Monthly Archives: December, 2012

Britain is well prepared to fight apocalyptic zombie invasion

via Telegraph

A zombie invasion is a problem that may seem to belong in a horror film rather than to real life, but, none the less, the British government believes it has worked out the best way to cope with one.

Zombie_2013229bIn the event of an apocalypse brought about by an army of the undead, civil servants would co-ordinate the military’s efforts to “return England to its pre-attack glory”, according to a Freedom of Information request that has revealed the country’s contingency plans.

The MoD (Ministry of Defence) would not lead efforts to plan for such a zombie attack or deal with the aftermath because that role rests with the Cabinet Office, which co-ordinates emergency planning for the Government.

Details about the authorities’ surprising level of readiness for a zombie onslaught emerged in a response to an inquiry from a member of the public.

The MoD (Ministry of Defence) replied: “In the event of an apocalyptic incident (eg zombies), any plans to rebuild and return England to its pre-attack glory would be led by the Cabinet Office, and thus any pre-planning activity would also taken place there.

“The Ministry of Defence’s role in any such event would be to provide military support to the civil authorities, not take the lead. Consequently, the Ministry of Defence holds no information on this matter.”

The Army is frequently called on to save the day in zombie films. Soldiers arrive in the nick of time, for example, to rescue the hero at the climax of Simon Pegg’s 2004 comedy Shaun of the Dead.

[…]Zombie_transparent_250

Last year, Leicester city council was forced to admit that it had no specific preparations for dealing with a zombie invasion, although the local authority stressed that certain aspects of its emergency plan would apply to any disaster. Bristol city council went rather further when asked what it would do in the event of an undead rampage through the West Country.

A senior official replied with a copy of a “top secret” internal strategy document setting out how the council would respond to a “zombie pandemic”.

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The Ouija board

via The Skeptic’s Dictionary

If there really is an afterlife, I’ll bet the best way to contact it is through a plastic, mass-produced board game from Milton Bradley!Mad Magazine

ouijaA Ouija board is commonly used in divination and spiritualism, often by friends out to have some fun. Sometimes, users become convinced they’ve been contacted by the spirit world. The board usually has the letters of the alphabet inscribed on it, along with words such as ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ ‘good-bye,’ and ‘maybe.’ A planchette, a small 3-legged device with a hole in the middle or a pointer of some sort, is manipulated by those using the board. However, users often feel the planchette is moving of its own accord rather than responding to their own unconscious muscle movements (ideomotor action). The users ask a “spirit” a question and the pointer slides until it stops over “yes” or “no” or a letter on the board. Sometimes, the selections “spell out” an answer to a question asked.

Some users believe that paranormal or supernatural forces are at work in spelling out Ouija board answers. Skeptics believe that those using the board either consciously or unconsciously move the pointer to what is selected. To prove this, simply try it blindfolded some time Have an unbiased bystander take notes on what words or letters are selected. Usually, the results will be unintelligible.

The movement of the planchette is not due to spirits but to unconscious movements by those controlling the pointer. The same kind of unconscious movement is at work in such things as dowsing and facilitated communication.

Before there were Ouija boards in America there were talking boards. These could be used to contact the spirit world by anybody in the privacy of one’s own home; no séance was required and no medium need be present (or paid!). No experience necessary! No waiting! Quick results, guaranteed!

The Ouija board  was first introduced to the American public in 1890 as a parlor game sold in novelty shops.

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2012 Psychic Predictions Roundup: Laypeople and Professionals Both Continue to Fail

More psychic failures …

Exposing PseudoAstronomy

Download the Predictions Roundup Document (PDF)

Introduction

Continuing a tradition that I started in 2010 and continued in 2011, I am posting a “psychic roundup” to celebrate the end of one Julian calendar year and bring in the next. In previous years, I have focused on Coast to Coast AM audience and professional predictions, and my conclusion has been, in one word: Bad. Average around 6% correct.

This year, I have branched out to other sources for three primary reasons. First, Coast has changed their format such that the audience predictions are more annoying and outlandish and it’s no longer one per person. Second, Coast is no longer doing a night or two of professional predictions where they bring in several guests per night to discuss the year ahead. It’s just a few people scattered over January. Third, last year, I was criticized for relying on Coast with people…

View original post 1,362 more words

‘UFO’ Videotaped From Airplane: What Is It? : Discovery News

by Benjamin Radford via Discovery News

A home video allegedly taken just before Christmas during a late-night flight appears to show a UFO flying next to the plane. The video, posted to YouTube by a man named Mauricio Ruiz, has the Internet buzzing.

According to Tom Rose, an Examiner.com blogger,

The UFO itself is of a type possibly never filmed before. For most of the video the lustrous, rounded object flies alongside the jet, maintaining relative distance and speed. This in itself is unusual as aircraft are usually separated by a mile or more for safety reasons. The object looks metallic and resembles a closed fist encased in a glove.

TheUFO1013_cropped

Still frame from the video in question
showing the alleged UFO.

Actually the video doesn’t show a “lustrous, rounded object” — nor, for that matter, a metallic one — but instead a group of six or eight clustered irregular-shaped lights that remain more or less fixed in one position. Still, its identity has many puzzled: Lights on the ground? A hoax? Reflection of interior cabin lights? A flying saucer?

Though a definitive conclusion has yet to be reached, there are a few clues in the video that offer a plausible explanation.

For one thing, the light cluster does not move relative to the airplane; indeed it remains apparently stationary in the sky from the cameraman’s point of view. It keeps the exact same speed and altitude near the plane, which would very unusual if it is an aircraft sidling nearby.

It’s important to remember that airplane windows are different from ordinary house windows. For one thing, the panes are not flat but instead slightly curved, which can alter and distort images seen in them.

Furthermore, objects outside the cabin are viewed not through one pane but instead through at least two transparent panels of glass and plastic; this creates an overlaying double reflection of lights from inside the cabin.

The image is reflected once by the plastic near the seat, and once more by the thick laminated glass on the inside of the window itself, a few inches beyond. The result is a reflection that often appears as a duplicate image, depending on the angle of the viewer.

Indeed, this effect can be seen in the ‘UFO’ video. At several places in the video (including 0:18 and 0:41), this duplicate ghosting effect is apparent; though the image is moving and blurry because of the unsteady camera, the same pattern of lights can be seen overlapping each other.

Mr. Ruiz moves his hand toward and around the window, apparently trying to rule out the possibility that the image is a reflection from within the cabin. However his hand only blocks reflections coming from the extreme left of the window; it does not rule out reflections coming from above and behind him — which is where cabin lights would be.

At one point the lights suddenly disappear, likely because …

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IllumiNuTTi.com editor’s note:

I think Benjamin Radford, author of the above article, is onto something. I agree the UFO seen in the aircraft window is a reflection from some light source originating from inside the aircraft cabin. I think an overhead reading lamp like the one pictured below would make an excellent UFO reflection in an aircraft window. What do you think?

On the left

On the left is a typical overhead reading lamp.
On the right is the reflection (UFO) in question.

2012 Failed and Forgotten Psychic Predictions

via Relatively Interesting

psychic_250pxAnother year has come and gone, and with it, a slew of failed and forgotten psychic predictions.  Each year, the world’s “leading” psychics lay down their predictions in January, and then we review them one year later to see how they did.  Before reviewing their track record for 2012, let’s consider a handful of significant news items that were not predicted.

What the Psychics Didn’t Predict for 2012

Here’s what the leading psychics failed to predict in 2012:

  • New York and New Jersey being hit with Hurricane Sandy.  Some warning to the victims would have been greatly appreciated.
  • Century 16 movie theatre shooting where 12 people were killed and dozens injured
  • One of the worst school shootings in American history which left 26 dead in Newtown, Connecticut.
  • The crisis in Syria reaching new heights
  • Discovery of the Higg’s Boson
  • Cruise ship “Costa Concordia” running aground in Italy, killing 15.
  • The death of Whitney Houston (despite the fact that Psychic Nikki listed 121 celebrities that need to “watch out” or may die in 2012)
  • CIA Director David Patraeus’ affair and subsequent resignation

To see a comprehensive list of major news stories that occurred in 2012, visit HitoryOrb’s website.  There are many more that qualify as significant, and an equal number that were not predicted.  It’s only fair that psychics are judged not only on what they predicted, but what they failed to predict.

And now, let’s see how some of the world’s leading psychics, seers, and mentalists fared.

Year 2012 Psychic Predictions and Their Results

The psychic predictions below were compiled from the paranormal section on About.com, along with each Psychic’s individual websites.  The authors have made their best efforts to research the results, and their comments are in italics and red.  Feel free to add your own comments at the bottom of this article..

Judy Hevenly

crystal ball FAILURE_300PXJudy Hevenly is a teacher, astrologer, and writer, whose forecasts have appeared in many publications and newspapers worldwide. Her clientele includes royalty, former presidents, Hollywood movie stars, and heads of state. Judy was also called in to work at the O.J. Simpson trial. She is featured in the book, The 100 Top Psychics in America.

  • Unemployment in U.S. to fall to about 9.5 percent. Jobs in demand will be healthcare, science, technology, senior caretakers and jobs overseas.  It’s actually at 7.7% at the time this article was written.
  • An Emmy Award for Anderson Cooper TV talk show.  He did not win an Emmy.
  • A baby boy for Kate Middleton and Prince William.  Now, Kate is indeed pregnant in 2012, but the sex of the baby is still unknown to the public.  Either way, this prediction has a 50% of being correct, and those odds ain’t bad.
  • A tsunami in Hawaii; major wildfires in Canada.  There was a small tsunami in Hawaii after a strong earthquake of the coast of British Columbia, Canada.  As for the wildfires – there are always wildfires, and so “major wildfires” is ill defined.
  • Gold bar, $2,000 an ounce; oil, $130 a barrel.  Gold hovered around $1,800, but never hit $2,000.  Oil did not hit $130, not even for a single day.
  • World population hits 7.6 billion in 2012. Do the math and you can figure the number out – this shouldn’t count as a prediction.
  • Iran to become Persian Gulf major refinery.  I thought they already were, at least since 2008 and at least since 2010 according to this article (see graph indicating gas and oil production).
  • Barack Obama re-elected president.  50/50 chance on this one, and she got it.
  • Russia to become a member of the World Trade OrganizationThis happened in August 2012.
  • Facial recognition software will add a new level of security to U.S. computers.  Whose computers?  Households?  Military?  Government?  This isn’t clear in the prediction.
  • Breakthrough in the cure of Lyme disease.  This is highly subjective.  What constitutes a breakthrough?  By who?  Can any quack claim it for this prediction to be right?  Journalists will often use the term “breakthrough” to showcase positive results.
  • Power outages in Paris, Las Vegas, London, New York, and Los Angeles.  Now, technically she got New York right due to Hurricane Sandy, but she did use the term “and” between all those cities, meaning they should have all been affected…
  • Throwback to the 1960s with longer skirts for women in the fashion world.  Men will also wear shoes with black soles…
  • Angels will actually be seen walking among us by some with extraordinary powers of perception.  Absolutely did not happen, since there’s still no scientifically valid evidence to suggest that angels exist.

Psychic Nikki

crystal_ball_01In 2011, Nikki — “Psychic to the Stars” — says she predicted the Japan earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Wall Street protests in New York City, the devastating Joplin, Missouri tornadoes, the deaths of Elizabeth Taylor and Amy Winehouse, and the trouble in Syria. Here’s what she sees for 2012 (note, this is only part of the list):

  • Earthquake in Mexico City destroying most of the city.  Did not happen.
  • Major breakthrough in the cure for breast cancer.  Again, define “breakthrough”.  In our research, nothing really qualified (using “revolutionary or epic” as a baseline).
  • Giant earthquake in California.  Did not happen.
  • Animals and birds, wild and domestic, will attack people leading up to the end of 2012.  This is a ridiculous prediction.  No comment.
  • Weird weather conditions worldwide including snow in Hawaii, Las Vegas and in the Caribbean.  As far as I know, there was no snowfall in these locations, although Las Vegas would be the most likely candidate.
  • Major earthquakes in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska.  Sneaky – pick a few major state/provinces along the Pacific Ring of Fire where earthquakes are common, and you’re bound to get one.  And she did – British Columbia.
  • Giant prehistoric Sea Monsters under the sea.  Swing and a miss.

