Jason Silva: What is a God?

We've covered a few of Jason Silva's "Shots of Awe" here on the Grail over the past couple of years. But if you're going to do 'awe', then you've got to go big, and in this latest monologue Jason scales things up to star size, contemplating the light- and life-giving presence that is our Sun. So much awe in fact that you can begin to understand how you might form a religion based on it...

More Jason Silva monologues:

Document Suggesting That Jesus Had a Wife is Proven to be Authentic

'Jesus wife' papyrus

Dating tests performed on a controversial piece of papyrus which suggests that Jesus had a wife have found that, contrary to claims of a hoax, it is indeed an ancient document:

Since Harvard professor of divinity Karen L. King publicized the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” in 2012, scientists and theologians have fiercely debated the authenticity of the fragment — the only known papyrus containing the words “Jesus said to them, my wife.” Biblical scholars have argued that the 1- by 3-inch chunk of papyrus is modern, “oddly written” and a “clumsy forgery.” But results from recent chemical and handwriting analyses say otherwise.

...Scientists used a technique called micro-Raman spectroscopy, which measures the way objects scatter photons from a laser, to determine the chemical composition of the ink used to write the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” The chemical composition of the ink dated back to between the sixth and ninth centuries, or earlier, and matched other samples from the same time period.

A second study examined the fragment’s handwriting to verify its authenticity. King, at Harvard Divinity School, weighed all the evidence and concluded that the fragment is likely a product of early Christians, not a forgery. The findings were presented in a series of studies published Thursday in the Harvard Theological Review.

Note that this does not necessarily prove that Jesus was married, but it certainly provides additional evidence for those wanting to build such a case (though if you're a fiction writer who think s novel based around that idea could be a bestseller, you're about a decade late...).

News Briefs 11-04-2014

"May your trails be crooked, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view..."

With thanks to Kat for today’s looming robo-pocalypse news.

Quote of the Day:

“May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest...”

Edward Abbey

For Your Dream Travel List: Kailashnath Temple

Kailashnath Temple

I was blown away by this photo of Kailashnath Temple taken by Santha Faiia, and posted by her partner Graham Hancock to his Facebook account. The world is filled with a mind-boggling array of amazing ancient sites which I'd one day love to visit. Here's what Graham posted about it:

One of the most mysterious and most beautiful sites I visited on my recent trip to India was the in the Ellora Caves complex of Maharashtra state. From a quick glance of the attached photo you do not immediately realise the scale, but look closer, find the people in the shot, and then you will begin to get the idea. The temple, which is intended to symbolize Mount Kailash in the Himalayas, mystical abode of the god Shiva, was not “built” but is rather sculpted in one piece out of the solid basalt bedrock of the area. It is estimated that close to half a million tons of this very hard igneous rock had to be removed, cutting downwards from the top to isolate the core body of what would become the temple before the mass of intricate relief carvings were begun. So far as I am aware none of the tools used to create this stunning monument have ever been found and it beggars belief how the work was done with the rather simple technology that archaeologists tell us was available in India in the 26-year reign (757-783 AD) of King Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty. Either there is something wrong with archaeological undertstanding of the technology of that epoch – very likely in my view – or with the time-frame attributed to the temple, or both. But however it was done it is undoubtedly a tribute to ancient Indian craftsmanship and aesthetics on an exceptionally grand and breathtaking scale. Though smaller I have visited similar temples, also hewn from solid rock, at Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu in south India. It is noteworthy that the Mahabalipuram shore temples overlook extensive submerged ruins which may date back to the last Ice Age when sea level was 100 metres lower. I dived on the underwater ruins at Mahabalipuram in April 2002 as described in my book Underworld.

To keep up with Graham's travels while researching his new book and see more amazing photos from Santha, be sure to follow the official Graham Hancock Facebook account.

Link: Photo of the Kailashnath Temple at Ellora by Santha Faiia

News Briefs 10-04-2014

Beware of his coming…

Thanks to Susan.

Quote of the Day:

“Their mouths, which mere minutes before had been employed in the process of demolishing and ingesting various foodstuffs, were now jammed up damply against one another while still being used for breathing, which must have been more than a little uncomfortable.”
“Bits of one jammed into bits of the other, dangerously close to some of the weakest and most important internal organs.”
“With absolutely no regard for personal space, the two of them created an unnecessary amount of friction, generating sweat in the process.”
“Some sort of gel emerged.”
“One sat upon the other, like furniture that sneaks inside of your body.”

Erotica Written By An Alien Pretending Not To Be Horrified By The Human Body (excerpt), by Mallory Ortberg.

News Briefs 09-04-2014

Happy birthday, Daz!

Thanks Gidon.

Quote of the Day:

“I’m all for mystery. I think it’s going to be a very dull world when there’s no more mystery at all.”

~ Peter Matthiessen

Rare Video of Oarfish Beaching Themselves

17 Foot Long Oarfish

Late last year we mentioned an oarfish - an incredibly long, rarely-seen deep ocean species sometimes mistaken for a sea serpent (see image above) - coming ashore on the Californian coast. Now, some six months later, two oarfish have been sighted - and captured on film - beaching themselves at Isla San Francisco, by guests on a cruise boat:

The guests were enjoying a beach party in the afternoon sun, complete with a chest of ice cold Mexican beer. All of sudden, a cry went up from the folks who had elected to saunter down the beach and explore a bit.

