Hello out there?
- Iceland to build first temple to Norse gods since Viking age.
- The necessity of musical hallucinations.
- The ghost of Number 10.
- Has the mystery of Shakespeare's Sonnets finally been solved?
- The woman who has had over a thousand near-death experiences.
- Research shows intelligent people stay up late, do more drugs, and have more sex.
- 21 porcelain dolls on bamboo stakes found in middle of Alabama swamp.
- Dark matter may be lighter than previously thought.
- Buddhist tradition claims 200-year-old Mongolian mummy may still be 'alive'.
- Challenging UFOlogy's cliches
- The giant axes and hammers that baffle the experts.
- The Island of Knowledge: how to live with mystery in a culture obsessed with certainty and definitive answers.
- New telomere extension technique holds promise of longer lives.
- The ongoing quest for a chip as powerful and efficient as the brain.
- Peruvian child mummy with elongated skull undergoes analysis.
- Peak food.
- Colin Batty's Lovecraftian portraiture.
- Diver runs under water faster than on the ground.
Quote of the Day:
The sad truth is that outside of the alternative belief community, nobody's listening.
When Pharaoh Khufu stood before his Great Pyramid 4500 years ago, I wonder if he could have imagined that in the future a flying man would descend from the heavens like a god. In order to advertise an energy drink...
...heeeeey, maybe that's the solution to the mystery of the pyramids!
"Reason is immortal, all else mortal."
- An interstellar portal?
- Möbius light.
- Studying gravity’s rainbow.
- Peering into the sacred Mayan water temple.
- Conscious thoughts on unconscious thought.
- More earth-like planets within the Milky Way.
- 55,000 yr. old skull may provide missing link.
- Super Saturn sighted.
- Doubling down on the double helix.
- Flipping the DNA nanoswitch.
- Public opinion in the U.S. vs. science.
- Preparing for contact?
- Song of the icebergs.
- The stripes of a zebra.
- Unlocking the past, present and future.
- Rocket car.
- Rocket launch.
- Visual storytelling.
- This week’s evidence of the looming robot uprising… Morality ‘bots.
Quote of the Day:
“Let no one persuade you by word or deed to do or say whatever is not best for you.”
Damn giants grow taller each year…
- Have archeologists found the tomb of Cervantes?
- Kubrick was right: The secret to Life on this planet could be buried on the Moon.
- Fossil find in Israel documents our species' journey out of Africa.
- Most of what we know about the okapi has been learned by studying its dung --if only we could apply that to other shy creatures...
- Johnny Depp blamed his absence at a press conference to a chupacabras attack --he should've blamed Transcendence on Mothman while he was at it…
- It's a small --and unvaccinated-- world after all!
- Urban Legends 101: What grants stories the potential to upgrade into folklore?
- Tulpamancers: Making 'imaginary friends' the next big fad on the web.
- The fate of Europe could be in the hands of a former Valve employee.
- Transgender Spaniard has a private audience with pope Francis.
- You wanna honor your new year's resolution of improving your health? Start by sleeping naked.
- More evidence that in the future, Football will be perceived as a barbaric practice.
- And the 2014 Zorgy Awards go tooooo…
- Farewell to SkyMall, that treasure trove of Fortean gadgets.
- Even the mayor of Beijing admits the city is unlivable --guess he's not running for a second term…
- Red Pill of the Day: Parents can't name their child "Nutella," French court dictates --so much for 'liberté'…
Thanks to the inventor of ellipsis --whoever you were...
Quote of the Day:
"Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day."
~E. B. White, responding to a letter-writer in 1973, Letters of Note.
You know what’s coming up this weekend, right? I fear to type the word lest sports enthusiast descend upon us. Everyone says they only watch it for the commercials, and I admit, that’s a big part of why I tune in too. Of course, with the news lately, the NFL isn’t exactly drawing a loyal crowd anymore. The players are overpaid thugs and the league officials aren’t much better. None the less, there are always a lot of people planning to sit through the entire eight hours of coverage – not even including the game itself – beer in hand, chips, pizza and rowdy friends all within arm’s reach.
Everyone has their favourite team too, and I will refrain from taking sides here, since the fan base can be more rabid than Ancient Alien proponents. But in the end, what really decides the outcome of the game? Is it skill? Teamwork? Planning? Sponsorships? Performance enhancing drugs?
How much of a role does luck play in this contest?
I know, I know, your team doesn’t need luck. But what if you could enhance your team’s chances for foisting that giant silver cup into the air? What if you could do something more than not shaving until they win, or wearing the same socks and underwear every day of the playoffs?
In ancient Greece – the culture that gave birth to the very idea of competitive sports – they took things into their own hands…their own magic hands.
