News Briefs 02-08-2016

Only 3 days left before we pick a winner for this signed Alan Moore comic...get in!

Thanks Kat, Ray and Michael.

Quote of the Day:

Policymakers who deny basic scientific truths should be denied penicillin, horseless carriages, and airtime on the magic box of shadows.

Joss Whedon

An Introduction to Anomalistic Psychology, with Professor Chris French

In the video above, well-known skeptic Chris French (Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London) introduces the field of 'anomalistic psychology', and how it can be of use in understanding strange beliefs in the paranormal and conspiracies.

Ever since records began, in every known society, a substantial proportion of the population has reported unusual experiences many of which we would today label as ‘paranormal’. Opinion polls show that the majority of the general public accepts that paranormal phenomena do occur. Such widespread experience of and belief in the paranormal can only mean one of two things. Either the paranormal is real, in which case this should be accepted by the wider scientific community which currently rejects such claims; or else belief in and experience of ostensibly paranormal phenomena can be fully explained in terms of psychological factors. Chris French provides an introduction to the sub-discipline of anomalistic psychology, which may be defined as the study of extraordinary phenomena of behaviour and experience, in an attempt to provide non-paranormal explanations in terms of known psychological and physical factors.

There's plenty in the talk that a smart Fortean should take on board when evaluating evidence for strange phenomena, even if sometimes the full skeptical viewpoint can wear a little. Overall, a great little talk though.

Related stories:

News Briefs 01-08-2016

Only five days left to get in on a chance at winning this signed Alan Moore comic (and help support the Grail at the same time)!

Thanks Kat.

Quote of the Day:

It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.

Mark Twain

Nightmares of the Present: Anthrax Outbreak in Russia Came From a 75-Year-Old Frozen Reindeer Carcass Thawed by Heatwave


A horror scenario straight out of a science fiction story appears to have come to life in Russia, with an outbreak of anthrax - which has killed 1500 reindeer and hospitalized a number of humans - being blamed on a frozen 75-year-old reindeer carcass that has been thawed by a recent heatwave:

According to the Siberian Times, officials initially thought that the reindeer deaths and human illnesses were the result of a heat wave, after uncommonly high temperatures of up to 95 degrees F swept through the region. And, in a way, it seems they were: Officials with the Russian Ministry of Agriculture believe the cause of infection is the thawing of the frozen carcass of a reindeer that died 75 years ago. Reindeer, weakened by the heat, may have eaten the carcass, and then passed on the disease to the nomad herders.

Grailers will remember one of Mikey's posts in his "Nightmares of the Future" series touched on the 'climatological horror' scenario depicted in the British TV show Fortitude (if you haven't seen it, spoilers follow). In that case, a thawing mammoth carcass was to blame for bringing back to life an ancient parasite that spreads through the population of a small settlement in Norway.

As our planet continues to warm, and glaciers and other ice packs disappear, hopefully there aren't any greater 'evils' waiting to wake from their slumber...

Related posts:

Nothin' But Net: Skydiver Free-Falls 25,000 Feet Without a Parachute or Wingsuit, Landing in a Net

Here's your dose of crazy for the day: American skydiver Luke Aikins jumped from a plane at 25,000 feet with no parachute or wingsuit, aiming to freefall the entire distance and land in a (relatively) small net held off the ground by four cranes.

Spoiler alert: He's still alive.

News Briefs 29-07-2016

“A frog in a well cannot conceive of the ocean.”

Quote of the Day:

“The wise man looks into space and does not regard the small as too little, nor the great as too big, for he knows that, there is no limit to dimensions.”

Chuang Tse

News Briefs 28-07-2016

Grailers: get in quick to be sure to have a chance at winning this signed Alan Moore comic...

Quote of the Day:

If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.

Malcolm X

Why Does Our Universe Seem to be Fine-Tuned for the Existence of Life?

A continuing bone of contention in modern physics is the strange manner in which our universe seems perfectly tuned to give rise to life. For some, it is evidence that our existence is no accident, while more skeptical thinkers have suggested that the thinking is back to front - and we only see things as perfectly tuned because life was what arose under the conditions of our universe.

The video above is from a recent discussion hosted by the Institute of Art and Ideas titled "A Goldilocks World", featuring philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, M-Theorist and author of Universe or Multiverse? Bernard Carr, and Oxford constructor theorist Chiara Marletto:

Is the universe finely tuned for life? Copernicus and Darwin taught us to be skeptical of feeling we were special. Yet from the size of the electron to the cosmological constant our universe is strangely fine-tuned for life. Is this a spectacularly fortuitous accident? Has the universe been tailored for us or do the theories just make it look that way?

News Briefs 27-07-2016


Quote of the Day:

The multiverse is the last refuge of the die-hard materialist.

Philip Comella