News Briefs 05-09-2014

"Nature must govern technology, not the other way around."

Quote of the Day:

“Logic only gives man what he needs. Magic gives him what he wants.”

Tom Robbins

Darklore Volume 8: Now Available!

Good things come to those who wait, the old saying goes. And I've definitely made you wait for this one - it's almost a year overdue - but we finally made it: I'm happy to announce the eighth instalment of our anthology series covering hidden history, fringe science and general Forteana, Darklore Volume VIII, is now available for sale! You can pick up your copy from any number of online retailers through a simple search. But for simplicity's sake, here's the links to Amazon:

Darklore Volume 8

Here's a quick listing of what you'll find within:

  • Mike Jay dives into the strange history of 'sane hallucinations'
  • Martin Shough investigates the ball lightning enigma, and the way science has approached the mystery as compared to the UFO phenomenon
  • Joanne Conman discusses her revolutionary theory about ancient Egyptian astronomy
  • Daniel Bourke compares modern accounts of post-death consciousness with the descriptions of the world beyond found in the Tibetan Book of the Dead
  • Cat Vincent examines the rise of pop culture-based, hyper-real religions
  • Blair MacKenzie Blake revisits the strange history of the Shaver Mystery craze
  • Lucy Ryder explores the history of 'corpse roads' through archaeology and folklore
  • Ray Grasse asks the question: what does it mean when weird things happen?
  • Martin J. Clemens looks into reports of a 24,000-year-old pyramid in Indonesia
  • Robert M. Schoch explores the nature of death and consciousness
  • Alistair Coombs goes in search of the 'Cult of the Cosmic Bull'
  • Greg Taylor reports on the 'dying light' witnessed by some people at the passing of a loved one

Thanks for everyone's support of the Darklore series - it helps to fund this website, and also provides financial support for contributors so that they can continue researching and writing about the stranger side of life.

I'm sure y'all will enjoy this latest instalment in the series. For those of you who remain unconvinced, I'll publish some sample articles at the Darklore website (and here at TDG as well) in the coming week.


(Note: Leaving this up on the front page for a few days, regular daily updates can still be accessed via the 'river of news' page view.)

News Briefs 04-09-2014

Does the phrase 'running on fumes' imply fatigue makes you more Steampunk?

Quote of the Day:

"We need shamans, and if society doesn't provide them, the universe will."

~Joe Lewels, Ph.D

More Evidence of the Intelligence of Birds: Cockatoos Learn to Make Wooden Tools to Reach Food

Cockatoo using a tool to reach food

Yet more evidence supporting the intelligence of birds (or at least, certain species). Figaro, a Goffin’s cockatoo (an Indonesian parrot species) was observed by researchers to have spontaneously started to create thin stick tools out of wooden aviary beams and use them for raking in nuts out of his reach. The researchers wondered whether other cockatoos could learn from Figaro's behaviour, and so let them observe what he was doing.

The cockatoos were placed in front of a metal cage containing a nut and given a small flat piece of wood.

After several attempts to reach the nut by poking the unwieldy piece of wood under the cage, the birds quickly realised that something smaller was required, and set about making a smaller tool.

Cockatoo Figaro was the first to start sculpting sticks to reach the food but his actions were soon copied by birds who were watching.

And researchers at Oxford University and the University of Vienna found that the copying birds began to refine the technique, changing Figaro’s slow raking process to a quick, more efficient, flick.

Link: Bird-brained? Cockatoos filmed making wooden tools to reach food


News Briefs 03-09-2014


Quote of the Day:

"It’s hard to get lost when you don’t know where you’re going.”

~ Jim Jarmusch

The Origin of 'A Glitch in the Matrix': Philip K. Dick Discusses Déjà Vu and Living in a Simulation, in 1977

The Matrix

The 1999 blockbuster The Matrix has provided plenty of great lines to popular culture, from "buckle your seatbelt Dorothy" to "dodge this". But perhaps one of the most enduring has been "a glitch in the Matrix", referring to the scene in which Neo (Keanu Reeves) experiences déjà vu with a black cat. His companions, more experienced in the computer-simulated reality of the Matrix, are put on edge by this, explaining to him that "déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix, it happens when they change something".

The terms "a glitch in the Matrix" is now used often when people experience something distinctly weird - so much so, that it's even the official name of a subreddit devoted to Fortean weirdness.

