News Briefs 26-09-2016


Quote of the Day:

Skeptics, who flatly deny the existence of any unexplained phenomenon in the name of 'rationalism,' are among the primary contributors to the rejection of science by the public. People are not stupid and they know very well when they have seen something out of the ordinary. When a so-called expert tells them the object must have been the moon or a mirage, he is really teaching the public that science is impotent or unwilling to pursue the study of the unknown.

Jacques Vallee

News Briefs 23-09-2016

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages. News briefs for your reading pleasure.

Thanks to Eric Wargo, and viewers like you.

"We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning."
- Werner Heisenberg

Horses Can Communicate With Symbols, According To Science


People may never talk with the animals like Dr. Doolittle, but scientists are hard at work trying to communicate with critters. The Wild Dolphin Project has already proven dolphins understand symbols. Other researchers at Georgia State University have created a symbolic language called 'Yerkish' to talk with primates. Now the noble horse joins the roll call of smart animals who can understand, and use, symbols to make humans aware of their needs.

A new study at Applied Animal Behaviour Science shows how twenty three horses learned to tell trainers if they wanted to wear a blanket or not. Subjects were shown three symbols: a horizontal bar to say "I want a blanket", a blank square for "No change", and a vertical bar for "I don't need a blanket". They learned the meanings in a day or two and using them to convey if they were too warm or too cold, building the case for self-awareness.

Previous studies have shown horses enjoy learning for the sake of learning, a decidedly 'human' trait. Positive reinforcement and consideration for the horse's temperment reduced their anxiety for punishment if they gave a 'wrong' answer. In fact, the horses's behavior changed for the better during training because humans could finally understand them.

When horses realized that they were able to communicate with the trainers, i.e. to signal their wishes regarding blanketing, many became very eager in the training or testing situation. Some even tried to attract the attention of the trainers prior to the test situation, by vocalizing and running towards the trainers, and follow their movements. On a number of such occasions the horses were taken out and allowed to make a choice before its regular turn, and signalled that they wanted the blanket to be removed. It turned out that the horses were sweaty underneath the blanket.

I'm not surprised by their intelligence. About a year ago my wife dragged me to Pennsylvania for an overnight at her friend's house. Her husband shared some Kunkletown lore. Some time ago a local carpenter kept horses to pull lumber to job sites. These beasts knew where to get hitched up, how to reach the job sites, and when to return for more lumber without human direction. Eventually the carpenter bought a truck then shot the horses because he didn't need them anymore.

The hubris of human superiority clouds our understanding of animals, and our approach to the touchy topic of their intelligence. I maintain this conceit's cultural, based in deep-seated guilt over humanity's exploitation of animals and the challenges which may arise should they be considered our equals.

Making a huge leap here, what could our treatment of animals say about humanity's prospects in a first contact scenario? Any sufficiently advanced intelligence could find humanity indistinguishable from the animals we eat or experiment on. Aliens may deem us sufficiently clever, having tamed the atom and thinking smartphones are a pretty neat idea, but not being in their league when it comes to sapience.

Yet if we could talk with the animals, grunt, squeak, and squawk with the animals, and vice versa, maybe aliens would be less inclined to dismiss us.

Or our four-legged friends could make a compelling case on our behalf for clemency.

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News Briefs 22-09-2016


Quote of the Day:

It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.

Warren Ellis

Kickstarter: Limited Edition Reproduction of the Records on the Voyager Space Probes

Voyager Record

Since their launch in 1977, the two Voyager space probes have toured our Solar System - providing some amazing, 'first look' images of the planets - and headed off into the 'great beyond': interstellar space. If any aliens out there ever intercepted the probes, they would discover that they have gold records attached to them, intended as messages from Earth to introduce ourselves and our (current) culture.

Added to the mission by a committee headed up by Carl Sagan (who was also behind the message plaques attached to the Pioneer probes, launched earlier in the decade), the records contain an assortment of music from multiple cultures and eras (including Beethoven, Chuck Berry, Senegalese percussion and Solomon Island panpipes) as well as many of the natural sounds of our planet. The record also features spoken greetings in 55 human languages (and one whale language) as well as one hundred images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.

Whether aliens ever find the Voyager records is probably a question we'll never know the answer to. But humans can now access them via this Kickstarter that will produce a limited edition reproduction of the original:

An exquisitely-designed objet d'art, this limited edition Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition vinyl box set will only be available through this Kickstarter. It is the ultimate album package of the ultimate album package.

