Friday, July 31, 2015
Professor Matthew Bailes has advised against attempting to correspond with an extraterrestrial race.
Last week Professor Stephen Hawking and a number of other prominent scientists announced the launch of a new $100 million initiative designed to find evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life.
The endeavor will be one of the most thorough and extensive ever undertaken and will focus on picking up signs of radio signals that might have been sent by someone else out in space.
While listening for alien messages could help us learn more about our place in the universe however not everyone believes that attempting to communicate with aliens would be in our best interests.
Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University in Melbourne, who is himself in charge of the initiative's efforts to find signs of life on other planets, maintains that establishing communications with an alien race capable of sending signals over vast distances could potentially lead humanity to ruin.
When does aging really begin? Two Northwestern University scientists now have a molecular clue. In a study of the transparent roundworm C. elegans, they found that adult cells abruptly begin their downhill slide when an animal reaches reproductive maturity.
A genetic switch starts the aging process by turning off cell stress responses that protect the cell by keeping important proteins folded and functional. The switch is thrown by germline stem cells in early adulthood, after the animal starts to reproduce, ensuring its line will live on.
While the studies were conducted in worms, the findings have implications for humans, the researchers report. The genetic switch and other components identified by the scientists as playing a role in aging are conserved in all animals, including humans, offering targets for future study. (C. elegans has a biochemical environment similar to that of humans and is a popular research tool for the study of the biology of aging and as a model of human disease.)
Farmers have been turning to 'water witches' to help them find water during the state's driest periods.
The demand for dowsing, the age-old practice of using either a forked stick or two metal rods to locate hidden resources under the ground, has been on the rise lately, mostly due to the extreme droughts to have hit parts of the United States and the desperation of the people affected by them.
Dowsing is thought to have originated in 15th century Germany where it was first used to find precious metals however it soon became synonymous with the hunt for hidden sources of water.
While scientists these days tend to shun the practice as nothing more than pseudoscience, dowsing is still proving popular - especially in the worst hit regions of California where some farmers have come to rely on the efforts of dowsers to locate water for their crops.
"It’s an energy of some sort... like how some people can run a Ouija board," said Marc Mondavi, a wine merchant who discovered that he had the ability to dowse when he was only 17.
"You either have it or you don’t. You can’t learn how to get it, but if you do have it, you have to learn how to use it. It took me years to get my confidence. At first, you are a bit leery of telling someone they have to go dig a $50k hole. What if nothing is there? But over time, I learned to trust."
If you suddenly woke up inside a mental hospital, do you think you could convince everyone that you’re not crazy and to let you go home? Convincing the world you’re sane may not be as easy as you think. It is shockingly easy in the United States and around the world to be wrongfully and involuntarily committed to an insane asylum.
10. Banking Conspiracy Theorist
Gustl Mollath was an ordinary German man who made a living by restoring vintage cars. But then he stumbled upon a banking conspiracy so grand that the world thought he was crazy enough that he was institutionalized for seven years.
While Mollath made a humble living working on cars, his wife worked at one of Germany’s largest banks, HypoVereinsbank. It was through his wife and her work that Mollath discovered a massive tax evasion scheme undertaken by the German bank. Mollath’s discovery quickly caused conflict in the marriage. After allegations of domestic violence between the couple, the marriage was heading for divorce. Mollath took what he knew about the bank’s tax evasion scheme to the German public. He then filed a large criminal complaint against HypoVereinsbank and its employees—including his wife. He claimed that HypoVereinsbank was making illicit money transfers to Switzerland that would soon be labeled money laundering.
At first, the German media ignored Mollath’s claims, but the German authorities did not. Mollath’s wife went forward with the divorce and told the authorities that he had slashed her tires. She also claimed that he was abusive following his discovery of the banking conspiracy. German prosecutors charged Mollath and used his criminal complaint against HypoVereinsbank as “evidence that he suffered from paranoid delusions.” They successfully had him involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.
Though Mollath remained locked away in an insane asylum, not everyone thought he was crazy. Bloggers, activists, and conspiracy theorists began to investigate Mollath’s claims against HypoVereinsbank and found them to be correct.
