News Briefs 01-07-2015

It's Weirdnessday again!


Quote of the Day:


Says he's got a thing about burning witches - some of these were mighty fine bitches.


Carl Douglas

Wanderer: Self-Portraits Under the Northern Lights

This astonishing image is part of photographer Tiina Törmanen's project Wanderer, in which she chose to travel the most remote regions of the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area in northern Finland on a snow mobile, and stay all by herself until the early hours of the morning, to capture the otherworldly beauty of the Northern lights using long-exposure shots.

“I was so impressed with the loneliness, the air and the silence,” she says. “Out there you feel so small because there is only cold and ice.”

Törmanen had already experience in capturing the Arctic Aurorae, but this time she decided to place herself at the forefront to provide a sense of human scale, and using a headlamp which she moved slightly during the delayed exposure, she created a small pool of light beneath her feet as an artificial contrast to the river of light flowing above her head. Quite poetic, indeed.

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LINKS:

9 Portraits on LSD, For Science!

Here's an interesting remnant from back in the days when it was still kosher to conduct scientific studies with LSD. An artist --whose identity has been lost-- was administered two 50-microgram doses of LSD, each separated by a lapse of one hour, and was then asked to draw portraits while under its influence, using the doctor who administered the drugs as model. The gradual progression into a freer and more abstract style, is a tell-tale indication of how the psychedelic is influencing not only the perceptions of the test subject, but also its creative processes.

It is believed these artworks are part of a study conducted by Oscar Janiger, a University of California-Irvine psychiatrist known for his work on LSD, which started in 1954 and continued on for the next seven years.

Eisntein once said "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." Given the incapacity of our world leaders against not only the age-old problems plaguing humanity since the Dawn of Time --e.g. War, Hunger and Poverty-- but also new threats like Climate Change, I'd say the answer to their stagnation is pretty obvious...

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LINK:

The Fallen of WWII: An Interactive Experience

World War 2 is quite likely the most-studied conflagration between nations in history --it practically makes half the ratings of the History Channel, which prompted comedian John Cleese to call it 'the Hitler Channel'.

The above video does not employ any actual footage of World War 2. It doesn't show recorded statements of Holocaust survivors either. The only tools Neil Halloran --the sole creator behind it-- used was infographic-style animation and statistics extracted from Steven Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature [Amazon US & UK]; and yet I dare you to watch it without shuddering at least ONCE, when gauging the terrible cost in human life which was paid to secure victory against the Axis powers.

It certainly plays a different picture from how we tend to view a war we may think we know so much about. For one thing, I think it clearly shows Joseph Stalin was a greater criminal than Adolf Hitler himself --and yet his cold-blooded willingness to sacrifice the Soviet people to defeat the Nazis is what (probably) significantly reduced the casualties suffered by the rest of the Allies.

Halloran and Pinker's Neo-Hobessian opinion that we seem to be well in our way to eradicate war altogether --despite evidence to the contrary offered by our media on an almost daily basis-- is open to interpretation. Again, my personal take on the matter is that Poverty itself is the worst kind of violence you can subject a human being to; that said, I'm aware I have the liberty to proclaim such 'naive' thoughts, because I'm living in an unprecedented time devoid of open conflict between industrialized nations --something Halloran asks us NOT to take for granted.

To have a more interactive experience with this project, visit fallen.io where you can also donate the suggested ticket price.

News Briefs 30-06-2015

I added an extra news story when I heard y'all had a bonus second to use today...

Quote of the Day:

Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.

Elon Musk

The Psychedelic Mountains of China

The above image is not the result of Photosop wizardry. These multicolored mountains are real, and part of China's Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park; their rainbow-like hues is the result of colored sandstone and minerals pressed together over 24 million of years, then buckled up by tectonic plates, followed by erosion through winds and rain. Since 2010, this region has been listed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage sites.

If God was high on pot when he made possums, I wonder what He had for breakfast while working on this part of Creation ;)

For more stunning images, check this 2013 Huff-Post article.

Japanese Cryptids and More! Courtesy of Brent Swancer in Binnall of America

Some years ago, when Loren Coleman was still blogging for Craig Woolheater's Cryptomundo and I followed the site religiously, I started to notice the comments of a guy using the alias mystery_man, which were always smart, full of knowledge with regards to Biology, and open-minded yet grounded in skepticism --the REAL skepticism, not the fundamentalist nay-saying passing as such nowadays on the web.

