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U.S. Air Force warns UFO enthusiasts against storming Area 51

  • Facebook joke event to “raid Area 51” has already gained 1,000,000 “going” attendees.
  • The U.S. Air Force has issued an official warning to potential “raiders.”
  • If anyone actually tries to storm an American military base, the use of deadly force is authorized.

Conspiracy theorists, Ufologists, and, more importantly, internet satirists’ most favorite target of scorn and alien memes, Area 51, has garnered a lot of attention as of late. Recently, a Facebook event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” riled up over 1,000,000 users who declared they were “going” — with another roughly 900,000 saying they are “interested.”

Obviously created as a joke, the event’s description reads:

“We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry. If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets see them aliens.”

A pinned post from one of the organizers of the event, Jackson Barnes, also reiterates the fact that this upcoming shindig is all in jest.

But as the event has gone viral and inspired countless jokes and memes, the United States Air Force released a statement about the potential military base raid.

It seems like the comedy of this convoluted, self-referential and juvenile “meme culture” might be lost on both the military and some unsuspecting UFO enthusiasts, who might take the opportunity to turn this thin line of shoddy internet satire into reality.

Storm Area 51 raid

A majority of news organizations reporting on this situation are taking it with a hefty grain of salt and some light-hearted jokes. No doubt the creators of this event are reveling in the extended coverage, as the “event” isn’t meant to go live until September 20th.

But that hasn’t stopped the United States Airforce from issuing a very stern warning.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews informed the news agency that officials knew about the event. Although she didn’t give any specifics on what would happen to any would-be trespassers, she stated:

“Area 51 is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces. The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”

The facility was officially acknowledged by the U.S. Government in 2013 when the CIA confirmed its existence through public record. Additionally, other reports have been released about that nature of Area 51 as just an aircraft testing facility. But no amount of publicly-released data will ever quell conspiratorial theorists — or, by extension, good-natured humorists.

A number of celebrities have RSVP’d to the event or referenced the joke, among them are singer Kevin Jonas, Game of Thrones actor Liam Cunningham, and Jeffree Star. Expect more celebrities and “social media stars,” to start cashing in on the memes in the coming months.

Alert! Turn back, Area 51 raiders

Toward the end of Jackson Barnes’ Facebook post is the message:

“P.S. Hello U.S. government, this is a joke, and I do not actually intend to go ahead with this plan. I just thought it would be funny and get me some thumbsy uppies on the internet. I’m not responsible if people decide to actually storm area 51.”

Out of the millions who’ve either signed up or interacted with this internet joke, in some way or another, it’s inevitable that some stooges will take this event seriously.

For instance, a hotel in Rachel, Nevada, called the Little A’Le’Inn, which has glommed onto the Area 51 hype throughout the years has just recently received an unusually high number of reservations for September 20th.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Connie West, a co-owner of the establishment stated that, “My poor bartender today walked past me and said, ‘I hate to tell you, but every phone call I’ve had is about Sept. 20,” she then added, “They’re pretty serious; they’re coming. People are coming.”

Many people that called had mentioned the Facebook post when reserving the rooms. The Facebook post had invited people to Amargosa Valley, which is actually a few hours away from Little A’Le’Inn and further from Area 51 on the opposite side.

There are multiple signs surrounding the Area 51 perimeter and border which state that not only “photography is prohibited,” but the “use of deadly force is authorized.”

But hey, the fool who persists in his folly will become wise. After all, who’s to say the Ufologist persisting in his alien search won’t find some. Maybe our Naruto running raiders can use this show of force as a bargaining chip with the officials for a tour of the facility. . . if the government officials really have nothing to hide that is.

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Space as a Business Model Arena

This month marks the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. In the spirit of such a momentous event we thought we’d take a look at space, not as the final frontier, but as a business model arena. Space has become a rapidly expanding, accessible economy – so if you wanted to be an astro-preneur, what components of the arena would you need to consider before launching your space business?

Image courtesy of the Hubble Telescope.

Image courtesy of the Hubble Telescope.

The Business Model Design Space card deck is a supporting tool we use with teams to reach a deeper understanding of the operating environment of a business model.

We examine these external forces to determine the adaptability of a business idea and the forces outside of your control as an entrepreneur. While innovation requires significant focus on your business model and your customers, you can’t neglect to consider external forces that could hamper or augment your success. You can’t control these forces, but you certainly need to be aware of them.

So how can we assess Space as a Business Model Arena and what external factors do we need to consider?


