Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Chinese engineer marries robot after failing to find human girlfriend


HANGZHOU - A 31-year-old man, frustrated with his failed attempts to find a girlfriend, decided that he would marry a robot he built instead.

Mr Zheng Jiaja and his creation, which he named Yingying, wed in a simple ceremony in the capital city of Zhejiang province last Friday (March 31), according to local media reports.

The artificial intelligence expert was seen in photos dressed in a black suit, while Yingying wore a black dress and had her head covered with a red scarf.

Mr Zheng's mother and friends were present at the ceremony.

The Strange Case of the Phantom Pokemon

Via by Matthews Tompkins

In Moscow this past summer, a woman drifted-off to sleep after playing Pokemon Go on her smartphone. Later that night, she was awoken by a crushing pressure. She opened her eyes and reportedly saw that she was being assaulted by a real-life Pokemon character. Not a person in a Pokemon outfit, an actual Pokemon. Panicking, but unable to speak, she struggled with the creature while her boyfriend slumbered ignorantly beside her. Eventually, she was able to rise, and the Pokemon vanished. After a brief search of her home, the woman proceeded to report the assault the police.

News of the woman’s police report was quickly, and somewhat gleefully, picked up by a variety of international tabloids. It rattled about the internet, and eventually surfaced on my Twitter feed. But my first thought, as an experimental psychologist with a particular focus in anomalous perceptual experiences was, “Well, that could have happened to anybody.” Although it’s impossible to definitively explain this woman’s experience, I nevertheless felt quite confident that this late-night Pokemon assault fit neatly into our existing understanding of sleep. Indeed, given what we now know about this mysterious neuropsychological state – and the strange sensations it can bring – one might arguably describe her experience as ‘normal’.

The short, seemingly paradoxical, explanation is that she could have been awake and she could have been dreaming. Setting aside the Pokemon for a moment, let’s first consider her report of waking up, unable to move, with a crushing presence on top of her. The technical term that might apply here is ‘sleep paralysis,’ a subtype of parasomnia, or sleep disturbance. Beyond the inability to move, these periods of wakeful paralysis are often accompanied with vivid multisensory hallucinations. Effectively, imagery from your dreams can actually intrude into your waking reality.

A Martian State of Mind: Did the CIA really astrally project to Mars in 1984?

Via by Jacob Brogan

By any ordinary standard, successfully sending humans to Mars would be an astonishing triumph—a world-historical feat for the nation (or corporation) that manages to pull it off first. Talk to the right people, though, and you might be surprised to learn that more than 30 years ago the U.S. military accomplished just that.

You’ll find the evidence of it in a document freely available on the public “Reading Room” section of Central Intelligence Agency’s website. (Credit where it’s due: The friend who brought this treasure to my attention said he learned about it through the Mysterious Universe podcast.) Contextual details are scarce in the document, which goes under the unassuming title “Mars Exploration: May 22, 1984.” A brief explanatory note indicates that “the subject” was given a sealed envelope “immediately prior to the interview” but was instructed not to open it yet. During the interview itself, the subject only had verbal access to “[s]elected geographic coordinates, provided by the parties requesting the information.”

After this introduction, you’ll find a seemingly unedited transcript of the interview, a dialogue that reads like some fragment of a lost Samuel Beckett play. You need not crawl through the full seven pages of dialogue to get a sense of its strangeness. Here’s a representative sample from the start. (All ellipses in the following are original to the document and seem to indicate long pauses.)

[Subject]: … I’m seeing, ah … It’s like a perception of a shadow of people, very tall … thin, it’s only a shadow. It’s as if they were there and they’re not, not there anymore.

[Monitor]: Go back to a period of time where they are there.

Sub: … Um … (mumble) It’s like I get a lot of static on a line and everything, it’s breaking up all the time, very fragmentary pieces.

Mon: Just report the data, don’t try to put things together, just report the raw data.

Sub: I just keep seeing very large people. They appear thin and tall, but they’re very large. Ah … wearing some kind of strange clothes.

