October 2012

Lindsay Lohan blames Sandy on people "projecting negativity"

Apparently she's a Secret/Laws of Attraction devotee

You know your beliefs are in trouble when Lindsay Lohan - the notorious rolling disaster of Hollywood - espouses it. Lohan took to the Twitters recently to shake her finger at people who are "projecting negativity" regarding Hurricane Sandy. "Think positive and pray for peace," she urged.

Let's overlook the fact that "peace" is a weird thing to pray for with regards to a hurricane. (Could Lohan be getting the storm confused with the rioting in San Francisco?) By telling people to "stop projecting negativity," Lohan has signaled that she is one of the many of devotees of The Secret, a.k.a. the Law of Attraction.
This incident is an excellent example of the prime problem with The Secret, which is that it espouses a "blame the victim" mentality. More than that; the belief actually hinges on blaming the victim. If people on the Eastern Seaboard are injured or killed by Hurricane Sandy, it is because they - or too many people - projected negativity. 

Amazing UFO footage from Kentucky

Surprisingly convincing for a YouTube video

Last week several eyewitnesses reported seeing a strange bright light in the sky. But only one person filmed it: an amateur astronomer named Allen Epling. On October 16th he was alerted to the presence of the strange light. He hustled outside with his telescope and a video camera, and caught some amazing footage.

These days I dismiss most video out of hand. It's trivial to fake anything you want with CGI, and when you rule out the CGI work you are usually left with people who filmed something normal without realizing it (like a flotilla of white balloons from a wedding, or the reflection of lights in a window pane). But in this case, I have to say I am fairly convinced that this recording is just what it purports to be: video footage of a strange UFO in the sky over Kentucky.

Astronomers find planet made of diamond

Should De Beers be worried?

It may sound like a story straight out of the lurid pulp sci fi novels of the 1950s and 1960s, but this story is all too true: a new planet named 55 Cancri e is made mostly of diamonds. 

The 55 Cancri solar system is located a mere 40 light years from our own, and it is extremely rich in carbon. It is part of the constellation of Cancer, and is visible with the naked eye on a clear night. 
55 Cancri e is the innermost planet, zipping around its star at a surprising clip, with a solar year that is a mere 18 hours long. This close to its sun, the surface temperatures of the planet average around 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit. 55 Cancri e is twice as big around as Earth, and has eight times the mass. The immense pressures and high temperatures mean that 55 Cancri e has converted an estimated third of its mass into diamond. 
It would not be an easy matter to mine 55 Cancri e, even if we overcame the hurdle of faster-than-light travel. The surface temperatures are hot enough to melt metal, and it is constantly bathed in intense solar radiation that would make it impossible for a life form (like ourselves) to get near the planet. 

Is reality being controlled by "machine elves?"

Terence McKenna's DMT hallucinations live on

DMT is a psychedelic tryptamine found in ayahuasca, as well as inside most mammalian bodies. (Intriguingly, one researcher believes that near-death experiences are triggered by a flood of DMT being released from the pineal gland at the time of death.) Many people who take DMT report similar experiences with alien and/or magical entities, which noted psychedelic fancier and ethnobotanist Terence McKenna dubbed "machine elves."

McKenna believed that taking DMT allowed the user to punch through our reality, into the place where our reality is made. "There's a whole bunch of entities waiting on the other side," McKenna said. And everything is being created by the machine elves: tiny, self-reproducing, fractal beings who can sing matter into shape. Their "marvelous singing makes intricate toys out of the air and their own continually transforming body geometries."
Machine elves also pass their knowledge directly to any traveler who enters their realm. Very directly; McKenna said that they "jump into your body and then they jump back out again," and this is how they communicate ideas and thoughts to the visitor. 

A neurosurgeon visits Heaven - so what?

His medical credentials shouldn't bear on the story.

The latest Newsweek cover story is causing quite a stir: it features a hand reaching up to the sun, with the headline "HEAVEN IS REAL: A DOCTOR'S EXPERIENCE OF THE AFTERLIFE."

