With modern Western culture continually spreading throughout the globe, glimpses of fascinating ancient traditions become like jewels when we are lucky enough to observe them. Thankfully, when photographer Asher Svidensky was privileged to watch a 13-year-old huntress in Mongolia using an eagle to catch foxes, he captured the girl and her huge bird for the rest of us to see:
The Kazakhs of the Altai mountain range in western Mongolia are the only people that hunt with golden eagles, and today there are around 400 practising falconers. Ashol-Pan, the daughter of a particularly celebrated hunter, may well be the country's only apprentice huntress.
They hunt in winter, when the temperatures can drop to -40C (-40F). A hunt begins with days of trekking on horseback through snow to a mountain or ridge giving an excellent view of prey for miles around. Hunters generally work in teams. After a fox is spotted, riders charge towards it to flush it into the open, and an eagle is released. If the eagle fails to make a kill, another is released.
Head over to the BBC to see more photographs and read the full story.
Zombie Jesus Day Easter!
- 33 unbelievable places to visit before you die.
- PET scans might help us detect if vegetative patients are actually conscious.
- How to poke holes in the "consciousness is an emergent brain property" assumption.
- Consciousness as a state of matter --but what if it's the other way around?
- CERN physicists have proof of a new type of matter made out of 4 quarks.
- From solar-powered drones to space elevators, it seems Google X is giving Darpa a run for their money.
- O Brother Where Art Thou: Nasa to conduct unprecedented experiment on twins --will they be sending the evil one?
- Saturn has given birth to a new moon --good thing she already had a ring on it...
- Akhenaten's conehead brethren are secretly ruling the planet!
- Area 52 needs funding --apparently Area 51 ran out of money after the alien autopsy.
- Jenny McCarthy says she's not "anti-vaccine." Is she back-pedaling?
- Don't look now, but 2000 vials of killer virus have gone missing.
- The ancestor of all land herbivores was… a carnivore?
- The Creepy Crawly Cryptids of Japan.
- Nessie, the land predator?
- Red Pill of the Day: Creationist Cosmos.
Thanks, Susan & Robbie.
Quote of the Day:
“Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.”
A mind-bendingly beautiful piece of visual poetry for you all on this fine spring/autumn day...
Drugs: They're harmful. They're addictive. They're everywhere, and all around you there are peddlers seeking to give them to your kids.
But wait, the drugs I'm referring to are the corporate drugs patented by Big Pharma; the ones your government wants you & your children to be hooked on, in order to numb you into compliance. And if that doesn't keep you sedated enough, there's the sanctioned stimulants - i.e. alcohol, tobacco & caffeine - along with all sorts of sleek consumables promoted by TV ads & flashy billboards; guaranteed to force you into voluntary slavery, until you literally drop out from exhaustion.
On the other hand, the drugs our leaders have been trying to protect us from for the past 40+ years, have been shown through sound scientific trials to have incredible therapeutic benefits, when given to patients under the right conditions. The documentary Neurons to Nirvana explores the healing potential of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, Cannabis & Ayahuasca, not only for the treatment of physiological ailments, but also in helping integrate past traumas, and all the psychological wounds which lead many in our society to try filling their internal void with external satisfactors.
What's more, the biggest lesson these plant teachers can instill to the willing seeker, is that Mind, Spirit & Soul are *all* part of the same equation; as such, the imbalance in one would provoke an illness in the other... which might also account why we have brought our world into such state of disarray.
Neurons to Nirvana, directed by Oliver Hockenhull --who was recently interviewed by our good friend Alex Tsakiris on his Skeptiko podcast-- brings together a whole set of 'heayweights' in the fields of Neuroscience and/or Psychedelic research; like ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna, addiction expert Dr. Gabor Maté, professor of Psychiatrics & Pediatrics at UCLA Dr. Charles S. Grob, and many others.
On the link NeuronsToNirvana.com you can find a list of all the upcoming screenings worldwide, but if you prefer it you can either order a DVD or stream the film online --you can even send the streaming link as a gift to up to 5 different people; why not send one to your Congressman or elected representative? Maybe that could grease the wheels of change a bit.
