For ten years, the modern skeptical movement has wielded a cudgel against claims of the paranormal: the James Randi Million Dollar Challenge. In many debates over the possibility of psi abilities, the Challenge provides a final word for one side..."has so-and-so applied for the Challenge?" The financial reward offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation is seen by many skeptics as providing an irresistible motivation for anybody with paranormal ability - after all, if someone could genuinely exhibit such powers, surely they would step forward to take the million?
However, after ten years, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) says nobody has even got past their preliminary testing. Furthermore, none of the 'big fish' - medium John Edward, spoon-bender Uri Geller, psychic Sylvia Browne - have applied (although Sylvia Browne did accept James Randi's direct challenge on Larry King Live, without going any further). And now, perhaps as a result of that fact, James Randi has announced that the Challenge will come to an end in two years, on March 6th, 2010.
But does the challenge really make a statement about the existence of the paranormal and/or psi abilities?
The entire issue of the March/April Biblical Archaeology Review has been placed online (as webpages, not PDF). If you're interested in topics Biblical and/or archaeological, make sure you head one over and check it all out - everything from Jezebel to Qumran, with "Dirty Old King Solomon" squeezed between.
New Scientist currently have a special issue on music, with a number of features freely available online to feast on. One of those pages is on auditory illusions, and I've heard good things about #2, "Phantom Words". I say 'heard' not to pun, but because I didn't get any illusions...whereas others have told me they heard complete phrases. However, it sounds (in theory) like an interesting example of how our brains can hear voices (quite separately from the whole microwave thing discussed earlier this week). Are the 'skills' of mediums somehow related to this, or are they separate. Anyhow, if you hear illusory words or phrases, post a comment and let me know what you got.
Please indulge me in one particularly crass one-liner today. It demanded to go public...
- General James Cartwright gives a rundown of yesterday's satellite destruction (with video of the strike). A good detailed and open talk, worth checking out. Also, a DoD photo essay charts the operation.
- And: U.S. to share satellite strike data with China. Just to show them what the U.S. is capable of...
- Giant meteor explodes over Northwest U.S. No word yet as to whether extraterrestrials will be sharing the data on that one.
- Martian crater records aftermath of Amazon-like flood.
- Animals are smart, but they don't think like autistic savants.
- Brain Gym: nonsense dressed up as neuroscience?
- The location of the elusive G-spot - fingered at last!
- Raelians move from clones to clitorises.
- Panic after 'Franken-fish' is caught in Britain.
- Are there lots of Earths out there? We may need a spare one some time soon...
- And yet: could greenhouse gases become gasoline?
- Student invents lamp powered by gravity.
- Media criticize JFK conspiracy theorists, before any theories begin.
- Speaking of, the Washington Post scoffs at Paranoia Magazine (with not one, but two tinfoil hat references...some original writing there).
- The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe voted best children's book of all time. Some wonderful memories in that top fifty list.
- Former Spiritualist leader imprisoned for child rape. Because belief in the paranormal is a slippery slope towards immoral behaviour.
- The remnants of ten pyramids have been discovered on the coast of Peru.
- Have pilgrims to Ireland been kissing the wrong stone? The Blarney Stone's custodian disagrees.
- Confucius has more than 3 million living descendants.
- Breathtaking monasteries from around the world.
- Le serpent rouge...d'Iran.
- Are illegal tactics against Scientology justified?
- Pwnage news? Google to store patient's health records.
- A robot that dances your dreams.
Thanks Rick and RPJ.
Quote of the Day:
What's frustrating is that in this extremely fascinating, important, potentially highly impactful area, research is proceeding so slowly because of excesses of skepticism and fear in the scientific community.
"A long time ago...
In a galaxy far, far away"
Well, seems the galaxy just got a little closer. If you are in Philadelphia, you might want to check out the new exhibit 'Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination' —Feb. 9 - May 4, 2008 at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Penn.
This exhibition showcases costumes and props from all six Star Wars films while exploring cutting-edge research and modern technologies that could one day make the fantasy world of Star Wars a reality.
But fear not, my european friends, for the Force is strong with you too. At Brussels you can attend 'Star Wars: The Exhibition', open since Feb 16:
'Star Wars: The Exhibition' gives visitors a rare glimpse inside the making of the epic movies. Fans can also enjoy several interactive activities from Jedi training to a green screen simulation that puts you right into the movie making the exhibit truly fun for all ages.
If know more you must, click here.
