In the modern age we take for granted the almost magical ability to record audio - up until the 19th century, if you wanted to listen to music, you had to either play it yourself, or listen to someone else play it, live. How then can we hear the sounds of the past before this point? One way is through the transcription of music on to paper - this is how we know the music of the great composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. Sometimes it is through through memory, such as in the transmission of folk tunes from one generation to the next. But in more ancient examples, those sounds have largely been lost.
While we can't be sure of the melodies these ancient people played, archaeological excavations have uncovered some of the instruments that were used. And they show that music is something humans have enjoyed for a very long time: three flutes found at the Geißenklösterle cave in Germany - two of which were made from swan bones, the other from a hollowed mammoth tusk - have been dated to around 36,000 BC, while flutes made from vulture bone discovered in France have been dated to between 20,000 and 35,000 years ago. In fact, it seems the ancients realised fairly early on that bones make for a pretty damn good flute, and utilised skeletal remains from birds, animals, and even humans (most often femurs and ulnas).
And from these archaeological discoveries, we can at least get a sense of what ancient music might have sounded like. The position of the holes in a flute give us the musical scale they utilised, and the construction of the object provides us with an idea of the tone the instrument may have had. Last year we posted video of an ancient vulture bone flute being played. And recently Philip 'Greywolf' Shallcrass has recreated a deer-bone flute found near the Avebury megalithic complex and posted the resulting sounds to YouTube:
The original instrument, now lost, was discovered in July 1849 by one John Merewether, Dean of Hereford, when he dug into some burial mounds about a mile and a quarter from Avebury. The flute was found beside the crouched skeletal remains of a man and an undecorated urn containing the bones of a child. We know what it looks like as Merewether sketched and described his finds in a book published in 1851. I'm not sure why Greywolf's recreation has four holes rather than the three in Merewether's sketch, but imagining the sound of this flute floating across the Avebury circle certainly does give me chills.
The world hasn't run out of stories just yet.
- Origins of sex discovered.
- Follow the most famous alien abductee back to the site of his harrowing incident.
- Defeat the dehumanising doublespeak.
- Archaeologists find witch bottle on UK National Civil War Centre building site.
- Was Stonehenge mentioned in an 8th century poem? Eternal Idol certainly thinks so.
- The deep-sea goldrush.
- DNA case for Jack the Ripper ID undermined.
- Is resurrecting extinct animals conservation, or does it reflect our inability to stop tinkering?
- Transporting quantum bits by container ship.
- Does the virtual autopsy of Tutenkhamun destroy the mystery of the past?
- Rousing the ancient Siberian spirits.
- Bizarre sea creature caught off Singapore.
- What it could be like to live on Mars. Cool pad for a couple of months maybe.
- New website is Skeptical about Skeptics.
- Tracking rumours online.
- Our Neanderthal complex.
- Doctor suggests that marijuana can protect you from Ebola.
Quote of the Day:
Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.
Today would have been the 100th birthday of the late polymath and influential skeptic Martin Gardner. Gardner – who passed away aged 95 in May 2010 – published more than seventy books on such diverse topics as mathematics, science, philosophy, literature and skepticism. For a quarter of a century he was also the writer of the ‘Mathematical Games’ column in Scientific American, and as a consequence he has influenced many of the modern day’s top academics in the hard sciences. Douglas Hofstadter described Gardner as “one of the great intellects produced in this country in this century,” and Arthur C. Clarke once labeled him a “national treasure.”
Gardner was also one of the major voices in the skeptical movement; George Hansen describes him as “the single most powerful critic of the paranormal in the second half of the 20th century”. Gardner was writing ‘skeptical’ books long before the modern movement ‘began’ in earnest with the inception of CSICOP (now known as CSI) in the 1970s – his seminal deconstruction of pseudoscience, In the Name of Science (later renamed Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science), had been published two decades previous in 1952. Like Randi, he could be a rather nasty skeptic too, sometimes embracing debunking over debate (he once commented that in certain circumstances, "One horse laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms").
