Who made the artifact?

Actual alien beings
1 (5.6%)
The UW
2 (11.1%)
A practical joker
9 (50%)
Someone with a nefarious plan (not the UW)
6 (33.3%)

Total Members Voted: 17

SandySandfort on December 29, 2009, 05:03:15 pm
I must say, you guys are good. Most of your theories hold together pretty well whether they are correct or not. Nice work. Keep it up. Things are starting to get even more interesting; please stay tuned.   

Sebekiz on December 29, 2009, 08:33:24 pm
Depending upon where the strip is going, I would tend towards either #2 (darker tone) or #4 (comical). It is very possible that this is a viral marketing strategy for a certain reclusive billionaire we've already met.

The darker hypothesis is that the UW is looking for a way to cement control over the Solar System (after all, it was shown to be facing financial crisis, hence the attempt to conquer Ceres). What better way to increase control than to forge evidence of aliens and have a crew of incompetents (the crew that failed to conquer Ceres) appear to be trying to hush things up? Everyone will assume the artifacts are real simply because the UW doesn't appear to want them to know. Then they can start rumors that these aliens aren't very friendly. If and when the public begins to believe that there are "dangerous" aliens out there threatening them, they will turn to the only central government left and beg or even demand that it to do "whatever is necessary" to give them security. The UW would just love to have that blank check handed to them!

Sean Roach on December 29, 2009, 08:58:55 pm
I'm guessing 3-4.  Someone constructed the first one from an asteroid, using a mining laser, mapped its path, and carved the second one as a map to the first, then dropped a clue where the UW would find it.  I'm guessing it's a publicity stunt.

I'm also guessing that when the whole thing unravels the UW military will start pointing fingers at Taylor for not keeping her mouth shut until the UW could be certain whether it was a hoax or not.

knoodelhed on December 30, 2009, 02:03:46 am
I have a feeling the trail will touch on Cydonia, somehow.

BlackWolfe on December 30, 2009, 06:36:57 am
I've always hated that common speculative theory.

We look the way we do because we're the best adapted, therefore the best adapted look like us.  It's circular logic, it strikes me as totally unscientific and possibly a sign that whoever thinks this was born without and imagination.

Actually, no, it's a LOT more complicated than that.  When I said "an essay," I did not mean a brief report that could be summarized as "human beings are the pinnacle of existence."  While I see a lot of room for improvement in the human race biologically speaking, we are remarkably well-suited for survival in a large number of rather hostile environments.  Factors include:

Manipulating Limbs:  Most likely to be on limbs closest to sensory organs - particularly eyes and nose.
Position of sensory organs:  Most efficient when near the brain.  Also most efficient when placed on an extremity, so that the direction of their focus can be shifted without moving the whole body.
Position of mouth:  Also near sensory organs so that potential food can be examined before ingestion with a minimum of effort.
Shape of head:  Too large, and it becomes cumbersome.  Too small, and the cranial capacity is limited. 
Placement of genitals:  Need to be relatively centrally located for protection.  Do not necessarily need to be combined with excretory functions, but doing so saves space, making the creature less wasteful in terms of blood and nutrients needed.  Although it does increase the risk of infection, so this is a double-edged sword.  Note that the placement of the womb in the female human is actually about as perfect as can be managed: right on the center of gravity, allowing the mother to carry a baby to term with as little effect on mobility as possible.
Position of head:  On a quadruped, this would be the front, and elevated above the shoulders when standing normally.  On a biped, it would be on top, for the same reason that quadruped heads are elevated above the shoulders:  increased range of vision, hearing, and smell.

While the details may vary, on the whole the most efficient placement and number of limbs is two for propulsion, two for manipulation, with sensory organs in the head, which is the highest extremity of the body.

So, with allowances for completely different ecosystems, the end result is still roughly humanoid.

Hands with opposable thumbs are not even the best example of dexterity on earth.  I think an octopus with individual control of each suction cup wins that one.

