Sunday, March 26, 2017

Minnesota’s Disappearing River May Finally Be Solved

Via by Paul Seaburn

If you’re going to name a waterfall “Devil’s Kettle,” you’d better have a damn good reason. How about this one? The Brule River in the Judge C. R. Magney State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior splits it half about 1.5 miles from its mouth. The eastern fork continues over a waterfall while the western fork disappears into a pothole and is never seen again. Really. People have dropped in everything from ping-pong balls to dyes to GPS devices to – according to a local legend – a car and they never show up again. Is that enough reason to call it the Devil’s Kettle?

nfortunately for the devil (and those people in park’s souvenir shop selling T-shirts), the secret of the disappearing river may finally be revealed. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) mapping hydrologist Jeff Green and a team of hydrologists announced they have solved the mystery of Devil’s Kettle. What is it?

It’s a beautiful optical illusion.

Well, that settles that.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Secret Societies and Hidden Knowledge: The Explosive Star that Inspired the Modern World

Via by Graham Phillips and Deborah Cartwright

A few weeks ago, astronomers announced that in 2022 something truly spectacular is to occur: a new star will appear in the heavens. It will be the first such event visible with the naked eye for over 400 years. Created by the collision of two relatively dim stars, the resultant explosion is known as a “boom star.”

When this rare celestial occurrence takes place it will create a so-called red nova that will shine so brightly that it will be clearly seen at night in the constellation of Cygnus the swan. The last time a “new star” became visible without the aid of modern telescopes was in 1604, although this one was caused by a supernova, an exploding far-away sun that remained visible for many months. That one occurred in the constellation of Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer, and its remnants can still been seen as a beautiful ring nebula by astronomers today.

At a distance of 20,000 light years, the supernova was too far away to have any physical effect on Earth, but its appearance did have a significant psychological impact. It led to a remarkable series of sociological episodes that radically shaped history.

The Many Secrets of the World's Spookiest Trees

Via by Peggy Sijswerda

Dwarf beech trees are not ordinary trees. Found in a forest near Reims, France, in the summer they look like green igloos, or large turtles, or something out of The Little Prince. But instead of hiding elephants, these green, leafy mounds, ranging from 3 feet to 15 feet high, cover deformed trunks and gnarly branches that squirm and twist and zigzag like contortionists in repose. In winter, they look like the skeletal remains of mutant serpents that reach defiantly toward the sky as if to say, “You want a piece of me?”

Verzy, a small village 15 miles south of Reims, is home to the largest stand of Faux—an Old French word that means beech trees. But there are similar trees found elsewhere in France, as well as in Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. Les Faux de Verzy has about 800 of the trees, some believed to be over 300 years old.

No one’s exactly sure how or why they grow the way they do. Scientists guess the mushroom-shaped specimens are a result of a genetic mutation, but the trees’ offspring are just as likely to be normal and straight as they are to be crooked. Other possible explanations for their odd traits include climate, chemicals, air currents, soil composition, telluric radiation, underground cavities, radioactive meteors, a virus—or perhaps a curse?

Pocahontas Shrouded in Myth: A Princess Goes to England

Via by Kerry Sullivan

As Ancient Origins reported in its article “The True Story of Pocahontas as Not Told by Disney,” the real life Pocahontas was different from her portrayal in the 1995 animated feature film. However, the image of a young Indian princess risking everything for her love, John Smith, has gripped the popular imagination and will not let go.

Aside from the fact that Pocahontas and John Smith were never an item (she was perhaps 10 years old when they first met), Disney’s Pocahontas fails to address the woman’s genuinely interesting and important historical significance, particular with regards to Native American–English relations. The 1998 sequel film, Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World, was perhaps an attempt to address this but it is also riddled with inaccuracies. The real story of Pocahontas is poor material for children’s movies but nonetheless quietly profound.

More Bizarre Tales of the Men in Black in Japan

Via by Brent Swancer

One phenomenon that seems to be inextricably linked to UFOs is the enigmatic Men in Black. Wherever UFO sightings and accounts go, these shadowy figures seem to be always lurking somewhere in the background, and it is not even a facet of this field that is confined to the West. Indeed, the Men in Black seem to know no borders, and have shown up in a surprising number of far-flung places, showing that this is a mystery that goes beyond any particular certain set of social or cultural mores. Not too long ago I wrote an article here at Mysterious Universe detailing possible encounters with the Men in Black in Japan, and since then I have been approached with various other such tales that it seems about time I compile a few of them into another article. So here we delve once more into the very mysterious, very strange world of the Men in Black in Japan.

