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Have You Ever Heard Of Panpsychism?

What do you think of the idea that all matter AND all energy is sentient? Sentient meaning able to both perceive and/or feel things. Well, what you think of that might influence your idea of panpsychism. Panpsychism is a philosophical view with its roots deep in ancient thinkers, in fact, many believe that its earliest followers were actually pre-Socratic. This philosophy hold that consciousness (and even souls) are a universal and primordial feature of all things - from leaves to energy to people and air. 

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Let's break it down even more - the word "Pan" means everywhere, and the word "Psyche" is the soul/mind. Put these two together and you have Panpsychism: the belief that the soul is everywhere. 

Panpsychism also seeks to explain how life can result from decidedly nonliving mater, as well as how consciousness can result from non-conscious matter. In fact, it makes short work of this dilemma with its conclusion: all things have consciousness. 

Now, you might be thinking...Tess, what is this hippie nonsense? And, I agree - to an extent. But one interesting feature of this blog is the ability to dive deeper into new ideas, and I found this one particularly enamoring. But, to soothe the skeptics I will let you in on a little secret: Panpsychism has two major flaws.

1. "The Problem of Aggregates" - This is the idea that consciousness cannot spread over the universe, as John Searle, a UCB philosopher puts it "like a thin veneer of jam...there has to be a point where my consciousness ends and yours begins." 

2.  The second point following the problem of aggregates is: if consciousness is everywhere...why doesn't it animate every.single.leaf in visible ways? Or hey, why not the ladder in your garage? Or why does dead matter not have consciousness or if you take a brain and step on it, despite being the hub of consciousness, there is no longer consciousness?

But contemporary thinkers are trying to suss out these problems, particularly psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi. He has created the idea of "Integrated Panpsychism" which posits that consciousness depends on a "physical substrate but is not reducible to it." While our expereince are linked to our brains...but is different from our brains. Thus any system that has a level of integrated information above zero...likely has "a very minute conscious expereince" 

There are two principled assumptions: 

1. Conscious states are highly differentiated and informationally, very rich. 

2. Each of these experiences are highly integrated. Chistof Knoch, the author of the Scientific American linked above, makes a great point, " You cannot force yourself to see the world in black and white; its color is an integrated part of your view. Whatever information you are conscious of is wholly and completely presented to your mind; it cannot be subdivided."

With these assumptions we can come to the conclusion that in order to be conscious requires a two things: 1) You need to be a single, integrated entity and two 2) You must have a  large repertoire of highly differentiated states. 

Thus, a bunch of disconnected items like the photos in your grandmother's photo album, beads on a necklace, or books on a shelf are not integrated They lack consciousness and do not have the appropriate mental properties to meet the above 2 requirements of consciousness. 

However, others say that all of the above positing and rules and stipulations are...to complicated.

For example, Seattle University professor Dnaiel Dombrowksi writes: "[Panpsychism] “suggests that every instance of reality is mind-like or at least exhibits some slight ability to feel the difference between itself and the rest of what is." If we can imagine that a human has consciousness why can't a dog or an insect or a tree branch. We're all made up of atoms and individuals cells and mater, right?

So why study this at all? What caught my eye about this complicated, zany, out-there theory? I was reading an article on JStor Daily about it, while looking for ideas about how the universe is growing - as space is a popular topic on the blog. And, I found this quote in the article (linked above), "If panpsychism is true, and if, as postulated by some contemporary physicists, the cosmos is expanding, might we not think of the universe as literally a mind expanding, a world soul growing up?" Benjamin Winterhalter, the author of this Jstor Daily article, wrote these words and I just had to share the whole idea with you! Because, well, thinking of the universe as a mind expanding and a soul growing up is a whole lot more comforting than many of the other theories I've heard. 

The above image is from Flickr User Ivan and it is of a brain nebula. It is liscensed under creative commons 2.0 generic!

The Delicious Thrill Of Being Spooked

We have been dreaming up ways to get scared for thousands of years. From folklore monsters to playing bloody Mary in sleepovers to creepypasta. It appears humanity has a long history of scaring ourselves silly...and enjoying it. But why?