Many years later, an internal report by HypoVereinsbank that proved the tax evasion and money laundering scheme was leaked to the public by a German newspaper. Mollath’s claims were found to be true and led to HypoVereinsbank being raided by German police on suspicion of tax fraud. Mollath was released from the mental hospital by a court.
9. NYPD Whistle-Blower
Adrian Schoolcraft was a New York Police Department (NYPD) cop. That is, until he decided he had to take a stand against corruption in the NYPD.
Officer Schoolcraft first started his effort to expose wrongdoings by his fellow NYPD officers in 2008. He secretly taped conversations among the NYPD from 2008 to 2009. The tapes contained evidence of widespread corruption that included the use of illegal arrest quotas that led to many wrongful arrests in New York City.
As Schoolcraft began compiling his tapes and voicing his dissent, he began experiencing harassment from other officers in the NYPD. When Officer Schoolcraft took his concerns to his superiors, they dismissed his claims and suggested that Schoolcraft was losing his mind. They recommended that he be given psychological treatment. When Officer Schoolcraft did meet with an NYPD psychologist, the psychologist made him surrender his weapons and Schoolcraft was reassigned to a menial desk job.
Schoolcraft persevered with his allegations of corruption and got his claims to the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau. The NYPD responded by putting Schoolcraft under “forced monitoring.” Soon after, an NYPD lieutenant confiscated the notes Schoolcraft had compiled as evidence of the corruption. Schoolcraft then received a call from his father, a former policeman himself, warning him about actions the NYPD may take against him. Mere hours later, members of the NYPD invaded Schoolcraft’s apartment after obtaining the key by telling Schoolcraft’s landlord that he was suicidal.
Just before the NYPD officers raided Schoolcraft’s apartment, he turned on two tape recorders to record the incident. After the NYPD officers broke into Schoolcraft’s apartment, they interrogated him before handcuffing him, taking him away, and involuntarily committing him to psychiatric ward in the nearby Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.
Schoolcraft was held in the psychiatric ward against his will. He was handcuffed to his bed and prevented from using the telephone to call for help at the orders of the NYPD.
After six days, Schoolcraft was able to leave the mental hospital and promptly filed a lawsuit against the NYPD and the mental hospital that held him against his will at the nefarious orders of the police. After his release, Schoolcraft was indefinitely suspended without pay from the NYPD. NYPD officers continued monitoring Schoolcraft and visiting him at his apartment for multiple weeks. Schoolcraft’s allegations of corruption, arrest quotas, and underreporting among the NYPD were later vindicated by the Village Voice.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Scientists have determined that placebos can be effective even for patients who know they are taking one.
Despite containing no active ingredients at all placebos have proven surprisingly effective for some patients in treating a wide range of ailments and scientists have long struggled to understand the neurobiological processes responsible for this effect.
Even odder still is that, according to a new study, the placebo's potency can continue in a patient long after they become aware of the fact that what they are taking is not real medicine.
"We're still learning a lot about the critical ingredients of placebo effects," said Tor Wager of the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at the University of Colorado.
"What we think now is that they require both belief in the power of the treatment and experiences that are consistent with those beliefs. Those experiences make the brain learn to respond to the treatment as a real event."
DETROIT (AP) - Several hundred people attended a Mass at a Detroit Catholic church to protest an 8½-foot-tall bronze statue of Satan that crowds of people also lined up to see.
Satanic Temple had said it would unveil the statue Saturday at a Detroit location that only people with tickets would know. Hundreds lined up Saturday evening to get the tickets as Christian protesters rallied nearby.
Earlier Saturday, The Detroit News says 200-250 people attended Mass at St. Joseph Church in a protest against the Satanic event.
The group had hoped to place the statue at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City until Oklahoma's Supreme Court banned religious displays on Capitol grounds.
The Satanic Temple now says it wants to erect it outside Arkansas' statehouse, where a Ten Commandments monument also is planned.
