May 2012

Bath Salts and Cocaine Psychosis

Two great tastes that go great together! No, wait: the opposite of that.

Both bath salts and the term "cocaine psychosis" have been much in the news lately, thanks to the bizarre story out of Florida (where else?) of a man who stripped naked and started eating some poor homeless man's face. This "cannibal attack" was fueled, many suspect, by cocaine psychosis. And given the attacker's situation, most of the speculation is focusing on bath salts.
These are not your mother's bath salts!
The term "bath salts" is a confusing one. It still refers to the stuff that you pour into a nice hot bath to relax and enjoy. In that context, bath salts are mostly Epsom salts with some soap (for suds) and perfume (to smell nice). You can buy traditional bath salts at places like The Body Shop and Amazon
Traditional bath salts look like, well, large grains of salt. And that is the primary connection between traditional bath salts and what I'll call "bath salts." 

Is The Zombie Apocalypse Starting In Florida?

Police forced to shoot naked man found chewing on a homeless man's face
Over the holiday weekend in Florida (where all truly weird things happen) police officers arrived at a grisly scene: a naked man was eating another man's face. To which the internet responds, "THAT'S HOW IT STARTS."
The assailant has been identified as Rudy Eugene, a 31 year-old man with a history of violence, drug abuse, and arrests. His ex-wife spoke to local news, explaining that she ended their marriage in the face of his escalating violence. 

The Navy's Super Sonar

Sonar testing harms marine life, but the Navy won't stop
There were a few factual things blended into Animal Planet's "Mermaids: The Body Found" mock-umentary that aired this weekend. One of these is the existence of Navy testing their so-called "super sonar" underwater, to the detriment of marine life. I worry that the mermaids special has done this issue a disservice, and that a lot of people will write it off as being as fictional as the rest of the show.
But super sonar is real, and the Navy refuses to stop it.
Super sonar is just like regular sonar, but a lot louder. Imagine you are standing blindfolded in an empty room. Even without special training, if you clap your hands loudly, you can hear about how big the room is. For example, you would be able to tell if the room is closer in size to a supply closet or an auditorium. Your brain automatically calculates the information, based on how and how fast the echo of the sound returns to your ears.

"Mermaids, The Body Found" As Entertaining As It Is Ridiculous (And Fake)

One thing the show got right: All scientists are hotties.
Let's just get this out of the way up front: there are no mermaids. It was all fake. Which you wouldn't necessarily know unless you stuck it out to the very end, when they showed a pair of gray-on-black paragraphs to the effect that "We pretty much made it all up."
Until that fleeting moment, the two hour special ostensibly about the discovery of mermaids plays it completely straight. One might be tipped off, of course, by the bad special effects, the fact that it's about mermaids, the dubious acting skills, or the way that everyone on the show had a Canadian accent.

Problems With The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis

Tonight Animal Planet will be airing a special on mermaids which promises to be about as accurate as the 1990s classic "Alien Autopsy" video. But one thing the faux-cumentary mentions is the "aquatic ape" hypothesis, which is a pseudoscientific theory that just won't quite die.
According to this theory of evolution, humankind went through an aquatic phase. This phase is said to explain several mysteries, including our diving reflex, our hairlessness, the pattern of hair on our bodies, and our lack of a "missing link." Fossil evidence would be missing, according to this theory, because we were living in the water at the time.
This isn't entirely without precedent. Whales famously came ashore, lived as land animals for a while, then returned to the water. However, the evidence against the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis is both voluminous and convincing.

Haunted, abandoned hospital to become a senior home

Who better to frighten in the middle of the night than a bunch of really old people?

The former Linda Vista Hospital, a 107-year-old building which was abandoned some 25 years ago, is "so well known for its creepy atmosphere and alleged hauntings" that it has become the go-to location for both ghost hunters and Hollywood productions looking for a spooky filming location - including Rob Zombie and the film "Se7evn."
Fascinating, to be sure… but would you want your grandmother to live there?
That's the plan according to Amcal Multi-Housing, a housing group which is leading the $40 million conversion of the old hospital from "creep-o-matic factory" to "senior living home."

Are you a Tetrachromat?

And what would it mean, to see colors no one else can?

I recently listened to a fascinating Radiolab episode all about color. I was particularly struck by the section on tetrachromacy, which is the possibility that there are superhumans among us who can see more colors than the rest of us.
As you may remember from biology class, we get color vision thanks to the cone cells in our eyes. Humans are trichromats, meaning that we have three types of cone cells: red, green, and blue. These cells allow us to see all the colors that we do. They respond to light within a particular section of the spectrum. 