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Fear, and all the physical sensations that come with it, has long been linked to some ancient survival response to perceived threads. Now, not every person enjoys this feeling. If they did, wouldn't we have more year-round haunted houses? But for those of us who enjoy feeling fear, there may be a few legitimate reasons why we would totally pay for a year-long pass to a haunted house.

Dopamine is a big part of why people like to get spooked. One of the main hormones released during scary and thrilling activities is dopamine. Dr. David Zald, who studies and teaches psychological sciences, with a focus on neuroscience, at Vanderbilt, recently came out with a study that suggests that people process Dopamine differently. 

According to Dr. Zald, there are "brakes" on individual's Dopamine release + re-uptake in the brain. Well, so? This means that some people will enjoy scary/spooky/risky situations because of their brakes, while others will not enjoy them at all.

Margee Kerr, Ph.D., sociologist, and author of “Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear,” also has something to add to how we process fear can make us feel good. According to her, “Our body is a refined, well-oiled machine getting ready to fight or flee. So if we're in a situation where we know we're safe like a haunted house, scary movie, or roller coaster, think of it as hijacking the flight response and enjoying it." She even goes as far as saying, “This is similar to a high arousal state, not sexual, but like when we're happy, laughing, excited, or surprised. Those chemical signatures look similar to when we're scared; it's just a different context.”

So, like many things in life - context is key!

Like Kerr sugests, for anyone to truly enjoy a good scare is to know that we're in a "safe" environment. Thus, if a serial killer you'd seen on the news before started chasing you, you'd probably not be enjoying that at ll. However, if a guy dressed in a Jason mask in a haunted-field attraction started chasing you, you'd probably feel "safe" being scared, and even enjoy it.

But, it isn't just endorphins like Dopamine that puts us in a better place to enjoy being scared. In fact, there are a lot more reasons according to professionals who study the brain, like Dr. Zald. Being scared can also have some pretty positive after-effects, like gaining confidence. 

The above picture is liscensed under creative commons 2.0 and is by Flickr user Dako Huang.

 

 

The Contemporary Hermit: Exploring Christopher Knight's 3 Decades of Silence

Beowulf is one of the most pervasive stories in our written history (in the Western canon, at least). In fact, it is believed to be one of the oldest stories that was written down. And, its pervasiveness tells us something about the importance of the community during this time period (as does the work of the Pearl Poet and several other unknown early authors). This story brings to mind strong themes about community, customs, and leadership. Recently, I came across the story of Christopher Knight and became slightly obessed. How a man could go against these long-lasting desires of humans to communicate, to live together, and to be in the world as units (whether it be a family unit, a mead hall, and beyond). Why did this man drive into the woods and never leave?

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I want to start with a little background on Christopher Knight, and you can read more at the links above. He was born in 1965, and grew up in a relatively normal middle-class family in Massachusetts. Although he notes his parents were not over emotional or talkative, there were no signs of abuse or misconduct on their part. In fact, in more than one interview he shifts his reason for hermitage off his parents and often even calls them good parents. He also got along fine with his brothers, although when they visited him in jail almost 30 years after seeing him, they said they didn't recognize him. In high school he was noted as having good grades, but little-to-no social life and barely any friends, if any. He graduated early and, like one of his older brothers, took a 9-month course at a technical school in Waltham, Massachusetts and shortly thereafter got a job he took a job installing home and vehicle alarm system.

The only strange thing about his family? They never reported him missing. It is suspected that they hired at least one private investigator, but no report was ever made to the police.

However, the lack of report isn't wholly bizarre. Knight drove to Maine in 1986 at the age of 20, and never returned. At this point, he was a grown(ish) adult and perhaps his parents and family figured he deserved and/or wanted privacy. They speculated that he likely went to Texas and/or the Rocky Mountains...for reasons I'm still not clear on. 

It was a late summer day in 1986 when he made the long drive from Massachusetts to Maine, driving, not knowing exactly where he wanted to go, until he was out of gas. In an extensive interview with GQ he said, "I drove until I was nearly out of gas. I took a small road. Then a small road off that small road. Then a trail off that." He parked the car. He placed the keys in the center console. "I had a backpack and minimal stuff. I had no plans. I had no map. I didn’t know where I was going. I just walked away."