One source that has come forward to provide me with a wealth of fascinating encounters is a Japanese UFO blogger who shall remain anonymous, I’ll call him “Taro,” and who came forward after seeing my article on the matter with an array of tales, some of the weirder of which I will share here. Taro told me of one case of another blogger who had been releasing some very clear photos of a UFO sighting and was immediately bombarded by anonymous comments demanding that the pictures be taken down. There was never any identification of the commenter, and the messages seemed to come under different screen names with different IP addresses. In every instance, the blogger refused the demands, even after being met with legal threats that seemed to be purely empty bluffs.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Boston Dynamics reveals 'nightmare-inducing' new robot Handle

Via by Mark Molloy

If you remain unperturbed about the rise of the machine, this rather terrifying video of Handle the robot in action might just change your mind.

The towering 6ft 5in robot is the latest brainchild of Google-owned company Boston Dynamics, who have both terrified and amazed the world with their hi-tech creations.

Footage of Handle was leaked at the start of February, with Boston Dynamics founder and CEO Marc Raibert even admitting it was “nightmare-inducing robot”.

The two-wheeled robot was recorded lifting up 100lbs crates, gliding across ramps like skater Tony Hawk in hi sprime and effortlessly jumping onto a 4ft platform in the latest clip.

Scientists study Siberia's 'hellmouth' crater


A rapidly growing crater known as the "hellmouth" has given scientists a fascinating insight into 200,000 years of climate history.

The 300ft-deep Batagaika Crater in Siberia is expanding a rate of 30 to 100 feet each year allowing scientists to see ancient layers that once lay hidden.

The crater, in northern Yakutia, is referred to as a "mega slump" and dubbed by locals as the "Doorway to the Underworld".

As a permafrost continues to thaw away its layers, the ground underneath becomes more exposed.

This enables researchers to see what the landscape once looked like, helping them to predict the changes yet to come.

Bio-hybrid robots could grow human organs

Via by Sarah Fecht

Scientists are already growing muscles, bones, and mini-organs in the lab. But these tissues are generally small, simple, and kinda wimpy. That's partly because a Petri dish is no match for the human body.

Take, for example, skeletal muscle. Bioreactors—typically warm, moist vats where cells are grown—might induce some simple movements in lab-grown muscles, but it's nothing like the multidirectional bending and stretching of the human body, which helps our muscles grow and get stronger. That's why two scientists from Oxford University are proposing that we use humanoid robots to grow engineered tissues instead. Their article was published Wednesday in Science Robotics.

"There is no better bioreactor than the human body itself," says study co-author and tissue engineer Pierre Mouthuy, "so the better we can copy that environment, the better our chances to obtain functional engineered tissues are going to be."

Robots like Kenshiro and Eccerobot replicate human anatomy in intricate detail, and the authors write that we might be able to use them to grow better tissue grafts that can be transplanted into ailing humans.

The Men in Black in Japan

Via by Brent Swancer

I will be honest, the Men in Black phenomenon is not typically my area of expertise. I am usually more than happy to let my esteemed colleague Nick Redfern handle those bizarre and unsettling accounts, as he has had far more experience and a more formidable record of weird tales concerning these mysterious specters than I. However, Redfern’s recent series of articles on his book and the Men in Black in general, “My New Book: Men in Black” part 1 and part 2 have really got me to thinking about the fact that this is by no means a isolated phenomenon, and indeed it does spread its tendrils to all corners of the globe. Reading the accounts mentioned in Redfern’s excellent set of articles made me want to share some of the other cases that I have personally acquired over here in Japan that perhaps concern these enigmatic black clad figures. “Want” is perhaps not the best word, rather I felt compelled to share these. It turns out that whoever they are, the Men in Black are not confined to the West, and they have a profile in Asia, just as strange and at times absurd, as they do anywhere else. So without any further ado, here are a few of the more interesting and weird accounts I have accrued over the years concerning possible Men in Black in Japan.

Back before I first started writing about Forteana, when I first came over to Japan way back in 1996, I happened across some curious tales that at the time seemed to make no real sense to me. I of course had heard of the Men in Black before, as it was then as it is now a singularly odd phenomenon that has managed to bury itself very deeply within our psyche. The idea of the strange outsiders, the “other,” coming in uninvited from out of the murky ether to impose themselves rather abruptly and bizarrely upon us, leaving us in confusion and a state of I suppose violation, is an inexplicably persistent and at the same time somewhat alluring one, and I have to admit that I too was not above being drawn to such tales. However, I must say that I had been a slave to the in retrospect rather ignorant notion that this was a merely piece of spooky folklore confined largely to the United States. At the time I was almost exclusively interested in cryptozoology, and the Men in Black were to me the urban legend that they are to many of the general populace today, regardless of how much the moniker “urban legend” may be false. It had never occurred to me at the time that this phenomenon was even given so much serious consideration as more than myth, let alone that it reached past the boundaries of the United States and into the world at large. This was my narrow mindset and set of preconceived notions with which I arrived at the shores of the Far East.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Stand up for All Weirdness – The Ghost of Alien Bigfoots

Via by John E. L. Tenney

Back in the 1980’s I would attend what were called Metaphysical Conventions. I would always get a Tarot card reading, take a photo of my aura, pick up the latest book on hauntings, watch some UFO films, and try to find a better copy of the Patterson-Gimlin film than I had found the year before. The tables were filled with psychics, UFO contactees, Sasquatch seekers, witches, channelers, crystal gazers, ghost investigators, and any other manner of person who walked on the highest, strangest string connected to reality.
Seeing all the sides

After the convention many of us would find a local restaurant or coffee-shop and late into the evening we would sit and discuss the weirdness which seems to permeate our reality.