Man Caught Smuggling Roasted, Gold-Plated Human Fetuses

These tiny dried bodies are used in the Animist practice Kuman Thong
Hot on the heels of news that there is apparently a thriving trade in China for powdering up fetal tissue and selling it in capsules comes this story about a British man who was busted in Bangkok for carrying "six roasted fetuses covered with gold for black magic rituals." The man, Chow Hok Kuen, is of Taiwanese descent, and was apparently involved in a website which offered the gold-dusted roasted fetuses for sale.
Each such fetus is, in addition to being gruesomely blinged out, worth up to 200,000 Thai baht (the equivalent of $6,300 in U.S. Dollars). That's 50% more than the average per capita income in Thailand, a very significant chunk of money. Kuen was reportedly planning to smuggle the fetuses into Taiwan, where he could resell them for up to a 600% mark-up.

"Ring of Fire" Solar Eclipse This Sunday, May 20

This unusual phenomenon will put on a good show for West Coasters!

Residents of the West Coast of the United States will be treated to a rare event this Sunday at 5:24PM: a "ring of fire" solar eclipse. Technically called an annular solar eclipse, the "ring of fire" effect happens because of the moon's position between the sun and the Earth.
In a typical solar eclipse, the moon completely obscures the sun, from our perspective. Although the moon is considerably smaller than the sun, it is also a lot closer to us. It's the same reason why you can hold up your thumb, and (seemingly) completely obscure a distant skyscraper.

Human Flesh Pills Confiscated At South Korean Border

The latest trend in illegal trafficking: fetal tissue

South Korean officials today released information on a gruesome new trend in illegal trafficking: human flesh, powdered and sold in gelatin capsules. 35 smuggling attempts have been intercepted at Incheon Airport in Seoul (for obvious reasons, there is no estimate on how many smuggling attempts were successful) since last August.
So far, according to the BBC, no one has been arrested in any of these smuggling intercepts. The amounts confiscated have been deemed "small" and "not for resale." Apparently South Korean drug tourists are visiting China in order to buy human tissue capsules, and bringing them home in their luggage. 

The hunt for Bin Laden's body

Yeah... good luck with that...


Earlier this week, a treasure hunter announced that he had found Osama Bin Laden's body. Closer examination of this story revealed that this isn't ENTIRELY true.
Bill Warren hails from California, although he is currently based out of Azerbaijan. Warren owns an under-sea salvage company… a.k.a., he hunts for sunken treasure. Exciting, right?
Here's the catch: Warren doesn't claim to have found Bin Laden's actual body. Instead, he believes that he has located the exact spot in the ocean where it was dumped. And he is currently working to drum up funding for an attempt to venture to the bottom of the ocean and fetch it.

The subtle reality

Real hauntings are ambiguous

Have you ever done any monster-hunting or ghost investigation? Well I have, and most of the time, not too much happens. What does happen is subtle but creepy- an unexplained sound here and a spooky cold spot there, an unshakeable feeling that something's watching you, a sudden irrational panic and so on. Whether any of this is caused by ghosts is obviously very much open to debate, but that's the type of experience you can expect to have if you experience anything at all.



Most horror movies completely ignore this fact, because a big monster with over-the-top special effects is an easier way to put some drama in the movie. There have been a few movies, though, that tell it like it is. One is “The Blair Witch Project,” of course- for most of the movie, the only evidence of a witch is some spooky noises in the background.

Encounters With Dead Travelers

Perhaps, when you die far from home, it takes a while for your spirit to realize that the body is dead, and move forward accordingly.

In a Metafilter discussion about the disappearance of Noah Pippin, Metafilter user humanfont laid out a fascinating possibility: that the many encounters with Pippin in the Bob Marshall Wilderness were not with the living man Noah Pippin, but with his ghost. Humanfont goes on to recount one of his own encounters with a ghost while hiking in the high Rockies, an engrossing story which shares many of the hallmarks of the encounters with Pippin.
Tales of encountering a traveler in the wilderness, only to later learn that they had been long dead by then, are rife throughout human history. These sorts of stories have no doubt been told in every culture around the world. (Off the top of my head, I can think of versions from Celtic, Eastern European, and sub-Saharan Africa.)

Sasquatch Sightings: The Hermit Factor

If you happen to spot a Sasquatch in Montana's Rocky Mountains, ask him if he answers to "Noah."

I have a pet theory about Sasquatch. My personal hunch is that most (maybe all) Sasquatch sightings are actually encounters with men who, for whatever reason, have taken to the woods. You live in the great outdoors for a year or two, things happen. You stop shaving your face or cutting your hair. Your Polar Fleece jacket finally disintegrates, so you don a makeshift poncho made from a bear skin. Your boots fall apart, so you go barefoot.
Sound unlikely? The truth is, there are many documented cases throughout history of people who have abandoned society to live in the woods. And guess what? The sort of person who moves to the forest to live alone among the animals is also not the sort of person who will react kindly to encountering other humans.