Where we attempt to fill you in on everything they forgot to teach you at school

Word Mining with Google's Ngram Viewer

Google has taken on plenty of ambitious projects over the past decade, perhaps none more so than Google Books: the internet giant has so far managed to scan more than 5 million books into digital format. This has - for obvious reasons - generated much controversy regarding copyright and other aspects. Though it has bewildered me for a number of years how most people haven't understood the positive side of this incredible undertaking - basically making the corpus of all printed literature keyword searchable! Forget the old days of searching your local library for a title using the Dewey Decimal system - you can now search a mega-libary instantaneously for a particular keyword anywhere within the book...and then buy or download the book immediately.

Anyhow, recently Google have made a new tool available to search the Google Books database - the Ngram Viewer - which allows tracking of the use of particular words throughout history in published material. It's quite a bit of fun to use, and rather illuminating as well in various ways. As a simple example, and one that I'm sure nobody would doubt too much - usage of the word "vampire" over the last few hundred years, leading up to the modern fixation with this horror archetype:

Vampire Ngram

But it's interesting to find out that other terms were, surprisingly, not written about much until modern times (or perhaps, were discussed via different terminology). For example, "afterlife":

Afterlife Ngram

Another interesting exercise is to compare terms. Say for example that we wanted to see the most common spelling of the word describing the field of UFO studies, which tends to always end in disputes - ufology, UFOlogy, or Ufology. Google's Ngram Viewer shows that though it started out as "UFOlogy", since the 1970s "ufology" has become the most used term - though in recent years its usage has fallen off with the variant spellings closing the gap:

Ufology Ngram

Lots of other fun to be had, so head on over and get to it - and report back on any intriguing results in the comments! Science vs religion is particularly illuminating - try plugging in other terms like "Great Pyramid", "Illuminati", and "LSD" to find intriguing spikes during certain decades which point to historical moments and discoveries. Remember to vary your time frames as needed, and be careful how you enter words as they are case sensitive.

The Pyramids of China

Pyramids fascinate many readers of The Daily Grail - the more mysterious the better. As such, it's hard to beat the Pyramids of China, which - due to their location - have remained an enigma to Westerners, even in these modern days of instant, ubiquitous information via the Intarwebs. Nevertheless, there is some info out there - for example, here's some recent footage of some of the structures:

You can read more about these fascinating ancient constructions at World-Pyramids.com. Also, for the desktop explorers out there, you can find Google Earth co-ordinates to a number of them at Wikipedia.

Vale Zecharia Sitchin

The website of 'alternative history' author Zecharia Sitchin has posted a statement announcing his passing at the age of 90:

We regret to inform you that Zecharia Sitchin passed away on the morning of October 9th. A small, private family funeral was held the next day.Zecharia Sitchin

The family asks that you respect its privacy during this difficult time and refrain from contacting family members directly. Instead, to offer tributes to Mr. Sitchin or to contact those handling his affairs, please email tributes@sitchin.com or send a letter to P.O. Box 577, New York, NY 10185.

We appreciate the support that you have given over the years. Please continue to monitor this website for further updates.

Sitchin had been busy earlier in the year promoting his latest book There Were Giants Upon the Earth, including an interview in June posted at Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log. In July Sitchin had posted a note on his site regarding a hospital visit due to "an acute abdominal problem", though he hoped to "return to full activity" after a short rest.

Zecharia Sitchin shot to fame (and notoriety amongst scientists) in the mid 1970s with his book The 12th Planet ('Book One of the Earth Chronicles'), in which he put forward the hypothesis that Sumerian civilisation was 'kick-started' by the Anunnaki, a race of extra-terrestrials from a 'lost' planet in our own Solar System (on an elliptical orbit) called Nibiru. He went on to write a large number of books exploring these ideas further.

Sitchin was part of the 'ancient astronaut' genre which exploded in the 1970s via the works of authors such as Erich von Däniken (Chariots of the Gods) and Robert Temple (The Sirius Mystery).

Time to Show

An awesome video-mapping show to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the construction of the Prague Astronomical Clock:

Definitely not "so anti-climactic"...

Colbert on Geller

Uri Geller gets the Stephen Colbert treatment in the wake of news the famous spoon-bender is in search of lost Egyptian treasure on the Scottish island he bought a few years back:

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Mysteries of the Ancient Unknown - King Tut's Penis Pt. 2
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Geller, King Tut, and Leslie Kean on UFOs - all in recent weeks. Is Colbert a Fortean? Or a skeptic? Who cares, it's all good fun.

Previously on TDG:

Zahi is Obnoxious?

The New York Times reviews Chasing Mummies, the new reality TV show featuring the king of the pyramids, Dr Zahi Hawass - and for once, a story about the Big Z tells it like it is:

Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, seems to get his name in the papers and his face on television every time anyone sticks a shovel in the ground there.

