News Briefs 08-04-2014

Sorry for the slow-down in posts here at the Grail…real-world responsibilities have been taking priority for the last few weeks. Hope to be back on the Grail horse again now though.

Quote of the Day:

God wanted to hide his secrets in a secure place… Then the solution occurred to him. 'I shall put my secrets in the inner sanctum of man’s own mind. Then only those who really deserve it will be able to get to it'.

Tale recounted in the Amazon to Professor Benny Shanon, and quoted in his book The Antipodes of the Mind

Mars Rover Sees a Light on the Horizon

'Light' seen on the horizon by Mars rover Curiosity

The Red Planet may well be a dead planet, but deep down we all seem to want to find that extraterrestrial intelligence is (or at least was) present on Mars. From the Face on Mars through to Bigfoot on Mars, news stories continue to be written about photographic anomalies on our second-nearest planetary neighbour (no doubt assisted by the relatively large number of missions that have placed satellites in orbit and rovers on the ground there).

The latest anomaly creating a buzz is a 'light on the horizon' snapped by NASA's Curiosity rover four days ago (April 3) soon after reaching a new study area known as the Kimberley (see the pic above - click for full-size image). But before you get too excited, there's a problem: Curiosity takes stereo pictures with two different cameras, and the 'light' only shows up in the right hand camera, despite both taking pictures simultaneously. This suggests that the 'light' is not truly out there on the horizon, but is instead an imaging artifact of some kind. Indeed, Doug Ellison, visualisation producer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), explicitly stated on Twitter today that it was an artifact caused by "a cosmic ray hit". Such glitches have caused Mars confusion before, such as this story about a Martian base.

What I found odd though is that another image taken by Curiosity, a day earlier, also showed this 'light' artifact - and this glitch too was precisely on the horizon line:

Another 'light' seen on the horizon by Mars rover Curiosity

The camera is positioned differently, it was taken a day earlier, and yet the 'light' is on both occasions on the horizon. I thought perhaps that such glitches might manifest in areas of high contrast (e.g. where ground meets sky/distant mountain range) in an image, so I asked Doug Ellison on Twitter whether that was the reason for the similarity in location. His reply was that it was actually, quite simply, a coincidence that was bound to happen at some stage:

I bow to the experts on these matters, but I still find that explanation slightly unconvincing. Maybe there's a better one: the Martians are trying to blind the rover...

(Caveat for the sake of those without a drop of humour: that last statement was a joke).

Update: Last night I checked Curiosity's track maps and consulted Google Earth's Mars view to get a feel for the direction the images are looking. What I found piqued my interest even further. The bottom image in my post was taken on Sol 588, the top image a day later on Sol 589. During that time the Rover moved slightly to the south, and in both cases is looking west(ish), firstly from the north-side of a mound in the foreground and subsequently on the south-side. If you look at where the light is in relation to the mountain range in the background (use the quite recognisable 'two-level' mountain directly behind the 'light' in the top pic for reference), you'll notice that the 'light' would be in pretty much the same position on the terrain a couple of hundred metres away, if parallax is taken into consideration. Which tends to lift the possibility in my mind that it could very well be a physical object (shiny rock, electrostatic dust devil, Nephilim) rather than a cosmic ray camera artifact (though the issue of only being in one of the stereo cameras remains suggestive of a cosmic ray artifact).

Update 2: A few about-faces today on the cosmic ray artifact explanation. Doug Ellison, who in his reply to me was certain it was a CR, is now saying "I've done a complete 180. 589 could be a CR hit. 588 isn't. It hides behind a hill behind the two eyes... if one triangulates between the two observations, one finds a point on a small ridge line. That point is also visible in Sol 580 MastCam imagery that shows a tall, thing [sic], bright rock at the exact same point". And Justin Maki, lead scientist on Curiosity's engineering cameras, has told Alan Boyle that it could be the light is the glint from a rock surface reflecting the sun.