LOTS MORE . . .

The Mayans Aren’t the Only Ones to Get It Wrong – Worst ‘End…

via PRNewswire — LONDON, December 28, 2012
(H/T: Thomas J. Proffit)

meteor.jpg.w300h247Last week the world has seen yet another failed doomsday prediction, but far from this being the preserve of either the Mayans or modern day “preppers”, established religions and even esteemed scientists have also had their fair share of failed predictions. However, now we are left wondering what the next big end of world prediction will be.

Numerous, by Kelly Rogers , out now on Amazon Kindle, is a thriller written around the Papal Prophecy, by Ireland’s first ever saint, Archbishop Malachy, who correctly predicted each and every pope until the very last, as well as his own death. The 900-year-old manuscript still lies in the Vatican archives.

Modern-day readers may believe that this book has no relevance to our lives today, but think again. St Malachy’s prophecy predicts that the final pope will usher forth “The End. When the terrible judge will judge his people.” We currently see the penultimate pope, Joesph Ratzinger , in the Vatican and exactly what “The End” will be we can only guess at… But we’re sure this is going to be the next big thing in doomsday predictions!

The Modern Day Doomsdayer

Californian preacher Harold Camping took a very public climb-down in May 2011 when his end-of-the-world prediction failed to materialise, after a nationwide billboard and radio advert campaign. This was not Camping’s first failed foray into the world of divination; he inaccurately predicted the world would end on the 6th September 1994 and consequently some followers gave up homes, savings and jobs. When the end failed to occur he revised the date to September 29 and then again to October 2.

He said, “I don’t have any responsibility. I’m only teaching the Bible. I don’t have spiritual rule over anybody… except my wife.” We imagine everyone, including his long-suffering wife, will take any further predictions with a liberal pinch of salt.

2000 reasons to not believe

Apocalypse_by_DearJuneMany luminaries over the centuries predicted 2000 and the end of time, including: Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy; Edgar Cayce , world famous US psychic and healer; Sun Myung Moon , founder of the Unification Church; and even the esteemed and revered Sir Isaac Newton .

This also has to be the least original prophecy in history. At the turn of the first millennium many people expected Christ to return and ‘the end’ to arrive with him. Our prediction: expect more of the same for the year 3000.

The TV Evangelist turned would-be US president

Ex-Baptist minister and US TV evangelist Pat Robertson said that “God told him the end was coming”, but to avoid catastrophe we all needed to “pray real hard”. We can only assume that the world did just that as no cataclysm arrived.

Robertson’s power of prophecy has also evaded him in his own life; evidently not seeing his total defeat as a Republican presidential candidate in 1988.

False Witness

end-of-the-worldWe all know how tenacious Jehovah Witnesses can be when it comes to door knocking and it seems that they’re equally as dogged when it comes to doomsday predictions. They first predicted Armageddon in 1914, when disaster failed to appear they revised their prophecy to 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994.

No Method in the Madness

Charles Wesley , one of the founders of the Methodist church, predicted the end in 1794, as did the Shakers. Despite his obvious error Charles’ brother, John, joined in and predicted that 1836 would be the year of the Great Beast and would herald the beginning of the end.

However, Charles Wesley clearly had his shaky convictions; he begged to be buried in an Anglican not Methodist grave just before his death.

The Millerites were never right

William Miller (founder of the Millerites, now the Seventh Day Adventists) predicted the end would come between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. The dates came and went with nothing occurring so the date was revised to April 18th. Again nothing happened and the date was changed to October 22, 1844. Miller continued to wait for the end until his death in 1849, which certainly was the end for him. However, the modern-day church that Miller founded continues to claim to this day that the date was correct, but as it was an event that occurred in Heaven it went entirely unnoticed by us on the Earthly plane.

The Jupiter Effect

galactic-alignment1The Jupiter Effect was written in 1974 by two astrophysicists, John Gribben and Stephen Plagemann . Predicted for 10th March 1982 when all nine planets would align and create a gravitational pull that would cause a “huge increase in sunspots, solar, flares, and/or earthquakes”. Gribben later claimed it never was a prophecy but a theoretical “what if?” However, people did believe that it was actually going to happen, the credentials of the theorists adding weight to the calculations. And indeed an effect was measured on Earth – a 0.04 millimetre high tide!

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To read the first three chapters of NUMEROUS visit http://www.kellyrogersauthor.com and click portfolio.

Magnetic myths

by Donald Prothero via Skepticblog
Dec 26, 2012

608139main1_geomagnetic-field-670-560x420
All throughout the long buildup up to last week’s latest failed prediction of an global apocalypse, you would hear people claiming that the earth-shattering catastrophe of Dec. 21 would include “pole shifts” or “changes in the earth’s magnetic field” and all sorts of other sciencey phrases, proclaimed by people with absolutely no idea what they were talking about. The idea of “magnetism” is one of the most popular memes in the lexicon of pseudoscientists and New Agers, since magnets operate “mysteriously” and exert a force at a distance. From the days of Franz Mesmer claiming he had “magnetism” over people, to the trite phrase “animal magnetism,” the concept of magnetism has always been mysterious and misunderstood. Hence the big market for sticking magnets on various parts of your body to “cure” you. All they do is waste money, and possibly demagnetize the magnetic strip on your credit cards. The idea that somehow the earth’s magnetic field will shift abruptly or that the earth’s core will stop rotating (as in the idiotic Hilary Swank movie “The Core”) or even more wildly, that the earth’s rotational pole will change, are all common ideas out there in Wacko-Land.

Among the crazy ideas out there is that somehow the magnetic poles will shift and destroy all electrical devices (this web site), thus destroying civilization. Or this site, which claims that pole shifts will cause earthquakes and hurricanes, and NASA is covering up what’s happening. Or this bizarre post, which freely uses the words “gruesome” and “horror”. Or this site, which cherry-picks items from actual science posts and then completely misinterprets what they mean.

This is just a small sampling of the pseudoscientific garbage all over the internet posted before Dec. 21. Most of us know enough about science and apocalyptic predictions to guess that they are not worth taking seriously, but very few people have bothered to debunk this stuff. Unfortunately, we saw lots of sad consequences of people who did take the ridiculous apocalyptic predictions seriously, often with tragic results.

Among my other specialties, my professional training is in paleomagnetism, and I’ve conducted over 35 years of published research in the field, so I’m pretty familiar with what we do and don’t know about the earth’s magnetic field and how it behaves.

First, some science. The earth’s magnetic field has at least two components, the dipolar field (illustrated above), which makes up about 90% of the magnetism we normally feel, and a non-dipole field, which is normally hard to detect beneath it but makes up at least 10% of the earth’s field. The dipole field is not exactly lined up with the rotational axis of the earth (i.e., there is a small angle between magnetic north and true north), but over geologic spans of time, magnetic north wanders around the vicinity of the rotational pole; this movement known as secular variation. Studies have shown … MORE . . ..

Mermaids: Why they really are a myth – Part 2

Part 1 of this 3 part series can be found here.

Un-evolvable

via The Soap Box

melissa-mermaid_250pxIn a previous blog concerning the Discovery Networks docu-drama Mermaids: The Body Found I discussed how it isn’t possible for mermaids to hide for this long and never be found. Well, there is a very good reason why mermaids have never been found, and why they most likely don’t exist in the first place: It’s highly unlikely that humans could have evolved into mermaids (at least in the short period of time as the film depicts).

Most mermaids (including the ones in the film) are often depicted as having their legs being fused together into a tail, with their feet having evolved into a large flipper.

While there have cases of infants born with their legs fused, this is not an evolutionary process, but a very rare birth defect called Sirenomelia, and most infants that are born this way either don’t live very long, or they are still-born. Those that do manage to live for several years after they were born are only alive because of modern medicine and surgical techniques. Considering this it should be considered highly unlikely that someone born this way could live long enough to have children of their own (if they were even capable of having children in the first place, and most children born with Sirenomelia are usually born with underdeveloped reproductive organs, or none at all) or could even survive in the water. Also, considering the rarity of this birth defect it’s highly unlikely that enough people could be born like this in the first place to create a sizable population.

The reality in concerning the evolutionary process when it comes to limbs is that limbs usually do one of two things: they grow or they shrink to the point where they disappear.

Dolphins are a good example of both of this.

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Part 3 of this 3 part series can be found here.

The Batman/Sandy Hook Delusion

By Mason I. Bilderberg

Have you heard the one about the latest Batman movie foretelling the shooting at the Sandy Hook school? The story has been floating around for at least two weeks now and i’ve been addressing the issue on a number of forums, so i thought i would bring the issue here to iLLumiNuTTi.com.

From our favorite morons over at infowars.com:

Bizarre evidence that the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut may have been staged has surfaced in the form of YouTube videos which point out the words “Sandy Hook” were written on a map that appeared in the most recent Dark Knight movie, a startling revelation given the deluge of mysterious coincidences already plaguing the movie.

According to numerous YouTube videos, a scene appears in which Commissioner Gordon points at a Gotham City map and confusingly, directly to the words “Sandy Hook.”

Here is a still shot from the movie The Dark Knight with an explanation below:

TheDarkKnight12

Click image for much larger view.

The top photo is a still shot from the movie showing the map of Gotham City. Allegedly (i’m not motivated enough to personally verify this ridiculousness) at 1:58:41 into the movie Commissioner Gordon sets his hand down on the map of Gotham City (lower left) on a location called Sandy Hook (lower right) and says, “To mark the truck. Get a GPS on it so we can start to figure out how to bring it down.” Also notice the words “strike zone” are written on the map (lower right). Shiver me timbers.

According to conspiracists, this can only mean one thing: It’s obvious the Sandy Hook shootings were foreseen by the filmmakers behind “The Dark Knight Rises“!!!!

Again from InfoWars.com:

“As more of these ‘strange coincidences’ continue to pop up, it would take a fool not to question the motive behind it all: Is this all part of an evil pre-conditioning program?”

“This definitely begins to tread into Satanic and occult territory, the purpose of which is known to only a select few in tight-knit circles at the very top branches of various secret societies.”

Yes, “evil pre-conditioning programming,” “Satanic and occult territories” and “the very top branches of various secret societies.” Are you scared yet? You shouldn’t be.

According to Batman co-creator Bill Finger, Gotham City is based on New York City:

«Writer Bill Finger, uncredited co-creator, with Bob Kane, of the DC Comics character Batman, on the naming of (Gotham) city and the reason for changing Batman’s locale from New York City to a fictional city said, “Originally I was going to call Gotham City ‘Civic City.’ Then I tried ‘Capital City,’ then ‘Coast City.’ Then I flipped through the New York City phone book and spotted the name ‘Gotham Jewelers’ and said, ‘That’s it,’ Gotham City. We didn’t call it New York because we wanted anybody in any city to identify with it.”

“Gotham” had long been a well-known nickname for New York City even prior to Batman’s 1939 introduction, which explains why “Gotham Jewelers” and many other businesses in New York City have the word “Gotham” in them. The nickname was popularized in the nineteenth century, having been first attached to New York by Washington Irving in the November 11, 1807 edition of his Salmagundi.»[1][2]

Look at a map of New York, there are A LOT of places in and around NY called Sandy Hook – most notably Sandy Hook Bay (only a stones throw away in NJ) and the 10-plus locations surrounding Sandy Hook Bay with “Sandy Hook” in the name.

Click image for much larger view.

Click image for much larger view.

Gotham City is based on the city of New York. New York is surrounded by many locales with the name Sandy Hook. Why do conspiracists ignore this obvious connection between the map of Gotham and the name Sandy Hook?

Conspiracists engage in confirmation bias to maintain their world of delusions.

Mason I. Bilderberg

Curse That Painting!

