Nature of Reality News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on the nature of reality
In 2006, researchers at Duke unveiled the world's first "invisibility cloak," which used metamaterials to hide a small object from microwaves. While it didn't hide things from human view, keeping it hidden from microwaves was an important first step to pushing the technology of cloaking forward. But while it worked, it wasn't perfect. It left small reflections, which prevented it from completely hiding an object. Fast forward to six years later to Duke grad student Nathan Landy, and it looks like that problem has been solved. Landy worked with David R. Smith, one of the researchers on the original Duke cloaking device, to create a "perfect" cloaking device. “We built the cloak, and it worked,” he said in a press release. “It split light into two waves which traveled around an object in the center and re-emerged as the single wave minimal loss due to reflections.” The next step is working to build a clocking device that can hide bigger objects in three-dimensions. The Duke researchers aren't the only team pursuing cloaking devices, either. Last year, an international team of researchers used a "carpet cloak" to hide an object from the visible spectrum, and another team from Cornell dispersed light to hide an event in time. One constant so far, though, is that all of the objects being hidden are stationary and very, very small. [Don't] count on having your own invisibility cloak anytime soon.
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It’s one of the great assumptions underlying modern democracy that an informed citizenry is preferable to an uninformed one. Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. “The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.” There is a substantial body of psychological research showing that people tend to interpret information with an eye toward reinforcing their preexisting views. If we believe something about the world, we are more likely to passively accept as truth any information that confirms our beliefs, and actively dismiss information that doesn’t. This is known as “motivated reasoning.”
A cat [named Oscar] with an uncanny ability to detect when nursing home patients are about to die has proven itself in around 50 cases by curling up with them in their final hours, according to a new book. Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor at Brown University, said that five years of records showed Oscar rarely erring, sometimes proving medical staff at the New England nursing home wrong in their predictions over which patients were close to death. Dr Dosa first publicised Oscar's gift in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007. Since then, the cat has gone on to double the number of imminent deaths it has sensed and convinced the geriatrician that it is no fluke. When nurses once placed the cat on the bed of a patient they thought close to death, Oscar "charged out" and went to sit beside someone in another room. The cat's judgement was better than that of the nurses: the second patient died that evening, while the first lived for two more days. Far from recoiling from Oscar's presence, now they know its significance, relatives and friends of patients have been comforted and sometimes praised the cat in newspaper death notices and eulogies, said Dr Dosa. "People were actually taking great comfort in this idea, that this animal was there and might be there when their loved ones eventually pass. He was there when they couldn't be," he said.
A two-day event in San Francisco's Cowell Theater [was] billed as the first scientific conference on the afterlife for a general audience. [Loyd] Auerbach holds a master's degree in parapsychology, [and] has written seven books on the subject. He - and several other speakers at the conference, titled Investigations of Consciousness and the Unseen World: Proof of an Afterlife - exist in a strange professional realm that encompasses rigorous academic training, spiritualism and sometimes fraud. There was Dean Radin, who began his career in electrical engineering and cybernetics at the University of Illinois before moving on to psychic phenomena. Also [there] were Gary E. Schwartz ... who now teaches psychiatry, psychology, medicine, neurology and surgery at the University of Arizona, and University of Virginia Division of Perceptual Studies researchers Dr. Jim Tucker and Dr. Bruce Greyson. These academics take their paranormal work seriously; they also risk ridicule on campus and struggle to find sources of funding to investigate what happens after we die. One of the issues they face is whether an afterlife is provable by scientific method. Julie Beischel, who co-founded Arizona's Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential, [thinks] it is. "This is how science works," Beischel said. "There's a question and science investigates it. You can't draw a line and say, no, that's outside of science. Science doesn't have any boundaries in what it can investigate." The conference topics ... were designed to explore the disconnect between the "mind" and the "brain." If one could be shown to operate without the other ... then a case could be made for consciousness existing outside of the physical body.