Link: Bright Blips on Mars Pictures Spark a Buzz Among UFO Fans

Explore the Temples of Angkor with Google Street View

Tree grows upon temple ruins at Ta Prohm

Want to explore the sacred sites of the world, but don't have the cash to live your dream? While you're saving your pennies, this might be the next best thing: the Google Maps team has created a 'Street View' exploration of the temples of Angkor, Cambodia, allowing you to 'walk around' (virtually) the ruins of the ancient seat of the Khmer Empire:

The temples at Angkor each have a unique story — whether it’s the way they were built, the ancient Khmer cities they sit on, or the artwork they contain. To give you the most complete picture, our team used all the tools available to us: Street View cars, Trekkers and tripods to carefully photograph the exteriors and interiors of Angkor’s temples as they stand today.

With more than 90,000 new panoramic images views, we hope Cambodians and others around the world can experience these cultural and archaeological treasures in an entirely new way. Whether it’s revisiting iconic sites such as Bayon Temple in time for the Khmer New Year or studying the Ramayana’s Battle of Lanka bas relief carvings within Angkor Wat, Street View can help you more easily explore Angkor’s rich heritage.

From the tree-covered ruins of Ta Prohm, through to the amazing carvings of Angkor Wat, there's hours of fun in this one - get into it.

Link: Google Street View: The Temples of Angkor

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News Briefs 07-04-2014

'In unseen worlds, science invariably crosses paths with fantasy.'

Quote of the Day:

Long live transfinite mountains, the hollow earth, time machines, fractal writing, aliens, dada, telepathy, flying saucers, warped space, teleportation, artificial reality, robots, pod people, hylozoism, endless shrinking, intelligent goo, antigravity, surrealism, software highs, two-dimensional time, gnarly computation, the art of photo composition, pleasure zappers, nanomachines, mind viruses, hyperspace, monsters from the deep and, of course, always and forever, the attack of the giant ants!

Rudy Rucker

News Briefs 04-04-2014

“However vast the darkness…"

Quote of the Day:

“...We must supply our own light.”

S. Kubrick

News Briefs 03-04-2014

Last month on the Grail was the biggest reader numbers ever. Welcome to all you new Grailers!

Quote of the Day:

The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God.

Euclid

Ancient Mummy Has Tattoo of an Angel on Her Inner Thigh

1300-year-old Tattooed Sudanese Mummy

New research is revealing the secrets of ancient mummies of the British Museum. Using CAT scanners and infra-red reflectography, new details about the mummies' lives have been uncovered, such as the angelic tattoo found on the inner thigh of a 1300-year-old Sudanese woman:

One of the mummies, whose remains were found just seven years ago, was so well preserved that archaeologists could almost make out the tattoo on her skin on the inner thigh of her right leg with the naked eye. Infra-red technology helped define it more clearly.

The woman, aged between 20 and 35, had been buried wrapped in a linen and woollen cloth and her remains had mummified in the dry heat. The tattoo has been deciphered by curators and spells out in ancient Greek – M-I-X-A-H-A, or Michael.

The owner of the tattoo was a woman who died in about AD 700 and lived in a Christian community on the banks of the Nile.

The tattoo represents the symbol of the Archangel Michael, who features in both the Old and New Testaments. The symbol has previously been found in ancient churches and on stone tablets, but never before in the form of a tattoo.

“You can see her tattoo really clearly using infra red reflectography,” said Dr Antoine, “The tattoo on her right inner thigh represents a monogram that spells Michael in ancient Greek.

“She is the first evidence of a tattoo from this period. This is a very rare find.”

Link: 1300 year-old mummy and her intimate tattoo

News Briefs 01-04-2014

It's April 1 folks. I've done my best to filter out the foolishness, but might still be worth doubling-down on your dose of caveat lector before you begin exploring today's new briefs...

Quote of the Day:

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.

