News Briefs 13-01-2017

“Everywhere is walking distance if you've got the time.”

Quote of the Day:

“I was once walking through the forest alone. A tree fell right in front of me, and I didn't hear a thing.”

Steven Wright

Dean Radin Talks About Approaching Magic as a Scientist

In the talk above, given at the Science and Nonduality Conference, Dr Dean Radin discusses 'magic' as being the substrate that religion and science both grew from - despite both subsequently making it a heretical subject:

Humanity's first grasp of reality was based on a magical worldview. Over millennia, magic evolved into a multitude of esoteric and religious ideas. Within the last five centuries our worldview has settled upon science as the arbiter of truth. Each of these major transitions has offered more comprehensive explanations of the natural world, but each new paradigm also suppressed useful elements of previous worldviews. Based on the historical record, as well as a growing body of new experimental studies, we can now gain a glimmering of what our next grasp of reality may look like, along with its pragmatic consequences.

Dean mentions that this entire subject is central to the new book he is currently working on - look forward to it!

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News Briefs 12-01-2017

Why no love for Stranger Things, Golden Globes? Is it because we officially entered the Age of the Upside-Down?

  • Mr. T (ya know, the orange one) just let go all the people in charge of maintaining the US nuclear arsenal --Up.Side.Down amigos.
  • Queen Elizabeth's long-lost skirt found on church altar in Herefordshire --a queen taking her skirt off in a church? Now THAT is a Netflix series I wanna watch!
  • Thanks to the magic of digital reconstruction, you can now loon into the eyes of the 9,500-year-old Jericho Man.
  • Mythological animal confirmed to be real --Nope, not that one.
  • Week in Weird's Greg Newkirk offers a rather sacrilegous idea of why we'll never find a Bigfoot body.
  • In space, no one can hear you have a total mental breakdown
  • Congrats on your 600 days in orbit with your super-secret robotic space plane, US Air Force. Care to tell us what the hell is doing up there, or do we wait for the Russians to break the news? .
  • Science concludes: Yes, there have been aliens.
  • My last appearance in Radio Misterioso consisted on Greg and I geeking out over The Arrival, musing about UFOs, Language, Time perception and a whole lot more.
  • Why Chomsky's theories about language were challenged by an Amazonian tribe.
  • California's famous 'tunnel tree' brought down by Trump tweet winter storm.
  • The New York Times offers some valuable advice on how to conquer your negative thinking --and NO, they DON'T include stop reading The New York Times…
  • The descendants of the 120,000 Japanese-American citizens who were incarcerated during WWII are still haunted by that injustice.
  • The mysterious vanishing of Ambrose Bierce.
  • Red Pill of the Day: Yes, there are actually people selling 'vintage milk' (read 'spoiled') online. Hey, if it worked with 'subprime mortgages' (read '$#itty') amiright? It's all in the labeling, baybeh!!

Thanks to Kat and the Demigorgon --hey, at least he was clear in his intentions!

Quote of the Day:

"We have Hope. Rebellions are built on Hope!"

~Jyn Erso, Rogue One

Mark Your Calendars For The 2022 Nova!

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Think you know the night sky like the back of your hand? Around the year 2022 some astronomers are pretty certain a new star will join the firmament after two stars collide near the constellation of Cygnus.

A new paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal concerns KIC 9832227, a contact binary, and how it will brighten ten thousandfold sometime in the near future. What's happening is this pair of stars are spiralling in towards each other, becoming so close that they now share the same stellar atmosphere. Lawrence Molnar and his colleagues reckon we'll witness this spectacular collision, and subsequent nova, within our lifetimes.

Right now KIC 9832227 is a magnitude 12 star, too faint for the naked eye, in the neighborhood of Delta Cygni. Even with perfect stargazing conditions, an observer will need at least an 8 inch / 203 mm telescope to catch its light. When KIC 9832227 finally explodes it will be as bright as Polaris, or Alpha Hydrae for our Australian friends, burning at second magnitude. While that brightness is hardly remarkable, unlike the immanent Eta Carinae supernova, keep in mind this pair is ~1,800 light years from us. KIC 9832227's aftermath as a luminous red nova will glow in our skies for only a few weeks, or months, before fading away. Best of all, it will be visible from both hemispheres.

For more details, check out the preprint for the Prediction of a Red Nova Outburst in KIC 9832227.

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Cat Uses Sign Language To Ask For Food

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Humans have taught gorillas to communicate with sign language, why not cats? Here's a gem that's been bouncing around the internet for a while and worth a watch.

For those who know American Sign Language, this cat is spot-on with her gestures asking for food. While kitty can't make a squished 'O', her gesture of putting food in her mouth is unambiguous. Just watch the following video.

One can argue the cat's conditioned to act in a certain way to beg for food, but people who are owned by cats certainly know there's something more behind their inscrutible countenances.

