News Briefs 25-02-2015

I prefer a good conspiracy theory over bad science (and bad science journalism) every time!

Quote of the Day:

Where's your will to be weird?


Jim Morrison

The Burden of Thaipusam - Are Pilgrims' Experiences Religious, Paranormal or Psycho/Physiological?

The pilgrim carries milk to offer to Murugan - copyright Fabian Graham

Anthropologist Fabian Graham recently asked an interesting question on the Paranthropology Facebook group: Is it possible to draw lines between religious, paranormal and psychological/physiological experiences - and if so, where?

"For example", says Fabian, "trance possession may be religious in one context but paranormal or psychological/physiological in another, the key difference being socially sanctioned norms". As an illustration, he pointed out the Hindu festival of Thaipusam, during which devotees undertake a 5km long pilgrimage carrying various types of kavadi (burdens), ranging from a pot of milk to mortification of the flesh through piercing (not to mention walking on barefoot the entire distance on burning-hot tarmac):

Taking Thaipusam in Penang last week as a case in point, if the folk in the photos are possessed by the God of War Murugan and hence feel no pain, most might argue that this is a religious phenomena. However, for this to occur, a deity would have to acquire spiritual energy and manifest this from deity realms into the realms of human reality - which, quite frankly, sounds as much a religious as a paranormal phenomena. If on the other hand the folk in the photos are not possessed by Murugan and feel no pain, in layman's terms, they would have to un-link their consciousness from the pain receptors in their nervous system - also an event existing outside the so-called 'normal' realms of experience. So religious, paranormal or psychological/physiological experiences/ phenomena?

Hooks in a pilgrim's back - copyright Fabian Graham

For those interested in learning more about Fabian Graham's work, note that he contributed an article to the mediumship anthology released by Daily Grail Publishing last year, Talking With the Spirits (Amazon US and UK), titled "Vessels for the Gods: Tang-ki Spirit Mediumship in Singapore and Taiwan". Not to mention that the amazing image on the book's cover is one of his photos as well!

Images in the post by Fabian Graham.

Related:

News Briefs 23-02-2015

Mind: blown.

Quote of the Day:

Sadly, modern society has lost touch with the power of myth. We now use the word as a synonym for falsehood rather than as an expression of eternal truth.

Clyde W. Ford

CT Scan of Buddha Statue Shows It Has a Dead Monk Sealed Inside

Monk's remains within Buddha statue (photo by M. Elsevier Stokmans)

When I recently posted news about a mummified monk, a reader sent me a link on Twitter pointing out another fascinating, related news story. In this case, a CT scan of a statue of Buddha which showed the remains of a 12th century Chinese monk were sealed within it:

In Amersfoort's main hospital, Meander Medical Centre, the nearly thousand year old mummy has been recently examined with a CT scan and an endoscope. Several hospital employees helped with this unique project in their free time. A gastrointestinal and liver doctor took samples of yet unidentified material and examined the thoracic and abdominal cavities.

The hospital: "He made a spectacular discovery: at the place where once had been organs, he found, among all kinds of rotten material, paper scraps that were printed with ancient Chinese characters."

Click on through for the full story, including a wonderful image that makes it look like the Buddha is giving birth...

(hat tip: @gaborcsigas)

Related:

Mohenjo-Daro: An Ancient Nuclear Mystery

If you’re not a nuclear physicist, nuclear physics is likely nothing more than a nebulous and abstract idea out of popular culture to you.  It’s easy to forgive someone for not understanding the finer points of induced fission or which elements make better nuclear fuel than others.  Frankly, the whole endeavour is better left to the experts…whenever possible.

I recently offered a post on spontaneous fission – that is, a naturally occurring nuclear reaction – and the astounding discovery made in 1972, wherein French physicist Francis Perrin found sixteen naturally occurring nuclear reactors in Central Africa that are 1.7 billion years old.  Some of you might be thinking that’s impossible.  To those people I simply point to the Sun and shake my head, though granted, that’s a slightly different kind of nuclear reaction.

