Sunday, January 30, 2011

Epsilon Aurigae's Dark Companion

Epsilon Aurigae was first observed to be a variable star by German astronomer Johann Fritsch observed it in 1821, and it's been confounding scientists ever since. Wikipedia describes it this way:

Epsilon Aurigae is an unusual eclipsing binary system comprising an Fo supergiant and a companion which is generally accepted to be a huge dark disk orbiting an unknown object, possibly a binary system of 2 small B-type stars. About every 27 years, Epsilon Aurigae's brightness drops from an apparent visual magnitude of +2.92 to +3.83. This dimming lasts 640–730 days.[3] In addition to this eclipse, the system also has a low amplitude pulsation with a non-consistent period of around 66 days.[4] The distance to the system is still a subject of debate, but modern estimates place it approximately 2,000 light years from Earth.

Citizen Sky is currently running a project encouraging armchair astronomy enthusiasts to help observe the Epsilon Aurigae eclipse, which is currently still ongoing. They provide you with a finder chart and tutorials so you can collect and contribute scientific data to help solve the mystery. No equipment is necessary, nor is any prior experience in amateur astronomy. Epsilon Aurigae is very bright in fall, winter and spring - sufficiently so that it can be observed by anyone with decent eyesight.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

World Business Leaders Told Aliens Exist

Michael E. Salla's Exopolitics Institute, always a good source for cutting-edge information, is reporting that a Saudi Arabian global business conference recently made some surprisingly frank declarations about alien life:

"At five thousand dollars a ticket, some business leaders got more than they bargained for when they attended the first day of the Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) being held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They were told flying saucers are real, and they had better start thinking about the business implications of extraterrestrial life and technologies. Convened each year by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, the GCF brings together business and political leaders to discuss ways of promoting business competitiveness. For the first time at its annual conference, the GCF held a panel discussing UFOs and extraterrestrial life. Titled “Learning from Outer Space” the panel comprised five speakers who all endorsed the view that extraterrestrial life is real, and has many implications for the world as we know it.

The panel was held on January 23, and was a “main plenary” session meaning all GCF participants were able to attend and hear what the experts had to say about UFOs and extraterrestrial life. Up to 1000 participants included business and political elites such as former British and Canadian Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and Jean Chretien; Jim Albaugh, President and CEO of Boeing; Andy Bird, chairman of Walt Disney International; Jared Cohen, Director of Google ideas, and many others. The advice they got was that the issue of extraterrestrial life is real, and they better start paying attention to the business implications."

Read the entire article here. And in a follow-up article, Salla mentions that President Bill Clinton also took part in this conference, and addressed the crowd with remarks on the necessity for innovation. Clearly this is no small-time eccentric convention, but a serious symposium of some of our planet's major players. Also on hand were Stanton Friedman, Jacques Vallee, Nick Pope, and Michio Kaku.

Salla in convinced that this means, more than ever, that disclosure about extraterrestrial civilizations is imminent, and we tend to agree. This year of the rabbit could indeed bring us interesting times!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Year of the Rabbit

"May you live in interesting times", so says the Chinese curse. Soon we shall all live in interesting times indeed, every last one of us: February 3 begins the Chinese Year of the Rabbit.

Rabbit years have always been associated with upheaval, motion, activity, and most of all, sex. An article on Yahoo News quotes a Feng Shui master as stating, "it will be a year of more sex scandals and sexual affairs".

The chaos that comes with a Rabbit year can be of a playful and mischievous sort, much like the happy-go-lucky hippity-hop behavior of bunnies themselves. But remember that one man's mischief can be another man's murder: 1963 was a Rabbit year and John F. Kennedy's head was blown apart by multiple gunshots. The "lone nut" patsy was of course none other than Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was nicknamed "Ozzie Rabbit" (after the Walt Disney cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit) during his time in the military with David Ferrie.

It's gonna be a bumpy ride. Put me in, coach. We're gonna need a bigger boat. We're gonna take 'em out a whole new door. Always in motion is the future.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Telephone Telepathy

Good old Rupert Sheldrake, he of the Morphic Field Theory, has an intriguing new telephone telepathy experiment that anyone can take part in.

According to his website:

Many people claim to be able to know who's calling them before they answer the call. Is this just coincidence or is some other factor involved? The Telephone Telepathy experiment attempts to answer this question empirically.

To participate in the experiment you will need a U.S. phone (cell or landline) and provider as well as 2 people with whom you share a close relationship (eg. friends, family). These people will require a U.S. cell phone and provider.

Once you have registered you can login and add some friends. After logging in, further instructions for conducting the test will be available.

Sheldrake's works seem far-ranging, free-thinking, and eminently workable - therefore we here approve wholeheartedly. Sociopaths and professional skeptics violently oppose his ideas, which of course makes us all the more convinced that the man is on to something.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Thirteenth Sign Hysteria

Talk about your Zodiac-killer: for some reason, most of the news media is abuzz with claims that Ophiuchus is being officially added to the traditional 12 Signs of the Zodiac and that everyone's charts are now ruined, because their sun sign will be different as a result of the reshuffling. And of course, the sheep of the world are all in a tizzy about the Earth-shattering news about this "new" sign of the Zodiac.

Problem is, it isn't true.

There is no official governing body that gets to determine, by fiat, the status of the Zodiac, as if it were daylight savings time or a standard unit of measurement. Some astrologers have already embraced Ophiuchus years ago, while most have not. Hate to break it to you kids, but there's nothing "new" about Ophiuchus: it's been part of Japanese astrology since before you were born, and in other Sidereal astrology systems.

