Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer's

Painful news this morning with the BBC reporting that Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld novels (having sold around 50 million books in his career) has early onset Alzheimer's Disease. Pratchett, whose novels beautifully blend fantasy, sci-fi and oddball humour, announced the news on the website of Discworld artist Paul Kidby, in a news update titled "An Embuggerance":

I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while, but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news. I have been diagnosed with a very rare form of early
onset Alzheimer's, which lay behind this year's phantom "stroke".

We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism. For now work is continuing on the completion of Nation and the basic notes are already being laid down for Unseen Academicals. All other things being equal, I
expect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments but will discuss things with the various organisers. Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet :o)

P.S. I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as 'I am not dead'. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think - it's too soon to tell. I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

As someone who has had close personal experience with the disease, I can only wish Pratchett - and those closest to him - the very best.

News Briefs 13-12-2007

We lost a Rick. Please hand him in at administration if you find him.

Quote of the Day:

We are trying to unravel the Mighty Infinite using a language which was designed to tell one another where the fresh fruit was.

Terry Pratchett

Keith Chester's 'Strange Company'

UFO researcher and author Keith Chester is currently getting some nice publicity in various forms of media, for his book Strange Company: Military Encounters with UFOs in WWII (Amazon US and UK). A recent news article profiled Chester, discussing his own early UFO sighting and how he became interested in the topics covered by his book:

In 1999, he began visiting the National Archives once a week to study military records for information about UFO sightings during the war. Throughout almost four years of research, Chester found documents detailing sightings described as objects, lights, flares, strange lights or rockets.

"The sightings that were documented were considered phenomena," he said. "The military thought that they knew what they were observing, but the objects didn't match anything that was known by military intelligence."

The sightings he found include a silver, cigar-shaped object that looked like an airship. He also found a preponderance of information about unexplained objects reported by members of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, a former Army Air Forces fighter squadron that fought during World War II.

The article comes hot on the heels of Keith Chester's appearance on the Binnall of America Audio podcast, which was so big it had to be split into two parts (Part 1 and Part 2). Well worth checking out - Foo Fighters, possible German UFO technology, and so on...enough weirdness to keep you quiet for a few days that's for sure. And I should mention, it's published by the good folk at Anomalist Books, so you just know it's got to be good.

Randi's Video Collection

Hope the title didn't get your imagination running overtime...Rich Montalvo has posted an update over at the website of the James Randi Educational Foundation letting people know that videos of the 'Amazing Meeting' are being uploaded to Youtube for free viewing:

In an effort to educate the public and reach a younger audience I have begun posting sections of the dvds from our Amaz!ng Meetings. You can view these videos free of charge on our YouTube channel under AmazingMeetingVideos.

The videos are limited to 10 minutes each...Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you will receive the alerts when I post a new video. I try to post new videos each week. Don't forget that you can still purchase all the TAM DVDs in our online store under the DVDs section.

Randi wants everyone to spread these videos as much as possible and by provided them on YouTube it is easier to spread the message of critical thinking. Post these videos everyone, send links to everyone and most importantly watch these videos and learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power!

Featured speakers currently uploaded include Penn and Teller doing a Q&A, Phil Plait, Michael Shermer, and a group panel which includes Randi. Make sure you wear your "I'm a critical thinker" badge, or they'll stop you at the door and probably tazer you.

News Briefs 11-12-2007

Sorry about the lateness. That time of the month.

  • Microsoft's mind reading patent.
  • Mars Rover finds signs of microbial life.
  • Ancient stone circle found in Skane.
  • Rapid acceleration in human evolution described.
  • New dinosaur discovered in Antarctica.
  • Brain scans: the new snake oil.
  • NASA aims to look inside the moon to solve mysteries.
  • Craig Venter's DNA driven world.
  • Energy source of Northern Lights found.
  • How to give credit where credit is due. Or a mark of the pointlessness of some research.
  • To the moon in a minivan.
  • Triton's ice geysers.

Quote of the Day:

Brain: an apparatus with which we think we think.

Ambrose Bierce

Secrets of the Afterlife

I seem to be popping up everywhere in the past week. (Well and truly spoiling 10 hard years of work cultivating a totally obscure existence). After being interviewed by Reality Sandwich, which was then generously linked to by David Pescovitz at Boing Boing (via Strange Attractor - thanks Mark!), I've also made a guest appearance on Michael Prescott's blog, commenting about afterlife research and dubious skepticism.

I emailed Michael in response to an earlier posting of his regarding 'super-medium' Leonora Piper, and Martin Gardner's extremely weak 'debunking' of her work - Michael was nice enough to post my thoughts to his readers. Part of it is the little known - and astonishing - fact that Leonora Piper at some points had three 'personalities' communicating through her at the same time - one in trance, talking, and one through each hand via automatic writing...and what's more, the scripts were written backwards, mirror style:

Treasure of the Golden Circle

The Los Angeles Times has an extensive story on Bob Brewer and his search for the treasure of the 'Knights of the Golden Circle'. Brewer, co-author of the book Shadow of the Sentinel with Warren Getler, was apparently hired as a consultant on the sequel to National Treasure (set for release in a fortnight) - something which may not be pleasing to Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code (I'll discuss the reason below). That would double the pain for the best-selling author, as many think the first movie took the wind out of his sails in writing his DVC follow-up, with its almost identical themes involving the history of Freemasonry in the United States, and esoteric locations in Washington, D.C.

As I mention in my book The Guide to Dan Brown's The Solomon Key (Amazon US and UK), Brown may well be (have been?) planning to use the Knights of the Golden Circle as a plot device in the sequel to TDVC. Here's an excerpt from the section I wrote about it (and for further detail, you can read my full-length essay "Dan Brown and the Ku Klux Klan" online):

...There is some strange history linking Albert Pike with the first incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan.

Tuesday Roundup 11-12-2007

A strange assortment to get you through the week...


Missing FBI Files

Anomalies researcher Nick Redfern has an interesting post up on his 'Strange Secrets' blog (yes, he has quite a few!), about some online FBI files which are mysteriously disappearing:

As I noted in my post here yesterday, the FBI has quietly removed from its website a PDF collection of documentation on alleged cases of spontaneous human combustion. Instead, all you get now is a summary of the files in question.

Interestingly, the FBI has also begun to remove other Fortean files, and UFO-related data, from its site too.

Full details at Nick's blog.

Radio 11-12-2007

Here's the alternative radio schedule for the first half of the week.

Fate Radio: This week's encore edition of The Hilly Rose Show features Jerry E. Smith, discussing how the goverment and the military are manipulating the weather (Real Audio or mp3).

Coast to Coast AM: On Monday Lindsey Williams will discuss his knowledge of how the flow of oil has been suppressed and manipulated. Tuesday's guest is astrophysicist and author Bernard Haisch, who will discuss his theory, supported by recent astrophysical findings, that the universe is a product of an intelligence. On Wednesday Michael Tsarion will discuss his latest work on the Irish origins of civilization including the influence of the Druids on language, religion, & astrology. Thursday is TBA at time of posting (check the link for updates).

More details including relevant guest links are available at the C2C website. You can listen to C2C live, or to recent archived shows, at CJOB.com.