Tuesday Roundup 28-08-2007

A strange assortment to get you through the week...


Aliens Didn't Build the Pyramids

The blog of Egyptologist Margaret Maitland ('The Eloquent Peasant') has an entry worth checking out entitled "Why the Aliens Did Not Build the Pyramids". While I'm all for listening to alternative hypotheses about ancient cultures, I do have to wade through a lot of rubbish from people who simply don't do any basic research before putting forth their theory. This article is a great primer for getting acquainted with the basics of how the pyramids were built, including such overlooked things as the quarries and tools/methods used. I would argue with some points in the essay though, not least the suggestion that Bauval and Gilbert suggested that aliens built the Great Pyramid in 10,500 BC. But a worthy read all the same.

Radio 28-08-2007

Here's the alternative radio schedule for the first half of the week.

Fate Radio: This week Hilly talks to Philip Gardiner about the secret societies who rule the world (Real Audio or mp3).

Coast to Coast AM: Tuesday is TBA (check the link for updates), on Wednesday Mark Farmer will discuss HAARP's new operational status and how it will be injecting megawatts of high frequency radio energy into the ionosphere. Thursday's guest is paranormal investigator Loyd Auerbach, who will discuss his recent techniques for improving ghost investigations as well as research using biometric sensing instruments.

More details including relevant guest links are available at the C2C website.

News Briefs 27-08-2007

Are you being targeted by the perps? I'm pretty sure they've been dogging me for decades.

Quote of the Day:

I froze in amazement - there stands something like a large, black silo framed in white limestone formations. It is a glass-smooth flank of a seemingly man-made structure. Even the thought of a tower-sized artifact embedded in rock in the middle of an obscure mountain is bewildering.

Antonin T. Horak's Diary, October 23, 1944, quoted from 'A subterranean artifact in Slovakia'.

Ghost Hunter Interview

I've posted a new interview to the Grail today which I'm sure many of you will find fascinating. I had the good fortune to have a chat with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Deborah Blum, whose book Ghost Hunters (Amazon US and UK) provides a wonderful glimpse into a period 120 years ago when some of the most esteemed scientists in the world studied the possibility of an afterlife. I've titled the interview "Science and the Afterlife", as a good deal of our conversation also revolved around the way modern science has reacted to the topic of afterlife research. Deborah's answers are intelligent and well worth reading, so get a brew and sit down for a good read. I should mention too - as I have before - that at the time of posting Amazon have Ghost Hunters for an unbelievable $5 in hardcover - you won't get better value for your dollar than that this year. Thanks to Deborah for sharing her time with us, and also Michael Tymn for helping me set this up.

Not So Out of Body

Stop press! 'First Out-of-body Experience Induced In Laboratory Setting'. Or, even better, 'Researchers Find an Explanation for Out-of-Body Experiences'. And so on. For more coverage, visit the always excellent Mind Hacks, which even has a link to video of researcher Olaf Blanke discussing the experiments.

It's the big news of today, with coverage everywhere from the BBC to New Scientist. But, as is usual, it's utter hype, and the headlines are completely incorrect. No explanation has been found at all, although the experiments are pretty funky and provide some interesting insights into our sense of self. However, no OBE was 'induced' - virtual reality masks and cameras were used to give a different perspective, and the scientists make this point explicitly, that they are not actually creating a true OBE. This is extremely important, as perhaps the most fascinating question of the OBE is whether the separate perspective which occurs during an OBE is a complex reconstruction by the brain, or consciousness actually perceiving from outside the body.

Further to this, there is evidence of the latter, and this research does not explain that aspect in any way. From people not recognising themselves (because they looked different to how they are used to seeing themselves, in a mirror), through to veridical perception, this is at the core of the mystery of OBEs. And to really push the boundaries, we also have to consider 'reciprocal apparitions', in which the OBE perceiver is seen by another person actually 'out of body'.

The encyclopaedic Irreducible Mind goes into some detail on these points, and actually mentions some of the earlier research done by Olaf Blanke and colleagues, with a pertinent comment:

To equate OBEs with pathological "body illusions," as Blanke et al. do, seems to us to beg the question of the nature of these experiences by ignoring the complexity of their physiological, psychological, and phenomenological aspects. In short, studies such as that of Blanke et al...have not provided anything like a complete and verified neurophysiological account of the OBE, but rather some preliminary findings and hypotheses to be pursued in further work.

Interesting how everyone is in such a rush to claim the OBE is now explained, when it is certainly not the case...it's worth a study of its own, this pathological need to explain things that don't fit the materialist paradigm.

Captchas on Comments

Just a quick note to point out that when you add a comment to the site, you will now have to fill out a 'captcha' (at the bottom of the input page) to verify that you are a human being (you should only have to do this once per session when logged in). Apologies for this measure, but after 2000 spam comments were added to the site over the past 7 days, something had to be done. I am thinking about creating a special type of user account, who would be exempt from captchas, and moving all regular commenters to that user status - I'll get back to you on that once I've figured it out. Until then, remember to fill out the captcha if you want your comment posted (and please note, you have to use upper and lower case as required).

Weekend Roundup 24-08-2007

A few things to keep you busy over the weekend...


Haiti UFO Hoaxer Comes Clean

'Tis the year of the UFO - both real and hoaxed. Readers no doubt have seen mentioned here (and elsewhere) the 'Haiti UFO video' on YouTube, viewed by more than 2 million people (and considered one of the top viral videos). David Sarno of the L.A. Times did some investigating, and managed to track down the creator of the clips:

Barzolff [a pseudonym], 35, is a professional animator who has a decade of experience with computer graphics and commercial animation. The videos, he said, were intended as research for a feature-film project he's been working on with Partizan, the company responsible for, among others, Michel Gondry's 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'.

When contacted to verify the story, Eternal Sunshine producer Georges Bermann said it was all true, and that Barzolff was "an absolute genius" who could "make anything look entirely real."

The movie Barzolff is working on for the big screen is about two guys who create a UFO hoax so realistic that it spirals out of their control. Barzolff stressed the videos were not intended as a viral marketing ploy. His movie is still in the idea phase, and he created the hoax strictly as a "sociological experiment" - in other words, just to see what would happen.

Following in the footsteps of the 'Chad drones', and last year's 'Australian UFO Wave', it appears we've reached a watershed moment where UFO images/video are worth pretty much zero evidential value. Not that we've given any credence to them here on TDG, but there's plenty of others out there who embarrass the rest of us with their credulity.

Sarno asked 'Barzolff' if he could provide some sort of confirmation that he was indeed responsible for the video clips, and before too long he posted the 'Naughty Grannies' clip on YouTube with the comment "Back from Haiti with a big, new toy". Nevertheless, it's instructive to note that 'Barzolff' described the results of his experiment "a little scary," because in spite of the evidence, "many people refuse to believe it's a hoax."

News Briefs 24-08-2007

A shout-out to my big sis for her very big birthday yesterday...

Quote of the Day:

I think the very rigidity of science has made it an incredibly powerful investigative tool into nature - we reap the benefits of that daily. But that same exclusivity has made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do major investigations of some very important questions.

Deborah Blum