Mystery Man's natural talent didn't go unnoticed by Loren, and he eventually invited him to write a few occasional guest articles for Cryptomundo, which quickly attained something of a cult following; that's how I started to decipher a few things about this Cryptozoology fan, who was something of a cryptic character himself: I learned he was an American living in a Japan, and because of this he was able to investigate more about the cryptids of that country, which don't get nearly as much publicity as the 'celebrities' in the field --Nessie, Bigfoot and the Yeti-- but are fascinating nonetheless, as Mystery Man's writing clearly showed. He was always careful to cite his references and provide dates and names whenever possible, never dismissing witness accounts but weighing in the plausibility of their report, when compared with the blunt realities of Zoology and Evolution.

Like Loren, I could already see in those early days how Mystery man was destined to go places in this field.

Fast-track to 2015, and that prediction is well on its way to be fulfilled: Mystery Man, a.k.a. Brent Swancer, is now one of Mysterious Universe's most popular and proliphic bloggers --he has the honor of having once completely obliterated MU's server, when his post about the mysterious Skeleton Lake of the Himalayas was promoted to the front page of Reddit-- and like all good Forteans, he has branched out from the topic of Japanese cryptids into other mysteries from all around the world.

Which is why our friend Tim Binnall was so interested in getting him on his show. It took some arm-twisting --and possibly a few glasses of sake-- but eventually Brent conceded, and now you can listen to their long (almost 3 hours!) conversation as part of BoA/Season 9.

Since our early interactions on the Cryptomundo forums, I've had the pleasure to name Brent as one of my friends in this field. We've e-mailed and given each other advice about blogging over the years, and the fact he's getting more of the exposure he so rightly deserves --just like the Nipon cryptids he loves-- fills me with a lot of pride. His natural nervousness over this being his first radio/podcast interview in no way prevented this from being a very enjoyable listen --and frankly, he did a far better job than myself when I was first put in front of a microphone!

Furthermore, I totally concur with Tim that Brent's geographical circumstance, which allows him to research stories and cases that almost never reach the Western world due to the language barrier, is only PART of the reason behind his success --the fact that he's a damn good writer is the bigger part.

I have no doubt whatsoever this is only the first in a looong series of radio appearances for the (former) Mystery Man, and once he manages to put together his book about Japanese cryptids, it will become an instant classic and an obligatory addition to any self-respecting Fortean's book collection.

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LINKS:

NOTE: The above image is a statue of the Hibagon, a gorilla-like creature spotted in the vicinity of mount Hiba, in the Hiroshima prefecture. You can read Brent's article about this cryptid by clicking here.

News Briefs 29-06-2015

Dolly the sheep is waving in our rear-view mirror...

Quote of the Day:

Just because I play with ideas does not mean I accept those ideas.

Stanley Krippner

Transmitting Thought: A Documentary on the Famous Maimonides Dream Telepathy Experiments

Transmitting Thought Documentary on Stanley Krippner

There are few investigators of anomalous phenomena who have contributed more to the field than Dr Stanley Krippner. From dream telepathy experiments, through anthropological investigation of psychic claimants in cultures around the world, to researching links between LSD and psi experiences, the 82-year-old psychologist's work has gained the respect of nearly all who have studied his work, even skeptics such as James Randi.

For those who'd like to learn more about one of Krippner's most influential pieces of work, a new short documentary by film-maker Ronni Thomas, titled "Transmitting Thought: The Maimonides Dream Lab" (embedded below), provides a fantastic introduction:

It is easy to subscribe to a set of rules when those rules are set by science rather than religion. But science lives with a bias -- that in order for an idea to be explored it must be observable, measurable and repeatable. Yet the irrational is part of our world, especially when it comes to the subject of human consciousness. Current scientific thinking brings an almost religious devotion to debunking anything that appears "irrational" or outside the rules and norms of core science.

But such an approach leaves tremendous gaps in our understanding -- especially in questions of ESP, precognition, and other queries into non-physical intelligence. But this was not always the case. For a brief time, from roughly the 1930s to the 1960s, the field of academic parapsychology flourished in the United States. And at the forefront of the field was the American psychologist Dr. Stanley Krippner. In this film, Krippner discusses his research at the Maimonides Dream Lab in Brooklyn, NY in the 1960s. There, he and his colleagues conducted studies that explored the use of telepathy within the altered state of dreaming.

Through numerous experiments, including one with the rock band The Grateful Dead, the Maimonides team produced substantial scientific research on the topic of ‘dream telepathy,’ until the demise of the lab's funding. Learn what we know -- and what we lost -- in Transmitting Thought : the Maimonides Dream Lab.

Link: Transmitting Thought: The Maimonides Dream Lab: A New Film by Ronni Thomas for Morbid Anatomy Museum Presents!

(h/t David Pescovitz at Boing Boing)

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