News Briefs 13-04-2015

The Daily Grail: always answering the big questions for you...

Thanks to @owenbooth and @johnreppion.

Quote of the Day:

Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

Albert Einstein

Replica of Chauvet Cave Open to the Public

Archeology and Tourism have always had a thorny relationship. On the one hand, everybody wants important historical sites to be preserved as best as humanly possible, for the benefit of future generations (unless you're fundamentalist a-hole, but let's not go there), but on the other hand, archeologists recognize that allowing tourists to visit those sites ensures the monetary resources they desperately need to continue their investigations.

A compromise is thus needed, and most of the time the solutions are quite inelegant: On Chichen Itzá for example, visitors are no longer allowed to climb on top of the famous pyramid of Kukulcan. Gone are also the days when one could walk among the standing rocks of Stonehenge during public opening hours. If preserving megalithic structures presents a challenge however, it doesn't even compare to how difficult it is to preserve the oldest representations of artistic creativity --cave paintings.

Many people desire to admire the delicate artwork left by our ancestors tenths of thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, the very breath expelled by visitors severely deteriorates the pigments and charcoal strokes left by the prehistoric artists, which is why the Spanish authorities decided to close access to the famous Altamira caves in 1977. Facing a similar problem with the Chauvet cave, which contains the earliest forms of paleolithic painting in the world, the French authorities decided to emulate their Spaniard colleagues, and spent 55 million euros to build an exact replica of Grotte Chauvet, which will be opened to the public later this month:

The designers of the replica cave worked in close collaboration with the scientific team, the challenge was to reproduce the cave and its 8,500 square metres while at the same time maintaining the perception of the originals.

3-D modeling was used and some 6,000 images were overlapped in developing sketches. The paintings have been reproduced on a shotcrete structure with resin coating using natural oxide pigments and Scots pine charcoal.

All the paintings have been done by experienced artists using natural pigments and bonding material in order to remain as faithful as possible to the originals.

“The walls, the geology has been replicated exactly as it is and the paintings are also very precise. They can stir emotions. So I think the first reaction of the public will be amazement while I think they will also be surprised,” explained Professor Jean Clottes, Cave Art Specialist.

So if you're planning to visit France this Summer, you might want to include this attraction in your schedule. You can also visit the Altamira cave right now without leaving your chair, by clicking here.


News Briefs 10-04-2015

"To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven."

Quote of the Day:

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered.”

R. W. Emerson

Condor Man: Wingsuit Precision Flight Over a Chilean Volcano

I'd love to visit Chile one day. They have the famous Easter island full of moais, great wine, beautiful women, and due to its special orography tourists can either go skying in the Andean mountains or surf in the Pacific ocean. Or, if they have cojones as big as Sebastián Alvarez, attempt to hit a small target --a styrofoam sheet painted as the Chilean flag-- while flying at over 150 miles per hour using a wingsuit.

His latest stunt was performed on top of Cerro Manquehue, an extinct volcano which is also the highest peak of the Santiago valley --Manquehue means "place of condors" in the native Mapuche language. I just hope he didn't get fined for littering such a beautiful place...

Now THIS is the kind of thing I'd love to experience on an Oculus Rift --while wearing an adult diaper, of course.

[H/T Geekologie]

News Briefs 09-04-2015

So our beloved Brontosaurus is back, and Pluto's planethood might get reinstated this year. What other retro-scientific term should merit reinstatement? --Why hello Luminiferous Aether!

Thanks to Little Foot.

Quote of the Day:

"Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

~Albert Einstein

Robbie Graham: UFOs, Hyperreality & the Disclosure Myth

Today I was planning on write about how Stephen Bassett & Michael Salla hope that another Clinton in the White House might just be what finally makes the trick to kickstart the whole UFO disclosure thang --the 'exopolitical blue dress' as Bassett put it; and don't expect *me* to 'splain that political reference...

