Monday, September 26, 2011

Seeing is Believing ~ Even If It's False

Due to a strange sensory phenomenon, what we see dominates what we hear. It’s called the “McGurk Effect,” after Harry McGurk, a Scottish psychologist who first identified this powerful illusion. What’s more, even if you know it’s an illusion, you can’t hear the truthful sound unless you close your eyes.

To better understand the profound McGurk Effect, watch this 3-minutes video featuring Prof. Lawrence Rosenblum.

Click here for the NPR article.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

UFO Sightings Recently Double in US

The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) says sightings in the US have increased over the past six weeks, with some states more than doubling their normal numbers. "It's pretty exciting," Clifford Clift, the international director of MUFON, told Life’s Little Mysteries. "When you average 500 a month [nationwide] and go to 1,013 in one month, that's an interesting spike in sighting reports."

It could be the start of a verifiable increase in actual sightings or it may mean we’re experiencing a "UFO flap," one of many periodic increases in sightings over the years, usually occurring in urban areas.

According to Life’s Little Mysteries:
Sightings are often fueled by the mass media; people read about mysterious things or see TV shows about them, and interest or concern about them spreads from person to person. It's not that anyone is hoaxing or making up sightings: Research has shown that if you tell people what to look for (a phenomenon called "priming"), people will often see what they are looking for ~ whether those things exist or not. … It may not be that UFOs are actually appearing more often, but instead we're noticing them more. An identical process can be found in the medical field, where an increase in reports of a disease may not represent an increase in the actual number of cases, but instead reflects more public awareness of the disease or better screening techniques.
Scientists are aware that just because more people report a phenomenon does not necessarily mean the phenomenon is occurring more often. However, MUFON and others are keeping track of the current increase in sightings for further analysis.

Click here for the complete article.

Friday, September 16, 2011

'Da Vinci Code' and Fear of Death

Da Vinci's "The Last Supper," key to some of the theories.

A new study finds that people who are anxious about death are more likely to believe in the conspiracy theories outlined in Dan Brown's 2003 book, The Da Vinci Code. The author contended in the best-seller that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children, leaving living descendents behind. Plus, he says the Catholic Church covered up this fact, while a secret society called The Priory of Sion was formed to keep Jesus' descendents safe.

"It's difficult to change people's beliefs in these theories because they tend to be very fundamental to the way they view the world," study researcher Anna Newheiser, a doctoral student in social psychology at Yale University, told
The researchers gathered college students who had read the book and conducted two studies. In the first, they asked 144 students to rate their agreement with Da Vinci conspiracy beliefs, such as, "The church has burned witches and other 'heretics' to keep the truth about Jesus hidden." The students also filled out questionnaires about their religiosity, biblical knowledge, enjoyment of The Da Vinci Code novel or movie, and their fear of death. 
 The students most likely to believe the conspiracies in Brown's novel were those who enjoyed the book the most, expressed the most New Age beliefs, and felt the most anxiety about dying. People who were religious, knowledgeable about the Bible and desiring of social approval, on the other hand, tended not to buy into the Da Vinci conspiracy.  
Next, the researchers called 50 of the original students back and presented them with historical evidence that the Da Vinci conspiracy is false. They found that among the most religious participants, this counterevidence lessened the belief in the conspiracy. Nonreligious participants, however, did not budge. 
Conspiracy theories "can alleviate people's sense of loss of control by giving them a reason that things happen," Newheiser said. "In this case, it's particularly interesting because it might help people who are nonreligious or non-Christian to understand the events related to early Christian history."

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mystery 'Wheels' Seen Only High Above

Some of the wheels in Jordan's desert.

Thousands of mysterious ancient “geoglyphs” ~ similar in construction to Peru’s famous Nazca lines ~ have been found in the Middle East with the help of satellite-mapping technologies and aerial photography. According to
Referred to by archaeologists as "wheels," these stone structures have a wide variety of designs, with a common one being a circle with spokes radiating inside. Researchers believe that they date back to antiquity, at least 2,000 years ago. They are often found on lava fields and range from 82 feet to 230 feet (25 meters to 70 meters) across. 
"In Jordan alone we've got stone-built structures that are far more numerous than (the) Nazca Lines, far more extensive in the area that they cover, and far older," said David Kennedy, a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Western Australia.  
Some of the wheels are found in isolation while others are clustered together. At one location, near the Azraq Oasis, hundreds of them can be found clustered into a dozen groups. "Some of these collections around Azraq are really quite remarkable," Kennedy said.
His research reveals that these wheels are part of a variety of stone landscapes, including stone structures used for killing animals, lines of stone cairns that run from burials, and a number of strange structures that meander across the landscape for up to several hundred feet and have no apparent practical use. 

Click here for the complete article and a photo gallery.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Greek's Oracles Relied on Nature's Signs

"Priestess of Delphi," 1891, John Collier

Oracles in ancient Greece relied greatly on natural phenomena ~ sounds, smells, the rustling of leaves ~ to glean information regarding the fate of individuals and nations alike. According to an article in the Greek journal,
Unlike fortunetellers today … ancient soothsayers dealt less with making specific predictions about the future than offering assurances that particular decisions were correct or incorrect or that the gods looked favorably or unfavorably upon particular actions. Ancient augury took many forms, including the reading of flights of birds and the examination of sacrificial animals’ livers or other internal organs. Sometimes right and wrong, or favor and disfavor, were determined through the casting of lots -- like the rolling of dice today. Colored pebbles or animal bones (including pigs’ “knucklebones”) were commonly used in these divinations.  
More formal, highly ritualized prophetic practices also took place in or beside certain ancient Greek temples. Among the gods associated with oracles and prophesies were Apollo and Zeus, whose sanctuaries at Delphi and Dodona were well-known in Greek lands and elsewhere in the Mediterranean world for their priests’ and priestesses’ strange abilities to convey divine pronouncements.
Click here for the complete article.