Tentacles are fairly useful for manipulation, but much less so for propulsion.  They aren't as versatile as hands, which have the bone very close to the surface, making them also useful for defense or attack (fists).  A tentacle can either grip or, using the tip, perform fine manipulation but cannot easily do both at the same time.  A hand is basically five rigid tentacles with supporting bone structure within it.  Even adding bones to a tentacle has problems that make hands more flexible (in the figurative sense, not the literal).  Fewer bones (and therefore fewer joints) means less chance of injury.  Hinge joints are less prone to dislocation and repetitive-motion stress than ball-and-socket joints.  Fingers capable of bending completely both ways would require more tissue than hands like we have, and therefore more oxygen and food.

While it is marginally possible for an animal to develop tentacles (or tentacle-like arms) for manipulation and more efficient legs for locomotion, the odds against it are exceedingly high.  Asymmetrical lifeforms tend not to survive for a large number of reasons, not the least of which being a lack of adaptability to changing situations.

Bipedism is not that great of a trait and limits us in many ways.

True.  However, due to the survival need for manipulating limbs to be sensitive, a quadrupedal stance is only viable for an intelligent life form if that life form has six or more limbs, freeing up at least two for full-time manipulation.  Due to the fact that additional limbs mean additional body mass, which means a need for more food and oxygen, semi-quadrupedal stance is almost preferable, except that having hands with a sense of touch sensitive enough for fine manipulation makes using that stance more uncomfortable.

Dolphins are more socially evolved than we are, possibly even as intelligent; as if we knew what intelligence is.

Dolphins are the only species other than humans that kill for fun.  (And what they do with the corpses does not bear mentioning in polite society.)  Also, the term "socially evolved" is misleading.  Evolution is not a one-way, or even a two-way street.  It is best represented by a fractal canopie.

Soldier ants have better military discipline than any human army.

Instinct and biological specialization do not equal discipline.

Though only thing humans got that the rest of the planet don't got is tool making, but whose really to say that you need to have any of our traits to do that.

Actually, some primates show rudimentary tool-making skills.  Note that they have opposable thumbs and sensitive skin on their fingers.

I think aliens will be nothing like anything we can even imagine.

To quote a fictional character from a popular science fiction movie, "I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit."

The "grays" are something from the human subconscious, something that people use to deal with traumatizing events maybe.

Very close.  The fact is that if someone is convinced, as is being mentioned by Reggie in today's strip, that they were abducted, but in fact no such thing ever took place, their brain attempts to fill in the blanks in the "recovered" memory.  The part of the human brain responsible for threat identification - the reason you see a snake instead of a garden hose for just a split second before you get a better look - attempts to fill in with a human form, but lacks any details at all.  So it slaps in what the baser parts of the brain (the "hindbrain") will recognize as a face:  two eyes and a mouth, placed appropriately, but lacking detail or scale.  This is the same mechanism that lets us use "smileys" in text to convey emotion.  Since all of us have the same basic instincts (not the movie), any given person will come up with the same basic image: a vaguely human shape with a large head (more identifying features on the head) that lacks defining characteristics.  In other words, a "grey."

Final Note:
Please note that what I say here is not meant as an attack on your beliefs, merely support of mine.  If you disagree with any particular, please let me know what and why, and I will be happy to continue this discussion, which I am enjoying.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2009, 06:54:31 am by BlackWolfe »

Azure Priest on December 30, 2009, 08:44:40 am
The biggest problem with "repressed" memories, is that they're too easy to fabricate by accident or by design. People have been convicted of pedophilia decades after the fact because some therapist, well meaning or otherwise was trying to help a patient with a real disorder and "found" a memory that the patient was not aware of. Some of these "memories" have turned out to be physically and practically IMPOSSIBLE. On the other hand, there have been documented cases where severe trauma has been "blacked out" as a defensive mechanism because the event was far too horrible for the patient to remember. It's a dangerous area of psychiatry and should be treated with "kid gloves" NOT just dismissed out of hand, like Reggie does. Standard protocol either is or should be that if a "repressed" memory comes to the surface, it is not sufficient for a conviction, but could be used as sufficient grounds to search for corroborating evidence or at the very least keeping an eye on the "suspect" as well as the "victim" or "witness."

