Monthly Archives: February, 2014

Out of Place Artifacts (OOPArts)

Some objects found around the world seem to defy rational explanation.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Today we’re going outside with pick axe and shovel in hand, dig through some ancient strata, and unearth something that looks like it shouldn’t be there. In fact, upon closer inspection, it definitely shouldn’t be there. Throughout recorded history, diggers — both amateur and professional — have been finding objects that appear to be modern or made of advanced materials, but are located in old rock or other places where they shouldn’t, or couldn’t, be.classic-tape2 Such objects have become known as out of place artifacts, or “OOPArts” for short. An OOPArt, by definition, is one that contradicts our existing understanding of history. Some take this to its apparently logical next step, and believe that OOPArts prove history wrong.

In this episode we’re going to take a quick look at some of the most famous OOPArts and see what’s known about each, and hopefully see if we have enough information to conclude that known history must be wrong. A lot of objects that show up on published lists consist of artworks — sculptures or carvings — that make ambiguous depictions, which some interpret as being out of place. One example is a pictograph from Egypt that some say shows an electric lamp. We’re not going to include these today because they’re most likely misinterpretations. Instead we want hard, physical proof of items that couldn’t and shouldn’t exist, but do.

The Baigong Pipes

The Baigong Pipes

Two of the best known have already been covered in previous Skeptoid episodes. The Baigong Pipes, featured in episode 181, were said to be a network of metal pipes buried in native rock said to be 150,000 years old. Some believed they proved the existence of an ancient culture of aliens; others actually studied the pipes and found that they not only weren’t very pipe-like, they were simply petrified wood and bamboo that had washed into a basin and later solidified.

Not all turn out to be misidentifications. The Antikythera Mechanism, featured in episode 184, was a Greek clockwork mechanism found in a shipwreck, and it did indeed represent knowledge that was about a thousand years off from our previous understanding. The find turned out to be really important, and we changed our models of ancient technology as a result. Since it was found, other artifacts have continued to fill in the gaps. This is the model we hope to see for all candidate OOPArts. No misidentification; nothing open to interpretation; just solid physical evidence that changes our understanding. So let’s see if any of the other famous examples fit the bill.

The Coso Artifact

The coso artifact sliced in two

The coso artifact sliced in two

In 1961, three people were out collecting geodes and other interesting rocks for the rock and gem shop they operated in Olancha, CA, little more than a truck stop in the Owens Valley west of Death Valley. When they put their specimens under the diamond blade saw to cut them open, one of them jammed the blade. It had a piece of metal in the center.

It became known as the Coso Artifact, named for the Coso Range of mountains in which it was found. Spark plug collectors all agree that the object inside the rock, as depicted in the one existing X-ray, is a 1920s Champion spark plug. Rocks take a very long time to form, certainly a lot longer than 40 years; so the Coso Artifact has become an icon of OOPArts, and is popularly believed to constitute an insoluble problem.

Unfortunately, the real secret of the Coso Artifact is that . . .

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5 Things I’ve noticed about… Homeopathic Medicine

By via The Soap Box

homeopathyHomeopathic medicine is probably one of the oldest forms of alternative medicine there is. Infact it was invented in the late 1700’s by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, and has been with ever since.

Now there are lots of claims about homeopathy and what it does, and after looking into them I’ve noticed several different things about homeopathic medicine.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about homeopathic medicine:

5. You can make it at home.

Homeopathic medicine is very easy to make. You don’t even need a complex chemistry lab inorder to make it. You can make it right in your kitchen!

Got a headache and you want to make some homeopathic aspirin inorder to get rid of it? Well here’s what you do:

Step 1: Get one tablet of aspirin and about ten bottles of water.Step 2: Crush aspirin and put it into one of the bottles of water.

Step 3: Shake up bottle.

Step 4: Take one drop from said bottle and put it into the next bottle.

Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 until done doing so with all bottles.

Now if you do all of this you will have homeopathic aspirin and your headache should go away in a few hours… same as any other normal headache would if you were to take nothing at all.

Actually this might not work, and this is because…

4. You’re suppose to use something that can cause the problems that you currently have inorder to cure them.

homeopathy 803_250pxInorder for homeopathic medicine to actually work (atleast according to people who make and deal with homeopathic medicine) you don’t use heavily diluted medicine that would cure whatever it is that you have. What you actually are suppose to use is something that could cause the symptoms that you’re having rather than actually cure them. Think of it as a kind of like a vaccine, minus any backing from the scientific and medical communities.

So if you want to cure that headache of yours using heavily diluted aspirin isn’t going to work. What you actually want to use is something that can cause a headache if you take it in it’s pure form, like beer, only it has to be heavily diluted.

So using homeopathy logic the best thing to take when you have a headache is a ball park beer, because those things are watered down all to hell.

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The Illuminati: Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know

The Illuminati: Part I:


The Illuminati: Part II:


The Illuminati: Part 3:


The Top Ten Reasons global temperature hasn’t warmed for the last 15 years

Watts Up With That?

Explanation #10 for the pause …”coincidence” has just completed the top 10 list, thanks Gavin! Party on! Excellent!

top10_pause_explanations

There is a new paper by Gavin Schmidt et al that comes in as #10 in the growing list of explanations for ‘the pause’. Now that we have a top ten list, let’s review:

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The Pineal Gland: Mysticism and Neuroscience

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know

The Dangers of Magical Thinking in the Martial Arts

By Jeff Westfall via Violent metaphors

Recently on Facebook I saw a video of a Finnish martial artist named Jukka Lampila who called what he did Empty Force or EFO, and claimed that with it he could control an attacker without touching him. His Facebook page proclaims him the founder of EFO. The video begins with clips of Lampila fending off ‘attacks’ from his students. blue_hands_on_glass_250pxHe waves his arms; sometimes he twitches, and in each case the ‘attacker’ seems to be magically thrown to the mat without ever being touched by Lampila. He also shows an example of ‘controlling’ someone on the ground. He kneels calmly beside a supine student with the back of his hand gently resting on the man’s chest. “I don’t need to use any energy” he asserts as the student appears to try with all his might to regain his feet to no avail. It is a sad display of martial arts charlatanism.

Unfortunately for Mr. Lampila, a group of skeptics were in attendance this day, and several of them volunteered to be ‘controlled’ by Mr. Lampila. His chosen method was to have the volunteer try to push him. He failed in each case to stop them from doing so. The skeptics were admirably polite, giving Mr. Lampila an ample number of opportunities to prove his claims and not demonstrably gloating at his failures. When one of them calmly asked him if he would like to demonstrate his defense against a punching attack Mr. Lampila declined. He later invited everyone to pay for and attend his seminar the next day!

I’ve been involved in the martial arts since 1971. I’ve been teaching martial arts since 1975. In this time, and long before I became aware of formal scientific skepticism I grew to see that a lot of people are drawn to martial arts styles that are based on pseudo-science. The arts that are the biggest culprits by far are the arts that base their claims of effectiveness on developing and manipulating a purported form of internal energy.Tantra_prana Whether you label it Chi, Ki, Prana, “The Force”, or Empty Force it has never to my knowledge been proven to exist through robust, double-blind, replicated scientific experiments. If it is energy, where are the scientific instruments that can detect its levels? Is this energy chemical, radiant, nuclear, kinetic, electro-magnetic, mechanical, or ionizing? Is this energy in the form of waves or particles? At the risk of building a straw man, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that practitioners and apologists for these arts would say that science doesn’t know everything, and that “chi power” is as yet unexplained by science. If this were plausible, wouldn’t it follow that a large number of physicists would be pursuing a future Nobel Prize by attempting to prove the existence of this vital energy?

In the last 43 years I’ve seen quite a few ‘demonstrations’ of this power. I have yet to be impressed. Mostly what I’ve seen were sad carnival sideshow tricks, many of which I can easily explain if not reproduce, without resorting to magic. The rest were feckless displays like that of Mr. Lampila.

I assert that on the rare occasions when practitioners of these styles defend themselves effectively it is through properly applied principles of leverage and body mechanics, and not the magical power of Ki.

This phenomenon raises further questions. First, what possesses people to train in such a system of martial arts? Second, what is in the minds of people who already train in such systems and continue to do so after seeing their ‘Master’ embarrassed as Mr. Lampila was in the video?

As for what draws people in the first place, I will cite what scientific skepticism has taught me.

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Government’s lies feed the persistence of conspiracy theories

By Damon Cline via The Augusta Chronicle

Get out your tinfoil hats. We’re going to talk conspiracy theories.

Xfiles_300pxIn general, the peculiarities of how we discern the theories we believe from those we don’t. And, specifically, what those beliefs or disbeliefs say about us as individuals.

First, I’ll make the assumption that if you are reading a newspaper column, or at least recognize the names “Mulder” and “Scully,” you are familiar with conspiracy theories. They range from mainstream speculations many people believe, such as John F. Kennedy assassination theories, to fringe concepts that many people dismiss, such as the “chemtrail” theory that posits the government is delivering biological agents through the white clouds trailing high-flying jets.

FOR THE PURPOSES of this column, I’ll focus on theories purported to involve the U.S. government because those have the most widespread social, political and economic impacts. Films such as Men in Black and Independence Day would have no pop-culture currency if not for the widely held suspicion the government has possessed alien life forms and technology since 1947.

Conspiracy theories persist because – in addition to a constant spate of broken promises (Yucca Mountain, “Read my lips – no new taxes,” “You can keep your health insurance”) – the government flat-out lies to us.

The Trinity (nuclear test) explosion, 16 ms after detonation. July 16, 1945, White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico. Image: Wikipedia

The Trinity (nuclear test) explosion, 16 ms after detonation on July 16, 1945 at the White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico.
Image: Wikipedia

The thunderous boom and sunlike glare that alarmed New Mexico residents in the early morning hours of July 16, 1945, was not the world’s first nuclear weapon. It was an explosion at a “remotely located ammunitions” depot. The second attack on the U.S.S. Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin on Aug. 4, 1964, the very attack that gave President Johnson the push to send troops to Vietnam? It never happened.

Yes, the truth is out there, but when it finally materializes (41 years, in the case of the Gulf of Tonkin incident) the public usually has forgotten, or no longer cares, about the lie.

Which leads us back to the whole point of this exercise: What makes us doubt the official party line in some instances and not others?

One might assume a person who believes in a JFK conspiracy theory should believe most, if not all, conspiracy theories. After all, couldn’t a government powerful enough to snuff out the leader of the free world in public view, and successfully cover it up for decades, be capable of doing anything?

But that’s not how we think. We base decisions on our overall level of trust in government – in a nameless, faceless bureaucratic sense – and our specific viewpoint on whoever happens to be in the Oval Office at the time. And I believe emotions shape those decisions as much as hard evidence.

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Will Psychics “Cure” Cancer?