By Massimo Polidoro via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – csicop.org

Paranormal legends about paintings have always existed. Some think that a picture falling off the wall represents a bad omen for the person depicted or photographed in it. Others feel watched by some portraits whose eyes seem to follow onlookers as they move through a room. And still others claim that paintings can come alive; people in it can move, smile, close their eyes, or even leave the picture. And, of course, tales of “cursed” paintings abound.

Certainly great writers, from Oscar Wilde with The Picture of Dorian Gray to Stephen King with Rose Madder, have been able to tell extraordinary stories of scary and unsettling paintings. However, many believe that “haunted” paintings can exist in real life. Coming from a family that has always dealt with paintings—my grandfather is a painter, my father was an art collector, and together with their wives they have run a shop selling paintings for over fifty years—it is easy to understand why this is a subject that particularly fascinates me.

The Hands Resist Him

polidoro-curse-painting-hands-resist

The Hands Resist Him painting by Bill Stoneham was sold on eBay as “cursed.”

In February 2000, a supposedly cursed painting was auctioned on eBay. It was titled The Hands Resist Him and was painted in 1972 by California artist Bill Stoneham. It depicted a young boy and a female doll standing in front of a glass paneled door against which many hands are pressed. The owners claimed that the characters in it came alive, sometimes leaving the painting and entering the room in which it was being displayed. It was sold for $1,025 to Perception Gallery in Grand Rapids, Mich­igan, which, when contacted some time later, stated that they had not noticed anything strange since buying the painting.

Luckily for Stoneham, the rumor caused by the story made the painting so popular that it was depicted in a short movie by A.D. Calvo (Sitter), as the CD cover art for Carnival Divine’s self-titled album, and was featured in the PC video game “Scratches.” Today, prints of it—and of its sequel, Resistance at the Threshold—are sold in different sizes.

Smiling Portrait

polidoro-curse-painting-smiling-portrait

Teresa Rovere. On the right, seen through a viewfinder, the face seems to smile;
it’s just an illusion created by the shape of the lens.

In November 2005, the Italian TV show Voyager showed a painting owned by self-proclaimed psychic Gustavo Rol from Turin. It depicted a noble lady, Teresa Rovere, wearing nineteenth century garments and a somber frown. However, when the painting was seen through the viewfinder of a camera the mouth seemed to curl upward, forming a smile. Nothing could be seen with the naked eye and the film recorded through the camera did not show anything unusual. On the show, it was claimed that this was an unexplainable phenomenon, maybe an after-life paranormal experiment of the late Rol. In reality, it was a simple optical effect due to the round shape of the viewfinder, the lens of which tends to narrow and make rounder anything seen through it: thus, the coronet on Teresa’s hair seems to bend downward just like the mouth appears to bend upward, creating the illusion of a smile that in reality is not there.

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The Bermuda Triangle and the Devil’s Sea

Two regions of ocean are said to be mysteriously dangerous. What’s the truth behind this popular belief?

via Skeptoid.com
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Today we’re going to hit the high seas, and venture into a matched pair of alleged danger zones where ships and airplanes are said to disappear at an alarming rate. Some believe that the Bermuda Triangle and its twin, the Devil’s Sea south of Japan, are merely regions where natural forces combine to form a genuine navigational hazard; while others believe that some unknown agent is responsible for sweeping the hapless travelers from the face of the Earth. Today we’re going to dive into the waters to see how deep the mysteries really are. Let’s begin with:

The Bermuda Triangle

trianglemapIt’s perhaps the best known of all the world’s regions said to be strangely treacherous. The triangle goes from Miami to Bermuda to Puerto Rico, and despite a huge amount of normal shipping traffic passing through it every day, stories persist that some force there lurks to pull ships and planes to a watery grave.

The most common appearance of the Bermuda Triangle today is on television documentaries and popular books that purport to take a “science-based” look at the phenomenon. They give the appearance of skepticism by dismissing the paranormal explanations like psychic energy, Atlantis, or alien abductions, and instead focus on natural phenomena that could be responsible for disappearances. These include rogue waves, undersea methane explosions, or strange geomagnetic fluctuations. They test these explanations with scale models and sophisticated simulations.

But in fact, this representation of being scientific is wrong. To investigate the Bermuda Triangle scientifically, we would start with an observation, and then test hypotheses to explain it. Popular programming today tends to skip the very first step: actually having an observation to explain.

One of the first things you learn when researching the Bermuda Triangle responsibly — which means including source material beyond the TV shockumentaries and pulp paperbacks that promote the mystery wholeheartedly — is that transportation losses inside the Bermuda Triangle do not occur at a rate higher than anywhere else, and the number of losses that are unexplained is also not any higher. Statistically speaking, there is no Bermuda Triangle. The books and TV shows are trying to explain an imaginary observation. MORE . . .

The Devil’s Sea

bermuda-triangle1_300pxIt goes by many names: the Devil’s Sea, the Dragon’s Triangle, and the Taiwan Triangle; and, just as is the Bermuda Triangle, it’s even sometimes called the Devil’s Triangle. Its location varies a bit depending on which author you read, but the triangle usually runs from Taiwan up to the volcanic island of Miyake-jima just south of Tokyo, to about Iwo-jima or thereabouts. Miyake-jima and Iwo-jima lie along the Izu-Bonin volcanic arc, a line of underwater volcanoes and islands that’s part of a system stretching 2500 kilometers from Japan to Guam. Some, like Charles Berlitz, say that the Devil’s Sea is every bit as dangerous and mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle.

In his 1989 book The Dragon’s Triangle, Berlitz said that Japan lost five military vessels in the area between 1952 and 1954 alone, with a loss of some 700 sailors. In Dan Cohen’s 1974 book Curses, Hexes, & Spells it’s reported that legends of the danger of the Devil’s Sea go back for centuries in Japan. Its most famous casualty was the No. 5 Kaiyo-Maru, a scientific research vessel, which disappeared with the loss of all hands on September 24, 1953 (a date often wrongly reported as 1952 or 1958).

With such a dramatic history, you’d expect there to be all sorts of books on the subject, especially in Japan. But it turns out that the eager researcher is disappointed. A search for books, newspaper, or magazine articles on the Devil’s Sea comes up completely empty, until a full 20 years after the loss of the Kaiyo-Maru. Apparently, the story — even the very existence of this legendary named region — was not invented until very recently. MORE . . .

Do you make assumptions?

via Assumptions – YouTube.

Also see: Richard Wiseman – Blog

The Baby-Snatching Eagle: Real or Fake?

By Hany Farid via Image Authentication and Forensics | Fourandsix Technologies

A video purportedly showing an eagle swooping down and snatching a baby has gone viral:

Given how unlikely the video seems, there is a vigorous debate about its authenticity. We performed a forensic lighting analysis on this video to determine if it is real or fake.

To perform this analysis, we connect points on an object with their corresponding cast shadow. Because of the geometry of cast shadows, all such constraints must intersect at a single point. (For an understanding of why this is so, read my previous blog post about shadows.)

Shown below are five such constraints from one frame of the video, just as the eagle is about to the grab the baby. The red lines are from the baby and eagle, and the blue lines are from the slide, adult, and stroller. You can clearly see that these shadows are not consistent with one another. The most likely scenario is that the baby and eagle are computer generated and were inserted into a real-world scene. Because this scene is outdoors and illuminated with a single light source (the sun), there is no physically plausible explanation for this inconsistency in shadows.

[click for a magnified view]

[UPDATE: Minutes after posting this blog entry, we discovered that the perpetrators of the hoax had come forward. They managed to fool much of the internet pretty successfully, but it appears that they can still use some practice in refining their 3D simulations.]

Shape-shifting Aliens control the Earth (Embarrassing Conspiracy Theories)

via The Soap Box

tmgornWhile there are a lot of strange conspiracy theories out there, perhaps one of the most bizarre conspiracy theories out there is one that the primary promoter of is David Icke: that the leaders of the world (and just about anyone who is famous) are actually shape-shifting aliens.

The aliens are often times described as being humanoid reptilians that are from either another planet or universe (although some claim that they are actually the offspring of alien-human hybrids from thousands of years ago) and have actually been in control for thousands of years, and are using their technology to take on a human form and secretly control the human race.

There are several videos on the internet that claim to show some famous person or politician showing some type of reptilian features for a split second, and the reality is that they do not. Many of these videos allegedly shows a person “revealing” some kind of reptilian features are actually the result of camera angle and light reflection, or even or even natural human bodily actions, such as pupil dilation, and just licking lips with one’s tongue. Some of these video are even the result of some special effects put in to the video by someone who wants to prove that shape-shifting aliens are real.

Taking into account the wide scope that many conspiracy theorists believe this to be, many people have been accused of being a shape-shifting alien (this includes David Icke as well, and possible even myself). There are even people who actually claim to be one of these aliens. Of course they never actually turn into an alien, they just act very strange when they are in what they claim to be in their transformation. These “transformations” seem more like acting, or psychosis.

MORE . . .

Mayan prophecy 2012

via The Skeptic’s Dictionary

Note: by the time you read this, you won’t need to read this because you’ll know the world didn’t end as some people said it would on December 21, 2012. Doomsday predictions are a dime a dozen. Why anyone believes them is the real mystery.

In a nutshell: The Mayan prophecy for 2012 is something made up by people who don’t know much about the Maya. The Maya didn’t predict anything, much less the end of the world.

The idea that the Maya predicted the end of the world on 12-21-2012 is a hoax.

mayantempleThe Maya had several calendars and one of them starts over in 2012. Some people think this means they predicted the end of the world. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they like to scare people. The Maya didn’t predict the end of the world. But even if they did, so what? The Maya couldn’t even predict the end of their own civilization, which collapsed over one thousand years ago. Anyway, anyone can predict anything about the future. That doesn’t mean their prediction will come true.

Mayan civilization was at its peak for over 750 years in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and parts of Central America. The Maya, like all farming societies, had to study things that affect the soil and the growth of plants. They studied the pattern of the seasons and knew when to plant and when to store up food for the dry months. Their studies led them to create several calendars. We don’t really know much about these calendars. For example, we know that the Long Count Calendar—the one that ends on 12-21-2012—began about 5,000 years ago on August 11, 3114 BCE. 2012_failWe don’t know why the Maya started their calendar on that date and we don’t know why they ended it on 12-21-2012. We don’t even know if 12-21-2012 is the actual date the Long Count Calendar ends. All we know is that the Maya reset this calendar to day 0 every 1,872,000 days, a period known as The Great Circle. We don’t know why they thought this number was important. It’s a big number and amounts to more days than the oldest Egyptian pyramids have been around.

We know that the Maya had a large empire, but they were not able to solve some important problems. They had too many people on too little land. They destroyed their own environment by cutting down too many trees and by farming in ways that ruined their soil. Climate change brought long periods with no rain. Why should we think the Maya prophets would be any better at seeing the distant future than failed prophets of other times and other peoples?

The fact is that anybody can predict the end of the world, but nobody knows when it will happen.

MORE . . .

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‘Alien-Like’ Skulls Excavated in Mexico

By Charles Choi via LiveScience

Although cranial deformation and dental mutilation were common features among the pre-Hispanic populations of Mesoamerica and western Mexico, but scientists had not previously seen either in Sonora or the American Southwest.
CREDIT: Cristina García / INAH.
Click image to view full size image

Human skulls deliberately warped into strange, alien-like shapes have been unearthed in a 1,000-year-old cemetery in Mexico, researchers say.

The practice of deforming skulls of children as they grew was common in Central America, and these findings suggest the tradition spread farther north than had been thought, scientists added.

The cemetery was discovered by residents of the small Mexican village of Onavas in 1999 as they were building an irrigation canal. It is the first pre-Hispanic cemetery found in the northern Mexican state of Sonora.

