News Briefs 05-05-2015

If you're one of those people emailing me with your one-true-theory solving paranormal mysteries, please consult this image before hitting send...

Thanks @anomalistnews.

Quote of the Day:

An oppressive feeling of foreboding hangs over me… This is it… I have to think through the only possible way out - to operate on myself… It's almost impossible… but I can't just fold my arms and give up.

Leonid Rogozov

Reactions to the Roswell Slides

The above clip is part of the promotional campaign for both Jaime Maussan's Be Witness live presentation --which will be featured on May 5th at the National Auditorium in Mexico city-- as well as Adam Dew's Kodachrome documentary. It shows (alleged) random reactions of passersby in Chicago, after they are shown what has purportedly been claimed to be 2 black-and-white slides of a humanoid being inside some sort of glass showcase --If you want to see a low-res image of one of those slides, click here.

If there's one thing that's clearly shown in the video, is how the images seem to perfectly conform with our pop culture assumptions of what an alien being is supposed to look --short stature, slim body and large cranium. What it's not shown, though, is whether these images are as real as the Santilli 'alien autopsy' video of the 1990's, which was equally hyped as the smoking gun that would finally unravel the 'Cosmic Watergate' behind the truth of UFOs and ET visitation.

To say these images are controversial is the understatement of the century. A lot of assumptions have been made with regards to the slides by the people behind tomorrow's presentation. There's the assumption that the slides were taken by Hilda Ray, who was a lawyer, a pilot, the wife of geologist Bernerd Ray; there's the assumption that the couple's illustrious careers and connections with the top elite of American society in the 40's and 50's, would have somehow made them privy to very sensitive material --like the retrieval operations of crashed saucers conducted by the Military.

And of course, there's the majestic assumption --see what I did there?-- that the body (or bodies) shown on the slides are of an extraterrestrial biological entity, AND that these entities were involved in the (in)famous Roswell event of July 1947. That's enough 'ifs' to make your head spin faster than a Reticulan spaceship, which is why some of the most prominent researchers involved in the history of the Roswell affair --namely Stanton Friedman and Kevin Randle-- declined to actively participate in what Maussan and Dew call "the biggest UFO event of all time."

"Is this for real?", one person asks after being shown the slides. That's what Don Schmitt, Tom Carey, Adam Dew and Jaime Maussan keep telling us, and they promise to show us all the evidence to back that claim tomorrow onstage and via live streaming. I'll be there to see whether they deliver the goods... or crash and burn trying.

News Briefs 04-05-2015

It's a girl!

Thanks Tom Head.

Quote of the Day:

I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones.

John Cage

News Briefs 01-05-2015

"All things lie dark in possibility."

Quote of the Day:

“Genius is play, and man's capacity for achieving genius is infinite, and many may achieve genius only through play.”

W. Saroyan

Science Claims OBE's Solved, Yet Again! But Is It Really?

out of body experience

So here we go again; popular science media outlets are declaring the phenomena of Out-of-Body Experience to be solved, based on a study of what can only be described as a proximal experience in the laboratory.

I’m talking about the way science news journalists like to spin the results of any experiment involving OBE’s or NDE’s (near-death experience), so that the conclusions seem to fit the mainstream narrative that such experiences are simply illusory products of brain activity.  To be perfectly clear, I’m not saying that they aren’t illusory experiences, nor am I saying that they’re factually genuine.  What I am saying is that the quoted studies do not, cannot support that specific claim.  This is an old complaint from me, but I’ll happily illustrate why yet again.

A group of neuroscientists from Sweden published a paper on April 30 in the journal Current Biology, which explains a set of experiments they undertook to image brain activity using an fMRI machine, of patients who were experiencing an induced out-of-body illusion.  The stated goal of their research was to identify and study the areas in the brain that are responsible for or are related to body-ownership and spatial awareness.  As they note in the abstract, no one has ever looked at how those concepts, and the brain structures involved with those concepts – parietal and medial temporal cortices – might be involved in experiences similar to OBE’s.