Carrie PoppyBy Carrie Poppy via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

The online psychic industry is a seemingly bottomless collection of clairvoyants, tarot card readers, psychic healers, and other people in purple outfits. Like its predecessor, the psychic telephone hotline, and its contemporary, the “internet modeling” industry (which involves less clothing and more talking than the more traditional modeling industry), online psychics typically charge several dollars a minute for personal encounters, with some charging as much as $200 for a 30-minute session, making seeing a psychic often as expensive as seeing a therapist.

psychic 856_250pxThose who doubt the existence of psychic abilities point to the fact that clairvoyance would go against everything we know about science. But the vagueness of psychic powers poses a real problem when someone offers them for a price: when a psychic’s service cannot be pegged down by science, the practitioner can claim to do nearly anything… including curing cancer, ending suicidal depression, or bringing a lover back who is long, long gone. In fact, I once had a psychic tell me that my newly-ended four year relationship was “not over yet.” Fortunately for me and my ex, she was wrong.

But what happens when someone goes to a psychic for something really serious? I visited one of the most popular live-psychic sites on the internet, Oranum, and spent five hours speaking to thirteen of their psychics. Knowing I would never again have the patience for such a venture, I picked the boldest claim I could think of: I told each psychic that I had serious, life-threatening cancer. At first, that was all the information they got. But if asked, I was prepared with a back story: It was stage 3 ovarian cancer, and among other treatments, my doctor wanted to me undergo chemotherapy. I instead preferred, I said, “to find a spiritual solution.”

How many of the psychics would offer to help me skip medicine in favor of psychic healing?

Why don't you remember this headline?

Why don’t you remember this headline?

The first psychic I spoke to said that she could not tell me to stop seeing my doctor. “That’s against the law, okay?” she said, looking directly in the camera, at me and the others who were tuned into her “channel.” We were all typing in a group, trying to grab her attention, but the word “cancer” had apparently won. Someone else in the group thought she was talking to them anyway.

“Why are you talking about cancer? Oh my god, do I have cancer?!” they asked.

I quickly left, satisfied that this psychic had refused to endorse my choice not to get real treatment from a real doctor.

The second psychic, a young woman with only two other people in her chat room, was eager to  .  .  .

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Reality Testing and Metacognitive Failure

steven_novellaBy Steven Novella via NeuroLogica Blog

Imagine coming home to your spouse and finding someone who looks and acts exactly like your spouse, but you have the strong feeling that they are an imposter. They don’t “feel” like your spouse. Something is clearly wrong. In this situation most people conclude that their spouse is, in fact, an imposter. In some cases this has even led to the murder of the “imposter” spouse.

Capragas-dellusion_300pxThis is a neurological syndrome known as Capgras delusion – a sense of hypofamiliarity, that someone well known to you is unfamiliar. There is also the opposite of this – hyperfamiliarity, the sense that a stranger is familiar to you, known as Fregoli delusion. Sufferers often feel that they are being stalked by someone known to them but in disguise.

Psychologists and neuroscientists are trying to establish the wiring or “neuroanatomical correlates” that underlie such phenomena. What are the circuits in our brains that result in these thought processes? A recent article by psychologist Philip Garrans explores these issues in detail, but with appropriate caution. We are dealing with complex concepts and some fuzzy definitions. But in there are some clear mental phenomena that reveal, at least to an extent, how our minds work.

The “reality testing” model discussed by Garran reflects the overall hierarchical organization of the brain. There are circuits that subconsciously create beliefs, impressions, or hypotheses. We also have “reality testing” circuits, specifically the right dorsolateral prefrontal circuitry, that examine these beliefs to see if they are internally consistent and also consistent with our existing model of reality. Delusions, such as Capgras and Fregoli, result from a “metacognitive failure” of these reality testing circuits.

dream_250pxGarran and others argue that dreams are a normal state we all experience in which our reality-testing circuitry is either off or hypofunctioning. This is why our dreaming selves accept dream events that are clearly internally inconsistent or at odds with our model of reality. When we wake up, if we remember our dream, we are often struck by how “bizarre” our dream was and marvel at how our dreaming self accepted the clearly unreal dream.

The question Garran explores is whether or not pathological delusional states are neuroloanatomically similar to the dreaming state. Both, he argues, may result from a failure of reality testing. Part of the problem of exploring this hypothesis is that “reality testing” is a broadly defined concept. What, exactly, is the process? It seems to be a higher level inference about what is likely to be real based upon logic, internal consistency, and existing knowledge.

Here is my own synthesis of what we currently know about how our brains work with respect to belief and reality testing:

There are multiple identified processes, acting mostly subconsciously, that “present” tentative beliefs or conclusions to our conscious awareness. These processes include our sensory perceptions, which are highly constructed and are not objectively reliable. Our brains not only construct our perceptions but give them meaning. neurons_200pxWe don’t just see shapes, we see objects that have a reality and a purpose. We also see people, who have emotional content, including familiarity. Locations also are imbued with a sense of familiarity or unfamiliarity.

Our memories are also highly constructed and malleable. We update our memories with new information every time we recall them. They become part of our dynamic internal model of reality.

There are also a host of biases and needs pushing our model of reality and our construction of events in a direction that is emotionally comforting and satisfying to us.

Further, we have a set of heuristics or inherent logic by which we, by default, attempt to make sense of the world. This includes an inherent (flawed) sense of probability. There are also inherent tendencies, such as the tendency to see patterns, to detect agency in others and in our environment, and to weave compelling narratives.

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Five Stupid Things About the New Age Movement

By Steve Shives via YouTube

When the Moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, absolutely nothing will happen.

A must read: Why Secretary of State John Kerry Is Flat Wrong on Climate Change

Watts Up With That?

By Dr. Richard McNider and Dr. John Christy

models-vs-datasets

In a Feb. 16 speech in Indonesia, Secretary of State John Kerry assailed climate-change skeptics as members of the “Flat Earth Society” for doubting the reality of catastrophic climate change. He said,

“We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists” and “extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts.”

But who are the Flat Earthers, and who is ignoring the scientific facts?

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Natural News is a Facebook hit: Never click on its stories about cancer, vaccines, conspiracies.

Natural News's Facebook page.

Why are so many Facebook friends sharing preposterous stories from Natural News?

By via slate.com

realemon_250pxHave you heard that eating whole lemons prevents cancer? Or that bathing in Himalayan salt rids the body of harmful toxins? That eating hijiki seaweed can delay hair graying? If you have a few Facebook friends, you’ve probably encountered some of these claims. The website Natural News —which seems like a parody but is unfortunately quite serious—published these preposterous stories, and many others just as silly, last week alone.

Hokum like this is best ignored, but hundreds of thousands of Americans fail to do so. Natural News has achieved astonishing traction on social media, garnering Facebook shares in the high five and low six figures. These numbers should trouble you—Natural News has an uncanny ability to move unsophisticated readers from harmless dietary balderdash to medical quackery to anti-government zealotry.

Let’s start by deconstructing the claim that eating whole lemons staves off cancer. The author cites two medical journal articles. She badly mischaracterizes the first, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 1999. The study described the isolation of three compounds, known as coumarins, from lemon peel. Coumarins exhibit tumor-suppressing properties in a laboratory dish, but that does not mean that eating lemon peel prevents cancer. Even if the oral ingestion of coumarins were convincingly shown to fight cancer in a laboratory animal, we still wouldn’t know how much lemon peel would be required for a human to experience the same effects or whether you could tolerate the dose.

junk-science_200pxThe second study the author cites is an enormous overreach. No one enjoys biostatistics, but bear with me and you’ll be better prepared to identify weak studies in the future. The study, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in 2000, purported to show a correlation between consumption of lemon peel and diminished cancer risk. The authors surveyed 242 skin cancer survivors and 228 controls about their citrus consumption habits, but the questionnaire wasn’t externally validated and has some screwy definitions. (Eating citrus peel “often,” for example, is defined as “50-75 percent of the time.” What does that mean?) The authors did not adequately control for race or skin tone, which is an important variable in skin cancer studies. The sample size was much too small. Only 163 of the 470 study participants reported eating citrus peel, and just 28 of them admitted to eating citrus peel often. That’s not enough to prove that eating lemon peel prevents skin cancer. In addition, the statistical correlation is very weak, close to undetectable. Had one more person with cancer reported eating citrus peel, the relationship would likely have disappeared. In fairness, the study authors acknowledged the small sample size and the need for more substantial follow-ups, but everyone knows how these correlational studies are reported in the media. This is why you should look for patterns in scientific literature rather than relying on individual studies.

Anytime someone tells you that eating something prevents cancer, your BS detector should start a-clanging. Natural News is full of these beauties.

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Why Magicians Are a Scientist’s Best Friend

james-randi-69By James Randi via Wired Science

A magician will instantly see the truth behind any colleague’s illusion. But we have a bit of an advantage: We know we are being fooled. Scientists are instinctive doubters who employ a rigorous method to zero in on the truth, but they aren’t necessarily trained to expect deception by subjects and collaborators.

Penn & Teller

Penn & Teller

We can’t make magicians out of scientists — we wouldn’t want to — but we can help scientists “think in the groove” — think like a magician. And we should.

For most of my life I’ve pecked away at a certain type of swindler: faith-healers, mystics, mind-readers. Those of a certain age may remember my appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson — a skilled amateur magician himself who introduced my exposure of flummery to a huge television audience.

Mine was a lonely voice back then, but I’m not alone anymore. The immensely talented and popular Penn & Teller long ago joined me as foes of harmful deception, along with other magicians; the president of my foundation, D.J. Grothe, has a background in magic, and many of our associates are professional magicians, as well. They all agree with me that the Society of American Magicians and the International Brotherhood of Magicians should re-establish their once very active investigations of the fakers who claim supernatural powers.

magician_250pxIt’s not something that is generally done, or maybe at all – I’d love to see one funding grant that has a line item for the services of a magician, if somebody out there has one. But it is long overdue that my peers in the conjuring profession try to take a more active role in the elimination of nonsense science by joining forces with scientists, and that scientists be open to the proposition.

Please bear with me while I offer you a peek behind the curtain, a cursory glance at what we magicians are — and aren’t. First, we’re entertainers, actors, showbiz people who have as our primary objective the delight of our audiences. We’re deceivers, yes, taking on roles and characters to express our art, just as any actor does.

We are not scientists — with a few rare but important exceptions, like Ray Hyman and Richard Wiseman. But our highly specific expertise comes from knowledge of the ways in which our audiences can be led to quite false conclusions by calculated means — psychological, physical and especially sensory, visual being rather paramount since it has such a range of variety.

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The Science and the Scam of the Séance

It’s surprisingly easy to trick someone into believing they’ve seen something paranormal.

By Katie Heaney via Pacific Standard: The Science of Society

The spirit Bien Boa which was discovered to be a dressed up man.

The spirit Bien Boa which was discovered to be a dressed up man.
(image wikipedia)

The first time Marthe Béraud was caught faking paranormal activity during a séance, she was 23 years old. She claimed she developed the ability to commune with the dead shortly after her fiancé died, five years earlier, and she began holding séances for the public. During these sessions, a “spirit” named Bien Boa, whom Béraud claimed was a 300-year-old Brahmin Hindu, materialized, sometimes moving about the room and touching people. Photographs of the séances would make Boa look an awful lot like a cardboard cutout, in some cases, and in others, like a living man draped in fabric and wearing a fake beard.