In what follows, the conversation jumps around rapidly as the monitor directs the subject to investigate different coordinates, providing no other information. As the subject does, he describes some of the sites of interest that he notices, including a large “obelisk” that reminds him of the Washington Monument, “rounded bottom carved channels, like road beds,” and, most strikingly, “pyramids … like shelters from storms.” In those structures, he finds the shadowy people he had seen before, hibernating. “They’re an ancient people,” he tells the monitor. “They’re ah … they’re dying, it’s past their time or age.”

The 3-by-5-inch card in the sealed envelope—which, remember, supposedly went unseen until all these visions had faded—provides some clue as to what the subject was witnessing. Like the dateline of some LSD-soaked cartoon, it read,

The planet Mars.
Time of interest approximately
1 million years B.C.

This is, in other words, a purportedly real record of some real intelligence service’s attempt to visit another world through astral projection while examining its distant past.

10 Recently Discovered Ancient Skeletons That Tell Curious Tales

Via by Jana Louise Smit

Human skeletons can be strange, even in the most normal of positions. Ancient bones have a particular knack for dropping jaws and not just their own. Societies who lived long ago sometimes buried their dead in strange ways for reasons that defy even what the experts know of their culture. But enigmatic skeletons are not the only ones found at odd angles. Victims of feuds, murder, and failed rebellions make a tragic return, while double graves reveal people with unexpected gestures and placements.

10. Hand Holding Men

The bubonic plague that swept through London was something out of a nightmare. The 1348 wave slaughtered more than half of the population. Nearly 50,000 victims received hasty burials in Smithfield.

One grave held two men holding hands; their heads turned to look to the right. Another skull was also found with the pair. The men were aged in their 40s and arranged in identical positions, with one man’s left hand holding the right of his companion. They died sometime in the early 15th century, meaning they were born after the horrors of 1348, but since they were interred in a plague field, it appears they did not survive the later waves that continued to cull London’s citizens.

While the grave had been dug with care, no remnants of coffins or burial cloth were found. If they were placed directly in the ground, it is possible that the hand holding might be accidental. Who they were, why they faced the same way or how the older man received a defensive arm fracture remains a mystery. The extra skull appears to be from an older grave disturbed by gravediggers.

9. The Gender Bender

The Corded Ware culture was a Stone Age people who buried their dead according to gender. When men died, the grave was filled with weapons and tools, and the body was placed facing west. Women went into the afterlife with domestic ware while looking into the opposite direction.

In 2011, researchers found a Corded Ware man outside of Prague. When he died about 5,000 years ago, his community arranged the grave, and him, as a woman. Resting on his left side, the caveman faced east, and household jugs and pots kept him company. Considering that his people, who lived from 2,800-2,500 B.C., were very strict about funeral rites, this is unlikely to be a blunder on their part.

The archaeologists who discovered the strange skeleton believe it could signify the earliest discovery in the Czech Republic of somebody with a different sexual orientation and that it was accepted by the community. Skeptic scholars say that identification of a skeleton’s gender (by looking at pelvic differences) is about 90 percent accurate but not infallible.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Woman in Black – Victorian Mourning as Criminal Disguise

A classic mourning ensemble c. 1870
Via by Chris Woodyard

The Victorian widow, swathed in her “habiliments of woe,” was a familiar figure on the streets of the nineteenth century. The dull fabrics, the crape, the veil: all marked the wearer as one touched by Death and entitled to special consideration. Mourning garb both protected the wearer from the public gaze and elevated societal expectations for the widow. This made it all the more shocking when mourning dress was used as a criminal disguise.

Let us look at the rogues’ gallery of crimes committed in the United States from about 1860 to 1929 under the cover of crape. The list is a long and distressing one: Assault, inducing panic, menacing threats, armed robbery and pickpocketing, burglary, kidnapping, arson, murder, and most heinous of all to a 19th century audience: transvestism.

Why was mourning such a useful disguise for criminals?