terry_freeman on December 30, 2009, 04:03:45 pm
When we meet another alien intelligence, they might be roughly humanoid - it's not a terribly unworkable design, all in all - but even among the human species, there's lots of variation. It's easy to imagine a few improvements. Aliens are unlikely to look "just like Aunt Sally."

But who knows? There might be some value to gills and flippers, on a watery planet. It's not hard to imagine six-limbed creatures, with some specialization of limbs; we have two limbs mostly specialized for locomotion, and two mostly specialized for manipulation, but some creatures choose to specialize differently - monkeys brachiate; some creatures have more dextrous lower appendages than we. Suppose another species spends long periods in zero-g - and is perhaps able to alter whatever passes for DNA - would they be brachiators? Would they grasp with their feet? Would they have wings? Jets?

I've never really liked the way the human optic nerve penetrates the retina, creating a blind spot; I believe octupi have a more rational design.

In any case, another alien race will have adapted to its environment and history in numerous ways. Considering how difficult it is for two humans of different upbringing to converse on some topics, it seems to me that creatures from another planet are unlikely to be "just minor variations from the human pattern" - that's merely a prejudice bolstered by the difficulty of making radical alterations to the appearance of human actors in our TV and movies.

ObscureDragom on December 30, 2009, 07:29:07 pm
The Problem with Most "aliens" is the assumption of a spine, a highly specialized organ that is the defining nature of one particular set of animals on earth.

Assuming that all aliens evolved out of a bony worm just like we did...  Imagine an aquatic animal about an inch long that looks like a disembodied spinal cord.

Anyway, as the Author has acknowledged the Grays Mythos, we can rule out alien intervention.

So the question can be focused onto what power block and why.

Gillsing on December 30, 2009, 09:59:38 pm
Yeah, this setup has "ad campaign" written all over it.  Now who A) has the resources to do this and B) has an upcoming product that needs maximum instant publicity so the UW can't suppress the news of it immediately?  I think we've run into him before...


Oh, shiiiiii...   :o
Ah, I knew I read something to that effect in one of the other threads, but when I looked for it, I couldn't find it. This seems very likely, and the only thing that speaks against it is that I don't see why Tobi would risk the UW finding the stuff first. In the vastness of space, what are the chances that someone else would stumble on the first statue before the UW had found and deciphered the message? Then again, I suppose that Tobi could've just sent an anonymous tip if things hadn't worked out according to the plan. Also, the "first" statue? What if it's like a ring of statues, each pointing to the next one? Are they supposed to draw lines between the statues to create a final image, or map?  ::) (Will there be Star Wars statues soon, and will there be a montage to cover all the ground?)

Though only thing humans got that the rest of the planet don't got is tool making, but whose really to say that you need to have any of our traits to do that.
Apparently there's a bird that uses a tool, and even shortens it to a manageable length if need be. I'll say one thing for humans though – we've got the organisation and technology to thumb our noses to all the other species on this planet. And that's what counts! I say it's high time that we revolt against the cats and show them who the true masters are!

[Dolphins are the only species other than humans that kill for fun.  (And what they do with the corpses does not bear mentioning in polite society.)
Wolves sometimes slaughter a lot more sheep than they're going to eat. How do you know they're not doing it for fun? Or is the significant thing that dolphins kill other dolphins for fun? Still, with all the stuff we don't know about other animals, I think that it's a bit pointless to limit any one behaviour to the only instance we might know about.
I'm a slacker, hear me snore...

BlackWolfe on December 30, 2009, 10:21:17 pm
The Problem with Most "aliens" is the assumption of a spine, a highly specialized organ that is the defining nature of one particular set of animals on earth.

