Nature of Reality News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on the nature of reality
A 50-year mystery over the 'cursed bread' of Pont-Saint-Esprit, which left residents suffering hallucinations, has been solved after a writer discovered the US had spiked the bread with LSD as part of an experiment. In 1951, a quiet, picturesque village in southern France was suddenly and mysteriously struck down with mass insanity and hallucinations. At least five people died, dozens were interned in asylums and hundreds afflicted. For decades it was assumed that the local bread had been unwittingly poisoned with a psychedelic mould. Now, however, an American investigative journalist has uncovered evidence suggesting the CIA peppered local food with the hallucinogenic drug LSD as part of a mind control experiment at the height of the Cold War. One man tried to drown himself, screaming that his belly was being eaten by snakes. An 11-year-old tried to strangle his grandmother. Another man shouted: "I am a plane", before jumping out of a second-floor window, breaking his legs. He then got up and carried on for 50 yards. Many were taken to the local asylum in strait jackets.
Following the Supreme Court decision implicitly granting corporations the right to free speech (by determining that political spending is a kind of speech), a corporation has decided to take what it believes to be “democracy’s next step”: It is running for Congress. With more than a twinge of irony, Murray Hill Incorporated, a liberal public relations firm, recently announced that it planned to run in the Republican primary in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District.
Note: To watch the company’s first “campaign” ad, click on the link above.
Is there life after death? Radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long says if you look at the scientific evidence, the answer is unequivocally yes. He makes the case for that controversial conclusion in a new book, Evidence of the Afterlife. He talked to TIME about the nature of near-death experience. [TIME:] How do you respond to skeptics who say there must be some biological or physiological basis for that kind of experience, which you say in the book is medically inexplicable? [Dr. Long:] There have been over 20 alternative, skeptical "explanations" for near-death experience. The reason is very clear: no one or several skeptical explanations make sense, even to the skeptics themselves. Or [else] there wouldn't be so many. [TIME:] You say this research has affected you a lot on a personal level. How? [Dr. Long:] I'm a physician who fights cancer. My absolute understanding that there is an afterlife for all of us — and a wonderful afterlife — helps me face cancer, this terribly frightening and threatening disease, with more courage than I've ever faced it with before. I can be a better physician for my patients.
Note: For a deeply inspiring online lesson presenting incredibly powerful near-death experiences, click here.
Do you ever want to change the way you see the world? Wouldn't it be fun to hallucinate on your lunch break? Although we typically associate such phenomena with powerful drugs like LSD or mescaline, it's easy to fling open the doors of perception without them: All it takes is a basic understanding of how the mind works. Much of what we think of as being out there actually comes from in here, and is a byproduct of how the brain processes sensation. In recent years scientists have come up with a number of simple tricks that expose the artifice of our senses, so that we end up perceiving what we know isn't real. [Examples include:] The Ganzfield Procedure: Begin by turning the radio to a station playing static. Then lie down on the couch and tape a pair of halved ping-pong balls over your eyes. Within minutes, you should begin to experience a bizarre set of sensory distortions. Purkinje Lights: Jan Purkinje, a founding father of modern neuroscience stumbled upon a reliable hallucination as a child. First he closed his eyes (very important!), then tilted his head to face the sun and moved his hand quickly back and foth in front of his closed eyes. After a few seconds, Purkinje reported the appearance of "beautiful figures," which gradually became more intricate. The hallucinations are a side effect of our need to always make sense of reality.
Note: For exciting insights into the nature of reality from reliable sources, click here.
Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt has made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time: massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobekli Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it's the site of the world's oldest temple. In the [excavation] pits, standing stones, or pillars, are arranged in circles. Beyond, on the hillside, are four other rings of partially excavated pillars. Each ring has a roughly similar layout: in the center are two large stone T-shaped pillars encircled by slightly smaller stones facing inward. The tallest pillars tower 16 feet and, Schmidt says, weigh between seven and ten tons. Some are blank, while others are elaborately carved: foxes, lions, scorpions and vultures abound, twisting and crawling on the pillars' broad sides. Schmidt points to the great stone rings, one of them 65 feet across. "This is the first human-built holy place," he says. Prehistoric people would have gazed upon herds of gazelle and other wild animals; gently flowing rivers, which attracted migrating geese and ducks; fruit and nut trees; and rippling fields of wild barley and wild wheat varieties such as emmer and einkorn. "This area was like a paradise," says Schmidt, a member of the German Archaeological Institute. He believes this was a place of worship on an unprecedented scale—humanity's first "cathedral on a hill."
