Nature of Reality News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on the nature of reality
Improbable [findings] have poured forth in psychological research over the last few years. New studies have found that people tidy up more thoroughly when there’s a faint tang of cleaning liquid in the air; they become more competitive if there’s a briefcase in sight, or more cooperative if they glimpse words like “dependable” and “support” — all without being aware of the change, or what prompted it. Psychologists say that “priming” people in this way is not some form of hypnotism, or even subliminal seduction; rather, it’s a demonstration of how everyday sights, smells and sounds can selectively activate goals or motives that people already have. More fundamentally, the new studies reveal a subconscious brain that is far more active, purposeful and independent than previously known. Goals, whether to eat, mate or devour an iced latte, are like neural software programs that can only be run one at a time, and the unconscious is perfectly capable of running the program it chooses. The give and take between these unconscious choices and our rational, conscious aims can help explain some of the more mystifying realities of behavior, like how we can be generous one moment and petty the next, or act rudely at a dinner party when convinced we are emanating charm. John A. Bargh, a professor of psychology at Yale, [said] “We’re finding that we have these unconscious behavioral guidance systems that are continually furnishing suggestions through the day about what to do next, and the brain is considering and often acting on those, all before conscious awareness. Sometimes those goals are in line with our conscious intentions and purposes, and sometimes they’re not.” Scientists have spent years trying to pinpoint the exact neural regions that support conscious awareness, so far in vain.
Matthew Dovel says he calls himself "a hostile witness to heaven and hell." Dovel is one of the thousands of Americans who have reported what are called near-death experiences. Many people brought back from the brink of death swear they've been to heaven. Far fewer report visiting hell, but Dovel believes he's seen both. Dovel's first near-death experience happened when he was 12 years old and was trying to swim the entire length of a pool underwater. As he surfaced, his friends playfully pushed him back under. "I was completely out of breath," he said. "The instant that I took the breath of water in, a white light engulfed me. And I flashed back over my life. It was just all these good moments in my life. I was completely happy to be at this place." In that moment, Dovel says, a "beautiful creature" came out of the light. He said you've got to go back." Dovel had been rescued by his friends, but that glimpse into the afterlife left him confused and profoundly depressed. "A rage came over me and an uncontrollable anger towards God that I had to come back." The next decade became a constant cycle of booze and cocaine-fueled binges [ending in a suicide attempt]. Dovel's lifelong wish to return to heaven ... ended in a personal vision of hell. "It was extremely hot and very humid and dense," he said. The experience then became extremely painful not physically, but emotionally. "I'm living in my past," he said. "And all the people that I had met throughout my life, they would come to me and ... start pushing and screaming and I would relive a moment that I had caused them pain. This is something so horrific that when I came out of that, I quit a $1,000-a-week drug habit cold turkey." Dovel sobered up and devoted his life to suicide prevention through International Suicide Prevention, his nonprofit organization.
Note: To see an ABC News "20/20" report on Matthew Dovel's near-death experiences, click here.
A sprawling waterfront state park known as Camp Hero [is situated] in Montauk on Long Island. Conspiracy theorists have long claimed that the park has been the site of sci-fi worthy events, including rifts in the time-space continuum [and] mind-control experiments. Such unsubstantiated reports were in large part ignited by a 1992 book, “The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time,” by Preston B. Nichols with Peter Moon.. “All of the rumors, that’s part of why we came here,” said Patrick Wenk, 26, of Stony Brook, N.Y., who was visiting one chilly autumn afternoon. His girlfriend, Sarah Holub, 25, [said] it was her friends who piqued her initial interest in the park by telling her about the conspiracy theories and rumors of paranormal occurrences. A search on Google revealed several Web sites that elaborated on the theories and suggested that Camp Hero was the site of time-travel experiments that picked up where the Philadelphia Experiment — in which a 1940s Navy ship and crew were said to have been made invisible and teleported from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Va. — left off. when Ms. Holub shared a story about her friends being in Camp Hero at night only to have all their flashlights go dead simultaneously, we both laughed. Yet I was experiencing some technical difficulties of my own. My reliable digital camera was on the fritz. I changed the batteries. I played with the lens. It would not take a photograph. I slipped it into my coat pocket to fiddle with later and continued my hike.
Note: Though it's difficult to find reliable information on these matters, those with an open mind and a desire to know might appreciate spending some time exploring the links above.
