This article is based primarily on the results of the recent census into faerie sightings by Simon Young and The Fairy Investigation Society. It includes c.500 reports from all over the world, although the majority are from Britain, Ireland and North America. In some ways this is a follow up survey to that carried out by Marjorie Johnson, and published as Seeing Fairies in 2014.
Johnson’s survey was restricted to mostly cases from the mid 20th century, but the new census (published as a free downloadable document in January 2018) contains encounters from the 1960s (with a few predating this) through to the present day, with the majority post-1980. In the introduction to the census, Simon Young explains how the publication takes a different tack to Johnson’s work: “Marjorie Johnson wanted to prove that fairies exist. I do not have this ambition. I, instead, want to get a better understanding of who sees fairies and under what circumstances by looking at the stories and the sightings.”
And while contributors to the census were given the opportunity to state what they thought their experiences represented, there is no editorial evaluation into the sightings.
But it is no longer just a question of Zimbardo’s word against theirs. This past April, a French academic and filmmaker named Thibault Le Texier published Histoire d’un Mensonge [History of a Lie], plumbing newly-released documents from Zimbardo’s archives at Stanford University to tell a dramatically different story of the experiment.
After Zimbardo told me that Korpi and Yacco’s accusations were baseless, I read him a transcript unearthed by Le Texier of a taped conversation between Zimbardo and his staff on day three of the simulation: “An interesting thing was that the guys who came in yesterday, the two guys who came in and said they wanted to leave, and I said no,” Zimbardo told his staff. “There are only two conditions under which you can leave, medical help or psychiatric… I think they really believed they can’t get out.”
“Now, okay,” Zimbardo corrected himself on the phone with me. He then acknowledged that the informed consent forms which subjects signed had included an explicit safe phrase: “I quit the experiment.” Only that precise phrase would trigger their release.
Is controversial research into telepathy and other seeming ‘super-powers’ of the mind starting to be more accepted by orthodox science? In its latest issue, American Psychologist – the official peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Psychological Association – has published a paper that reviews the research so far into parapsychological (‘psi’) abilities, and concludes that the “evidence provides cumulative support for the reality of psi, which cannot be readily explained away by the quality of the studies, fraud, selective reporting, experimental or analytical incompetence, or other frequent criticisms.”
The new paper – “The experimental evidence for parapsychological phenomena: a review“, by Etzel Cardeña of Lund University – also discusses recent theories from physics and psychology “that present psi phenomena as at least plausible”, and concludes with recommendations for further progress in the field.
The paper begins by noting the reason for presenting an overview and discussion of the topic: “Most psychologists could reasonably be described as uninformed skeptics — a minority could reasonably be described as prejudiced bigots — where the paranormal is concerned”. Indeed, it quotes one cognitive scientist as stating that the acceptance of psi phenomena would “send all of science as we know it crashing to the ground”.
In the modern world, science has gifted (or is that cursed?) us with an awareness that what we once thought was ‘reality’ is actually just a highly filtered, tiny portion of what is actually ‘out there’. As Buckminster Fuller put it:
Up to the Twentieth Century, reality was everything humans could touch, smell, see and hear. Since the initial publication of the chart of the electromagnetic spectrum, humans have learned that what they can touch, smell, see, and hear is less than one-millionth of reality.
But scientists have also found that the thing we think of as ‘reality’ is not only a filtered fraction of a much greater whole, but is also extremely malleable, due to the fact that – for each of us – what we think of as reality is actually an approximation, a model we have built in our minds, built on information taken in from our environment. And one of the major filters affecting how that model is built is the language we think in.
The Cold War is long over, and along with it the greatest flourishing of mad-scientific thought since the Dark Ages. But there are still some, like Estonian-born technocrat Anton Vaino, who keep the flame alive. By day, Vaino is Vladimir Putin’s new chief of staff, in charge of the daily schedule of one of the world’s most powerful men. By night, Vaino is the co-inventor of the nooscope, “the first device of its kind that allows for the study of humanity’s collective mind”—a tool so powerful it can, by Vaino’s own admission, see into the future.1
Financial markets, like Selena and Bieber’s tumultuous, on-again, off-again romance, appear complicated, even chaotic to the casual observer. But beneath that apparent chaos lies a complex interplay of psychological, economic, and political forces. Gather enough data and feed it into a powerful enough predictive model and you can forecast how these forces will play out—at least that’s what advocates of big data and predictive analytics have been telling us for years.
The average human being can identify 430 corporate logos but can’t differentiate five different plants by looking at their leaves. Yet, there remains a simplicity and a beauty present in the natural world that we, as Marshmallow Laser Feast, try to re-interpret.
Did you know, for instance, that a mosquito can see carbon dioxide? Or that a dragonfly sees at 300 frames per second, which is a much higher frame-rate than our iPhone cameras? Or that owls can read a newspaper from the other side of a football pitch?
These incredible features evolved naturally, but we are so human-centric in our day-to-day lives that we don’t consider them.
Regular readers of the Daily Grail will know that we regularly explore the strange interactions between science and the occult through history, as well as the rewriting of that history by some in the modern ‘skeptical’ movement. If you’ve found those topics of interest, then I encourage you to check out Forbidden Histories, a website created by Dr. Andreas Sommer, a historian working on the interrelations of the sciences and magic.