Because it was still summer and relatively warm out, Knight didn't have to worry too much about food and shelter. He largely foraged for food, including eating roadkill, during these first few weeks alone. However, he soon began craving vegetables and other foods that he missed from home. This is when the stealing began. Although, he notes, he always felt bad about the stealing. By the time he was caught in 2013, he would have committed roughly 1,000 burglaries (he committed about 40 peryear). He was even more scared, interestingly enough, because he did not want to get caught and taken back to society.

Although he fled from society, modernity, community...it was what allowed him to thrive during his time as a hermit. 

He roamed the woods for two years, but finally found the perfect place for his campsite, and where he would spend the next 25-years at in peaceful solitude. He only re-entered society in the dead of night, usually around 1 or 2am, to steal what he could.

And he didn't just steal food, no, his collection was impressive: he had a box spring mattress, books, pillows, countless propane tanks, disposable razors, a radio, alcohol, laundry detergent, and more. Although he lived in the woods, he still survived off of modern inventions and commodities. In fact, he had so much stuff that, in the event any one ever approached his camp, he had a go-bag and enough inventory hidden in a nearby cave that he could start anew without too much strife.

In 2013, he was caught and taken to trial. He served a sentence of 7-months in jail and then released. However, his release would be dependent on him staying in society and either keeping a job or continuing his education. I find that this is one of the worst punishments to give a hermit- of-volition - they must return to society and they can never seek the asylum of nature, for an extended time period at least. At the end of his sentence, and countless hours interviewed by GQ journalist, Michael Finkel, he told him-after being asked countless times-why he disappeared. He left because he felt content in the woods in a way he did not feel content in society. He braved harsh winters, contemplated suicide, and acted as a thief for almost 30 years just for the feeling of contentedness. 

This makes him an interesting figure.  Why? Well, most hermits can be categorized into three types: protesters, pilgrims, and pursuers. Protesters are leaving society for "x" reason, pilgrims leave for a religious journey, and pursuers leave to find higher knowledge or truth for art, writing, or other studies. But Knight doesn't fit cleanly into any of these - his quest for contentedness was not recorded by himself, he kept no journals or video diaries or anything of the like. He does not consider himself religious. And, well, he didn't have that many issues with society at large.

Knight is a person who did not feel content around other people. Painfully shy for most of his life, he found social interactions inextricably complicated and, largely, unfruitful. So he left. He was not comforted by people, only what they produced. And herein lies what is truly fascinating about Knight: was he an outlier of the human race? As mentioned earlier, the need for human interaction for security, well-being, success, creativity, and relationship-building have been present for thousands of years. So, how and why did Knight reject something so wholly that one would think would be engrained in his nature?

He just did not fit in. He did not feel at peace in the world. So, he went and found his own piece of the world (although, it was, technically, on private property) and made his peace there.

Does this make him crazy? an outlier? a person of interest? or just a person? 

These questions have been plaguing me for days and I think the answer is...just a person. Some people's happiest places are with family at the dinner table, others at the beach with a good book, and some at a coffee-shop buzzing with activity. Why can't Knight's be in the woods, alone. Is it really any stranger than the rest of us? Or, perhaps, he was just brave enough to do what he wanted.

 

 

The above image comes from Flickr user Simon Gehrig, and is liscensed under Creative Commons 2.0. It is unrelated to the above story. 

 

How Long Does it take to make a Smeagol?

And by a Smeagol, I mean a cave fish. Cave fish are a whole different breed of fish, and many of them can be traced back to open-water swimmers. So how does this strange process happen...and why?

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First, a little background on what cave fish are. As I mentioned up top, cave fish were once open water swimmers. While there are over 150 species of cave fish, many cave fish are threatened and can only live in small ranges. They typically have reduced pigment, as compared to other fish, and smaller eyes.

According to a study released just a few days ago, it only takes a few hundred years to make a Smeagol, excuse me..*Gollum, Gollum*. However, cave fish take a little longer - but not as long as we once thought. A new fish discovered in Germany - the first European cave fish to be discovered - is giving scientists more insight in to the process of becoming a cave fish.

