Saturday, March 28, 2009

Does Objective Reality Exist?

By Michael Talbot
Author of The Holographic Universe

In 1982 a remarkable event took place. At the University of Paris a research team led by physicist Alain Aspect performed what may turn out to be one of the most important experiments of the 20th Century.

You did not hear about it on the evening News. In fact, unless you are in the habit of reading scientific journals you probably have never even heard Aspect's name, though there are some who believe his discovery may change the face of science.

Aspect and his team discovered that under certain circumstances subatomic particles such as electrons are able to instantaneously communicate with each other regardless of the distance separating them. It doesn't matter whether they are 10 feet or 10 billion miles apart. Somehow each particle always seems to know what the other is doing.

The problem with this feat is that it violates Einstein's long-held tenet that no communication can travel faster than the speed of light. Since traveling faster than the speed of light is tantamount to breaking the time barrier, this daunting prospect has caused some physicists to try to come up with elaborate ways to explain away Aspect's findings.

But it has inspired others to offer even more radical explanations. University of London physicist David Bohm, for example, believes Aspect's findings imply that objective reality does not exist, that despite its apparent solidity the universe is at heart a phantasm, a gigantic and splendidly detailed hologram.


Friday, March 27, 2009

When Did Your Dreams Come True?

By John Tierney / Source: NY Times

After analyzing the dreams reported by Lab readers, two psychologists have drawn a fascinating graph of which of your dreams came true — and there’s nothing mystical about their explanation of this pattern.

The psychologists, Carey Morewedge of Carnegie Mellon University and Michael Norton of Harvard, collected responses from Lab readers who filled out a survey mentioned in a previous post that appeared along with a Findings column on the psychologists’ dream research.

These self-selected volunteers aren’t a random or representative sample of either Lab readers or the general population, but the researchers find their answers revealing in other ways. Here’s the summary of the research from Dr. Morewedge and Dr. Norton:


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Quantum Weirdness: Reality is a State of Mind

By Bernard d'Espagnat / Source: The Guardian

I believe that some of our most engrained notions about space and causality should be reconsidered. Anyone who takes quantum mechanics seriously will have reached the same conclusion.

What quantum mechanics tells us, I believe, is surprising to say the least. It tells us that the basic components of objects – the particles, electrons, quarks etc. – cannot be thought of as "self-existent". The reality that they, and hence all objects, are components of is merely "empirical reality".

This reality is something that, while not a purely mind-made construct as radical idealism would have it, can be but the picture our mind forces us to form of ... Of what ? The only answer I am able to provide is that underlying this empirical reality is a mysterious, non-conceptualisable "ultimate reality", not embedded in space and (presumably) not in time either.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Can You Choose Your Own Reincarnation?

By Michael Powell / Source: New York Times

The search for the present Dalai Lama commenced in earnest in 1935 when the embalmed head of his deceased predecessor is said to have wheeled around and pointed toward northeastern Tibet.

Then, the story goes, a giant, star-shaped fungus grew overnight on the east side of the tomb. An auspicious cloud bank formed and a regent saw a vision of letters floating in a mystical lake, one of which — Ah — he took to refer to the northeast province of Amdo.

High lamas set off at a gallop and found a 2-year-old boy in a distant village. This child, they determined after a series of tests, was the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

There is little linear about lama succession in Tibet. And now, as the 14th Dalai Lama journeys into his 74th year, the question of how to pick his successor has come to preoccupy both him and his followers, as Tibet stands at an ever more precarious political pass.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Does Religion Make People Happier?

By Rebecca Sato / Source:

Researchers accidentally discovered that people with religious beliefs tend to be more content in life while studying an unrelated topic. While not the original objective, the recent European study found that religious people are better able to cope with shocks such as losing a loved one or getting laid off of a job.

Professor Andrew Clark, from the Paris School of Economics, and co-author Dr Orsolya Lelkes, from the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, analyzed the a variety of factors among Catholic and Protestant Christians and found that life satisfaction seems to be higher among the religious population. The authors concluded that religion in general, might act as a "buffer" that protects people from life's disappointments.

"We originally started the research to work out why some European countries had more generous unemployment benefits than others, but our analysis suggested that religious people suffered less psychological harm from unemployment than the non-religious,” noted Professor Clark. "They had higher levels of life satisfaction".

Data from thousands of European households revealed higher levels of "life satisfaction" in believers. Professor Clark suspects that a variety of aspects are at play, and that perhaps a “religious upbringing” could be responsible for the effect, rather than any particular religious beliefs.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dial H for Happiness: How Neuroengineering Might Change Your Brain

By Quinn Norton / Source:

Sci-Fi author Philip K. Dick may have best anticipated neuroengineering in his most famous work, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the basis of the movie Blade Runner. The main character and his wife get up in the morning and select their moods on what Dick called a Penfield mood organ.

We're a long way from building a Penfield mood organ, but we already have ways of prodding our brains. Sometimes we achieve miracle cures, sometimes just trim the edge off the pain, but even the little tweaks can mean the difference between the livable and unlivable life.

Next to the microscopes and viruses at Dr. Ed Boyden's MIT lab is an electronics bench littered with half-finished breadboards, bits of wire and solder. From a drawer, Boyden lifts a twisted mess of connectors and wires hooked to a copper coil the size of a golf ball. This is a transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, machine. When held to the head it's capable of electrically affecting areas of the brain within a few centimeters of the surface.