Note: For more on this fascinating find, see the Daily Mail article available here.
The great watershed event of this present chapter in American life has been the 9/11 attacks and all that has ensued in response, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as here at home. The terms in which the attacks were understood and the framework in which the U.S. would respond were laid out very quickly after 9/11 by the president. It was a battle of good against evil, "us" vs. "them." We Americans were encouraged to think of ourselves as "good and compassionate," terms in which the president frequently described us, while those who opposed us were evil people who "hated our freedom." I can go along with this a little ways. The attacks of 9/11 were an appalling evil. Where the line is drawn between good and evil is another matter. The Soviet dissident and author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." Lincoln resisted the temptation that comes in every time of conflict and fear, in every polarized situation, to draw the line between good and evil between the two sides. Lincoln famously wrote, "In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party." That is not to say that Lincoln doubted that slavery was evil. He did not. But he refused to claim his own side as God's or to depict, as Bush does, any who opposed him as the embodiment of evil.
What exactly did Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich see hovering above actress Shirley MacLaine's house 25 years ago? Now, after keeping quiet about the incident for a quarter of a century, the two people who say they were at Mr. Kucinich's side that evening have come forward to describe an event which they say left them convinced that there's intelligent life in outer space. "At no time did I feel afraid, even though I felt very small," says ... Paul Costanzo. "I sensed that I was in the presence of a greater technology and intelligence." The close encounter ... took place in September 1982 at Ms. MacLaine's former home in Graham, Wash. [Kucinich] ... lived there for the better part of a year. Also in residence was Mr. Costanzo, a Juilliard-trained trumpet player and jujitsu black belt, who worked as Ms. MacLaine's assistant, personal trainer and bodyguard. Mr. Costanzo's girlfriend at the time ... was visiting when the UFO incident took place. The day was strange from the start. For hours, Mr. Kucinich, Mr. Costanzo and his companion noticed a high-pitched sound. "There was a sense that something extraordinary was happening all day," says the girlfriend. Mr. Kucinich spotted a light in the distance, to the left of Mount Rainier. What they saw in the far distance, according to both witnesses, was a hovering light, which soon divided into two, and then three. After a few minutes, the lights moved closer and it became apparent that they were actually three charcoal-gray, triangular craft, flying in a tight wedge. The craft approached to within 200 yards, suspended over the field just beyond the swimming pool. Both witnesses say it emitted a quiet, throbbing sound -- nothing like an airplane engine. The craft held steady in midair, for perhaps a minute, then sped away, Mr. Costanzo says. "Nothing had landed," he says. "No strange beings had disembarked. No obvious messages were beamed down. When they were completely out of sight, we all looked at each other disbelieving what we had seen."
Note: This article amazingly was published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal!
Lyndon Johnson relished summoning underlings in to confer with him while he sat on the toilet. Richard Nixon authorized illegal wiretaps on perceived enemies because, as he later told an interviewer, "when the president does it, it's not illegal." Bill Clinton wantonly had sex with intern Monica Lewinsky. Why is it said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely? In the past few years...research has zeroed in on what an intoxicating elixir power can be. And one thing has become clear: The phrase "drunk with power" is often a dead-on description. These new studies show that power acts to lower inhibitions, much the same as alcohol does. It explains why powerful people act with great daring and sometimes behave rather like gorillas. "Disinhibition is the very root of power," said Stanford Professor Deborah Gruenfeld, a social psychologist who focuses on the study of power. "For most people, what we think of as 'power plays' aren't calculated and Machiavellian -- they happen at the subconscious level. When people feel powerful, they stop trying to 'control themselves.'" People with power...tend to be more oblivious to what others think, more likely to pursue the satisfaction of their own appetites, poorer judges of other people's reactions, more likely to hold stereotypes, overly optimistic and more likely to take risks. People who are naturally selfish grow even more selfish if they attain power, while people who are naturally selfless and giving become more so with power. Henry Kissinger discerned that power is "the ultimate aphrodisiac." "Nearly all men can stand adversity," said Abraham Lincoln, "but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
Note: This most excellent article graphically describes the problems that can occur when a hierarchical political systems places certain individuals in positions of great authority. For more on this fascinating topic, click here.