The "largest public satanic ceremony in history"
A little before midnight on Saturday, a crowd of around 700 gathered in an old industrial warehouse a few blocks from the Detroit River for what they’d been told was the “largest public satanic ceremony in history.” Most of them professed to be adherents of Satanism, that loosely organized squad of the occult that defines itself as a religious group. Others came simply because they were curious. After all, Satanists exist in the popular psyche as those who casually sacrifice goats and impregnate Mia Farrow with Lucifer’s child; if this ceremony was indeed unprecedentedly big, who knew what could be in store?
The reality of the event — and of the contemporary Satanic movement at large — was tamer, and, if the Facebook pictures speak the truth, harmlessly festive: a cross between an underground rave and a meticulously planned Halloween party. They were there to publicly unveil a colossal bronze statue of Baphomet, the goat-headed wraith who, after centuries of various appropriations, is now the totem of contemporary Satanism. The pentagram, that familiar logo of both orthodox Satanists and disaffected teens, originated as a rough outline of Baphomet’s head.
The statue itself is impressive: almost nine feet tall, and weighing in at around a ton. The horned idol sits on a throne adorned with a pentagram, but it is the idol’s wings, and not his chair, that curiously evoke the Iron Throne from a certain celebrated HBO fantasy series. He has the jarring horns of a virile ram but the biceps of a guy who lifts four or five times a week. His legs, which are crossed, end not in feet but in hooves. It might seem more menacing if not for the two bronze-statue children standing on either side of him — a girl on his left; a boy on his right; both are looking up at him earnestly.
“Baphomet contains binary elements symbolizing a reconciliation of opposites, emblematic of the willingness to embrace, and even celebrate differences,” Jex Blackmore, who organized the unveiling, told TIME late Sunday night. In a sense, the statue is a stress test of American plurality: at what point does religious freedom make the people uncomfortable?
Forensic movies and TV shows are awesome, but they are often so very wrong about so many things. As a crime scene investigator myself, I hope this list clears things up for everyone.
10. DNA Testing Takes Time
DNA takes a long time. One of the newest technologies in DNA analysis is called RapidDNA and can reportedly give you results in 90 minutes, but it’s a newfangled innovation that isn’t widely used yet. It isn’t even approved by the FBI or compatible with their database.
The amount of time it takes to get DNA results isn’t as much about the speed of the instruments as it is about the backlog. Let’s say at one department there are 50 cases in one month, each with five DNA samples to be analyzed. That’s 250 DNA samples. Now let’s say this department has a RapidDNA instrument. While they are quick, these instruments can only process five samples at a time. So in a 24-hour period, the department can run the machine 16 times, meaning that even if someone is constantly at the machine, only 80 samples can be analyzed each day. Even after three days, this theoretical department still hasn’t gotten to all the samples that are waiting in line.
Now let’s say there’s a homicide and the lead detective has collected 30 DNA samples to be analyzed. He first has to wait in line for a few days. You might say, “Well, why don’t you get a machine that can analyze more samples at a time?” That’s very clever of you! But there is again a problem. The bigger machines have bigger plates that can run hundreds of samples at a time, but they can only be used once. Also, these larger machines are not RapidDNA systems, so it usually takes about three days for the samples to go through all the required steps even without backlog. So again, we have 250 DNA samples to run and use three plates with 100 slots. Two of those plates are full, and one of them is only half full. The analyst is not going to run that third plate when it’s only half full! That’s like throwing away money! So the investigation is going to have to wait until more crime is committed and more samples are collected to fill up that plate. No matter which system is used, DNA testing is going to take at least a few days. And that’s being optimistic!
9. Fingerprints Are Hard To Find
Fingerprints are not everywhere you look, and there are many ways that fingerprints can be ruined. Let’s look at a gun, for example. Guns are generally held by the grip, which is an area that’s all bumpy and textured so that it doesn’t slip in a person’s hand. This is very good for not dropping guns, but it’s terrible for leaving fingerprints. That person’s sebaceous oils will not be evenly applied onto the surface because the ridges of his fingerprints don’t touch the surface evenly. This leads to no visible print on the gun.