The spine serves a few vital purposes that increase survivability:  First, it houses a less-complex portion of the central nervous system, speeding response time in fight-or-flight situations.  Second, it protects that vital piece of the nervous system.  Third, it is both flexible and sturdy.

Ah, I knew I read something to that effect in one of the other threads, but when I looked for it, I couldn't find it. This seems very likely, and the only thing that speaks against it is that I don't see why Tobi would risk the UW finding the stuff first. In the vastness of space, what are the chances that someone else would stumble on the first statue before the UW had found and deciphered the message? Then again, I suppose that Tobi could've just sent an anonymous tip if things hadn't worked out according to the plan. Also, the "first" statue? What if it's like a ring of statues, each pointing to the next one? Are they supposed to draw lines between the statues to create a final image, or map?  ::) (Will there be Star Wars statues soon, and will there be a montage to cover all the ground?)

If it is Tobi, which I'm not convinced of yet (it seems a little too misleading for one of his gimmicks), he would be counting on the ruggedly individualistic nature of the belters to counteract the UW's desire for secrecy.  Make no mistake, whoever placed these artifacts did so with the express purpose of making sure as many people know about it as possible.

Tobi isn't yet ready for publicity.  His projects are still in development:  the chimeric plants are proceeding, but only one breed is viable, and his quantum displacement (for lack of a better term) technology is not ready for release yet, either, or, given the way he delighted in challenging the minds of Bert & Ernie - of anyone who showed the right capacity for problem solving - he'd have given them the opportunity to try to figure it out.  At least, that's how I judge his character from what we've seen.

Hey, speaking of Bert & Ernie, are they named for the policeman and cabbie from It's a Wonderful Life, or for the muppets (that were, in turn, named for them)?  I'm sure this has been answered previously, but I'm equally sure I'm too lazy to go sorting through the forum archives.  :P

Wolves sometimes slaughter a lot more sheep than they're going to eat. How do you know they're not doing it for fun? Or is the significant thing that dolphins kill other dolphins for fun? Still, with all the stuff we don't know about other animals, I think that it's a bit pointless to limit any one behaviour to the only instance we might know about.

Wolves, in those instances, are already killing animals for food, and it is likely that killing in excess is done because a) they are unsure if they have enough meat (unlikely), or b) they are depriving competing predators of potential prey.  Though it is definitely true that they enjoy hunting and killing - they are predators, and are more likely to survive if the act of hunting and killing provides pleasure than if they wait until they're starving to death - it is also true that they do not hunt and leave behind everything they have killed unless they have no choice (e.g.: a larger predator interferes).

I really would rather not go into details about dolphin-killed otters, mainly because, like most people, I'd like to pretend that dolphins are our friendly, playful cousins in the sea, and not vicious predators in their own right.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2009, 10:27:00 pm by BlackWolfe »

dough560 on December 31, 2009, 01:56:32 am
As much as I read, I continue to learn new things in these posts.  Reading these stories, it's fun.  Motives,  desires, deeper meanings.....  I'll leave to those with literary sophistication.  The theories have been great reading.  It just seems like trying to guess the end of the story, before it's posted.  At least we can't turn to the last page to learn the end of the story.  The questions:  What, When, Where, Who, Why and How; control our interactions.  With each interaction, each question assumes a different importance.  One thing remains the same with each interaction.   Follow the money.




BlackWolfe on December 31, 2009, 02:48:46 am
Follow the money.

A good response to many mysteries, actually.  However, in this case, the endgame is still so far away we don't know where the money leads, unless...  UNLESS it's all a ploy by the SETI researchers to get a bigger budget!

Let's look at some potential motivations:

United World:  The Watchmen ploy.  Give the citizens of the UW a motivation to unify in the form of an external threat.