Forbidden Histories‘ mission is to communicate some of this little-known history to the broader public, and explore how and why modern science seems to have disowned its own past (and present):
If you wish to be considered a scientific-minded person, you probably know that you really shouldn’t believe in the occurrence of events commonly referred to as ‘supernatural’. If there was something to that sort of thing, surely the greats of science such as Newton, Bacon, Boyle, the Curies and Einstein would have told us.
What may surprise you is that each of the scientific icons named above, and many others of similar standing, took reports of ‘marvellous’ phenomena quite seriously. In fact, the consensus in historical scholarship regarding the relationship between science and ‘magic’ has shifted notably during the past five decades. Even the most conservative historian of science will tell you today what previous generations ignored or denied:
DNA usually likes to follow rules. Strands of DNA are copied somewhat faithfully, and the copies are passed from parents to offspring, thus driving evolution as we know it. But, according to new estimates, fifty percent your genome is also composed of renegade DNA that likes to jump from species to species. This rogue DNA, researchers write in a Genome Biology article published Monday, has randomly inserted itself into almost every genome on this planet throughout the evolution of life. They are all that remain of a series of mysterious events from millions of years ago.
Atma Ivancevic, Ph.D., a post-doctoral neurogenetics and bioinformatics researcher and lead author of the paper, began his study by seeking to explain why the same rogue DNA can be found in animals as vastly different as sea urchins and humans. It’s established that most species on earth share a large amount of genetic material — you’ve probably heard the that humans share roughly 99 percent of our DNA with chimps — but these genes are different, says Ivancevic.
Biologists sometimes rely on predictive models based on the type of food that a particular species usually consumes, and there they are located, but here we see that not always a species is where it is believed to be its ideal habitat, but may even be in regions that were thought inadequate.
According to the results of this last study, about 57 thousand square kilometers of forest that several predictive models estimated to be inhabited by chimpanzees, do not have one or more of our primate relatives.
Primates are characterized by having been very adaptable throughout their evolutionary history, and chimpanzees are not the exception, they can adapt their lifestyle to various environmental conditions.
What do Neanderthals like best?
To know what habitat Neandertals prefer, scientists first map all known sites. Exactly this species of extinguished humans is on which more information has the paleoantropólogos. Everything that is known about these sites, that is, what the climate was like in that time, what kind of vegetation there was in the area, and what was its fauna, what would be the habitat.
Obviously, in extinct hominid species about which we barely know a deposit, the information is very small, and speculation a lot. If there are many palaeanthropological sites, such as the Neanderthals, a larger picture can be painted about the preferences or tolerances of the species in question. With all this information, one can predict in which region the chosen hominid may or may not have lived.
Strasser argued that the tools may represent a sea-borne migration of Neandertals from the Near East to Europe. The team used a variety of techniques to date the soil around the tools to at least 130,000 years old, but they could not pinpoint a more exact date. And the stratigraphy at the site is unclear, raising questions about whether the artifacts are as old as the soil they were embedded in. So other archaeologists were skeptical.
But the surprise discovery prompted researchers to scour the region for additional sites, an effort that is now bearing fruit. Possible Neandertal artifacts have turned up on a number of islands, including at Stelida on the island of Naxos. Naxos sits 250 kilometers north of Crete in the Aegean Sea; even during glacial times, when sea levels were lower, it was likely accessible only by watercraft. A Greek-Canadian team co-led by Tristan Carter of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, uncovered hundreds of tools embedded in the soil of a chert quarry. The hand axes and blades resemble the so-called Mousterian toolkit, which Neandertals and modern humans made from about 200,000 years ago until 50,000 years ago. These tools require a more sophisticated flaking method than Acheulean types do, including preparing a stone core before striking flakes off it.
If you trace back through human history, there have been a number of occasions where population diversity has taken a massive nosedive. One example is the ‘genetic bottleneck’ that occurred around 70,000 years ago when a number of possible environmental disasters reduced the world’s human population to somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 people.
A more recent event that occurred 7,000 years ago – which has remained a mystery for decades – saw that over a period of 2,000 years, the diversity in Y chromosomes just collapsed.
So extreme was this collapse, research has shown, that it resembled a plot from post-apocalyptic fiction, with only one man left to mate for every 17 women.
Generations of war
Now, however, a team from Stanford University has published a theory in Nature Communications that seems to suggest something relatively straightforward: all the men killed each other.
The team’s argument is that the collapse was due to generations of war between extended kinship groups known as patrilineal clans, whose membership was dominated by male ancestors.
First put forward by sociology undergraduate students Tian Chen Zeng and Alan Aw, the pair later collaborated with Prof Marcus Feldman to pick apart the peculiar bottleneck.
What made it so strange was, not only was it not observed in women, but it is much more recent than other biologically similar events, hinting that its origins might have something to do with changing social structures.
Changing social structures
At that time, human social structures were changing due to the onset of farming around 12,000 years ago and the emergence of patrilineal clans, which could have had significant biological consequences.
While women may have married into a clan, men in such clans are all related through male ancestors and therefore tend to have the same Y chromosomes, making it seem that everyone in a clan had the same father.
To explain how even between-clan variation might have declined during the bottleneck, the research team hypothesised that repeated wars between clans would also wipe out a good many male lineages and their unique Y chromosomes in the process.
Well, my dear readers, I think this post is going to be very brief, because this time I have much else which must be attended to, and little to say….
Here are a few more videos that I found interesting, if you have some time to fill..