But instead, I decided to share with you guys this video, recorded on early October of 2014 at the 'UFOs and the Media' conference organized by Exopolitics Denmark, in which my good bud Robbie Graham talks --among many other things-- on why the UFO community should do well in turning the page on 'Disclosure'; at least, the way Bassett, Salla and others envision it...

Robbie, for those of you who may not know it, is the man behind the highly recommended Silver Screen Saucers blog*. He holds a Masters degree with Distinction in Cinema Studies from the University of Bristol and a First Class Honours degree in Film, Television and Radio Studies from Staffordshire University; Robbie sought to combine his life-long interest in UFOs with his academic background, so what was originally intended to be his PhD thesis slowly transformed into a full book soon to be released (Sept 21, 2015) detailing the impact of the UFO/Extraterrestrial mythos in cinema, and how Hollywood's influenced might have been used by intelligence agencies in order to shape our views and expectations of the phenomenon.



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(*) The blog has fallen into a hiatus in the last few months, on account of Robbie's focus to finish the book and other personal reasons. However, there's lots of good stuff in the archives for you to look around, including a couple of essays written by yours truly (1) (2).

News Briefs 08-04-2015

Wild at heart and weird on top.

  • Nasa: Alien life may be found within 10 years on other planets.
  • Pluto a planet again? it may happen this year.
  • Brontosaurus should be reinstated as a distinct dinosaur, say scientists.
  • Woolly mammoth could roam again as extinct DNA merged with elephant. Now THAT's what I call a comeback.
  • Near-Death Experiences: New clues to brain activity.
  • From Stonehenge to Silicon Valley: how technology nurtured New Age ideas in a world supposedly stripped of its magic.
  • World will get more religious by 2050.
  • Chemical found in Ayahuasca may be able to completely reverse diabetes.
  • Message in a bottle may be world's oldest.
  • Mathematicians chase Moonshine's shadow. Not what you think, but don't ask me to explain it!
  • How do you plant 1 billion trees a year? With drones, of course.
  • The Ocean Cleanup aims to strip 70 million kilos of plastic from the sea in 10 years.
  • Do colours really warp our behaviour?.
  • The ideal brain scanner.
  • The allure of dark tourism.
  • Every UFO sighting since 1933, mapped.

Quote of the Day:

We are not an endangered species ourselves yet, but this is not for lack of trying.

Douglas Adams

Meeting Their Makers: The Strange Phenomenon of Fictional Characters Turning Up in Real Life

John Constantine

Yesterday iconic science fiction author William Gibson (perhaps best known for the acclaimed Neuromancer) tweeted a strange 'sighting': the character Milgrim from his recent books Spook Country and Zero History:

While Gibson was referring to the character 'turning up unannounced' in his imagination, it's interesting the way in which the character seems to have moved forward with his life regardless of the author's own thinking - as if created characters live on independently in that otherworld referred to by Alan Moore as 'ideaspace'.

And strangely, authors have reported seeing their fictional creations act in this independent manner not only in their minds, but also 'in real life' - especially in the worlds of science fiction and comic books. Alan Moore himself has mentioned in an interview that he once saw one of his creations, the mage John Constantine (from the Hellblazer series), in a sandwich bar in London. "All of a sudden, up the stairs came John Constantine," Moore revealed. "He looked exactly like John Constantine. He looked at me, stared me straight in the eyes, smiled, nodded almost conspiratorially, and then just walked off around the corner to the other part of the snack bar."

Moore contemplated whether he should go around the corner and double-check if it really was his own character that had walked into the bar, or whether he should just finish his sandwich and leave. "I opted for the latter; I thought it was the safest. I'm not making any claims to anything. I'm just saying that it happened. Strange little story."

Another person intimately involved with the Hellblazer series, artist Dave McKean, has also recounted a 'meeting' with a comic book character: Neil Gaiman's 'Death', from the Sandman series (which McKean created covers for). During the process of travelling to San Diego, someone died on the plane, and as he was waiting to board the plane again McKean says a girl dressed as Death walked off the plane and past him. Though if was travelling to comic-con, this may not be as big a coincidence as it seems...

