Tag Archives | Science

RSA Looks to Elevate the Discussion on Spirituality

PIc: Indrajit Chatterjee (CC)

PIc: Indrajit Chatterjee (CC)

“The capacious term ‘spirituality’ lacks clarity because it is not so much a unitary concept as a signpost for a range of touchstones; our search for meaning, our sense of the sacred, the value of compassion, the experience of transcendence, the hunger for transformation.

There is little doubt that spirituality can be interesting, but what needs to be made clearer by those who take that for granted is why it is also important. To be a fertile idea for those with terrestrial power or for those who seek it, we need a way of speaking of the spiritual that is intellectually robust and politically relevant.” - Jonathan Rowson

Between explaining it away as an artifact of the brain and militant rejection of it as leftover cultural/scientific ignorance, spirituality has long been anathema to academic circles (and many corners of the YAY SCIENCE! internet community).  If it’s discussed at all, it’s from the proposition of wishful fairy stories, peppered with a healthy amount of contempt and ridicule.Read the rest

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Strange Ball Lightning Caught on High-Speed Video

English: Some scientific groups, including the...

Some scientific groups, including the Max Planck Institute, have reportedly produced a ball lightning-type effect by discharging a high-voltage capacitor in a tank of water. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chinese scientists gain new information on ball lightning from a chance recording.

via Live Science

A video recorded by accident of ball lightning in China is now shedding light on the phenomenon’s mysterious origins, researchers say.

Ball lightning occurs as glowing spheres ranging in size from a golf ball to a very large beach ball (1 to 100 centimeters, or 0.4 inches to 39 inches, in diameter). These fiery orbs can be white, yellow, red, orange, purple or green, and can persist for seconds or even minutes. Ball lightning typically appears during thunderstorms and usually hovers near the ground, drifting over the Earth at a few miles per hour, but it has also been seen on ships and even within airplanes.

Over the centuries, people have reported thousands of sightings of ball lightning.

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Eye-Movement Test Accurately Indicates Schizophrenics

Pic: Vitold Muratov (CC)

Pic: Vitold Muratov (CC)

A recent study proposes that we may be able to use current technology to identify schizophrenics without spending the copious resources for a qualified neuropsychologist to diagnose an individual case.  What implications can this have for pilot licensing, holding government office, police recruiting, and generally the overall stigma associated with individuals who are functioning and non-functioning clinical schizophrenics?

A group of scientists from Scotland, Germany, and the USA recruited schizophrenic patients from mental hospitals in Munich, Germany and Aberdeen, Scotland. The researchers confirmed schizophrenia by diagnostic procedures in the DSM-IV as well as case history.  Control group participants were recruited from the area surrounding University of Aberdeen, excluding people with a history of alcohol abuse/dependence, major head trauma involving loss of consciousness for more than 5 minutes, epilepsy or other neurological dysfunction, and first-degree family history of psychosis.

Using infrared eye-tracking technology via the EyeLink I and a 19” video screen, the study tested visual patterns in smooth pursuit of a moving object for 20 seconds, fixation stability on the same stationary object, and free-viewing of photographs including:

“Luminance-balanced natural and man made environments showing information at different spatial scales; everyday objects and food in sparse and cluttered scenes; expressive, neutral, and occluded faces; animals; and unfamiliar computer-generated images (fractal patterns, gray-scale ‘pink noise.’”

The conclusion brought by the research is that schizophrenic individuals clearly lack an ability to perform visual tests the same as control individuals.  Diagnosed schizophrenics cannot accurately pursue an object with a smooth speed and path or concentrate with normal patterns when steadily gazing at the photographs presented.… Read the rest

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Harassment of Climate Scientists Needs to Stop

Pic: NASA (PD)

Pic: NASA (PD)

Richard Schiffman writes at the Guardian:

When Michael Mann chose a career in science, he didn’t think that he would be denounced on billboards, grilled by hostile legislators on Capitol Hill and in the British House of Commons, have his emails hacked and stolen, receive letters laced with an anthrax-like white powder, and become the target of anonymous death threats.

Mann also did not imagine that he would be spending quite so much time with lawyers and in courtrooms. Today, he is the plaintiff in a controversial case that is being argued before the Virginia Supreme Court. It pits the scientist against a climate change denialist group, which is seeking to get a hold of several years worth of his emails, as well as those of dozens of other climate investigators.

Mann, who currently directs Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center, is one of the authors of the so-called “hockey stick graph“, which Al Gore used in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, to illustrate the precipitous rise in global temperatures since the dawn of industrialization when humans started spewing the heat-trapping greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere.