Here we can analyze our supply chain — the ISS. Not only will other governments be able to take a ride, but anyone with the budget and a business plan, could launch a business from the ISS. Other considerations:

  • Competitors: Governmental Organizations:
    NASA, ESA, and more than 9 countries have orbital launch capabilities. 

  • New Entrants: 
    Private Companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Bigelow Aerospace, Stratolaunch, Rocket Lab, and Planetary Resources to name a few.

Supply Chain: NASA recently announced that the International Space Station will be open for commercial business for an approximate cost of $52M. Starting in 2020, Astro-preneurs with deep pockets can use the ISS for off-earth manufacturing, research or tourism.


Space has truly become democratized. The cost of space travel has dropped dramatically — sending up a satellite is almost as cost effective as buying a personal computer. What customers might be interested in our space venture? 

  • Revenue Attractiveness:
    The space economy is expected to grow from $385BN in 2017 to over $1.5TN by 2040.

  • Market Segments:  
    Space customers range as widely as the industry sectors involved – from travelers, to miners to manufacturers to climate change activists.  

Needs & Demands: How fast will science and technology match our needs for exploration or exploitation? What are the secondary business models – space clean up, alien communication, time travel, space law enforcement, governance?


We are entering a new phase dubbed Space 3.0 — the first phase was governments investing in space exploration, phase 2.0 was billionaires investing in literal moonshots, and now phase 3.0 the commercial viability of space. 

  • Global Market Conditions:  Space is not only expensive, but it is dangerous. Most space entrepreneurs are either billionaires in their own right (Bezos, Musk and Branson) or have partnered with governments to launch their businesses.  Does science take precedence over commerce? 

Capital Markets: Between 2012-2017, venture capitalists invested over $10.2BN in the sector. Getting to space is expensive, and governments have led the way. Most private companies are funded by billionaires, venture capital or government grants.


The 1967 Outer Space Treaty was signed by 129 countries but it makes no mention of commercial space activities. We have a lot of unanswered questions. What new trends could disrupt/destroy the needs for our space venture?

  • Technology Trends:
    Technological advancements have allowed for greater data collection, faster and farther travel, reusable rockets and a vast number of increasing satellites and orbital devices. Will the technology focus on using space for earth’s benefit? For another home for mankind? Or for developing extraterrestrial technology for use on earth and beyond?

  • Regulatory Trends: 
    Who can mine an asteroid? Who can colonize the moon? Who can advertise in space? Who owns the light waves? Who manages conflict? SpaceX’s recent launch of 60 Starlink satellites may have broadened global internet coverage, but it interferes with scientific data collection (light pollution).

Socioeconomic Trends: Are we exploring space as a means of escaping Earth to avoid a climate catastrophe? Will space become the next overcrowded thrill like Everest? What are the human rights associated with aliens, travelers, humans born off-Earth?

Will space become the wild west like the early days of the internet?

If you are about to embark on a space venture yourself, make sure to download your Strategyzer Business Model Design Space Card Deck and get ready for the G-Force!

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Psychedelics — Microdosing, Mind-Enhancing Methods, and More (#377)

Tim Ferriss (Milken Global Conference

This episode features a panel that I moderated in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference 2019. It includes a great overview of psychedelic science, investing opportunities, anecdotal personal benefits, legal challenges, and much more. I think it’s one of the more comprehensive panels ever done on the subject. Here are the participants:

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Castbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.

#377: Psychedelics — Microdosing, Mind-Enhancing Methods, and More


Want to hear another podcast discussing psychedelics? — Listen to my conversation with James Fadiman, who has been called “America’s wisest and most respected authority on psychedelics and their use.” Stream below or right-click here to download.

Ep 66: The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide – Risks, Micro-Dosing, Ibogaine, and More


QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Matthew Johnson:

Johns Hopkins Psychedelic Research Unit | Twitter

  • Connect with Ayelet Waldman:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

  • Connect with Robin Carhart-Harris:

Centre for Psychedelic Research, Imperial College London | Twitter | Facebook

  • Connect with Christian Angermayer:

Apeiron Investment Group | ATAI Life Sciences | Twitter


  • An encouraging story about how well-funded research can change lives for the better. [03:25]
  • Matthew Johnson stresses how understanding the downsides and risks of psychedelics is key to their responsible use in research. (The slides by Matthew Johnson can be found by clicking here.) [06:02]
  • Matthew Johnson lays out the benefits, as we currently understand them, of psychedelics on mental health and addiction. [07:21]
  • How did Ayelet Waldman begin her experiences with microdosing, and in what ways did the practice affect her depression and productivity? [12:17]
  • Robin Carhart-Harris explains our current understanding of why these compounds do what they do — even beyond the duration of their physical presence — in what he describes as the entropic brain. [16:48]
  • Christian Angermayer tells us why his biotech company, ATAI Life Sciences, is currently one of the largest global investors in bringing psychedelics — including psilocybin — back into the legal realm. [21:37]
  • Treating PTSD with MDMA, how Ayelet and her husband use MDMA to process “the mundane PTSD of a long marriage,” and the risks involved. [28:16]
  • Matthew speaks to the potential toxicity of some of these compounds. [31:41]
  • Matthew takes us through current studies applying psychedelics to opiate and opioid addiction, and Ayelet weighs in on why traditional methods have not proven successful thus far, and why we need to reclassify some schedule one psychedelics to schedule four. [37:33]
  • Robin explains the context-shifting power psychedelics have over certain diagnostic categories, the problem with diagnostic categories as they traditionally stand, and current thinking around the default mode network. [40:45]
  • Why Christian believes psychedelics should be used in a strictly controlled environment by prescription rather than provided over the counter. [45:48]
  • Ayelet’s ideal paradigm for psychedelic decriminalization: the psychedelic spa. [47:04]
  • Christian points to The Netherlands as an example of a place where psychedelics are available recreationally, but not applied in a way that puts a dent in that country’s mental health crisis. [47:59]
  • How does Christian envision a sustainable business model for single-dose psychedelic therapies? [48:39]
  • How did these compounds come to be classified as schedule one drugs, and how can we potentially get them reclassified as schedule four drugs? Matthew has answers. [52:54]
  • What would Ayelet hope this field looks like a few years from now? [59:16]


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Facebook Libra Is ‘a National Security Issue,’ Mnuchin Says

Facebook faced its latest Washington crisis Monday, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin joining a parade of policy makers and politicians who’ve bashed its proposed cryptocurrency, demonstrating the hurdles the company must overcome to ever make the token a reality.

Speaking from the White House, Mnuchin said he has serious concerns about the national security implications of Facebook’s coin and other virtual currencies. He said the potential for money laundering and other illicit activities is high, and vowed that Treasury would crack down on law breakers when it finds them.

“This is indeed a national security issue,” Mnuchin said in a briefing for reporters at the White House. “We will not allow digital asset service providers to operate in the shadows.”

Bitcoin pared an earlier decline after Mnuchin’s comments, and was down 9.6% to $10,765.78 at 2:42 p.m. in New York.

Many Critics

He is far from the first official to express skepticism. President Donald Trump took to Twitter July 11 to criticize Facebook’s effort, saying he’s not a fan of Bitcoin and that cryptocurrencies are often used to facilitate “unlawful behavior.” And some of Trump’s staunchest foes in Congress, including Representative Maxine Waters, have also faulted Facebook, going so far as to demand that the company halt all work on the coin, called Libra.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell also told lawmakers last week that he has “serious concerns’’ about the token and cast doubt on Facebook’s timeline for launching it by next year.

The opposition from both Republicans and Democrats might put fresh pressure on Facebook—already under fire in Washington over scandals tied to data privacy—to assess whether its cryptocurrency is worth it. The fireworks will start again tomorrow when the company faces a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee followed by another Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee.

In prepared remarks before the Senate panel, the top Facebook executive working on Libra, David Marcus, went further than the company has previously to try to assuage policy makers’ concerns that the coin could be a threat to the financial system.

Read More: Facebook’s Crypto Plan Unites Trump and Democrats in Disdain

Marcus said the token won’t launch until regulatory questions are fully addressed and he added that Facebook will get “appropriate approvals.” He said the coin isn’t intended to compete with countries’ sovereign currencies and won’t interfere with central banks on monetary policy.

“The time between now and launch is designed to be an open process and subject to regulatory oversight and review,” Marcus wrote. “We know we need to take the time to get this right. And I want to be clear: Facebook will not offer the Libra digital currency until we have fully addressed regulatory concerns and received appropriate approvals.”

In his remarks, Mnuchin said that Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network “will hold any entity that transacts in Bitcoin, Libra, or any other cryptocurrency to its highest standards.” He broadly criticized cryptocurrencies, echoing Trump, who said in his series of tweets last week that they are “not money.”