Scientists are boldly going where only fiction has gone before to develop a Cloak of Invisibility. It isn't quite ready to hide a Romulan space ship from Capt. James T. Kirk or to disguise Harry Potter, but it is a significant start and could show the way to more sophisticated designs. In this first successful experiment, researchers from the United States and England were able to cloak a copper cylinder. It's like a mirage, where heat causes the bending of light rays and cloaks the road ahead behind an image of the sky. "We have built an artificial mirage that can hide something from would-be observers in any direction," said cloak designer David Schurig, a research associate in Duke University's electrical and computer engineering department. Cloaking used special materials to deflect radar or light or other waves around an object, like water flowing around a smooth rock in a stream. The new work points the way for an improved version that could hide people and objects from visible light. Conceptually, the chance of adapting the concept to visible light is good, Schurig said in a telephone interview. But, he added, "From an engineering point of view it is very challenging." The cloaking of a cylinder from microwaves comes just five months after Schurig and colleagues published their theory that it should be possible. In an ideal situation, the cloak and the item it is hiding would be invisible. An observer would see whatever is beyond them, with no evidence the cloaked item exists.
Note: Remember that technologies developed in top-secret military, intelligence, and other government projects are generally at the very least 10 years in advance of anything being developed in the public domain.
Witold Bialokur...can run 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles, in less than 44 minutes. While Mr. Bialokur’s performance would be the envy of most young men, he is not young. Mr. Bialokur is 71. It is one of the persistent mysteries of aging, researchers say. Why would one person, like Mr. Bialokur, remain so hale and hearty while another, who had seemed just as healthy, start to weaken and slow down? Rigorous studies are now showing that seeing, or hearing, gloomy nostrums about what it is like to be old can make people walk more slowly, hear and remember less well, and even affect their cardiovascular systems. Positive images of aging have the opposite effects. The constant message that old people are expected to be slow and weak and forgetful is not a reason for the full-blown frailty syndrome. But it may help push people along that path.
Physicists in Denmark have teleported information from light to matter bringing quantum communication and computing closer to reality. Until now scientists have teleported similar objects such as light or single atoms over short distances from one spot to another in a split second. But Professor Eugene Polzik and his team at the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University in Denmark have made a breakthrough by using both light and matter. "It is one step further because for the first time it involves teleportation between light and matter, two different objects. One is the carrier of information and the other one is the storage medium," Polzik explained in an interview on Wednesday. The experiment involved for the first time a macroscopic atomic object containing thousands of billions of atoms. They...teleported the information a distance of half a meter but believe it can be extended further. "Teleportation between two single atoms had been done two years ago by two teams, but this was done at a distance of a fraction of a millimeter," Polzik, of the Danish National Research Foundation Center for Quantum Optics, explained. "Our method allows teleportation to be taken over longer distances because it involves light as the carrier of entanglement." Quantum entanglement involves entwining two or more particles without physical contact.
Using M.R.I. scanners, neuroscientists have now tracked what happens in the politically partisan brain when it tries to digest damning facts about favored candidates or criticisms of them. The process is almost entirely emotional and unconscious, the researchers report, and there are flares of activity in the brain's pleasure centers when unwelcome information is being rejected. Researchers have long known that political decisions are strongly influenced by unconscious emotional reactions, a fact routinely exploited by campaign consultants and advertisers. But the new research suggests that for partisans, political thinking is often predominantly emotional. It is possible to override these biases, Dr. Westen said, "but you have to engage in ruthless self reflection, to say, 'All right, I know what I want to believe, but I have to be honest.' " He added, "It speaks to the character of the discourse that this quality is rarely talked about in politics."
The idea that measuring the properties of one particle could instantaneously change the properties of another one (or a whole bunch) far away is strange to say the least. The team that pulled off the beryllium feat...hailed it as another step toward computers that would use quantum magic to perform calculations. But it also served as another demonstration of how weird the world really is according to the rules, known as quantum mechanics. Nary a week goes by that does not bring news of another feat of quantum trickery once only dreamed of in thought experiments: particles (or at least all their properties) being teleported across the room in a microscopic version of Star Trek beaming; electrical "cat" currents that circle a loop in opposite directions at the same time; more and more particles farther and farther apart bound together in Einstein's spooky embrace now known as "entanglement." At the University of California, Santa Barbara, researchers are planning an experiment in which a small mirror will be in two places at once. Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna said that he thought, "The world is not as real as we think.
Note: Consider also that top secret projects are generally at least 10 years in advance of anything reported in the news or scientific magazines. We can only imagine what these projects might be doing.