British media are carrying a wonderfully Fortean news story about a school-girl sighting (and videoing) a 'UFO' composed simply of a large black ring (see image above).
A schoolgirl was stunned when when she looked into the sky to see an enormous unexplained black ring. Georgina Heap, 16, was playing tennis with mum Jo when she was stopped in her tracks by the fascinating sight.
Gazing into the sky, the pair saw a clearly defined black circle which looked like a giant smoke ring. The UFO remained there for around three minutes before it disappeared completely.
Georgina, who is studying for her GCSEs, said: "I looked up at it and thought, 'what the hell?', it was amazing. It was just floating there like a cloud and then it disappeared. It wasn't birds either. There were about ten of us who stopped what we were doing and watched. It is the weirdest thing I have ever seen."
The spectacle, which appeared near Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, on Friday evening, has stumped officials.
The 'UFO' has a wonderfully spooky look to it, but what is it? British UFO commentator Nick Pope is quoted in the Huffington Post as saying it might be a swarm of insects - and is definitely not smoke - although I'm not sure what evidence he's basing his conclusions on.
Over at Who Forted, Chris Savia points out that 'black ring' sightings such as this are actually not so rare, and has posted a similar image sighted in the skies above Texas in 2013 shortly after a transformer caught fire, an eye-witness account from 2003 that suggests a black ring formed after a lightning strike, and the video below from Chicago in 2012:
Skeptical news site Doubtful News offers a more detailed explanation: these 'black ring UFOs' are actually well-documented IFOs, being properly known as 'vortex rings', which "are often remnants of explosions":
In most instances, the rings are formed by air mixed with smoke or steam that is forced out of a (relatively) small circular or cylindrical opening (this can be a chimney, the barrel of a canon, or a vent in a volcano crater). Because of the drag of the surface of the opening, the air expelled from the centre will move faster than the air exiting the opening near the edge. The air from the sides is sucked in, and a circular motion is created. In this way, a doughnut-shaped vortex is formed, just like a smoke ring that is blown from a smoker’s lips. The ring-shape is maintained due to the rotational motion of the air flowing in the vortex ring.
In short: it's a smoke ring, like some cigarette smokers blow occasionally, just on a larger scale.
Update: A likely source of the smoke ring has been identified. Via the BBC:
A Warwick Castle spokesman said they had been testing "fire effects" to go with the daily firing of the Trebuchet Fireball - a giant catapult. "We've seen a number of different effects, including the vortex images that have been reported," the spokesman said. "As yet we don't know what causes the phenomenon but it's certainly a spooky spectacle."
News Link: Schoolgirl takes picture of 'black ring' UFO
Sorry folks. I forgot to observe the Moon for a little while there tonight, and all quantum hell broke loose. Which reminds me - I should go check on the cat…
- Megalithic origins: ancient connections between Göbekli Tepe and Peru.
- Romancing the Stones: A New Yorker piece on modern-day druids flocking to Stonehenge.
- They were mummified by accident in copper masks almost 1000 years ago. But who were they?
- Loggers find 200-year-old face carved in a tree.
- Who knew the US Army was in the business of building
- Shrimp-like fossil has the oldest cardiovascular system ever found.
- The oldest living things in the world.
- Do humans have the ability to sense the future? This survey of experiments so far says…yes!
- The secret spiritual history of calculus.
- How should one approach the study of demons, possession, and spiritual warfare?
- Sperm can pass trauma symptoms through generations, study finds.
- Ancient Mars was probably too cold for liquid water.
- Look! In Saturn’s ring! I think he’s giving birth to a baby Moon!
- How do we know the Moon landing isn't fake?
- The inventor of everything: How an egotistical genius convinced Silicon Valley to invest hundreds of millions in his shoddy science.
- What the Tamiflu saga tells us about drug trials and Big Pharma.
- This ex-astronaut is stalking asteroids to save civilisation.
- Fighter pilot's amazing UFO encounters.