Gregory Matloff’s ideas are shocking. The veteran physicist at New York City College of Technology recently published a paper arguing that humans may be like the rest of the universe in substance and in spirit. A “proto-consciousness field” could extend through all of space, he argues. Stars may be thinking entities that deliberately control their paths. Put more bluntly, the entire cosmos may be self-aware. Called by its formal academic name ... “panpsychism” turns out to have prominent supporters in a variety of fields. New York University philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers is a proponent. So too, in different ways, are neuroscientist Christof Koch ... and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose. The bottom line, Matloff argues, is that panpsychism is too important to ignore. One of the hallmarks of life is its ability to adjust its behavior in response to stimulus. Matloff began searching for astronomical objects that unexpectedly exhibit this behavior. Recently, he zeroed in on a little-studied anomaly in stellar motion known as Paranego’s Discontinuity. On average, cooler stars orbit our galaxy more quickly than do hotter ones. Matloff ... noted that the anomaly appears in stars that are cool enough to have molecules in their atmospheres, which greatly increases their chemical complexity. Matloff noted further that some stars appear to emit jets that point in only one direction, an unbalanced process that could cause a star to alter its motion. He wondered: Could this actually be a willful process?
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the nature of reality.
A bone fragment believed to be part of Adolf Hitler's skull has been revealed as being that of an unidentified woman, US scientists have said. The section of bone - marked with a bullet hole - was used to support the theory that Hitler shot himself. Russian scientists said the skull piece was found alongside Hitler's jawbone and had put it on display in Moscow. But US scientists said DNA tests revealed it actually belonged to a woman aged between 20 and 40. An archaeologist from the University of Connecticut travelled to Moscow, where the fragment has been on show in the city's federal archive since 2000, to take a sample. Nick Bellantoni said he had suspected even before the bone was tested that the fragment did not come from an adult male. DNA tests confirmed that the bone fragment came from a female. Doubts about exactly how Hitler died have persisted for decades. Russian officials said that the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun - who reportedly committed suicide in a Berlin bunker in 1945 - were removed from a shell crater shortly after they died. The piece of skull forms part of a collection that also includes a section of a bloodstained sofa where Hitler is believed to have shot himself after swallowing a cyanide pill.
In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life. This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. But the survey suggested that Americans just weren’t buying that. The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they? So in August, Pew asked the question again. Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them. And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go. What on earth does this mean? One very plausible explanation is that Americans just want good things to come to good people, regardless of their faith. We meet so many good people of different faiths that it’s hard for us to imagine God letting them go to hell. In fact, in the most recent survey, Pew asked people what they thought determined whether a person would achieve eternal life. Nearly as many Christians said you could achieve eternal life by just being a good person as said that you had to believe in Jesus.
A Dutchman who is able to withstand freezing temperatures that would kill most people will submerge himself in icy water for almost two hours in a world record bid. Wim Hof, known as "The Ice Man", has spent the last 20 years testing his talent in the most extreme conditions from scaling mountain tops wearing nothing but a pair of shorts to swimming under sheets of ice [at] the north pole. Now he is set to break his own world record by submerging himself in a Plexiglas container filled with ice at temperatures as low as -20 degrees for more than 1 hour 45 minutes. Mr Hof discovered his unusual talent over 20 years ago during a stroll in the park in his native Holland. "I was really attracted to it. I went in, got rid of my clothes. Thirty seconds I was in and a tremendous good feeling when I came out and since then, I repeated it every day." It was the moment that Mr Hof knew that his body was different somehow: he was able to withstand fatally freezing temperatures. Mr Hof began a lifelong quest to see just how far his abilities would take him. In 2000, dressed only in a swimsuit, he dove under the ice at the North Pole and earned a Guinness World Record for the longest amount of time swimming under the ice. Whilst many scientists around the world find Mr Hof's ability an anomaly, Mr Hof says it is merely a case of mind over matter. Practising an ancient Himalayan meditation called "Tummo," or Inner Fire, Mr Hof says he can generate his own heat. Mr Hof now travels the world teaching the technique through his record attempts, lectures and talks.