In 1906, a newspaper printed an account of an Arab man known as Areski, then working as a coachman at the villa where Béraud lived and held séances, who copped to having been hired to play the part of Bien Boa. Her hand forced, Béraud admitted to concocting the hoax. Then she changed her name to Eva Carrière (or Eva C) so nobody would know she’d been caught, traveled to Munich, and started holding hoaxed séances again, immediately. She is, without question, my favorite early-20th-century con artist, “fake psychic medium” category.

Like many other so-called spiritualists of the day, Carrière’s credibility relied heavily on her supposed production of “ectoplasm,” or a spiritual energy that oozes from orifices on the medium’s body and takes shape, allowing the medium to interact with said spirit. Peruse the image results for this one (and I cannot recommend doing so enough) and you will see a series of black and white photos of people with a white substance pouring out of their mouths, or their noses, or their ears.

Eva Carrière  (aka Marthe Béraud) March 13, 1911

Eva Carrière (aka Marthe Béraud)
March 13, 1911

Soon Carrière met a widow named Juliette Bisson, 25 years her senior, and they started both sleeping together and faking séances together. Or, as Wikipedia puts it: “Juliette Bisson and Carrière were in a sexual relationship together, and they both worked in collaboration with each other to fake the ectoplasm and eroticize their male audience.” These are two things I would not have thought simultaneously achievable! I am so impressed by this information.

Anyway, one of Carrière’s tricks was to give her ectoplasm a face, which she did by cutting faces out of newspapers, drawing on them in an attempt to mask their identities, and attaching them to the typical muslin or a similar white material. But photographs taken during her sessions caught up with Carrière, as some of the faces she used were recognized, and her fraud was again exposed, in a 1913 article in the Viennese newspaper Neue Wiener Tagblatt. Among the famous faces she’d used: actress Mona Delza, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, and Woodrow Wilson.

A Seance scene in the classic German silent film Dr Mabuse (1922), directed by Fritz Lang. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

A Seance scene in the classic German silent film Dr Mabuse (1922), directed by Fritz Lang. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

IT SEEMS LIKE IT should take more, in this modern day and age, to trick someone into thinking she’s seen something paranormal. In a study published in the British Journal of Psychology in 2003, a group of three semi-mischievous researchers aimed to determine what it takes. Participants (who, prior to the experiment, identified themselves as either “believers” or “disbelievers” in the paranormal) were split into groups and made to sit through faked séances in a pitch-black room. In the middle of the room was a table, upon which sat a few objects treated with luminous paint. These were made to move a few inches by researchers, who hid in the dark and prodded the objects with sticks. How they got anyone to believe they’d seen something paranormal this way is beyond me, but somehow, 16 percent of them did. Most of that group identified as believers, but not all.

More interesting still is the fact that roughly 20 percent of the participants (30 percent of believers and a surprisingly high eight percent of disbelievers) reported experiencing additional unusual phenomena during the faked séances, beyond anything that could be attributed to actions taken by the researchers. They reported feeling as though they had entered an “unusual psychological state,” feeling cold shivers running down their bodies, sensing an energetic presence, and noticing weird smells. They were thoroughly spooked, and fairly easily, at the hands of researchers who faked the entire thing.

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Synchronicity: Definition & Meaning

By Benjamin Radford via LiveScience

image descriptionAmazing coincidences happen all the time — but are they simply the product of random chance, or do they convey some hidden meaning? The answer may depend on whether you believe in synchronicity.

The term synchronicity was coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961). Jung had a strong belief in a wide variety of paranormal phenomenon, including psychic powers, astrology, alchemy, predictive dreams, UFOs and telekinesis (moving objects with the mind). He was also obsessed with numerology — the belief that certain numbers have special cosmic significance, and can predict important life events.

A flock of birds inspired Carl Jung's theory that everything in the universe is intimately connected.

A flock of birds inspired Carl Jung’s theory that everything in the universe is intimately connected.

Jung’s concept of synchronicity is complicated and poorly defined, but can be boiled down to describing “meaningful coincidences.” The concept of synchronicity came to Jung during a period of mental illness in the early 1900s. Jung became convinced that everything in the universe is intimately connected, and that suggested to him that there must exist a collective unconscious of humankind. This implied to him that events happening all over the world at the same time must be connected in some unknown way.

In his book “137: Jung, Pauli, and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession,” Arthur I. Miller gives an example of synchronicity; one of his patients “told Jung that when her mother and grandmother died, on each occasion a flock of birds gathered outside the window of the room.” The woman’s husband, who had symptoms of heart problems, went out to see a doctor and “on his way back the man collapsed in the street. Shortly after he had set off to see the specialist a large flock of birds had alighted on the house. His wife immediately recognized this as a sign of her husband’s impending death.”

Is synchronicity real?

There is, of course, a more prosaic explanation for curious coincidence: birds are very common, and simply by random chance a flock will appear near people who are soon to die — just as they appear daily around millions of people who are not soon to die.

Confirmation bias: Selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs.

Confirmation bias: Selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.

The appearance of synchronicity is the result of a well-known psychological phenomenon called confirmation bias (sometimes described as remembering the hits and forgetting the misses); we much more easily notice and remember things that confirm our beliefs than those that do not. The human brain is very good at making connections and seeing designs in ambiguous stimuli and random patterns.

If Jung’s patient came to believe that a flock of birds meant that death was imminent, she would start noticing flocks of birds, and remember the times when they coincided with a loved one’s death. But she would not likely notice or remember the countless times when flocks of birds appeared over people who lived for years or decades longer. Put another way, a person dying when a flock of birds is present is an event; a person not dying when a flock of birds is present is a non-event, and therefore not something anyone pays attention to. This is the result of normal human perceptual and memory biases, not some mysterious cosmic synchronicity.

It’s easy to see why synchronicity has mass appeal; it provides meaning and order in an otherwise random universe. One famous (and more modern) example of synchronicity is  .  .  .

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Who Sabotaged California’s power grid?

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know

Thankfully, blackouts don’t occur too often in the developed world. Still, a severe storm or a malfunction can leave thousands in the dark. Though experts around the US work tirelessly to prevent disruptions, it’s nearly impossible to keep a system of this size functioning perfectly. And what if there’s another cause for a blackout? Would anyone intentionally sabotage the system — and, if so, why? The answer might surprise you.

Conspiracy Theory Connect-the-Dots

CT connect the dots

Why is FEMA buying wood chippers?

FEMA wood chipper

What’s a psychic vampire?

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

People have told vampire legends for thousands of years, and the monster’s image has continuously changed over time. You already know that some people believe in vampires — but what kind?

Is that a FEMA Camp? – February 15, 2014 Edition

Is that a FEMA Camp? is a blog dedicated to investigating claims of FEMA camp locations.
transparent
Below is some of their findings. Enjoy :)
femacamp3

February 15, 2014

larson_afb_gate_250pxLarson AFB, Washington

The claim: Moses Lake, ?What it really is: Larson Air Force Base was closed in 1966 and is now the Grant County International Airport.

Naval Radio Station (VLF transmitter), Washington

The claim: Jim Creek, Oso, ?What it really is: The Jim Creek Naval Radio Station is a Navy very low frequency (VLF) radio transmitter facility. The facility has one building, and the area itself is also used as a outdoor recreational area for Naval personnel and their families and guests.

Keyport Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Washington

The claim: Keyport, ?What it really is: The Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Keyport is one of two of the Navy’s undersea warfare facilities, and employs around 1,300 civilian workers.

The base also has it’s own museum, and while there are several large buildings there, none of them appear to be something you would find in a prison camp. Infact they look mostly like industrial buildings.

c6656rPuget Sound Naval Shipyard, Washington

The claim: Bremerton, ?What it really is: The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility is an historical Naval ship yard is primarily used by the Navy for maintenance and modernization of it’s ships, as well as housing part of the reserve fleet.

The facility itself is surround by the city of Brenton, and there is very little room for where it can expand into, and most of the buildings that are there are nothing you wouldn’t find in a facility such as this.

Naval Station Everett, Washington

The claim: Everett, ?What it really is: Naval Station Everett is a relatively young Navy base (it became active in 1994) and is the home to several ships, including the USS Nimitz.

The base itself isn’t actually on to much land, and none of the buildings there look like nothing you wouldn’t find on your typical Navy base. Plus, if there was a prison camp being built there it would be unlikely it could be kept out of public view due to the fact that the city Everett is right next to the base.

Click here for more findings at “Is that a FEMA Camp?”

67 claims about Coconut Oil: Which ones are true, and which ones are BS?

by via The Soap Box

coconut oil uses

Recently I came across this picture that were making all of these claims about coconut oil (67 claims to be exact).

Now normal when I see something like this and it has the word “Proven” in the title, I automatically assume that most or all of it is just a bunch of BS.

But I decided to give these claims the benefit of the doubt and examine all of them to see if there is any truth behind them.

1. To cook with instead of vegetable or seed oils.

This one is true. You can cook with it, but it’s advised by many health organizations not to, or not to use to much due to it’s high amount of saturated fat.

coco-milk-creamer-original2. In your coffee/tea instead of creamer.

Sure. Infact non-dairy creamers are often made out of coconut oil.

3. To wash your face with instead of soap.

Yes, this is true. Also most hard soaps are made with coconut oils.

4. To brush your teeth with.

You could. There’s nothing dangerous about coconut oil (except maybe increasing your chance of having a heart attack if you eat to much of it) but I would stick with good old fashion (and proven) toothpaste.

My advice is that you should ask your dentist first before using coconut oil toothpaste and see what they have to say.

5. For oil pulling.

Yes, you can use coconut oil for this, although oil pulling itself hardly does anything and only really decreases the amount of tooth decaying bacteria in your mouth. Mouthwash is far more effective to use, and takes less time. Vodka also works to, and unlike mouthwash, you can actually swallow it!

IMG_2636_200px6. As a body moisturizer.

Yes, this is true.

7. As a sun-screen.

Lets go back to #1 on the list, shall we. It’s used as a cooking oil. What do you think it’s going to do to you?

For those who answered incorrectly, it’s going to cook you!

8. As a hair conditioner.

It does reduce protein loss in hair, so yes you could use it as a hair conditioner.

9. As a supplement.

For what? That’s kind of vague. Plus considering how high coconut oil is in saturated fat, I wouldn’t use it as a food supplement.

massage1_250px10. As a massage oil.

You can use it for that.

11. To reduce scars.

It helps with dry skin, and it might help acne scars, but scars from a cut it’s not going to help.

12. To treat for lice.

Yes, you can, but you have to use a lot of it to work, and you have to leave on for 12 to 18 hours, and it probably won’t kill the eggs.

hair-growth.-Coconut-milk1_250px13. To soften cracked heels.

Yes, you can use it for this.

14. As a hair serum.

Yes, this is another thing you can use it for.

15. As a buttery spread.

Sure you can… if you don’t mind increasing your risk of having a heart attack in a few years.

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9/11 Truther Vows Not To Rest Until Everyone Knows He’s An Asshole

Via The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

MANCHESTER, NH—Claiming that the evidence is in plain sight for those who want to see it, local man and passionate 9/11 Truth movement supporter Victor Sidwell, 32, told reporters Wednesday that he will not rest until everyone knows that he is a complete asshole.