The Matrix draws from a deep well of influences, starting with the 17th century philosopher René Descartes and ending with a melting pot of popular modern culture, including Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, William Gibson's Neuromancer, Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell and the collected works of Philip K. Dick. And it is the latter who seems to have been the origin of the idea that "déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix". At a 1977 appearance at the Metz Science Fiction Convention in France, Dick told of his own strange experiences, including recovered memories and déjà vu - and the personal revelation that these experiences were evidence of alternative universes:

We are living in a computer-programmed reality, and the only clue we have to it is when some variable is changed, and some alteration in our reality occurs. We would have the overwhelming impression that we were re-living the present - déjà vu - perhaps in precisely the same way: hearing the same words, saying the same words. I submit that these impressions are valid and significant, and I will even say this: such an impression is a clue, that in some past time-point, a variable was changed - re-programmed as it were - and that because of this, an alternative world branched off.

Were the Wachowski siblings, who wrote the movie, aware of Dick's comments? Or is the similarity between these ideas just one more example of a 'glitch in the Matrix'...?

News Briefs 02-09-2014

Make sure you like The Daily Grail on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, , and/or put us in your Google+ circles...

Quote of the Day:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.

Steve Jobs

New Movie Autómata Explores the Possibilities, and Risks, of Machine Consciousness


Well this looks like fun...part Bladerunner, and part I Robot, the upcoming movie Autómata (October 2014) from Gabe Ibáñez explores the emergence of consciousness in robots by (loosely*) exploring Asimov's laws of robotics:

Jacq Vaucan, an insurance agent of ROC robotics corporation, routinely investigates the case of manipulating a robot. What he discovers will have profound consequences for the future of humanity.

I like the fact that the robots aren't made to look super-futuristic...plenty of grunge tin-can about them and their voices, rather than slick, smooth CG:

Starring Antonio Banderas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Melanie Griffith, Robert Forster and an almost unrecognisable Dylan McDermott, Automata opens on October 24.

(* One of the 'protocols' in this movie seems not to be one of Asimov's laws, but in fact address a potential problem with the laws: the ability for robots to modify themselves and their programming)

JREF Shake-Up: Headquarters Moved, James Randi Re-Installed as President

James 'The Amazing' Randi

An interesting development in the last few hours at the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF): a short statement has been posted to their website under the title "Los Angeles Office Closed", advising that the headquarters of the organisation is moving across the country to Virginia. Oh, and also as an aside (in a statement released at the end of a long weekend) that the President of the organisation, D.J. Grothe, "is no longer with the JREF"!

In order to achieve cost-savings and greater efficiency, the Los Angeles office of the JREF has closed effective September 1, 2014. All operations have been moved to Falls Church, Virginia.

DJ Grothe is no longer with the JREF. James Randi has taken over as acting President.

This restructuring is part of an enhanced educational agenda aimed at inspiring an investigative spirit in a new generation of critical thinkers by engaging children and their parents, as well as educators and the general public, in how to think about the many extraordinary claims we hear every day.

With the lack of information in the statement, it's difficult to say too much about this development. I might guess - given that the JREF is quite a professional organisation - that the abruptness of the statement, and silence from D.J. Grothe's camp since the announcement, that Grothe was dismissed from his position with little notice (interestingly, D.J.'s name has immediately disappeared from the 'Staff' listing on the JREF site, while his own social media accounts still list him as President of the JREF).

It's interesting to note as well that the shift in headquarters (which only moved from Florida to Los Angeles a few years ago) is to the administrative offices of the JREF, which is centered around JREF board member Rick Adams (the wealthy pioneering internet entrepreneur who financed the Million Dollar Challenge). Adams has previously sat in the background somewhat, but has also recently taken on the job of shifting the JREF's forum away from the official website.

Is the change-up due to a dire financial position? On Twitter, Jim Lippard has posted the JREF's recent revenues, which have almost halved in the last 3 years (2011: $1.56M, 2012: $1.29M, 2013: $887.5K). JREF backer Rick Adams isn't short of coin though...but as a successful businessman, perhaps those figures necessitated change. Or perhaps there was a personality clash? All speculation at the moment...perhaps it's all amicable and pre-planned. Certainly doesn't seem like it at this point though...the burying of the lede in that statement is truly bizarre.

News Briefs 01-09-2014

Today's trawl:

Thanks for links to Kat and Rick

Quote of the Day:

A secret of power -
I think it's another profundity.
Do you want power over something?
Be more nearly real than it.

Charles Fort