The site, referred to as El Cemeterio, contained the remains of 25 human burials. Thirteen of them had deformed skulls, which were elongate and pointy at the back, and five had mutilated teeth. [See Photos of the ‘Alien’ Skulls]

foto2-1

Of the 25 burials, 17 were children between 5 months and 16 years of age.
CREDIT: Cristina García / INAH.
Click image to view full size image

Dental mutilation involves filing or grinding teeth into odd shapes, while cranial deformation involves distorting the normal growth of a child’s skull by applying force — for example, by using cloths to bind wooden boards against their heads.

“Cranial deformation has been used by different societies in the world as a ritual practice, or for distinction of status within a group or to distinguish between social groups,” said researcher Cristina García Moreno, an archaeologist at Arizona State University. “The reason why these individuals at El Cemeterio deformed their skulls is still unknown.”

“The most common comment I’ve read from people that see the pictures of cranial deformation has been that they think that those people were ‘aliens,'” García added. “I could say that some say that as a joke, but the interesting thing is that some do think so. Obviously we are talking about human beings, not of aliens.”

MORE . . .
Also see Cranial deformation is not ALIEN – Take a minute to Google it.

Mexico’s ethnic Maya unmoved by 2012 ‘Armageddon’ hysteria

By Alexandra Alper via Reuters

Mayan_018889_200pxIZAMAL, Mexico, Dec 19 (Reuters) – Thousands of mystics, New Age dreamers and fans of pre-Hispanic culture have been drawn to Mexico in hopes of witnessing great things when the day in an old Maya calendar dubbed “the end of the world” dawns on Friday.

But many of today’s ethnic Maya cannot understand the fuss. Mostly Christian, they have looked on in wonder at the influx of foreign tourists to ancient cities in southern Mexico and Central America whose heyday passed hundreds of years ago.

For students of ancient Mesoamerican time-keeping, Dec. 21, 2012 marks the end of a 5,125-year cycle in the Maya Long Calendar, an event one leading U.S. scholar said in the 1960s could be interpreted as a kind of Armageddon for the Maya.

Academics and astronomers say too much weight was given to the words and have sought to allay fears the end is nigh.

But over the past few decades, fed by popular culture, Friday became seen by some western followers of alternative religions as a day on which momentous change could occur.

“It’s a psychosis, a fad,” said psychologist Vera Rodriguez, 29, a Mexican of Maya descent living in Izamal, Yucatan state, near the center of the 2012 festivities, the site of Chichen Itza. “I think it’s bad for our society and our culture.”

MORE . . .

The Power of Confirmation Bias

via NeuroLogica Blog

It is … not enough to have a generally skeptical outlook, or even to call oneself a skeptic. Skepticism is a journey of self-knowledge, exploration, and mastering the various skills that comprise so-called metacognition – the ability to think about thinking.

[…]

ConfirmationBias2As an example of the need for metacognitive skills in navigating this complex world there is confirmation bias. This is definitely on my top 5 list of core skeptical concepts, and is a major contributor to faulty thinking. Confirmation bias is the tendency to perceive and accept information that seems to confirm our existing beliefs, while ignoring, forgetting, or explaining away information that contradicts our existing beliefs. It is a systematic bias that works relentlessly and often subtly to push us in the direction of a desired or preexisting conclusion or bias. Worse – it gives us a false sense of confidence in that conclusion. We think we are following the evidence, when in fact we are leading the evidence.

Part of the illusion of evidence created by confirmation bias is the fact that there is so much information out there in the world. We encounter numerous events, people, and bits of data every day. Our brains are great at sifting this data for meaningful patterns, and when we see the pattern we think, “What are the odds? That cannot be a coincidence, and so it confirms my belief.” Rather, the odds that you would have encountered something that could confirm your belief was almost certain, given the number of opportunities.

Another factor that plays into confirmation bias is using open-ended criteria, or ad-hoc or post-hoc analysis. This means that we decide after we encounter a bit of information that this information confirms our belief. We retrofit the new data into our belief as confirmation.

Confirmation bias is further supported by a network of cognitive flaws – logical fallacies, heuristics, and other cognitive biases – that conspire together to reinforce our existing beliefs. In the end you have people who, based on the same underlying reality, arrive at confidently and firmly held conclusions that are directly opposing and mutually exclusive.

I encounter examples of confirmation bias every day. (My now favorite quote about this is from Jon Ronson, who said, “After I learned about confirmation bias I started seeing it everywhere.”) Of course, at first it is easy to see confirmation bias in others, and only later do we learn to detect it in ourselves, which forever remains challenging.

MORE . . .

Scientists suggest we might be overlooking alien communications

via www.digitaljournal.com

grey1_1A new theory has been put forward in the astrophysics world suggesting people have assumed too much when looking for alien attempts to communicate with Earth.

The theory, proposed by James Benford, his son, Dominic Benford, and Jame’s twin brother Gregory Benford, published in two papers in June, have generated a great deal of excitement in the science world. The Benfords looked at the issue of communications and concluded that aliens, much like humans, would want to economize their resources where possible, and thus they would not send out communications resembling what scientists have expected would be sent. Instead, the scientists suggest, aliens might be as frugal with expensive resources as humans are.

The University of California Irvine said extraterrestrials might have been trying to contact Earth all along, but because scientists were looking for something different, the messages were missed. The trio of scientists believe extraterrestrials might send out short messages, or pulses. James explained, saying

“This approach is more like Twitter and less like War and Peace.”

James is a physicist as well as the founder and president of Microwave Sciences Inc. in Lafayette, California. Dominic is a scientist with NASA, and Gregory is an astrophysicist with the University of California Irvine. The new hypothesis is based on an old adage. Gregory explained …

MORE . . .

False Memories

via Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking

image010A false memory is a memory that is a distortion of an actual experience or a confabulation of an imagined one. Many false memories involve confusing or mixing fragments of memory events, some of which may have happened at different times but which are remembered as occurring together. Many false memories involve an error in source memory. Some involve treating dreams as if they were playbacks of real experiences. Still other false memories are believed to be the result of the prodding, leading, and suggestions of therapists and counselors. Dr. Elizabeth Loftus has shown not only that it is possible to implant false memories, but that it is relatively easy to do so (Loftus 1994).

source memory

A memory of your mother throwing a glass of milk on your father when in fact it was your father who threw the milk is a false memory based on an actual experience. You may remember the event vividly and be able to “see” the action clearly, but only corroboration by those present can determine whether your memory of the event is accurate. Distortions such as switching the roles of people in one’s memory are quite common. Some distortions are quite dramatic, as you will see from the examples given below.

Many people have vivid and substantially accurate memories of events that are erroneous in one key aspect: the source of the memory. For example:

In the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan repeatedly told a heartbreaking story of a World War II bomber pilot who ordered his crew to bail out after his plane had been seriously damaged by an enemy hit. His young belly gunner was wounded so seriously that he was unable to evacuate the bomber. Reagan could barely hold back his tears as he uttered the pilot’s heroic response: “Never mind. We’ll ride it down together.” …this story was an almost exact duplicate of a scene in the 1944 film A Wing and a Prayer. Reagan had apparently retained the facts but forgotten their source (Schacter 1996, p. 287).

An even more dramatic case of source amnesia (also called memory misattribution) is that of the woman who accused memory expert Dr. Donald Thompson of having raped her. Thompson was doing a live interview for a television program just before the rape occurred. The woman had seen the program and “apparently confused her memory of him from the television screen with her memory of the rapist” (Schacter 1996, p. 114). Studies by Marcia Johnson et al. (1979) have shown that the ability to distinguish memory from imagination depends on the recall of source information.

Tom Kessinger, a mechanic at Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City, Kansas, gave a detailed description of two men he said had rented a Ryder truck like the one used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. One of the men looked like Timothy McVeigh, who was later executed for the murder of 168 people including 19 children under the age of 6. The other wore a baseball cap and a T-shirt and had a tattoo above the elbow on his left arm. That was Todd Bunting, who had rented a truck the day before McVeigh. Kessinger mixed the two memories but was absolutely certain the two came in together.

photos 1252Jean Piaget, the great child psychologist, claimed that his earliest memory was of nearly being kidnapped at the age of two. He remembered details such as sitting in his baby carriage, watching the nurse defend herself against the kidnapper, scratches on the nurse’s face, and a police officer with a short cloak and a white baton chasing the kidnapper away. The story was reinforced by the nurse, the family, and others who had heard the story. Piaget was convinced that he remembered the event. However, it never happened. Thirteen years after the alleged kidnapping attempt, Piaget’s former nurse wrote to his parents to confess that she had made up the entire story. Piaget later wrote: “I therefore must have heard, as a child, the account of this story…and projected it into the past in the form of a visual memory, which was a memory of a memory, but false” (Tavris 1993).

Remembering being kidnapped when you were an infant (under the age of three) is a false memory almost by definition. The left inferior prefrontal lobe is undeveloped in infants but is required for long-term memory. The elaborate encoding required for classifying and remembering such an event is very unlikely to occur in the infant’s brain.

The brains of infants and very young children are capable of storing fragmented memories, however. Fragmented memories can be disturbing in adults.

MORE . . .

Mayan End of the World Countdown

End of the World 2012 Countdown Timer

December 21, 2012: Some predict the end of the world, some predict the beginning of a new era. The basis for these claims is based on the Ancient Mayan calendar. It may seem silly to base a prediction off an ancient civilization‘s calendar but the Mayans were a highly mathematically advanced civilization. Their calendar is not only mathematically complex, it is also highly accurate…

http://www.worldend.org/2012/clock-countdown.html

Free Energy Machines is it True?

Free Energy Machines

Some believe they’ve cracked the secret of free energy forever with no fuel needed. Is it true?

Filed under Conspiracies, Consumer Ripoffs, General Science

Yildiz2 motor

Call them free energy machines, perpetual motion, over-unity machines, or any other name; a tiger remains a tiger no matter what color you paint his stripes. For as long as human beings have needed electricity or any kind of power source, inventive minds have sought in vain for a perfect solution: free energy forever with no fuel needed. Drawings of plans for perpetual motion machines are found throughout history for as long as we’ve had the science of engineering, and they continue to appear today, perhaps more than ever. Today we’re going to look at some of the most famous examples of free energy machines, and address the common public perception that such miracles actually exist.

The reason that no free energy machine can work, or will ever work, should go without saying; but since the claims continue to persist, it bears a mention. A perpetual motion machine would violate the laws of thermodynamics. Strictly speaking, it is unscientific for me to say that no free energy machine will ever work; but the fundamental laws of the universe are established to such a huge degree of certainty that it’s a limb upon which I’m willing to go out. Specifically, the first law of thermodynamics states that the energy of any closed system remains constant. If you take any energy out of it at all — for example, to make a rotor spin — then you must put in at least an equivalent amount of energy. The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy in any isolated system can only increase but not decrease; basically, systems seek thermal equilibrium. This law prohibits any process in which the only result is that heat moves from a region of lower temperature to a region of higher temperature, or where heat is converted purely into work. All free energy concepts are impossible because, by definition, they violate one or both laws.

The most common perpetual motion concept is a magnetic motor, some arrangement of permanent magnets intended to spin a rotor, push a ball around a path, or keep some other component in motion forever. These days they’re usually blended with a powered electric motor, and the inventor claims that once it gets going, its kinetic energy exceeds the electrical energy put into it. An Internet search yields thousands of results for such machines. Many of them show videos of their machines working. So how do we reconcile this: am I saying all these guys are all liars?

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4341

 

Conspiracy theorising in the wake of the Newtown shooting

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

On December 14th, 2012, 26 people, most of them young children, were killed in a shooting spree at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Unconfirmed rumours about the identity and motives of the person responsible immediately began to be passed around, and later retracted, by the news media; however, as I write this, police are still trying to piece together exactly how the tragedy came to happen. It will likely be some time before the relevant authorities are able to gather and verify all the facts, and make the details available to the public.

For some conspiracy theorists, though, no further explanation is needed. They already know what caused the shooting: It was the U.S. government – the same government which, they say, was behind other horrific shootings such as those at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, a Sikh…

View original post 307 more words

Why the World Didn’t End Yesterday

NASA is so sure the world won’t come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012, that they already released a video for the day after.