The phrase the “Woman in Black” was in common use by the 1870s, referring to a series of mysterious black-clad apparitions who stalked and startled people in the dark. They usually wore the veil of the Victorian widow and melted uncannily into darkness when challenged. There was ambiguity as to whether “The Woman in Black” was some flesh-and-blood woman in mourning clothing, a man in disguise, or a supernatural omen of death. Inexplicably—since widows were scarcely an uncommon sight—these appearances often escalated into full-scale panics, and, as the New York Times of 7 January 1887 wrote, afforded “unscrupulous and criminally disposed persons an opportunity to do their wicked work under the mask of the Woman in Black.”

These veiled supernatural horrors apparently provided inspiration for copy-cat wearers of crape because it is apparent from newspaper reports that, far from being ghostly, the Women in Black were corporeal enough to commit assault.

Black Eyed Kids: Are They Killers?

Via by Lon Strickler

I recently received the following account:

I just read your BEK story about the guy who lost time. I live in Broward County, Florida. Something odd and frightening occurred last Summer. I woke up during the night around 2AM to a boy and girl knocking on my front door. I thought there may be an emergency, so I opened the door and the two were just standing there staring at me. I asked what was going on and they told him they needed to come inside. I asked why, but they didn't answer me. I then asked them if they were in some kind of trouble or lost, but they just stared at me. I was getting pissed and starting to 'wake up' at this point. That's when I took a closer look at these two kids and noticed that neither had whites in their fact, they didn't seem to have pupils. I freaked out and told them to go home and quickly shut the door. I called the local cops and told them that two kids were knocking on doors. A cruiser was sent out to the neighborhood but they didn't find anyone walking around. They figured it was just local kids messing around.

Medieval villagers feared the walking dead


Human bones excavated from a deserted medieval village in North Yorkshire show people mutilated and burnt bodies to stop them rising from the dead.

Knife marks were found on 137 bones dating between the 11th and 14th Centuries, discovered at Wharram Percy.

Experts said it was the first evidence of ancient practices to stop "corpses rising from their graves, spreading disease and assaulting the living".

The study was conducted by Historic England and Southampton University.

'Dark side'

Researchers studied the remains of about 10 people and discovered the bodies had been decapitated and dismembered.

Knife marks were mostly in the head and neck area but there was also evidence for the burning of body parts and deliberate breaking of some bones after death, the team said.

10 Unexplained Mysteries Of The Jungle

Photo credit: Heiko Prumers
Via by Joe Drury

The jungles and forests of Earth have terrified the human race for years. There’s just something unsettling about not knowing what could be lurking behind the next tree. That hasn’t stopped us from exploring them and searching for the lost cities and treasures rumored to be inside. In recent years, the world has become a much smaller place, with everything mapped out and no location hidden from satellites. However, the jungles still hold their secrets, with large amounts of land still unexplored, tribes unmet, creatures undocumented, and things never seen before hidden beneath their thick canopies.

10. The Amazon Rings

A series of ring-shaped ditches can be found throughout the Brazilian Amazon, which predate the rain forest itself. These structures remain a complete mystery, and archaeologists are unsure what to make of them. It is suggested that they served as burial grounds or a form of defense, but no one knows for sure. A further-fetched theory is that they are marks left by UFOs that once landed there before the forest grew. These blemishes are similar to the Nazca lines in that there is no confirmed reason as to why they exist. It is assumed that these rings were constructed by the early people who inhabited the area.

A further question is, “How did the early men get the tools to create them?” This is also unanswerable, as there is no proof that any tools sophisticated enough to have created the rings even existed at the time they were constructed.

9. Maricoxi

The Maricoxi are essentially the sasquatches of South America. They are reported to be huge, ape-like beings that can stand up to 3.7 meters (12 ft) tall. Although they appear primitive, they’re said to be fairly intelligent, wielding bows and arrows and even living in villages.

According to British explorer Colonel Percival H. Fawcett, who allegedly encountered the creatures while mapping out the jungles of South America in 1914, they were extremely hairy and lived north of a tribe called the Maxubi. They could only speak in grunts and were extremely hostile toward humans. In the colonel’s book, Lost Trails, Lost Cities, he describes how he and his men were nearly attacked by the beasts when they got close to their village. However, they were able to keep the beasts away by firing their guns into the ground by the creatures’ feet, sending them running in terror.

