Sunday, April 26, 2015

It Came Out of the Basement

Via by Malcolm Smith

Up to a couple of months ago, I always regarded imaginary childhood friends in the same light as pickpockets: I'd heard about them, but never had any direct or indirect experience of them. I never had an imaginary friend as a child. None of my friends had, that I know of. I never met any adult who told me he had had one as a child, or that his children had one. Indeed, the only references to imaginary friends I had ever read were in fiction. Then, I came across the Fortean Times publication, It Happened to Me!, volume 3, in which ordinary people told of their extraordinary experiences. (I reviewed volume 2 previously.) Here, several people described their own, or their children's imaginary friends. Significantly, they all recognized them as imaginary, and invisible. (One did say that she saw her "friend" briefly, but I suspect that was with the mind's eye. Then, squirreled in among them, on page 36, was a story of something quite different, and quite weird.

Englishman, John Burke was the middle of three children. As he explained, when he was aged four, they lived in a five story building with a basement entered by a trapdoor. He and his little sister were forbidden to enter it because its steps were considered unsafe but, in any case, the trapdoor was too heavy for them to open. However, one day he was sitting on the stairs about six feet from the entrance to the basement when he saw the trapdoor begin to open. Just them, he became paralysed. Unable to speak or move, he watched as, out of the basement, climbed an elflike creature as tall as he was, dressed in green and brown, and wearing a pointed hat.

The creature sat down beside him and spoke in a "strange clicking and whistling language" which he could not understand. Somehow, however, he gained the impression that its name was Frick Frick. Finally, the creature returned to the basement and, as soon as the trapdoor was shut, the paralysis left him, and he was able to go about his normal life.

Jinn Possession as a Form of Cultural Resistance in Morocco

Via by Mohammed Maarouf and Paul Willis

The maraboutic scene continues today across the Moroccan countryside with many holy maraboutic shrines still dotting the landscape with their white exterior walls, domed shapes, and inside imbued with saintly chants, dances and perfumes. Maraboutic rituals from jinn evictions to trance dances appear to fulfill individual needs, especially psychological and emotional ones producing comfort, hope and relief from uncertainty, anomie and unhappiness. They also respond to the immediate needs of society by trying to answer to problems of sickness and economic and social malaise, and maintain social cohesion.

Folk music thrives with a plethora of maraboutic spirits and tunes evoked in ecstatic trance dances (hadras) and jinn evictions. The epistemic foundations of these practices are bizarre to the schooled who may rationalize things in terms of material empirical beliefs, and for whom these pursuits seem to be mystifying rather than mystic, serving finally only social and political obfuscation.

But we argue that the surviving and still-working culture of possession and maraboutism may indeed shed light on what most Moroccans feel towards the current political and economic order and how they may resist political domination and economic injuries. Deep down in their cultural logics, possession rituals and trance dancing can be understood as a form of cultural resistance against domination.

There are many strands to our argument. Theoretically speaking, spirit possession presupposes the permeability of the body; powerful external forces which could not be assimilated in their abstract forms enter as divinities, ancestors, ghosts, jinn, and have a hold on the body. They are still seen as separate and distinct— certainly detachable—from the body, ethnically alien and foreign to the group. But they are somehow known and capable of some bidding and exist within a daily realm. It is a way of sensing incomprehensibly large and abstract structural forces which cannot be named directly in local cultural and concrete terms.

We argue that there are challenging forms in this mystic soil suitable for transplant to modern dilemmas. For instance, the spectral mythic court assembled during jinn eviction (like the court of Bouya Omar, Ben Yeffu, Sidi Chamharouch…) is at least a court—more than most Moroccans get in normal social life for the many social and economic injuries to which they are subject.

Young Girl Claims She Saw Heaven After Falling 30 Feet


Twelve-year-old Annabel Beam was only nine years old when she fell 30 feet from a tree and claimed she saw heaven.

As Fox News Insider reports, “Annabel Beam was just five years old when she was diagnosed with two incurable disorders.”

The two life-threatening diseases affected her digestive system — but after she fell from that tree in 2011, she was asymptomatic and no longer needed medication, her mother Christy revealed.

No scientific explanation has been found for the disappearance of both diseases, but Annabel’s family thinks it has to do with Annabel claiming she saw heaven after she hit her head.

“I saw heaven. It was really bright, and I saw my Mimi who had died a couple years back. That’s how I knew I was in heaven,” Annabel said Tuesday on “Fox & Friends.”

Annabel’s story has now been chronicled by her mother, Christy Beam, in a new book called “Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing.”

The Star-Telegram spoke with Christy, who said what made her and her husband really believe her daughter’s story was Annabel’s claim she saw a little girl who Jesus said was her sister.