The occasion of Gardner's 100th birthday has led to a number of tributes on major news sites this week, from the BBC to the New York Times. And rightly so, there is no doubting that he inspired a number of today's leading academics. But I also thought it worth pointing out his fallibility, by relinking to my article "How Martin Gardner Bamboozled the Skeptics", which I think (hope!) does a good job in deconstructing the truly awful 'skeptical' essay he wrote about the medium Leonora Piper. Rather than denigrating Gardner's memory, I would hope that a man who esteemed skeptical thinking as much as Gardner would appreciate my critique of this particular work of his. It's a long piece, so here's the summary:
Unscientific skepticism of the type exhibited by Gardner and Cattel is a corrosive one which, rather than defending science, instead shields it from possible new discoveries and viewpoints through irrational over-protectiveness. It also brings skepticism as a whole into disrepute when such cheap tactics are employed. In his article “How Mrs. Piper Bamboozled William James”, Martin Gardner ignores the original scientific work done, misrepresents the competency of the investigators, and misleads the reader both through incorrect statements and loaded language. This is hardly the type of writing we would expect from “one of the great intellects produced in this country in this century.”
Sadly for Martin Gardner, perhaps the most succinct summary of his essay can be found in James Hyslop’s caustic response to Hall and Tanner’s Studies in Spiritism, written nearly 100 years previous: "The calm critic can only say that the book either displays the grossest ignorance of the facts and the subject, or it is a colossal piece of constructive lying. The authors may take either horn of the dilemma they like."
Link: Skeptical of a Skeptic
Related: Vale Martin Gardner
Ebury Press 2014, ISBN 9780091958480
Britain in the 1970s was a very strange time and place. Caught in the brutal come-down after the Sixties yet still retaining more than a hint of pagan mysticism in the air, Britain had a distinctive otherworldliness underlying the economic woes, ever-present threat of nuclear war and public service films warning children that horrific death lurked in every field, every street. Both grubby and garish, represented equally by Abigail’s Party and Children of the Stones, Albion seemed caught in an awful liminality. There was nothing quite like living through that strange time, in that weird place.
Nothing, that is, except for Scarfolk.
The invention of Richard Littler, Scarfolk is a fictional town in the North-West of England which is perpetually trapped in the 70s. Littler’s pastiches of the advertising and cultural symbols of the time, filtered through the paranoid occult and technological fears then present, became an immensely popular blog series over the past couple of years, drawing praise from writers as diverse as Ian Rankin, Caitlin Moran and Warren Ellis. The clever perfection of the parody images, combined with the Pythonesque word play and riffs on the stranger aspects of British culture, are a masterpiece in absurdist horror.
Although there are some parallels to other fictional towns draped in the Weird, Scarfolk is very much its own thing. Comparisons to the Welcome To Night Vale podcast are commonly made, especially when trying to explain Scarfolk to Americans: but whereas Night Vale has a folksy cute-weird inclusive charm that might tempt the fan to consider living there if it existed, nobody in their right minds would want to visit Scarfolk, let alone live there... it makes Royston Vasey seem positively inviting by comparison.
Now, Scarfolk has made the transition from blog to book, and in the process has both gained and lost something in translation.
The book contains most of the classic images Littler created for the Scarfolk site - favourites such as the controversial fake Penguin Books cover “Children And Hallucinogens”, which went viral last year, convincing many that the book had once existed (including, so rumour has it, several concerned Penguin executives). They are surrounded by a two-layered, almost Lovecraftian-styled framing story: the book purports to be a professor’s reconstruction of a found text, telling the tale of one Daniel Bush. Bush, while moving home after the death of his wife in a bizarre Morris-dancing related accident, is trapped in Scarfolk following the disappearance of his twin sons. Recovering from the brainwashing inflicted on him for ‘his own good’ by the residents, he wanders the town, trying to understand his surroundings and find his children.
Though that storyline itself is interesting (and draws heavily on other great British cultural influences such as The Prisoner and The Wicker Man), it doesn’t flow well: mostly because it’s continually interrupted by both the pictures and a lot of footnotes - the readers attention is being continually split. Each element of the book - the art, the story and the footnotes - don’t quite gel together... but each is thoroughly enjoyable in their own form.
The footnotes contain some of the best, most horrific writing in the book, I think: such as,
The ice-cream van man came between 3 and 4 a.m. His van blared out the haunting Swedish Rhapsody numbers station. The ice-cream van man wore a clown mask to disguise the horrific burns on his face because he didn't want to frighten the children. It didn't work. He used clothes pegs to hold the mask on because he was missing an ear. He lived in a nondescript building in an electrical substation and no one knew his name.