A Minnesota teacher named Parke Kunkle recently released a statement pointing out that the current Zodiacal system is inaccurate because the Earth's axis doesn't rotate in the same direction all the time; it actually wobbles to and fro in its eccentric orbit. This wobble causes discrepancies on how humans have viewed constellations since they were first charted 2000 years ago in the Babylonian culture. But this does not amount to a universal and official "new Zodiac in effect" as of now; it's just another volley in the neverending game of astronomers critizing astrology.

(Image: constellation of Ophiuchus, from by way of Wikipedia.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Neta Snook

And speaking of Amelia Earhart, let's dispel that common assumption that she was the first and greatest early aviatrix. Amelia's mentor and teacher was also a woman - one Neta Snook.

Neta was the first female aviator in Iowa, the first female student accepted at the Curtiss Flying School of Virginia (only after being persistent - her first application came back stamped "no females allowed"), the first woman to run her own aviation business and the first woman to operate a commercial airfield.

Yet her name is forgotten in the pages of history to all but the most avid aficionados of early 20th century aviation.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Regardless of whether that the tiny bone fragments recently discovered on Nikumaroro Island (formerly known as Gardner Island) turn out to be those of Amelia Earhart or not, one thing is certain: there was a woman castaway on this island, and her story could end up being even more fascinating than Amelia's. If not Amelia, who was she? How did she get here? How many more were here with her?

But the evidence is mounting in Amelia's favor. Parts of a jackknife have been found, just like the one Amelia was to known to carry. A bottle said to be for a woman's freckle cream called "Dr. Berry's" has turned up, and historians say that Amelia did indeed try to cover up her freckles.

And according to Wikipedia:

In an area on the atoll's northwest side called the "Seven Site" the team has found and cataloged artifacts such as flakes of rouge and a shattered mirror from a woman's cosmetic compact, parts of a folding pocket knife, traces of campfires bearing bird and fish bones, clams opened in the same way as oysters in New England, "empty shells laid out as if to collect rain water" and American bottles dating from before World War II, their heat warped bottoms showing they "had once stood in a fire as if to boil drinking water."

The expeditions to search for Amelia's remains have been very arduous, as the island is teeming with rats and aggressive Coconut Crabs which have powerful enough claws to break open coconuts (imagine what they can do to people!)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Emotional Contagion

Recently one of our readers, "Melissa", left a startling comment about the concept of "emotional contagion", something I'm embarrassed to say I'd never ever heard of until now. But I'm quickly making up for lost time.

According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, it would appear that modern psychology has finally caught on to something that many of us have taken for granted for a long time now - that unpleasant emotional states can be transferred and caught like a disease, or like barnacles that adhere to a ship and must be scraped off regularly. It's just very surprising to me to hear such things openly espoused by medical professionals now. On one hand, I'm excited that they've made such progressive strides into territory previously explored only by the bravest thinkers; on the other hand, given my general distrust of the pill-pushers in the "mental health" industry, I have to wonder if this isn't leading up to something ugly.

Be that as it may, here's what Wikipedia says about emotional contagion, and I'm all ears:

"Vittorio Gallese posits that mirror neurons are responsible for intentional attunement in relation to others. Gallese and colleagues at the University of Parma found a class of neurons in the premotor cortex that discharge when macaque monkeys execute goal-related hand movements or when they watch others doing the same action. One class of these neurons fires with action execution and observation, and with sound production of the same action. Research in humans shows an activation of the premotor cortex and parietal area of the brain for action perception and execution. Gallese continues his dialogue to say humans understand emotions through a simulated shared body state. The observers' neural activation enables a direct experiential understanding. "Unmediated resonance" is a similar theory by Goldman and Sripada (2004)."

"Unlike cognitive contagion, emotional contagion is less conscious and more automatic. It relies mainly on non-verbal communication, although it has been demonstrated that emotional contagion can, and does, occur via telecommunication. For example, people interacting through E-mails and "chats" are affected by the other's emotions, without being able to perceive the non-verbal cues."

"Given that emotions function to help humans adapt to social situations it makes sense that one person's emotion would affect another's. Just as herd animals would benefit from rapidly passing messages about risk and reward, emotional contagion seems to be adaptive for humans to function in groups. This system can enable a rapid communication of opportunity and risk, mediate a group interaction, and help humans attend to social rules and norms such as maintaining harmonious interaction with a powerful ally".

But the real kicker to all of this comes in the part where the article discusses emotional detachment, and lists it as a solution to avoid negative emotional contagion. There are two kinds of emotional detachment, it says: the involuntary kind, which is not good since it essentially is an inability to relate or communicate; and the second kind, the good kind, which is:

"...a positive and deliberate mental attitude which avoids engaging the emotions of others. It is often applied to relatives and associates of people who are in some way emotionally overly demanding. A simple example might be a person who trains himself to ignore the "pleading" food requests of a dieting spouse. A more widespread example could be the indifference parents develop towards their children's begging. It is not to be confused with being wilfully cold or unpleasant, because it is a positive mental attitude. Of course, the decision as to whether emotional detachment in any given set of circumstances is considered to be a positive or negative mental attitude is a subjective one, and therefore a decision on which different people may not agree.

This detachment does not mean avoiding the feeling of empathy; it is actually more of an awareness of empathetic feelings that allows the person space needed to rationally choose whether or not to be overwhelmed or manipulated by such feelings."

Thank you. The defense rests, your honor.