Tag Archives | Magick

James Randi: debunking the king of the debunkers

an-honest-liar-film-festival

via The Telegraph:

There are few public figures who’ve had decades of an almost perfectly positive press, as James Randi has. The 87-year-old debunker of the paranormal was Richard Dawkins before God invented Richard Dawkins – angry, verbally aggressive, a hero to the kinds of people who don’t believe in Big Foot and are rational enough to become sleepless with fury at the brainlessness of the idiots who do.

Author and thinker Isaac Asimov once claimed Randi’s “qualifications as a rational human being are unparalleled”, whilst the New York Times has called him our “most celebrated living debunker”. More recently he’s been the star of an award winning documentary film telling his incredible story.

Originally a magician and escapologist known as The Amazing Randi he graduated, as a young man, to the more serious business of exposing con-men and the self-deluded who claim supernatural powers. His long life and career has been devoted to the pursuit of truth above all else.

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Death Should be Optional

Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot in “The Seventh Seal”

Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot in “The Seventh Seal”

via H+ Magazine:

Now more than ever, the topic of death is marked by no shortage of diverging opinions.

On the one hand, there are serious thinkers — Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Michio Kaku, Marshall Brain, Aubrey de Grey and others — who foresee that technology may enable humans to defeat death. There are also dissenters who argue that this is exceedingly unlikely. And there are those like Bill Joy who think that such technologies are technologically feasible but morally reprehensible.

As a non-scientist I am not qualified to evaluate scientific claims about what science can and cannot do. What I can say is that plausible scenarios for overcoming death have now appeared. This leads to the following questions: If individuals could choose immortality, should they? Should societies fund and promote research to defeat death?

The question regarding individuals has a straightforward answer: We should respect the right of autonomous individuals to choose for themselves.

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The epigenetics of The X-Files

X chromosome inactivation can definitely be explained by epigenetics. X-Files? Less certain. Image from Reinius et al., BMC Genomics 2010, 11, 614.

X chromosome inactivation can definitely be explained by epigenetics. X-Files? Less certain. Image from Reinius et al., BMC Genomics 2010, 11, 614.

via The Guardian:

The X-Files was my absolute favourite television show in the 1990s. My flatmates and I would tune in every week to watch intrepid FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully track down assorted aliens, psychics, vampires, ghosts, and government conspiracies. We bought the soundtrack CD; we even had a poster on our living room wall. It was A Big Deal, for all seven seasons (some people think there were nine seasons, but I refuse to admit that seasons eight and nine – or the second movie – ever happened).

Dana Scully was a scientist, always looking for a perfectly rational explanation for the strange phenomena encountered each week. Many of these explanations were based on genetics, especially in the “monster-of-the-week” episodes featuring assorted freaks and other abominations not part of the main alien conspiracy storyline.

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Fifty More Ways to Leave Leviathan

Matthias Ripp (CC BY 2.0)

Matthias Ripp (CC BY 2.0)

via Fee:

It’s been over a year since we published “50 Ways to Leave Leviathan.” That successful piece showed how innovation and entrepreneurship are gradually undermining the top-down, command-and-control approach to governance.

It is happening quickly by any historical standard, but it is also happening incrementally in ways that cause us not to notice. The bigger the pattern, the more slowly we tend to recognize it. The bigger the implication, the more resistant we are to acknowledging it.

We even take it all for granted. In reality, the ground is shifting beneath our feet. Those in power feel it, and it scares them. The innovation can be slowed, but it can’t be stopped, much less reversed. This great transformation is already underway.

The theme, as always, is human freedom, which is the insuppressible urge within all of us to live full and ever more prosperous lives, regardless of the barriers put in the way.

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Many memories, many rooms

Maxwell Hamilton (CC BY 2.0)

Maxwell Hamilton (CC BY 2.0)

via Gemini:

Since the time of the Greeks, people have used a special memory trick called the method of loci,  which links memories to familiar places. You retrieve the memory by thinking of the place and calling up the associated memory.

Now researchers from NTNU’s Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and Centre for Neural Computation have published new findings on how the brain is able to store many separate but similar events, which helps explain how this trick works. Their results have just been published in the 8 December issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

“We are extremely good at remembering places and we are very visual creatures,” says PhD candidate and first author of the paper Charlotte Alme. “Rats (and most likely humans) have a map for each individual place, which is why the method of loci works.

