News Briefs 29-07-2016

“A frog in a well cannot conceive of the ocean.”

Quote of the Day:

“The wise man looks into space and does not regard the small as too little, nor the great as too big, for he knows that, there is no limit to dimensions.”

Chuang Tse

News Briefs 28-07-2016

Grailers: get in quick to be sure to have a chance at winning this signed Alan Moore comic...

Quote of the Day:

If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.

Malcolm X

Why Does Our Universe Seem to be Fine-Tuned for the Existence of Life?

A continuing bone of contention in modern physics is the strange manner in which our universe seems perfectly tuned to give rise to life. For some, it is evidence that our existence is no accident, while more skeptical thinkers have suggested that the thinking is back to front - and we only see things as perfectly tuned because life was what arose under the conditions of our universe.

The video above is from a recent discussion hosted by the Institute of Art and Ideas titled "A Goldilocks World", featuring philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, M-Theorist and author of Universe or Multiverse? Bernard Carr, and Oxford constructor theorist Chiara Marletto:

Is the universe finely tuned for life? Copernicus and Darwin taught us to be skeptical of feeling we were special. Yet from the size of the electron to the cosmological constant our universe is strangely fine-tuned for life. Is this a spectacularly fortuitous accident? Has the universe been tailored for us or do the theories just make it look that way?

News Briefs 27-07-2016


Quote of the Day:

The multiverse is the last refuge of the die-hard materialist.

Philip Comella

Archaeology Continues to Reinforce the Truth That Human History Has Been One Long Trip

Cannabis leaves

A recent paper on ancient cannabis use has made news this week, with some fascinating insights into its origins and spread through Asia and Europe. You can read a good summary of the research at the New Scientist link, so no need for me to rewrite it here.

What did catch my attention though is the following image from the paper, which maps archaeological sites in Eurasia that have been found to contain cannabis remains that date to more than 3000 years ago (ie. 1000 BCE).

Ancient Eurasian sites containing cannabis remains

What this clearly shows is how widespread the usage of cannabis was in ancient times, with some of the dates stretching back well before the advent of written records. In his wonderful book The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia*, Paul Devereux offers fascinating insights into how not only cannabis, but many other psychoactive plants, have been used the world over for millennia, often for ceremonial and/or religious/mystical reasons. It is one hell of an eye-opening read, especially for those who think 'tripping' was something that started with the counterculture of the 1960s, and I can't recommend it highly enough (no pun intended)!

Understanding this fact makes modern culture's outlawing of many of these plants as even more nonsensical than it already is. Our ancestors across the globe have actively used these plants as both physical and spiritual medicine for at least 10,000 years, but suddenly in the last few decades our governments and law-makers have seen fit to not just ban them from human consumption, but to make them illegal and even imprison people who choose to use them.

It is an absolute joke that such laws continue to exist - persecuting those wishing to explore their own mind - when prominent political leaders (the last three U.S. presidents), scientists (Carl Sagan, Francis Crick, Oliver Sacks etc.), tech leaders (Apple's Steve Jobs etc.) and artists and musicians (too long a list to even begin) have all admitted to using psychoactives, and in some cases have been passionate advocates for their use and benefits.

That is certainly not to dismiss the dangers that such mind-altering substances can sometimes pose. But as long as no-one else is being hurt by a person's decision to explore their own mind with psychoactives, I don't see how it is any business of the government, or law enforcement, to stop people from doing so (let alone imprison them for doing it!).

The laws are a nonsense, and it's far beyond time for us to state that plainly and make the necessary changes. The story of human history is one of exploring and expanding our minds to uncover new ideas and understand ourselves better, and the archaeological record continues to reinforce the fact that psychoactive plants have been an integral part of that entire history.

* Full disclosure: 'The Long Trip' is a release of Daily Grail Publishing.

News Briefs 26-07-2016

Lessons from history...

Quote of the Day:

The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.

It works the same in any country.

Hermann Göring

New Theory Attempts to Explain Ball Lightning Anomaly

Ball Lightning

The phenomenon of ball lightning remains largely a mystery to modern science, although it has at least largely become an accepted, if little understood phenomenon. One of the anomalies of ball lightning that have kept it on the outer margins of scientific respectability has been the seeming 'impossibility' of its manifestation and movement - sometimes apparently appearing within buildings and aircraft, or passing through closed windows.

A new theory from Chinese scientist H.-C. Wu, of Zhejiang University, may hold a possible answer to this strange behaviour. Wu has proposed that ball lightning might be 'microwave bubbles' formed from radiation emitted by storms, and this could explain their ability to appear or move within enclosed spaces:

Wu theorizes the microwaves arise from a bunch of electrons accelerated to speeds approaching the speed of light when the Earth is struck by lightning. Specifically, the electrons are accelerated by the strong electric field created as a channel of electrons moves stepwise from the base of a cloud toward the ground, just prior to the bright flash we know as a lightning bolt. “At the tip of a lightning stroke reaching the ground,” Wu says, “a relativistic electron bunch can be produced, which in turn excites intense microwave radiation.”

Regardless of their source, the atmospheric microwaves produce plasma by charging up the surrounding air. The radiation exerts sufficient pressure to push the plasma outward into a bubble, which we see as ball lightning. Microwaves trapped inside continue to generate plasma and so maintain the bubble for its brief lifetime. The ball lightning eventually fades as the radiation held within the bubble is dissipated. On the offhand chance the bubble is ruptured, microwaves can leak out and cause the ball to come to an explosive end.

The presence of microwaves and plasma as components of ball lightning can explain several of its properties. For example, microwaves can pass through panes of glass, which is why windows don’t bar the entrance of ball lightning. Microwaves also tend to make an audible noise when they encounter a person’s inner ear, and the plasma they produce will in turn generate acrid-smelling ozone from atmospheric oxygen.

What sets Wu’s microwave origin theory apart is that it explains how ball lightning can appear inside an aircraft. Electrons, being tiny relative to atoms, are able to pass through the metal shell of an aircraft after being accelerated outside of it via a lightning strike. Microwaves are then emitted by the suped-up electrons inside where they form ball lightning. The electron-microwave-plasma pathway also explains the size of ball lightning, since the length of the electron bunch sped up by a lightning strike matches up with the typical 20-50 centimeter diameter of the resulting microwave bubble.

Link: A New Explanation for One of the Strangest Occurrences in Nature: Ball Lightning

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News Briefs 25-07-2016

Current status...

Thanks Chris.

Quote of the Day:

Language is to the mind more than light is to the eye.

William Gibson

Upcoming Giveaway of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Signed by Alan Moore, for Supporters of the Grail

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Black Dossier

Well I think just about enough time has passed for people to have been given a fair chance to become a 'Friend of the Grail', so it's we started giving out some goodies (beyond the goodness we serve up here every day) to those fabulous people who are supporting us. And we'll start off with a prize that I wouldn't have minded putting on my own bookshelf... *sob*

Our first giveaway is a great one for the book/comic collectors out there: a copy of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (as pictured above), signed by the author - the one and only Alan Moore (see image below)!

For the slackers out there who have been meaning to support the site but just haven't got around to it - we'll give you until just next week, with the winner being randomly drawn on Friday the 5th of August. You can become a Friend of the Grail by supporting us in any way you can, from offering your services to chipping in a bit of coin. See this page for details, or click the Patreon button below to chip in with a 'voluntary subscription':

Become a Patron of The Daily Grail

These giveaways will continue into the future with other specially signed swag and cool get in, support the Grail, and best of luck!

Alan Moore Signature

Huge thanks to Alan Moore for providing this fantastic giveaway, and to John Reppion for his assistance!