News Briefs 06-04-2017

Feel the love, fam.

Quotes of the Day:

Therefore the death of man, and of beasts is one, and the condition of them both is equal: as man dieth, so they also die: all things breathe alike, and man hath nothing more than beast: all things are subject to vanity.

Ecclesiastes 3:19

Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Says He is 99% Sure That ESP is Real

Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Brian Josephson is one of the most high-profile academics to have voiced support for the 'heretical' science of parapsychology. So I was thrilled to see that the always excellent Closer to Truth had interviewed him about the topic, and uploaded some of the chat - titled "Is ESP a Window on a Larger Reality?" - to YouTube (embedded above).

If ESP can claim some kind of truth, the implications would be profound. The confirmation of any ESP, no matter how minor, would challenge the materialism-physicalism structure of the world, built over centuries by science. Reality itself would expand.

Closer to Truth also asked theoretical physicist Fred Alan Wolf, and psychologist/skeptic Bruce Hood, the same question - I've embedded their interviews below.

To download episodes and complete seasons of Closer To Truth, head over to their website where you'll find information on each season, and links for purchasing. Some fantastic discussions in there!

News Briefs 05-04-2017

Walking on water...

Quote of the Day:

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Movie From a Parallel Universe: Found Footage of 'Non-Existent' Film "Shazaam" Puts the Mandela Effect Front and Center

Screenshot from Shazaam

Remember when Nelson Mandela died back in the 1980s? Or your favourite children's book was the Berenstein Bears, and you loved that 90s movie with the comedian Sinbad in it, titled Shazaam? If you do, you might be a victim of the 'Mandela Effect', the strange phenomenon where you clearly remember a certain thing, but it turns out you are incorrect. Because Nelson Mandela died just a few years back, in 2013; that book series was actually the Berenstain Bears, and Sinbad never was in a movie titled Shazaam.

Well, that's how it is in this version of the multiverse at least - because one suggested explanation for the Mandela Effect is that we are experiencing memories that have somehow crossed over from timelines in parallel universes.

So imagine everyone's surprise when just a few days ago, footage turned up on YouTube of a portion of Sinbad's supposedly non-existent movie Shazaam!

Before anyone starts worrying about whether reality is beginning to collapse and parallel universes are becoming confused with ours, I should point out that "a few days ago" was of course April 1st, and the clip of Shazaam (featuring a distinctly older Sinbad) was posted by College Humor...

There's a lot to love about the spoofed clip though, as the creators put some real effort into paying homage to the Mandela Effect. From the dialogue ("We have our memories, they're real, no-one can take that from us"), to the various props (including a newspaper report on Nelson Mandela dying, and a Berenstein Bears book), there's a bunch of easter eggs in there for those Mandela Effect aficionados who want to have some fun hunting all the references down (I haven't mentioned all of them). Feel free to post what you find in the comments!

Related stories:

News Briefs 04-04-2017

Ring the bells...

Quote of the Day:

I'll tell you a secret. Something they don't teach you in your temple. The gods envy us. They envy us because we're mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed... We'll never be here again.

Achilles, in the movie 'Troy'

Precognition Researcher Daryl Bem Responds to Criticism of His Famous Experiments

Crystal Ball

Last month the Chronicle for Higher Education published an exposé of sorts on Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab and bestselling author on eating habits. Towards the end of the article, the author of the piece pointed out that this controversy wasn't the first to deal "a blow to Cornell's research reputation":

In 2011, Daryl Bem, an emeritus professor of psychology, published a paper in which he showed, or seemed to show, that subjects could anticipate pornographic images before they appeared on a computer screen. If true, Bem’s finding would upend what we understand about the nature of time and causation. It would be a big deal. That paper, "Feeling the Future," was widely ridiculed and failed to replicate, though Bem himself has stood by his results.

Bem, however, could be dismissed as a quirky psychologist poking at conventional wisdom. He wasn’t in charge of a major lab. Cornell’s business school uses Wansink’s face to illustrate its faculty and research webpage."