The point is, it’s real.  Spontaneous fission happened, and it went on for several hundred thousand years.  There are those, however, who would have you believe that spontaneous, and even induced fission has happened many times on this little blue planet of ours over the millennia.  Though that story take a little longer to explain.

Mohenjo-Daro.  No, that’s not a mystical incantation, it’s the name of an ancient archaeological site in Sindh, Pakistan.  You may have heard of it, it’s a particularly interesting part of our history, and is connected to one of the most enigmatic lost cultures that has ever existed – The Indus Valley Civilization.

There is a lot of folklore and legend surrounding Mohenjo-Daro.  And while all of it is interesting, the most relevant bit to the current discussion is the fact that parts of the many ruins of this ancient village have undergone vitrification.  In other words, they’ve turned to glass.

Vitrification is the process by which sand, or more accurately, silica is super-heated and then cooled, which results in a glass-transition.  It’s the way all glass is made, in basic terms, though there’s a difference between deliberately fired glass for manufacturing (technically known as frit) and vitrified sand.  The latter type of glass consists of three categories:

·         Fulgurite, which is glass created via lightning strikes

·         Tekkite, which is formed from the heat generated by meteor strikes

·         And trinitite, which is the glass that results from nuclear detonations.

Now, from the opening of this post, you can probably already tell which one is popularly thought to be found at Mohenjo-Daro.  The only real difference between those three categories of vitrified sand is the different heat sources that make them.  Other than a tendency for trinitite to be radioactive (Duh!), samples of each are pretty much the same compositionally.  Silicon dioxide, which is the most common element in sand around the world, melts at roughly 1,700 degrees Celsius, so any one of those methods can get the job done.  But if there were a competition, the clear winner would be a nuclear detonation.  The heat generated through a nuclear blast can be greater than 10 million Kelvins or 9,999,726.85 degrees Celsius.[1]  By comparison, the surface of the Sun is only 5,778 Kelvins.

Yeah, that’s pretty hot.  In fact, it’s hot enough to flash-melt pure silica into glass instantly.  So the Mohenjo-Daro vitrified ruins were made by one of three potential events, it seems.  A series of major lightning strikes, a meteor strike (or perhaps more than one), or a nuclear detonation.

The Indus Valley isn’t the only place to boast vitrification mysteries though.

Scotland has over 70 examples of what are known as Vitrified Forts, such as Dun Mac Sniachan.  These are crude encampments from both the Iron Age and Early Medieval period with stone-pile walls, usually situated in easily defended formations.  The outer walls of these forts have been heat treated, so to speak, resulting in whole sections of wall where stone and brick have melted into a glass facade.  They are wondrous, and in most cases they are quite beautiful, and they make up a collection of vitrified forts that dot the landscape throughout Great Brittan.

There are other places too, such as Çatalhöyük in the southern Anatoli region of Turkey, and Alalakh in Turkey’s Hatay Province, and even the Seven Cities of Cibola in Ecuador.

You might be getting the wrong impression though.  As mentioned, it’s commonly believed that one of the three potential methods of vitrification was responsible for all of these sites, with a conspiratorial bent toward some form of nuclear energy, whether that be detonations or a fission reactor of some kind.  But this isn’t necessarily the case, nor is it likely.

Remember above, when I told you that silicone dioxide melts at around 1,700 degree Celsius?  A flame fed by natural gas can easily reach 1,600 degrees Celsius, and a bonfire with mixed fuels can approach 1,200 degrees, especially if extremely dry wood is used, perhaps pinion pine.[2]  Both of those examples are of open flame fires, but what if that flame was enclosed?  Perhaps, within a stone structure where the heat would be trapped, reflected, and amplified by the stone?  Internal structure fires, like we see in today’s buildings, can easily exceed 3,000 degrees Celsius, so it’s not unreasonable to think that temperatures sufficient to reduce stone to glass could have been achieved in Mohenjo-Daro and other locations without the use of nuclear power.

