News Briefs 29-05-2017

Free your mind, and your ass will follow...

Quote of the Day:

There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state. The other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.

William Adama, "Battlestar Galactica"

News Briefs 26-05-2017

"All beings are by nature are Buddhas, as ice by nature is water. Apart from water there is no ice; apart from beings, no Buddhas...”

Quote of the Day:

“How sad that people ignore the near and search the truth afar: like someone in the midst of water crying out in thirst.”

Hakuin Ekaku

News Briefs 25-05-2017

Death of 007 coinciding with worst attack on British soil in the last decade? Synchromysticism at its best worst…

Thanks to Moneypenny.

Quote of the Day:

"Who does not understand should either learn, or be silent."

˜John Dee

Jewel Wasps are Neurosurgeons Who Zombify Cockroaches So Their Babies Can Eat Them From the Inside Out

Jewel wasp

"It's not brain surgery you know". That phrase (along with "it's not rocket science") is often used to denote a simple act, as compared to the recognised difficulty of surgery on the human brain, one of the most complex objects known. Neurosurgery is one of those things that shows how humans are very different from other living things, with our knowledge of the various functions of different parts of the brain, and our extremely advanced 'tool use' when performing surgery on it. So much so that we are often surprised when we hear about early attempts at neurosurgery in ancient times - "wow, they were more advanced than we thought".

The only trouble with this type of thinking is that humans are not the only animal to perform 'brain surgery'. Take the Jewel Wasp, for example, which literally performs neurosurgery on captured cockroaches so that they can zombify them and feed their young. The process is astoundingly intricate, as well as just plain horrific:

The wasp, which is often just a fraction of the size of her victim, begins her attack from above, swooping down and grabbing the roach with her mouth as she aims her “stinger”—a modified egg-laying body part called an ovipositor—at the middle of the body, the thorax, in between the first pair of legs. The quick jab takes only a few seconds, and venom compounds work fast, paralyzing the cockroach temporarily so the wasp can aim her next sting with more accuracy. With her long stinger, she targets her mind-altering venom into two areas of the ganglia, the insect equivalent of a brain.

The wasp's stinger is so well tuned to its victim that it can sense where it is inside the cockroach's dome to inject venom directly into subsections of its brain. The stinger is capable of feeling around in the roach's head, relying on mechanical and chemical cues to find its way past the ganglionic sheath (the insect's version of a blood-brain barrier) and inject venom exactly where it needs to go. The two areas of the roach brain that she targets are very important to her; scientists have artificially clipped them from cockroaches to see how the wasp reacts, and when they are removed, the wasp tries to find them, taking a long time with her stinger embedded in search of the missing brain regions.

Then the mind control begins...

Oh, not nightmarish enough for you yet? Read on...

With her prey calm and quiescent, the wasp can replenish her energy by breaking the roach's antennae and drinking some sweet, nutritious insect blood. Then she leads her victim to its final resting place, using what remains of an antenna as an equestrian uses the reins on a bridle. Once inside her burrow, she attaches one egg to the cockroach's leg, then seals her offspring and the roach in.

As if the mind manipulation wasn't bad enough, the wasp's venom has one final trick. While the roach awaits its inevitable doom, the venom slows down the roach's metabolism to ensure it lives long enough to be devoured still fresh.

For the morbidly fascinated, here's video of the jewel wasp doing its thing:

What does this mean for our understanding of intelligence, and/or 'blind' evolution? I'm not sure, but it does seem to tip a lot of our assumptions upside down.

The excerpted text above is taken from a recent Scientific American article (click through to learn more fascinating details about the jewel wasp-cockroach interaction) - and for those who want even more information, the article is itself excerpted from the book Venomous: How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry.

Related stories:

News Briefs 24-05-2017

Ian knows the score...

Quote of the Day:

The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

Bill Hicks, "It's Just a Ride"

Parapsychologist Dean Radin Discusses "Psychic Abilities and the Illusion of Separation"

Respected parapsychologist Dr Dean Radin recently spoke about the evidence of extended capacities of human consciousness (ie. psychic abilities) in a talk at the California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS) titled "Psychic Abilities and the Illusion of Separation". The audio is a little sketchy, but I'm sure many of you will enjoy it all the same.

Related stories:

News Briefs 23-05-2017

Mad world...

Thanks to @t3dy.

Quote of the Day:

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

Douglas Adams, 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'

Decoding the Antikythera Mechanism

Antikythera Mechanism (Brett Seymour / WHOI)

If future civilisations found our computers some 2000 years from now, how would they go about figuring out how they worked and what they were for? That's the problem that faced researchers when they set out to uncover the secrets of the Antikythera Mechanism, a 2000-year-old 'computer' found in a shipwreck off the Greek coast.

What they have discovered is remarkable - not least because they didn't start out with a working device, but instead just various pieces, many heavily encrusted, after it had virtually disintegrated while on the bottom of the Mediterranean. Through painstaking multidisciplinary research and reconstruction, researchers have found that the Antikythera Mechanism was used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses in the future, testifying to both the astronomical knowledge and technical abilities of whoever built the device. (Researchers have recently also figured out that It could be used to track a four-year cycle of athletic games of the time.)

The documentary below gives a wonderful insight into the entire process of the decoding of the Antikythera Mechanism and the insights that have consistently blown the minds of historians as we move toward a better understanding of its functions:

What we realised was that the ancient Greeks had built a machine to predict the future. It was an extraordinary idea, that you could take scientific theories of the time and mechanise them, to see what their outputs would be many decades hence. It was essentially the first time that the human race had created a computer.

Highly recommended, the entire documentary is absolutely fascinating!

For more insights into the Antikythera Mechanism, see Jo Marchant's excellent Decoding the Heavens: A 2000-Year-Old Computer and the Century-long Search to Discover Its Secrets, and also the links below for more recent news on the continuing research.

Related stories:

News Briefs 22-05-2017

And I for one welcome our new orb overlord...

Quote of the Day:

I'm looking California,
and feeling Minnesota.

Soundgarden, "Outshined"