Author Archive | majestic

The Conspiracy Effect

Sander van der Linden, Ph.D., a social psychologist in the Department of Psychology at Princeton University, explains why exposure to popular conspiracy theories can make you less “pro-social” (whatever that means) at Psychology Today:

Is the government covering up evidence of alien existence? Are powerful elites plotting a New World Order? Is global warming a hoax? Are lizard people taking over the planet? And are vaccines really the government’s attempt at mass mind-control?

secrets of the founding fathers

There seems to be something inexplicably compelling about the nature of conspiracy theories; over 50% of Americans now believe in at least one conspiracy theory. You might think that even although substantial minorities of people endorse these type of “eccentric” beliefs, conspiracy ideation mostly seems harmless fun, food for those who are palpably out of touch with reality.

Think again! In a new study, I find that mere exposure to a popular conspiracy theory can make you less pro-social and less likely to accept established scientific principles.

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Gorillas Are Showing Signs Of Learning To Talk

Talking apes may be about to leap from the world of science fiction to the world of science fact, reports the Independent:

Researchers have identified speech patterns in a gorilla, previously thought to be impossible for apes.

A gorilla named Koko became famous for her ability to learn sign language in order to communicate with her keepers. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison say that she is now displaying signs of being capable of speech.

Traditionally, it has been believed that vocal performance by apes has been limited to spontaneous noise expressed, for instance, at shock of seeing a predator or to intimidate a fellow mammal in a fight.

It was believed that beyond this, apes lacked the cognitive capacity and breathing control to engage in organised and premeditated speech.

Postdoctoral researcher Marcus Perlman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Nathaniel Clark at the University of California analysed 71 hours of video footage of Koko’s behaviour.

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The Israeli Scientist Slowly Poisoning Herself With Radiation To Save Us All From Nuclear Fallout

This is really dedication to your work! The Times of Israel reports on Brenda Laster, the retired Israeli scientist who’s poisoning herself to find a vaccine for nuclear radiation:

Hiroshima girl.jpg

A Japanese girl from Hiroshima presenting the effects of radiation sickness.

A retired professor living in the manicured desert town of Meitar believes she has discovered a potential vaccine that, taken in advance of a nuclear attack, would reduce the physiological damage from radiation.

Her theory is yet untested, but is built around the notion that humans can be vaccinated against radiation in the same way as a virus: introduce small amounts of it to “teach” the body how to respond when larger amounts are suddenly present.

Just as the reactive immune system “remembers, rapidly responds, and protects us” from, say, smallpox, once it has been initially introduced to the body in a small dose in vaccine form, so too will the signature damage of radiation, which triggers the unchecked secretion of hydrogen peroxide within the body, be picked up and addressed, said Professor Brenda Laster, who taught nuclear engineering as applied to medicine at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

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The Shadow Over Lovecraft And His Alien Creations

Howard Phillips LovecraftWill there ever be a darker cult author than HP Lovecraft? The favorite sci-fi horror writer is profiled by Weird Things:

You probably know that H.P. Lovecraft was not known for his health, wealth, progressive views, or success in life. In fact, anything positive that happened to the man took place long after he’d been buried in obscurity. Today we know him as the creator of the sci-fi horror genre, a classic inspiration for ancient alien theories as we know them today, and yes, a virulent racist who had immense distaste for anyone who was not a white, male, wealthy Protestant with English roots, and drew on it to create alien monsters who ignored his protagonists at best, or would pray on them with a bizarre indifference. Society’s views have evolved since his lack of a heyday, and a lot of his creations found new lives in an entirely new genre.

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White supremacist convicted in plot to kill Obama with ‘death ray’ device

ObamaKKK death ray devices?!? Read on via the Guardian:

A New York white supremacist was convicted by a federal jury on Friday of plotting to use a remote-controlled radiation device he called “Hiroshima on a light switch” to harm Muslims and President Barack Obama.

After less than three hours of deliberation in US district court in Albany, New York, the jury unanimously found Glendon Scott Crawford guilty of all three charges against him.

Crawford, 51, wearing a gray suit and eyeglasses, showed no emotion as judge Gary Sharpe read the verdict.

He was convicted of use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to build and use a radiological dispersal device. He was also convicted of distributing information with respect to a weapon of mass destruction.

