Friday, 24 October 2014

ET encounters but no ETs in the universe? Resolving the paradox


As stated in previous posts the universe of space, time, energy and matter  that came into existence during the Big Bang is extraordinarily fine tuned in numerous ways to make bacterial and plant life  possible. The building blocks, i.e. organic molecules such as amino acids, are physically and chemically possible although it remains to find mechanisms by which they are formed. In this sense the universe is designed for life.

So far the universe does not seem to be teeming with it. On the other hand bacterial and very elementary plant life can only be reliably found by manned expeditions. There could be lots of it, although even this is not a foregone conclusion since we still do not have the slightest knowledge of what life is. We can talk about building blocks; but that’s like talking about the bricks of a building. It explains nothing about how the bricks were made and, more critically, how they are assembled into functionally complex structures.


The bricks and buildings analogy is of limited value when seeking to understand life because, unlike buildings, living organisms are constantly repaired, replaced and reproduced without any known cause. It would be like a building constantly rebuilding itself as its bricks decayed or were broken by external forces, with its structural integrity maintained throughout the process.

We can use science to observe the very complex molecular processes  involved but have no inkling of what orchestrates them. Human life is even more difficult to comprehend: it is creative in philosophical reflection, meditation, prayer, science, technology, art, music and statecraft. It is aware of being subject to good and evil, love and hate, truth and falsehood. Returning to the bricks and buildings analogy, there could be no bricks and no buildings without human intelligence and manual dexterity.  It is the same with life. How could there be life, culminating in self-conscious, love-seeking, love-giving and truth-seeking morally aware beings without the presence and participation of some higher agency with a purpose?

The essential nature of life is totally unknown. All we can do is look at phenomena which result from an organism being alive. Atoms and molecules are assembled into sophisticated, dynamic, interacting hierarchical systems which we call living organisms. Moreover the systems are in many cases able to reproduce themselves and each organism allows its parts to be repaired and replaced in such a way that the essential identity of the system remains unchanged (e.g. every cell in the human body is replaced every ten years). At some point the whole dynamic stops: stops functioning, stops self-healing and stops replacing its parts – we call it death.


For this life creating and guiding agency (LCGA – an acronym I have coined for lack of something more elegant and reverential) to function certain atoms of the periodic table need to be available – carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron and many others. These are indeed present in many places throughout the cosmos and, as stated above, the laws of physics allow the LCGA to use them in creating life forms. Also, astrobiologists spend a lot of time trying to predict the necessary conditions needed for life to get started and thrive. But if we don’t know what the LCGA is how can we know the conditions needed for it to create and sustain life?


Although we cannot detect bacterial and very primitive plants over astronomical distances we can make a reasonable attempt at detecting civilisations, at least indirectly, by data emanating from them (e.g. messages) or characteristic by-products of civilisations, such as pollution from manufacturing. It appears that for the LCGA to operate to the degree needed for civilisation to develop certain conditions are needed which only apply to this planet, this solar system and this galaxy. This is how it looks at present, all things considered. You can never say never in science.

(Note that LCGA is not the same as emergent complexity, which is a concept invoked to describe, not explain, how ordered systems evolve spontaneously from less ordered systems. The formation of ice crystals from water is an example. Emergent complexity could be associated in some way with LCGA.)

Yet there are repeated reports of extra terrestrials making their presence felt on earth – flying saucers, strange technology, alien abductions and anthropomorphic beings. Most reports are probably unreliable but it is widely agreed among UFO experts that some encounters are genuine and cannot be explained away by natural phenomena or hallucination. Hardened sceptics doubt all reported encounters but a dispassionate examination indicates that something real is happening but that there is no way to prove it scientifically.