Okay, but what does finding a new cave fish have to do with it? Don't we find them semi-regularly? Well, we do...but not in Europe. In fact, it was thought that cave fish could not colonize in Europe because of ice-age glaciers. Until just a few thousand years ago (12 to be exact) Europe, and all of its caves, were under ice...which then blocked ANY connection be above, and below, waterways. This would make any fish dwelling in caves impossible.

But, then the ice started to melt...and that's where our little fishy friend comes into play.

The fish shares many of the same characteristics as other cave fish - it is pale, small, and even has whisker-barbs sprouting from its head. It is believed to be of the loach family and even though it was found over year ago, still has no name...scientific or otherwise. But, because 12,000 years ago Europe was covered in ice, and as that ice slowly melted underwater springs and pathways began to open, it must have taken 12,000 years, or less, for cave fish to completely branch off from their ancestors.

However, I should say that calling this a Smeagol fish is a bit of an exaggeration. As noted, it took a few thousand years for this loach relative to turn into a true cave-dweller. However, Smeagol's life span wasn't even a tenth of that! According to Tolkien, Smeagol/Gollum was roughly 589 years old when he died. Although this is QUITE old for a hobbit, it isn't even a thousand years. So, if he died at 589...the Smeagol -> Gollum transition (similar to normal fish -> cave fish) likely took somewhere between 100-400 years. A few years after Smeagol stole the ring, he went into hiding in a cave near Goblin Town and there he remained undisturbed for 471 years. When he met Bilbo, Bilbo describes him not as a hobbit...but as Gollum - sallow-skined, strange-eyed, and living in almost total darkness in a wet cave. Sounds a little bit like our new cave fish, doesn't it?

 

This photo is unrelated to the above story and was taken by Flickr user m01229, and is liscensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

The Push for Driverless Cars to be Home-Like Spaces

There does not seem anything really warm and inviting about driverless cars. However, some of the people developing the technology apparently want these cars to become extensions of our homes. Places where we can have conversations with travel companions, eat a meal, and even play videogames in. Okay, I know you can do most of these in the car already, but the idea is it will feel more like a living room and less like, well, a car.

In an interview with Inverse, Kota Kobayashi says "People don't actually do that much on planes...It came down to these three things: relaxation, entertainment, and productivity." And that is what Kobyashi expects out of self-driving cars. He follows up with, "Inside a car is a quite private, intimate space, which is different from the public space of an airplane,” said Kobayashi. “A very good example of intimacy is having sex. Most people aren’t going to do that in a public space.”

Okay, okay...now it's getting a bit strange. But - he is making a point. Fully driverless cars won't just offer us convenience, but they'll become extensions of home, office, or even coffee shop. 

Oh, and did I mention he doesn't expect cars to be a one-size fit all automobile. What do I mean by this? Well, there is the idea that there will be different 'kinds' of cars to purchase, and not the typical binaries of small vs big, luxury vs affordable, and red vs blue. Instead, there is the idea that, eventually, there will be sleeping cars, meeting cars, and even family-friendly cars. 

So, although most people see driverless cars as a breakdown of communication (no more friendly banter with uber drivers, happy chats on the way to work with a carpool group, etc) many who support the technology believe that they will be intimate and comfortable spaces where we can further engage as we would at the home, office, or other social spaces. 

The above image is of Google's in-house riverless car and is liscensed under cc by-sa 4.0

What are the Origins of these Weird Pings?

From the floor in one of Canada’s northernmost territories a strange pinging is happening..and officials have yet to identify the source or cause. And it isn’t necessarily new, in fact it has been happening for months.

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The pinging can be heard in the aptly named Fury and Hecla Strait, a channel of water in the Nunavut region of Canada. Canadian Department of National Defence was informed of these strange noises and have searched for its cause, but it has not been a fruitful search and they came up blank.

They had a variety of theories. They did not rule out it could be a submarine at first, though they quickly found that was not the case. Ashley Lemire, a department spokeswoman, said that various multisensor searches in the area, including a 1.5-hour acoustic search, failed to detect any anomalies that could account for the sound.”The crew did not detect any surface or subsurface contacts,” Lemire told The Guardian. “At this time the Department of National Defence does not intend to do any further investigations.” Several reports were passed to the military, which sent a CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft to investigate on November 1st.

More concerning is hunters in the area claim the sound is scaring away wildlife. This is an interesting development, as if it was a natural or naturally occurring noise it might have less affect on the wildlife.