“Glendon Scott Crawford was a terrorist who attempted to acquire a weapon of mass destruction and to use it to kill innocent members of the Muslim community,” said Richard Hartunian, US attorney for the northern district of New York.

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Modafinil Is The First Smart Drug That Really Works

Scientists say it is time to have an ethical debate about whether Modafinil should be “condoned or condemned,” reports the Telegraph:

A ‘smart drug’ taken by one in four students at Oxford University really does boost brain power and colleges need to consider whether it should be banned, scientists have said.


Modafinil is currently available on NHS as a treatment for narcolepsy but surveys have suggested that a fifth of university students use it to enhance performance for revising and exams after it was linked to improved cognition.

Oxford University and Harvard Medical School looked at 24 studies into modafainil and have concluded that it really does improve thinking skills, particularly in long complex tasks. It was also found to help with planning, decision making, flexibility, learning and memory, and creativity.

It is the first ‘smart drug’ found to actually work and it appears to have few side effects, say researchers.

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Taking (Recreational) Drugs Is A Human Right

It seems an impossibly progressive stance for a group of politicians to take, but in the UK some very high profile people are pushing for the use of drugs to be recognized as a human right. From the Independent:

Taking drugs is a human right, according to a cross-party group of MPs and peers who want to legalise the possession, purchase and growing of drugs.

Addiction, Gluttony - Day 149 of Project 365

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform want to use human rights legislation to decriminalise drug use, claiming the “blanket prohibition” drug policy approach has failed.

In a new report it suggests that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlines rights to “private and family life”, could be used by defendants caught with illegal drugs.

It says drug laws needed to “reflect the supremacy of human rights conventions” and suggests that as long as drug taking does not harm others, it should not be a criminal offence.

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Nazi Gold Train Attracts Hordes Of Fortune Hunters To Poland

Ah, the mythical Nazi gold train – the stuff of legend. A couple of likely lads are claiming they’ve found just such a train in Poland – and want 10% of the proceeds for revealing its exact whereabouts. The news media and fortune hunters alike are all over Wroclaw, Poland, reports BBC News:

Two people in Poland say they may have found a Nazi train rumoured to be full of gold, gems and guns that disappeared in World War Two, Polish media say.

A Polish armoured train, the Danuta, in 1939. From the left: artillery wagon, infantry assault wagon, armored locomotive, artillery wagon.

A Polish armoured train, the Danuta, in 1939. From the left: artillery wagon, infantry assault wagon, armored locomotive, artillery wagon.

The train is believed to have gone missing near what is now the Polish city of Wroclaw as Soviet forces approached in 1945.

A law firm in south-west Poland says it has been contacted by two men who have discovered the armoured train.

Polish media say the men want 10% of the value of the train’s contents.

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NASA: There is No Asteroid Threatening Earth

There’s a panic in certain quarters of the Internet that an asteroid is going to hit Earth next month. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has issued this statement rubbishing the rumors:

Numerous recent blogs and web postings are erroneously claiming that an asteroid will impact Earth, sometime between Sept. 15 and 28, 2015. On one of those dates, as rumors go, there will be an impact — “evidently” near Puerto Rico — causing wanton destruction to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States and Mexico, as well as Central and South America.

This view of Earth comes from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the Terra satellite. Image credit: NASA

This view of Earth comes from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the Terra satellite. Image credit: NASA


That’s the rumor that has gone viral — now here are the facts.

“There is no scientific basis — not one shred of evidence — that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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For Pluto ‘Truthers,’ the New Horizons Mission Is Only the Latest Lie

The latest in the ever-expanding cast of “truthers” are Pluto truthers, who apparently think that NASA is hiding something. From Newsweek:

Southwest Research Institute waited for their piano-sized New Horizons space probe to pass by Pluto. It finally reached the dwarf planet last month and beamed photos back to Earth from billions of miles away. The stunning images captivated the scientific community, revealing ice mountains, frozen tundras and other never-before-seen details on Pluto’s surface. Stunning, that is, if the scientists are telling the truth.

There’s a small but vocal group of conspiracists—bloggers have taken to calling them “Pluto Truthers”—who claim the recent images are fake. In fact, they argue, New Horizons is simply the latest bogus galactic mission to deceive the public, perhaps to divert tax money to more secretive or nefarious government projects. That trickery is nothing new, they charge; it goes all the way back to the first moon landing.

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