A fellow at New York City's Weill Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Sam Parnia is one of the world's leading experts on the scientific study of death. Last week Parnia and his colleagues at the Human Consciousness Project announced their first major undertaking: a 3-year exploration of the biology behind "out-of-body" experiences. The study, known as AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation), involves the collaboration of 25 major medical centers through Europe, Canada and the U.S. and will examine some 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrest. TIME spoke with Parnia about the project's origins, its skeptics and the difference between the mind and the brain. What sort of methods will this project use to try and verify people's claims of "near-death" experience? When your heart stops beating, there is no blood getting to your brain. And so what happens is that within about 10 sec., brain activity ceases — as you would imagine. Yet paradoxically, 10% or 20% of people who are then brought back to life from that period, which may be a few minutes or over an hour, will report having consciousness. So the key thing here is, Are these real, or is it some sort of illusion? In my book What Happens When We Die? ... I wanted people to get both angles — not just the patients' side but also the doctors' side — and see how it feels for the doctors to have a patient come back and tell them what was going on. There was a cardiologist that I spoke with who said he hasn't told anyone else about it because he has no explanation for how this patient could have been able to describe in detail what he had said and done. He was so freaked out by it that he just decided not to think about it anymore.
Note: How interesting that when something amazing happened that this cardiologist could not explain, he chose not to think about it rather than consider that there might be some deeper explanation. For an excellent analysis of how this kind of thinking stops scientific progress, see our essay on fluid intellignece available here.
The Vatican's chief astronomer says there is no conflict between believing in God and in the possibility of extraterrestrial "brothers" perhaps more evolved than humans. "In my opinion this possibility exists," said the Reverend José Gabriel Funes, head of the Vatican Observatory and a scientific adviser to Pope Benedict XVI, referring to life on other planets. "How can we exclude that life has developed elsewhere," he said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. The large number of galaxies with their own planets makes this possible, he noted. Asked if he was referring to beings similar to humans or even more evolved than humans, he said: "Certainly, in a universe this big you can't exclude this hypothesis." In the interview headlined, "The extraterrestrial is my brother," he said he saw no conflict between belief in such beings and faith in God. "Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contrast with our faith because we can't put limits on God's creative freedom," he said. "Why can't we speak of a 'brother extraterrestrial'? It would still be part of creation." Funes, who runs the observatory that is based south of Rome and in Arizona, held out the possibility that the human race might actually be the "lost sheep" of the universe. There could be other beings "who remained in full friendship with their creator," he said.
Note: For a fascinating summary of evidence presented by government and military professionals for the possible presence of extraterrestrials here on Earth, click here.
Wim Hof [is] known as 'The Ice Man." Scientists can't really explain it, but the 48-year-old Dutchman is able to withstand, and even thrive, in temperatures that could be fatal to the average person. It's an ability he discovered in himself as a young man 20 years ago. "I had a stroll like this in the park with somebody and I saw the ice and I thought, what would happen if I go in there. I was really attracted to it. I went in, got rid of my clothes. Thirty seconds I was in," Hof said. "Tremendous good feeling when I came out and since then, I repeated it every day." It was the moment that Hof knew that his body was different somehow: He was able to withstand fatally freezing temperatures. Hof began a lifelong quest to see just how far his abilities would take him. In January of 1999 he traveled 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle to run a half-marathon in his bare feet. Three years later, dressed only in a swimsuit, he dove under the ice at the North Pole and earned a Guinness World Record for the longest amount of time swimming under the ice: 80 meters, almost twice the length of an Olympic-sized pool. When he didn't experience frostbite or hypothermia, the body's usual reactions to extreme cold, his extraordinary ability started to get the attention of doctors who specialize in extreme medicine. Dr. Ken Kamler, author of Surviving the Extremes, has treated dozens of people who tried to climb Mount Everest, and instead nearly died from the frigid temperatures. He couldn't believe it when he got word of a Dutchman making the ascent with no protection other than a pair of shorts. "People are always looking for new firsts on Everest. It's been climbed so many times now, people climb it without oxygen, they climb it with all different kinds of handicaps. But no one has come close to climbing Everest in those kinds of conditions," Dr. Kamler said. "It's almost inconceivable."
Note: Wim Hof's charity foundation, Happy People of the World, is based in the Netherlands. Visit the Web site by clicking here.
The deployment of the first armed battlefield robots in Iraq is the latest step on a dangerous path - we are sleepwalking into a brave new world where robots decide who, where and when to kill. Robots are integral to [the U.S.'s] $230bn future combat systems project, a massive plan to develop unmanned vehicles that can strike from the air, under the sea and on land. Congress has set a goal of having one-third of ground combat vehicles unmanned by 2015. Over 4,000 robots are serving in Iraq at present, others in Afghanistan. And now they are armed. Predators and the more deadly Reaper robot attack planes have flown many missions ... with inevitable civilian deaths, yet working with remote-controlled or semi-autonomous machines carries only the same ethical responsibilities as a traditional air strike. But fully autonomous robots that make their own decisions about lethality are high on the US military agenda. They are cheap to manufacture, require less personnel and, according to the navy, perform better in complex missions. This is dangerous new territory for warfare, yet there are no new ethical codes or guidelines in place. Policymakers seem to have an understanding of [Artificial Intelligence] that lies in the realms of science fiction and myth. Their answer to the ethical problems is simply, "Let men target men" and "Let machines target other machines". In reality, a robot could not pinpoint a weapon without pinpointing the person using it or even discriminate between weapons and non-weapons. Autonomous robots are not like other weapons. We are going to give decisions on human fatality to machines that are not bright enough to be called stupid.
