Here’s another one for the ‘black holes are weird’ file: a team of mathematicians has calculated that some black holes in an expanding Universe like ours can press the reset button on the history of their contents, effectively erasing the past and turning the future into a giant question mark.
Exactly what this would look like from an observer’s point of view is anybody’s guess. But if it turns out to be true, we might finally have a solution to one of the biggest questions in modern cosmology.
If we follow the laws of physics to their logical conclusions, all the mass of a collapsed star gets squeezed into an infinitely small point called a singularity.
That’s a little like saying there are volumes of space that keep secrets from the rest of the Universe, places where physics itself crumbles apart.
To deal with this breakdown between the rule-based Universe as we know it and these ‘here be dragons’ parts of black holes, physicists apply a little thing called cosmic censorship.
This censorship comes in two flavours.
Fairies are a well-known staple of folklore and modern children’s literature: supernatural beings who were thought by people of previous ages to inhabit the pastoral landscapes of Europe. But while belief in such creatures might be assumed to have no place in our modern, rational world, it seems fairies don’t really care, as new research has found that some people still regularly have encounters with them.
In fact, more than ‘some’: in the newly released, 400-page-long Fairy Census, 2014-2017 (free PDF download), some five hundred fairy experiences from the modern day are detailed. They were collected over the last few years via an ongoing internet questionnaire about who sees fairies, when and why.
A variety of fears stopped me from using psychedelics until much later in life. My first few experiences were so shockingly positive, I couldn’t help but confess to friends and colleagues how much they had transformed me. This is when I discovered the sheer number of people I knew and admired who shared their own secret stories of life-changing psychedelic experiences.
To be sure, everyone reading this article has been touched by someone who has used and loved psychedelics (and, not just because Steve Jobs said that dropping Acid was one of the important decisions of his life).
On a weekly, if not a daily basis, you probably use their technology and read their news stories. The author Tim Ferriss, who became famous for interviewing the world’s high-performing athletes and businessmen, once said that “most of the billionaires” he knows use psychedelics. Many of the people who impact your life everyday attribute their success in life in no small part to psychedelics.
There is a Grand Canyon-size gap between what psychedelics actually do for society and the way the law views them. Psychedelics are widely used and none of the fears that justify criminalization have happened. Like Marijuana, it is only a matter of time before public fears are washed away by folks talking to someone they know who uses psychedelics.
So, as a first step to inspiring others to talk, I’m going to describe, in as much legal detail as possible*, everything I’ve done and how it’s impacted me, with an eye towards answering all the skeptical questions that kept me from using psychedelics until very recently. It is my hope that the ensuing conversation (and lack of negative consequences) will open space for other posts like this one.
The faces that look out of old photos and paintings are people of the past. All of them are connected to the living, although those connections have often been lost. A large fraction of people in past generations have no living descendants. Others have them, but no full accounting of them exists.
It is part of my profession to recover what science can of the histories of unknown ancient peoples. The individual histories of recent people are no less interesting, and in many cases are unknown.
In the early 1960s, researchers predicted that the Amahuaca people of the Peruvian Amazon would likely disappear, yet today the younger generations are continuing their struggle to avoid that fate, and, led by a determined bilingual teacher, they do everything possible as they face diseases, lack of support for education and the difficulties of remaining largely invisible to their country.
We are the only person living within our world. We may share the same moment and space with billions of others, but our reality is uniquely ours and it is carefully constructed to fit our own worldview and belief system. Ultimately we are alone, even when surrounded by family and friends. While others may share the benefits and blow-back from our decisions, we alone bear the full burden of our beliefs.
I could no more understand the belief system, thought processes and daily lives of a movie star, neurosurgeon, or nuclear physicist than I could a drug kingpin, human trafficker or serial killer. No two people share the same exact world, not even identical twins.
I point this out solely to emphasize this article is not a recommendation or endorsement of any particular course of action. Nor is it a warning a similar course of action will produce the same results for you. My only goal when writing this article was to share our experiences, how we were affected and what we did to cope.
If you missed Part One and Part Two of this article, both installments laid out the groundwork for this final chapter. For those who did not read them, I’ll summarize the first two chapters in a single sentence. We woke up, bugged out and almost caved in after we were turned upside down when nearly everything went sideways.
During this six year journey we took a wild ride on the pendulum of life, eventually becoming totally out of balance with the world and each other. Part One described our initial awakening to how the world really works and everything leading up to our move to an isolated off-grid homestead. Part Two contained a summary of some of the larger challenges, successes, disasters, surprises and strange events we faced once we settled into our new home.
In this final chapter I detail how my wife and I progressed from a stress and drama free life of peace and harmony (aka blissful ignorance) to finding ourselves in constant conflict. This dissonance created such a high level of stress and disharmony we were constantly at each other’s throat.
It was remarkable that the reversal took place after a million-year separation, said Alan Brelsford, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of California at Riverside who was not involved with this research.