William Shakespeare

Talking With the Spirits: Ethnographies from Between the Worlds

Book Cover of Talking With the Spirits

I'm pleased and proud to announce the latest book release from Daily Grail Publishing today: Talking With the Spirits: Ethnographies From Between the Worlds (Amazon US and Amazon UK), a scholarly anthology of essays, edited by Jack Hunter and David Luke, on the phenomenon of spirit mediumship in various cultures around the world - from good old-fashioned British Spiritualism through to more shamanic manifestations in other corners of the world:

Talking With the Spirits is a cross-cultural survey of contemporary spirit mediumship. The diverse contributions to this volume cover a wide-range of ethnographic contexts, from Spiritualist séances in the United Kingdom to self-mortification rituals in Singapore and Taiwan, from psychedelic spirit incorporation in the Amazonian rainforest, to psychic readings in online social spaces, and more. By taking a broad perspective the book highlights both the variety of culturally specific manifestations of spirit communication, and key cross-cultural features suggestive of underlying core-processes and experiences. Rather than attempting to reduce or dismiss such experiences, the authors featured in this collection take the experiences of their informants seriously and explore their effects at personal, social and cultural levels.

Here's the chapter and author listing:

  1. Believing Impossible Things: Scepticism and Ethnographic Enquiry • Fiona Bowie
  2. An Agnostic Social Scientific Perspective on Spirit Medium Experience in Great Britain • Hannah Gilbert
  3. Spirits in the City: Examples from Montreal • Deirdre Meintel
  4. Mediumship and Folk Models of Mind and Matter • Jack Hunter
  5. Cyber Psychics: Psychic Readings in Online Social Spaces • Tamlyn Ryan
  6. Spirit Possession in East Africa • Barbara Stöckigt
  7. Developing the Dead in Cuba: An Ethnographic Account of the Emergence of Spirits and Selves in Havana • Diana Espirito Santo
  8. Mediumship in Brazil: The Holy War against Spirits and African Gods • Bettina Schmidt
  9. Psychedelic Possession: The Growing Incorporation of Incorporation into Ayahuasca Use • David Luke
  10. Anomalous Mental and Physical Phenomena of Brazilian Mediums: A Review of the Scientific Literature • Everton Maraldi, Wellington Zangari, Fatima Regina Machado, Stanley Krippner
  11. Spirit Mediums in Hong Kong and the United States • Charles Emmons
  12. Vessels for the Gods: Tang-ki Spirit Mediumship in Singapore and Taiwan • Fabian Graham

A must-have for the bookshelf of any person interested in mediumship - you can grab a copy of Talking With the Spirits from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

News Briefs 31-03-2014

Hard disk recovery = News Briefs recovery. Was NOT looking forward to to rewriting the news on my iPad from a photo of my frozen Mac screen!

  • The first transparent 3D-printed skull has been successfully implanted.
  • Speaking of see-through heads: glass brain - an anatomically-realistic real-time 3D brain visualisation.
  • Still speaking of see-through heads: a transparent head might foil facial recognition software, but won't stop scientists recognising the face you're thinking of.
  • Whales are cool and all, but this is getting desperate, no? How whale faeces help slow Antarctic warming.
  • Mirage Men - how the US government created the UFO myth §now online.
  • Wirral mathematician solves secrets of stonehenge.
  • How to prove the paranormal: scientists discuss.
  • Quantum experiments show how time emerges from entanglement.
  • Just don't blame the bankers: former World Bank senior council says a "second species" on Earth controls money & religion.
  • Suspended animation trials on humans begin.
  • Could "Ancient Egyptian" glyphs found in Australia rewrite history?
  • Researchers are giving psychedelics to cancer patients to help alleviate their despair - and it's working.
  • James Lovelock: 'Instead of robots taking over the world, what if we join with them?'.
  • Demons, mummies and ancient curses: should the British Museum be afraid?.
  • How to unmake a sea serpent: the case of the Scoliophis Atlanticus.
  • Controversial glow-in-the-dark plants go on sale.
  • How to bake scientifically accurate cake planets.
  • 10 of the most bizarre books ever written.

Quote of the Day:

One man practicing kindness in the wilderness is worth all the temples this world pulls.

Jack Kerouac