The $73.5 billion global biotech business may soon have to grapple with a discovery that calls into question the scientific principles on which it was founded. Last month, a consortium of scientists published findings that challenge the traditional view of how genes function. The exhaustive four-year effort was organized by the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute and carried out by 35 groups from 80 organizations around the world. To their surprise, researchers found that the human genome might not be a “tidy collection of independent genes” after all, with each sequence of DNA linked to a single function, such as a predisposition to diabetes or heart disease. Instead, genes appear to operate in a complex network, and interact and overlap with one another and with other components in ways not yet fully understood. According to the institute, these findings will challenge scientists “to rethink some long-held views about what genes are and what they do.” Biologists have recorded these network effects for many years in other organisms. But in the world of science, discoveries often do not become part of mainstream thought until they are linked to humans. With that link now in place, the report is likely to have repercussions far beyond the laboratory. The presumption that genes operate independently has been institutionalized since 1976, when the first biotech company was founded. In fact, it is the economic and regulatory foundation on which the entire biotechnology industry is built. The principle that gave rise to the biotech industry promised benefits that were equally compelling. Known as the Central Dogma of molecular biology, it stated that each gene in living organisms, from humans to bacteria, carries the information needed to construct one protein.
Common sense tells us that influencing the past is impossible -- what's done is done, right? Even if it were possible, think of the mind-bending paradoxes it would create. While tinkering with the past, you might change the circumstances by which your parents met, derailing the key event that led to your birth. Such are the perils of retrocausality, the idea that the present can affect the past, and the future can affect the present. Strange as it sounds, retrocausality ... has been debated for decades, mostly in the realm of philosophy and quantum physics. Trouble is, nobody has done the experiment to show it happens in the real world, so the door remains wide open for a demonstration. It might even happen soon. Researchers are on the verge of experiments that will finally hold retrocausality's feet to the fire by attempting to send a signal to the past. It should all be doable with the help of a state-of-the-art optics workbench and the bizarre yet familiar tricks of quantum particles. If retrocausality is confirmed -- and that is a huge if -- it would overturn our most cherished notions about the nature of cause and effect and how the universe works.
British scientists have developed an antigravity machine that can float heavy stones, coins and lumps of metal in mid-air. Based around a powerful magnet, the device levitates objects in a similar way to how a maglev train runs above its tracks. The device exploits diamagnetism. Place non-magnetic objects inside a strong enough magnetic field and they are forced to act like weak magnets themselves. Generate a field that is stronger below and weaker above, and the resulting upward magnetic force cancels out gravity. Scientists have used diamagnetism to make wood, strawberries and, famously, a living frog fly. "That force is strong enough to float things with a density similar to water, but not things with the density of rocks."
Astronomers have spotted huge cloudlike plumes erupting from Mars – a phenomenon that scientists are at a loss to explain. The bright flares, which have now died away, towered higher than anything else observed in the Martian atmosphere. Their tops reached some 150 miles in altitude, more than twice as high as the highest Martian clouds, and they sprawled across 300 to 600 miles, researchers report in this week's Nature, a science journal. The researchers initially were skeptical, but "we came to the conclusion that what we were seeing is actually real," says study co-author Antonio García Muńoz, a planetary scientist at the European Space Agency. The plumes are "exceptional. … It's difficult to come to terms with this." This scientific brainteaser first came to light in early 2012. "I don't think it's real. Basic physics says this can't occur," [Planetary scientist Todd Clancy of the Space Science Institute] says, adding that the conditions in Mars's upper atmosphere don't supply the necessary ingredients for clouds. In response, study co-author Agustin Sánchez-Lavega, a planetary scientist and physics professor at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, notes that 19 different observers captured the strange eruptions. He considers the source of the formations "open to discussion," he says via e-mail.
Note: Here is a picture that shows Mars' strange behavior. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about our enigmatic universe from reliable major media sources.
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