- "Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality: A Brief History of the 'Sursem' Project", by Edward F. Kelly
- "The Sirius Mystery: Time for a Reevaluation?", by Anthony Mugan.
- "The Stralsund Incident of 1665", by Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough.
- "Looking for a Revolution", by Andrew May.
Grab a free PDF or order a print version of EdgeScience 22 from the SSE website, and please consider a small donation to help the EdgeScience team continue with this excellent publication, via the button on the webpage. There's also a link to join the SSE on that page if you want to keep up with the latest academic research into the 'edgier' areas of science.
Seismologists in China have established an official 'early-warning centre' for earthquakes that will monitor seven farms full of animals looking for odd changes in behaviour:
One of the seismic stations is an ecological garden in Yuhuatai district, containing 200 black boars, 2,000 chickens, and a 2 square kilometers of fish pond. Cameras are installed around the animals' living environment to observe their behavior.
Their feeders report to the seismological bureau twice a day on any abnormal behavior that professionals will analyze for whether a possible earthquake is imminent.
Advance notice of impending earthquakes remains the holy grail of seismology, as there is still no reliable predictor of these sometimes devastating events. I recently noted here on TDG there is a long-held belief in many cultures that a number of animal species can sense an earthquakes coming:
Changes in behaviour have been noted in laboratory mice, daily rhythms of ants have reportedly been disrupted, and cows have been observed to behave unusually (in one case an entire herd of cows was witnessed lying down in unison before an earthquake struck). There were reports of elephants and flamingos heading to higher ground before the 2004 Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami, and more recently of zoo animals acting strangely before an earthquake that struck Washington, D.C. One of the earliest reports of animal behaviour predicting earthquakes is from Greece in 373 BC, when rats, weasels, snakes, and centipedes were said to have left their usual homes several days before it struck. that appeared to provide support for the idea that animals can sense earthquakes in advance.
In that same post I also discussed a recent scientific study which appears to support this idea. Researchers monitored nine 'camera traps' in Yanachaga National Park in Peru to monitor the movements of animals in the park, and found correlations between the number of animals and earthquake activity.
China is a hotspot for earthquake activity, so it might not be long until we find out whether this new 'outside-the-box' early-warning system works effectively.
From the people of ASAP Science, a cartoony description of the neurochemical effect psylocybin has on the human brain. Obviously this is explained from a materialistic POV, but let's not forget we're still on the stage of building bridges between Science and Spirituality --and part of that process is interesting more people about the potential benefits of psychedelics.
In other news, a new scientific study found no higher risk of psychosis caused by the consumption of LSD:
In the first study, clinical psychologists Pål-Ørjan Johansen and Teri Suzanne Krebs, both at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, scoured data from the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual random sample of the general population, and analysed answers from more than 135,000 people who took part in surveys from 2008 to 2011.
Of those, 14% described themselves as having used at any point in their lives any of the three ‘classic’ psychedelics: LSD, psilocybin (the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms) and mescaline (found in the peyote and San Pedro cacti). The researchers found that individuals in this group were not at increased risk of developing 11 indicators of mental-health problems such as schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, anxiety disorders and suicide attempts. Their paper appears in the March issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
So I guess now Syd Barrett will no longer be exploited as a cautionary tale --by people who didn't like his music in the first place?
- "Does Consciousness Continue Beyond Death? A Search for Certainty", by Michael Urheber with Rhonda Drake.
- "Theoneurology: A New Model for Spiritual Experience", by Rick Strassman.
- "Moving Targets: Religious Studies and the Paranormal", by Joseph P. Laycock.
- "Phenomena Rich, But Science Poor" - Book review by Serena Roney-Dougal of Erlendur Haraldsson's Modern Miracles: Sathya Sai Baba: The Story of a Modern Day Prophet.
- "Professor Bottazzi's Toolkit", by Michael Schmicker.
Grab a free PDF of EdgeScience 21 from the SSE website, or the print version from MagCloud. If you do grab the free PDF, please consider a small donation to help the EdgeScience team continue with this excellent publication, via the button on the webpage. There's also a link to join the SSE on that page if you want to keep up with the latest academic research into the 'edgier' areas of science.
Scientists have hijacked the memories of mice as they slept. That’s the headline they’re going with, and it is rightly quite sensational, as mainstream media is wont to be. It may not be entirely accurate though – to our great surprise.
I’m talking about a paper that was published yesterday in the scientific journal Nature (Neuroscience). It expounds on a breakthrough experiment whereby researchers from the National Center for Scientific Research (CRNS) in France claim to have implanted conscious memories into mice as they slept. That requires a bit of explanation though.
