Monday May 15th - Sunday May 21st
Stories from Slate, Broadly, The Australian, The Guardian & Mysterious Universe.
Dear world travelers,
Are we still here? What’s happening? This newsletter enters its third month today and it is still a thing. What a wild ride it’s been. What a thing it is. Also, every week I beg you to spam your friends. Please spam your friends! Tell them how much value-added there is from learning all about Aros Crystos!
And as always, I appreciate your replies and suggestions. Thanks for making this a conversation.
In other news, I’m making a little change to the format. Instead of the quote box, I’m going to drop in a few runner up links for stories that seem interesting but didn’t make the cut. The section is called “Simply Astounding.”
And now, the stories:
Daryl Bem’s decades-long research into ESP caused a crisis in psychology.
In the years since 2011, when Daryl Bem’s experiments on extra-sensory perception were published in a prestigious psychology journal, the whole field has been in the throes of a crisis that shows no signs of abating.
Bem, one of the world’s best known social psychologists, used only the most widely utilized experimental methodologies, and he repeated his experiments over and over for close to a decade, meeting or surpassing the most rigorous of standards.
His study proved ESP is real and that subjects were reacting to things that hadn’t happened yet. (For example, they were better at memorizing a smaller group of words culled from a larger set of words even if they studied the smaller group after they been tested.) His newfound colleagues at the Parapsychological Association (Bem gradually became a believer and funded his experiments out of pocket) were thrilled to see psi research hit the mainstream.
Skeptics took a different approach: ESP is impossible, therefore science is broken. “Reading it made me physically unwell,” recalled E.J. Wagenmakers, a research methodologist at the University of Amsterdam. “The paper made it clear that just by doing things the regular way, you could find just about anything.”
Part of Wagenmakers response stemmed from what is often called “the garden of forking paths.” In other words, researchers tweak their experiments often, follow the things that work, and don’t publish their failures. In short, data can always be made to appear meaningful. The result: more than half of all psychological research can’t be replicated. In short, it’s probably bullshit.
Unsurprisingly, Some people suspect Bem, known as a contrarian, has been hoaxing the whole field. Bem disagrees, he really does believe in psi, he says. But he also sees the problems inherent in the research.
“I think both are true. I still believe in psi, but I also think that methods in the field need to be cleaned up,” he said.
Male witches dispute Trump crying “witch hunt” over investigations.
Donald Trump called the accusations of collusion with Russia a “witch hunt” after a barrage of criticism in the wake of the firing of James Comey. Later he posted on Twitter that “this is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
Among the many reactions, male witches in particular had some words for the belabored president. “Trump is pretty much the antithesis of what a witch is,” Damon, a male witch, told Broadly. “A witch is aligned with the natural world, and the balance of the ecosystem.”
Jack, another male witch, said that between Salem and the Spanish Inquisition, the Trump investigation couldn’t be compared at all. He also pointed out that male witches were often spared because of the fixation on targeting women.
“As an African American male witch this offends me two fold,” he continued. Firstly said Jack, “the biggest witch hunt in history is the transatlantic slave trade.”
And secondly, “as I fight to reclaim my ancestors practices from the actual biggest witch hunt, I can't help but feel the audacity that this white man who has his magic done for him could even come up with such a statement,” said Jack.
They both said that Trump is totally antithetical to witches. “A witch knows no borders,” said Damon, responding to Trump’s obsessive attempts to restrict immigration. “Trump literally embodies everything we oppose.”
Indigenous people lived along Australian coast 50,000 ago according to dietary remains.
After archeologists discovered remains in a cave on Barrow Island, about 30 miles off Australia’s northwestern coast, evidence for the earliest habitation of the continent has been pushed back from 40,000 to 50,000 years.
“We've actually got very firm evidence of people living on the coast that we didn't have before,” the lead author of the study, Professor Peter Veth from the University of Western Australia, told The Australian.
Veth said the limestone cave was a hunting shelter up until 10,000 years ago when it became a residential base for family groups. 7,000 years ago, rising sea levels cut the island off from the mainland.
“A third of the continent has been flooded since the last ice age and we reasonably expect the earliest evidence of occupation to be underwater,” he said.
The researchers found well-preserved remains of animals like shellfish and kangaroos. The dating for the site used what’s commonly called luminescence technique, which measures the last time sediment was exposed to sunlight.
The Global Seed Vault was supposed to be disaster-proof, but then it flooded.
Because of soaring temperatures in the arctic, the vault designed to hold the world’s most precious seeds from global disaster had its entrance tunnel flooded with meltwater.
“A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in,” Hege Njaa Aschim, a representative from the Norwegian government which owns the vault, told the Guardian. “The question is whether this is just happening now, or will it escalate?”
Opened in 2008 on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, the underground complex has almost a million packets of seeds, each a sample of the world’s food crops. The deep permafrost which houses the vault was supposed to be impenetrable to natural or man-made disasters.
“It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day,” Aschim said.
The vault managers are planning to waterproof the 100 meter tunnel as well as add trenches to divert water and install pumps in case of a future flood. While the vault itself was not breached, the flooding has cast doubt on its ability to be a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes.
“This is supposed to last for eternity,” said Åsmund Asdal at the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre, which operates the seed vault.
A British start-up is building the matrix, appeals mainly to telecoms planning LTE towers.
Tech firm Improbable hit $1 billion in funding to build a virtual world using their platform, SpatialOS. The simulation would be massive, enough to hold thousands of people. While its origins are in online gaming, the potential is vast.
“We’re in a place today where it is actually possible to create artificial realities,” said CEO and co-founder Herman Narula at meeting with other industry giants. “Not in some abstract sense, but genuine, living, breathing recreations of this one, powered by technology, that allow people to have totally new experiences.”
Most massively multiplayer online video games like World of Warcraft load small chunks of the game world at a time to deal with the technological limits of servers. As a consequence, a player only interacts with a small subset of other players at a time.
Improbable’s SpatialOS completely rethinks this strategy by building simulations around what it calls “Entities” — this could be a person, a car or a lamp post. Using distributed cloud computing, each little piece of the virtual world is loaded based on what it is instead of where it is. Every instance of a particular object is based on the same set of servers, and SpatialOS simply stitches all the parts together to create the simulation.
So far the company is working with cities around the world to help with urban planning as well as telecommunication companies and governments. Other potential clients include transport infrastructure companies interested in autonomous vehicles.
“Basically, we want to build the Matrix,” said Narula.
That’s all for this week. Look out next Monday morning!