Tom Carey has dedicated the last 16 years of his life to uncovering what exactly happened on July 4, 1947, outside Roswell, N.M. Now, along with coauthor Don Schmitt, [he] has published Witness to Roswell: Unmasking the 60-year Cover-Up, documenting his findings concerning the alleged extraterrestrial event. "The goal was to write a book for those not already initiated in the Roswell case," said Carey, 66. "We wanted to do something that would interest the general public." Though originally rejected by 11 of 12 publishers contacted, the book is in its fourth printing of 10,000 copies. And curiosity continues to grow. After a recent interview on Art Bell's Coast to Coast AM show, Carey said Amazon.com logged 2,000 sales the next day. What has made the book so explosive, Carey said, are two previously unreleased "smoking-gun documents." The new testimony includes the heretofore sealed affidavit of recently deceased First Lieutenant Walter G. Haut attesting to the bizarre debris and bodies recovered from the crash site. The second, a note scribbled by former Roswell Army Air Field base adjutant Patrick Saunders ... appears to confirm the Air Force's coverup of the incident. Carey acknowledges that there are some "kooks" involved in the field of UFOlogy, but his mission has been to use science to take the fiction out of science fiction. "This is a historical mystery that just happens to involve UFOs," he said. A former anthropology student at the University of Toronto, Carey said he has always been more interested in the empirical evidence as opposed to intangibles such as alien abductions and crop circles.
Note: For a succinct summary of powerful testimony on UFOs by military personnel and pilots, click here.
Three days after learning that he won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, George Smoot was talking about the universe. Sitting across from him ... was Saul Perlmutter, a fellow cosmologist. Smoot’s and Perlmutter’s work is part of a revolution that has forced their colleagues to confront a universe wholly unlike any they have ever known, one that is made of only 4 percent of the kind of matter we have always assumed it to be. The rest — 96 percent of the universe — is ... “Dark.” This is not “dark” as in distant or invisible. This is “dark” as in unknown. It lies ... beyond the entire electromagnetic spectrum. The motions of galaxies don’t make sense unless we infer the existence of dark matter. Understanding dark energy ... seems to really require understanding and using both [general relativity and quantum mechanics] theories at the same time. “It’s been so hard that we’re even willing to consider listening to string theorists,” Perlmutter says, referring to work that posits numerous dimensions beyond the traditional (one of time and three of space). According to quantum theory, particles can pop into and out of existence. In that case, maybe the universe itself was born in one such quantum pop. And ... why not many universes? This is just one of a number of theories that have been popping into existence ... in the past few years: parallel universes, intersecting universes or, in the case of Stephen Hawking and Thomas Hertog just last summer, a superposition of universes.
Note: Many scientists today claim that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old with an uncertainty of 200 million years. Yet in the late 1800's, scientists were convinced that the age of the Earth was less than 100 million years old. In the early 1700's, Isaac Newton and his contemporaries believed the universe to be about 6,000 years old plus or minus a few hundred years. So in the last 300 years, the "scientific" age of our universe has increased by billions of years! What will it be in another 100 or 200 years?
A hundred years ago, one of the most ambitious of research projects was launched. Its purpose was to discover whether living humans could talk to dead ones. The scholars involved included William James, the famed American psychologist and philosopher, and Oliver Lodge, the British physicist and radio pioneer. They saw evidence for the supernatural. In one instance they made a request to an American medium while she was in a trance. The request was in Latin, a language the medium did not speak. The instructions included a proposal that she "send" a symbol to a British medium. During her next trance session, the American began asking about whether an "arrow" had been received. During the American's first trance, the English psychic had suddenly begun scribbling arrows. Could any study produce results more provocative? For many, the dismissal of such Victorian research represents a triumph of modern science over superstition. But—and I admit that this is an unusual position for a mainstream science writer—it may instead represent a missed opportunity, a lost chance to better understand ourselves and our world. Curiosity about the supernatural has not diminished. The last few years have, in fact, seen a surge. On the radio, "Coast to Coast AM with George Noory" focuses on supernatural issues and boasts 2.5 million listeners. Paranormal organizations, schools for mediums and practicing psychics flourish. What has diminished is the interest of academic researchers on a par with James and his colleagues. [James] worried about a time when people would become "indifferent to science because science is so callously indifferent to their experiences." He worried that a close-minded community of science could become a kind of cult itself, devoted to its own beliefs and no more.
Research is showing the power of expectations, that they have physical -- not just psychological -- effects on your health. “Your expectations can have profound impacts on your brain and your health,” says Columbia University neuroscientist Tor Wager. Doctors have long thought the placebo effect was psychological. Now scientists are amassing the first direct evidence that the placebo effect actually is physical, and that expecting benefit can trigger the same neurological pathways of healing as real medication does. University of Michigan scientists injected the jaws of healthy young men with salt water to cause painful pressure, while PET scans measured the impact in their brains. During one scan, the men were told they were getting a pain reliever, actually a placebo. Their brains immediately released more endorphins -- chemicals that act as natural painkillers -- and the men felt better.