Tobi:  Impetus to creative thinking:  Giving people a mystery to solve encourages them to think outside the box.  Plus, as has been mentioned, this could be a way of promoting one of his projects.  (A bit early for the ones we know of, but who says he's told Bert & Ernie all his plans the day he met them?)

Ceres:  Yeah, this, um... isn't a group.  However, on Ceres, there could be any number of groups with motivations to perpetrate a hoax along these lines.

Randall Munroe:  This could be the new geohashing:  orbithashing!  Okay, I admit, I'm just making things up in an effort to be silly.

Hey, Sandy, that brings up a question:  Is there any sort of hobby along those lines that belters and others like them do?  Interplanetary scavenger hunts?  I Spy?  ("Is it space?  I bet it is."  "How do you...?" "It was either that or an asteroid.")

Edit:  Oh, and, yes, I'm espousing trying to figure out the ending before it's posted.  That's half the fun of a good mystery.  If I'd had clue one in the martian music storyline, I'd've done it then, too, but I was stumped until the answer was revealed.  (Except for the music itself, that I figured out.)

Then I kicked myself.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2009, 02:55:07 am by BlackWolfe »

SandySandfort on December 31, 2009, 07:47:37 am
[Hey, speaking of Bert & Ernie, are they named for the policeman and cabbie from It's a Wonderful Life, or for the muppets (that were, in turn, named for them)?  I'm sure this has been answered previously, but I'm equally sure I'm too lazy to go sorting through the forum archives.  :P

It has not been discussed before, butl I chose those names partly as a tip-o-the-hat to the Muppet characters. However, there is also a backstory about the origins of the characters and their names that might or might not be revealed in some future strip.

Azure Priest on December 31, 2009, 07:51:01 am
There IS something Reggie continues to overlook in his "angels, demons and leprechaun" rant. A significant number of the "abductees" came forward, risking exceptional ridicule and professional, intellectual, political, and financial destruction because something DID happen. Numbers of them had severe "sunburns" when the incident happened AT NIGHT. Some had implants that set off the airport screening equipment, but had no medical procedures done that would explain them, and in such a way that they could not be surgically removed without risking severe injury OR DEATH. Some were "abducted" repeatedly regardless of how often they or their families MOVED and changed address, or how far they moved, often disappearing for days with little to no memory of what happened during that time, as well as a rather tawdry list of phenomena that's far too long to mention.

Reggie is illustrating the real dangers and drawbacks of prejudice, in this case intellectual prejudice. While prejudice can be a powerful survival tool. Example, your brother is killed by a saber toothed tiger, you're going to stay away from all saber tooth tigers. Of course, on the downside, you're going to call anyone who has actually studied the saber tooth and knows its habits and finds the tigers necessary or even beneficial an idiot for not agreeing with you that they should all be killed.

Reggie is currently calling everyone who has suffered from this phenomenon, at best, a misguided stooge, at worst a weak minded fool not worth listening to. (It would not surprise me if one of the "sins" Joe King reminded Reggie of, is the ridicule of someone who experienced something outside of Reggie's experience, because "it could not have happened since I've never experienced such a thing" and after this person was professionally destroyed, the event turned out to be true.)

atompunk on December 31, 2009, 08:30:23 am
Some had implants that set off the airport screening equipment, but had no medical procedures done that would explain them, and in such a way that they could not be surgically removed without risking severe injury OR DEATH.

Could you maybe give some refferences on that one.  I have studied ufology with a certian intrest throughout the years but I have never heard of a case of unexplained implants.

If a biopsy was done to retrieve a small sample of implant matter (no bigger than a crumb) that sample could then be studied at a research reactor in a technic know as neutron activation analysis.  This can determine with astounding presciesion what that sample is made of and where it came from.  This technic has been used in forensics to convict murderors.

What you are telling me is that people are walking around with physical proof of either alien inteligence or human conspiracy in there bodies, and that no one said "hey let a scientist look at it"
If your argument cant be proven wrong than you dont have one