So what could be the source of these visitations, given a universe devoid of other civilisations? Our best guess from what we know about the planets, stars and galaxies, and the conditions for civilisation, is that no other civilisations could have evolved on any planet other than the this one. Brian Cox reaches this conclusion in the BBC documentary 'Human Universe: Part 3. Are we alone?' He introduces the concept of the self replicating von Neumann machine, stating that it would take only 10 million years to explore every star system in our Milky Way galaxy, which is over 10,000 million years old - time enough for the machines to have transformed every planet in the Milky Way many times.  There should be colonies and signs of intelligence all around us.  We  do not appear to have been visited in this way and there are no signs of any other civilisations.

Professor Cox did not mention the other and non-speculative  reason for the absence of extra terrestrial civilisations in our galaxy, which is the extraordinarily unique conditions needed not just for life but for civilisation and exclusive to our planet. For example, the presence and availability of iron, gold and silicon in the right places at the right time. Tameable animals like oxes, birds of prey and dogs have also been instrumental in allowing civilisations to develop. See Our precious planet. Also, our galaxy is the one least hostile to life for a number reasons (see ET life should be local) so if civilisation can't start here it is difficult to imagine it starting in any other galaxy.

This is not to say that we should not go on searching. The universe is a strange place and over 95% unknown, so who knows what could turn up? But on the basis of what we know, or any scientific understanding we can envisage, it looks as though this may be the only planet with a civilisation on it.


Over the last century theoretical physicists have increasingly dealt with the concept of extra dimensions beyond the ones we know. We live in 4 dimensions: the 3 space dimensions of length, breadth and thickness together with the temporal dimension along which cause and effect proceed, i.e. time. Mathematical constructions have been invoked by physicists to describe elementary particles and their behaviour in a unified way. This is known as string theory. The mathematics involves assuming extra dimensions. It is not universally accepted but the concept of extra dimensions has become quite a respectable one.

Our universe has originated from outside of space and time, from existential nothingness as far as physicists are concerned. Scientists cannot investigate anything outside our 4 dimensions. However, mathematics shows that the concept of extra dimensions is at least intelligible. Could the LCGA be some entity that is able to travel in and out of different dimensional realms, causing physical forms to materialise and dematerialise. Such an entity would be by definition supernatural. It could have been responsible for the first life on earth, perhaps the first humans.

 Could this be behind the extraterrestrials? In other words, flying saucers and ETs are more likely to be from outside our universe, beyond scientific investigation yet very real to those who encounter them. They often break the physical laws of our 4D cosmos because of their extra-dimensional roots.

As one who believes in a Creator and follows science I see no reason why God could not have created any number of extra dimensions. They could be very useful, not to say essential, for the performance of miracles, listening and responding to millions of simultaneous prayers, and the existence of an angelic realm.


Author 2077.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Turin Shroud: the evidence mounts (updated 20 Sept 2014)

The level of scientific interest in this relic is growing and an international conference is due to take place at St Louis, USA over 9-12 October 2014.

An entire scientific discipline has grown up around the study of the shroud: sindonology

Until about a year ago I had always assumed that the Shroud of Turin was some kind of medieval forgery and not the burial shroud of Jesus Christ. Circa 1988 it had been announced that the radioactive carbon 14 dating put the origin of the Shroud to around the 14th century.

 At the time I was skeptical about the reality of the Resurrection and was certainly not a Christian. Even after looking at the evidence for the Resurrection, which I found wiped out the objections of the skeptics , and coming to believe in the historical reality of a supernatural Resurrection, I still dismissed the Shroud as a hoax or a confidence trick, as many Christians do today. In fact I was concerned that if it was a fraud it would only help to discredit the overall case for a Resurrection in the public mind, given the natural skepticism of some scientists who tend to be treated as guardians of truth, which they should indeed be but which, unfortunately, is not always the case (mainly because of philosophical naivety about the foundation of truth).

Recently I came across research which points clearly to the reality of the Turin Shroud image and cloth testifying to an inexplicable event in 33 AD. This could be world-view shattering for many.