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News Briefs 11-01-2017

When do we offically start using "Thanks Trump" instead of "Thanks Obama"? Asking for a friend...

Quote of the Day:

What do sad people have in common? It seems they have all built a shrine to the past and often go there and do a strange wail and worship. What is the beginning of Happiness? It is to stop being so religious like that.

Hafiz

News Briefs 10-01-2017

Look up here man, I'm in danger...

Quote of the Day:

The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head.

Terry Pratchett

The Great Dying

The Departed of 2016 - Image by Chris Barker

(Image by Chris Barker)

One year ago today, I was in Amboise, France, as part of the trip of a lifetime around Europe with my wife and children. Upon waking that rainy, gloomy winter's day, I absent-mindedly checked my Twitter timeline, and was snapped out of my daze when I read the shocking news that David Bowie had sadly passed away, after turning 69 just a couple of days previous.

It turned out to be a day filled with death. Our itinerary for the day began with a visit to Château du Clos Lucé, a small château that is famous for being the residence of Leonardo da Vinci in his final years - with one of the main 'attractions' being a viewing of the actual bed that the great Master was lying in when he took his final breath.

From Amboise we then drove to our next stay, an absolutely wonderful historical chateau not far from Rennes that we booked through AirBnB. On arrival, however, we were met not by the owner, but instead by their neighbour. As it turns out, the owner's husband had died that very day after suffering a heart attack, and yet she had amazingly taken the time and consideration to organise for her neighbour to come and greet us and make sure we settled into the place comfortably.

This 'day of death' finished with a bang as well - as we were eating dinner in the dining room of the old chateau that night, my wife suddenly swung her head around to look behind us. Nothing was there, despite, she recounted, the fact that she had seen someone walk behind us in the reflection from the window.

A year on, and it turns out not to have been so much a 'death day', but an entire year. From Bowie, to the massive loss of Prince in April, through to George Michael and Carrie Fisher at year's end - and a cavalcade of departed stars and personalities in between - 2016 as serial killer became a meme that many could relate to, along with the fervent hope that 2017 would be better.

The thing is though, I'm not sure that's going to be the case. In actual fact, I think 2016 might just be the herald for a new period that I (perhaps hyperbolically) refer to as the 'Great Dying'.

The 'Great Dying' arises from the confluence of three factors:

  • In the 1950s and 60s the amount of 'famous people' increased dramatically with the advent of television, 'pop' music and mass-marketed professional sport. People who became stars at a yound age in those and following decades are now 60 to 90 years of age.
  • Furthermore, the pressures of reaching and maintaining that celebrity status - especially in the last few decades, have pushed some performers and sportsmen to the limits physically and psychologically. Witness for instance the painkillers required by Michael Jackson and Prince, which ultimately resulted in their premature deaths. And both living with that celebrity status, and the emotional valley of slipping from that status, also have their deleterious effects on the human psyche and body. So there will always be a portion of stars who die at an earlier age than expected.
  • Lastly, in the modern era of 24-hour news cycles and social media, we are hyper-aware of every celebrity's passing and 'grieve' as a community when that happens, sharing thoughts, quotes and tributes, and meditating on that person's passing more thoroughly than in the past.

Without wishing to start a dead pool, to illustrate point one consider the following list of movie stars who are house-hold names: Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery are 86; James Earl Jones and William Shatner are 85; Judi Dench and Brigitte Bardot are 82; Donald Sutherland is 81 and Robert Redford is 80; Morgan Freeman, Jane Fonda, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson are 79. In music, the (surviving members of) The Beatles, Stones and Led Zep are in their 70s, while Tina Turner is 77 and Aretha Franklin is 74. For the SF&F geeks out there, Ursula Le Guin is 87; Tom Baker is 82; Ian McKellen is 77 and Patrick Stewart is 76; Ridley Scott is 79. Anthony Hopkins is 79; Al Pacino is 76; Harrison Ford is 74; De Niro is 73. David Attenborough is 90.

That's just a quick listing off the top of my head, so you can only imagine how many well-known people are in what would be expected to be the final decade or two of their lives. And that doesn't include all those who might pop off earlier than expected, from cancer, heart attack, accident, suicide or other assorted causes (I've personally almost checked out after being stung by a wasp, of all things). This is perhaps what made 2016 seem so shocking - losing the likes of David Bowie at 69, Carrie Fisher at 60, Prince at 57, George Michael at 53 and Phife Dawg at 45. But given the number of celebrities out there, is this the new normal?

The Great Dying has begun. So it might be about time we addressed our in-built aversion to dealing with death and loss head-on.

News Briefs 09-01-2017

The guys running our Simulation appear to be re-using old code...

Quote of the Day:

Heathenism is a state of mind. You can take it that I'm referring to one who does not see his world. He has no mental light. He destroys almost unwittingly. He cannot feel any Gods presence in his life. He is the 21st century man.

David Bowie