Archaeologists say they have discovered some stone remains from the coast close to India's famous beachfront Mahabalipuram temple in Tamil Nadu state following the 26 December tsunami. They believe that the "structures" could be the remains of an ancient and once-flourishing port city in the area housing the famous 1200-year-old rock-hewn temple. Archaeologists say they had done underwater surveys 1 km into the sea from the temple and found some undersea remains. "They could be part of the small seaport city which existed here before water engulfed them." says T Sathiamoorthy of Archaeological Survey of India. Archaeologists say that the stone remains date back to 7th Century AD. They have elaborate engravings of the kind that are found in the Mahabalipuram temple. The temple, which is a World Heritage site, represents some of the earliest-known examples of Dravidian architecture dating back to 7th Century AD. The myths of Mahabalipuram were first set down in writing by British traveller J Goldingham ... in 1798, at which time it was known to sailors as the Seven Pagodas. The myths speak of six temples submerged beneath the waves with the seventh temple still standing on the seashore. The myths also state that a large city which once stood on the site was so beautiful the gods became jealous and sent a flood that swallowed it up entirely in a single day.
Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live. “He doesn’t make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die,” said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in [the July 26] issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. “Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one,” said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University. The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses. After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He’d sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours. Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. “This is not a cat that’s friendly to people,” he said. Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill. Most families are grateful for the advanced warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure.
These dynamic and personable businessmen from Dublin insist that they have found a way of producing free, clean and limitless energy out of thin air. So, as they prepare to demonstrate this wonder of science to me...I feel all the excitement of Christmas Day. There is a test rig with wheels and cogs and four magnets meticulously aligned so as to create the maximum tension between their fields and one other magnet fixed to a point opposite. A motor rotates the wheel bearing the magnets and a computer takes 28,000 measurements a second. And when it is all over, the computer tells us that almost three times the amount of energy has come out of the system as went in. In fact, this piece of equipment is 285% efficient. "We couldn't believe it at first, either," says McCarthy, chief executive of the company. "We wanted to improve the performance of the wind generators...so we experimented with certain generator configurations and then one day one of our guys...came in and said: 'We have a problem. We appear to be getting out more than we're putting in.'" That was three years ago. Since then, McCarthy says, the company has spent Ł2.7m developing the technology. Until their claims have been assessed by the jury, McCarthy says they won't be accepting any investor offers. So if this is a hoax, it would appear not to be a money-making scheme. The Economist ad alone cost Ł75,000. "We expected stick, and we're getting it already. We've had a lot of abusive emails and telephone calls -people telling us to watch our backs"
Note: To understand how this is possible, see http://www.WantToKnow.info/newenergysources
A man who claims to have developed a free energy technology which could power everything from mobile phones to cars has received more than 400 applications from scientists to test it. Sean McCarthy says that no one was more sceptical than he when Steorn, his small hi-tech firm in Dublin, hit upon a way of generating clean, free and constant energy from the interaction of magnetic fields. 'It wasn't so much a Eureka moment as a get-back-in-there-and-check-your-instruments moment, although in far more colourful language,' said McCarthy. But when he attempted to share his findings, he says, scientists either put the phone down on him or refused to endorse him publicly in case they damaged their academic reputations. So last week he took out a full-page advert in the Economist magazine, challenging the scientific community to examine his technology. McCarthy claims it provides five times the amount of energy a mobile phone battery generates for the same size, and does not have to be recharged. Within 36 hours of his advert appearing he had been contacted by 420 scientists in Europe, America and Australia, and a further 4,606 people had registered to receive the results.
Steorn has now posted a slick, five-minute video that features interviews with company CEO Sean McCarthy as well as the company's marketing director. For more background, see our earlier discussion. The video's slick, and not too heavy on scientific detail. But it's worth checking out. It does begin to explain the company's motivations for choosing to issue a challenge in the Economist. McCarthy: "The first roadblock is science. With the academic community, it might take five to seven years before being able to get to a consensus position. As a business, that makes absolutely no sense." The video explains that a "quiet" campaign was plan A. The direct marketing approach currently being taken is Plan B. McCarthy: "The claim does rail against so much thinking from ordinary people. We have to fight public opinion, we have to fight the scientific community and we have to fight the energy industry. We couldn't pick a worse battleground."
Note: For lots more on the many who have developed similar discoveries and how they have been either bought out or shut down, click here.