- The Blood Falls: A horror movie and an astrobiological wet dream.
- Can this device translate dolphin sounds into English?
- The woman and the poetic giant (not a fable).
- Jim Harold talks with reincarnation researcher Dr. Jim Tucker on the latest Paranormal Podcast.
- Talking chicken causes mass panic.
- Image of the Day: Sunset on Mars.
- Bonus Apocalyptic Image of the Day: Blood Moon!
Quote of the Day:
It is well beyond time that we took the safety off, and started to think about pulling the Cosmic Trigger….a clean headshot is generally best.
While today's 'blood Moon' lunar eclipse occurred in the middle of Monday night for people in the United States, here in Australia the eclipse rose in the east - over the ocean for me here in Brisbane - right on the stroke of sunset on Tuesday evening. We took the kids down to the pier with a camera and tripod and grabbed a few images, including the one above. Bonus points for this shot, because it includes the star Spica (above the Moon) and the planet Mars (out to the left). Did you get clear skies and the opportunity to walk outside and take a look?
Can we sense the future before it happens? That question was at the heart of a set of nine experiments that sparked widespread controversy and debate when Professor Daryl Bem published his results in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2011. The reason: Bem's results were positive, suggesting that we can in some way do the seemingly impossible, and somehow 'know' (precognition) or 'feel' (presentiment) things before they even occur. The controversy grew even further, however, with widespread coverage in science media outlets of attempted replications from others that failed to find the same astonishing results. A number of scientists and 'skeptics' poured scorn on Bem's experiments, and prominent skeptic James Randi was even moved to award his infamous 'Pigasus Award' to Bem "for his shoddy research that has been discredited on many accounts by prominent critics".
In a previous post I pointed out that this focus on replications with negative results had glossed over the fact that there had also been a number of positive replications, suggesting that there might just be something to Bem's original results. And now, a meta-analysis of 90 experiments which replicated Bem's research, performed in 33 different laboratories (in 14 different countries and involving 12,406 participants), has offered significant support for the theory that humans can indeed sense the future:
The primary question addressed by the meta-analysis is whether the database provides overall evidence for the anomalous anticipation of random future events... the answer is yes: The overall effect size (Hedges’ g) is 0.09, combined z = 6.33, p = 1.2 × 10-10. The Bayesian BF value is 1.2 × 109, greatly exceeding the criterion value of 100 that is considered to constitute “decisive evidence” for the experimental hypothesis.
A subsidiary question is whether independent investigators can successfully replicate Bem’s (2011) original experiments...the answer is again yes: When Bem’s experiments are excluded, the effect size for the replications is 0.07, combined z = 4.25, p = 1.1 × 10-5, and the BF value is 757, which again greatly exceeds the criterion value of 100 for “decisive evidence.”
The meta-analysis paper, co-authored by Daryl Bem, Patrizio E. Tressoldi, Thomas Rabeyron and Michael Duggan, began with a search for all potential replications of Bem's method between the year 2000 and September of 2013. The experiments were then categorized according to the type of effect tested for, the number of participants involved, the statistical techniques needed to measure the effect, whether the study was published through peer-review, and the type of replication (exact, modified, or independently-designed). They found that 51 of the 90 experiments (56.6%) had been published in peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings.
But could the positive results have been an outcome of the 'file drawer effect', where mostly positive results were published but negative replications were not - put in the file drawer, so to speak, due to no interesting findings? The authors of the paper did the math, and found that the number of 'missing' experiments needed to reduce the overall effect size to a trivial value was (conservatively) 520. This seems unlikely.
Another possible criticism addressed by the authors is the effect size. While the meta-analysis offered highly significant results, statistically, the actual 'precognitive' effect was very small. But, the authors note, "even very small effects can have both theoretical importance and practical utility":
One frequently cited example is the medical study that sought to determine whether a daily dose of aspirin can prevent heart attacks. The study was discontinued after six years because it was already clear that the aspirin treatment was effective (p < .00001), and it was considered unethical to keep the control group on placebo medication. Even though the study was considered a major medical breakthrough, the size of the aspirin effect is actually quite small (d ≈.07), about one third the size of the presentiment experiments and Bem’s (2011) original experiments and about one half the size of the exact replications in our database.
