Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Some Reptiles Dream Just Like Mammals and Birds Do

Via by Paul Seaburn

Do android reptiles dream of electric flies? If Philip K. Dick were alive today, would he write a post-apocalyptic novel based on the latest news that some reptiles dream like mammals and birds do? Would the movie be called Everglade Runner?

One of the defining signs of dreaming is REM – rapid eye movement – during sleep. It’s been seen in humans, other mammals and birds, but not in reptiles. Yet birds and reptiles evolved from common ancestors. If birds do it, shouldn’t reptiles do it too?

Gilles Laurent and a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany, decided to find out. They chose to study the bearded dragon lizard of Australia (Pogona vitticeps) because it started its own branch on the evolutionary tree prior to the split that led to dinosaurs and birds.

Top 10 Magical Societies

Photo credit: Joseph Max
Via by James Nickerson

Who wouldn’t like to be a magician, able to sling spells of power? People are obsessed with magical power and societies due their prominence in popular culture, but very few know about the real magicians and magical societies that populate our world today. These magical orders are quite real, and here are 10 societies that can help to start your magical training!
10. Builders Of The Adytum 

The Builders of the Adytum, commonly referred to as BOTA, is a magical organization based out California and has growing branches throughout the world. Founded by master mason Paul Foster Case, BOTA is dedicated to the idea of spiritually uplifting humanity via the Ageless Wisdom, ancient magical knowledge written by God into nature. Their teachings are based around the spiritual potency of Esoteric Tarot, astrology, alchemy, and the Qabalah.

The goal of a BOTA initiate is to reach higher levels of consciousness and become one with God’s thoughts. One technique is to read magical Tarot cards, form a mental image of what the cards represent in one’s life, and then use that image’s symbolic powers to overcome one’s spiritual problems and ascend to higher knowledge. If one practices these arts and does so with a desire for compassion and justice, BOTA believes that they can be reincarnated with higher levels of magical power and secrets.

9. Ordo Templi Orientis

The Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) is arguably the poster child of magical societies. Originally founded by Theodor Reuss as an offshoot of Freemasonry, it eventually was overtaken and massively influenced by Aleister Crowley and his Thelema religion. Today, the OTO is one of the dominant organizations that still represent Crowley’s teachings alongside the A.’.A.’. and the Typhonian Order.

The OTO follows a synergistic blend of Masonry and Thelemic thought, with the primary text being Crowley’s Book of Law. The ranks of the order are divided into three tiers or grades, with initiates starting as Man of Earth grade, rising in degree until they become part of the the Lover grade, and then rising once again until at last settling into the Hermit Grade. Higher-grade followers learn more complex rituals and magic, involving everything from magical diaries and the Rites of Eleusis, Sex Magic, and ritual sacrifice.

The Time Traveler Running For President of the United States

Via by Paul Seaburn

Just when you thought the U.S. presidential campaign couldn’t get any more strange … a time traveler has announced his candidacy and bases his platform on seeing Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address as well has his knowledge of what’s going to happen in 2054. Top that, Donald Trump!

The man is Andrew Basiago, a lawyer who claims his time traveling occurred in the 1970s when he was a young boy and participated in “Project Pegasus,” an alleged secret U.S. government program under DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

They trained children along with adults so they could test the mental and physical effects of time travel on kids.

Basiago claims DARPA used a teleporter developed by Nikola Tesla to send him back a million years, to Lincoln’s time more than once, to the future and to Mars with a young man named Barack Obama. Is that enough information to get your vote?

'Death ray' could be used at Heathrow to shut down flying drones

Via by Mark Blunden

Police chiefs are investigating counter measures amid the “threat posed by drones” straying ito restricted London air space.

It comes as Met officers probe what was believed to be Britain’s first unmanned aerial vehicle strike against a plane, which was on a landing approach to Heathrow airport.

Scotland Yard said “an object believed to be a drone” hit the front of a British Airways Airbus A320 last Sunday lunchtime above Richmond Park.

There were 132 passengers and five crew on board the flight approaching from Geneva, which was at 1,700ft - the legal maximum height for UK drones is 400ft.

BA said the plane landed safely and was cleared by engineers for its next flight.

Transport minister Robert Goodwill played down the incident, telling Parliament on Thursday it could have been a “plastic bag”, but Scotland Yard told the Standard on Friday that officers still believed the object was a drone.

Last year, remote controlled drones had near misses at Heathrow, City, Gatwick and Stansted.

Heathrow refused requests for an interview on its anti-drone measures, referring enquiries to the police.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

'Space umbrella' could stop global warming

Via by Zaria Gorvett

The race to find a solution to a rapidly warming world is one of the most pressing challenges facing our planet.

One proposal to try to halt this warming is literally out-of-this-world: a giant, space-based sunshade. We’re already modifying our climate by accident, so why not do it by deliberate geoengineering?

It’s a radical idea, and it just might just work. Reducing the amount of light reaching our planet could cool the Earth quickly, even with rising carbon dioxide levels. While the asteroid which helped wipe out the dinosaurs blocked out 90% of the Sun’s rays, we would need to divert just 2-4%, it's believed, to take the Earth back to its pre-industrial climate.