Pretend it’s 12/22/12 and enjoy🙂

More questions about December 21, 2012? http://www.nasa.gov/2012/

Visit http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/14dec_yesterday/ for more.

Via ScienceCasts: Why the World Didn’t End Yesterday – YouTube.

Mayan_018889_200pxNASA recently released a press release and video for December 22, explaining why the world didn’t end, since they are so confident it will not occur. This video was released several days before the supposed apocalypse that some believe will occur on December 21. This date refers to the “end” of the ancient Mayan calendar that many think signifies the end of the world due to a Mayan prophecy.

NASA already debunked every single possible doomsday and apocalypse claim in a video released earlier this year. But NASA wants to make sure that they are clear the Mayans will be wrong this time and say the entire doomsday scenario is a misconception from the very beginning.

More via Examiner.com.

What if Reality Was Really Just Sim Universe?

By Joel N. Shurkin via LiveScience

Inside Science News Service (ISNS) — What if everything — all of us, the world, the universe — was not real? What if everything we are, know and do was really just someone’s computer simulation?
matrix-red-pill-or-blue-pill_600px
The notion that our reality was some kid on a couch in the far future playing with a computer game like a gigantic Sim City, or Civilization, and we are his characters, isn’t new. But a group of physicists now think they know of a way to test the concept. Three of them propose to test reality by simulating the simulators.

Martin Savage, professor of physics at the University of Washington, Zohreh Davoudi, one of his graduate students, and Silas Beane of the University of New Hampshire, would like to see whether they can find traces of simulation in cosmic rays. The work was uploaded in arXiv, an online archive for drafts of academic research papers.

The notion that reality is something other than we think it is goes far back in philosophy, including Plato and his Parable of the Cave, which claimed reality was merely shadows of real objects on a cave wall. Sixteenth-century philosopher-mathematician René Descartes thought he proved reality with his famous “I think, therefore, I am,” which proposed that he was real and his thoughts had a reality.

binary-code-matrix-styleThen, in 2003, a British philosopher, Nick Bostrom of the University of Oxford, published a paper that had the philosophy and computer science departments buzzing.

Bostrom suggested three possibilities: “The chances that a species at our current level of development can avoid going extinct before becoming technologically mature is negligibly small,” “almost no technologically mature civilizations are interested in running computer simulations of minds like ours,” or we are “almost certainly” a simulation.

All three could be equally possible, he wrote, but if the first two are false, the third must be true. “There will be an astronomically huge number of simulated minds like ours,” Bostrom wrote.

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Psychic Tricks, Fraud and Forer

Forer Effect

via Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking

forerThe Forer effect refers to the tendency of people to rate sets of statements as highly accurate for them personally even though the statements were not made about them personally and could apply to many people.

Psychologist Bertram R. Forer (1914-2000) found that people tend to accept vague and general personality descriptions as uniquely applicable to themselves without realizing that the same description could be applied to many people. Consider the following as if it were given to you as an evaluation of your personality.

You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.

Forer gave a personality test to his students, ignored their answers, and gave each student the above evaluation (taken from a newsstand astrology column). He asked them to evaluate the evaluation from 0 to 5, with “5” meaning the recipient felt the evaluation was an “excellent” assessment and “4” meaning the assessment was “good.” The class average evaluation was 4.26. That was in 1948. The test has been repeated hundreds of time with psychology students and the average is still around 4.2 out of 5, or 84% accurate.

In short, Forer convinced people he could successfully read their character. His accuracy amazed his subjects, though his personality analysis was taken from a newsstand astrology column and was presented to people without regard to their sun sign. The Forer effect seems to explain, in part at least, why so many people think that pseudosciences “work”. Astrology, astrotherapy, biorhythms, cartomancy, chiromancy, the enneagram, fortune telling, graphology, rumpology, etc., seem to work because they seem to provide accurate personality analyses. crystal_ball_01Scientific studies of these pseudosciences demonstrate that they are not valid personality assessment tools, yet each has many satisfied customers who are convinced they are accurate.

The most common explanations given to account for the Forer effect are in terms of hope, wishful thinking, vanity, and the tendency to try to make sense out of experience. Forer’s own explanation was in terms of human gullibility. People tend to accept claims about themselves in proportion to their desire that the claims be true rather than in proportion to the empirical accuracy of the claims as measured by some non-subjective standard. We tend to accept questionable, even false statements about ourselves, if we deem them positive or flattering enough. We will often give very liberal interpretations to vague or inconsistent claims about ourselves in order to make sense out of the claims. Subjects who seek counseling from psychics, mediums, fortune tellers, mind readers, graphologists, etc., will often ignore false or questionable claims and, in many cases, by their own words or actions, will provide most of the information they erroneously attribute to a pseudoscientific counselor. Many such subjects often feel their counselors have provided them with profound and personal information. Such subjective validation, however, is of little scientific value.
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James Randi‘s fiery takedown of psychic fraud

via http://www.ted.com

Legendary skeptic James Randi takes a fatal dose of homeopathic sleeping pills onstage, kicking off a searing 18-minute indictment of irrational beliefs. He throws out a challenge to the world’s psychics: Prove what you do is real, and I’ll give you a million dollars. (No takers yet.)

The Tricks

via Project Barnum

• Cold Reading

Making vague statements that will fit most people if they want them to

Cold reading is a series of techniques employed by psychics, mediums and mentalists that are used to manipulate the customer (sitter) into believing that the psychic can read their mind, or that the medium is in contact with a dead relative or friend.

A cold reading will involved things that are called ‘Forer Statements’ (or or Barnum statements) which are designed to encourage the sitter to fill in the gaps in the information being given. Though these statements may appear to be specific they are really very open-ended and vague and could really apply to anyone. Experiments have shown how similar statements can be taken personally when issued to dozens of people at the same time!

Some examples of such statements would be:

  • “I sense that you are sometimes insecure, especially with people you don’t know very well.”
  • “You work with computers”
  • “You’re having problems with a friend or relative”

Here is ‘psychic’ James Van Prag demonstrating what appears to be a very embarrassing cold reading:

• Rainbow Ruse

Ticking all potential boxes by making all-encompassing descriptions

Similar to Forer statements is the “rainbow ruse” which involves a statement that covers all possibilities and often describe somebody as being two completely different types of person at the same time. Here are some examples:

  • “Most of the time you are positive and cheerful, but there has been a time in the past when you were very upset.”
  • “You are a very kind and considerate person, but occasionally you feel deep-seated anger.”
  • “I would say that you are mostly shy and quiet, but when the mood strikes you, you can easily become the centre of attention.”

• Hot/warm Reading

Using information gained before the show about the audience

MORE . . .

More via Granit State Skeptics: learn how psychics work by reading the Psychic Pamphlet.

Meditation – Specific or Non-Specific Effects

by Dr. Steve Novella via randi.org

whoa_250px_slowedOne of the challenges of scientific investigation, perhaps especially in the complex arena of medicine, is teasing apart specific from non-specific effects. A specific effect is one that derives from the details of a particular intervention, with a distinct mechanism of action. Non-specific effects are everything else.Non-specific effects are part of placebo effects, but not the same as placebo effects also include statistical effects, bias, and other sources of illusory effects. Non-specific effects are real; they just do not derive from the specific intervention itself.

For example, with therapy techniques for anxiety or depression, non-specific effects would include the caring attention of the therapist, taking time out from one’s regular schedule to think and talk about their feelings and problems and the hope generated from taking positive action to address one’s symptoms. Any specific technique, therefore, would seem to be effective due to these non-specific effects of the therapeutic interaction.

Before one claims that moving the eyes back and forth, or guided imagery, or being regressed to a prior life has specific effects, and is therefore evidence of a specific mechanism, the non-specific effects outlined above need to be carefully controlled for. This is especially true when the alleged mechanism is outside the bounds of currently known biological phenomena.

This confusion of specific with non-specific effects is at the core of much of what is labeled “alternative” medicine. Acupuncture is another great example. The best evidence strongly supports the conclusion that there are only non-specific effects from acupuncture, deriving from the kind attention of the acupuncturists. It doesn’t seem to matter where or even if you stick needles through the skin, arguing against any specific underlying mechanism.

Another treatment increasingly popular in the world of alternative medicine is meditation, or specifically transcendental meditation. Interestingly, one study on TM (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23204989) contained the following statement: “Transcendental Meditation and TM are trademarks registered in the US. Patent and Trademark Office, licensed to Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation and are used with permission.” I noticed that few other studies of TM contained this statement, and realized it was probably because the studies were all conducted at the Maharishi University of Management (more on that below).

TM is a specific meditation technique and proponents claim that it is effective at reducing blood pressure, reducing cardiovascular risk factors and generally promoting health. This sounds like another perfect example of confusing specific and non-specific effects. Relaxation therapy and stress reduction have been demonstrated to lower blood pressure and cardiovascular risk. There is a known mechanism for this – emotional stress increases sympathetic tone, which raises blood pressure and stresses the heart.

Unless there is very good evidence controlling for the non-specific effects of stress reduction, there is not reason to believe that TM has any additional specific effects that relate to the details of the TM procedure. Occam’s razor would favor the known over the unknown as an explanation.

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Psychic Sued for Police Hoax About Massacre

by Benjamin Radford via Discovery News

The owners of a Texas ranch raided by police in 2011 based on false information from a psychic are now suing, along with police and several news organizations.

psychic_300pxThe case began June 6, when a psychic using the name ‘Angel’ called police and described a horrific scene of mass murder: dozens of dismembered bodies near a ranch house about an hour outside of Houston, Texas. There were rotting limbs, headless corpses and, chillingly, children in a mass grave.

Deputies from the Liberty County Sheriff’s office went to investigate but didn’t see anything amiss. After a second call the following day, dozens of officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI and the Texas Rangers were on the scene—not to mention cadaver dogs, news helicopters and gawkers.

It all turned out to be a false alarm. There were no dead bodies; the psychic was wrong (or lying).

Though the incident became a national embarrassment, the police refused to apologize, saying that procedures were followed and that the severity of the claims warranted an investigation. Whether a tip comes from an ordinary citizen, an anonymous informant or a self-proclaimed psychic, information about mass murders cannot be ignored.

The ranch owners, Joe Bankson and Gena Charlton, were not amused and filed a lawsuit earlier this year. However, according to Anna Merlan of The Dallas Observer

Angel, who’d called in the tip by phone, vanished into the ether, leaving the couple to sue the media outlets for defamation and the sheriff’s office for unreasonable search and seizure. … Now, court records show that the plaintiffs seem to have located and sued the woman they think is an Angel in disguise. Her name is Presley Gridley, she goes by “Rhonda,” and she lives in Stanton, Texas, about 800 miles away from their farmhouse.

According to Merlan, a Liberty County blogger named Allen Youngblood did some detective work and discovered a call Gridley made to a nearby county Sheriff’s Department in which she told police to investigate a rural Texas farmhouse in search of two missing children who were the subject of an Amber Alert.

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Pareidolia: Seeing Faces in Unusual Places

Kim Ann Zimmermann, LiveScience Contributor, via LiveScience

Virgin_Mary_Grilled_Cheese_SandwichTo some observers, it looked like an ordinary grilled cheese sandwich. But to the Miami woman who put it up for sale on eBay, and to some people who viewed it, there was an image of the Virgin Mary seared on this seemingly run-of-the-mill snack.

The psychological phenomenon that causes some people to see or hear a vague or random image or sound as something significant is known as pareidolia (par-i-DOH-lee-a).

rorschach-02

The Rorschach inkblot test uses pareidolia in an attempt to gain insight into a person’s mental state.

The word is derived from the Greek words para, meaning something faulty, wrong, instead of, and the noun eidōlon, meaning image, form or shape. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia, which is a more generalized term for seeing patterns in random data.

Some common examples are seeing a likeness of Jesus in the clouds or an image of a man on the surface of the moon.