Sidwell, an avid Truther, attempts to convince a passerby of his complete prickishness.

Sidwell, an avid Truther, attempts to convince a passerby of his complete prickishness.

The zealous Truther, who for more than 10 years has reportedly labored to shed light on the fact that he is an obnoxious blowhard seemingly incapable of keeping his fucking mouth shut, vowed to continue lecturing acquaintances, confronting strangers, and handing out pamphlets on the street in an effort to convince as many people as possible that he’s an absolute and utter prick.

conspiracy to do list_200px_200px“Ever since the so-called terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I’ve only had one goal in mind: making people realize that I’m a piece of shit,” said Sidwell while posting a lengthy list of inconsistencies in the 9/11 Commission Report on a friend’s Facebook timeline. “If you take even a cursory look at the available information, it becomes glaringly obvious that I’m an abrasive jackass who routinely drowns out anyone unfortunate enough to get locked into a discussion with me.”

“The proof is right there,” he continued. “I’m a repugnant, grating fuck, and I won’t stop until every single person knows it.”

Sidwell has reportedly gone to great lengths to publicize his position as an insufferable loudmouth by diverting every one of his conversations toward the melting point of structural steel, repeatedly calling in to talk radio shows to express his controversial beliefs as to what “really happened” on Flight 93, and placing “What Did Cheney Know?” stickers in bathrooms of numerous local businesses.

tin-foil-hat-3_225pxSpeaking with reporters, the staunch proponent of the “controlled demolition” 9/11 conspiracy theory conceded that it is not always easy making those around him recognize that he is an unapologetic bastard who needs to shut the fuck up and get a life. Sidwell affirmed that, in spite of the challenges, he remains determined to “give a wake-up call” regarding his supreme dickishness to everyone he meets by forcibly engaging them in debates in office break rooms, personal residences, bars, internet message boards, and grocery store checkout lines.

According to the Truther, most of the public remains “trapped inside a bubble” in which they ignorantly perceive him as a rational, well-adjusted member of society. However, he claimed he is making notable progress in convincing more and more of them of the “cold, hard reality” every time he loudly interrupts a friend’s conversation in order to voice his suspicions concerning the whereabouts of the hijacked airliners’ missing black boxes.

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Shrouded in pseudoscience

Via Skeptophilia

The Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin

I hate to break it to you, LiveScience, but in the interest of accuracy, it’s probably time to take the word “Science” out of the name of your website.

What you’re promoting isn’t really science, any more than The History Channel has anything even remotely to do with history.  You’re passing along to the public the idea that science is this mushy, hand-waving pursuit, where you can do an “experiment” to support an idea you’d already decided was true, generate essentially nothing in the way of data, and then claim that your results support whatever your original contention was.

I say this in light of a recent story called “Shroud of Turin: Could Ancient Earthquake Explain Face of Jesus?”  If the very title makes you suspicious, then good; you’re starting out from the right vantage point.

Let’s begin with the facts.  The Shroud of Turin is a piece of linen cloth that has been preserved for centuries as a holy relic — supposedly the sheet that covered Jesus’ body after the crucifixion.  It shows the image of a naked man, with wounds similar to those described in the bible.

The problem is, the linen cloth was carbon-14 dated — a step that the religious powers-that-be resisted for decades — and it was conclusively shown to date to around 1350 C.E.  It is, put simply, a fake.  So you’d think that would be that.

As we’ve seen before, that is never that when religion enters the picture.

b_shroud JesusThe article in LiveScience tells about a study headed by Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino, in Turin, Italy, which discovered that when you crush rocks using a mechanical press, it can cause a brief emission of neutrons.  From that single piece of information, he concludes the following:

  • Earthquakes can therefore be associated with neutron emissions.
  • The neutrons could interact with nitrogen atoms in the linen cloth (or in anything else, presumably), and mess up the carbon-14 dating protocol, causing it to give a wrong answer.
  • The neutrons could also have burned a pattern into the cloth as they passed through it.  Because the cloth was wrapped around a human body, it would have caused an image to appear on it, much like an x-ray.
  • The bible says that there was an earthquake around the time of Jesus’ resurrection, and the “stone rolled back from the tomb.”  [Matthew 28:1-2]
  • So: the Shroud of Turin is actually the burial cloth of Jesus.  Therefore god and the Catholic Church and all of the rest of it.  q.e.d.

Oh, come on, now.  This qualifies as science?  It’s about as bad an example of assuming your conclusion as I’ve ever seen.  And if earthquakes interfered with carbon-14 and nitrogen-14 levels, then radiocarbon dating would never work, since earthquakes happen basically all the time, all over the Earth.  And yet carbon-14 dating has been shown to be extremely accurate, over and over again.

Funny thing, that.

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Modern Witchcraft

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube.

Believe it or not, witch hunts still take place in the modern day — and some countries even have laws about sorcery. Tune in to learn about witchcraft across the globe, from Malawi to Papua New Guinea and more.

Bullshido: Martial Arts Magic

Some call it Bullshido: Martial arts tricks like touchless attacks and the Touch of Death.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

In dojos all around the world, martial arts masters practice mysterious forms of attack. They can kill or render an attacker unconscious with a single touch, or sometimes, with no touch at all.

Bruce Lee, the seminal inspiration for bullshido (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

Bruce Lee, the seminal inspiration for bullshido
(Photo credit: Wikimedia)

The dim mak and kyusho jitsu are just some of the secret techniques reserved only for the masters, that are jealously guarded, and will not be taught to just anyone. Some call these techniques bullshido.

Bullshido is, obviously, a joke term which mocks made-up or exaggerated martial arts claims. Bullshido comes in many forms. The touch of death and the knockout without touching are just a few of the most popular, originally made famous by the stories telling this is how Bruce Lee was killed (in fact he died of cerebral edema after a dinner party, possibly due to a drug interaction). Bullshido also encompasses newly invented martial arts techniques by self-described masters who market themselves as the founders; schools claiming to be too exclusive to let just anyone in (sometimes called McDojos); and claims by instructors of having been taught by various great masters, the missing documentation of which is sometimes explained as being sacred or hidden away in a remote Asian temple.

The many various forms of bullshido have long been criticized by legitimate martial arts practitioners, and dismissed merely as marketing claims intended to attract students to a particular school where one of these supposed masters teaches. blue_hands_on_glass_250pxBullshido practitioners shoot back that such naysayers are merely crying sour grapes because they have not yet learned the secret techniques, or achieved the special level.

The most famous of example of bullshido, which you’ve no doubt seen several times over the past couple of years, involves instructors who claim to have developed a technique of rendering an attacker senseless without actually touching him. The volunteer attackers are always the instructor’s students in these videos. They’ll charge at him one after the other, and as he punches or swipes at the air, they’ll often dramatically fly back as if struck by a train. Every time an outsider volunteers to receive the touchless attack, the instructor either fails with some excuse, or refuses on the grounds that it would be too dangerous.

Danielle Serino

Danielle Serino

Harry Cameron is a martial arts instructor who goes by the moniker “The Human Stun Gun”. Danielle Serino, a reporter on Fox Chicago’s prime time news, decided to check out his claim on her segment Does It Work, Danielle? She watched him knock out some of his students by, basically, what amounted to little more than going up to them and shouting Boo! Danielle got suited up and volunteered to have the Human Stun Gun knock her out without touching her. He refused, saying it would be too dangerous for her, even though she went to the trouble and expense of having a team of paramedics standing by. However he was willing to actually punch her on the side of the head. Even that didn’t have any real effect except to tick her off.

Danielle decided to give him the opportunity to prove his ability on someone he wouldn’t be afraid of hurting, namely, a group of jiu-jitsu athletes from another gym who were not his students. His touchless attacks had no effect on any of them. Predictably, he had an explanation handy: Natural athletes like these students learn to “translate the energy” and are not affected by it. I guess Cameron’s own students are not as enlightened. One red flag waving over Cameron’s head is that he says he was instructed by George Dillman, often cited as one of the great pillars of bullshido.

There’s also a famous YouTube video you may have seen where an elderly martial arts master, Kiai Master Ryukerin, does the same thing to a room full of his students, easily sending them all tumbling with waves of his hand. He offered $5000 to any modern Mixed Martial Arts athlete who could beat him. One guy took him up on it, and in front of Japanese TV cameras, casually beat the poor old guy to a pulp.

It’s actually a little sad, and hard to watch. Did Ryukerin actually believe that he had this power? Was it a mass delusion shared between him and his students, or was it all part of the show, and Ryukerin hoped that his actual martial arts skills would defeat the MMA guy? The only thing we know for sure is that his touchless attack failed.

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4 Creepy Mysteries With Hilariously Stupid Explanations

By via Cracked.com

Our world is full of things no one can explain, from mysterious ancient artifacts to really, really basic stuff we totally should have figured out by now. But once in a while, we do find an answer to one of these fascinating mysteries, and that answer is “just plain old stupid bullshit.” Here are four intriguing questions that should’ve remained unanswered (or just four unnecessarily elaborate cover-ups that prove the government has a sense of whimsy).

#4. “River of Blood” Turns Out to Be an Ink Spill

news.sky.com "Ugh, the Overlook's septic tank broke again."

“Ugh, the Overlook’s septic tank broke again.”
(image: news.sky.com)

In late December, residents of the English village of Moulton were left somewhat confused and extremely creeped out when they woke up one morning and found that their local brook had been stained with the blood-red shades of murder. Or murders, because seriously, that’s a fuckload of red.

The villagers rushed to their laptops and informed various social media outlets of their running river of blood, some comparing it to a horror film and others quoting the Book of Revelations, fearing that it was the first sign of the apocalypse. So what was it? A bleeding whale? A serial killer convention? That creepy clown that recently showed up nearby? Nope, the red coloration was caused by nothing other than an ink spill. So the world won’t end, but the villagers may have to endure a red pen shortage for the next decade.

#3. Mysterious Crop Circle Is Just a Publicity Stunt

Another strange event at the end of 2013 that made people think the Mayans may have been off by a year was the mysterious crop circle that popped up in a farmer’s barley field in Chualar, California. The design was so intricately done that the farmer told CNN that he was “baffled” by its appearance.

235527

He was immediately given a first-option deal by the History Channel.
Watch: Nvidia

Naturally, as soon as the story broke, crop circle experts all over the Internet wrote in-depth analyses that claimed to have decoded the secret alien message in the fields, with some of these Fox Mulders declaring that it meant a bright comet would appear this year (presumably foreshadowing some dragons). It was at this point that tech company Nvidia couldn’t contain its giggling any longer and revealed that the crop circle was actually a marketing stunt promoting their latest processing chip. It’s unclear if the farmer was in on the joke or if those dicks stomped his barley without telling him.

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On the upside, his field can now run Crysis 3 without lag.
Watch: Nvidia

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Are Exorcisms Real?

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

Human beings have believed in possession — and exorcism — for thousands of years. Nowadays most people associate exorcisms with horror movies, but are there any real exorcisms in the modern age?