The cloth-covered box with gold foil inlay will house three, heavyweight translucent gold vinyl LPs protected by poly-lined paper sleeves. The LPs will contain all of the same magnificent music, greetings, and sounds as contained on the original Voyager Golden Record, nearly two hours of audio. Those records will slip into old style tip on, black ink and gold foil jackets. The audio will be complemented by a beautifully-designed hardbound book of captivating images from the original interstellar message, glorious photos of the planets returned to Earth from the Voyager probes, compelling essays, and ephemera from the project's history.

Each set will include a color, plastic digital download card with a code to access all of the audio in MP3 or FLAC format. A lithograph of the iconic Golden Record cover diagram, printed with gold metallic ink on archival paper, will complete the box set.

Head over to the project's Kickstarter page to learn more, including the various rewards on offer for backers.

Link: Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition

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News Briefs 21-09-2016

Happy face

Quote of the Day:

The greatest self is a peaceful smile, that always sees the world smiling back.

Bryant H. McGill

News Briefs 20-09-2016

To infinity, and...

Thanks Kat and Cat.

Quote of the Day:

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities.

Frank Herbert

Is Ball Lightning a Portal to Another Universe?

Ball Lightning

Ball lightning is weird. Not just in the capricious way it appears unexpectedly, and thus largely remains a mysterious phenomenon, but also in other strange aspects of its behaviour. For example:

  • It can move independently of the atmosphere, such as gliding externally to an airplane traveling at many hundreds of kilometres an hour without being affected by the high level of air movement.
  • It can move through windows and walls unimpeded.
  • It sometimes causes no damage, and other times great damage.
  • There appears to be little or no correlation between its appearance (size, colour, luminosity) and the energy it emits.

Most of the current theories about ball lightning struggle to explain at least some of the points above. So now Peter Sturrock, emeritus professor of applied physics at Stanford University, has suggested what seems to be a fairly off-the-wall idea: that ball lightning is just a portal to another 'space', through which the energy flows - like the power point in your house is not the source of energy, but just a port for energy from elsewhere.

In a paper on, "A Conjecture Concerning Ball Lightning", Sturrock - one of the founders of the Society for Scientific Exploration - explains his thoughts:

(a) Since there is no known way for the required energy to be stored in the ball lightning, there must be a reservoir of energy remote from the ball lightning (presumably related to the electrical energy responsible for lightning).
(b) Since the reservoir is remote from the ball lightning, there must be some way to transfer energy from the reservoir to the ball lightning. We therefore conceive of a duct that connects the reservoir to the ball lightning.
(c) A ball lightning may now be regarded as a port through which energy in the duct can be released into the atmosphere.

These points, Sturrock says, "suggest the following hypothesis: A ball lightning is a port connecting our overt space to a covert space with with similar but not identical properties."

Seems a fairly out there idea - but even if you don't agree with it, it's still a worthwhile read simply for some of the weird ball lightning accounts it discusses.

Paper: "A Conjecture Concerning Ball Lightning"

(h/t Norman)

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News Briefs 19-09-2016

A reminder: Darklore 9 is now available (featuring articles from Alan Moore, Robert Schoch, Mike Jay and others)! You can grab the paperback or limited edition hardcover from

Thanks Kat and Chris.

Quote of the Day:

Who wants to live forever,
Who dares to love forever,
When love must die.


Tool's Ænima, 20 Years On - A Personal Recollection

Tool Aenima

Transformation. This is the word that best sums up the feeling of my personal encounter with Tool's Ænima , originally released on vinyl on September 17, 1996. The album sits at the chronological fulcrum on which my life in the 1990s pivots, from dark days to brighter. Whether by coincidence in time or as the root cause of change I cannot say; nevertheless the album now has a catalytic feel to it when I reminisce on decades past.

Tool's previous album, Undertow (1993), sadly provides some of the soundtrack to the dark days. Living in a share house with surfer friends, on a visit to a record store I helpfully suggested the album to a housemate looking for new music. "I've heard good things about this one”, I remarked, pointing it out. Months later, working midnight shifts and trying to sleep during the day while 'Prison Sex' was belting out in the room beside at 100dB, I had developed a certain hate for Tool's music.

The emptiness of the soul at 11pm, stumbling into a subordination-signifying uniform, as others disappear to their beds for the night, is difficult to describe. A miasma of anger, fatigue and hopelessness permeated the air, and Undertow was - for me - the distorted, grinding noise of those emotions. "This is necessary. Life feeds on life, feeds on life, feeds on life..."

By '96, I had moved house, but negativity lingered. And then, the pivot - springing up through multiple events in different aspects of my life. I am given a managerial job with more sensible hours. On a work-related tour of a Coke factory, I spot a pretty girl who worked for the same company as me. Nothing happens, but the moment lingers. A friend's house is burgled; he claims insurance on his treasured CD collection, but later realises that one CD he had repurchased with the payout had not in fact been stolen. He offers me the spare...Tool's Ænima .