The resulting fame — the man has become ubiquitous on history-heavy American cable channels — has apparently given Dr. Hawass, like many celebrities before him, the mistaken impression that any sort of personal behavior will be embraced by his adoring public, because he sure is obnoxious on “Chasing Mummies,” an annoying new show that begins Wednesday night on History.


The Stars Within Lascaux

Here's an interesting story at Seed Magazine discussing the 17,000-year-old cave art from Lascaux, France, through the lens of archaeoastronomy:

[Michael A. Rappenglück] noticed a group of six spots painted above the back of one of the aurochs in a part of the cave known as the Hall of the Bulls. Charcoal freckles surround the creature’s eye, which Rappenglück thought could represent the eye of the Taurus constellation embedded Lascaux Cave Artin the Hyades cluster. Astronomical calculations of when the Hyades cluster would have been visible to Northern Hemisphere observers during the season depicted in the image match well with the date range given by carbon-14 dating of the charcoal traces. He added a fresh layer of interpretation to the images with his conclusion that the cyclical appearance and disappearance of the Pleiades provided a celestial clock, used alongside carved-bone lunar calendars by hunters of the Magdalenian period or just before.

...Neurophysiologists such as William Calvin have suggested that the human ability to target a moving animal with a thrown rock developed into or coincided with the cognitive capacity for long-term planning. If the Lascaux cave-painters really had a precise time-keeping system, then these people actually scheduled their hunting—thus employing foresight well beyond where their rough-hewn weapons would strike an animal of prey—much as their descendants eventually planned their agrarian affairs according to celestial cycles. The in-heat, rutting season of the Magdalenian aurochs may have coincided with a celestial cue, allowing ancient peoples to track the gestation of these animals as the bovine with six bright spots rose high in the spring sky.

This certainly isn't a new idea - Rappenglück's theory was headline news a decade ago. For some reason, archaeastronomy still seems to be often shunted into the corner when discussing the motivations of ancient people, with archaeologists favouring theories tightly bound to power structures or sexual symbolism. As such, I think that in many cases one of the more obvious (and near-permanent) inspirations for artwork and building - the sky - remains ignored.

Hancock and Pinchbeck Dialogue

Here's an interesting dialogue between authors Daniel Pinchbeck (Breaking Open the Head, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl) and Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods, Supernatural) on anomalous history, the prophecies of 2012, and the reclaiming of sovereignty over our own consciousness offered by the revival of shamanic techniques: "Retelling the Past, Reimagining the Future". A few things I'd take issue with (as you've probably noticed, I'm not much of a 2012 devotee), but a fascinating discussion all the same (almost 2 hours worth!), and plenty of jumping off points for further debate and research:

Here's the summary of the video:

Pinchbeck and Hancock discuss the implications of the Mayan Calendar "end-times" date 2012 which Hancock first drew to the attention of his readers in Fingerprints of the Gods published in 1995. Hancock's evidence for a great lost civilisation wiped out in a global cataclysm 12,500 years ago is explored in depth together with his suggestion that the survivors of that civilisation may have sought to pass down a message to the future and indeed specifically to us in the twenty-first century -- a warning that the next great lost civilisation may be our own. From the geology of the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Egypt to the mysteries of the Ark of the Covenant, from ancient maps showing the world as it looked during the last Ice Age to out-of-place artefacts indicative of high technology in ancient times, the discussion ranges widely across some of the most intriguing evidence for an immense forgotten episode in human history, and moves on to consider the spiritual crisis of the modern age. Could a new paradigm emerge from our present state of chaos? Hancock and Pinchbeck see hope in efforts by people all around the planet to reclaim sovereignty over their own consciousness, and identify a powerful role for shamanistic visionary plants such as Ayahuasca and Psilocybin in ushering in a gentler, less toxic, more nurturing state of mind.

For more from each of these authors, see Pinchbeck's Reality Sandwich, and GrahamHancock.com.

Zahi Chases Mummies

This is gold, absolute gold - though for all the wrong reasons. The Big Z - that's Dr Zahi Hawass to you, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities - now has his own 'Reality TV' show, Chasing Mummies! I know what you're thinking - "but reality TV is usually full of obnoxious loudmouths grandstanding for the cameras, desperately seeking their 15 minutes of fame!" Exactly...

Kind of like a car crash...disturbing and grotesque, and yet you can't take your eyes off it.

Another Brick in the Wall

Overheard conversation between the builders of the Temple of Jupiter and the residents of Stonehenge: "That's not a megalith....this is a megalith":

Trilithon stone at Baalbek

The Baalbek Trilithon at Atlas Obscura.