You see, some of the Greeks, superstitious as they were, took to carving elaborate magic spheres out of marble and burying them on the “playing field” so as to enhance the luck of whichever champion they were backing (and likely betting on).
A single surviving example of one of these magical spheres sits in the collection of the Acropolis Museum of Athens. It was discovered during a dig in 1866 by archaeologist, antiquities dealer, and apparently, scoundrel, Prof Athanasios Rhousopoulos, buried in the hill just outside the temple of Dionysus.
It’s a relatively obscure bit of Greek history, but like any other aspect of their culture, it related directly to their pantheon of gods.
This particular sphere, known only as The Magic Sphere of the Museum of Athens, is ... Read More »
Clicky here for full mock photo & source.
- Is Disney considering Chris Pratt to reboot Indiana Jones... or are they digging in the wrong place? As long as Ford's in it somehow, I'm good with Star-Lord. Bradley Cooper would be ok too.
- An animated Indiana Jones TV series wouldn't be a bad idea either.
- Ethiopian Christians claim to guard the Ark of the Covenant.
- The origins of human beings according to ancient Sumerian texts.
- Did a 1000-ft white pyramid once exist in China?
- Count like an Egyptian: ancient maths for modern students (Amazon).
- Ancient Indian aircraft the subject at a major science confer3ence.
- NASA's working on a helicopter that'll fly on Mars.
- Russia has built a
remote controlled car with gunscombat robot.
- Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey turned into the weirdest scifi comic ever made.
- Jack Kirby: "The questions have been terrific."
- Superhero synchronicity: Mutants & Mystics by Jeffrey Kripal (Amazon).
- A UFO hovered over a French nuclear power plant, its director claims.
- A new cryptic species of owl discovered in the Middle Eastern deserts.
- A Yeti has been seen prowling... the streets of Boston?
- What cats did in 19th century Japan when their humans weren't home.
Photo of the Day:
Milky Way over the Seven Strong Men by Sergei Makurin
The Smithsonian Magazine has a fascinating article on the Antikythera Mechanism by Jo Marchant, a wonderful writer on things historical. In the feature, Marchant describes the wonderful intricacy of the device, which allowed it to compute the 'celestial time'/location of a number of prominent heavenly bodies:
The Antikythera mechanism was similar in size to a mantel clock, and bits of wood found on the fragments suggest it was housed in a wooden case. Like a clock, the case would’ve had a large circular face with rotating hands. There was a knob or handle on the side, for winding the mechanism forward or backward. And as the knob turned, trains of interlocking gearwheels drove at least seven hands at various speeds. Instead of hours and minutes, the hands displayed celestial time: one hand for the Sun, one for the Moon and one for each of the five planets visible to the naked eye—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. A rotating black and silver ball showed the phase of the Moon. Inscriptions explained which stars rose and set on any particular date. There were also two dial systems on the back of the case, each with a pin that followed its own spiral groove, like the needle on a record player. One of these dials was a calendar. The other showed the timing of lunar and solar eclipses.
Despite a number of the mechanism's pieces being missing, further secrets continue to be revealed. For instance, an inscription tells how coloured balls were used to represent the Sun and Mars on the front face. Other mysteries continue to be debated: perhaps most interestingly, how the device was able to represent the complex movement of the planets (which from our point of view, at different times move forward and backward through the sky when viewed on a nightly basis).
For me, another prominent mystery remains - how such a complex and useful device is so unique in the record of the ancient world. Where are the prototypes, the evolutionary forebears, of the Antikythera Mechanism? Where are its copies? After all, in modern times any piece of advanced technology quickly inspires 'knock-offs'.
Was the Antikythera Mechanism a one-off work of genius, unable to be replicated? Or does it indicate that the record of the ancient world remains woefully incomplete, and that our forebears were more technologically advanced than we have thought?
The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.
- John Keel's visit to the Pentagon to discuss Project Bluebook for a Playboy article.
- The possibility of alien life in Titan's hydrocarbon seas.
- Hedge fund managers may be running scared, but where are the pitchforks?
- How the CIA made Google.
- Boy gives detailed, verified information about a past life.
- Apocalyptic beliefs may explain why Francis is a pope in a hurry.
- Did the Druids believe in reincarnation?
- Harnessing entanglement on a chip.
- Unboiling an egg is now possible. Next: unmaking an omelette?
- J1407b , the planet that runs rings around Saturn.
- Ancient forest emerges from the sea bed.
- Tick, tock, says the Doomsday Clock, but we have more to fear than fear itself.
- Mongolia's three suns.
- Slender evidence for British Slenderman?