In fact, legislative assembly member, George Qulaut has been quoted saying,  “That passage is a migratory route for bowhead whales, and also bearded seals and ringed seals. There would be so many in that particular area,” Qulaut said, recalling his own days of hunting there. “This summer, there were none.” So, not only is it driving away animals…it is completely diverting them from their regular migratory routes.

Other theories have arisen. For example, they claimed a mining company that has operated nearby. However, the company denies having any equipment in the water. Other locals have surmised that Greenpeace could be behind the sound, scaring wildlife away from the hunting ground. However, a spokesperson for the environmental organization has denied these allegations.

Even more interesting,  not everyone can hear it. Another local legislator, George Qulaut, told CBC that he couldn’t. However, it should be noted that said he is nearly deaf. But boaters passing through the area have said they heard it, as well as a number of callers to a local radio show

At this time the Canadian Department of National Defence does not intend to do any further investigations.

Tinypocalypse

What does the end of the world look like? This is a question; presumably, no one could know the realistic answer to. So - here's a better question. How do we visualize the apocalypse and whom should we get to do it? Well, National Geographic dug up some interesting presentations.

See the pictures, and read more of their interview with National Geographic here.

Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber, two Brooklyn artists and partners, are visualizing the future apocalypse and abandoned cities in miniature. Nix says their goal is to create “open-ended narratives-models of a post-human metropolis in the future, after an unknown catastrophe.” That phrase “open-ended narratives” is how almost every envisioning of the apocalypse should go. Embracing the idea of not-knowing, in my opinion, creates the best visuals and narratives for these stories. More importantly, they offer an important self-reflexive way of looking at what our narrative would be and questioning why and how humanity could get to this point through our own scope of understanding.

Gerber points out, “Once people find out they’re models, the think, ‘Oh, these are just pretend.’ That creates a safe space where they can ponder the message.” This ‘safe-space’ being created through apocalyptic miniatures is a very interesting approach.

The pair are a match made in artistry-heaven. Nix labels herself a faux landscape photographer, with the help of her computer. Gerber, her counterpart, has a background in gilding, glassblowing, and faux-finishing, which helps Nix to add realistic details to the sets.

As Nix pus it, “She’s the sculptor, I’m the architect”

Their main goal is to get people to think, to look at their art and to feel something, and then think about that feeling. The engaging nature of the mystery of the events that had to take place for a scene to be created push viewers to fill-in the gaps of themselves. To create a world backwards in their own heads – from disruption back to seeming normality…all to return to the image in front of them.

Their art is always obstinately post-human. Many of the images they have created show decimated, decrepit, and destroyed visages of every day scenes – a casino, a classroom, and a Laundromat, for example. However, these human-man artifices are broken down by the weather (as one could assume with no maintenance teams or upkeep) and re-inhabited by Nature. The capitalization there is important because, although most people likely see the end of the human race as depressing, Nix and Gerber view the creeping-back-in of Nature to be “weirdly hopeful.”

The above image is not related to the story, or by the two artists. It is from Flickr User Seniju and liscensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

An Unexplained Radioactive Cloud Is Moving towards the UK

A plane specifically modified to collect dangerous atmospheric samples, the WC-135 Constant Phoenix, flew out of RAF Mildenhall on a mission to find evidence of an explosion or nuclear activity, according to credible sources.

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More interesting is the fact that this plane has specialist equipment on board that enables the crew to detect radioactive debris clouds in real-time. These planes were used in Chernobyl, and as recently as 6 years ago in Japan. They have the unique ability to collect particles and chemical substances in the atmosphere, days, weeks and even months after they were initially dispersed.

Why is this relevant? Well, a cloud like that was believed to be heading towards northern Europe and into the Barents Sea in mid-February.

People around the world have been on high-alert regarding Russia, especially regarding their nuclear power. After a spike in radioactivity was pinpointed east of, or in, the Arctic. This activity has been corroborated by major world players such as Norway, Finland, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain.

There remains a chance that this radioactivity may also have also come from an Iodine plant.

The reasoning behind this mission remains undisclosed by the British government.

The above image is from Flickr User

 

edward stojakovic, and is unrelated to the story. It is licensed under Creative Commons 2.0. 