Famous examples of pareidolia

A prime example of pareidolia and its connection to religious images is the Shroud of Turin, a cloth bearing the image of a man — which some believe to be Jesus — who appears to have suffered trauma consistent with crucifixion. The negative image was first observed in 1898, on the reverse photographic plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia, who was allowed to photograph it while it was being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral.

ireland-stump

Many say this stump in Rathkaele, Ireland, resembles the Virgin Mary.
CREDIT: BBC

Some visitors to St. Mary’s in Rathkaele, Ireland, say a tree stump outside of the church bears a silhouette of the Virgin Mary.

Damage to the Pedra da Gávea, an enormous rock outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, created an impression that many interpret as a human face.

Many people thought images taken in 1976 by the Viking 1 mission showed a face on Mars that could have been the remnants of an ancient civilization. [Gallery: Mars Illusion Photos: The ‘Face on Mars’ and Other Martian Tricks]

In September 1969, conspiracy theorists claimed some Beatles records contained clues to Paul McCartney’s supposed death. Many heard the words “Paul is dead,” when the song “Strawberry Fields Forever” was played backwards, a process known as backmasking. This is a common urban legend often repeated to this day.

In 1977, the appearance of Jesus Christ on a flour tortilla set the international standard for miracle sightings. It happened in the small town of Lake Arthur, New Mexico, 40 minutes south of Roswell.

Diane Duyser of Miami sold a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich, which she said bore the image of Jesus, for $28,000 on eBay in 2004.

In 2004, Steve Cragg, youth director at Memorial Drive United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, discovered a Cheeto that looked like Jesus.

Donna Lee of Toledo, Ohio, saw an image of Jesus on a pierogi she was preparing on Palm Sunday in 2005.

In 2007 in Singapore, a callus on a tree resembled a monkey, leading believers to pay homage to the “Monkey god.”

A cinnamon bun with the likeness of Mother Teresa was stolen.
CREDIT: The Telegraph

A cinnamon bun bearing a likeness of Mother Teresa was first discovered at the Bongo Java Café in Belmont, Tenn. It was on display for about 10 years, until it was stolen on Christmas day in 2007.

In 2012, many people made a pilgrimage to a tree at 60th Street and Bergenline Avenue in West New York, N.J., to see a scar on the tree that some believed looked like the image of the Our Lady of Guadalupe depiction of the Virgin Mary.

Why pareidolia happens

There are a number of theories as to the cause of this phenomenon. Experts say pareidolia provides a psychological determination for many delusions that involve the senses. They believe pareidolia could be behind numerous sightings of UFOs, Elvis and the Loch Ness Monster and the hearing of disturbing messages on records when they are played backwards.

Pareidolia often has religious overtones. A study in Finland found that people who are religious or believe strongly in the supernatural are more likely to see faces in lifeless objects and landscapes.

Carl Sagan, the American cosmologist and author, made the case that pareidolia was a survival tool. In his 1995 book, “The Demon-Haunted World – Science as a Candle in the Dark,” he argued that this ability to recognize faces from a distance or in poor visibility was an important survival technique. While this instinct enables humans to instantly judge whether an oncoming person is a friend or foe, Sagan noted that it could result in some misinterpretation of random images or patterns of light and shade as being faces.

Leonardo da Vinci wrote about pareidolia as an artistic device.

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Conspiracy: The color of Mars is a government coverup!!!!

By Mason I. Bilderberg

Did you know Mars is NOT reddish in color? It’s true. It looks just like earth!!! Mars has earth colored soil and a beautiful blue sky – just like Hawaii!

I know this because it says so on this conspiracy website:

«This is very interesting. It may come as a surprise to many readers that Mars looks very much like Earth. It’s not red or orange – NASA applies a lens to tint the pictures or they release black and white photos… here’s a real color picture of Mars… blue sky and all… it gets to the point where you ask yourself “what does the government not lie about?”»

They included this image as proof:

marslike earth

Conspiracists believe Mars looks like earth, to include a blue sky – just like Hawaii! The real reason we believe Mars appears reddish is all part of a NASA/government conspiracy.

I can’t believe anybody would believe Mars looks like earth. But i’ll push forward simply for the entertainment value and because there is some interesting facts to be learned – stuff i didn’t know. I love everything space related.

Two facts about Mars:

• Why Does Mars Appear Red?

Mars often appears reddish due to a combination of the fact that its surface is comprised of iron-rich minerals that essentially rust (or oxidize) and that the dust made of these minerals is kicked up into the atmosphere, giving the atmosphere a reddish hue as well. [SOURCE]

• How Did Mars Get its Name?

Mars was named by the Romans for their god of war because of its red, bloodlike color. Other civilizations also named this planet from this attribute; for example, the Egyptians named it “Her Desher,” meaning “the red one.” [SOURCE]

So while the Romans and the Egyptians knew Mars appeared red simply by looking up into the night sky, today’s conspiracists insist our belief that Mars is red is actually a false belief perpetuated by a government coverup.

Maybe i am endowed with an abundance of common sense but couldn’t these conspiracists step outside their mother’s basement, look up into the night sky and see what Mars looks like to the naked eye? I’m just saying.

But i digress …

So i decided to pursue this absurdity to another level. I took the photo featured on the conspiracy website and i decided to find out where it came from. I found the original photo at the NASA website. It really wasn’t hard to find (Even a conspiracist could have found it). I then superimposed the conspiracy picture next to the original NASA photo. The conspiracy photo is on the left, the original NASA image is on the right:

Columbia_Hills_03_small

The conspiracy photo is on the left, the original NASA image is on the right. The NASA image confirms what even the Egyptians knew – Mars has a reddish appearance. So much for that Hawaiian vacation to Mars. [Image Source: (NASA)]

I added the phrases “False Color” and “True Color” to the above image because these are two terms used by NASA to describe how they color correct photos taken by their landers and satellites. They have good reasons for making different color corrections to their photos, but first, let’s understand how NASA calibrates the colors in these Mars photos:

Calibration Targets

via NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

When you adjust the color on your television set, you do so by picking something on the screen that you know should be a certain color (such as grass should be green) and you adjust your set accordingly. This is a form of calibration. You used the color of the grass as a reference point.sundial1_250 Instruments that go to Mars also need to be calibrated so that scientists receive accurate information. There has to be a known reference — a calibration target.

The rover’s calibration targets are objects with known properties. For example, the Pancam calibration target. It is in the shape of a sundial and is mounted on the rover deck. Pancam will image the sundial many times during the mission so that scientists can adjust the images they receive from Mars. They use the colored blocks in the corners of the sundial to calibrate the color in images of the martian landscape. Pictures of the shadows that are cast by the sundial’s center post allow scientists to properly adjust the brightness of each Pancam image. Children provided artwork for the sides of the base of the sundial.

Clapboard-ColorThis is the same process used by Hollywood movie makers. They use a device called a “clapper board” to mark the beginning of a scene or a “take.” I’m sure you’ve seen this used in the movies. Well, at the top of some clapper boards you will see a rainbow of colors. Like the Pancam calibration target on the Mars rover, the colors along the top of the clapper board provide a known color reference that can be used in post production by movie editors to ensure the colors in the final cut are “true” to what was recorded on the movie set.

Speaking of “true colors,” let’s get back to why NASA would choose to creat “false color” photos along with “true color” photos. It’s really not as mysterious as it might sound. Let’s start with a technical definition of both:

True Color

«An image is called a “true-color” image when it offers a natural color rendition, or when it comes close to it. This means that the colors of an object in an image appear to a human observer the same way as if this observer were to directly view the object: A green tree appears green in the image, a red apple red, a blue sky blue, and so on.[1]» [source]

False Color

«False color refers to a group of color rendering methods used to display images in color which were recorded in the visual or non-visual parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. A false-color image is an image that depicts an object in colors that differ from those a photograph (a “true-color” image) would show.» [source]

flir small

Forward looking infrared (FLIR) image.

Here is a classic example of a false color image: A forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera (the image to the right). By creating a representation of wavelengths normally invisible to the human eye, we are able to discern the different temperatures present in this scene.

But there are a multitude of reasons for creating false images. Sometimes colors are enhanced, or even added, to represent some characteristic in the image, such as chemical composition, velocity, distance or to simply enhance the differences between materials. Have you ever increased the contrast on your television or an image on your computer so you can better discern some detail? You’ve just created your own false image!!

The same goes for the moon and Mars. With both planets being mostly uniform in their respective colors, creating false images can help us distinguish something as simple as peaks and valleys. Here is an example using the moon:

MoonTrueFalse02

On the left side is the true color image of the far side of our moon, a mosaic constructed from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images. This is what you would see if you were to directly observe the terrain. Given the uniform color it is very difficult, if not impossible, to accurately judge the peaks and valleys.

On the right side is a false color image of the same side of our moon, a topographic map of the altitude of the Moon’s surface obtained by the Clementine orbiter mission (1994). Measurements made with a laser altimiter. Redder areas are higher, blue/purple areas lower. [source] (more Clementine images here)

In this instance a false color image was generated of the moon to provide a clear, visual representation of the lunar topography.

In the false color Mars image used at the conspiracy website, it’s very possible NASA color corrected the image for no other reason than to better distinguish the size, shape and locations of the rocks.

So to wrap things up, the bottom line is Mars is reddish in color and the moon appears gray. Period. End of story.

I guess my bigger question concerning this conspiracy is, why would the government have any interest in covering up the real color of Mars or the moon (yes, there is a conspiracy out there that the government is covering up the real color of the moon)? I suspect it has something to do with the belief Mars and the moon are actually inhabitable and the Mars/moon color coverup is part of the government’s alien/UFO coverup.

Unbelievable.

Conspiracy Source:

Research Sources:

MOLA-Mars Water_map_wblack_small

No, Mars is not colored like the land of Oz, this is a false color (blue) image created to
show where water ice is buried beneath the martian surface in this Mars Odyssey map. [source]
Click the image to view full size.

Can we at least learn something from this Mayan apocalypse mumbo jumbo?

Fresh Views From Reality

The failed Mayan apocalypse ramblings could be a positive awakening for humanity, but it won’t be. Read on for why I’m not optimistic.

Sorry but I can’t not talk about the supposed Mayan apocalypse hubbub. I just think that we can learn some lessons from this whole thing. I mean, we laughed at Harold Camping for his absurd pronouncements about the end of the world last year (twice as the math was slightly off).

For starters, the Mayans never made such a prophecy. Even if they did — so what!? The obsession with what the Mayans may or may not have said/thought seems in part to be due to the romantic (false) notion that ancient societies were in some sort of wonderful place, in harmony with nature and the cosmos.

My basic premise

Claims such as those made about a mysterious Planet X destroying the Earth or any other…

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Best UFO Sightings Of November 2012

I don’t believe any of this stuff but … it’s still entertaining. Enjoy🙂

Best UFO Sightings Of November 2012, AFO – YouTube.

The Illuminati controls the Music Industry (Embarrassing Conspiracy Theories)

via The Soap Box

illuminatiOne of the big conspiracy theories going around the internet (especially Youtube) is that the music industry is controlled by the Illuminati (mind you of course there is no proof that the Illuminati even exists in the first place).

One of the key pieces of “evidence” that many conspiracy theorists claims is “proof” that the Illuminati is in control of the music industry is that many musical artists tend to use hand gestures and symbols (along also with certain lyrics) that many conspiracy theorists believe contain pro-Illuminati messages, or is being used as some type of brain washing techniques.

Now besides the fact that a very secretive group (such as the allegedly existing Illuminati) probably wouldn’t be so bluntly giving away their existence by having a bunch of musical artists basically giving their audience a bunch of little subtle hints of that group’s existence, it would kind of defeats the purpose of a secretive group being a secret to the public at large if they gave away their existence so openly.

iLLumiNuTTi_Seal_250pxMusical artists can be a weird kind of bunch. They constantly “reinvent” themselves or evolve in there tastes for two main purpose: To express themselves artistically, and to stay relevant so they can make money from teenagers and young adults, because that is where a large part of where music sales come from. There is even speculation that some musical artist that are accused of working for the Illuminati are actually intentionally using what is considered Illuminati symbols in their acts and lyrics in their music in order to generate controversy, and thus publicity.