The initial carbon dating exercise in the 1980s gave dates around 1400 years after the Crucifixion (33 AD), which led most people to dismiss the Shroud as a medieval fake. The dating had been carried out by a reputable international team. Since then the date has been shown to be highly suspect because it used a contaminated sample and in recent months it has been proposed that an earthquake which is fairly reliably known to have taken place in 33 AD, could have generated a neutron flux which would have affected the dating results by increasing the amount of C14 due to neutron bombardment of the C12 nucleus (the more C14 in the sample the younger it would appear to be). The latest date estimate puts the time of the cloth centrally within an error bar of several hundred years spanning the 33 AD date. By itself this would not prove that the Shroud was the one that en-wrapped Jesus but the date is certainly much earlier than medieval and the Crucifixion date lies in the centre of the error spread.


The trauma caused by the Crucifixion as described in the Gospels would have affected the physical nature of the blood emanating from the wounds caused. This is confirmed by analysis of the blood stains on the cloth. Moreover, the positions of the stains clearly correspond to the Crucifixion accounts. The evidence for this is startling in its detail. E.g. the spear wound indicated on the cloth is in forensic agreement with the John 19:34 account; the bloodstains on the head are clearly from a cap or crown of thorns as described in John 19:2.; 120 scourge marks on the body, front and back indicate about 40 lashes from a three-thronged whip, which was the standard whipping procedure adopted by the Romans at the time.

The colour of the blood stains is red. Normally one would expect it to be black after such a long period but in fact a body having undergone the trauma to which Jesus was subject would have chemically altered blood that would stay red , and containing bilirubin, and this is precisely what  the Shroud stains exhibit. The elevated levels of the bilirubin actually indicate the traumatic process of the Crucifixion as described in the Bible.


Biomechanical science indicates that a body pinned to a cross by nails through the palms could not bear the weight of the body – it must have been through the wrists, which is just what the image shows. The traditional belief was that the nails had been hammered through the palms, so any attempt at forgery would have tried to simulate this. All the iconography of the time indicated nails through the palms.


The image shows marks indicating a blow to the cheek as described in John 18:22: "And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand." As with most of the image features discussed these were invisible before the technology of the 20th century and there is no way anyone would have any motive for forging them, even if someone in medieval Europe had technology more advanced than any known or even envisaged today.


The image was formed by a process which no team of scientists has been able to reproduce over the last several decades, possibly one involving high energy radiation. It was not produced by any kind of pigmentation. One singular characteristic of the image is that it was in the form of  a negative which comes out as a positive on a photographic negative, much to the astonishment of Secundo Pia when he developed his two glass plates in 1898 when the Shroud was first photographed. In fact as photography advanced the image became increasingly clear. Had such technology not come along no one would ever have seen the image at all.

[In addition to the evidence above there is a close correspondence to the results emerging from an investigation of what is probably the tomb of Christ and the head cloth used after the Crucifixion. I hope to go into this in a future post, probably after the St Louise conference in October 2014.]

Very advanced technology has been applied to the Shroud, including the VP-8 Image Analyzer which NASA used to construct three dimensional images from ordinary photographs of, for instance, the moon’s surface taken from two different angles. When applied to the Turin Shroud image this has somehow yielded a 3D image of Jesus Christ that does not distort as it rotates. At this time I do not know the physics and mathematics behind this and believe there are aspects to this process which nobody understands.

The information extraction power of the VP-8 enabled experts to interpolate the presence of a lepton, a coin used at the time of Pontius Pilate, placed in each eye socket. It had been customary to do this. Even part of the inscription round the edge of the coin was determined and found to correspond to that used on the lepton at the time of Pilate. 


There is one aspect of the Shroud image which is so enormous in its implication for the human race and the entire universe that I am almost hesitant to mention it for fear that it will immediately label me as a crank in many people's eyes.

Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of the image is that the markings penetrate barely a fibre's thickness down into the cloth, on both sides. Nobody has been able to produce such an image using any technology known to man. For reasons that at this time I do not understand it has been seriously proposed that the only possible explanation of this and other aspects of the image lies in the same theoretical domain as black holes and event horizons. 