A Fish Out of Water May Not be That Weird

We’ve all heard that old saying, “A fish out of water”. Unusually meant to describe something that makes you feel uncomfortable, completely out of your environment, etc. Though it was previously believed that fish had evolved to survive, at least briefly, on land once or twice it is know believed, thanks to a new study, that they can survive dozens of times. Link

Though the transition between water and land is extreme, it is not necessarily difficult. Well, what does this mean?

Well, it means something else prevent fish from becoming full-time, land-swelling creatures. The authors of the study, published in Evolution in August, ask a fundamental question: “How do species establish themselves in new environments?”

It can be gathered that most species fail to establish themselves in new environments…most of the time. For fish, there are many hurdles to overcome such as breathing, moving, and metabolizing. All of these things, and even more bodily functions, have to be modified in a way that accepts radically increased gravity and seriously decreased wetness.

Authors of the study, Terry Ord and Georgina Cooke of the University of New South Wales, had a few theories, as summarized below.

  • Fish that live in the intertidal zone would be more likely to have contact with land and away from their water due to their twice-daily transformation of the tides. Similarly, fish that live in ponds, puddles, or creeks that shrink and grow face a similar challenge.
  • Fish that live in water that is prone to heating up are known to lave it because warmer water means less oxygen, which leads to suffocating. In these cases, air/land provide some relief.
  • Fish that live on the bottom of their body of water also seem like better candidates for land-dwelling due to the fact that they have certain adaptations that make them more suited to the ground, such as flattened bodies that make walking easier and fins that are limb-like.
  • Since getting around on land is difficult for any fish, it might be easier for those whose diets don’t depend on seeking out mobile prey.

Based on these, they began a deep dive of all fish species that fit the above parameters. They found amphibious behavior in about 130 fish, from 33 different families that reach the oldest and youngest branches of the fish family tree. Many of these 33 families have a great evolutionary chance to transition from water to land.

But let’s get back to the question at hand – why have so few fish pioneered into the terrestrial world, because breathing, walking, and reproducing do not seem to pose huge barriers.

The authors theorize that, at the root of the issue, is staying wet. Fish drying out is the real challenge, especially the desiccation gills. Gills must remain moist in order for a fish to breathe, and without that guaranteed moisture…they’re doomed.

 

The above picture comes from Flickr user Alan Levine and is licensed under creative commons.

Did We Just Lose the 5-Second Rule?

Calling all clumsy eaters...you may need to sit down for this. Link

The five-second rule is a myth-turned-fact to many people. The classic belief is that if you drop any kind of food on the floor, if you get it within 5-seconds you're golden because bacteria can't move to it that fast.

Several researchers sought an answer to this seemingly generations-old assumption and were recently published in the journal, Applied and Enviromental Microbiology.

Their findings?

No, it doesn't take five second for bacterial to get on food.

The authors, Robyn Miranda and Donald Schaffner of Rutgers U, say that, before them, only three studies on this subject seemed to exist. And, to add insult to injury, only of these studies was actually published. The other two simply received press releases.

How did they test this rule?

Well, they left watermelon, bread, bread with butter, and gummy candy on several different surfaces contained with "Enterobacter aerogenes" which is a food-borne bacteria. They left them for 5, 10, and 300 seconds.

Sadly...it took LESS than a second for some bacterial transfer. So not only does our five second rule get ripped away from us but even if we use ninja-link reflexes to grab our goodies off the god-for-saken-ground they still might be riddled with bacteria.

However, longer time in contact did not necessarily correlate with more bacteria transfer. So if you've been living by the 5-second rule your entire existence with no plans on changing...maybe you can extend it to 6 seconds.

This image comes from Flickr User Joel Gillman and is licensed under Creative Commons.

The Power of Possible Religious Mania

Juanita Gomez, an Oklahoman  woman, was just recently charged with the first-degree murder of her daughter in a macabre way. One would assume must murders are at least a little macabre, but this murder involved beating the young woman while forcing a crucifix down her throat (in addition to another religious medallion) and then arranging her corpse like a cross.