“Bitcoin is highly volatile and based on thin air,” Mnuchin said. “We are concerned about the speculative nature of Bitcoin and will make sure that the U.S. financial system is protected from fraud.”

Crypto Anxiety

Mnuchin said he would address the issue with the finance ministers from other major global economies at a Group of Seven summit in France this week. He’s also discussed the issue “extensively” with the Fed’s Powell, he said.

The sentiment poses risk for the broader digital coin industry. In the run-up to this week’s hearings, a number of competing digital coin companies are distancing themselves from Facebook. Some industry groups are also conducting briefings for congressional staff, pointing out that Facebook’s plan is light on details and not necessarily representative of all tokens.

For Facebook, Mnuchin indicated that U.S. approvals may take a while.

“They and others have a lot of work to do before they get us comfortable,” he said. But he said the company is “being very candid with the administration and where they are.”

Trump said four days ago that companies issuing cryptocurrency, including Facebook, should be subject to banking regulations.

Mnuchin said the president has “legitimate concerns.” He advised investors to “be careful” before purchasing Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. “There’s a lot of good things to invest in,” he said.

“I have no idea why Bitcoin trades where it is,” Mnuchin said. “I’m not commenting whether it’s high or it’s low.”

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—The fall and rise of VR: The struggle to make virtual reality get real

—A new A.I. is running the table against poker pros. Is business strategy next?

Video game addiction: These are the warning signs to look out for

—Apple has new MacBooks. Here’s what you need to know

—Listen to our new audio briefing, Fortune 500 Daily

Catch up with Data Sheet, Fortune‘s daily digest on the business of tech.

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Now with recipes….

Over the last few months, I’ve added a few recipes to the pages of this blog, mostly so I have them handy, partly because I haven’t found anything like them online.

If you want insight into the official lunch foods in the office, here you go:

Daily Dal (this is as close the perfect food I know. Vegan, easy, filling and delicious. You can serve an office full of people. Buy the spices once and you’ll have enough for months). We serve this with dosa made on the cast iron pizza pan below.

Almost raw brownies. They’re pretty unbelievable, almost as good as the ones at By the Way.

PS a thirteen-year-old post on compromises that’s relevant.

Also, a page of kitchen items that can completely change the way you cook… Have fun.

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A.I. is translating messages of long-lost languages

  • Researchers from MIT and Google Brain discover how to use deep learning to decipher ancient languages.
  • The technique can be used to read languages that died long ago.
  • The method builds on the ability of machines to quickly complete monotonous tasks.


There are about 6,500-7,000 languages currently spoken in the world. But that’s less than a quarter of all the languages people spoke over the course of human history. That total number is around 31,000 languages, according to some linguistic estimates. Every time a language is lost, so goes that way of thinking, of relating to the world. The relationships, the poetry of life uniquely described through that language are lost too. But what if you could figure out how to read the dead languages? Researchers from MIT and Google Brain created an AI-based system that can accomplish just that.

While languages change, many of the symbols and how the words and characters are distributed stay relatively constant over time. Because of that, you could attempt to decode a long-lost language if you understood its relationship to a known progenitor language. This insight is what allowed the team which included Jiaming Luo and Regina Barzilay from MIT and Yuan Cao from Google’s AI lab to use machine learning to decipher the early Greek language Linear B (from 1400 BC) and a cuneiform Ugaritic (early Hebrew) language that’s also over 3,000 years old.


Linear B was previously cracked by a human – in 1953, it was deciphered by Michael Ventris. But this was the first time the language was figured out by a machine.

The approach by the researchers focused on 4 key properties related to the context and alignment of the characters to be deciphered – distributional similarity, monotonic character mapping, structural sparsity and significant cognate overlap.

They trained the AI network to look for these traits, achieving the correct translation of 67.3% of Linear B cognates (word of common origin) into their Greek equivalents.


What AI can potentially do better in such tasks, according to MIT Technology Review, is that it can simply take a brute force approach that would be too exhausting for humans. They can attempt to translate symbols of an unknown alphabet by quickly testing it against symbols from one language after another, running them through everything that is already known.

Next for the scientists? Perhaps the translation of Linear A – the Ancient Greek language that no one has succeeded in deciphering so far.

You can check out their paper “Neural Decipherment via Minimum-Cost Flow: from Ugaritic to Linear B” here.

Noam Chomsky on Language’s Great Mysteries

Noam Chomsky contemplates the basic, yet still unanswerable, questions of linguistics.

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