Given my history with the band's music, it's surprising to me now that I even played the CD. Perhaps it was the air-play that 'Stinkfist' was getting on TripleJ; a kind of updated 'Sober', sharing a hypnotic deep bass pulse, but seemingly different in tone. Less angry, more introspective. "Something kind of sad about, the way that things have come to be...desensitised to everything, what became of subtlety".

That's not to say there wasn't anger on the album. "I've got some advice for you little buddy!" And so it wasn't love at first sight, but rather a journey into the music, falling through cracks in the seemingly brutalist architecture of the album. To find it was all a facade. Thus it was ever so; the best albums often turn out to be the ones you have to work your way into.

The genius bass riff of '46&2'. The hypnotic percussion at the beginning of ’Eulogy'. The Bill Hicks' monologue over the heart-beat kick drum that initiates 'Third Eye'. Gateway drugs to the rest of each song, pulling me in for repeat listens. Head cocked in fascination at every newly discovered treasure: Danny Carey's drum solo four and a half minutes into '46&2'; Justin Chancellor's bass rolling in like waves beneath Adam Jones' slide guitar in 'Aenema'; Maynard's lyrics touching deeper than expected. "Rest your trigger on my finger."

Poly-rhythms between vocals, guitars and drums almost seven minutes into 'Eulogy'. The dynamics from whisper to roar across 'Third Eye'. The more I listened, the more I heard, the more I felt. Agape at the craftmanship, from individual musicianship and lyricism, to the overall work of art created by those individuals as the single entity of Tool. The lyrics, the music, seeping deep into your bones. Rearranging your mind, re-aligning your soul. "Feel the metamorphosis".

It was, in actuality, *too* good. There was a Luciferian smell about the whole thing; Robert Johnson recently returned from a visit to the crossroads. Not helped by the liner notes discussing Ritual Magik, and a disc emblazoned with a sigil and the name of Asteroth, duke of hell itself.

Those same liner notes - a collage of thoughts jumping from drug effects to Leary and magik and belief - have cold water to pour as well however. "No true ritual magician has ever sacrificed life, drank goat's blood, or taken part in any other stupid urban legend ritual". Rather, "beliefs are dangerous...allow the mind to stop functioning", and magik is about "activating parts of the mind we might normally never use". Crumbs thrown at least to explain the magik being spun off that disc into my mind.

And yet...those themes of transformation that permeate the album, from the very first line you hear (“Something has to change”) and the lyrics of '46&2' ("Change is coming, now is my time.") and 'Third Eye' ("Prying open my third eye”), to the liner notes mention of Leary's Futants, start seeping out into the real world. I get a better job with regular hours. That cute girl I saw at the Coke factory is transferred to my location; the flirting begins. She will become my wife, now of 16 years. Through her, I make wonderful new friends, for life. I start a webpage, which will lead to a new career. "Now is my time."

It is not all smooth sailing. My father is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's. I continue to work mind-numbing jobs for bad pay. But 'angry' songs like 'Aenema' and 'Hooker with a Penis' become tools of catharsis, rather than reinforcing the darkness. I am no longer wallowing.

Remnants of Ænima -related magik continue to swirl through the air of subsequent years, incendiary particles landing in my life periodically. Heavily interested in 'alternative history', I am bemused to find my concert ticket for Tool's 1997 Australian tour has a familiar, esoteric phrase printed upon it: ’Et in Arcadia Ego’. A shared interest; I check out the band’s website looking for more information. A few years later, now running a website devoted to these topics, I off-handedly email Tool's webmaster when he posts on this same subject, not particularly expecting a reply. Instead, a new friendship forms.

Another few years on, and in between meetings with a Hollywood producer in Los Angeles, and a flight to London to visit alternative history author Graham Hancock, I find myself - through my new friend - sitting down to dinner with Danny Carey himself. Somehow a strange path has formed through time and space, from that first record store encounter with Undertow, to the transformational magik of Ænima falling into my hands by chance , to a moment almost a decade on, where I - surreally - am now casually chatting with one of the creators of these albums that have been so significant in my life.

Now another ten years on - twenty in total - and the album remains an all-time favourite. A few rivals persist; Led Zeppelin IV; Neil Young’s Ragged Glory; Prince’s Sign o’ the Times. But none come close to the latent power I feel that still resides in Ænima to this day, waiting for someone to press play and release it into this world once more.

There’s serious magik woven into the fabric of the songs on that album.
Lightning in a bottle.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of Tool's Ænima on CD (on October 1), I'm going to give away a signed copy of the original lenticular cover CD - signed by Danny Carey himself -, the original release date for the CD. Stay tuned for details on how to enter by liking The Daily Grail on Facebook.

Aenima signed by Danny Carey