Christy had suffered a miscarriage before having Annabel and believes that child is who her daughter saw.

10 Ancient Mass Graves We’ve Only Recently Found

Via by Elizabeth S. Anderson

Mass graves are fascinating. They are filled with tens, hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people all buried together. These people are usually casualties of war, disease, large-scale famine, or just the unlucky victims of rituals.
10. Olympic Mass Grave

While constructing a relief road for the 2012 London Olympics in 2009, construction workers found an ancient mass grave in Weymouth, England.

At first, there were questions about who the deceased were and how they got there. However, after their teeth were examined, it was discovered the skeletons were not of ancient Britons and Saxons. Instead, they were Scandinavian Vikings thought to have been killed and buried between A.D. 910–1030.

The Scandinavian Vikings had sword marks on their jaws and upper spines, and their heads were cut off and placed neatly beside the bodies before they were buried. This indicates they were executed and were probably war captives.

About 51 headless Vikings were found in the grave, all of them male, with tests on 10 of them revealing they died between their late teens and early twenties. The lack of jewels, weapons, and clothing in the grave shows they were buried naked.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

New species of terror bird discovered

Via by Laura Geggel

About 3.5 million years ago, carnivorous birds with hooked beaks standing 10 feet (3 meters) tall roamed parts of South America in search of prey. Now, researchers have found a nearly complete skeleton of a new species of these so-called terror birds, and are learning surprising details about their hearing and anatomy.

Researchers found the fossil in 2010 on a beach in Mar del Plata, a city on the eastern coast of Argentina. To their delight, the fossil is the most complete skeleton of a terror bird ever found, with more than 90 percent of its bones preserved, said the study's lead researcher, Federico Degrange, an assistant researcher of vertebrate paleontology at the Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias de la Tierra and the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina.

The scientists named the new species Llallawavis scagliai: "Llallawa" because it means "magnificent" in Quechua, a language native to the people of the central Andes, and "avis," which means "bird" in Latin. The species name honors the famed Argentine naturalist Galileo Juan Scaglia (1915-1989).

Given its extraordinary condition, the fossil has helped researchers study the terror bird's anatomy in detail. The specimen is the first known fossilized terror bird with a complete trachea and complete palate (the roof of the mouth). It even includes the intricate bones of the creature's ears, eye sockets, brain box and skull, providing scientists with an unprecedented look at the flightless bird's sensory capabilities.

Earthworms rain from the sky over Norway


The early bird soars above the mountains and fjords, attempting to catch the worm. Except in Norway, the worms are flying too.

From the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder to the residents of Shirley in Croydon in 1998, the rainfall of frogs, fish and even apples has caused a sensation. Yesterday (local time), worms joined the cast of unlikely objects to descend from the heavens.

The claimed phenomenon of "raining earthworms" on the mountains of Norway was viewed, by some, as a precursor for the end of days. "Repent," wrote one social media sage, "the apocalypse is nigh."

It is thought the earthworms - numbering several hundred, according to reports - were lifted from the ground by up-currents of wind, possibly a tornado. They were then deposited on top of ice many miles away from their original resting place. The worms may, meteorologists say, have been in the upper atmosphere - almost space worms.

Human hibernation possible? Scientists eye new space exploration tech


Researchers are looking to apply hibernation-like techniques already used in medicine for space travel. Trials to test if ‘freezing’ a person for weeks is okay are already underway.

Space scientists clearly see what benefits hibernation could have for the future of space exploration: reduction of food, water, and waste, smaller living quarters, less weight required for supplies, and last but not least, a reduced psychological impact on crew members.

“We see the science has advanced enough to put some of the science fiction into the realm of science reality,” Leopold Summerer, head of advanced concepts team of the European Space Agency, one of the operators of the ISS told The Smithsonian media outlet.

“It doesn’t mean we will have hibernating astronauts anytime soon, but we are learning from nature how to understand some of the things that happen to animals during hibernation, such as preventing bone loss or preventing muscle loss. This is already something that would be a great benefit for long-distance spaceflight,” he added.

A recent NASA-sponsored research project studied the idea of putting astronauts into a state of torpor – or hibernation – for weeks. However, the project now requires further financing.

'Gateway to Hell' fiery pit found in China


Geologists have been investigating a glowing orange hole that opened up on a Chinese mountain.

The peculiar spectacle was first discovered around a week ago by builders and local villagers near Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The intense heat and bright orange glow of the hole led to it being nicknamed the "Gateway to Hell", a similar moniker to the "Door to Hell" natural gas fire in Turkmenistan which has been burning continuously for over 40 years.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Woman becomes genius after skiing accident

Via by Raziye Akkoc

An anonymous American woman has told her rare story of how a ski accident left her with incredible mental abilities.