Do werewolves exist?

werewolf-and-moon
Via Relatively Interesting

werewolf-closeup-face_250pxThroughout history, werewolves have played an integral part in the cult literature as creatures that were not of men or wolf – but both. Most common legends attest to how these creatures can shape-shift from a man to a wolf or wolf-like creature by the light of the full moon. Silver is the only weapon that can stop them, and the disease of lycanthropy can be spread by a mere scratch or bite.

Although Hollywood has romanticized the thought of werewolves and how not all of them are vicious killing machines, is there anything to worry about for the common man walking home one night during the light of the full moon? It is doubtful since no real evidence has ever been brought to public knowledge aside from folktales and lore. Why should the belief of werewolves be met with suspicion and skepticism?   Can we answer the question… do werewolves exist?

A Misunderstanding?

werewolf 928_250px_250pxTranslations from ancient times often lead to the creation of rumors and myths.

For example, Procopius of Caesarea recorded a battle between the Roman Empire and the Isaurians. These South Asian people were merely farmers when they were called to battle in the fifth century. In the recording, Procopius recalled how the Isuarians were slain due to their inability to wage war against Rome. He referred to most of these people as Lycaones. Many believe this to be related to the latin word, Lycaon – an animal of the wolf kind. In reality, Lycaones refers to the Lycaonians – a people of Asia Minor positioned relatively close to the Isuarian lands that were incapable of battle due to inexperience.

This isn’t the only incident in where misunderstanding of texts has created myths and legends.

Perpetuated by Literal Understanding

Vlad Tepes

Vlad Tepes

In the late 16th century, rumors of the werewolf stretched far and wide across Europe. When Peter Stubbe committed heinous crimes against the people of Bedburg, his ferocious nature was akin to that of a wolf. In much the same way that Vlad Tepes was depicted as a vampire, Stubbe’s actions earned him a reputation as he killed in much the same fashion a wolf would while taking down prey.

The story of the Werewolf of Bedburg was literature developed in order to help a people understand the cruel and inhumane nature that psychopaths can embrace. Peter Stubbe could no more change shape into a wolf as Vlad the Impaler could turn into a bat.

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The Cult of Nikola Tesla

Via inFact with Brian Dunning on YouTube

Nikola Tesla was one of our greatest pioneering electrical engineers. Unfortunately, pretty much everything else you’ve heard about him isn’t true. http://infactvideo.com

Mystery of Mars ‘doughnut rock’ solved

(H/T: via skepticwars)

Scientists are baffled by the sudden appearance of a jelly doughnut-like rock that the Opportunity rover spotted in January 2014. These are images of the same location; the rock on the right was not there 12 days earlier. Researchers now believe the rover's wheels flicked the rock into its current spot.

Scientists are baffled by the sudden appearance of a jelly doughnut-like rock that the Opportunity rover spotted in January 2014. These are images of the same location; the rock on the right was not there 12 days earlier. Researchers now believe the rover’s wheels flicked the rock into its current spot.

By Elizabeth Landau via CNN.com

(CNN) — The “jelly doughnut” rock that seemed to appear out of nowhere on Mars last month did not fall out of an extraterrestrial pastry box.

The rock had been mysterious to scientists because Mars rover Opportunity photographed it in a spot where the rock had not been present just four days earlier. Steve Squyres, lead scientist of the Mars Exploration Rover mission, described it as a white rock with a dark red low spot in the middle. The rock, more than 1.5 inches wide, was named Pinnacle Island.

So where did it come from, then?

Drumroll please:

mars-marvin-the-martianResearchers now say Pinnacle Island is a piece of a larger rock, which Opportunity broke and moved with its wheel in early January. Further images from the rover reveal the original rock that the rover’s wheel must have struck.

“Once we moved Opportunity a short distance, after inspecting Pinnacle Island, we could see directly uphill an overturned rock that has the same unusual appearance,” said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, deputy principal directory of Opportunity, in a statement. “We drove over it. We can see the track. That’s where Pinnacle Island came from.”

No, that’s not as exciting as if the rock had crawled into view on its own or been dropped there by aliens. But now that this puzzle has been solved, the rover team plans to drive Opportunity south and uphill to look at exposed rock layers on a slope.

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White House Denies CIA Teleported Obama to Mars

By Spencer Ackerman via Wired.com

transpoter03Forget Kenya. Never mind the secret madrassas. The sinister, shocking truth about Barack Obama’s past lies not in east Africa, but in outer space. As a young man in the early 1980s, Obama was part of a secret CIA project to explore Mars. The future president teleported there, along with the future head of Darpa.

That’s the assertion, at least, of a pair of self-proclaimed time-traveling, universe-exploring government agents. Andrew D. Basiago and William Stillings insist that they once served as “chrononauts” at Darpa’s behest, traversing the boundaries of time and space. They swear: A youthful Barack Obama was one of them.

Perhaps this all sounds fantastical, absurd, and more than a little nuts. We couldn’t agree more. That’s one of the reasons we love conspiracy theories  — the more awesomely insane, the better. Each week during 2012, when the Mayans tell us to expect the apocalypse, Danger Room will peel back a new layer of crazy to expose those oh-so-cleverly hidden machinations powering this doomed plane of existence. Welcome — back — to Tinfoil Tuesday.

According to Basiago and Stillings, Obama isn’t just lying about his identity. He’s lying about his military service record, too. While his political opponents in 2008 attacked him for never serving, in truth, he was concealing his participation in a hidden CIA intergalactic program hosted at a California community college in 1980.

Officially, the White House says Obama never went to Mars. “Only if you count watching Marvin the Martian,” Tommy Vietor, the spokesman for the National Security Council, tells Danger Room. But that’s exactly what a secret chrononaut wants you to believe.

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Beans

Nothing conspiratorial here, just a VERY FUNNY video!

Beans – YouTube.

End of the world, episode #452

Via Skeptophilia

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but we’re all gonna die.

Again.

DOOMSDAY 1021_200pxI mean, what is this?  This 452nd time this has happened, or something?  Between Mayan apocalypses and Christian End Times predictions and the planet Nibiru and plagues and pandemics and the Harmonic Convergence and the Yellowstone Supervolcano (which is still overdue for an eruption!), it’s kind of surprise we’re all still here.

This time, the world is going to end because we’re going to be destroyed by a rogue planet that is hurtling in toward the inner Solar System at a speed of 200 kilometers per second.  So says a report on Turner Radio Network, which claims that “Dr. Kaplan, a Professor in the Astronomy Department at the University of Texas at Austin” has discovered a large object that is heading toward us — and that even if it doesn’t hit us directly, “the gravity will affect the Earth in terrible ways long before it gets here.”

[image courtesy of NASA and the Wikimedia Commons]

[image courtesy of NASA and the Wikimedia Commons]


Dr. Kaplan made a video (linked on the website) wherein he projected the planet’s arrival time as August 2014, which is the only thing I find that is cheerful about this prediction.  It gives me the summer to recover from the progressive hypothermia I’ve experienced this winter, so at least I’ll finally be comfortably warm by the time I get vaporized.  And it also means that whatever else happens, I won’t have to endure another upstate New York winter, because interaction with the planet will cause “shifting of the tectonic plates on a massive scale.”  I can only hope that our tectonic plate will shift toward the equator.  If that’s an outcome of a planetary collision, then all I can say is, bring it on, because I have had it with the snow.

PlanetOf course, the other predictions are more dire.  “(I)f Kaplan’s scenario is true, the problems Earth will experience would begin with weather anomalies and tidal anomalies, will increase to earthquakes then volcanic eruptions as Earth’s magma is pulled by the gravity of the approaching planet,” the Turner Radio Broadcast report said.  “The experts went on to tell us the troubles would increase further to horrific tsunamis 1000 meters high, moving at 1200 kilometers per hour striking coastal regions around the Earth…  One expert even claimed that depending upon the size and gravity of the planet, and its angle of approach, the gravity of this other planet could actually STOP the Earth from rotating on its axis.  He likened it to a vehicle traveling at 1,000 miles per hour, and having the brakes slammed on; the resulting inertia of all objects on earth would cause them to continue moving while the earth was stopping; sort of like what happens in a car wreck when the car suddenly stops, but the passengers fly forward from their own inertia.”

So that kind of sucks.  And after the article goes into all of that, they ask a few pertinent questions, such as  .  .  .

MORE . . .

Do Banks Control the World?

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

International banking companies and institutions are often accused of participating in conspiracies — but why? Tune in to learn more about international banking and conspiracy theories.

New Oliver Stone 9/11 Film Introduces ‘Single Plane’ Theory

Oliver-Stones-Jump-Map-R_0_jpg_600x1000_q85
Via The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

"There's no way anyone can ever deny there was only one plane."

“There’s no way anyone can ever deny there was only one plane.”

NEW YORK—Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone said Monday that his new film World Trade Center unveils “compelling and controversial” new evidence that a single plane was responsible for all four collisions in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Get ready to go through the looking glass here, people,” Stone told reporters at a Manhattan press conference before an advance screening of the movie, which premieres Wednesday. “The film you are about to see is going to blow the lid off the 9/11 Commission’s official report and expose a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of government.”

World Trade Center, which stars Nicolas Cage as a dedicated Port Authority officer who stumbles on secret evidence amid the rubble and carnage of the terrorist attack, tells a story quite different from what Stone called “the official government line” about the event. According to the film, at 8:46 a.m., a lone commercial airliner flew diagonally through the North Tower of the World Trade Center, maintained a circular holding pattern for approximately 17 minutes, then struck the South Tower before heading to the Pentagon.

After its collision with the center of American military operations, the so-called “magic plane”—which variously and ingeniously identified itself to air-traffic controllers as “American Airlines Flight 11,”

Stone

Stone

“United Airlines Flight 175,” “American Airlines Flight 77” and “United Airlines Flight 93″—took to the skies once again, landing at a top-secret “black-ops” Air Force base in West Virginia, where it was reloaded with a group of clones from another shadowy government program that Stone described as “shocking.”

Stone, who said he did not have time to explore the clone angle in the three-and-a-half-hour film, plans to do so in the sequel, September 12.

In a gripping sequence, undercover agents transmit pre-recorded cell-phone messages intended to fool loved ones and relatives with a false cover story as the aircraft heads to its final, prearranged crash site in the fields of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Viewers of the advance screening agreed that the most striking and pivotal scene was Cage’s character’s discovery of  .  .  .

MORE . . .

UK flooding, Met Office, and all that – a map from 878AD tells us more than Slingo

Watts Up With That?

bridgwater_somerset_UK There’s quite a hullabaloo in the UK as the Met Office tries to link recent flooding in Bridgwater , Somerset with global warming, with Lord Lawson even calling Met Office Julia Slingo’s claims “absurd” . Josh even has a cartoon at Bishop Hill about it.

But, even more instructive than the row is this historic map that shows flooding would likely be a normal occurrence in Bridgwater in the county of Somerset, UK, located on this map at right.

Now look at this map from 878AD. “Swamp or Alluvium” anyone? The arrow notation is mine.

View original post 92 more words

More and More Americans Think Astrology Is Science

By via Mother Jones

astrology_854_250px“I believe in a lot of astrology.” So commented pop megastar Katy Perry in a recent GQ interview. She also said she sees everything through a “spiritual lens”…and that she believes in aliens.