Sony....has patented a device to evoke smells, flavours and even a sense of touch in audience's brains, in the hope of enhancing the movie-watching experience. Sony has been granted a series of patents that outline how the device works. According to the documents, pulses of ultrasound would be fired at the audience's heads to alter the normal neural activity in key parts of the brain. "Changes in the neural firing timing induce various sensory experiences, depending on the location," the company's first patent states. Elizabeth Boukis, a spokeswoman for Sony Electronics, said the device remained only an idea at the moment. According to Sony's patents, carefully directed ultrasound beams could evoke different sensations in people's brains, including tastes, smells and touch, and even moving images. "One of the advantages is that no invasive surgery is needed to assist a person, such as a blind person, to view live/recorded images," the patent says.
By [Alexander] Shulgin's own count, he has created nearly 200 psychedelic compounds, among them stimulants, depressants, aphrodisiacs, ''empathogens,'' [and] convulsants. And in 1976, Shulgin fished an obscure chemical called MDMA out of the depths of the chemical literature and introduced it to the wider world, where it came to be known as Ecstasy. Most of the scientific community considers Shulgin at best a curiosity and at worst a menace. Now, however, near the end of his career, his faith in the potential of psychedelics has at least a chance at vindication. A little more than a month ago, the [FDA] approved a Harvard Medical School study looking at whether MDMA can alleviate the fear and anxiety of terminal cancer patients. And next month will mark a year since [the start of a] study of Ecstasy-assisted therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. Shulgin's knack for befriending the right people hasn't hurt. A week after I visited him, he was headed to Sonoma County for the annual ''summer encampment'' of the Bohemian Club, an exclusive, secretive San Francisco-based men's club that has counted every Republican president since Herbert Hoover among its members. For a long time, though, Shulgin's most helpful relationship was with the D.E.A. itself. The head of the D.E.A.'s Western Laboratory, Bob Sager, was one of his closest friends. In his office, Shulgin has several plaques awarded to him by the agency for his service. Shulgin has been credited with jump-starting today's therapeutic research.
Note: The sentence about the Bohemian Club is a very rare revelation in the major media on the influence of this secret society. For lots more reliable, verifiable information on secret societies, click here.
Marine experts have discovered a clump of archaeological structures deep beneath the sea off India's western coast. Although the discovery has not yet been accurately dated, the structures are said to resemble archeological sites belonging to the Harappan civilisation, dating back more than 4,000 years. This is the first time man-made structures have been found in this part of the Arabian Sea which is known as the Gulf of Cambay. The images gathered over the past six months led to a surprising discovery - a series of well-defined geometric formations were clearly seen, spread irregularly across a nine-kilometre (five-mile) stretch, a little beneath the sea bed. Some of them closely resemble an acropolis - or great bath - known to be characteristic of the Harappan civilisation. A leading marine archaologist says that far more detailed investigations need to be done to confirm the exact date of the structures.
Prof Phil Zimbardo, creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment: "In 1971 I became superintendent of the Stanford Prison, a mock prison. I was a young psychology professor at Stanford University. I wanted to understand what happens when you put good people in a bad place. [We] selected college-student volunteers - normal, healthy young men with no history of crime or violence - and randomly assigned them the roles of prisoner or guard. To increase the real-life feel, we arranged for actual mass arrests and booking by the Palo Alto police; visits by a prison chaplain, a public defender, and parents. Though not part of the plan, there were also prisoner rebellions. And, notoriously, there was chilling abuse and torture by the guards. The experiment was supposed to last two weeks, but we had to pull the plug after only six days because nearly half the prisoners had emotional breakdowns. Fast-forward to April 2004. Horrific images flash across our television screens - nightmarish abuses of Iraqi prisoners by young American soldiers. The images were ... strikingly similar to what I had seen at Stanford - prisoners naked, bags over their heads, forced into sexually humiliating poses. Historical inquiry and behavioural science have demonstrated ... that given certain conditions, ordinary people can succumb to social pressure to commit acts that would otherwise be unthinkable. In the prisons at Stanford and Abu Ghraib, men and women did terrible things to other people in part because responsibility for their actions was diffused. We find ourselves in a similar situation whenever we witness someone else's trouble but fail to help because we assume others will."