That isn’t to say that some catastrophic event didn’t take place in the Indus Valley of the time; a war, a religious or ethnic cleansing, or some really wild parties that got out of hand.  But it isn’t likely that the vitrification was achieved through a nuclear reaction of some kind, whilst leaving no traces of radiation or fission products in the surrounding environment, and most conspicuously, without levelling the entire city.

In the case of the Vitrified Forts of Scotland and elsewhere, it is believed by the experts, that it was indeed wild parties that caused the destruction, sort of.  Most archaeologists assert that these locations were deliberately destroyed by fire, either by successful invaders or by the inhabitants as a part of a ritual closing of the facility, as it were. (Ralston 2006, 143-63)

It seems, and this is purely speculative, that the parties who wish to further the argument that these examples of ancient vitrification are the result of a lost or perhaps natural nuclear process, are simply taking advantage of the popular familiarity, and simultaneous ignorance, that we all possess on the topic of nuclear physics.  In reality there are simpler explanations to be considered, even though the alternatives may be more exciting.


[1] Glenn Elert. Temperature of a Nuclear Explosion - The Physics Factbook http://hypertextbook.com/facts/1999/SimonFung.shtml

[2] J.T. Barett. How Hot Is a Bonfire? Demand Media http://classroom.synonym.com/hot-bonfire-8770.html

 

News Briefs 20-02-2015

"In that book which is my memory..."

Quote of the Day:

“I saw within Its depth how It conceives all things in a single volume bound by Love, of which the universe is the scattered leaves.”

Dante Alighieri

News Briefs 19-02-2015

Keep on Grailin'!

Thanks to Chucky and Don Clemente.

Quote of the Day:

"The schizophrenic is drowning in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight"

~Joseph Campbell

News Briefs 18-02-2015

Wonderful things...

  • Charles Fort's notes will become available shortly.
  • Vast bed of metal balls found in deep sea.
  • The inventor who has developed a sweet-smelling "fart pill".
  • Limpet teeth set new strength record.
  • This is your brain on magic.
  • Can the CIA weaponise the weather?
  • The Earth is becoming a computer visible across galactic distance.
  • Can this light make you high?
  • The 5,800-year-old remains of a man and woman buried in an embrace have been uncovered in a Greek cave.
  • Prehistoric cult sites discovered in Negev Desert.
  • The carved stone balls of Scotland.
  • Bodies into food and sewage into beer: you are the hot new thing in recycling.
  • Escher and the Droste effect.
  • Amber fossil links earliest grasses, dinosaurs and fungus used to produce LSD.
  • Just another reason for Christians to hate on dinosaurs.

Quote of the Day:

He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder.

M.C. Escher

In Search of the Blue Stag: My First Entheogenic Experience

Saturday, December 20th. On the last weekend before the Christmas holidays, many people in Mexico are celebrating the traditional posadas: Festivities still clinging to some religious overtones, which for the most part have devolved into an excuse to eat a lot, drink a lot, and watch the kiddies beat the crap out of a star-shaped piñata, so they can afterward wrestle for all the candy and fruit inside of it once it finally breaks.


My own family is also gathered in one of those parties, but I'm not with them. I'm standing instead on a small circle with other people I've just met today, just a stone-throw away from the ancient city of Teotihuacán, whose massive ruins are now being shrouded by the darkness; on the circle's center there is a timid fire straining to illuminate the congregation, who is attentively listening to the voice of a short, elderly man, dressed in a white-cloth suit brightly adorned with colored patterns on the sleeves and the of bottom of his trousers. The words are an almost unintelligible mix of Spanish and indigenous dialect, spoken in a soft yet commanding tone. Standing next to him is his wife, his 18-year-old son, a teenage girl -- the son's girlfriend-- and a cheerful boy who couldn't be more than 7 years old, who is also the child of the elderly man.


The name of the man is Don Clemente, and he is a Marakame --a shaman or medicine man among his people, the Wixárika indians who are also known as Huicholes. His words, which were later translated by his oldest son --also with the same name-- are a salutation to all of us who have gathered around the circle on this fateful evening.


We are gathered here to celebrate a Winter Solstice ceremony ministered by the Marakame, and I am about to ... Read More »