There are also other claims by people who claim to have worked in (or currently are working in) the music industry, and that they have actually “witnessed” either what they consider to be Illuminati or other occult type ceremonies occur in private with some of these musical artists. These claims tend to be few and far between, and could be simply the result of . . .

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Cat's Pajamas

Be tee dubs people, the world isn’t scheduled to end anytime soon by the Maya and Aztec calendars.

Oreo however…?

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Overdosing on Homeopathic Medicines

massive-homeopathic-overdose-homeopathy

via Homeopathy: there’s nothing in it | The 10:23 Campaign

What is homeopathy?

Ask many people what they think homeopathy is and you’ll be told “it’s herbal medicine” or “it’s all-natural”. Actually, it is neither of these.

warning-homeopathy-not-medicineFew people realise that homeopathy involves diluting substances so much that there’s literally nothing left in them.

Homeopathy is an absurd pseudoscience, which survives today as a “complementary” or “alternative” medicine, despite there being no reliable scientific evidence that it works. (keep reading)

Contrary to popular belief, ‘homeopathy’ is not the same as herbal medicine.

Homeopathy is based on three central tenets, unchanged since their invention by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796.

The Law of Similars

The law of similars states that whatever would cause your symptoms, will also cure those same symptoms. Thus, if you find yourself unable to sleep, taking caffeine will help; streaming eyes due to hayfever can be treated with onions, and so on. This so-called law was based upon nothing other than Hahnemann’s own imagination. You don’t need to have a medical degree to see the flawed reasoning in taking caffeine – a stimulant – to help you sleep; yet caffeine is, even today, prescribed by homeopaths (under the name ‘coffea’) as a treatment for insomnia.

The Law of Infinitesimals

Following on from his ‘law of similars’, Hahnemann proposed he could improve the effect of his ‘like-cures-like treatments’ by repeatedly diluting them in water. The more dilute the remedy, Hahnemann decided, the stronger it will become. Thus was born his ‘Law of Infinitesimals’.

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James Randi Encourages Skeptics to “Overdose” on Homeopathic Medicines

via James Randi Encourages Skeptics to “Overdose” on Homeopathic Medicines – Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach – News – The Daily Pulp.

Also See:

City Lights of the United States 2012

I am fascinated by anything space related. For a real treat, download the original 6MB image and zoom in on the details. Do this by right-clicking on the image below and “save as” to your computer. Now open the image file with your favorite image viewing program. Zoom in!!! Amazing! Enjoy🙂

via The official NASA flickr

Click image to view full size

Click image to view full size

This image of the United States of America at night is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012. The image was made possible by the new satellite’s “day-night band” of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as city lights, gas flares, auroras, wildfires, and reflected moonlight.

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via The official NASA flickr

The night side of Earth twinkles with light, and the first thing to stand out is the cities. “Nothing tells us more about the spread of humans across the Earth than city lights,” asserts Chris Elvidge, a NOAA scientist who has studied them for 20 years.

This new global view and animation of Earth’s city lights is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite. The data was acquired over nine days in April 2012 and thirteen days in October 2012. It took satellite 312 orbits and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth’s land surface and islands. This new data was then mapped over existing Blue Marble imagery of Earth to provide a realistic view of the planet.

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Richard Wiseman

@JonDonnis brought my attention to this great illusion …..

(you may have to click on it to get it to animate)…. like it?

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Just some fun stuff

10 more bets you will always win

10 more bets you will always win – YouTube.

Are the Earth’s poles shifting in 2012?

by Nicholas Gerbis via HowStuffWorks

xxxxx


Pole shift refers to a geological phenomena in which the Earth’s outermost layers move together as one piece. Image © HowStuffWorks.com

Some say the world will end in fire; some say ice. Lately, screenwriters and apocalypse enthusiasts have preferred natural cataclysms as their world-killers. As for when the end will arrive, those folks who claim to be in the know have an affinity for stamping 2012 as the Earth’s sell-by date.

Why 2012? The answer traces back to true believers’ interpretations (and reinterpretations) of Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce and various other ambiguous and nonscientific sources. Some armchair eschatologists have narrowed the expiration date further, to Dec. 21, 2012 — when, they argue, the Mayan Long Count calendar ends its 5,125-year cycle. However, experts agree that the Mayans themselves did not believe that the world would end on this date, so feel free to buy green bananas on Dec. 19, 2012 (see: MacDonald).

The lack of scientific evidence for the coming apocalypse hasn’t deterred believers from trotting out scientific theories to serve as evidence of imminent mass destruction. One of the most remarkable ideas they’ve chosen to flog is the pole shift hypothesis, in which the Earth’s crust and mantle (or outermost layers) move as one piece. Pole shift might send the poles sliding toward the equator, swing North America poleward or produce any arrangement that might result from turning a globe in your hands.

Earth_s_magnetic_fieldPeople have been batting around some version of the pole shift hypothesis since at least the mid-19th century and, although many of the scientific questions it attempted to answer have since been addressed by plate tectonics, it’s rooted solidly in physics. Plate tectonics and pole shifts interact and are governed by the same forces, but pole shifts, in which the outer shell of the world moves as one piece, produce very different results than plate tectonics, in which pieces of the Earth’s crust bump, grind and slide — opening seas, building mountain ranges and rearranging continents.

If a large pole shift could happen suddenly, the redistribution of land and water it caused would be nothing short of cataclysmic. In the short term, it would mean earthquakes, strange weather patterns, massive tsunamis capable of drowning parts of continents, and possibly gaps in the planet’s magnetic field — our shield against harmful cosmic rays. In the long term, the redistribution of land and water in the tropics, subtropics and poles would fundamentally alter ocean currents and the heat balance of the Earth, resulting in widespread climatological shifts. Ice caps might melt and reform elsewhere, or remain melted, driving sea levels down or up.

All of which returns us to the question: Could such a catastrophic shift occur, and if so, will it happen in 2012? We’ll tell you next —

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The Higgs and Wishful Thinking

by Steven Novella via NeuroLogica Blog

“I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!”
– Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley.

higgs-boson1

The Higgs boson or Higgs particle is an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics. (more here)

Self-help books are full of advice for thinking positively, and using affirmations to tell ourselves that the reality we wish to be true is in fact true. This is interesting because psychologists have discovered that people in general have a large positive cognitive bias – a wishful thinking bias. All other things being equal, we will tend to assume that what we wish to be true is actually true. Sometimes we can maintain this belief despite significant contradictory evidence.

It may be that this bias exists because it relieves cognitive dissonance. Essentially, it makes us feel better, and that may be sufficient. However, there is also a theory that such wishful or positive thinking is, to an extent, self-fulfilling. People who think they will be successful will take advantage of opportunities and work harder to make that success a reality. Expectations can even affect other people, the so-called Pygmalian effect. If teachers believe that a student will perform better, that expectation may improve the student’s performance.

Richard Wiseman points out, however, that visualizing the goal (“I am a success in my business”) does not work (so much for positive affirmations). What is helpful is visualizing the process by which a goal can be achieved.

Within the “New Age” spiritual community, however, this psychological discussion over the impact of positive or wishful thinking is all moot. Within this community there is the widely held belief, or at least claim, that wishful thinking does not just create a successful attitude – it actually alters reality. This belief reached its pinnacle, perhaps, in the widely successful book, The Secret. This book promoted what it called the “Law of Attraction” – that wishing something to be true attracted that very thing to you. Essentially the secret is that the universe will answer your wishes – so wish away.

Wishful_Thinking_LogoThis is literally a childish attitude. Children often behave as if asking hard enough of the universe for something might produce the thing wished-for. Most adults have learned that the universe does not work this way – or perhaps they have just learned to hide this childish desire that they still harbor. They use their better developed frontal lobes to rationalize what they wish to be true (manifesting as a positive cognitive bias).  Reframing this wish-fulfillment desire as a “law” makes it sound a bit more respectable, however.  The Secret, and other such nonsense, in essence just gave some adults permission to embrace their childhood wish-fulfillment fantasy.

What does all this have to do with the Higgs boson?

A recent article by Mike Adams on his website, Divinity Now (Exploring Conscious Cosmology) argues that the scientists who “discovered” the Higgs actually got the results they wished for through “intention” – the word used by believers to refer to wishing, again to make it sound a bit more respectable. And yes – that is the same Mike Adams of NaturalNews infamy – the crank site that promotes, in my opinion, all sorts of medical pseudoscience. Apparently Adams is branching out into consciousness pseudoscience.

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The Long Island Medium – Can She Really Communicate with the Dead?

via InsideEdition.com

LongIslandMedium_250pxShe’s one of the most popular reality stars on TV today. For three seasons now, Theresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, has amazed viewers and brought people to tears by communicating messages from beyond.

“I have a very special gift. I talk to the dead,” Caputo says on her hit series.

[…]

So is the Long Island Medium really communicating with those who have passed on, or is she simply using trickery to fool the living?  INSIDE EDITION decided to see what happens at her popular live readings across the country. What we saw was starkly different from what viewers see on her TV show.

On TV, she’s almost always dead right, but at her live shows, we watched her strike out time and again.

Caputo asked one audience member, “Is your mom also departed?” “My mom? No, she’s with us,” said the audience member.

“Is your mom departed?” she asked another fan. The woman responded, “My mom? No, she’s still with us.”

Caputo asked another audience member, “Did they pass one right after the other?” to which the audience member responded by shaking their head ‘no.’

She asked one person, “Was this on your mother’s side.”  “No, my dad’s,” she replied.

“I know a trick when I see one,” said Mark Edward, after watching the L.I. Medium’s live show.   Edward once made a living as a psychic, but he’s now coming forward to reveal the secrets that he says some psychics use to convince people they really do communicate with the dead.

Edward believes one technique Theresa Caputo uses is a classic trick called “cold reading.”  It’s done by firing-off open-ended questions that someone in a large audience will surely relate to, like a number.

“How do you connect with the number 2? Is it the month of February?  The day?” Caputo asked an audience member.

Inevitably someone raises a hand.

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Vibrational Medicine

via The Skeptic’s Dictionary

NewAgeVibrational medicine is a type of energy medicine. Energy medicine is based on vitalism, the metaphysical doctrine that living organisms possess a non-physical inner force or energy that gives them the property of life. This metaphysical force goes by many names: chi or qi (China), prana (India), ki (Japan); Wilhelm Reich’s orgone, Mesmer’s animal magnetism, Bergson’s élan vital (vital force), Reichenbach’s odic force, etc. American advocates much prefer the term energy or subtle energy. Many kinds of alternative therapies or energy medicines are based on a belief that health is determined by the flow of this alleged energy: acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, crystal therapy, therapeutic touch, reiki, and qigong are a few of the better known therapies. Not so well known are practices such as Aura-Soma, aura therapy, Comprehensive Energy Psychology, radionics, Sacred Santémony, and tone vibration transformation.

albertabrams

Dr. Albert Abrams (1863-1924)

The founding father of modern vibrational medicine was Dr. Albert Abrams (1863-1924), the “dean of twentieth century charlatans.”* Abrams called his healing method radionics and claimed that he was able to detect distinct energies or vibrations (radiation) being emitted from healthy and diseased tissue in all living things. He invented devices that allegedly could measure this energy (vibration, radiation) and he created a system for evaluating vibrations as signs of health or disease.

The fact that no scientific instrument has been able to detect subtle energy and that modern science abandoned vitalism more than a century ago has had little deterrent effect on the belief that health depends on an invisible form of energy. Worse, despite the lack of compelling scientific evidence for any form of energy medicine, there are many pseudoscientific devices on the market that claim to heal by vibrational therapy (see here). The sellers of these devices have found a niche market among the desperate who cling to magical thinking against the claims of science.

aura_150pxAs true believers are wont to say: the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That is, just because there is no compelling scientific evidence that subtle energy exists doesn’t mean that such energy doesn’t exist. True, but belief in subtle energy is based on faith. The compelling scientific evidence shows that what is often attributed to subtle energy is due to the placebo effect, is an illusion, or can be easily accounted for by other non-mysterious factors such as poor study design, regression to the mean, suggestion, conditioning, or the body healing itself naturally.