Terisa and Matt and Vera and Larry ... believe in "ethical nonmonogamy," or engaging in loving, intimate relationships with more than one person – based upon the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. They are polyamorous, to use the term of art applied to multiple-partner families like theirs, and they wouldn't want to live any other way. Researchers are just beginning to study the phenomenon, but the few who do, estimate that openly polyamorous families in the United States number more than half a million. Over the past year, books like Open, by journalist Jenny Block; Opening Up, by sex columnist Tristan Taormino ... have helped publicize the concept. Today there are poly blogs and podcasts, local get-togethers, and an online polyamory magazine called Loving More with 15,000 regular readers. Celebrities like actress Tilda Swinton and Carla Bruni, the first lady of France, have voiced support. Polys say they aren't so much denying their biological instincts as insisting they can work around them – through open communication, patience, and honesty. Polys call this process "compersion," or learning to find personal fulfillment in the emotional and sexual satisfaction of your partner, even if you're not the one doing the satisfying. "It's about making sure that everybody's needs are met, including your own," says Terisa. "And that's not always easy, but it's part of the fun." It's a new paradigm, certainly – and it does break some rules. "Polyamory scares people. It shakes up their world view," says Allena Gabosch, the director of the Seattle-based Center for Sex Positive Culture.
It wasn't immediately obvious to Walter Semkiw that he was the reincarnation of John Adams. Semkiw is a doctor. In 1984, a psychic told the then [skeptical] medical resident and psychiatrist-in-training that he is the reincarnation of a major figure of the Revolution, possibly Adams. But one day in 1995, when Semkiw was the medical director for Unocal 76, the oil company, he heard a voice in his head intoning, "Study the life of Adams!" Now he found details much more telling than those silly coincidences he had learned a dozen years earlier. It was all so persuasive, thought Semkiw ... that as a man of science and reason whose work requires him to critically evaluate empirical evidence, he had to accept that he was Adams reincarnated. If you have never had a paranormal experience ... you are in a lonely minority. According to periodic surveys by Gallup and other pollsters, fully 90 percent of Americans say they have experienced such things or believe they exist. Raised as a Roman Catholic, Semkiw is driven by a what-if optimism. If only people could accept reincarnation, he believes, Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites might stop fighting (since they might be killing someone who was once one of them). He is dismissive of the idea that reincarnation has not been empirically proved. That was the status of everything science has since proved, be it the ability of atoms to vibrate in synchrony (the basis of the laser) or of mold to cure once-lethal infections (penicillin). Dedicated to the empirical method, Semkiw believes the world is on the brink of "a science of spirituality."
Note: This article overall is strongly dismissive of paranormal phenomena, yet it contains some interesting information. For Semkiw's website on the return of the revolutionaries, click here. For an excellent essay on how science is sometimes blind to new concepts, click here.
There is a moment of foreshadowing at the end of “Battle at Kruger,” the eight-minute African safari video that has drawn more than 30 million views on YouTube. David Budzinski, a tourist from Texas, has just recorded a stunning scene straight out of a wildlife documentary. A small pride of lions and a crocodile have pinned down a cape buffalo calf, prompting an angry herd of buffalo to fight off the predators and save the babe. A fellow traveler remarks, “You could sell that video!” After returning home, Mr. Budzinski tried, but National Geographic and Animal Planet were not interested. Only after the battle — alternately terrifying and heart-warming — became one of the most popular videos in YouTube’s history did the buyers come calling. Last summer the National Geographic Channel purchased the television rights to the video, and on Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern time, it will devote an hour to a documentary deconstructing the drama. Adhering to the short-form spirit of YouTube, the complete tale concludes in slightly more than eight minutes. Mr. Budzinski tried unsuccessfully to sell it to television networks. “They all told us the same thing — they don’t accept any footage from amateurs,”he said. For almost three years the film essentially sat on the shelf. But a year ago, when Mr. Schlosberg used YouTube to share the video with a friend — it was easier than making a DVD copy and mailing it, he said — “Battle at Kruger” started spreading virally on the Internet. Before long, National Geographic [called].
Note: To watch this amazing 8-minute clip of a highly unusual battle between lions and water buffalo, click here.