“What’s neat about the ravens is it seems like they were separated for quite a long time and still managed to fuse,” he said.
Brelsford was impressed with the level of detail in the research: Mitochondria alone might tell an unrepresentative story, but the combination of nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA was convincing, he said.
It is not clear how the birds could reunite after being apart for so long. There are three main barriers to species fusion: mate choice, ecological differences and biochemical incompatibilities, Brelsford said.
An ice age, a few of which occurred within the 440,000-to-140,000-year timeline of first contact, might cause some of those barriers to crumble.
Perhaps a glacier isolated a pocket of common ravens with the other species in California. Alone among distant relatives, the common ravens possibly mingled as their mating instincts kicked in.
“You have no one else to breed with, so you’re going to breed with a raven that looks the same as you,” Kearns said.
“The authors argue convincingly that the ranges of the previously separated raven populations changed as a result of a natural change in climate,” Grant said.
“This brought them together, and interbreeding followed.”
Last century, scientists had a laser-like focus on how species split, Omland said, looking for the hatchets that drove organisms apart.
Advances in genomics changed that. In February, researchers studying the elephant genome revealed how elephants interbred with mastodons, Omland noted.
Species fusion is “probably a way more common phenomenon than has been reported,” he said.
Dreams have long proved a fertile ground for human creativity and expression, and no less so than in the visual arts, giving rise to some of its most arresting images. In addition to the many and varied dreams so important to religion and myth there has emerged, in the last few centuries since the birth of Romanticism, an exploration of the more personal dream-world. Indeed, with its link to the unconscious, the form has perhaps proved the perfect vehicle for those artists looking to surface that which lies submerged – desire, guilt, fear, ambition – to bring to light the truth the waking mind keeps hid.
No doubt, also, artists have been attracted to the challenge of giving form to something so visually intangible as a dream, a challenge taken up in many ways through the centuries. More often than not there appears the sleeping body itself, with the dream element incorporated in a variety of ways. Common is for the dream sequence to appear in a totally separate part of the image, as if projected on the walls of the sleeping mind: often in the midst of that familiar floating cloud, but also as emerging from nearby objects or events of the day (see the Toyokuni image below) . Also common, particularly in the depiction of nightmares, is for the figures of the dream to simply appear as though in the room with the sleeper, often directly upon the body itself (see the Fuseli below). With the advent of photography, and the potential of double exposures, we see also a different way of trying to capture that intangibility of the dream image. With both the Grandville and Redon images featured, and the work of the Surrealists they anticipate, we see a different approach entirely, one which looks past the sleeper to focus solely on the imagery of the dream itself, and in the process perhaps giving a more true impression of the strangeness and otherworldliness which so often characterises the dream experience.
The precipitating event came in the form of 40,000-year-old Neanderthal bones found in a Croatian cave. So well-preserved were the bones that they yielded enough DNA for sequencing, and it became Reich’s job in 2007 to analyze the DNA for signs that Neanderthals interbred with humans—a idea he was “deeply suspicious” of at the time.
To his surprise, the DNA revealed that humans and Neanderthals did interbreed in their time together in Europe. Possibly even more than once. Today, surprisingly, the people carrying the most Neanderthal DNA are not in Europe but in East Asia—likely due to the patterns of ancient human migration in Eurasia in the thousands of years after Neanderthals died out. All this painted a complicated but dynamic picture of human prehistory. Since the very beginning of our species, humans have been on the move; at times they replaced and at other times they mixed with the local population, first hominids like Neanderthals and later other humans.
Reich has since converted his lab at Harvard Medical School into a “factory” for studying ancient DNA. His new book, Who We Are and How We Got Here, charts the myriad ways the study of ancient DNA is lobbing bombs into the halls of established wisdom. In Europe, for example, ancient DNA is identifying waves of migrations into the continent, in which groups of people serially replaced, or nearly replaced, the local population.
That seems counterintuitive, especially since we know that Neanderthals lived throughout Europe and Asia, whereas Denisovans have only been found in a single Siberian cave. But that picture might be deceptive. Scientists have sequenced the genomes of two Neanderthals—one from Vindija Cave, in Croatia, and another from the Altai region, in Siberia—and the differences between them are smaller than between the two Denisovan populations Browning identified in her work. “Maybe the Neanderthals were more nomadic and their populations were mixing a lot, while the Denisovans stayed in particular places and didn’t mix,” she says.
New finds from Kenya suggest that humans used long-distance trade networks, sophisticated tools, and symbolic pigments right from the dawn of our species.
We’ve known about zombie ants for quite some time, but scientists have struggled to understand how the parasitic fungus, O. unilateralis (pronounced yu-ni-lat-er-al-iss), performs its puppeteering duties. This fungus is often referred to as a “brain parasite,” but new research published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the brains of these zombie ants are left intact by the parasite, and that O. unilateralis is able to control the actions of its host by infiltrating and surrounding muscle fibres throughout the ant’s body. In effect, it’s converting an infected ant into an externalized version of itself. Zombie ants thus become part insect, part fungus. Awful, right?