The group, led by Karim Benchenan of the CRNS Brain Plasticity Unit’s MOBs Team, achieved this astounding breakthrough by implanting electrodes into the brains of mice, specifically targeting a type of brain cell called place cell neurons. Place cells, which were discovered in 1971, are a specialised type of neuron that are key to remembering where one is and where one has been. They act as a sort of map inside your head, with individual cells firing when you’re at a certain location, creating a memory of that spot, so that you can find your way back there in the future, should you need to.
Now, when you – or any of us – sleep our brains undertake to review the memories we’ve made during our waking day. That process entails a firing of the neurons involved in those memories, just as when the original experience occurred, and scientists can monitor this process.
By comparing neural scans of the mice from a period of exploration in a maze, to their later subconscious review of the associated memories, paying attention to place cell neurons, they were able to identify which neurons were associated with memories of which places inside the maze. Once identified, they used the electrodes implanted in the mouse’s hippocampus, to stimulate a pleasant feeling at the same time as targeted place cell neurons fired during recall. They effectively created an association between the memory of whatever location was involved and a pleasant feeling, or a reward so to speak.
The interesting thing is, once the mice woke from their short nap, they immediately headed straight for the location now associated to the pleasant feeling, as though looking to recreate the experience.
This research has obvious potential to transform treatments for post-traumatic-stress-disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and even schizophrenia and depression, by allowing clinicians to alter memories, building positive associations where traumatic or problematic ones once existed.
Benchenane insists, and it seems Nature’s peer-reviewers agree, that the mice’s behaviour following the procedure is proof that they have artificially created a conscious memory. They qualify it by calling it an “association between a particular place and a reward [that] can be consciously access by the mouse.” But is adding a sensory association to an already existing memory really creating a conscious memory?
The same effect has been sought, and variably achieved, through behavioural conditioning by various means, but the product in that case is always a subconscious association. As seen with smokers trained to associate cigarettes with the smell of rotten eggs. The difference seems apparent, but it might be an illusion.
The sole reason Benchenane and his colleagues believe this is the first example of an artificially induced conscious memory is the fact that the mice actively sought out the location associated with the memory and reward upon waking. Benchenane states, had the mice wandered randomly and simply stopped and focused on that key location once they stumbled upon it, that would have represented a subconscious memory.
This seems like a little semantic word play, as I see it. I don’t really question the notion of conscious recognition, so much as the idea that a memory was implanted in the first place. Here’s my reasoning: the researchers simply added an association to a memory that already existed. The mouse’s natural cognitive machinery created the memory the same way all of its memories are created, by experiencing stimulus. The question is, is an association the same as a memory? Clearly, connecting bits of sensory information is a key part of the memory making process, but isn’t a memory a little bit more than just the sum of its parts? If we are to properly call this the artificial creation of a conscious memory, then I would expect a more direct influence on the origin of the memory, not simply the introduction of another sensory input to be associated to an already existing memory.
I suppose you could reduce this to the argument between dualism and reductionist materialism (no pun intended). If consciousness, and therefore memory, are nothing more than emergent properties of the biomechanical processes of the brain, then perhaps Benchenan et al are correct. It certainly appears that their ability to manipulate memories and sensory input supports the notion of emergent consciousness, but reductionist materialism is by no means a foregone conclusion, not yet at least.
But where does that leave us in the dualism camp? I don’t have the answer.
No matter your philosophical bent in this case, or even in the case of dualism vs. reductionist materialism, Benchenan’s research is indeed a valuable step forward, and has real potential to drastically change the lives of people suffering with debilitating mental illness. Even if we can’t agree on exactly how or why it works.
 Karim Benchenane, Gaetan de Lavilléon, Marie Masako Lacroix, Laure Rondi-Reig. Explicit memory creation during sleep demonstrates a causal role of place cells in navigation. Nature – Neuroscience March 9, 2015. doi:10.1038/nn.3970
Probably the closest thing we'll ever have to Schrödinger's cat shown both alive and death: A research team has managed to capture light as both a particle and a wave, the dual behavior lying at the foundation of Quantum mechanics --and which also opened that can of wormholes known as "the observer effect" as well as the "spooky action at a distance" Einstein dreaded so much --ironic, considering *he* was the one who first proposed the dual nature of electromagnetic radiation in the photoelectric effect.
"This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time ever, we can film quantum mechanics – and its paradoxical nature – directly," says Fabrizio Carbone [head of the team at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne]. In addition, the importance of this pioneering work can extend beyond fundamental science and to future technologies. As Carbone explains: "Being able to image and control quantum phenomena at the nanometer scale like this opens up a new route towards quantum computing."
Congrats on your future Nobel prize, signore Carbone --now about that UFO detecting machine I requested…
- "Will the Real Ubik Please Stand Up? Precognition of Scientific Information in the Fiction of Philip K. Dick", by William Sarill.