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The Closing of the Scientific Mind

Pic: Repdan (CC)

Pic: Repdan (CC)

Yale Professor of Computer Science David Gelernter thinks that science as become an “international bully”. You may recall that Gelernter was severely injured after receiving a mail bomb from Ted Kaczynski. Wonder what an open dialogue between these two would have been like had Kaczynski chosen a more peaceable tactic for his activism?*

Via Commentary:

The huge cultural authority science has acquired over the past century imposes large duties on every scientist. Scientists have acquired the power to impress and intimidate every time they open their mouths, and it is their responsibility to keep this power in mind no matter what they say or do. Too many have forgotten their obligation to approach with due respect the scholarly, artistic, religious, humanistic work that has always been mankind’s main spiritual support. Scientists are (on average) no more likely to understand this work than the man in the street is to understand quantum physics.

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The Dumbass Haunted World – When Propaganda Masquerades as Science

sacredsigilservitorBecause last week’s reblogging of Robert Anton Wilson’s rather harsh critique of Carl Sagan resulted in a rather spirited dialogue on my Facebook page (friend me), I did something weird. I decided to take some of my fans advice and actually read a bit of Sagan’s work, which I admitted in the post that I’d never truly done. Sadly, since I spend half my life working a soulless day job, I don’t normally have much time to commit to researching things I intentionally avoid for impromptu rants. But I quite quickly found a PDF of the Demon Haunted World, which is the book several people over the years have told me I absolutely need to read, because it WILL convince me I’m not psychic or something. Ugh, I don’t know what to tell you. I got through eight chapters or so and found myself utterly perplexed and a bit disgusted.… Read the rest

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Watch This Awesome Video Simulation of The Known Universe

“The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe”.
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Psychology Professor Issues Call for Informed Discussion Regarding ESP

Pic: Magnus Manske (CC)

Pic: Magnus Manske (CC)

Etzel Cardeña of Lund University, Sweden, issues a call for a more open discussion regarding psi phenomena.

Via Frontiers in Human Neuroscience:

Science thrives when there is an open, informed discussion of all evidence, and recognition that scientific knowledge is provisional and subject to revision. This attitude is in stark contrast with reaching conclusions based solely on a previous set of beliefs or on the assertions of authority figures. Indeed, the search for knowledge wherever it may lead inspired a group of notable scientists and philosophers to found in 1882 the Society for Psychical Research in London. Its purpose was “to investigate that large body of debatable phenomena… without prejudice or prepossession of any kind, and in the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned inquiry which has enabled Science to solve so many problems.” Some of the areas in consciousness they investigated such as psychological dissociation, hypnosis, and preconscious cognition are now well integrated into mainstream science.

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The Unstoppable Rise Of Antibiotic-Resistant Organisms

Antibiotic selectionAlthough doctors and scientists have been warning that the so-called “golden age” of antibiotics is rapidly waning, we just don’t listen and now it may be too late. Fergus Walsh, medical correspondent for BBC News reports:

We cannot say we weren’t warned. The growing threat of antibiotic resistant organisms is once again in the spotlight.

Prof Jeremy Farrar, the new head of Britain’s biggest medical research charity the Wellcome Trust said it was a “truly global issue”.

In his first major interview since taking up his post, Prof Farrar told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that the golden age of antibiotics could come to an end unless action is taken.

His comments echo those of England’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies.

Last year she described the growing resistance to antibiotics as a “ticking time bomb”, and said the danger should be ranked alongside terrorism on a list of threats to the nation.

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Famed Philosopher Martin Heidegger Speaks In This Rare Documentary

via Wikipedia

Martin Heidegger (German: [ˈmaɐ̯tiːn ˈhaɪdɛɡɐ]; September 26, 1889 – May 26, 1976) was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the “question of Being”.[6] Heidegger is known for offering a phenomenological critique of Kant. He wrote extensively on Nietzsche and Hölderlin in his later career. Heidegger’s influence has been far reaching, influencing fields such as philosophy, theology, art, architecture, artificial intelligence, cultural anthropology, design, literary theory, social theory, political theory, psychiatry, and psychotherapy.[7][8]

His best known book, Being and Time, is considered one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century.[9] In it and later works, Heidegger maintained that our way of questioning defines our nature. He argued that philosophy, Western civilization’s chief way of questioning, had lost sight of the being it sought. Finding ourselves “always already” fallen in a world of presuppositions, we lose touch with what being was before its truth became “muddled”.

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