The proposal is that information from Christ at the moment of death passed into the entire universe instantaneously and that a new universe and a new humanity is in the process of being created. (NB: modern physics posits that all particles in the universe can instantaneously interact by quantum entanglement with all other particles anywhere in the universe.)

A whole team of scientists is involved at both a theoretical and an experimental level. See this video by a particle physicist Dr Isabel Piczec


How did the Shroud get from Jerusalem to Turin, in Italy? Christian relics were frequently transported for safety because of Islamic and other attacks prior to the Crusades. The Moslem conquerors had reached Spain, having violently subjugated 2/3 of the Christian world (hence the Crusades), by the time of the Shroud’s final resting place in Turin, Italy. Before the Moslems there were still many enemies of Christianity, such as the Romans before Constantine, the non-Messianic Jews and the Vandals. So it is not surprising that the cloth did not begin to be openly talked or written about until it was safe.

I am in no way an expert on all this so let me refer you to some of the sites I came across in putting together the above:

There is also an iPhone app called Shroud 2.0 which pulls together a lot of evidence, as well as innumerable books.

Apart from online sources such as the above I used this book

So what if the shroud is indeed genuine, as looks increasingly likely?

It will add to the already substantial evidence for the reality of the Resurrection event which changed history and the meaning of which is still being hotly discussed and argued about 2000 years later after huge moral, social, artistic, scientific and technological advances made in its wake.

There is no doubt in the mind of any genuine believer that the Resurrection is as real as the other supernatural event which came to light only a few decades ago: the creation of space and time from existential nothingness 13.8 billion years ago, from behind an event horizon, i.e. the Big Bang, an occurrence for which the evidence has been steadily mounting since the 1920s..

If the Shroud adds to the evidence it will force the most jaundiced skeptic to reconsider his or her position.  The argument will shift from whether there was a Resurrection to its deep significance for humanity. Forget religion. The implications could totally shatter our view of reality if the quantum aspects become widely accepted since it casts light on every aspect of life of every person on the planet as well as all of life and every particle in the universe.

So watch this space.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Natural technology. 3. The flexible zinc-tipped drill of a wasp

This natural technology series has already looked at the high tech engineering of the bacterium and the virus.

Here is another  miracle of the natural world, this time being more remarkable for its mechanical engineering design than its organizational complexity.

Certain types of female insects are required to be able to deposit their eggs in plants and they do this via an ovipositor, a tube at the end of their abdomen. Sometimes it is necessary to drill through very hard structures. 

 See the Journal of Experimental Biology of 28 May  2014:

In the case of the parasitic fig wasp the ovipositor has to penetrate the wall of an unripe fig in order that eggs can be placed in a conducive environment. This wall is very tough and yet the wasp has devised a solution in the form of a hollow tube which is

  • Thinner than a human hair

  • Highly flexible and very long in relation to the body of the wasp

  • Indented with teeth-like structures

  • Strong enough to resist repeated bending

  • Very hard at the tip

  • Spoon-shaped at the tip for pollination

The hardness is about the same as  acrylic dental cement and this is achieved by the incorporation of zinc atoms into the tip, similar in form and function to a drill bit. The tissue behind the bit is constructed to absorb  energy while allowing the ovipositor to be steered as it bores.  It can bend and flex without breaking, a combination of properties achieved by a three part anatomy. The three parts slide along each other’s lengths and are connected by rail guides using dovetail joints, an arrangement which allows the needle to pierce tissue and cut it.

One of the mechanical engineers studying this organ points out that its design could lead to  microscopic boring tools, needles, and probes, including ones that could be useful for minimally invasive surgeries. Man copying nature, a recurrent theme in modern engineering.

It is also apparent that when mechanical engineers look at nature they achieve insights that would not be revealed to the average biologist. They see nature in ways that may not be noticed by those indoctrinated with the dogma that design in nature is only an illusion, since all is purported to be driven purely by random mutations and selection pressure, a view that becomes increasingly untenable each day as new insights are made into how nature works.

John Sears