Now you ask, “What about the trigger? That’s not bumpy!” Again, you are quite the clever one, but there’s still a problem. Have you ever had your fingerprints taken? It’s a fairly delicate process. You must carefully touch your fingers to the paper without letting them slip so that the fingerprint doesn’t smudge. When someone pulls the trigger to the gun, it is very unlikely that their finger is going to stay so perfectly put that the oils deposited by their fingerprints aren’t smudged.
“Okay, wise guy. What if they touch the barrel?” You don’t have to be rude, I was getting to that. The barrel is the best hope for finding fingerprints. If fingerprints are to be found, that is generally where they are. But it’s still a little rare because an officer is not going to hand a fingerprint analyst a gun that is locked and loaded. They will first remove the magazine and empty the chamber. How do they do this? By handling the gun and touching it all over. Are they wearing gloves? Yes. Can delicate fingerprints survive being assaulted by gloved hands? Nope.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Part 1 of this article introduced you to two issues: (a) the 1967-1968 ABC show, The Invaders, which starred Roy Thinnes as a man doing his very best to thwart an alien invasion of the Earth; and (b) the matter of Mothman and a certain Indrid Cold – the latter being an alleged alien who changed the life of a West Virginian man, Woody Derenberger, in 1966. But that’s only the start of things.
I also mentioned in Part 1 how, in 1967, a certain episode of The Invaders was aired. Its title: “Panic.” It dealt with an alien (played by Robert Walker, Jr.) who is infected with a deadly virus. Anyone and everyone he touches is literally frozen to death in mere moments. It’s up to Vincent to try and bring the alien’s murderous reign to an end – which he does.
There are, however, some intriguing aspects of “Panic” that parallel the saga of Indrid Cold. A case of reality being stranger than fiction? Or vice versa? Of one influencing the other? Or something else? Well, let’s take a look.
As I noted in Part 1, “Panic” – broadcast on April 11, 1967 – is set in rural West Virginia. Few people with a knowledge of the Mothman/Indrid Cold saga will need telling that the vast majority of the mid-1960s events described in John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies, and in Gray Barker’s The Silver Bridge, occurred in rural parts of West Virginia.
It’s not long at all before the police are on the trail of the killer from the stars. They put out an alert for a young man dressed in a plaid shirt, the latter point being stressed more than once in the episode. It’s interesting to note that mysterious characters in plaid/checkered shirts pop up regularly in cases of the paranormal variety. And particularly so in cases involving a downright menacing entity that has become known as the “Grinning Man,” a character best avoided by one and all.
In January 1967, a new sci-fi series was launched on ABC. The brainchild of Larry Cohen and brought to life by QM Productions, it was titled The Invaders. It starred actor Roy Thinnes as a man named David Vincent. He finds himself plunged into a nightmarish, paranoia-filled world in which hostile aliens are secretly attempting to take over the Earth. Over the course of two seasons and 43 episodes, we see Vincent doing his utmost to thwart the invasion and warn the public, the media, the military, and the government of the growing extraterrestrial threat amongst us.
Although I’m not much of a fan of sci-fi (horror and mystery movies are more my thing), I do like The Invaders, which comes across like a combination of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Fugitive, and with more than a few Cold War fears thrown in, for good measure. Plus, it’s clear to see how the show inspired the likes of The X-Files and the short-lived 1990s series, Dark Skies.
About ten years ago I had the good fortune to meet Roy Thinnes, and I also conducted a very extensive interview with him about a year or so ago (which has not yet seen the light of day, but which hopefully will soon). And, every now and again, I’ll dig into my DVD collection of the show and watch a couple of episodes, which is what I did a few nights ago. In doing so, I noted something very intriguing.
One of the episodes I watched was titled “Panic.” It was first broadcast on April 11, 1967. The guest-star is Robert Walker, Jr., who plays an alien who uses the alias of Nick Baxter. There is, however, something very wrong with Baxter. He is infected with a deadly virus, one which has a bizarre effect on anyone he touches. The virus literally freezes them to death. It isn’t long before David Vincent is on the trail of the infected alien, who is causing havoc and death in rural West Virginia.