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The Weirdest Cemeteries In The World

via All That Is Interesting:

By default, cemeteries are unnerving places that tend to attract few tourists. However, for every plain Jane who prefers to go out with a slab of granite, an eccentric leaves her mark as part of a manmade barrier reef. For those types—and for tourists who want a slice of the zany macabre while traveling—they should consider any of the following cemeteries.

The Merry Cemetery

Friendliest cemetery in the world Source: Wikipedia

Friendliest cemetery in the world
Source: Wikipedia

Someone liked to have a drink Source: WIkimedia

Someone liked to have a drink
Source: WIkimedia

Read More: http://all-that-is-interesting.com/weirdest-cemeteries

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Brain, Mind, and the Structure of Reality

41mWxz-huiLvia IEET:

The US neurophysiologist Paul Nunez previously wrote “Electric Fields of the Brain” (1981) and “Neocortical Dynamics and Human EEG Rhythms” (1995), and in fact his credentials in the field of brain studies harken back to a paper originally written in 1972 and ambitiously titled “The Brain Wave Equation” (an equation that eventually he resurrects in this book, 40 years later). In this book Nunez summarizes his novel ideas on the way that “brains cause minds” (to use Searle’s expression)

In the 1960s the US neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet discovered that the “readiness potential” precedes movement by about half a second, and awareness of this “decision to act” follows by about 300 milliseconds. In other words, the brain decides unconsciously to act, before we are aware of having decided to act. We become aware of the action only if the neural event lasts about 500 milliseconds.

A way to interpret this is that we are conscious only of electric field patterns in the brain that last about half a second.

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The Surprising Power of an Electric Eel’s Shock

Doug Letterman (CC BY 2.0)

Doug Letterman (CC BY 2.0)

via The New York Times:

For thousands of years, fishermen knew that certain fish could deliver a painful shock, even though they had no idea how it happened. Only in the late 1700s did naturalists contemplate a bizarre possibility: These fish might release jolts of electricity — the same mysterious substance as in lightning.

That possibility led an Italian physicist named Alessandro Volta in 1800 to build an artificial electric fish. He observed that electric stingrays had dense stacks of muscles, and he wondered if they allowed the animals to store electric charges. To mimic the muscles, he built a stack of metal disks, alternating between copper and zinc.

Volta found that his model could store a huge amount of electricity, which he could unleash as shocks and sparks. Today, much of society runs on updated versions of Volta’s artificial electric fish. We call them batteries.

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DMT and the Bible: An Interview with Rick Strassman

51jfPl+PNwLvia Reality Sandwich:

This interview was conducted to mark the release of Dr. Rick Strassman’s new book, DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Biblepublished by Park Street Press.

Jeff: Rick, can you tell us a bit about why you wrote this book?  Your work, of course, is well known and celebrated through your first book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule.  But this book seems like a ‘return to roots,’ as it were. Can you speak in particular to that?

Rick: I was left with a handful of difficult questions at the end of my DMT research in 1995. And I felt I had only partially worked them through in the process of writing DMT: The Spirit Molecule in 2000. It seemed to me that all of these questions would resolve themselves if I could only find the proper model or models that could help me understand the DMT effect.

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Spooky alignment of quasar axes across billions of light-years with large-scale structure

Artist’s rendering of ULAS J1120+0641, a very distant quasar powered by a black hole with a mass two billion times that of the Sun (credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

Artist’s rendering of ULAS J1120+0641, a very distant quasar powered by a black hole with a mass two billion times that of the Sun (credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

via Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence:

New observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have revealed alignments over the largest structures ever discovered in the Universe. A European research team has found that the rotation axes of the central supermassive black holes in a sample of quasars are parallel to each other over distances of billions of light-years. The team has also found that the rotation axes of these quasars tend to be aligned with the vast structures in the cosmic web in which they reside.

Quasars are galaxies with very active supermassive black holes at their centers. These black holes are surrounded by spinning discs of extremely hot material that is often spewed out in long jets along their axes of rotation.

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