I sat at a table with John Keel who spoke of Mothman, Fr. Malachi Martin discussing exorcisms, Hans Holzer telling ghost stories, Richard Hall explaining UFO sightings, Al Berry making a case for the existence of Sasquatch and William Cooper tying it all together under the guise of government control. These conversations would drift from the unusual to the outrageous but they were never boring. For a young man, such as myself, they lit questions like fuses. For every question or incident discussed ten more were waiting around the corner. And above all of it everyone at the table just wanted to have a deeper sense of understanding.

Where the accepted scientific community saw nothing I instead saw a multitude of possibilities and a seemingly-shared-reality spilling over with high-strangeness. As the night drew longer, UFO researchers checked the ground composition at Bigfoot sightings. Ghost investigators interviewed UFO abductees about sleep paralysis, Bigfoot researchers studied UFO landing maps. These times were a whirlwind of wonderment and a nexus of the uncanny. I would leave with a head swimming inside of a universe populated by fantastic creatures and the equally fantastic humans who speculated about solutions to these most remarkable of riddles.

An Oasis in the Desert of the Real: Looking for Zerzura


“The desert is no longer a landscape, it is a pure form produced by the abstraction of all others” – Jean Baudrillard
One thing that really sticks in a historian’s craw is a lost city, long relegated to the nether realms of folklore that is rediscovered or turns out never to have been lost in the first place. Of course, once we pinpoint the location of these elusive places, learned dissertations on them are produced by the veritable ream, mostly geared towards explaining our earlier confusion about their mythological status. Humans are really good at losing stuff in the sands of time. Or in the literal sand.

You see, our comfy little biome is constantly changing. Fertile lands turn to desert. Grasslands turn to tundra. Mountains erode or are uplifted. Rivers change their course. Oceans swallow shore or expose it. Geologic shift happens. These days, only about 30% of the earth is dry land. Of that dry land, about 33% is desert and 24% is mountainous to the point of inhabitability. That means that a whopping 43% of the dry land on the planet is actually inhabited to any large degree. If you’re not comfortable with percentages because you were making out with your girlfriend under the bleachers that day in math class, basically of the 57,308,738 square miles of land surface, only 24,642,757 square miles are inhabitable.

If all the habitable land (loosely defined) on earth was equally divided among the 7.2 billion Homo sapiens alive today, we’d each get about 2.3 acres. Sadly, we would have to forgo a lot of amenities which contribute to our swanky lifestyles like roads, schools, and hospitals, and just because a plot of dirt is considered “habitable” it doesn’t mean it is richly endowed with arable land or drinkable water, so we’ll probably have to shelve that idea, although it’s interesting to note that if we wanted everyone to enjoy the lifestyle of the average American, we would need about 10 planet Earths. Frankly, we better get busy figuring out how to clone planets. I hear the other side of our orbit is nice this time of year.

Our Universe is too vast for even the most imaginative sci-fi

Relative positions of distant spacecraft. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
Via by Michael Strauss

As an astrophysicist, I am always struck by the fact that even the wildest science-fiction stories tend to be distinctly human in character. No matter how exotic the locale or how unusual the scientific concepts, most science fiction ends up being about quintessentially human (or human-like) interactions, problems, foibles and challenges. This is what we respond to; it is what we can best understand. In practice, this means that most science fiction takes place in relatively relatable settings, on a planet or spacecraft. The real challenge is to tie the story to human emotions, and human sizes and timescales, while still capturing the enormous scales of the Universe itself.

Just how large the Universe actually is never fails to boggle the mind. We say that the observable Universe extends for tens of billions of light years, but the only way to really comprehend this, as humans, is to break matters down into a series of steps, starting with our visceral understanding of the size of the Earth. A non-stop flight from Dubai to San Francisco covers a distance of about 8,000 miles – roughly equal to the diameter of the Earth. The Sun is much bigger; its diameter is just over 100 times Earth’s. And the distance between the Earth and the Sun is about 100 times larger than that, close to 100 million miles. This distance, the radius of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, is a fundamental measure in astronomy; the Astronomical Unit, or AU. The spacecraft Voyager 1, for example, launched in 1977 and, travelling at 11 miles per second, is now 137 AU from the Sun.

But the stars are far more distant than this. The nearest, Proxima Centauri, is about 270,000 AU, or 4.25 light years away. You would have to line up 30 million Suns to span the gap between the Sun and Proxima Centauri. The Vogons in Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) are shocked that humans have not travelled to the Proxima Centauri system to see the Earth’s demolition notice; the joke is just how impossibly large the distance is.