- People can be convinced they committed a crime that never happened.
Quote of the Day:
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
Over at Boing Boing, Johann Hari (Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs) writes about drug use in the animal kingdom - and by extension, in human society. He begins by discussing the work of Professor Ronald Siegel:
As a young scientific researcher, Siegel had been confidently told by his supervisor that humans were the only species that seek out drugs to use for their own pleasure. But Siegel had seen cats lunging at catnip — which, he knew, contains chemicals that mimic the pheromones in a male tomcat’s pee —so, he wondered, could his supervisor really be right? Given the number of species in the world, aren’t there others who want to get high, or stoned, or drunk?
This question set him on a path that would take twenty-five years of his life, studying the drug-taking habits of animals from the mongooses of Hawaii to the elephants of South Africa to the grasshoppers of Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia. It was such an implausible mission that in one marijuana field in Hawaii, he was taken hostage by the local drug dealers, because when he told them he was there to see what happened when mongooses ate marijuana, they thought it was the worst police cover story they had ever heard.
Here at the Grail we've also previously posted about jaguars tripping on harmine and reindeer eating magic mushrooms. In his fantastic book High Society: Mind-altering drugs in history and culture, Mike Jay also notes that human drug use may have been, in some cases, inspired by other animals:
In many human cultures, the origin stories of plant-derived drugs involve tales of people observing and copying the habits of animals. In Ethiopia, for example, the discovery of coffee is attributed to goatherders who observerd their flock becoming frisky and high-spirited after consuming coffee beans. Goats are very fond of coffee, and modern plantations must be robustly fenced against them; their taste for the effects of caffeine may have prompted the plant, which spreads it seeds via animal droppings, to produce it. Theirs is a long-standing symbiosis, though human participation in the cycle is relatively new.
(For more on the beginnings of psychoactive drug use by humans, take a look at Paul Devereux's The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia*)
Both Johann Hari and Mike Jay also note another aspect of drug use in animals - that it is often closely related to their environment, and sometimes with trauma being suffered. Hari notes that in Vietnam, "the water buffalo have always shunned the local opium plants. They don’t like them. But when the American bombs started to fall all around them during the war, the buffalo left their normal grazing grounds, broke into the opium fields, and began to chew." In Professor Siegel's research, a mongoose avoided the hallucinogenic silver morning glory in its pen until its mate died in a storm. And Mike Jay cites the research of addiction psychologist Bruce Alexander, in which rats taken out of cages and given a pleasant environment to live in reduced their intake of a supplied morphine solution to 1/20th that of their caged neighbours.
In all, Jay concludes:
Such experiments do not disprove the claim that animals take drugs for their chemical rewards, but they do indicate that the impulse to take drugs is more than a simple behavioural reflex. In humans, of course, the variables become far more complicated. Sensory pleasure is an obvious component of most drug use, though the definitions of pleasure are as varied as human culture itself. But some drugs offer strictly functional benefits. The ability to alter consciousness in dramatic but controllable ways has many uses, and there is much evidence to suggest that humans have long used such drugs instrumentally: even, in some cases, elaborating their entire social systems around the heightened states of consciousness such substances produce.
(* Full disclosure: The Long Trip is printed by Daily Grail Publishing)
- UFO hunters plan new worldwide database to track sightings.
- Four extraordinary sightings from the US Air Force's Project Blue Book.
- The enduring mystery of the Naga Fireballs.
- Elon Musk names SpaceX drone ships after ships from the novels of science fiction writer Iain M. Banks.
- Finding E.T. - we're going to need a bigger dish.
- The science of near-death experiences.
- This ghost-hunting handheld is an iPhone for talking with the dead.
- Hacking the tripping mind: a fantastic voyage through inner space.
- When the machines become people - uplifting civilisation into the 22nd century and beyond.
- Scientists slow the speed of light.
- When you wish upon a star: nuclear fusion and the promise of a brighter tomorrow.
- Back-up brains: the era of digital immortality.
- Mr Prosser has family: 800 years since his death, the genes of Genghis Khan are now within millions.
- Scan finds new tattoos on 5300-year-old Iceman.
- The search for Cibola, the Seven Cities of Gold.
- Evidence for post-traumatic stress in 1300B.C..
- The psychology and economy of conspiracy theories.
- Does subliminal advertising actually work?
- Dream mystery: Are the common elements in our dreams the result of basic biology, or something deeper?
- Image of the Day: Comet landscape.
Quote of the Day:
Those of us who are old enough to remember the first half of the 'UFO era' have the definite perception that the public discussion of the topic has devolved. As a society, we are collectively stupider on this subject than we were a generation ago.