To make this discovery, the scientist who first uncovered the zombie ant fungus, David Hughes from Penn State, launched a multidisciplinary effort that involved an international team of entomologists, geneticists, computer scientists, and microbiologists. The point of the study was to look at the cellular interactions between O. unilateralis and the carpenter ant host Camponotus castaneus during a critical stage of the parasite’s life cycle — that phase when the ant anchors itself onto the bottom of leaf with its powerful mandibles.
Time to write another blogpost. Well, past time. I’m late. Dearie me ! Where does the life-time go ?? Answers on a postcard, please…
As those of you who have survived from the previous post may have gathered, I am ill, unwell, sickly, indisposed, and even more kranky and savage than usual. Sigh….
In the previous comments, there was a message from our correspondent out there in the wilds, the backwoods, located somewhere over in the badlands of Upper Kekistan, (if I recall correctly, somewhere in the East, anyway), where he survives amidst the imaginary yak-herders and mushroom-zombies, a bleak and tenuous existence, grasping the straws that blow in the wind and trading them for wisps of gossip and cups of tea…
Anyway, from what I gather, he’s in some different timezone and the land is flat, unlike here, where I have mountains, and as every schoolchild knows, mountains attract snow and related inclement weather, so we have a harsh life and are forced to cling to our ancient customs for comfort and sustenance, customs like rugby, quoting Dylan Thomas, wearing clothes woven from leaks and daffodils, practising longbowmanship, motorcycle maintenance, that sort of thing…
You know, Mari Llwyd and her friends, of whom I have written before. Probably I forgot to pay due homage earlier this year, preoccupied by ailments as I’ve been, which is why I’m suffering such bad luck these days, when a quarter of the year has already slipped by, and I hardly even noticed yet….
So, the aforementioned correspondent, one Wolfwitch, sent me a message hereabouts to which I am obliged to reply
So, concerning Gordon White who had dropped off my radar…. This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed on this internet thing, people, names, sites, just disappear and vanish from one’s world, and nobody notices because there are always thousands more to fill the space…
Gordon White rambles on about his father and Jordan Peterson…
Seems to me this is a basic human social need, I mean, to have celebrities, heroes and anti-heroes, it’s there in vivid detail in the ancient Greek stories and the Sagas and the Indian epics… ‘Some talk of Alexander, some of Hercules, of Hector and Lysander and such great names as these, but of all the world’s great heroes then none that can compare with….’
Peterson, as an educated Jungian amongst other things, is well aware of this phenomenon, so he knows how to play the part, from a theoretical as well as the practical point of view, and he’s obviously doing it right, because he recovered from the low point I mentioned in my previous blogpost, and has achieved global publicity.
This ascension into the public social consciousness is not a new thing, saints, royals, military leaders, sometimes bandits, pirates and folk heroes, have all exploited it over the centuries, but now it’s mediated and amplified by the technology. Julius Caesar, Napoleon, etc, knew instinctively how to play to the gallery, and more recently, as well as writing and word of mouth, we got the mass production of records, film and radio, that helped names like Bing Crosby, Sinatra, Elvis Presley, etc, to become widely known.
But a clinical psychologist as rock star-hero ? That is a bit weird. He did have the same University job as Timothy Leary once had, so he must have known the potential when he gained that position, and Leary had a famous (or notorious) meeting with the psychiatrist R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience, who also gained fame outside his field, for his radical ideas and theories about sanity and madness.
I don’t want to get diverted by The White Rabbit and sucked into the warren of cross-connecting tunnels that link Tavistock Clinic, ECTs, MKUltra, lobotomies, CIA, Doors of Perception, Grateful Dead, Merry Pranksters, Manchurian Candidates, all that stuff, because I have trouble re-emerging, it’s so vast and everything seems to connect to everything else in weird, bizarre, even terrible ways… shrooms, shamanism, the ultimate mysteries of existence, birth, life, death, etc, one thing leads to another….
Gordon White knows that, and so does Jordan Peterson. The ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and others, the tribal shamans of Eurasia,(see Mircea Eliade) had to find ways to integrate that weirdness into their consciousness and cultures, and we are beset with many of the same dilemmas that our predecessors encountered and struggled with.
I was intending to watch that Gordon White video on Peterson again and give you my thoughts and opinions, but, actually, if you follow this blog, your’e all smart savvy folks who are well-able to watch it yourselves and form your own views, you don’t need me to tell you what to think, do you ? 🙂
— The British Pilgrimage Trust (@PilgrimTrust) March 20, 2018
So, change of topic. Because my right leg seems fairly useless and not improving, in fact worse than when I was in hospital, I’ve been pondering options, and toying with the idea of getting one of these things, so I can get around on this mountain a bit more before I die and disappear….
Onwards and upwards…