Space sunshades have support in high places, from the Royal Society to Nasa, to the European Union. It’s even roused the interest of the most respected authority on global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The concept may be increasingly mainstream, but how we’d do it sounds more far-fetched. To uniformly cool the planet in a system that’s always on the move, the shade would be installed in an area of outer space that’s balanced between the gravity of the Earth and the Sun – the L1 point – about a million miles away.

First conceived by engineer James Early in 1989, the original design was a vast, 2,000 km-wide glass shield – a structure so heavy, it would need to be constructed on the Moon. More recent suggestions include clouds of Moon dust, 55,000 wire-mesh mirrors or a planet-girdling ring of tiny umbrellas. And just when you thought they couldn’t get more ambitious: how about moving the Earth further away from the sun, with an explosion equivalent to five thousand million million hydrogen bombs.

By far the greatest challenge is getting the sunshade into outer space. It currently costs at least $10,000 (£6,930) to launch a pound of payload into orbit, and we haven’t put a man on the Moon since 1972. To be a viable option, the technology would need to be wafer-light and it would have to be assembled here on Earth.

Astronomer Roger Angel believes he has the answer: 16 trillion flying space robots. Each would weigh about a gram – the same as a large butterfly – and deflect sunlight with a transparent film pierced with tiny holes. To keep the burden low, the lenses would be less than a hundredth of the thickness of a human hair. “You can’t stop sunlight with anything thinner than that,” he says.

The robots would steer themselves into orbit by solar-powered ion propulsion, a technology already used by the European Space Agency's Smart-1 Moon orbiter, to form a cylindrical cloud 60,000-miles wide. After that they’d need regular nudges from ‘shepherd dog satellites’ to stop them crashing into each other or being blown off course by the sunlight they’re deflecting. “If you leave them alone they’ll drift off and eventually fall back to Earth,” he says.

Be prepared: asteroids, robots and deadly viruses could kill millions


Governments are failing to properly prepare for a wave of catastrophic threats to humanity such as the rise of robots and ‘off-the-shelf’ deadly viruses, scientists argue.

Super volcanoes, asteroid strikes and nuclear war are also threats that could wipe out swathes of humanity and are more likely to occur than many realise, according to researchers at Oxford University.

Their report, Global Catastrophic Risks, ranks dangers that could kill off 10 percent or more of the human population.

It warns that while most generations never experience a catastrophe, the possibility of such an event is far from fanciful, as shown by the 1918 Spanish flu, which wiped out millions.

Sebastian Farquhar, director at Oxford’s Global Priorities Project, said: “There are some things that are on the horizon – things that probably won’t happen in any one year but could happen – which could completely reshape our world and do so in a really devastating and disastrous way.

“History teaches us that many of these things are more likely than we intuitively think.”

Here Are The Creepiest Monster Legends From Every State In The Country

Statue of the Mothman in Point Pleasant, West Virginia via Flickr – Mark Cameron
Via by Daniel Hayes

The Northeast

1. Cassie 

The first sighting of Cassie, a giant sea serpent (between 60 and 150 ft. long) living in the frigid waters of Maine’s Casco Bay was in 1777. It’s been reported to be a fast swimmer and has even been reported as having been seen up close. A Naval Ensign named Edward Preble even had a close encounter with Cassie where the monster looked him square in the face. It apparently frightening Preble so badly that he fired a cannon at it and scared it away.

All told there’ve been four well documented sightings of Cassie leading up to the 1950s as well as many other anecdotal sightings.
2. Thunderbirds 

Thunderbird are giant black birds, sometimes described as reptilian that have been seen as far west as Arizona and, more recently, as far east as Pennsylvania. In 2014 alone there were seven sightings of the giant birds there. The legend of the Thunderbird goes all the way back to ancient Indian lore and tales from the Old West include horrifying instances of the giant winged creates grasping full grown men and carrying them off the ground before dropping them.

One witness in New Florence, PA claimed that the bird he saw had a wingspan of at least 12 feet.

Gruesome Discovery in the Midnight Terror Cave of Belize

Via by Paul Seaburn

Sometime around midnight on a night in 2006, an antiquities looter hoping to find and steal relics of an ancient Mayan civilization from a cave Belize got the punishment he deserved – he lost his grip on the rope he was clinging to and fell 60 feet (18 meters) to the bottom of the cave into a deep pile of human bones. The Belizean Mennonite farmer who heard the looter’s blood-curdling screams and rescued him gave the cave the name “Mitnacht Schreknis Heel,” which is Plautdietsch (the Dutch-German Mennonite dialect) for “Midnight Terror Cave.” Researchers recently revealed how the bones got there and confirmed that the cave deserves its gruesome name.