Vibrational medicine adds the twisted belief that subtle energies vibrate and that these vibrations are either healthy or unhealthy. (Note: there is absolutely no evidence for these beliefs about vibrations and there have been no scientific studies that have ever identified such vibrations.)

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Amazing Illusions

I love illusions!🙂

10 Amazing Illusions – YouTube.

Catholic Church Sets Up Exorcism Hotline

By Greg Newkirk via Who Forted? Magazine

exorcismhotlineDo you think you might be possessed by a demon? Unsure of what to do, where to go, or who to see? Well, the Catholic Church has the hotline for you! In one hell of an ambitious pilot program, an “exorcism hotline” has been launched in Milan.. and it’s so popular they’ve had to install a switchboard during the week.

The diocese’s exorcism head honcho since 1995, Monsignor Angelo Mascheroni, told The Independent that requests for deliverance have doubled over the last two years, and thusly, their efforts to combat the surge of demonic activity have had to grow and adapt as well. Enter: Dial An Exorcist.

“People in need can call and will be able to find a priest in the same area who doesn’t have to travel too far.”

What began as one priest fielding phone calls from the afflicted, quickly turned to six, and eventually became 12 priests working Monday through Friday, giving so many blessings that they’ve had to bring in a switchboard for peak hours. Mascheroni mentions that he even knew of one priest who was doing as many as 120 exorcisms a day, but cautions that stretching yourself that thing can be too taxing on a priest. “There should be two to four appointments a day, no more, otherwise it’s too much.”

So, what’s causing this influx of individuals begging to be delivered?

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Vampire Threat Terrorizes Serbian Village

By DRAGANA JOVANOVIC via ABC News
BELGRADE Nov. 29, 2012

vampire - Nice Vampire girlFor the people in a tiny Serbian village there is nothing sexy or romantic about a vampire. In fact, they are terrified that one of the most feared vampires of the area has been roused back to life.

Rather than ‘Twilight’s’ Edward, the people of Zorazje fear that Sava Savanovic is lurking in their forested mountains of western Serbia.

They believe that he is on the move because the home he occupied for so long, a former water mill, recently collapsed. Savanovic is believed to be looking for a new home.

“People are very worried. Everybody knows the legend of this vampire and the thought that he is now homeless and looking for somewhere else and possibly other victims is terrifying people,” Miodrag Vujetic, local municipal assembly member, told ABC News. “We are all frightened.”

Vujetic said villagers “are all taking precautions by having holy crosses and icons placed above the entrance to the house, rubbing our hands with garlic, and having a hawthorn stake or thorn.”

“I understand that people who live elsewhere in Serbia are laughing at our fears, but here most people have no doubt that vampires exist,” he says.

According to legend, Savanovic would kill and drink the blood of the peasants who came to grind their grain at his watermill on the Rogacica River. Tour groups from around the Balkans would come to see the mill. But even tourism had its limits.

“We were welcoming tourists, but only during the day. Nobody ever overnighted there,” said Slobodan Jagodic, whose family owned the mill for over 60 years.

“We were too scared to repair it, not to disturb Sava Savanovic,” says Jagodic. “It’s even worse now that it collapsed due to lack of repair.”

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US scientists challenge scares about food links to cancer

American research finds cancer food scares don’t stand up to scrutiny with most culprit ingredients showing little or no increased risk of disease.

via The Observer

Bacon, tea and burnt toast have all been implicated in increased cancer risk. Now we learn this could be nonsense. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

They are mainstay stories of tabloid newspapers and women’s magazines, linking common foods from burnt toast to low-fat salad dressing to cancer. But now US scientists have warned that many reports connecting familiar ingredients with increased cancer risk have little statistical significance and should be treated with caution.

“When we examined the reports, we found many had borderline or no statistical significance,” said Dr Jonathan Schoenfeld of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

In a paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Schoenfeld and his co-author, John Ioannidis of Stanford University, say trials have repeatedly failed to find effects for observational studies which had initially linked various foods to cancer. Nevertheless these initial studies have often triggered public debates “rife with emotional and sensational rhetoric that can subject the general public to increased anxiety and contradictory advice”.

Recent reports have linked colouring in fizzy drinks, low-fat salad dressing, burnt toast and tea to elevated cancer risk. In the past, red meat, hot dogs, doughnuts and bacon have also been highlighted. The cancer risks involved in excess alcohol consumption are not disputed by scientists, but other links have been less easy to substantiate.

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Homeopathic Logic

by via NeuroLogica Blog

homeopathyHomeopathic logic is real logic that has been diluted into non-existence. The solvent is bias and propaganda. I was recently pointed to an excellent example of this – an article written by a homeopath arguing that homeopathy is superior to modern medicine. It’s published in what appears to be an obscure rag, but it does represent common arguments put forth by homeopaths so it doesn’t really matter.

Here is the main point of the article:

There are many differences in both the disciplines of medicines. Let’s just focus on one main difference and that is the fact that none of the homeopathic medicines introduced during the last two hundred and fifty years was withdrawn from the market.

The author, Asghar Ali Shah, uses the term, “allopathy” throughout the article. This is a derogatory term used mainly by critics of science-based medicine, and immediately reveals the author’s bias. In the statement above he is also trying to present homeopathy and mainstream medicine as two “disciplines of medicines,” which is a false equivalency. This is a common tactic of fringe beliefs, to appear as a viable alternative to the mainstream, followed, of course, by arguments for its superiority.

Homeopathy, however, is a prescientific superstition that is at odds with basic science, and not just medicine but physics, chemistry, and biology.

Ali Shah’s argument is that real medicine has side effects, and sometimes need to be pulled from the market, while homeopathic potions do not have side effects and are never withdrawn. Ironically, he is actually making an argument for that fact homeopathic products are both worthless and not science-based.

Homeopathic products (mostly – some products labeled homeopathic may have active ingredients) do not have side effects because they do not have any effects. Most are diluted well past the point of having any active ingredient. What is left is ultimately just a sugar pill – a pure placebo.

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European Agency’s Final Verdict on Controversial GM Study: Not Scientifically Sound

via ScienceInsider

si-littlerat-thumb-200xauto-15382

Corn fed. Controversial study had suggested GM maize fed to rats caused tumors.
Credit: Janet Stephens/Wikimedia Commons

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) today delivered its final verdict on a controversial study that examined the toxicity of genetically modified (GM) maize. The study “does not meet acceptable scientific standards” and there is therefore no need to reevaluate the safety of GM maize, the group concluded.

The study in question was published on 19 September in Food and Chemical Toxicology by molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Séralini and colleagues. It claimed to find a link between GM maize NK603 and tumors and death in rats. Although the study was panned by scientists, it received an enormous amount of attention from both the French public and press.

At the request of the European Commission, EFSA set up a task force to look into the study; an initial review on 4 October deemed the research “inconclusive.” Two French regulatory bodies also came to a similar conclusion in October.

Now, after completing its own assessment as well as taking into account independent assessments from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, EFSA has found the Seralini study wanting. The study is “of insufficient scientific quality for risk assessment” due to “inadequacies in the design, reporting and analysis of the study,” the agency says.

NASA Takes on 2012 Doomsday Hokum

via PCMag.com

366427-2012-end-of-earthNASA wants us all to know that it feels very confident in predicting that the world won’t end in 2012, despite what we may have read on the Internet.

The space agency recently saw fit to take its debunking hammer to persistent online tales of a fictional dwarf planet that is supposedly on a collision course with Earth, popular prophecies associated with the Mayan calendar, and other doomsday scenarios that fall apart under minimal scrutiny.

“Contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, Dec. 21, 2012 won’t be the end of the world as we know it. However, it will be another winter solstice,” NASA associates behind a new website called Beyond 2012 wrote Wednesday in a Google+ post.

Some of the more popular apocalyptic theories revolve around a rogue planet called Nibiru supposedly discovered thousands of years ago by the ancient Sumerians, which some believe is going to collide with our planet next month. Variations on this theme call the doomsday rock Planet X or peg the real dwarf planet Eris as the harbinger of death from the skies, while a recent strain of this myth tries to tie the whole thing in with the supposed end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012.

Beyond 2012 is dedicated to debunking such pseudo-science. There is no Nibiru or Planet X that’s been observed by astronomers and if they really were on a path to hit the Earth in a couple weeks, they’d be visible to the naked eye by now. Eris “is real, but it is a dwarf planet similar to Pluto that will remain in the outer solar system; the closest it can come to Earth is about 4 billion miles,” the site explains.

The supposedly abrupt end of the Mayan calendar at the upcoming winter solstice? It’s not “evidence” that ancient Mesoamerican chronometrists had some mystic knowledge of when the world would end—it’s actually just the end of one of the cycles they used in devising their calendar.

Other doomsday hokum countered on the Beyond 2012 site includes a supposedly imminent reversal in the Earth’s rotation, the onset of giant solar storms, and a fanciful array of disastrous events somehow set in motion by a rare alignment of the planets.

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Now lets visit the “higher dimensional” (crazy) side of 12/21/2012 …

Just when you think the 2012 crazy train couldn’t fly any further off the rails, i bring you Tolec from the Andromeda Council. He sets the record straight on all this 2012 stuff (I really love the part where he says “Time will begin to go away throughout all of 2013”). From his video description:
BullShit

The electromagnetic particles that will be flowing & interchanging between the planets during the 12.21.12 alignment will be highly magnified and highly supercharged when they reach Earth. They will penetrate the crust, through the Earth and down into its core. At the actual moment of alignment it will cause the Earth to pause, for only a moment, and this process will completely transform the core of our planet to a completely new kind of energy form & source. This new energy form, in the language spoken on the Andromeda Council biospheres, the language of the Mirach star system in the Andromeda constellation, by the Andromeda Council scientists, is called: “sar”.

This will be the first time cosmic transformational event of this type ever… for a planet. Time will begin to go away throughout all of 2013. And Earth will continue her evolution & transformation process into becoming a higher dimensional world in January 2014.

If you’re still in need of even more crazy, i suggest going over to Tolec’s web page and scroll down to “Time of Transition for Planet Earth.”

There you will learn all about the “vibrational changes” the earth will begin going through starting on 12/21/2012, how the earth will experience “continued geophysical changes, earthquakes, volcanoes going off, wave events, [that] will all continue to happen throughout the last months of 2012, into March 2013 [and beyond] when the final rotation of the 90 degree shift of Earth’s crust happens with the present day East/West orientation of the continents moving into their new North/South orientation” and how, during the year 2013, “every living thing from the largest to the smallest will be offered the opportunity to change, to evolve, into 4D, fourth dimensional life.”

Check it out and enjoy the world of crazy.🙂

Prolonged Aromatherapy May Harm the Heart

via LiveScience

aromatherapy-121130Aromatherapy, which involves Inhaling the vapors from essential oils, may be beneficial for short periods, but could harm the heart if done for too long, a new study from Taiwan suggests.

In the study, 100 spa workers in Taipei sat in a room and breathed in the vapors of bergamot oil — a concentrated, citrusy extract — for two hours, while researchers measured their blood pressure and heart rate, as well as the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air. VOCs are substances, including essential oils, which easily evaporate at room temperature.

During the first hour, the workers’ blood pressure and heart rates went down. After 45 minutes, the average systolic blood pressure measurement had dropped by 2.10 mmHg, and the heart rate by 2.21 beats per minute. This finding agrees with some previous research showing essential oils relieve stress.

However, after 120 minutes, the researchers saw the opposite effect. Systolic blood pressure not only returned to the baseline level, it had risen by about 2.19 mmHg, and the heart rate was 1.70 beats per minute higher than at baseline. [See 7 Ways to Reduce Job Stress.]

“These findings suggest that overexposure to essential oil might be harmful to cardiovascular health,” the researchers wrote in the Nov. 29 issue of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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