News Briefs 18-03-2014

Spambots and cynics and trolls oh my! Be a breath of fresh air and leave a comment below if you're a real human being with nice things to say…

Thanks David.

Quote of the Day:

The greater part of human activity is designed to make permanent those experiences and joys which are only lovable because they are changing.

Alan Watts

Archaeologists Discover 9000-Year-Old 'Wand' Near Thirty Decapitated Bodies

9000-year-old 'wand' carved with human faces

Archaeologists have discovered a 9,000-year-old 'wand' with two human faces engraved on it in southern Syria, near a burial site where 30 headless skeletons had been previously discovered:

The item, made of cow bone, is thought to date from the late 9th millennium BC. Archaeologists excavated it from Tell Qarassa, an Early Neolithic site. This is among the few archaeological sites not damaged in the fighting in Syria, which on Saturday marked its third anniversary.

The wand was found near a burial site, where 30 headless skeletons were discovered previously. Archaeologists say the findings shed light on the rituals of people who lived in the Neolithic period. Other findings at the site indicate that its inhabitants in the Neolithic period were some of the world's first farmers.

...The cow-bone wand, found by archaeologists during digs at Tell Qarassa in 2007 and 2009, was possibly used in a burial ritual, archaeologists believe."This small bone object from a funerary layer can be related to monumental statuary of the same period in the southern Levant and south-east Anatolia that probably depicted powerful supernatural beings," the experts said.

Link: Archaeologists in Syria find ancient 'wand' engraved with human faces

Watch a Stoned Neil deGrasse Tyson Tell You About That Freaky Dude Isaac Newton

Stoned Neil deGrasse Tyson

Take Neil deGrasse Tyson (host of the new series of Cosmos), get him talking on the topic of Isaac Newton, then slow down the video. Result: lulz.

I foresee a whole genre of NdGT Cosmos excerpts emerging on YouTube in the not-too-distant future...

(via Dangerous Minds)

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News Briefs 17-03-2014

F*@k the Illuminate

Thanks to Greg and Kat for links

Quote of the Day:

Symbols are to the mind what tools are to the hand - an extended application of its powers

Dion Fortune

Watch This Fantastic TEDx Talk on End-of-Life Experiences

The Deceased in the Afterlife Realm

One of the major surprises during the writing of my book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife was how neglected the topic of end-of-life phenomena was, especially compared to its more famous sibling, the near-death experience. In the end, I was so fascinated that I wrote an entire chapter about end-of-life experiences, ranging from 18th century accounts through to recent research on the subject.

For those who haven't read my book, the recent TEDx talk by Martha Atkins embedded below will give you a great overview, as she touches on a number of the elements I discuss in my book, not least how the question of whether these experiences are 'real' may be secondary to the impact they have on the dying and those they are leaving behind. Fantastic presentation...but please, nobody tell certain whiny atheist bloggers about it lest they have TED remove it.

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News Briefs 14-03-2014

"Science is much more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking."

With many thanks to G.F. Lee and Rick Starr.

Quote of the Day:

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

C. Sagan

News Briefs 13-03-2014

Here's to another 25 years of LOLcats, twerking & the occasional revolution inspired by social networks.

  • Tim Berners-Lee calls for an online Magna Carta.
  • The Web We Want: Join the campaign to forge a free, secure & TRULY global internet.
  • In order to preserve the very structure of the net, Silicon Valley needs to learn how to share --their profits, that is.
  • Woman 'attacked' in San Francisco for wearing Google Glass.
  • Beyond the Vallee of the Dolls: Why our Universe & the Web share so much in common.
  • And the award to best UFO-hunting province in all of Canada goes toooo… Vancouver!
  • Phantom phone calls from vanished Malaysia airlines flight passengers?
  • Michio Kaku cringes with cinematic depictions of aliens --*I* cringe with his eagerness to jump in the materialistic brain=mind bandwagon, but that's just silly woo me…
  • Can heart surgery change a person's personality?
  • The Reckoning: How the father of Adam Lanza has tried to cope with what his son did.
  • The Ogre & the Orgone: When Shrek's creator illustrated a book by Willhelm Reich.
  • A global call for DNA evidence of cryptids, co-organized by the International Cryptozoology Museum.
  • The Men Who Stare at Goatsuckers: A little article re. the Chupacabras & 90's nostalgia by yours truly.
  • Radio Misterioso with guest Nick Redfern: In which the most prolific Fortean writer to date is suddenly possessed by the spirit of… Camilla the chicken??
  • Fly Lift me to the Moon ♫...
  • Red Pill of the Day: Monocles are making a comeback --because Glass-holes are soooo 2013...
  • Thanks, Susan & Tim.