Skeptics also often raise the lack of an explanatory theory as a problem when it comes to psi results. The authors of the meta-analysis argue, however, "that this is still not a legitimate rationale for rejecting all proffered evidence a priori. Historically, the discovery and scientific exploration of most phenomena have preceded explanatory theories, often by decades or even centuries (e.g., the analgesic effect of aspirin; the antidepressant effect of electroconvulsive therapy; and Maxwell’s field equations of electricity and magnetism, which were formulated centuries after the phenomena were first explored)".
The meta-analysis also revealed possible refinements for future testing. 'Fast-thinking experiments', where the speed of the test reduced conscious cognition, produced more positive results than 'slow-thinking experiments': "every fast-thinking protocol individually achieved a statistically significant effect, with an overall effect size of 0.11 and a combined z greater than 7 sigma. In contrast, the slow-thinking experiments achieved an overall effect size of only 0.03, failing even to achieve a conventional level of statistical significance (p = .20)". According to the authors, "fast-thinking protocols are more likely to produce evidence for psi because they prevent conscious cognitive strategies from interfering with the automatic, unconscious, and implicit nature of psi functioning".
Another discovery (which might well dominate some news reports on this paper) was that the experiments which tested for precognitive detection of erotic stimuli achieved "a larger effect size (0.14), a larger combined z (4.22), and a more statistically significant result (p = 1.2 × 10-5) than any other protocol". The experiments were also the most reliable in producing substantial effect sizes, with 10 of the 11 achieving effect sizes between 0.12 and 0.52 (perhaps notably, the one replication failure in the erotic stimuli group was a study which used a set of erotic photographs "that were much less sexually explicit than those used by Bem and other investigators").
This latest meta-analysis adds to previous data collections which suggest that precognition/presentiment is a natural (if very weak) human ability. Just last month I reported on a meta-analysis of results from seven independent laboratories testing physiological responses to stimuli, that concluded the human body "can apparently detect randomly delivered stimuli occurring 1-10 seconds in the future". And a 1989 meta-analysis of all forced-choice precognition experiments appearing in English-language journals between 1935 and 1977 - 309 experiments conducted by 62 different investigators involving more than 50,000 participants - also found a small but highly significant hit rate (p = 1.1 × 10-9). Both of those meta-analyses also reported that the file-drawer effect was an unlikely explanation, given the number of experiments that would be needed to overturn the positive result.
Other scientists - and skeptics - will no doubt have their say on this paper in due course, which will hopefully bring some clarification to the validity and overall importance of this meta-analysis. From the data presented in it though, it appears that the debate over human precognition and presentiment is a long way from settled. If only we could look into the future to see how this all plays out...
Until then, follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter to keep up with the latest news from the fringes of science and history.
You might also like:
- Scientific Research Suggests We Unconsciously React to Events Up to 10 Seconds Before They Happen
- Retrocausality: Physicists Ponder Whether the Future Can Influence the Past
- Is Precognition Real? Positive Replications of Daryl Bem's Controversial Findings
- Feeling the Future
- Not Feeling the Future: New Bem Replication Fails to Find Evidence of Psi
- Precognition Debate
- Document suggesting that Jesus had a wife is proven to be authentic.
- As Rome approaches 2,767th birthday, excavation reveals wall built more than a century before official founding year of 753BC.
- Tambora, 1815: Largest volcanic eruption in human history changed the 19th century as much as Napoleon.
- 'Hubble Madness' picks a winning image, and deep space never looked so good.
- Blood moon: Don't miss the total lunar eclipse on April 14/15. Darkness will cover the craters and mountains in which humans have spotted faces and figures for millennia.
- Phil 'Bad Astronomer' Plait owns up to some Bad Skepticism.
- Melvin Morse, well-known for his research into near-death experiences
in children, gets a three year prison sentence for 'waterboarding' his step-daughter.