According to data from the National Science Foundation’s just-released 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators study, Americans are moving in Perry’s direction. In particular, the NSF reports that the percentage of Americans who think astrology is “not at all scientific” declined from 62 percent in 2010 to just 55 percent in 2012 (the last year for which data is available). As a result, NSF reports that Americans are apparently less skeptical of astrology than they have been at any time since 1983.

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The data on Americans’ astrological beliefs are compiled by NSF but come from a variety of sources; since 2006 they have come from the General Social Survey. Over the years, the GSS and other surveys have asked Americans a recurring question: “Would you say that astrology is very scientific, sort of scientific, or not at all scientific?”

In response, a substantial minority of Americans, ranging from 31 to 45 percent depending on the year, say consider astrology either “very scientific” or “sort of scientific.” That’s bad enough—the NSF report compares it with China, where 92 percent of the public does not believe in horoscopes—but the new evidence suggests we are also moving in the wrong direction. Indeed, the percentage of Americans who say astrology is scientifically bunk has been declining ever since a high point for astrology skepticism in 2004, when it hit 66 percent.

The recent increase in astrological credulity was most dramatic among those with less science education and less “factual knowledge,” NSF reported. In the latter group, there was a staggering 17 percentage point decline in how many people were willing to say astrology is unscientific, from 52 percent in 2010 to just 35 percent in 2012. Also apparently to blame are younger Americans, aged 18 to 24, where an actual majority considers astrology at least “sort of” scientific, and those aged 35 to 44. In 2010, 64 percent of this age group considered astrology totally bunk; in 2012, by contrast, only 51 percent did, a 13 percentage point change.

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6 conspiracy theories that inspired sci-fi and horror movies

From faked lunar landings to invisible WWII warships, here are six conspiracy theories and the genre films they inspired…

By Ryan Lambie via Den of Geek

conspiracy-main“Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face,” Sterling Hayden’s General Jack D Ripper coldly announces in Stanley Kubrick’s breathtakingly funny satire, Dr Strangelove.

Ripper’s conspiracy theory, that the commies are secretly trying to compromise our “precious bodily fluids”, becomes his harebrained reason for unleashing a missile strike on the USSR. And just as Ripper was inspired by this strange notion to trigger a nuclear apocalypse, so filmmakers have been inspired by conspiracy theories to make all kinds of science fiction and horror movies – some funny, some tense and absorbing, others terrifying.

Here, then, is a selection of six real-world conspiracy theories and the varied movies they inspired – and funnily enough, Stanley Kubrick even pops up in one of the more familiar entries…

1. The Philadelphia experiment

philadelphiaexperimentThe conspiracy: The story goes that, during the chaos of World War II, a group of scientists working for the US navy were carrying out an experiment that could have altered the face of the battle completely: they were attempting to make a warship invisible. The warship in question was the USS Eldridge, docked in the Philadelphia Naval Yard, and the experiment supposedly took place in October 1943.

A scientist named Dr Franklin Reno was said to be the mind behind the project, having taken inspiration from Einstein’s unified field theory – and according to the legend, it was a success. Not only was the ship rendered invisible, but in subsequent experiments, apparently teleported to another location 200 miles away and back again.

The experiment wasn’t without its side-effects, however; sailors were said to have suffered from a range of ailments, including nausea, mental trauma, invisibility and spontaneous combustion. It’s even said that some sailors were found partly embedded in the structure of the ship itself.

For its part, the US navy has always denied that the Philadelphia experiment ever took place, but this has merely added to the claims that the incident was covered up. Despite repeated counter-claims that the experiment is a mixture of hoax and misheard information (the navy really were looking at ways of making ships undetectable to magnetic torpedoes at the time, which could have somehow been misinterpreted as ‘invisible’), the legend’s endured, partly thanks to books like The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility.

The obvious question, though, is if the US navy managed to make a ship invisibile so long ago, why hasn’t this technology become widespread since? The supporters of the conspiracy would probably argue that the US navy uses invisibility all the time – we just can’t see the evidence.

philadelphia-02_250pxThe movies: “The experiment that should never have happened 41 years ago is still going on,” read the tagline to The Philadelphia Experiment, which took the legend and turned it into a time-travel adventure-romance. Michael Pare and Bobby Di Cicco play two sailors aboard the USS Eldridge who find themselves thrown 40 years into the future by the experiment, and then have to figure out a means of closing off a rift in time and space that could destroy the entire planet.

Although not a big hit at the time of release, The Philadelphia Experiment is almost as persistent as the legend behind it: a belated sequel materialised in 1993, while a made-for-TV remake appeared on the Syfy Channel in 2012. The Philadelphia Experiment is also a good example of how urban legends perpetuate themselves through storytelling.

In the late 1980s, a chap named Al Bielek happened to catch a showing of the 1984 Philadelphia Experiment movie on television, which he claimed dislodged repressed memories of his own involvement in the 1943 project. In later interviews, he not only stated that he’d been a sailor aboard the USS Eldritch, but also that he’d been sent forward in time to the year 1983. Mind you, Bielek also claimed to have taken a time tunnel to Mars, conversed with aliens, travelled forward in time to the year 2137, and back to the year 100,000 BC. Bielek’s claims then appeared to inspire the makers of the film 100,000 BC, a straight-to-video action film where members of the Philadelphia Experiment go back to the time of the dinosaurs.

Like a feedback loop, legends grow and change as they’re told and retold.

2. The Roswell incident

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Major Jesse Marcel from the Roswell Army Air Field with debris found 75 miles north west of Roswell, N.M., in 1947. The debris was identified as that of a radar target.

Major Jesse Marcel from the Roswell Army Air Field with debris found 75 miles north west of Roswell, N.M., in 1947. The debris was identified as that of a radar target.

The conspiracy: On the 8th July 1947, the Roswell Daily Record ran a front page story which read, “RAAF captures flying saucer on ranch in Roswell region”. The US military later retracted their initial statement, saying instead that the debris they’d collected was from a crashed weather balloon rather than a unidentified flying object, but it was too late – one of the most discussed and famous conspiracy theories was born.

Accusations that the American government had recovered a flying saucer – or at least parts of one – grew in the years that followed, and stories began to circulate that living occupants of the craft had been taken to Area 51 (a now infamous military base) in New Mexico. By the 1990s, a range of books, eye-witness accounts, TV documentaries and even purported footage of alien autopsies had all materialised, all appearing to lend weight to the theory that the US government was hiding knowledge of flying saucers and visitors from outer space.

roswell-02_250pxThe movies: Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) remains one of the most lavish and well-made films to deal with the UFO phenomenon, taking in sightings of lights in the sky, abduction by aliens, and also the topic of a conspiracy on the part of the US government. Close Encounters’ conclusion even suggests that America’s scientists have engaged in some kind of foreign exchange program with visiting aliens, as Richard Dreyfuss’ blue-collar hero clambers into a cathedral-like ship for a ride into the unknown.

The 1986 adventure film Flight Of The Navigator may also have taken a hint of inspiration from the Roswell incident and other stories like it, as a young boy takes a ride in a crashed, metallic UFO secretly held by NASA. Vaguely echoing what theorists argue happened in 1943, Flight Of The Navigator’s scientists had whisked the ship from public view and attempted to cover up the craft’s true nature by describing it to the police as an experimental space laboratory.

Interest in the Roswell incident began to rise again in the 1990s, possibly due to the publication of several books which brought forth new claims of downed saucers and conspiracies. One of these would become Roswell, a 1994 TV movie starring Kyle MacLachlan as a US major attempting to uncover the hidden truth about the crash. The quest for uncovering buried truths also provided the basis for The X-Files, Chris Carter’s TV series that received a movie spin-off (itself about aliens and government cover-ups) in 1998.

independence-day_250pxRoland Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996) made explicit use of Roswell lore; amid the destruction of an alien invasion, it’s eventually revealed to Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore that the military really had captured an alien space craft and three occupants in 1947, and that they’d been stored and studied for the past 49 years at Area 51. The repaired space craft then came in handy for the third act, where it was used to plant a computer virus in the invaders’ mother ship – a plot point that’s still derided by some movie geeks 18 years later.

About 12 months before Independence Day came out, a piece of black-and-white footage purportedly shot at Area 51 first appeared on television. Appearing to depict the autopsy of a humanoid creature, the 17-minute film caused an immediate fuss in the media, despite widespread suspicions that it was a hoax.

The chap who first brought the film to the public’s attention, a British entrepreneur named Ray Santilli, later admitted that the footage had been faked, but insisted that it was based on some real film he’d seen a few years earlier – when the film degraded past the point where it was watchable, Santilli said he’d funded a reconstruction of what he’d previously witnessed. The whole curious incident became the basis of the 2006 comedy Alien Autopsy, starring British TV entertainment duo Ant and Dec.

If you want an example of how one single event can inspire a range of stories, look no further than the Roswell incident.

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10 Mysterious Deaths Connected To The JFK Assassination

By FlameHorse via Listverse

Probably the best known mystery surrounding Kennedy’s death is his missing brain. Not as well known are the mysterious deaths of many people connected to the assassination, eventually prompting the House Select Committee on Assassinations to look into possible foul play. After a cursory investigation, it found none.

Of course, a mysterious death may or may not involve foul play. Here are accounts of 10 people who witnessed Kennedy’s actual assassination, or had pertinent knowledge of one or more people involved, and who died “untimely”—at least in some estimations.

10 • Jack Ruby

Jack_Ruby_mugshot_250pxWe begin with Ruby, the only very famous entry, who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV just two days after Oswald had been arrested for killing Kennedy. When Kennedy was shot, Ruby was five blocks away from the Texas School Book Depository, distributing ads. He originally claimed to have shot Oswald in order to “redeem” Dallas and spare Jackie Kennedy the agony of a trial. But these motives—and everything else in Ruby’s life—remain shrouded in contradictions.

Ruby himself later claimed that his first attorney had told him to testify to the above motives, while Vegas mobster Johnny Roselli claimed Ruby had been assigned to silence Oswald. In 1965, well after his conviction, Ruby had this to say about the murder: “Everything pertaining to what’s happening has never come to the surface. The world will never know the true facts of what occurred, my motives. The people who had so much to gain, and had such an ulterior motive for putting me in the position I’m in, will never let the true facts come above board to the world.”

On 3 January, 1967, Ruby died of a pulmonary embolism, a complication of lung cancer. Before his death, he had gone on record claiming that he had been visited by a man who injected him with what he was told were antibiotics for a chronic cold, but which he believed were really cancer cells. He had just been granted a new trial on the grounds that his first trial in Dallas could not have been fairly heard. Shortly before he passed away, Ruby told a psychiatrist that the assassination was a coup d’etat and that he knew who was responsible for Kennedy’s murder.

9 • James Richard Worrell Jr.

rsz_1600px-jfk_limousine_250pxWorrell was one of the very best eyewitnesses to Kennedy’s assassination, providing unusually detailed answers to the usual questions about that day (his entire testimony before Congress is available here). In 1963, Worrell was a 20-year-old high school student living in Dallas with his mother and sister. When Kennedy arrived, Worrell decided to skip school in order to see the President, leaving home early in the morning and hitchhiking to Love Field. Finding he was too late to get a good view there, he left for Dealey Plaza and waited four or five feet in front of the Book Depository, on the sidewalk at the corner of Elm and Houston.