As an artefact, the book feels like it has fallen out of some grubby wormhole: the pages are faintly faded, the whole thing almost seeming to glower at the reader. The cover looks like a pre-battered textbook from a barely-used library, its recollection of the publishing tropes of the time a pastiche so perfect that it verges on the hyperreal. Sadly, this finish actually obscures some of the finer details of the illustrations; in one of my favourite pictures, the relabelled diagrams of the male and female genital anatomy, several of the terms are too blurry to be read easily.
(EDIT: Richard Littler contacted me after this review aired to note that the blurring of the pictures was a printing mistake and not intentional. Though that accident adds to the grimy air of this version, I am glad later editions will allow readers to fully see a woman's malteser and a man's battlestar galactica in all their glory.)
Despite these drawbacks, Discovering Scarfolk is a pleasure, if a disturbing one: you’ll never read or hold anything else quite like it.
For more information, please re-read this review.
Link: Discovering Scarfolk on Amazon UK
Someone make this movie happen, stat!
- Were we contacted by aliens in 1977?
- Close encounters of the top secret kind.
- Britain's X-traordinary Files.
- Scientists warn that the Earth is at risk after cuts close comet-spotting program.
- Leading neurosurgeon Eben Alexander tells what Heaven is really like, and also shares the stories of others.
- Ridley Scott acquires the rights to Betty Eadie's NDE tale Embraced by the Light.
- Scientist who claims to have identified Jack the Ripper made serious DNA error.
- Alan Moore has written a million-word novel.
- 6000-year-old temple discovered in Ukraine with possible sacrificial altars.
- New research suggests Tutankhamun died from genetic weakness caused by family inbreeding.
- Strange slab of rock discovered in Russia may be a Bronze Age sundial.
- Giant Sphinx from the blockbuster movie The Ten Commandments unearthed after 91 years. I say cover it back up and screw with every history textbook in the year 5000AD.
- Brace yourself: super-intelligent humans are coming.
- New evidence suggests Hawaii could be hit by a massive tsunami.
- The Hot Zone and the mythos of Ebola.
- Paralyzed man walks again after cell transplant from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord.
- Mystery man observed flying past an Airbus at 3500 feet.
- Yowie sighted in North Queensland, Australia (just a few kilometres from where I grew up).
- Mysterious spontaneous combustions return to Sicilian city.
- Scientists discover that atheism might not exist.
- The science of scary apparitions.
Quote of the Day:
Pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!
Monty Python, "The Galaxy Song"
A summary of all the stories and news briefs posted on The Daily Grail over the past week. Feel free to share anything interesting!
- Some Mexican Dude Talking About UFOs
- News Briefs 14-10-2014 (Tuesday)
- Powers: What if the World was Full of Superheroes who aren’t Actually Heroic at all?
- The Origin of Robotics: A 4000 Year Journey
- Skeptic Abused and Threatened by Husband of 'Psychic Sally Morgan'
- News Briefs 15-10-2014 (Wednesday)
- Sacred Ink: The Magical Power of Tattoos
- Disclosure is Dead
- News Briefs 16-10-2014 (Thursday)
- News Briefs 17-10-2014 (Friday)
- The Grimerica Show @ PS2014
Have a good weekend!
One of the things I love the most about the Paradigm Symposium, is that it inspires the audience not only to think for themselves and reach their own conclusions, but also to take a more active stance in the search for answers.
A good example of this are my buds Darren Grimes & Graham Dunlop, whom I met on the 1st Paradigm in 2012. They drove all the way from Calgary to join in this event organized by my Cosmic Compadre Micah Hanks, and the Intrepid Magazine editor & religious historian Scotty Roberts; and even though I'd only interacted with Darren through the comment section on Mysterious Universe a few times, we all became fast friends almost immediately.
It was because of Mysterious Universe and Micah's Gralien Report radio show, that the Canadian duo decided to start a podcast of their own. Now I'm going to be honest here: At the beginning I was uncertain on how they were going to pull it off, since they were both rather novice about the whole podcasting requirements, aside from the day jobs and other personal responsibilities they couldn't neglect because of this new 'hobby'; add to it the fact that nowadays there's not exactly a shortage of Fortean shows trying to get a hold of the celebrities in the field, and you can see how The Grimerica Show had quite an uphill road in front of them...