At the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists held on April 15th, bioarchaeologist Michael Prout from California State University, Los Angeles, detailed the results of his study of the human remains removed from the Midnight Terror Cave over a two year period. Radiocarbon dating of the 9,566 bones, teeth and fragments showed that they were placed there over a 1,500-year period starting 3,000 years ago at the beginning of the Mayan era. Prout’s researchers were able to piece together 144 bodies and, to their horror, determined that over half of them were children aged 4 to 10. Even worse, none of them had died of natural causes and all of the bodies had been tossed into the cave from high above.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Has Hawking radiation been proven correct?


Stephen Hawking's theory of energy being emitted by a black hole may finally earn him a Nobel Prize. Over 40 years ago the world-renowned physicist determined that matter and energy absorbed by a black hole may not be trapped there forever because small amounts of thermal radiation are being emitted back in to space all the time - a phenomenon known as Hawking radiation.

Finding conclusive evidence of this taking place has proven particularly difficult, but now physics professor Jeff Steinhauer from Technion university in Haifa has found a creative way around the problem by creating his own miniature black hole in the laboratory using sound.

Tourist dies on search for Pope Lick monster

Via by Beth Warren

Two young Ohio tourists, searching for the Pope Lick Trestle monster while in Louisville, saw a train barreling their way with no time to run.

Safety was about 40 feet away, but Roquel Bain, 26, and her boyfriend didn't have time to make it off the train trestle Saturday night. He dangled off the edge until the train could pass, but she didn't make it.

A Norfolk Southern train fatally struck Bain, who was then knocked more than 80 feet to the ground below.

Jeffersontown fire officials rescued the boyfriend, whose name has not been released, after he climbed back on top of the trestle, near the 3100 block of South Pope Lick Road close to Taylorsville Road, officials said.

Bain was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:39 p.m.

"It’s just so sad - a very pretty young girl who had her life in front of her," deputy coroner Jack Arnold said. "It's just so preventable."

Power of Positive Thinking Skews Mindfulness Studies

Via by Anna Nowogrodzki

There’s a little too much wishful thinking about mindfulness, and it is skewing how researchers report their studies of the technique.

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, analysed 124 published trials of mindfulness as a mental-health treatment, and found that scientists reported positive findings 60% more often than is statistically likely. The team also examined another 21 trials that were registered with databases such as; of these, 62% were unpublished 30 months after they finished. The findings—reported in PLoS ONE on April 8— hint that negative results are going unpublished.

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Mental-health treatments that focus on this method include mindfulness-based stress reduction—an 8-week group-based programme that includes yoga and daily meditation—and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

A bias toward publishing studies that find the technique to be effective withholds important information from mental-health clinicians and patients, says Christopher Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University in Florida, who was not involved in the study. “I think this is a very important finding,” he adds. “We’ll invest a lot of social and financial capital in these issues, and a lot of that can be misplaced unless we have good data.”

I’ve Got Your Pseudoscience Right Here, Buddy


“Science arouses a soaring sense of wonder. But so does pseudoscience” – Carl Sagan

Pseudoscience! I don’t like to wade too deeply into the popular arguments about whether the celebrities of paranormal investigation are capitalizing on current public fascination with the supernatural and distrust of institutionalized science (mostly because I’ve found wisdom in the Las Vegas cocktail waitress maxim that says, “Don’t get down on anybody else’s hustle”), but nonetheless feel compelled to couch their subject in some scientific argot that lend it an air of superficial credibility. It’s a little like arguing the existence of God with the religiously devout. There is no commensurable paradigm upon which to find common ground. Plus, I’m too old for bar fights. Or rather, as I find my divinity in the bottom of a glass of aged and peaty scotch (“Our Father who art in Laphroig”, for those of you who are fellow travelers), the probability of spilling my drink are too high, and I like to play the odds.

In my younger, scrappier days, without the benefit of two decades of work amongst both stolid academics and profit-motivated corporate slugs, caricatures for sure, I might exhibit more tolerance, but you know what they say about stereotypes – they’re founded in “base rate” information, yet in the past I might have taken up the gauntlet. Why is it that dueling went out of fashion? Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but it can save you a lot of agony and angst if you know what you are getting into during the cocktail party. If they surprise you, you might have found a friend. That is to say, if you encounter the same insufferable attitude on multiple occasions, you’re simply wise to proceed from the assumption that the next one you meet will likely exemplify the archetype until proven otherwise. After all, the universe is all about me and it’s up to you to prove me wrong, at least from my perspective. Don’t screw with me. I’m an ontologist. I can philosophically declare that you don’t exist and abstractly end you. I’ll do it.

That said, I merrily peruse both the skeptical and belief-driven literature on a regular basis. A darn shame I can’t deduct that time as a business expense on my taxes. Oh wait, I don’t get paid for this. I should go write some natural language processing software or something, since that’s what they pay me for. Talk about injustice. And sadly, I’ve started to notice a pattern, ‘cause that’s what I do. Look for patterns. Professionally, I look for linguistic patterns. Personally and existentially, I’m more concerned with patterns of stuff that might kill you or steal your soul. If you ask me, the pay scales are reversed. When I design my own planet, things will be different.