News Briefs 26-08-2014

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Thanks Kat.

Quote of the Day:

Up to the Twentieth Century, reality was everything humans could track, smell, see, and hear. Since the initial publication of the chart of the electromagnetic spectrum, humans have learned that that they can touch, smell, see, and hear is less than one-millionth of reality.

Buckminster Fuller

Rock and Roll: A New Theory on How the Ancient Egyptians Moved Massive Blocks of Stone

Pyramid of Khufu (by Bradipus, Creative Commons Licence)

A new paper on arXiv.org offers a novel solution to the mystery of how the ancient Egyptians moved millions of massive stone blocks around: by rolling them inside a 12-sided wooden frame. Noting the orthodox theory - that the blocks were put on sleds which were pulled, with the sand in front of the sled being constantly lubricated with - results in a not insignificant level of friction, they suggest that the dodecagon idea would be a far more efficient method of moving these heavy blocks:

As an alternative to dragging large blocks, one can consider
rolling the blocks. Rolling a prism of 4 sides is not efficient, but
adding wooden rods to the surface can effectively increase the number of sides. The crew can then pull on a rope wrapped around and passing over the top of the block. In this configuration, static friction acts in the direction of the desired motion, rather than opposing the motion. In effect the block and rope combination becomes a 2:1 pulley, though the pulley was not yet formally "known" to the Egyptians at that time. The rods can be re-used many times, and there is no need to to transport large quantities of water for lubrication.

...By attaching 12 identical wooden rods to the faces of the block, one effectively transforms the block into a dodecagon prism with very little added mass, much lower ground pressure, and with good cross country mobility... It would seem that some variation of rolling the blocks should now be considered to be among the “best” and most likely method used to move the stones for the great pyramids

The paper goes into more of the physics behind the idea, as well as offering some experimental data to back the authors' theory up.

(h/t Norman R.)

Link: How they (should have) built the pyramids

You might also like: Has This Retired Construction Worker Figured Out How Stonehenge Was Built?

A Reality Beyond Death?

The Matrix - Take the Red Pill

Excerpted from Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife, available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

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We often think of our identity in terms of our physical body, but is it just something that we – as only a consciousness – simply use as a vehicle? This is an interesting idea, and has been with us throughout human history, largely built into the religious beliefs of cultures around the world. But we should be careful of falling into the trap of thinking about an afterlife existence based simply on the religious or cultural models we have been brought up with. Most people who were exposed to some sort of religion in their upbringing are imprinted with the fairly simplistic idea that surviving death means a transparent, ethereal version of you floats ‘up’ to a heaven of fluffy clouds, and lives there for eternity in happiness. Who knows, perhaps elements of this are correct – some of near-death experiences and other visions of an afterlife actually do correlate in some respects with these ideas. But perhaps also these experiences are filtered through an overlay of our own expectations and cultural beliefs, and the ‘true’ experience could be fundamentally different. It’s fun to consider some of these possibilities.

The way our view of an external realm ‘beyond reality’ can change is illustrated well by the science fiction blockbuster The Matrix, with Neo taking the red pill and ‘waking up’ into the ‘real’ world, despite having thought until that point that the computer-generated Matrix was the real world. Before the age of computers the idea that we might be inside some sort of virtual reality, with the ‘real us’ residing in another realm, was barely known. Certainly, versions of this idea existed before the computer age, notably in discussions of the strange world of dreams. For example, the ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi once remarked on the difficulty of distinguishing where ‘reality’ lies with the following words: “Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man”.

The influential 17th century philosopher René Descartes also wondered how we could actually know what reality is, given that our senses can be so unreliable, and yet it is only through these senses (and then subsequent interpretation by the brain) that we comprehend the world ‘out there’. Descartes deduced that all we can be sure of about ‘reality’ is just one thing – that if we think, then we must in some way exist, at the very least as just a mind. He summarized this view with his well-known maxim ‘cogito ergo sum’ (‘I think, therefore I am’). Beyond that, for all we know, we could just be a ‘brain in a vat’ – a piece of meat hooked up to sensors that trick our mind into thinking it is undergoing experiences in a virtual world. The Matrix took all these older ideas and made them new again by making them the centerpiece of a movie about a false reality (spoiler warning for the young kids out there):

The fact that all of our sensorial experience of ‘reality’ must necessarily be filtered subjectively through the brain – and thus isn’t ‘reality’ at all (for example, we apprehend the world very differently to an infrared-sensing rattlesnake) – was enunciated in Hindu culture via the term maya (illusion): the idea that we can never identify or comprehend the actual truth or reality of the world, only (at best) a fragment of it.

But in the 21st century, the ‘simulation argument’ – the suggestion that all of what we think of as ‘reality’ is actually a simulation, and that until now we have been unaware of the fact – has gone mainstream. Not only through the popularity of The Matrix, but through first-hand experience: many computer gamers now spend several hours a day immersed in the virtual worlds of first-person shooters. As an example of how things are progressing in the world of virtual reality immersion, see this recent demonstration: ... Read More »

News Briefs 25-08-2014

Make of it what you will:

Quote of the Day:

What is now proved was once only imagined.

William Blake

Graham Hancock and Joe Rogan on the Earth and Ayahuasca

This beautiful earth that we have,
this gift that the universe has given us
is precious beyond measure,
precious beyond imagination,
and we are part of it
and we must treat it with
love, respect and reverence.

- Graham Hancock

News Briefs 22-08-2014

"Reason is immortal, all else mortal."

Quote of the Day:

“Number is the ruler of forms and ideas, and the cause of gods and daemons.”

Pythagoras

Cyborg Woman Created Through Real-Time Face-Tracking and Projection Mapping

Wow. Just wow. My own face almost fell off at 1:18.

Omote is the result of collaboration that was led by artist Nobumichi Asai, featuring contributions from CGI experts, graphic designers and make-up artists.

Asai has worked in the past with major companies such as Subaru to project computer graphics onto subjects. However, the locations where the graphics are projected onto in the past were all stationary, so the ability of the Omote to follow the person's face as it moves and adapt its projections accordingly is a huge development for the system.

Essentially, Omote can be viewed as electronic make-up, with the ability to project practically anything on a person's face.

Link: Omote face tracking and projection mapping system is amazingly creepy: Here's why

News Briefs 21-08-2014

What Jon said…

Thanks to officer Go F#$k Yourself.

Quote of the Day:

“Just as physical hunger is sated, at least metaphorically, by the sight of a marvelous meal, so the hunger of the soul is sated by the vision of numinous images.”

~Carl Jung. Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. 1959.

Vale BKS Iyengar, the 'Man Who Brought Yoga to the West'

BKS Iyengar

One of the most influential Yoga practitioners of the modern era, BKS Iyengar, has passed away at 95 years of age.

Better known by his initials, Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar is one of the world's best-known yoga gurus. As the New York Times wrote in a 2002 profile, "Perhaps no one has done more than Mr. Iyengar to bring yoga to the West." In 2004, Time recognized his global influence, naming him one of the world's most influential living people. His 1966 book Light on Yoga contains detailed instructions on how to perform more than 200 poses, according to Yoga Journal, and remains influential. That magazine has referred to Light on Yoga as the "Bible" of yoga.

For a glimpse of Iyengar in action, see the video below, filmed in 1977 (when he would have been around 58 years of age).

Full story: BKS Iyengar, who helped bring yoga to the West, has died