    Quote of the Day:

    "Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what's happening at the back door, we can't have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It's not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it."

    ~Sir Tim Berners-Lee

"Not Fit to Be Printed": The Suppressed Alchemical Papers of the Great Scientist Sir Isaac Newton

William Blake's Painting of Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton's influence on the modern scientific worldview is profound, and despite a paradigm change in physics a century ago through the discoveries of the quantum world, many people still see the world through the prism (no pun intended) of 'Newtonian' physics. Indeed, that scientific philosophy has now become synonymous with a purely mechanical cosmos, stripped of superstition, magic, and even the impact of consciousness, via the loss of free will. It is a worldview, however, that may have horrified Newton himself.

When the great scientist died in 1727, he left behind him a substantial estate, including a library with nearly 1800 books and a large number of manuscripts. He did not, however, leave behind a will. After much debate and argument, it was decided that the manuscripts would be examined by Dr. Thomas Pellet, a member of the Royal Society, with the intention to publish and sell them. Once Pellet had looked over the papers though, the idea of releasing them publicly quickly receded - in the end, only one out of eighty-one items was published. The rest were tagged “Not fit to be Printed”:

Many of these manuscripts were of a theological nature. Theology as such was of course not an issue, but, on the contrary, an asset: After all, Newton was one of the true defenders of the faith against popish plots and Cartesian deism. But Mr. Pellet must have had a bad time when he realised that Newton’s theology was of a very heretical nature. Leafing through piles of apocalyptical interpretations and anti-Athenasian rants, Pellet understood that Newton’s anti-Trinitarianism and idiosyncratic interpretation of Church history should not be made public, lest the image of the great Newton be blemished.

...At the time of his death, Newton’s library contained at least 138 books on alchemy, many of which showed signs of extensive use. This was not unheard of for ‘enlightened scientists’: some were avid book collectors, interested in all sorts of curiosities. The manuscripts, however, proved that Newton’s interest in alchemy went far beyond curiosity. There are thousands of folios with Newton copying from all sorts of alchemical manuscripts, and recent scholarship has shown that he must have been actively involved in the circulation of alchemical knowledge. Not only did he read and copy out entire tracts, Newton even gave detailed descriptions of alchemical experiments he performed himself. How could a hero of modern science be engaged in such occult and ‘unscientific’ practices?

The economist John Maynard Keynes purchased Newton's works - many of which were encoded and needed deciphering - at auction in 1942, and on discovering the alchemical nature of much of it was moved to state that "Newton was not the first of the age of reason, he was the last of the magicians".

For those interested in learning more, see the Nova feature Newton's Dark Secrets embedded below:

(via Forbidden Histories and Dangerous Minds)

The Music of Birds & Fractal Dancing

When Jarbas Agnelli was reading a newspaper one day, he saw a photo of birds perched on wires. He was immediately struck by how the arrangement of the birds resembled musical notes. So he cut out the photo and composed music. Or rather, the birds did. The result is enchanting.

Agnelli wrote:
The birds’ bodies were mostly above the wires. So I took them as notes filling the spaces between the lines. Those notes are F, A, C, E and G. If you make a melody or play chords with those 5 notes, there is no way to go wrong. Of course, as I said, I had to decide about some things and make some interpretations. No accidents. 4 by 4 tempo. And the duration of the notes. But I tried to keep it as pure as possible, on the matters of note pitch, note sequence and chords.

From the middle of the song on, I embellished the arrangement, playing variations of the theme, on various orchestral instruments, like the oboe, the bassoon and the clarinet. I think the success of the piece comes from all those elements. The idea of birds composing a song. The music itself. The illustrative video. source

I can only imagine what symphonies are being composed by the fractal dancing of starlings...