset. The atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide so Juan, the Spanish Martianaut, had to keep his suit on when he went out to smoke. He tried to get us all to buy duty free for him in Mexico City spaceport before we left, now that a pack of cigarettes costs 450 Euros in the shops, and they’ve been camouflaged so you can’t find them.
Maggie Lieu (Guardian)
The construction-droids did a pretty good job building Mars Camp out of the recycled parts of all those closed Tesco Metros. They say we have enough air up here to last 20 years, Earth’s stocks of storable oxygen having increased tenfold when the European Parliament collapsed following the expenses scandal. I still can’t believe that Dasha Putin-Mugabe was claiming for SIX driverless cars while she was EU President, and employing her wife as her accountant. And her being the first transgender Russian lesbian to hold the office, too.
Speaking of politics, how is life in coalition Britain? Who has the upper hand at the moment? UKIP? Scots Nats? The Greens? or those nutters from Cornwall, Mebion Kernow? Or are they underwater now. And how is young Straw doing now Labour is the smallest party in Parliament, after the New New New Conservatives? Hard to believe it’s three years since the last Lib Dem lost her seat.
I gather that some things have improved internationally now that Brian Cox has developed his own time machine at the Wowcher-Hawking Institute in Cambridge, and worked out that the entire world can now transport all its waste products back to the Caliphate in the 12th century.
We can see the Earth from here through the Clinton2020 Telescope that the US president endowed us with after her brief period in office. The joke up here is that she did it to keep a proper eye either on her husband (though he doesn’t get around so much any more, obviously) or on what President Palin is up to. I still can’t believe that she sold Alaska to Russia to pay the compensation bill for the Grand Canyon Fracking Collapse.
Even through the Clinton2020 the Earth looks pretty small, though at times, when the stars are really bright, we can see the Great Wall 2 ring of laser satellites that China has pointed at Russia to discourage any more “accidental” incursions.
Our team up here is like a microcosm of human life on earth. Well, up to a point. As you know the French and Italian Martianauts were expelled from the team before lift-off, because of some scandal or other. We weren’t told if it was financial or sexual but a space bra and a data stick with three million Bitcoins on it were found in the airlock.
The African and Brazilian Martianauts swan around the place as if they PERSONALLY solved the world’s food and energy problems.
And the North Korean guy just sits in the corner, muttering into some device up his sleeve and scowling. All the freeze-dried cheese has gone and he’s looking quite fat, if you get my meaning.
I don’t get much time to myself, what with work, the non-denominational Sorry Meetings where we apologise in case we’ve accidently offended someone’s beliefs, and the communal space-pilates sessions (the North Korean guy skips those so he may be in line for a compulsory gastric band, as mandated by the Intergalactic Health Organisation).
I always try and upload the latest Birmingham City Games onto my cortex chip when I feel homesick: I know it's not fashionable, but I think football got better when they replaced the players with robots and the wage bill - and the number of court cases - dropped to zero. I know the electricity bill is massive, but the new Brazilian solar technology should fix that.
Anyway, got to run now. We’re putting together a bid to have the 2036 Olympics up here.
Bye, or as we say on Mars - see you on the dark side.
Posted: 23 Feb 2015 08:38 PM PST
Excerpt from usatoday.com
The mummified remains of a monk have been revealed inside a nearly 1,000-year old Chinese statue of a Buddha.
The mummy inside the gold-painted papier-mâché statue is believed to be that of Liuquan, a Buddhist master of the Chinese Meditation School who died around the year 1100, researchers said. It's the only Chinese Buddhist mummy to undergo scientific research in the West.
The statue was on display last year at the Drents Museum as part of an exhibit on mummies. It was an cited as an example of self-mummification, an excruciating, years-long process of meditation, starvation, dehydration and poisoning that some Buddhist monks undertook to achieve enlightenment and veneration.
When the exhibit ended in August, a CT scan at the Meander Medical Center in the Netherlands revealed the seated skeleton. Samples taken from organ cavities provided one big surprise: paper scraps printed with ancient Chinese characters indicating the high-status monk may have been worshiped as a Buddha.
A CT scan has revealed a mummified Chinese monk inside a Buddha statue. The remains date back about 1,000 years. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
But the revelation is not, as some reports claim, "a shocking discovery," The History Blog notes: "It was known to be inside the statue all along ... that's why it was sent to the Drents Museum in the first place as part of the Mummiesexhibition."
The mummy's existence was discovered in 1996 when the statue was being restored in the Netherlands, Live Science writes, explaining what was found, how its age was determined and when the first detailed skeletal imaging was performed.
The Chinese Buddha statue containing remains of a monk who may have mummified himself. (Photo: Drents Museum)
DNA tests were conducted on bone samples, and the Dutch team plans to publish its finding in a forthcoming monograph.
Researchers still have not determined whether the monk mummified himself, a practice that was also widespread in Japan and that was outlawed in the 19th century. If he did, the process was gruesome, as Ancient Origins explains:
For the first 1,000 days, the monks ceased all food except nuts, seeds, fruits and berries and they engaged in extensive physical activity to strip themselves of all body fat. For the next one thousand days, their diet was restricted to just bark and roots. Near the end of this period, they would drink poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, which caused vomiting and a rapid loss of body fluids. It also acted as a preservative and killed off maggots and bacteria that would cause the body to decay after death.
In the final stage, after more than six years of torturous preparation, the monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would go into a state of meditation. He was seated in the lotus position, a position he would not move from until he died. A small air tube provided oxygen to the tomb. Each day, the monk rang a bell to let the outside world know he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed for the final thousand day period of the ritual.
At the end of this period, the tomb would be opened to see if the monk was successful in mummifying himself. If the body was found in a preserved state, the monk was raised to the status of Buddha, his body was removed from the tomb and he was placed in a temple where he was worshiped and revered. If the body had decomposed, the monk was resealed in his tomb and respected for his endurance, but not worshipedIf you find yourself in Budapest before May, the Buddha mummy statue is on display at the Hungarian Natural History Museum.
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