Luigi Galvani, a physician and natural philosopher of the 18th century, was the first to figure out that nerves were electrical in nature. His assistant tapped a dissected frog's leg with a scalpel he'd picked up from a statically charged table. The static electricity arced to the nerve of the dead frog's leg, making it twitch like living material.
From then on it was understood that the brain and its attendant peripheral nerves ran on electricity.

Inspired by the twitching dead nervous system, Mary Shelley had Frankenstein's monster raised from the dead by a lightning bolt. But her approach, while a nice literary touch, was overkill: All you need is a very weak current to activate brain cells in a given region.
In fact, TMS gets electricity into the brain peacefully, without either cutting it open or shocking it with millions of volts.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Scientists Discover Their Sixth Sense

By Peter Fotis Kapnistos /

Psychic powers and extra-sensory perception (ESP) are among the most important unexplained phenomena today because belief in them is so prevalent. Scientists have examined people who claim to have psychic powers, but results under controlled laboratory conditions have until now remained unclear.

In the meantime, countless UFO advocates wait for a coming “disclosure” of flying saucer evidence from world governments –– not simply to confirm that we are not alone in the universe, but to also bring in “alien technology” that may help us to use our minds and bodies to their full potential. A recent Newsweek magazine feature article candidly reported:

For if you have never had a paranormal experience such as these, and believe in none of the things that science says do not exist except as tricks played on the gullible or—as neuroscientists are now beginning to see—by the normal workings of the mind carried to an extreme, well, then you are in a lonely minority. According to periodic surveys by Gallup and other pollsters, fully 90 percent of Americans say they have experienced such things or believe they exist.

“If you take the word ‘normal’ as characteristic of the norm or majority, then it is the superstitious and those who believe in ESP, ghosts and psychic phenomena who are normal.”

Most scientists and skeptics argue, “Belief in anything for which there is no empirical evidence is a sign of mental pathology and not normalcy.” But can skeptics really classify 90 percent of a nation’s entire population as schizophrenics without appearing to be patently anti-democratic or irrational themselves?


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Exercise Makes Your Brain Bigger

By Jon Benson / Author of Fit Over 40

If you ever needed another good reason to exercise, I've got one for you:

Exercise makes your brain bigger.

Actually this isn't entirely accurate. To be more specific, exercise was found to increase brain size slightly, but far more important to increase "spatial reasoning."

This is the ability to recognize patterns, remember phrases, numbers, and so-on. This was discovered by researchers at the Universities of Chicago and Pittsburgh.

It is also one of the most important factors to the prevention of Alzheimer's and dementia.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Snorting a Brain Chemical Could Replace Sleep

By Alexis Madrigal
Source: Wired Science

In what sounds like a dream for millions of tired coffee drinkers, Darpa-funded scientists might have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness.

A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. The discovery's first application will probably be in treatment of the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy.

The treatment is "a totally new route for increasing arousal, and the new study shows it to be relatively benign," said Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and a co-author of the paper. "It reduces sleepiness without causing edginess."


Friday, March 06, 2009

The True Story Behind "Push"

By Eric Alt / Source:

In the movie Push, civilians with psychic powers—people who can manipulate thoughts, see the future, or toss objects with their minds—find themselves on the run from a shadowy government agency intent on using their beautiful minds for military purposes.

Pure Hollywood hokum, right? Slow down. Retired Army Colonel John Alexander—once a Special Forces commander in Vietnam—knows differently. You see, he was once one of the key members of Stargate—a U.S. intelligence agency designed to prove that psychics could be more effective Cold War weapons than spy satellites or wire taps. The most unsettling part? He was right…


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Your Moment of Power is Now

By Timothy Aaron Whiston
Author of Your Moment of Power

Ancient wisdom from many cultures, and cutting-edge scientific experiments performed in modern labs both point to the incredible power of observing the present moment. Tapping into this simple practice can set you free from all obstacles and empower you to manifest everything you desire.

Most people spend their time living in a past that is forever gone and a future that hasn't even been realized yet. For some reason we seem intent on avoiding the present moment with all manner of daydreams and self-distractions.

However, when we allow our minds to be free from regret and anxiety, and focus clearly on the present moment, we have access to the virtually limitless power of mindfulness.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Why Some People Have All the Luck

By Richard Wiseman / Source: Times of India

I set out to examine luck, 10 years ago. Why are some people always in the right place at the right time, while others consistently experience ill fortune? I placed advertisements in national newspapers asking for people who felt consistently lucky or unlucky to contact me.

Hundreds of extraordinary men and women volunteered for my research and over the years, have been interviewed by me. I have monitored their lives and had them take part in experiments.

The results reveal that although these people have almost no insight into the causes of their luck, their thoughts and behaviour are responsible for much of their good and bad fortune. Take the case of seemingly chance opportunities. Lucky people consistently encounter such opportunities, whereas unlucky people do not.

I carried out a simple experiment to discover whether this was due to differences in their ability to spot such opportunities. I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. I had secretly placed a large message halfway through the newspaper saying: 'Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $50'.

This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than two inches high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.