And on the matter of aliens roaming around West Virginia in the 1960s, it’s time to take a look at the next aspect of the curious story I present to you. Most people with an interest in UFOs, paranormal phenomena, and downright weirdness will know that West Virginia, in the mid to late 1960s, was an absolute hotbed of strange goings-on. And much of it was focused upon the town of Point Pleasant.
Almost anywhere you go, there are towns, streets, and locations with unusual names telling long-forgotten stories. That’s certainly the case with a rural road, hollow, abandoned railroad tunnel, and vanished whistle-stop in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, all sharing the same seemingly random name: Post Boy. If you believe the creepy local legend, the name comes from a young mail carrier who was murdered there long ago and now haunts the area. But this isn’t a simple case of a colorful urban legend overshadowing a mundane truth.
This time, the tale is a true story.
Back when Ohio was a new state and still nothing more than a sprawling wilderness on the frontier, small towns dotted the landscape, connected by old Indian trails turned into simple roads and stagecoach routes. The employees of the US Post Office–often young men with riding experience–delivered daily mail on foot and horseback along the network of crude roads; upon arriving in town, they would blow a horn to announce the mail’s arrival. This particular part of Ohio was serviced by the Coshocton-Freeport mail service route spanning approximately 40 miles.
Returning from Freeport on horseback with a saddle-bag of mail, 20-year-old William Cartmill was completely unaware that anything dangerous awaited him at the county line on September 9, 1825. Lying in wait behind the bushes there was John Funston, a 21-year-old, farmer carrying a rifle for “hunting”. William Johnston, a traveler who had kept pace with Cartmill, stopped just before that point to refill his canteen in the nearby creek when he suddenly heard a shot ring out, followed by a horrible scream. He ran to the scene only to find Cartmill shot in the back and bleeding from his mouth, dead. Funston approached him, feigning ignorance, and suggested they split up to alert any nearby neighbors.
From time to time, we have the sudden, inexplicable disappearances of people who have seemingly vanished off of the face of the earth. For whatever reasons, these people have seemed to be almost erased, as if swallowed up by the universe itself. Yet although these strange occurrences happen across the globe in various far flung locales, there sometimes comes an area in which these vanishings happen to an unsettling degree. These are places that seem to be in a way black holes that open up to draw in unfortunate souls and to essentially negate their existence, leaving a trail of enigmas in their wake. Once such hotspot of strange disappearances is a picturesque area in Vermont that for all appearances seems to be a pristine nature spot, yet has over the years has snatched away innocent souls who have never been heard from again. There is a dark underbelly to this place, and it has accrued a reputation as a place not only dripping with high strangeness, but also as a place from where some don’t return.
What has come to be known as the Bennington Triangle, also sometimes known rather ominously as the “Triangle of Doom,” lies within a quaint area of southwestern Vermont, within the Taconics and the Green Mountains, that is well known as an idyllic, scenic locale favored by fishermen, hunters, and hikers. This region was so named in a public radio broadcast in 1992 by New England paranormal author Joseph A. Citro to describe the locale of a number of mysterious disappearances that occurred there during a timeframe between 1945 and 1950. The borders of the Bennington Triangle are amorphous and ill-defined, but are are largely thought to be centered at Glastenbury Mountain and its surrounding towns, which include Bennington, Woodford, Shaftsbury, and Somerset. It is a beautiful and historic area, with the town of Bennington being one of the oldest chartered towns of colonial America and it holds various historical landmarks such as Vermont’s first church, the “Old First Church,” and numerous old logging settlements.
The Bennington Triangle has long been a hotspot for a wide range of paranormal phenomena, such as UFO sightings, Bigfoot, anomalous sounds, lights, shadow people, and various other inexplicable happenings since at least the 19th century. Native peoples of the area considered it a cursed region, and were said to shun venturing there, only daring to use it as a burial ground. Early loggers and settlers were startled by strange lights in the skies and many instances of “wild men” lurking within the dark woods, as well as enormous Thunderbirds and various specters. Stories also abounded of people venturing into the area to never come back, suffer miserable hardships, disease, or go stark raving insane. Yet for all of this high strangeness perhaps the most notorious and spooky stories to emerge from the so-called Bennington Triangle are its long history of unexplained, bizarre disappearances.