Here is my first reaction to this story: just because the dude is a neurosurgeon, that doesn't mean he knows any more about Heaven than the rest of us. This story is hitting the "neurosurgeon" angle pretty hard, as well it might. Can you think of anyone more respected than a neurosurgeon? What a reporter's dream.
This is a logical fallacy, that the source of the information is as important - even more important - than the information itself. You usually see it happening in the other direction, when people try to discredit the source of the information. But the reverse is just as true.
Should we value the opinion of a neurosurgeon more than some random person off the street? When it comes to cerebrospinal surgery: yes. But that expertise doesn't translate across all fields. Are all neurosurgeons master-level painters? Expert-level guitarists? Accomplished architects? Race car drivers? Gardeners? Knitters? City planners?

Blue honey mystery solved

Blame the M&M sludge being turned into biofuel nearby

Beekeepers in France faced a bizarre sight recently: in places, their bees had created beautiful blue honey. The blues ranged from brilliant turquoise to a darker royal blue. All of the shades contrasted very nicely with the normal colored honey surrounding them. It seemed quite artistic, but no less disturbing for being so visually attractive. Other beekeepers found brilliant green honey when they cracked open their hives. 

Beekeepers throughout the area of Alsace centering around the town of Ribeauville collaborated on investigating this mystery. Soon they discovered the culprit: a nearby biogas plant which had been processing industrial waste from a Mars plant which had been making M&Ms in the traditional brilliant shades of blue and green, as well as red, brown, and yellow.

New leads on massive maple syrup theft

A quarter of Quebec's strategic maple syrup reserves stolen

Last August, Canadian authorities discovered that more than 10 million pounds of maple syrup had gone missing from a Quebec warehouse. The syrup theft was valued at over $30 million dollars, and represented a full quarter of the provincial maple syrup reserves.

One of the strangest things to come to light in the wake of this story is the fact that Canada maintains a strategic maple syrup reserve. All countries maintain some sort of strategic reserve, of course. For most countries, the reserve will be warehoused supplies of fuel or basic foodstuffs like grain. But many non-Canadians were surprised to learn that since 2000, Quebec has been maintaining a vast hoard of maple syrup.
Maple syrup is considered a quaint (though delicious) industry in America. But in Canada, maple syrup is big business, comparable to any other form of agricultural production. Canada has been the world leader in maple syrup production for the last 80 years, and Quebec alone provides 75 percent of the world's supply of syrup. 

Teenage girl produces four pound hairball

Kids, don't chew your hair.

A 19-year-old-girl in Indore, India went to the hospital last month complaining that she "hadn't been able to eat or drink for a few days." Doctors performed an examination and discovered a massive blockage filling her stomach and small intestine.

The girl was rushed into surgery, and doctors removed a four pound hairball from her GI tract. The girl reportedly "had a bad habit of eating her hair and chalk while in class," and the resulting impaction created a truly stunning mass.
Formally known as a "bezoar," these impacted masses have been removed from people and animals for centuries. Bezoars can be formed from either organic or inorganic materials. In people they are often caused by pica (a psychological or medical condition which compels the sufferer to eat non-food items, such as hair or chalk). A bezoar composed mainly of hair is called a Trichobezoar. Premature babies fed formula will often form bezoars made from dried up lumps of formula powder, called a Lactobezoar.

Ke$ha claims she had sex with a ghost

True, or just a dumb publicity stunt?

While doing publicity for her new single "Supernatural," pop star sensation Ke$ha told interviewer Ryan Seacrest that the song was inspired by a sexual encounter with a ghost. The single has yet to be released, but according to this snipped uploaded to YouTube, "Supernatural" sounds similar in tone and theme to Katy Perry's hit song "E.T." But instead of alien sex, it's ghost sex.

Many people both inside and outside the paranormal research community are skeptical of Ke$ha's claims, to say the least. First, she is not presenting them as sober fact. The way she presents it makes it sound like a light-hearted bit of gossip more than a deep, heart-felt confession. Which makes it sound more like a marketing move than a confession of an encounter with the paranormal. Her attitude trivializes the event to such an extent that it's hard to believe she even means for people to believe it. It ends up coming off as a bit of pop star posturing.
However, there is a body of literature regarding sex with the paranormal. The obvious connection is to the legend of the incubus (male) and succubus (female), evil spirits that specialize in raping their victims.