“THERE'S A GIANT FISH OVER HERE!”

The guests had spotted something special in the lagoon, a pair of oarfish, each greater than twelve feet in length!

...The two guides manning the beach, Lia Stamatiou and Hannah Hindley, quickly realized what the guests had spotted, and they excitedly called it in to the vessel via radio. In a matter of minutes, guests and crew alike swarmed ashore to catch a view of these near-mythical leviathans. The two fish swam in the shallows of the lagoon, obviously dazed or ill, but still wondrous and beautiful. Guests in kayaks filmed videos of the fish swimming beneath them, and this writer was able get some video of one of them making its way along the bottom under its own power, thanks to a GoPro underwater camera.

Kind of sad to watch these incredible creatures swimming ashore, while being gawked at by humans. One can only wonder at what prompted the beaching. Hopefully not, as I mentioned in my previous post, a harbinger of an impending great earthquake - in Japan, oarfish are known as the 'Messenger from the Sea God's Palace', whose appearance in shallow coastal waters foretells impending earthquakes.

Link: Mysteries of the Deep

Related: 17-Foot Long 'Sea Serpent' Dragged From the Ocean Off Los Angeles

News Briefs 08-04-2014

Sorry for the slow-down in posts here at the Grail…real-world responsibilities have been taking priority for the last few weeks. Hope to be back on the Grail horse again now though.

Quote of the Day:

God wanted to hide his secrets in a secure place… Then the solution occurred to him. 'I shall put my secrets in the inner sanctum of man’s own mind. Then only those who really deserve it will be able to get to it'.

Tale recounted in the Amazon to Professor Benny Shanon, and quoted in his book The Antipodes of the Mind

Mars Rover Sees a Light on the Horizon

'Light' seen on the horizon by Mars rover Curiosity

The Red Planet may well be a dead planet, but deep down we all seem to want to find that extraterrestrial intelligence is (or at least was) present on Mars. From the Face on Mars through to Bigfoot on Mars, news stories continue to be written about photographic anomalies on our second-nearest planetary neighbour (no doubt assisted by the relatively large number of missions that have placed satellites in orbit and rovers on the ground there).

The latest anomaly creating a buzz is a 'light on the horizon' snapped by NASA's Curiosity rover four days ago (April 3) soon after reaching a new study area known as the Kimberley (see the pic above - click for full-size image). But before you get too excited, there's a problem: Curiosity takes stereo pictures with two different cameras, and the 'light' only shows up in the right hand camera, despite both taking pictures simultaneously. This suggests that the 'light' is not truly out there on the horizon, but is instead an imaging artifact of some kind. Indeed, Doug Ellison, visualisation producer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), explicitly stated on Twitter today that it was an artifact caused by "a cosmic ray hit". Such glitches have caused Mars confusion before, such as this story about a Martian base.

What I found odd though is that another image taken by Curiosity, a day earlier, also showed this 'light' artifact - and this glitch too was precisely on the horizon line:

Another 'light' seen on the horizon by Mars rover Curiosity

The camera is positioned differently, it was taken a day earlier, and yet the 'light' is on both occasions on the horizon. I thought perhaps that such glitches might manifest in areas of high contrast (e.g. where ground meets sky/distant mountain range) in an image, so I asked Doug Ellison on Twitter whether that was the reason for the similarity in location. His reply was that it was actually, quite simply, a coincidence that was bound to happen at some stage:

I bow to the experts on these matters, but I still find that explanation slightly unconvincing. Maybe there's a better one: the Martians are trying to blind the rover...

(Caveat for the sake of those without a drop of humour: that last statement was a joke).

Update: Last night I checked Curiosity's track maps and consulted Google Earth's Mars view to get a feel for the direction the images are looking. What I found piqued my interest even further. The bottom image in my post was taken on Sol 588, the top image a day later on Sol 589. During that time the Rover moved slightly to the south, and in both cases is looking west(ish), firstly from the north-side of a mound in the foreground and subsequently on the south-side. If you look at where the light is in relation to the mountain range in the background (use the quite recognisable 'two-level' mountain directly behind the 'light' in the top pic for reference), you'll notice that the 'light' would be in pretty much the same position on the terrain a couple of hundred metres away, if parallax is taken into consideration. Which tends to lift the possibility in my mind that it could very well be a physical object (shiny rock, electrostatic dust devil, Nephilim) rather than a cosmic ray camera artifact (though the issue of only being in one of the stereo cameras remains suggestive of a cosmic ray artifact).

Update 2: A few about-faces today on the cosmic ray artifact explanation. Doug Ellison, who in his reply to me was certain it was a CR, is now saying "I've done a complete 180. 589 could be a CR hit. 588 isn't. It hides behind a hill behind the two eyes... if one triangulates between the two observations, one finds a point on a small ridge line. That point is also visible in Sol 580 MastCam imagery that shows a tall, thing [sic], bright rock at the exact same point". And Justin Maki, lead scientist on Curiosity's engineering cameras, has told Alan Boyle that it could be the light is the glint from a rock surface reflecting the sun.

Link: Bright Blips on Mars Pictures Spark a Buzz Among UFO Fans