He watched as the motorcade came down Houston Street, and turned past him onto Elm. Then Worrell testified that he heard “four shots.” He looked up after the first, which he realized was too loud to be a firecracker, and saw a rifle barrel protruding from the 5th or 6th-floor corner window of the building. He looked back to Kennedy’s vehicle, heard the second shot, and saw the President slump over. He looked back up and saw the third shot’s muzzle flash, then began running in a panic around the Depository and onto Houston Street, where he heard a fourth shot. Stopping to catch his breath, he turned in time to see a man run from the rear exit of the Depository and later gave a basic description of Oswald’s height, build, and dress.

Three years later, on 6 November, 1966, Worrell was riding his motorcycle along Gus Thomasson Street in Dallas, along with a passenger named Lee Hudgins, when he apparently lost control of the vehicle, jumped the median curb, and overturned in the opposite lane. Worrell’s head, without a helmet, struck the curb, and Hudgins was flung in front of a car. Both died at the hospital.

8 • Thomas Hale Boggs Sr.

640px-LBJ-Boggs_250pxBoggs was perhaps the most high profile person connected to the assassination to die under mysterious circumstances. A longtime Louisiana Congressman, he was House Majority Whip when Kennedy was killed and became House Majority Leader in 1971. In 1963, he was appointed to the President’s Commission on the Assassination, nicknamed the Warren Commission after its chairman, Chief Justice Earl Warren. The Commission ultimately concluded that Oswald acted alone, but three of its members disagreed—Boggs and Senators Richard Russell and Sherman Cooper. Russell, who died of natural causes in 1971, publicly stated his “lingering dissatisfaction” with the investigation, while Boggs accused FBI director J. Edgar Hoover of “lying his eyes out” during the hearings.

Boggs was a strong critic of the single bullet theory. According to this theory, Oswald fired three shots, the second of which struck Kennedy in the upper back, passed through his throat and continued into Texas Governor John Connally’s back. The bullet then exited Connally’s chest, smashed through his wrist, and stopped in his left thigh, creating a total of seven wounds in two people. Some critics have claimed this would have required the bullet to somehow rise in mid-flight between the two men, but Connally had actually been sitting in a specially added “jump seat” few inches lower than Kennedy, which would have made it possible for the bullet to cause the seven wounds.

The fact of Connally’s seat height was not known at the time, but Boggs also strongly opposed the theory that Oswald acted alone, and that Ruby acted alone in killing Oswald. As House Majority Whip, then Leader, his words carried great weight.

On 16 October, 1972, Boggs was flying from Anchorage to Juneau with Alaskan Congressman Nick Begich and two others. They never arrived. The cause of the crash has never been discovered, nor has the wreckage of the plane, nor the bodies of the dead. Many civil aircraft of the time did not have emergency transmitters that would broadcast their locations upon crashing (such transmitters were made mandatory as a direct result of the incident). The four men were declared dead early the next year.

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Superstition

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Via Skeptic’s Dictionary for Kids

In a nutshell: Superstitions are beliefs about the power of things to bring about good or bad when there’s no logical or scientific evidence for the belief.

superstition 140_300pxA superstition is a belief that something can cause good or bad to happen when there’s no scientific or logical reason for believing it.

It seems that everybody is superstitious about something. Ask anyone if they would wear a sweater worn by somebody who has done the worst evil thing you can imagine. Even though there is no rational or logical reason for believing that an evil person’s sweater would feel any different from any other sweater, most people don’t want to even come near the sweater of someone they think is evil.

Even grownups who think they are not superstitious will get chills or a good feeling when they touch something that belonged to someone they greatly admire. There is no logical or scientific reason why anything touched by anyone you admire should have any special effect on you. Yet, people will go to great lengths to get an autograph or to visit the home where someone they think is great was born or used to live.

The world does not divide up into the ones who are superstitious and the ones who are not superstitious. We’re all superstitious, but not always about the same things. We might laugh when we read about people who used to beat their drums to make the moon give back the sun during an eclipse. superstition 143_200pxBut they’d probably laugh at us for trying to touch a rock star or for buying clothes with the name of some singer sewed into them.

Many superstitions start by observing some things that happen by coincidence. You forgot to wash your socks before a baseball game and then you hit a home run. From now on you don’t wash your socks before you play a game. You wore your blue sweater to school on the day you aced a test. Now the sweater is your “lucky sweater” and you wear it whenever you have a test. Instead of accepting that things happen by coincidence, we make one the cause of the other. If you stop to think about it, you know there’s no logical reason dirty socks should help a baseball player hit a baseball. Wearing a sweater can’t substitute for studying for a test.

Many athletes are superstitious. They’ll wear twisted ropes around their necks or rubber bands with holograms around their wrists. Why? Not because they think they look good in them, but because they think the ropes and rubber bands can improve their playing. Not likely, you might think. But, if the player really believes his necklace or bracelet helps him, it might relax him and put him in a good mood. Maybe he plays better when he’s relaxed and in a good mood. So, magic jewelry might help some people sometimes, but only because of their superstition!

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Some superstitions are due to magical thinking. Believing that something evil stays in the sweater of an evil person is type of magical thinking. Thinking that things that look alike share some sort of magical connection is also magical thinking. Just because a plant looks like a kidney doesn’t mean it will be good medicine for kidney problems.

Some people think that if they make a doll to stand for some person they can help or hurt the person by helping or hurting the doll. Some people think you can help a person by doing acupuncture on a doll that stands in for the person. Some think that you can make a person feel it if you stick a pin in a doll that stands in for the person. These are examples of more magical thinking.

Magical thinking seems to be based on a belief that there is some sort of energy or essence that things can magically transfer to other things.

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9 Utterly Ridiculous Conspiracy Theories

By Joshua A. Krisch via Popular Mechanics

Poisonous Government Snow

conspiracy-theories-01-0214-lgn_250pxGeorgia isn’t good at snow. Two inches fell in Atlanta last month and, amidst car crashes and television parodies, snow skepticism was born. Georgians bravely took to YouTube, determined to demonstrate that neither matches nor lighters nor blowtorches (a disproportionate number of Georgians seem to own blowtorches) could melt that strange, white stuff that the government insisted was just frozen water. On film, the snow blackens, twists like plastic, and stubbornly refuses to melt.Although entire Web pages are dedicated to debunking the chemical snow theory, the simplest way to deal with snow skeptics is to put the stuff in a microwave or on the stove. Spoiler: It melts. The blackened snow was caused by soot from the lighter, because butane burns inefficiently, and as snow turns into slush under a blowtorch, it only appears not to melt. Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait explains how the snow is, in fact, slowly melting.

The entire episode, however, brings up a good question: Who was the first Georgian to decide to burn the snow, just to see what would happen?

Invasion of the Lizard People

conspiracy-theories-02-0214-lgn_250pxLook around you. If you’re in a room with 25 other people, odds are at least one of them believes the world is run by lizard people, according to a recent poll. Conspiracy junkies are well aware of the theory that cleverly disguised reptilian aliens traveled to Earth thousands of years ago to infiltrate our highest echelons of government. Proof exists in the form of terrifying YouTube videos revealing news anchors with reptilian eyes, and lack of any better explanation for Rob Ford.You can dispatch the reptilian eye claim with relative ease, but only if you’re willing to suffer through 3 minutes of this awful techno music. The quick version: If a video file is compressed, sped up, and zoomed in, a clever video editor can transform any human eye into a menacing reptilian slit. But if you insist on clinging to the lizard government theory, at least be prepared.

Siri Apocalypse

conspiracy-theories-03-0214-lgn_250pxWhat is July 27, 2014? Check your calendar, and you’ll notice that it’s a Sunday. But ask Siri, and you might discover that the 27th is the appointed time for the Opening of the Gates of Hades. Several shocked iPhone users reported last month that Siri had officially scheduled the apocalypse for this summer, in an odd move that the usual suspects took quite seriously.This particular trick didn’t work when when we tried it, but we can’t promise it never happened. Apple developers are strange birds, and iPhone users are still discovering odd pearls of wisdom and other Easter eggs coded into Siri. Various sources attribute the arbitrary doomsday date in this conspiracy theory to a Chinese ghost month or the end of Ramadan, when Muslims believe that the gates of hell reopen. But a few weird programmers do not an apocalypse make, and we are fairly confident that Siri has no idea when the world will end.

Adam and Eve? Superintelligent Beings From Outer Space

conspiracy-theories-04-0214-lgn_250pxNow that even Bill Nye has weighed in on the debate about creationism and evolution, some of us would welcome any sort of common ground between science and religion. The ancient alien theory may offer a solution: Adam and Eve were extraterrestrials who traveled to Earth aboard a space ark piloted by—you guessed it—Noah. Predictably, the conspiracy theorists say, proof of this story abounds—but the government insists on keeping it all under lock and key. Several “scholars” now claim that, through the Freedom of Information Act, they were finally able to access piles of declassified documents. Official reports, they say, prove that a flying saucer once crashed into Mt. Ararat in Turkey, where it is traditionally believed that Noah’s ark came to rest after the great Flood.

Anyway, it just doesn’t seem likely that Noah’s intergalactic starship, after tumbling through space and dodging meteor showers, finally ran aground in Turkey. But forgetting this silly story for a second, there is the real scientific idea of panspermia, which raises the possibility that our planet’s first single-celled organisms have extraterrestrial origins.

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Nothing supernatural about the Bermuda Triangle, NOAA says


By Ken Kaye via Sun Sentinel

Now it’s official: The Bermuda Triangle is a bunch of bunk.

bermuda-triangle1_300pxFor decades, rumors persisted that hundreds of ships and planes mysteriously vanished in the area between Miami, Puerto Rico and Bermuda because it was cursed or patrolled by extraterrestrials.

Most of us already suspected that was a myth. Yet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just posted a story declaring the Devil’s Triangle, as it’s also known, is no different than any other open ocean region — and that foul weather and poor navigation are likely to blame for any mishaps.

“There is no evidence that mysterious disappearances occur with any greater frequency in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other large, well-traveled area of the ocean,” the agency stated this month on noaa.gov.

Ben Sherman, spokesman for NOAA’s National Ocean Service, said the agency wrote the story as part of an educational program where it responds to readers’ questions.

The story was based on information from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Guard, which make no bones about saying the mythological area is so much balderdash.

bermuda-triangle 754_250px“The Coast Guard does not recognize the existence of the so-called Bermuda Triangle as a geographic area of specific hazard to ships or planes,” the military branch said. “In a review of many aircraft and vessel losses in the area over the years, there has been nothing discovered that would indicate that casualties were the result of anything other than physical causes.”

Not everyone is in full agreement, including Minerva Bloom.

She’s a volunteer docent at the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum, which pays homage to Flight 19, perhaps the highest-profile incident involving the Bermuda Triangle. The five U.S. Navy torpedo bombers took off from Fort Lauderdale on a routine training exercise in December 1945, never to return.