- "On The Trail Of Mediterranean Mystery Snakes", by Karl Shuker.
- "Is Time the Soul of the World?", by Marshall Payn.
Grab a free PDF of EdgeScience 20 from the SSE website, or the print version from MagCloud. If you do grab the free PDF, please consider a small donation to help the EdgeScience team continue with this excellent publication, via the button on the webpage. There's also a link to join the SSE on that page if you want to keep up with the latest academic research into the 'edgier' areas of science.
'Frozen clouds' is not something that can only be found in Sci-Fi films like Interstellar --Oops! Spoiler alert-- as the above image shows.
The photograph was taken by a drone on a newly-discovered chamber inside the Bustamante caves in the state of Coahuila (Mexico), which despite being a popular tourist attraction have only been explored in about 10% of their total depth. Obviously the 'clouds' are not really frozen, but are in fact globular calcite formations created by the thermal waters in the area over a period of 50 million years.
The discovery was made by the Asociación Coahuilense de Espeleología, a local speleology group, and it marks the first time that a robotic probe is used to explore caverns which are inaccessible to human beings. According to the group's president, Ana Gabriela Morales, the team also found a 'floating lake' above what they know call 'the Cloud Chamber', which is thought to be a subterranean river.
The speleological group plans to hand the results of their investigation to the state's authorities once it's concluded. Who knows, perhaps the little robot might stumble upon a secret dwelling of Duendes...
- Source: "Descubren nubes de roca", Reforma newspaper (19/12/14)
You've seen the graph since you took Science class in primary school: The electromagnetic spectrum comprised of a tiny-winy slice of visible light, with ultraviolet and X-rays at the top, and infrared at the bottom. And ever since, our teachers have taught us that human beings are incapable of seeing both the infrared or ultraviolet radiation, without the aid of special equipment. Right?
Turns out a new experiment has demonstrated that, under a special set of circumstances, the human retina CAN perceive electromagnetic wavelengths at the infrared spectrum. The study was carried out by an international team of researchers co-led by scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and their paper was published on Dec. 1, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Online Early Edition.
Using retina cells of both mice and humans, and powerful lasers that emit pulses of infrared light, the researchers found that when the laser was pulsed at rapidly-enough intervals, the light-sensing cells in the retina would get a "double whammy" of energy. When that happens, the eye would be able to detect the light, even though is actually below the range of the standard visible spectrum.
"We're using what we learned in these experiments to try to develop a new tool that would allow physicians to not only examine the eye but also to stimulate specific parts of the retina to determine whether it's functioning properly," said senior investigator Vladimir J. Kefalov, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Washington University. "We hope that ultimately this discovery will have some very practical applications."
What originated the experiments was something of an odd 'glitch' in another investigation conducted by the research team, in which the team members reported seeing occasional green flashes when working with the infrared laser. Intrigued by the apparent impossibility of such visions, the scientists moved on in trying to solve the mystery.
"They were able to see the laser light, which was outside of the normal visible range, and we really wanted to figure out how they were able to sense light that was supposed to be invisible," said Frans Vinberg, PhD, one of the study's lead authors and a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Washington University.
After consulting the scientific literature, as well as previous reports of people claiming to see in infrared, the team started to conduct trial-and-error experiments, and they eventually discovered that the shorter the pulse, the more likely is a person to perceive it. By packing more photons in the energy pulse makes it more possible that two photons with a wavelength of a 1000 nm (nanometers), would be perceived as a single photon of 500 nm, which falls into the range of visible light (between 400-720 nm).
What appeals to me about this study is not its potential applications in Medicine or industry --or the fact that the scientists didn't follow the "it can't be/therefore it isn't" of skeptics, which helped them uncover a new property of Nature-- but whether it could somehow play a factor in certain 'paranormal events'. Would it be possible that some 'ghostly' apparitions are the result of the witness' retina being excited by electromagnetic energy that, under certain circumstances, might be perceived as visible light?
I'm also reminded of John Keel's ideas about what he coined as the 'Superspectrum', because he was convinced that all paranormal phenomena --from ghosts to UFOs-- had essentially an electromagnetic nature. Also, think of all the reports of flashing lights illuminating UFOs like Xmas trees; not the best approach to go unnoticed --or is it?
Maybe it's possible that individuals who are more sensitive than the average, sometimes perceive manifestations that normally go unseen by the naked eye.
In any case, it's cool to think that my old 4th-grade Science book is now outdated. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm in the middle of my attempt to acquire supervision thanks to the Science for the Masses vitamin supplements. ___________________________________________
- Phis-Org: The human eye can see 'invisible' infrared light.
- The Eighth Tower: On Ultraterrestrials and the Superspectrum, by John A. Keel [Amazon US & UK]
[H/T The Anomalist]