And remember: The Force will be with you... whether you like it or not! :-)
Transhumanist pundit George Dvorsky has noted on his Sentient Developments blog an illustrative case of the 'taboo of psi':
Much to the chagrin of his readers, AI theorist Ben Goertzel has dared to explore the topic of parapsychology on his blog (or just 'psi'). He argued that the scientific evidence for psi is stronger than we think.
When his readers complained in the comments section, Goertzel came back by saying...
I've omitted Goertzel's comments, which you can read on his own blog. What is worth pointing out is the way that Dvorsky has to frame the story. A post about psi research is "much to the chagrin" of Goertzel's readers. He "dared to explore" the topic. I mean, really, are we living through the Inquisition again, when scientists have to "dare" to explore a topic?
Whether there is something to psi, or whether it's just an artifact of the experiments we haven't worked out yet, there is one certain thing. Scientists *should* be investigating it. There are decades of positive, replicated ganzfeld results suggestive of telepathy (among various other experiments into topics such as presentiment and remote viewing). It makes an absolute joke of modern science that someone needs to "dare" to look further into it, and all those who vent their anger at such a person have no right to categorize themselves as a scientifically-minded person. Simple as that.
The Eclipse is in progress and I’m just realizing how difficult it is to use a keyboard when your claws are growing and your skin turns furrier. I’d better finish soon, for I’m getting a bit hungry.
- MIT To Lead Development Of New Telescopes On Moon. Shouldn’t they be asking the selenites’ permission first?
- Jason Bellows asks what would life be without the Moon at Damn Interesting.
- Ultrasound could help explore the icy oceans of Europa… and find out if Jupiter’s moon is pregnant or not.
- From Natural we now turn to Artifitial: Satellites spot lost Guatemala Mayan temples.
- And while we’re all waiting to hear some news about the Military’s shooting of the OTHER satellite [UPDATE to this story], two pilots have been rescued after their F15Cs collide in midair over the Gulf of Mexico. [update: unfortunately, one of the pilots died.]
- If the FDA says it’s good, it doesn’t matter if your body objects! US Supreme court dictates that patients cannot sue medical-device manufacturers over harm from a device that has approval from federal regulators.
- It’s ‘back to square one’ at the lab:Latest HIV Gel Proves Disappointing.
- Don’t get mad! Getting angry slows down the healing process for injuries (tell THAT to McCain).
- Danish scientists find way to tell age through eyes. Dude… just ASK her!
- A skeptical view on how telekinesis is ruled out by quantum theory at Cosmic Variance (you’re gonna LOVE this one, Greg!)
- As the battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD seems to be over (Betamax, thou art avenged), in California another fierce battle is underway: Solar panels vs. redwoods.
- Florida will teach evolution but ‘only’ as theory. They will also teach gravity, but ‘only’ as a law.
- Ironically, that seemed to have been a bad mood by the creationists.
- Like a Rolling Stone: Gene studies confirm ‘Out of Africa’ theories.
- Va. Man To Lead Search For Bigfoot In W.Va. So that would make it a W.V.B-f? WTF??
- Close encounter of the Thunderbird kind? Stan Gordon at Paranormal news comments.
- Mothman and the Thunderbird: could they be one and the same?
- Real Sea Monsters: Mysterious creatures found in Antarctic waters.
- Mystery of the Anasazi solved?
- Physicist Neil Turok says the Big Bang wasn’t the beginning of the Universe. Man, with a name like Turok, he should have chosen paleontology instead ;-)
- Earth-like planet discovery adds to likelihood of extraterrestrial life. It’s the end of the world as we know it :o)
- Emmulating the apostles of old, Mac Tonnies is running a blog in an effort to convert the pagans of SETI. Let’s just hope he doesn’t share their fate! Thanks to UFO Mystic for the heads-up.
- New Books Expose Patented UFO Technology, Exotic Propulsion Systems. More here.
- Feast your eyes on Barbarella and other gaLACTIC ladies (you’re welcome, gentlemen).
- Speaking of milk: The Milky Way is twice the size we thought it was. Well, it still does a body good :o)
- First UFO sanctuary opens in Russia. Does that mean visitors won’t be allowed to feed the UFOs?
- Ed Komarek asks: Where´s the Rosa Parks for exopoliticians?
- Can Tarki’s Theorem be applied to the UFO phenomenon? The UFO Provocateurs seem to think so.
- 'Destroy All Humans!' arrives for the Wii platform. If you’re a fan of old B-movies, classic UFO aesthetics and slapstick humor, this is a game you shouldn’t miss.