Note: When each one of us takes responsibility for doing our part to build a brighter future, we will see tremendous positive changes both in our lives and our world.
In another sign that Japan is pressing ahead in revising its history of World War II, new high school textbooks will no longer acknowledge that the Imperial Army was responsible for a major atrocity in Okinawa, the government announced late Friday. The Ministry of Education ordered publishers to delete passages stating that the Imperial Army ordered civilians to commit mass suicide during the Battle of Okinawa, as the island was about to fall to American troops in the final months of the war. The decision was announced as part of the ministry’s annual screening of textbooks used in all public schools. The ministry also ordered changes to other delicate issues to dovetail with government assertions, though the screening is supposed to be free of political interference. The decision on the Battle of Okinawa ... came as a surprise because the ministry had never objected to the description in the past. The fresh denial of the military’s responsibility in the Battle of Okinawa and in sexual slavery — long accepted as historical facts — is likely to deepen suspicions in Asia that Tokyo is trying to whitewash its militarist past even as it tries to raise the profile of its current forces. The ministry’s new position appeared to discount overwhelming evidence of coercion, particularly the testimony of victims and survivors themselves.
Note: History many times is written -- or in this case re-written -- by those in power.
In her new "spiritual memoir" titled Finding Magic, veteran journalist Sally Quinn ... the widow of legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee ... describes her lifelong belief in the occult and worries that hexes she once put on three people may have worked. "My family were Scots," [said Quinn]. "They all believed in Scottish myths and mysticism and the stones and psychic behavior and ghosts and astrology and palmistry and all that. And then of course we all went to church. So I had this kind of two-pronged religious upbringing. I would say my prayers to God and Jesus every night ... but I also believed in all this other stuff. When I was in my late 20s and early 30s, there were three people who hurt me in some way, or (hurt) somebody I loved, and so I decided to put a hex on them. I had never done it before. What I wanted to have happen was for them to feel what I had felt. I didn’t mean for them to die." One person died right away, another person got fired immediately and then died, and then the other one died. I’ve never done it again. And believe me, since (Donald) Trump was elected, and since the election, I can’t tell you how many friends have asked me to put a hex on Donald Trump, and I won’t do it. I just said no. I don’t do that anymore." The environment right now is more toxic and more poisonous than I’ve ever seen....(But I have) still been able to pull away and still find a sense of faith and joy and magic in the world."
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Nina De Santo was about to close her New Jersey hair salon one winter's night when she saw him standing outside the shop's glass front door. It was Michael. He was a soft-spoken customer who'd been going through a brutal patch in his life. She'd listened to his problems, given him pep talks, taken him out for drinks. When De Santo opened the door that Saturday night, Michael was smiling. "Nina, I can't stay long," he said, pausing in the doorway. "I just wanted to stop by and say thank you for everything." They chatted a bit more before Michael left and De Santo went home. On Sunday she received a strange call from a salon employee. Michael's body had been found the previous morning -- at least nine hours before she talked to him at her shop. He had committed suicide. If Michael was dead, who, or what, did she talk to that night? Today, De Santo has a name for what happened that night: "crisis apparition." A crisis apparition is the spirit of a recently deceased person who visits someone they had a close emotional connection with. As they chatted face to face in the doorway of her shop, De Santo said they never touched, never even shook hands. "I'm in a really good place now," she recalled him saying. And when she held the door open for him, he refused to come in. He just chatted before finally saying, "Thanks again, Nina." Michael then smiled at her, turned and walked away into the winter's night.
Animals possess a sense of morality that allows them to tell the difference between right and wrong, according to a controversial new book. Scientists studying animal behaviour believe they have growing evidence that species ranging from mice to primates are governed by moral codes of conduct in the same way as humans. Until recently, humans were thought to be the only species to experience complex emotions and have a sense of morality. But Prof Marc Bekoff, an ecologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that morals are "hard-wired" into the brains of all mammals and provide the "social glue" that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups. He has compiled evidence from around the world that shows how different species of animals appear to have an innate sense of fairness, display empathy and help other animals that are in distress. His conclusions will provide ammunition for animal welfare groups pushing to have animals treated more humanely. Prof Bekoff, who presents his case in a new book Wild Justice, said: "The belief that humans have morality and animals don't is a long-standing assumption, but there is a growing amount of evidence that is showing us that this simply cannot be the case." Prof Bekoff believes morals developed in animals to help regulate behaviour in social groups of animals such as wolves and primates. He claims that these rules help to control fighting within the group and encourage co-operative behaviour.