Influential comics writer, Doug Moench, was shaken by an experience in the 1970s when his writing seemed to jump off the page and invade his life...and his home. Jeffrey Kripal describes what happened in his wonderful book Mutants and Mystics: Science fiction, superhero comics, and the paranormal:

Moench had just finished writing a scene for a Planet of the Apes comic book about a black-hooded gorilla named Brutus. The scene involved Brutus invading a human hero's home, where he grabbed the man's mate by the neck and held a gun to her head in order to manipulate the hero. Just as Doug finished this scene, he heard his wife call for him in an odd sort of way from the living room across the house. He got up, walked the length of the house, and entered the living room only to encounter a man in a black hood with one arm around his wife's neck and the other holding a gun to her head.

"It was exactly what I had was so, so immediate in relation to the writing and such an exact duplicate of what I had written, that it became an instant altered state. The air in the room congealed, became almost like fog, and yet, paradoxically, I could see with greater clarity. I could see the individual threads of his black hood".

Doug's emotional response to this series of events was a very understandable and natural one. He became obsessed with the black-hooded intruder for monther, then years. More immediately, he found it very difficult to write, so terrified was he of that eerie connection between what he might write and what might happen: "It really does make you wonder. Are you seeing the future? Are you creating a reality? Should you give up writing forever after something like that happens? I don't know."

Interestingly, Gibson has on occasion made reference (both in his books, and on Twitter) to 'tulpas' - a concept said to originate in Tibetan mysticism that refers to magical objects or beings that are brought into existence 'ex nihilo', purely by concentration of thought. The terms was made popular in the West through the work of anthropologist Alexandra David-Neel, who wrote in her 1929 book Magic and Mystery in Tibet that she had not only seen them, but had created one herself. "Besides having had few opportunities of seeing [tulpas], my habitual incredulity led me to make experiments for myself," David-Neel wrote. "My efforts were attended with some success."

Writers certainly concentrate upon their characters for hours at length. Is it possible that they can will them into existence in some sense? If so, this may not always be a benign event - as with the modern mythos of Slenderman apparently manifesting in not so great ways in real life.

Or is it more likely that once the character is within an author's head, it is all too easy for them to 'find' doppelgangers in the real world that match their description?

Whichever it is, they still make for great stories. Daily Grail contributing editor Cat Vincent is right across this topic, so if you're interested in learning more, click through some of the links below.


News Briefs 07-04-2015

An action figure for Grailers!

Quote of the Day:

It's important to abolish the unconscious dogmatism that makes people think their way of looking at reality is the only sane way of viewing the world.

Robert Anton Wilson

Want to See a UFO? This Handy Map Will Show You Where to Go

Map of UFO sightings by county in the U.S.

Always wanted to have a UFO sighting? To improve your odds, why not consult this new 'UFO map', showing the number of UFO sightings per county in the U.S. (both in total, and per capita). The interactive map, embedded below, allows you to mouse over the United States to find the numbers associated with each county.

Created by California-based technology company FindtheBest, the map's data was culled from over 61,000 reports in the sightings database of the National UFO Reporting Centre (NUFORC). According to Lane Allison, product manager of FindTheBest:

We downloaded UFO sightings from the National UFO Reporting Center and took all of the locations and tried to standardize them. After we got latitude and longitude pairs, we could determine the number of UFO sightings that have been reported in counties. Then, we cross-referenced that with the American Community Survey population estimates of those counties, resulting in UFO reports per capita number.

One fact that is illustrated clearly by the map is the larger number of sightings towards the West Coast of America. Extraterrestrial tourist hotspot, darker skies, more potent swamp gas, greater number of military bases, or better weed? Let us know your theory for the lop-sided UFO sighting distribution in the comments below!

(via Lee Spiegel at The Huffington Post)

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