Teleportation is real. Using powerful lasers and optics to manipulate photons, or units of light, researchers in China set a record for teleporting a photon more than 10 miles (16 km), TIME reported in 2010. Now a different team of physicists at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai says it has shattered that record, claiming to have sent a photon more than 60 miles (97 km). Quantum teleportation, which has been around since 1997, is a little different than what you see in sci-fi movies. Teleportation is the ability [to] move one object from one place to another without traversing the space in between. The actual object is not moving from point A to point B. Rather, the distant photon mirrors the information contained by the original photon, essentially becoming an identical twin. The team’s greatest contribution is not necessarily the distance it made the data travel but the method it used to harness the 1.3-watt laser beam that carries it. The longer a beam of light travels, the more it spreads out, causing the photon to lose information and trail off course. To keep the beam on target, the researchers created a technique that focuses and steers the laser. Though beaming up humans and animals ŕ la Star Trek is not on the agenda anytime soon, as the technology becomes more sophisticated, it will likely be applied to military communication. Theoretically, this method cannot be cracked or intercepted.
The New Caledonian crow is surprisingly smart about its food. Its favorite insects live in tiny crevices that are too narrow for its beak. So the crow takes a barbed leaf and, using its beak and claws, fashions a primitive hook. It then lowers the hook down into the cracks, almost like a man fishing, and draws up a rich meal. Some scientists even suggest that crows are more sophisticated tool builders than chimps, since they can transmit their knowledge on to successive generations and improve the tools over time. These birds have a culture. The world lost its most famous bird brain this month: Alex, an African gray parrot who lived in a Brandeis laboratory and possessed a vocabulary of nearly 150 words. Yet as remarkable as Alex was - he could identify colors and shapes - he was not alone. The songs of starlings display a sophisticated grammar once thought the sole domain of human thinking. A nutcracker can remember the precise location of hundreds of different food storage spots. And crows in Japan have learned how to get people to crack walnuts for them: They drop them near busy intersections, then retrieve the smashed nuts when the traffic light turns red. These feats are part of a growing recognition of the genius of birds. Scientists are now studying various birds to explore everything from spatial memory to the grammatical structure of human language. This research is helping to reveal the secrets of the human brain. But it is also overturning the conventional evolutionary story of intelligence, in which all paths lead to the creation of the human cortex. The tree of life, scientists are discovering, has numerous branches of brilliance. "It used to be that people would only talk about intelligence in terms of primates," says Nicola Clayton, a professor of comparative psychology at the University of Cambridge. "But now I think that birds have achieved a sort of honorary ape status, just with a few feathers attached."
For years, scientists have looked at the placebo effect as just a figment of overactive patient imaginations. Sure, dummy medications seemed to curb epileptic seizures, lower blood pressure, soothe migraines and smooth out jerky movements in Parkinson's -- but these people weren't really better. Now, using PET scanners and MRIs ... researchers have discovered that the placebo effect is not "all in patients' heads" but rather, in their brains. New research shows that belief in a dummy treatment leads to changes in brain chemistry. Says Dr. Michael Selzer, professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, "After pooh-poohing this for years, here are studies that show that our thoughts may actually interact with the brain in a physical way." New insights into how placebos work may even help scientists figure out how to harness the effect and teach people to train their own brains to help with healing. Studies in depressed patients ... have found that almost as many are helped by placebo treatments as by actual medications. Researchers are just starting to appreciate the power that the mind can have over the body. Part of what goes into the brain's interpretation is expectation. By changing the expectancy and bumping up the placebo response we might be able to ultimately find a way to provide sustained therapy for chronic pain.
Kiss your keyboard goodbye: soon we'll jack our brains directly into the Net - and that's just the beginning. Two years ago, a quadriplegic man started playing video games using his brain as a controller. It spells the beginning of a radical change in how we interact with computers. Someday, keyboards and computer mice will be remembered only as medieval-style torture devices for the wrists. All work - emails, spreadsheets, and Google searches - will be performed by mind control. [Consider] the sensational research that's been done on the brain of one Matthew Nagle. Nagle, a 26-year-old quadriplegic, was hooked up to a computer via an implant smaller than an aspirin that sits on top of his brain and reads electrical patterns. He learned how to move a cursor around a screen, play simple games, control a robotic arm, and even...turn his brain into a TV remote control [all] in less time than the average PC owner spends installing Microsoft Windows. Neurodevices - medical devices that compensate for damage to the brain, nerves, and spinal column - are a $3.4 billion business that grew 21 percent last year. There are currently some 300 companies working in the field. This kind of technology can enable a hooked-up human to write at 15 words a minute. Remember, though, that silicon-based technology typically doubles in capacity every two years. Last year, Sony took out a patent on a game system that beams data directly into the mind without implants. It uses a pulsed ultrasonic signal that induces sensory experiences such as smells, sounds and images.
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