- As all good conspiracy theories, this one refuses to die: Witness testifies that Diana feared plot by royals.
- The strange tale of a british bloke who is now adored as a godess in India (!).
Quote of the day:
“The deep lesson is that, although science doesn’t know everything, it’s not ‘anything goes’ either. There are well-defined regimes of physical phenomena where we do know how things work, full stop. The place to look for new and surprising phenomena is outside these regimes. You don’t need to set up elaborate double-blind protocols to pass judgement on the abilities of purpoted psychics. Our knowledge of the laws of physics rules them out. Speculation to the contrary are not the provenance of bold visionaries, they are the dreams of crackpots.”
Senior Research Associate in the Dept. of Physics at Caltech
Don't shoot the messenger.
- Is the Heavener Runestone proof Vikings visited Oklahoma in 900 AD?
- Archaeologists have opened a well-preserved tomb that may contain the mummy of an ancient warrior in Luxor.
- Missing page from a 5th century AD Christian text was found under the floor of the Deir al-Surian monastery in Egypt.
- The ruins of a 2500-year-old city are being excavated in eastern India.
- There's been no update on mysterious stone eggs found in China last year.
- Can they be connected to Costa Rica's stone spheres?
- Dr Mike Xu thinks there's a connection between ancient China and the Olmec.
- A neat travel site featuring pics of Tikal, Palenque and Chichen Itza.
- Journeys of a Crystal Skull Explorer isn't about Indy, it's Joshua and Desy Shapiro sharing over 20 years of research and experiences.
- German treasure hunters claim to have found gold Amber Room treasures, stolen from Russia by Nazis in the dying days of World War II.
- Here's an excellent Nat Geo documentary on the Nazi Amber Room theft.
- Billy Cox investigates cases of hostile UFOs in the skies of the USA and Korea.
- Allan Spick is seeing UFOs in the skies above Grantham, UK.
- You won't see decade-old copies of Paranoia Magazine in dentist waiting rooms.
- Here's the official website if you want to subscribe and add to your CIA file.
- An online journalist campaigning to expose corruption inside the UN has been severely censored by Google. I feel dirty every time I use Google.
- Wikileaks, an international website that allows anonymous whistleblowing on government and corporate crime, vows to defy a US court order to close it down.
- The Wasted Years: a very disturbing look at consumerism and the story of stuff.
- Dates and Dark Matters: the disturbing trend of school shootings and suicides in the US, the latest Copycat Effect blog from Loren Coleman.
- The US Supreme Court has denied a bid by journalists and professors to challenge the legality of the Bush administration's domestic spying program.
- The International Telecommunication Union says damage to undersea telecom cables in the Middle East could have been an act of sabotage.
- Investigating two rare psychic abilities, pyrokinesis and 'thought photography'.
- Daniel Brenton reports on the high oddness of a scientist who says Hell is freezing over and the Devil won't like it.
Quote of the Day:
“We are looking to brands for poetry and for spirituality, because we're not getting those things from our communities or from each other.”
The always-interesting Mind Hacks has posted a story that is about as literal an interpretation of their name as could be imagined: on trepanation. Trepanation is a procedure in which a hole is made in the skull of a living person, and evidence for it reaches back into history in cultures around the world. Opinions are divided on why it was performed - from medical reasons, through to spiritual.
The story gives a quick link to a rather full-on video of a Kisi medicine man in Tanzania performing a seven hour trepanation operation on a young woman (let your breakfast settle for a bit before watching). There's also a good link to an essay titled "An Illustrated History of Trepanation", which moves from early evidence through to the evolution of the modern 'trend' of self-trepanation...that is, putting a hole in your own head (the reason for doing it yourself is, naturally, because doctors won't do it for you):
The theory is based on the fact that human infants have an opening openings called fontanelles. During birth, these openings enable the bones of the skull to flex, so that the head can pass through the birth canal. According to Hughes, the closure of the fontanelles compromise one's creativity and energy; trepanation, therefore, enables one to return to a creative, energetic childlike state.
The essay also points out that there is an hour long documentary about trepanation.
Meant to mention this 'find' from the Indiana Jones movie trailer last week, but never got around to it (sorry Filip) - now that Emps has posted about it at Cabinet of Wonders, I'll just do the lazy thing and link to it. Indiana Jones, not content with those crystal skulls, also makes a detour to Roswell. Emps also points us at this io9 story which features a comic book cover in which the crystal skull is rather alienesque. This movie could only be more Daily Grail if they featured me in a full frontal shot (check the trailer really closely, I dare you...).