Monkeys can experience the joy of giving in much the same way as humans do. Tests in capuchin monkeys showed the animals consistently chose to share food with another monkey if given the option, suggesting they are capable of empathy, the team at the Yerkes Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta found. "They seem to care for the welfare of those they know," Frans de Waal, director of the Living Links Center at Yerkes, said. His team tested eight female brown capuchin monkeys in pairs. They could choose a token that gave only themselves a treat or an option that rewarded both of them, called a prosocial option. Either way, the first monkey got the same amount of food. "Subjects systematically favored the prosocial option provided their partner was a) familiar, b) visible, and c) receiving rewards of equal value," De Waal's team wrote. "The fact the capuchins predominantly selected the prosocial option must mean seeing another monkey receive food is satisfying or rewarding for them," said de Waal. "We believe prosocial behavior is empathy based. Empathy increases in both humans and animals with social closeness, and in our study, closer partners made more prosocial choices. Capuchin monkeys spontaneously share food in both nature and captivity, and commonly sit next to each other while eating," the researchers wrote.
A woman claims to have undergone a complete "personality transplant" after receiving a new kidney. Cheryl Johnson, 37, says she has changed completely since receiving the organ in May. She believes that she must have picked up her new characteristics from the donor, a 59-year-old man who died from an aneurysm. Now, not only has her personality changed, the single mother also claims that her tastes in literature have taken a dramatic turn. Whereas she only used to read low-brow novels, Dostoevsky has become her author of choice since the transplant. [Ms] Johnson, from Penwortham, in Preston, Lancs, said: "You pick up your characteristics from your donor. My son said when I first had the transplant, I went stroppy and snappy - that wasn't me. I have always loved books but I've started to read classics like Jane Austen and Dostoevsky. I found myself reading Persuasion."
Northwestern University researchers report they have used DNA as the blueprint, contractor and construction worker to build a three-dimensional structure out of gold, a lifeless material. Using just one kind of nanoparticle (gold) the researchers built two common but very different crystalline structures by merely changing one thing -- the strands of synthesized DNA attached to the tiny gold spheres. A different DNA sequence in the strand resulted in the formation of a different crystal. The technique ... is a major and fundamental step toward building functional "designer" materials using programmable self-assembly. "We are now closer to the dream of learning, as nanoscientists, how to break everything down into fundamental building blocks, which for us are nanoparticles, and reassembling them into whatever structure we want that gives us the properties needed for certain applications," said Chad A. Mirkin, one of the paper's senior authors. The structures that finally form are the ones that maximize DNA hybridization. DNA is the stabilizing force, the glue that holds the structure together. "These structures are a new form of matter," said Mirkin, "that would be difficult, if not impossible, to make any other way."
An Oneonta surgeon who survived a lightning strike in 1994 and suddenly began craving piano music will make his public debut as a composer and pianist next week. Dr. Anthony Cicoria said the lightning bolt that came out of a pay phone during a family outing near Albany caused a near-death experience that changed his life forever. Nearly 14 years later, Cicoria will perform concerts at ... the State University College at Oneonta. After seeing his body lying on the ground and his family rushing to him, Cicoria was surrounded by a bluish-white light, the 55-year-old orthopedic surgeon said. He began drifting up and away from his body and entered a state of bliss. Cicoria said he eventually came to and had no lasting physical effects from the strike. But he soon began having an intense desire to hear piano music. A short time after that, he said, he had a dream. "In this dream, I was playing in a concert hall," Cicoria said. The music in that dream stayed with him after he woke up. It and other music would be revealed to him in whole sections that would come into his mind at once, he said. While playing other composers' music, the notes from his dream would come out. "This music would suddenly come to the foreground and butt in," Cicoria said. When asked where the music comes from, Cicoria said it came from a divine place. "As Mozart said, it comes from heaven," Cicoria said. One of the greatest realizations he said he had from the near-death experience is the knowledge that there is life after death. "Whatever we are, our consciousness goes with the spirit," Cicoria said.
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