She revealed to readers of that she has acquired savant syndrome after she suffered a fall on the slopes during a family holiday.

An individual with savant syndrome has "remarkable, and sometimes spectacular, [musical, mathematical, artistic, etc] talents", David Hiles, De Montfort university lecturer, explained online.

Dr J. Langdon Down, (the doctor who recognised Down's syndrome) first "properly recognised" the ability in 1887, the psychologist added.

The anonymous author of the piece said that she has the "rare mental phenomenon" which has given her the ability to remember incredibly well. She explained how she can draw diagrams of "thousands of places, with thousands of rooms, [and] branches". doorways.

She realised her abilities soon after the accident which happened during her final year of university. The author said when she was "halfway down the hill, at a speed that was definitely too fast, on a hill that was turning icy quick, I caught an edge and went flying".

She hit something "fierce" and lost consciousness. Initially she assumed she was "OK" because she could feel her fingers and toes, still had her vision and there was no blood.

She admitted she felt pain in her left arm but ignored it to continue her holiday - she kept skiing and ignored an injury which she believed would be an "easy fix" dislocation.

It was only after a night of "hell", drinking alcohol to take the pain away and driving herself back to university the next day that the author went to hospital.

'Alien' signal turns out to be microwave oven

Via by Michelle Starr

Unexplained radio waves aren't uncommon at radio telescopes. But while it's probable that some of these signals are from outer space, the source of a mysterious type of radio signal known as perytons is something a little closer to home.

These signals are very similar to the dispersion of an astrophysical pulse through tenuous cold plasma -- what is known as a "fast radio burst." These FRBs are unexplained to this day... but the origin of the peryton has now been revealed.

"Until now, the physical origin of the dispersion-mimicking perytons had remained a mystery. We have identified strong out-of-band emission at 2.3-2.5 GHz associated with several peryton events," wrote Emily Petroff and her team at Australia's Parkes Observatory in a paper uploaded to arXiv.

"Subsequent tests revealed that a peryton can be generated at 1.4 GHz when a microwave oven door is opened prematurely and the telescope is at an appropriate relative angle."

This means that if you open a microwave door before it has finished microwaving, it releases a short but strong radio signal. When a radio telescope is angled towards the direction of that microwave, it will pick up that signal -- which bears a strong resemblance to a FRB.

There is one key difference, though: perytons are visible over a wide field-of-view, indicating that they are in the near field (close to us); FRBs, on the other hand, emanate from a single source. Moreover, Petroff noted, they predominantly occurred on weekdays and during office hours.

In order to discover the origin of perytons, Petroff and her team installed a real-time radio interference monitor on the site.

Earth's Mysterious Hum Explained

Via by Charles Q. Choi

Even planets can get a bad case of tinnitus, according to a new study that explains Earth's mysterious, never-ending hum.

Scientists have long known that earthquakes can make the Earth sing like a bell for days or months. However, in the late 1990s, seismologists discovered the world also constantly vibrates at very low frequencies even when there are no quakes. This so-called microseismic activity is too faint for humans to feel.

Now, researchers say ocean waves are the culprit behind these mysterious tremors.

Many scientists had previously turned to ocean waves to explain our planet's unusual humming. In one theory, scientists proposed the vibrations were generated by huge ocean waves, which can extend all the way down to the seafloor. The waves can shake the Earth as they tumble over seafloor ridges and underwater continental shelves. Another idea suggested colliding ocean waves triggered the tremors.

But neither idea could account for the entire range of vibrations seen on earthquake sensors. The new study combines both of these ideas into one model that accounts for these microseismic signals.

'Dwarf planet' Ceres spawns giant mystery

Via by Mariette Le Roux

First classified a planet, then an asteroid and then a "dwarf planet" with some traits of a moon -- the more scientists learn about Ceres, the weirder it becomes.

And new observations of the sphere of rock and ice circling our Sun between Mars and Jupiter have added to the mystery, researchers said Monday.

Astrophysicists have been looking to a $473-million (446-million-euro) mission to test theories that Ceres is a water-rich planetary "embryo" -- a relic from the birth of the Solar System some 4.5 billion years ago.

But an early batch of data from NASA's Dawn probe, unveiled at a conference of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), may have made the Ceres riddle even greater.

In orbit around Ceres since March 6 after a seven-and-a-half-year trek, Dawn peered at two bright spots on its surface deemed to be telltales of its chemical and physical ID.

But instead of explaining the spots, analysis found the two seemed to "behave distinctly differently," said Federico Tosi, who works on Dawn's Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIR).

While Spot 1 is colder than its immediate surroundings, Spot 5 is not.

The spots are two of a known dozen or so which on photographs taken by Dawn resemble lights shining on a dull grey surface.