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The body was found by her daughter, Geneva Gomez's, ex-boyfriend, Francisco Merlos. The couple had only recently broken up earlier the past week. In fact, the elder Gomez convinced her daughter to break up with him, citing him as thief. To his surprise, her mother, Juanita, opened the door. He decided to have a discussion with her, and even bond a little, even though he blamed her for his and Geneva's breakup.
However, he did start to wonder where Geneva was. When asked, Juanita said she was in her room. Merlos opened the door and was shocked by the scene he found. In his own words, "...It looked, and she was laying on her back with the cross on her chest and you couldn't even recognize her face".
He then attempted to flee the scene, with Juanita trying to grab him in a choke-hold. Merlos then mentioned that she began screaming incoherently about the devil and money. He promptly called the police, who arrived shortly.
Geneva was found, by the police, splayed on the floor. Her arms extended to her sides and her legs were straight, similar to Jesus' body on the cross. Court documents can be cited which mention that "Blood was visible, and she had suffered severe trauma around her head and face"
So why did Juanita so brutally kill her own flesh and blood? Well, that was an easy answer for her: she claimed Geneva was possessed.
The Oklahoman reported, "she punched her daughter repeatedly and forced a crucifix and religious medallion down her throat until blood came out of her daughter’s mouth," and that "Juanita saw her daughter die and then placed the body in the shape of a cross"
As the arraignment ended, she said, “Thank you very much. Namaste. You believe in God? I do.”
This picture is from Flickr user Secret Pilgrim and is licensed under creative commons.

Are 'Other' Humans Still out There?

An ancient species of human, originally from China was thought to be long extinct, like  most other species of humans. However, new research has led to belief that it is likely this species survived until at least the last Ice Age 14,000 years ago. link

More specifically, they were known as 'Red Deer People' and they lived in the same time period as Homo floresiensis (also known as Hobbit Humans), a group known to have originated from Indonesia. Homo floresiensis, overlapped for many years with Homo sapiens. Thus, it is possible, however strange, that a human not in our species (homo sapiens) could still exist today.

Darren Curnoe, an associate professor from The University of New South Wales, recently  co-led the new study of the Red Deer Cave people fossils. He recently told Discovery News, "New species are being found all of the time by scientists, but with a large-bodied species like humans, you would think it would be difficult to miss, that someone would have reported it or a scientist found it somewhere (already)," added Curnoe. "My guess is if any did exist -- and I'm doubtful -- it would be in a remote place like Siberia, but some very grandiose claims have been made about Yetis and other creatures being Neanderthals surviving today in places like Siberia."

This picture is unrelated to the story and was taken by Flickr user Jussi Svlfier  it is licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

This Strange Fossil Finding is Right out of the World of Dr. Seuss (or a Horror Movie)

In early May, scientists announced and released a discovery in southern China of  reptilian fossils from roughly 242 million years ago. The only catch? It looks so outlandish and silly it's a wonder it isn't a hoax! link

The animal has been dubbed the "Atopodentatus", and if you recognize the "dent" in the name as it relates to teeth, you might realize how big of a deal this creature's mouth is. It is a bewildering, crocodile-sized plant-eating sea-dweller. The creature was first discovered in 2014, and, originally, it was thought to have a mouth like a flamingo's beak. However, the new fossil findings from May suggest something a little more...odd.

Paleontologist Nicholas Fraser said, "On a scale of weirdness, I think this is up there with the best. It kind of reminds me of some of the Dr. Seuss creations,"

It used its chisel-like teeth which lay along the edge of its blunt and hammer-shaped snout, to scrape algae off of hard underwater surfaces like rocks. After the scraping section, "Atopodentatus" quickly opens its mouth to create suction before closing its jaws and filtering the plant material through its densely packed, needle-sharp teeth. This is similar to how baleen whales strain krill from sea water.

Atopodentatus was roughly 9 feet long, lived in the shallow sea around China's Yunnan province alongside fish and marine reptiles. It lived during he Triassic Period shortly after the biggest mass extinction in Earth's history.

 

This photo is from Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under Creative Commons.

Siberian Researcher Sent on Search by a Phantom Girl

Museum workers in Krasnoyarsk were more than a little surprised when they were digitizing local photos from the early 20th century and found an identical figure in all of them. This wasn't a building, an animal, or a trick of the light. It was a solemn little girl, dressed in white, striking an identical pose in each shot. link

So far the girl has been found in, at least, 20 photos and 4 glass negatives. Researchers believe they were taking between 1906-1908, judging by the appearance of buildings in the photos.