“I don’t think there are aliens or anything like that, but I do think there’s something going on there,” Bloom said.

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Conspiracy theories: the truth (or is it…?)

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By Emma Higginbotham Cambridge News

Everyone loves a juicy conspiracy theory. Were the moon landings faked? Was Di’s death really an accident? Was there a second gunman on the grassy knoll? Are the royal family actually lizards?

Oh come on, don’t pretend none of these have crossed your mind.

David Runciman

David Runciman

They’ve all crossed David Runciman’s mind. Yes, even that one. Why? Because the politics professor is deep into a five-year project to work out where, when, how and why conspiracy theories fester – and looking in particular at the link between conspiracy and democracy.

“These days when people have conspiracy theories, they tend to think their government is behind it,” explains David. “A classic modern example is 9/11. There are conspiracy theorists who believe that either the American government knew it was going to happen and didn’t tell anyone, or organised it as an excuse to have war in Iraq; they say it’s about oil – all this kind of stuff.” Yet 100 years ago, people were perhaps more likely to blame, say, secret organisations or the banks if anything went wrong, “so we’re interested in trying to understand why people now think that government is the villain.

“We think it’s got something to do with frustrations with democracy: people thinking ‘Why isn’t the world working out the way we want it to? Government must be to blame!’”

NWO02Some even go a step further, claiming that there’s a ‘New World Order’: an international government run by the mysterious Bilderberg Group. “People believe that about 100 financiers and government representatives meet in secret, and decide what’s going to happen in the future,” he explains. “There’s a guy in America – a wealthy guy, who’s funding political candidates – who believes that the financial crash of 2008 was engineered in order to get Obama into the White House. They think that they’re manipulating the whole world.”

But why would anyone believe that? “Some people would say ‘Because they’re crazy, they’re paranoid, deluded’. But it’s not just that; it’s partly because they want an explanation for why things keep going wrong.

“There’s this thing: ‘Is history a cock-up or is it a conspiracy?’ And the real explanation is probably it’s a cock-up. Why have we been living through a financial crisis? Probably because people messed up! But conspiracy theorists don’t think that’s a good enough explanation. They think somebody must be behind it.”

And, adds David, there may occasionally be method in their madness: “It’s easy to say conspiracy theorists are people who have lost out in some way, but it’s so widespread! We’re looking at it through history, and it’s not just the ‘losers’, there are lots of different kinds of people who believe in these conspiracies. We want to know why.”

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Should we call Conspiracy Theorists “Conspiracy Theorists”?

By via The Soap Box

conspiracies02Of all the things that I have observed about conspiracy theorists one of the things that has always stood out about them to me is that they hate the terms “conspiracy theorist” and “conspiracy theory”. This is for two different reasons:

The primary reason is because they consider the terms to be insulting. This is actually understandable because skeptics and debunkers have used these terms in insulting tones and in an insulting way.

The secondary reason is because they claim that both terms to be “shill” words that were created by the CIA to discourage people from believing in a conspiracy theory (the terms actually first came into use in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s and pre-dates the CIA, it only came to be used in a derogatory way in the mid 1960’s, but there is no evidence to suggest that the CIA had anything to do with that). Some even claim that only “shills” use the terms conspiracy theory and conspiracy theorist. Whether they actually believe this or are just claiming this in order to get people to stop using these terms and/or to scare a skeptic off is another question entirely.

Regardless of the reasons why, the fact is that conspiracy theorists do not like the terms conspiracy theorist and conspiracy theory, and to be all honest I don’t really like those terms either. The reason for this is that simply put a theory is based off of facts and evidence. Conspiracy theories are rarely made up of facts and evidence, and even the ones that do have some facts and evidence behind them are often mangled by conspiracy theorists and is manipulated into something that it is infact not…

To put it bluntly in my personal opinion using the word “theory” in conspiracy theory (and by extension conspiracy theorist) is actually inaccurate and inappropriate.

So what would be an accurate and appropriate term to replace conspiracy theory and theorist with?

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Alex Jones . . . televisions are used to control your mind!

alex jones mind control

What is Stigmata?

By Benjamin Radford via LiveScience

Stigmata15b_250pxPeople who have stigmata exhibit wounds that duplicate or represent those that Jesus is said to have endured during his crucifixion. The wounds typically appear on the stigmatic’s hands and feet (as from crucifixion spikes) and also sometimes on the side (as from a spear) and hairline (as from a crown of thorns).

Along with possession and exorcism, stigmata often appears in horror films, and it’s not difficult to see why: bloody wounds that mysteriously and spontaneously open up are terrifying. However, stigmatics, who are typically devout Roman Catholics, do not see their affliction as a terrifying menace but instead as a miraculous blessing — a sign that they have been specially chosen by God to suffer the same wounds his son did.

Curiously, there are no known cases of stigmata for the first 1,200 years after Jesus died. The first person said to suffer from stigmata was St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), and there have been about three dozen others throughout history, most of them women.

Padre Pio

A young Padre Pio (born Francesco Forgione) displays his stigmata.

A young Padre Pio (born Francesco Forgione) displays his stigmata.

The most famous stigmatic in history was Francesco Forgione (1887-1968), better known as Padre Pio, or Pio of Pietrelcina. The most beloved Italian saint of the last century, Padre Pio first began noticing red wounds appearing on his hands in 1910, and the phenomenon progressed until he experienced full stigmata in 1918 as he prayed in front of a crucifix in his monastery’s chapel.

Padre Pio was said to have been able to fly, and also to bilocate (to be in two places at once); his stigmata was allegedly accompanied by a miraculous perfume; the Rev. Charles Mortimer Carty, in his 1963 biography of the saint, noted that it smelled of “violets, lilies, roses, incense, or even fresh tobacco,” and “whenever anyone notices the perfume it is a sign that God bestows some grace through the intercession of Padre Pio.”

Journalist Sergio Lizzatto, in his book “Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age” explains the social context in which Padre Pio’s stigmata emerged: “In the first years of the twentieth century, when Padre Pio was a seminarian, the Eucharist — the body and blood of Christ — was at the height of its importance in Catholic practice. Communion was celebrated frequently and became a mass phenomenon. At the same time, asceticism was interpreted in ever more physical terms. Body language — ecstasy, levitation, the stigmata — was held to be the only real mystical language.”

Pio’s stigmata appeared, Lizzatto argues, because that’s exactly what the church and its followers expected to appear in its most devout servants: Jesus’ real, physical torment visited upon the holiest of men.

Though Padre Pio was widely beloved, many weren’t convinced that the friar’s wounds were supernatural. Among the skeptics were two popes and the founder of Milan’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Agostino Gemelli, who examined Padre Pio and concluded that the stigmatic was a “self-mutilating psychopath.”

Still, Padre Pio garnered a widespread following and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Though Pio, who died in 1968, never confessed to faking his stigmata, questions about his honesty surfaced when it was revealed that he had copied his writings about his experiences from an earlier stigmatic named Gemma Galgani. He claimed ignorance of Galgani’s work, and could not explain how his allegedly personal experiences had been published verbatim decades earlier by someone else. Perhaps, he suggested, it was a miracle.

Is stigmata real?

Encyclopedia of Claims_300pxSo is stigmata real, or a hoax, or something in between? The claimed miracle of stigmata — like inedia, where people who claim not to eat food — is very difficult to scientifically verify. Veteran researcher James Randi, in his “Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural,” notes that “Since twenty-four-hour-a-day surveillance would be necessary to establish the validity of these phenomena as miracles, no case of stigmata exists that can be said to be free of suspicion,” and though the possibility of genuine stigmata can never be ruled out, “It is interesting to note that in all such cases, the wounds in the hands appear at the palms, which agrees with religious paintings but not with the actualities of crucifixion; the wounds should appear at the wrists.”

If stigmata is real, there is no medical or scientific explanation for it.

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Scientology’s drug rehab facility in Nevada sued over the usual litany of deceptions

Via The Underground Bunker

Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton

Last year, as Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon, was sinking deeper and deeper into trouble, we noticed that an attorney in Las Vegas, Ryan Hamilton, had begun advertising online for Narconon victims. It was another sign of just how bad things were getting for Scientology’s rehab facilities, which were being sued and investigated in several states.

Well, Hamilton’s ad apparently paid off, because this week he filed a federal lawsuit against Scientology’s Narconon facility in Nevada, and the lawsuit’s complaint is one of the best written and most thorough that we’ve ever read.

David, Stacy, and Jack Welch of Texas are suing Narconon Fresh Start, doing business as the Rainbow Canyon Retreat in Caliente, Nevada, for breach of contract, fraud, and negligence.

scientology volcanoctopus_190pxAccording to the complaint, in August Stacy Welch and her husband David began searching on the Internet for a rehab facility for their son Jack, who was 19. Like so many others before her, Stacy found a site that purported to be an independent dispenser of advice about such facilities. She was strongly persuaded by a consultant from the website to send Jack to a Nevada center called “Fresh Start.”

“The consultant never referred to the facility as Narconon, but only as ‘Fresh Start,’” the complaint says.

Stacey and David were then told that they had to hurry, or their son “would wind up dead.”

That certainly sounds familiar. Last year, we reported that some scripts used by Narconon referrers had been leaked to the Internet, and one of the things that consultants are told to do is get a family worked up into a frenzy, telling them that if they don’t hurry, it could have dire consequences.

The consultant then set up an interview with Narconon Fresh Start’s intake director, Josh Penn, who told the Welches that Narconon has a 76 percent success rate.

That’s another thing that comes right out of the scripts, but as we’ve pointed out before, even Narconon’s own legal affairs officer has admitted that there’s no science for the ludicrous success rates the program claims. (Reputable drug rehab programs claim success rates of about 25 percent.)

1968 - American science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard uses his Hubbard Electrometer to determine whether tomatoes experience pain, 1968. His work led him to the conclusion that tomatoes "scream when sliced."

American science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard uses his Hubbard Electrometer to determine whether tomatoes experience pain, 1968. His work led him to the conclusion that tomatoes “scream when sliced.”

The Welches told Penn that they had spotted a reference to L. Ron Hubbard on the the Fresh Start website, but when they asked whether Scientology was involved, Penn assured them that it wasn’t.

The Welches were told they’d have to pay $33,000 up front, and that before Jack could enter the program in Nevada, he’d first have to go through a medical detox in Murrieta, California.

The Welches signed a contract, and the complaint points out that the contract describes Narconon’s origin — it was started in 1966 by a man named William Benitez, who had been inspired by Hubbard’s book, The Fundamentals of Thought.

The complaint points out that the actual name of the book is Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought, The Basic Book of the Theory and Practice of Scientology for Beginners. The Welches believe that the full name is left out of the Narconon contract in order to hide the program’s connection to Scientology.

The contract also refers to the Narconon program as a secular one. But as we’ve pointed out many times, the Narconon program is virtually identical to the introductory levels of Scientology itself, as the Welches learned…

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50 Years ago: February 9, 1964

Nothing conspiracy related, i’m just a huge Beatles fan. Enjoy! :)

Alex Jones – Never believe the government . . .

Alex Jones never believe the govt

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