According to their paper, they were able to identify activity in certain structures, namely the hippocampus and intraparietal cortices, among others, that bears a strong correlation to our sense of body ownership, and spatial cognition.  They specifically claim that the posterior cingulate cortex plays a key role in the integration of spatial awareness and body-ownership.  This research could potentially be significant in the treatment of certain mental disorders such as schizophrenia and certain forms of epilepsy.

But there is a very important part of this study that’s being misrepresented by news outlets, specifically by Live Science.

In order to achieve a brain-state in their tests subjects that can be thought of as similar to that which is present during an OBE, the researchers had to create a perceptual illusion using cameras and mirrors, which caused the subject to perceive their body in abnormal spatial orientations.  Admittedly, that seems logically similar to what OBE reporters claim to be their experience.  However, these researchers, and those reporting their findings are glossing over the very real and very important assumption that lies at the heart of that similarity.

Is the brain activity associated with the induced illusion of an abnormal spatial orientation the same as the brain activity of someone who is undergoing an Out-of-Body Experience?  It’s conceivable that they are, but that connection has not been proven by this paper.

To make matters worse, the Live Science writer in question didn’t even provide a direct link to the paper in question so that readers could, and would be encouraged to, go look at the results themselves, rather than taking that one writer’s word for it.

If you’ll recall last year, the science magazine Frontiers published a story about the “study” of a Canadian woman who claimed that she can, in the manner of an OBE, leave her body at will.  The story painted the picture of a clinical trial involving fMRI scans of her brain while she thought she was out of her body.  Though, as I pointed out in that case as well, the assumption that what she was experiencing, or claimed she was experiencing, was in fact the result of an OBE was completely overlooked in the story.  To make matters worse in that case, the story was actually just a story.  It was the anecdotal telling of how one researcher put this self-proclaimed OBE’er through a single fMRI scan and then interpreted the results of that scan as they saw fit, with no controls, methodology, or clear goals in mind.  And, predictably, science news reporters lapped up the narrative and ran with it as though this is how science is done.

In light of these two cases and the clear bias they highlight in science reporting, is it really any wonder so many people don’t trust this entity, this persona called Science, any further than they can throw it?  Don’t get me wrong, I loath science denial as much as unfounded science worship, but this kind of blatant bias, which at times seems to be calculated and deliberate, is almost enough for me to change sides, at least for a little while.

News Briefs 30-04-2015

Abstinence makes me cranky, so I ain't thanking anyone this week.

Quote of the Day:

"Wine is bottled poetry."

~Robert Louis Stevenson

News Briefs 29-04-2015

Gecko robots make cute noises.

  • Cannabis use could implant false memories, scientists warn. Where have I heard that before?
  • Did a Native American travel with the Vikings and arrive in Iceland centuries before Columbus set sail?
  • Neuroscientists create illusion of having invisible body.
  • Neurons constantly rewrite their DNA to store information.
  • Woman's 'embryonic twin' is not really an embryo, or a twin.
  • Scary collection of recent mass die-off reports.
  • The Mindscape of Alan Moore now available on demand (US and Canada only).
  • Mysterious land mass appears overnight off Japan's coast.
  • Could we reboot civilisation without fossil fuels?
  • Is LSD about to return to polite society?
  • Unearthed Roman skulls could be victims of Boudicca.
  • Bees are becoming addicted to the nicotinic pesticides that are killing them off.

Quote of the Day:

People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Alan Moore

Disneyland Ghost Debunked by Captain Disillusion

Captain D. returns with another close-to-perfect* takedown of a YouTube paranormal sensation: the 'Disneyland ghost'. See it before Disney takes it down!

(* Needs a musical number)

News Briefs 28-04-2015

Busk it...

Quote of the Day:

Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities — the political, the religious, the educational authorities — who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing — forming in our minds — their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself.

Timothy Leary