But, as a testament to both their passion and commitment, in a short span of time the Grimericans have already managed to attain a good number of listeners all across the globe, a group of good bloggers writing for their webpage, along with a VERY decent list of guests under their belt --Grant Cameron, Stanley Krippner, Dennis McKenna, Rupert Sheldrake & Dr. Rick Strassman just to name a few.
Not bad for a couple of guys transmitting from a little igloo in the middle of the Canadian tundra ;)
This year Scotty Roberts & his new associate Dr. John Ward --known among the veteran Paradigm attendees as 'the most interesting Egyptologist in the world'-- offered Grimerica to be the official podcast of the symposium; it was just too good an opportunity to pass, and I'm proud to say Darren & Graham once again rose to the challenge like pros. On their table at the back of the vendors' hall they had everything from T-shirts, flyers, business cards, and a banner (co-designed by yours truly) which was later signed by all the PS2014 speakers and now adorns their recording studio in Calgary. They also conducted on-site what they call 'the Money Bomb', which is a funding model they emulated from The Higherside Chats in which they ask for cash donations, and after reaching a certain sum they split half of the earnings with a lucky contributor. Someone left Minneapolis with a hundred bucks-worth of new books thanks to Grimerica!
Below is a list of all the interviews they recorded at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis, the beautiful building in which the conferences and the dinner banquet were hosted this year. If you've never listened to them, you'll quickly notice that, although Grimerica took inspiration from MU and the Gralien Report, their 'loose-cannon' tone of casual conversation is actually closer to Joe Rogan's, and is what probably distinguishes them from most of the podcasts out there --as such, the boys are not afraid of dropping a few 'F-bombs' here and there, something I hope won't prevent you from enjoying the entertaining dynamic between Graham's New Age-y enthusiasm on everything concerning Consciousness, in contrast with Darren's nonchalant 'groundedness' and more skeptic attitude on these topics.
I also got to participate in a few of those recordings, as you might have probably deduced from the top image, in which you can see me sitting right beside UFO historian/researcher Richard Dolan. Having the chance to engage people you've admired for a number of years is a priceless opportunity, and I'm very grateful the Grimericans are taking me along for the ride. Hope you decide to join us as well!
"Eternity forbids thee to forget."
- Unraveling the mysteries of El Sol.
- “That’s no moon"… It’s Mimas
- Ya know where you are? You’re in the Anthropocene, baby…
- Mercury’s H2O is ready for its close-up.
- When magnetic fields flip.
- Source of Homer’s fire-breathing chimera, uncovered?
- Language skills determined by quality vs. quantity.
- Martian atmosphere slowly ebbs away.
- When tornadoes swarm.
- Have fusion, will travel.
- X-37B comes home.
- Seeing comets from Mars.
- Dark matter… or not.
- In a galaxy far, far away.
- A time when kangaroos walked with men.
- The health benefits of Manimal.
- A dustbowl like no other.
- Like a match to flame.
- The universe, over time.
- This week’s evidence of the looming robot uprising… Rattlesnake ‘bots.
Quote of the Day:
“I had a dream, which was not all a dream.”
I miss Minneapolis already :(
- John Schultz wants to profit from the Ebola scare. I don't even…
- Cry me a roundup river: Monsanto announces major losses after settling environmental suit.
- Why the issue of Climate Sensitivity is not as simple as it seemed.
- The Moon's volcanic past is more recent than we thought.
- The endless speculation re. the Air Force's secret space plane rages on.
- Area 51 researcher Norio Hayakawa says goodbye to the UFO field. When have I heard that before?
- Jeff Ritzmann: "UFOlogy Misses the Point Yet Again"
- Loren Coleman remembers the late editor of FATE magazine, David Godwin.
- The religious practices of Extraterrestrials.
- An interview with Matthew Alford, filmmaker of the documentary "The Writer with No Hands."
- Veteran TDG member Emlong gave a recent interview on a topic dear to his heart: Orgonite and its effect on the human health.
- Waste Not --Unless you're an American!
- Fight Club, circa 15th C.
- The longest-running cryptozoology club in Canada is still searching for Bigfoot.
- Our new contributor, Martin J. Clemens, writes about the legendary Golem of Prague.
- Red Pill of the Day: Halloween is creepier with the right smartphone apps.
Thanks to Malala, for giving me hope.
Quote of the Day:
"Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world."