Long-time readers will know the research being referred to here as we were covering it way back in 2010, well before it became big news. In short, highly respected researcher Daryl Bem and his team ran nine experiments, involving more than 1,000 participants, that tested for "retroactive influence" (that is, effects before cause) by “timereversing” well-established psychological tests so that individuals' responses were obtained before the stimulus events occurred. The result: statistically significant positive results suggesting 'presentiment' of future unknown events was an actual thing.

Bem's paper was (predictably) slammed by CSICOPian skeptics (including James Randi and Michael Shermer), but for the most part it was relatively well-accepted, and made headline news around the world. Addionally, although there was one high-profile failed replication of the experiments, there were also a number of positive replications of the research results, resulting in a meta-analysis supporting the original results.

So it's difficult to see how the author of the Chronicle of Higher Education piece came to the conclusion that Bem's paper "was widely ridiculed and failed to replicate". For his part, Daryl Bem has written a letter of reply that has just been posted on the Chronicel for Higher Education website:

To the Editor:

In "Spoiled Science" (March 31), Tom Bartlett briefly refers to a 2011 publication of mine that appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It presented the results of nine experiments claiming to demonstrate the existence of precognition, a form of ESP. The Journal is one of the most strongly refereed journals in psychology, with a rejection rate of approximately 80 percent. Four referees and two editors approved the article for publication.

Bartlett asserts that my experiments failed to replicate. He is incorrect: In 2015, three colleagues and I published a follow-up meta-analysis of 90 such experiments conducted by 33 laboratories in 14 countries. The results strongly support my original findings. In particular, the independent replications are robust and highly significant statistically.

Bartlett further asserts that this research was widely ridiculed and constituted a blow to Cornell’s research reputation. But it was Cornell’s own public-affairs office that was proactively instrumental in setting up interviews with the press and other media following the publication of the original article. New Scientist, Discover, Wired, New York Magazine, and Cornell’s own in-house publications all described the research findings seriously and without ridicule.

Daryl J. Bem
Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Cornell University

To learn more about Bem's controversial research - both the science, and the history, see the links below.

Related:

News Briefs 03-04-2017

Let's see if you're whistling by the end of today's news...

Quote of the Day:

Always look on the bright side of life.

Monty Python's The Life of Brian

Weekly Roundup 02-04-2017

News Briefs 30-03-2017

This wasn't in the brochure!

Thanks to my ParaMania homies. See ya in LA next week!

Quote of the Day:

“You simply have to turn your back on a culture that has gone sterile and dead and get with the program of a living world and the imagination.”

˜Terence McKenna

Is Harvesting Medicinal Plants for 'Shamanic Tourism' Sustainable?

Ayahuasca preparation (photo by Heah, CCSA3 licence)

In recent years there has been a surge in so-called 'medical' or 'shamanic' tourism, with people from Western countries visiting retreats in foreign locations - such as the Amazon - to partake in indigenous ceremonies involving plant brews. But an overlooked element of such tourism is the question of whether this higher level of plant harvesting is sustainable.

Long-time Grailer Michael Coe, a graduate student working on his PhD in ethnobotany, is conducting research to try and answer this important question. As a recipient of the prestigious Richard Evans Schultes Award he has been able to partially fund his work already, but he is also seeking extra crowd-funding assistance for his research from the community:

Certain plant species are fundamental to the identity and longevity of cultural groups. Culturally important medicinal plants that are used for multiple purposes and have gained global attention are expected to be harvested frequently. I will identify medicinal plants that are culturally irreplaceable for local healers in Peru but that are used in medical tourism, and use mathematical models to investigate if and how harvesting these plants for medical tourism can be sustainable.

Michael's research is endorsed by the likes of Luis Eduardo Luna and Dennis McKenna, who notes that Michael's "important ethnobotanical fieldwork is a major undertaking, to understand the ecological and environmental context for the medicinal complex associated with ayahuasca."

So if you'd like to help out a fellow Grailer doing legit scientific research on an important topic, head over to his page on Experiment.com and help him reach his funding goal!

Link: Is Harvesting Medicinal Plants for Medical Tourism Sustainable?