They note that it is only with modern equipment that they are able to see the girl. As she is "rather small" Ilya Kuklinsky, a senior researcher says, "When we made high resolution scans and zoomed in, we saw her more closely along with the details of her clothes and hairstyle". They say that though she changes boots, stockings, and details of her outfit, "She is always in the same pose with the same facial expression. She never smiles. The fact that she changes her clothes makes me think the pictures were not taken in a single day. It was over a period of some time. But what was the aim?"

The museum, in hopes of locating her, have released a series of postcards pointing out the girl so that locals may help identify her.

They do have some theories, that the girl could be the photographer's daughter or niece. But, at the moment, they do not even know the photographer's name, just the initials "F.E.A".

As of this time, no one has come forward.

Did Supertramp Reveal Freemasons Knew About 9/11?

Astonishing Legends in no way supports the idea that 9/11 is a conspiracy, however, who doesn't like to read about a crazy conspiracy based on the album "Breakfast in America" by Supertramp. link

According to the video found on a David Icke conspiracy forum, the Supertramp financier was a mason and used the cover art of the best-selling "Breakfast in America" to reveal details about the upcoming, "planned", event against the world trade center.

The video suggests that the now iconic album cover uses "predictive programming". Predictive programming is a notion that our overlords embed certain messages into pop culture as a way to psychologically prepare the population for certain events. Apparently, Breakfast in America was an attempt to prepare citizens for an event over two decades in the future.

The evidence? The cover depicts NYC through the POV of an airplane. A waitress holds a glass of OJ over the center of the World Trade Center. Now, you may be wondering why she doesn't carry coffee or a milkshake or a stack of pancakes. Well, that's easily explained - she HAS to be carrying OJ to represent the fireball that would tear through the buildings on 9/11. But, that's not all - there's some typographical evidence as well! If you hold a mirror up to the record, the U and P from "Supertramp" resemble the numbers 911. Not to mention that the attacks happened during breakfast time.

Scientists Prepare to Drill into the Impact that Killed the Dinosaurs

A drilling platform will rise later this month in the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to sink a diamond-tipped bit into the heart of the Chicxulub crater. This crater is the buried remnant of the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. This crater is the only with an intact peak ring to explore. Link

They believe that by retrieving rock core, they may be able to understand how life came back in the wake of this cataclysm. Additionally, they hope to figure out if the crater itself could have been a home for microbial life.

The project clocks in at about $10 million dollars. They plan to begin drilling by April 1st. The project will last about two months and they will be on the look out, with each meter, for changes in rock types and microfossils. They'll also be collecting DNA samples throughout the project.

There is also a theory that the peak rings themselves may contain life, as there were fractures that were filled with liquids after the crash. Charles Cockell, an astrobiologist for the IODP team says, "Those will be preferred spots for microbes to grow, but it depends whether the fractures have energy and nutrients".

What's most interesting is this possible life, the descendants of those that thrived after the impact, derive their energy from iron and sulfur instead of carbon and oxygen.

 

The photo above was taken by Flickr User David Kryzaniak and is licensed under creative commons.

More than Flowers in the Garden

Weekend Renters at a Parisian Airbnb get a little more than they bargained for in the backyard. Link

French authorities are currently investigating the death of a woman whose corpse was found in the garden of an Airbnb rental in suburban Paris.

According to the deputy prosecutor for Evry, Bertrand Daillie, a group of young people were renting the house for the weekend and discovered the badly decomposed body in the unfenced forest on the property. The corpse had been covered by tree branches that were deliberately placed there.

The woman, who remains unidentified, was in the early forties, was wearing clothing, but without a winter jacket or winter accessories.

The house belongs to a family of seven who were vacationing in another region for a few days. They returned Wednesday and were questioned by police.

The autopsy on Monday did not establish cause of death, but did confirm that the death took place one or more months ago.

The listing has since been removed from Airbnb.

 

The above picture is not related to the story and was taken by Flickr User Dave Walker and it is licensed under Creative Commons.