- How the Freemasons got caught in a plot to topple the Castros.
- El Niño could grow into a monster, new data show -- on a par with the biggest El Niño ever recorded, in 1997-98, which caused $35 billion in damages and 23,000 deaths worldwide.
- Desmond Tutu calls for anti-apartheid style boycott against the fossil-fuel industry.
- Entire marine food chain at risk from rising CO2 levels in water.
- 'Bigfoot has Australian genes!': The myth and mystery behind Australia's bush monster the Yowie.
- The real Darwin fish: Why creationists hate Tiktaalik.
- Whole brain emulation: Can we really upload Johnny Depp's brain, as depicted in Transcendence?
- The hubris of Fukushima and Chernobyl. Fukushima’s lessons, unlearned in America?
- A brief, terrifying history of viruses escaping from labs.
- Study reveals gene expression changes with meditation.
- Happy people are more productive (especially if they get chocolate).
- Occupy was right: Capitalism simply isn't working and here are the reasons why. More details.
- An immodest proposal: A global tax on the superrich. Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century is available at Amazon US/Kindle & UK/Kindle.
- What is it like to live on Britain's most expensive street? (Apparently, they really do need all that security.)
- The appalling program that allows local cops to seize (and cash in) pot-related assets, even where marijuana is legal.
- El Salvador's battle to keep its gold in the ground.
- HIV's grip on the American South.
- Dying to make your chips: Samsung’s cancer-stricken workers are focus of fresh debate in South Korea. (Also explains why Silicon Valley has more hazardous waste sites than any other US county.)
- Politicians have delegated power to global corporations bent on engineering a world of conformity and consumerism.
- Study: American policy exclusively reflects desires of the rich; citizens' groups largely irrelevant.
- The US Navy just announced the end of big oil, and no one noticed.
- Correction: Seawater-to-fuel story I meant to post, instead of the one linked above.
- Statue of a homeless Jesus startles a wealthy community.
- Three expensive milliseconds.
- How Heartbleed broke the internet.
- NSA exploited Heartbleed to siphon passwords for two years.
- What the NSA's denial isn't telling you: it didn't even need know about Heartbleed to vacuum your privacy and store it indefinitely.
- A look at good coding: They Write the Right Stuff (Dec 1996/Jan 1997 issue of FAST COMPANY magazine).
- An interactive map showing global cyberattacks in real time.
- The magic of metaphor: What children's minds teach us about the evolution of imagination.
A big thanks to Perceval and Greg for loads of links.
Quote of the Day:
We live in a world dominated by greed. We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth. It is clear [fossil-fuel energy companies] are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money.
Well-known near-death experience researcher Melvin Morse, convicted two months ago of 'waterboarding' his step-daughter by holding her head under a faucet, has been sentenced to three years prison by the judge presiding over the case. Shockingly, given the details of the case, Morse was a former pediatrician (his licence was revoked) who had become famous for his research into the near-death experiences of children. This had led some to speculate that the abuse of the child was an attempt at inducing an NDE, though ultimately the judge disagreed on that count:
The judge ordered Melvin Morse, 60, to serve two years on probation after completing the prison term. Morse also received concurrent sentences of probation for other charges of endangering and assault.
...Morse, whose medical license was suspended after his arrest and has since expired, wrote several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences involving children. He has appeared on shows such as "Larry King Live" and the "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to discuss his research, which also has been featured on an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" and in an article in "Rolling Stone" magazine. Morse denied police claims he may have been experimenting on the girl.
"The idea that the defendant was experimenting on (the girl) is speculative, and I see his actions differently," said the judge, who described Morse as controlling and manipulative in his abuse of a vulnerable child.
Beyond the sad tale of abuse in this case, where does this leave Morse's body of research on the NDE? Should it be disregarded on moral grounds simply because it is the work of a convicted child abuser, or perhaps more cogently because - in a field that leans heavily on personal testimony - this throws doubt on his honesty and integrity? I for one would find it difficult to cite any of his research in future, for the latter reasoning, unless the details could be corroborated via another source.