In 1925, Fawcett disappeared along with all his men while on an expedition to find a lost city. Theories suggest that they were killed by local tribes or died of starvation. However, some say they were killed by the Maricoxi, although there is no evidence to back this up.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Elon Musk seeks to merge man with machine

Via by Liat Clark

Elon Musk is attempting to combat the rise of artificial intelligence with the launch of his latest venture, brain-computer interface company Neuralink.

Little is known about the startup, aside from what has been revealed in a Wall Street Journal report, but says sources have described it as “neural lace” technology that is being engineered by the company to allow humans to seamlessly communicate with technology without the need for an actual, physical interface. The company has also been registered in California as a medical research entity because Neuralink’s initial focus will be on using the described interface to help with the symptoms of chronic conditions, from epilepsy to depression. This is said to be similar to how deep brain stimulation controlled by an implant helps WIRED Health 2017 speaker Matt Eagles, who has Parkinson’s, manage his symptoms effectively.

This is far from the first time Musk has shown an interest in merging man and machine. At a Tesla launch in Dubai earlier this year, the billionaire spoke about the need for humans to become cyborgs if we are to survive the rise of artificial intelligence. "Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence," CNBC reported him as saying at the time. "It's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output."

Kimberley fossil tracks are Australia's 'Jurassic Park'

Via by Jonathan Amos

Scientists have described a remarkable collection of dinosaur tracks on beaches in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

More than 20 different types of fossil footmarks have been captured in sandstone rock.

Some are over 1.5m in size, recording the movement of sauropods - the giant beasts with long necks and tails.

The trackways, many only visible at low tide, were "globally unparalleled", claimed the lead scientist involved.

Steve Salisbury called the 25km-long coastline collection Australia's own Jurassic Park.

"This is the most diverse dinosaur track fauna we've ever recorded," he told BBC News.

"In this time slice (127 and 140 million years ago) in Australia, we've got no other record - there's virtually no other fossils from any part of the continent. This is only window, and what we see is truly amazing.

"Twenty-one different types. There are about six different types of tracks for meat-eating dinosaurs; about the same number for sauropod dinosaurs; about four different types of ornithopod dinosaur tracks - so, two-legged plant-eaters - and really exciting, I think, are six types of armoured dinosaur tracks, including stegosaurs, which we've never seen before in Australia."

How Do I Get Rid of a Shadow Person?

Via by Stephen Wagner

Question: How Do I Get Rid of a Shadow Person?
"Could you please tell me how to get the shadow person out of my home?" writes Crystal S.

Answer: How do you get a shadow person out of your home? Turn on the light. Ba-boom-ching!

But seriously, folks... In order to get rid of something we first have to know what we're dealing with. For example, if you had either ants or squirrels invading your home, an exterminator would deal with them in entirely different ways.

So first it would be very helpful to know exactly what a shadow person is. Unfortunately, no one knows. In fact, although there are many reported sightings of such things, we have not been able to actually verify that they are real.

Let's say that they are real... What are they? Theories include: ghosts, interdimensional beings, time travelers and demons. And like the exterminator example, each would be dealt with in a different manner.

10 Fascinating Early UFO Sightings

Via by Ronald Eayre

There have been many unidentified flying objects sighted throughout history. This list details some of the earlier sightings that have been written down or passed on. Some are exciting, and some are just plain weird. Several surprisingly big names have reported UFOs throughout history.

10. Edmond Halley

Astronomer Edmond Halley, who documented Halley’s Comet, has seen two unidentified craft in his career. The first was in March 1676. He described it as having a “vast body apparently bigger than the moon.”

By Halley’s estimations, the object was about 64 kilometers (40 mi) above him. He said it made a noise, “like the rattling of a great cart over stones.” After watching the distance it traveled in several minutes, he calculated that it was moving faster than 15,500 kilometers per hour (9,600 mph).

9. Alexander The Great

In 329 BC, Alexander the Great and his army were crossing a river during wartime. Then, his men saw silver shields, with fire around the rims, in the sky. The objects began repeatedly diving at the men until the war elephants and horses were spooked. Alexander and his men gave up trying to cross the river and waited until the next morning to cross.