~Malala Yousafzai, Nobel laureate.
This is probably the best thing you'll read this week, or perhaps this entire year: A rather ballsy editorial by Robbie Graham, film researcher & author of the upcoming book Silver Screen Saucers, on why the UFO Disclosure movement is either defunct, or should be regarded as such by anyone interested in moving forward in our understanding of the phenomenon, instead of just maintaining a subordinate attitude toward government officialdom, in hope that if we yell long & loud enough, they might finally share with us the secrets about UFOs they may still hold.
But what if, as Robbie and several others in the research community have already asked, the only thing governments are keeping away from us, is their complete incapacity to make heads or tails about what UFOs really are, and their true interests and/or intentions toward humanity? What if they are only hiding their own ignorance and insecurity toward a phenomenon to which they have absolutely no control of?
The ultimate irony of the Disclosure movement is that it deeply distrusts officialdom, while simultaneously looking to officialdom for the truth. And by imagining all answers to the UFO mystery to be out of public reach, deep in the bowels of the national security state, the Disclosure movement actually places power into hands of officialdom, while disempowering the individual.
Robbie delivered this paper during the latest Exopolitics conference in Leeds, but instead of being tarred and feathered by an angry mob, he received a standing ovation! Perhaps it was because people are getting tired of the empty promises delivered by the leaders of the Disclosure movement, who for the past 15 years or so keep hammering on how 'the Truth' is just around the corner, and how soon we'll all be enjoying free energy in a peaceful planet which has finally been admitted in the Galactic Federation --Stephen Bassett was also a speaker in that event, and in contrast he received a lukewarm applause after his presentation.
But it's not that Robbie is poo-pooing *everything* that the Exopolitics movement has tried to accomplish. On the contrary, he acknowledges the efforts of "Bassett and others [who] undoubtedly have brought the UFO phenomenon (whatever it might represent) to the attention of many thousands of people around the world who previously were indifferent to the issue."
What does concern me, however, is that Disclosure has become the focus of the UFO community, its alluring offer of a fast track to UFO truth marginalising the more esoteric approaches to the phenomena. In short, in the age of Disclosure and Exopolitics, the pursuit of UFO truth is political, rather than mystical. If the day ever comes when humanity can claim an understanding of the UFO phenomenon, I’m very confident that politics will have played almost no role in this enlightenment.
It has to be said that, not too long ago, Robbie's attitude toward Disclosure was somewhat different, and he even tried to use his blog Silver Screen Saucers as a platform to support the Exopolitics activism. It was in fact Robbie the one who convinced me to join in the Disclosure Petition, that Stephen Bassett had launched on the We the People White House webpage in 2011 --and we all know how well THAT turned out, don't we?
When I asked Robbie via e-mail when he started to change his mind about Disclosure and why, this was his response:
I'm not really sure I 'changed my mind' about Disclosure so much as my mind inevitably moved on from it (as you predicted it would!). As individuals, our minds are all 'wired' a certain way -- we're each inclined to certain modes of thought. I'm a left-brainer. The nuts-and-bolts, political route to UFO 'truth' held natural appeal for me. But, as you know, a truly open-minded approach to UFO studies demands weighty input from the right brain. Indeed, for many in this field, the right-brained approach is the natural one.
Obviously, my latest piece is not objectively 'correct' or 'true' -- it's simply an opinion piece. It's where I 'am' right now, sort of. But I'm learning that where I am right now is probably very far from I'll be a year or even six months from now. So read it lightly. If it resonates with anyone else, cool. If it annoys people, that's cool, too, and I'd encourage those latter folk to ask themselves why they feel provoked and to listen carefully to their inner voice for an honest reply.
I certainly hope that Robbie's op-ed kickstarts a much-needed discussion in the community. Because IMO it's high time we recognize what the evidence we've already gathered in the last 67 years or so seems to point at: That the UFO phenomenon doesn't show a particular interest in our quaint forms of governmental structures, and instead of the iconical saucer landing on the White House lawn, what in fact seems to be happening is a 'Grassroots' type of Contact; as such, the Paradigm change ought to come from the bottom-up, instead of waiting to be sanctioned by the higher-ups, as the Disclosure movement is expecting.
It's time to cut the middleman out of the equation, and for each and everyone of us to do our own heavy-lifting; not just wait for the answers to be handed down to us by professional liars.