Monday, March 19, 2018

How Did Astronaut DNA Become 'Fake News'?

Bill Ingalls / NASA / Reuters
Via by Marina Koren

“After year in space, astronaut Scott Kelly no longer has same DNA as identical twin,” the headline of a story on the Today show’s website, published Thursday, declared. Seven percent of his DNA, the story says, “has not returned to normal since he returned from space.”

Pretty amazing news, right? Too bad it’s not true.

This week, dozens of news organizations published stories with this or similar information. They cited a NASA study on the effects of space travel on the human body, with two subjects: astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly, identical twins. In 2015, Scott flew to the International Space Station and lived there for 340 days—a record for an American astronaut—while Mark stayed on Earth. Scientists examined the twins before, during, and after the mission.

While the study certainly detected some interesting changes in Scott after his return, space did not alter 7 percent of Scott’s DNA, the genetic code found in the cells in our bodies that makes us what we are.

Our cells have the same genes, which are made up of the same DNA, but genes behave differently; that’s how some cells produce hearts while others build lungs. The way genes are expressed can be affected by changes in the underlying sequence of DNA, by the random mutations we experience and collect over the course of our lives. But gene expression can also be influenced by all kinds of environmental factors, like stress and diet.

What the NASA study found was that some of Scott’s genes changed their expression while he was in space, and 7 percent of those genes didn’t return to their preflight states months after he came back. If 7 percent of Scott’s genetic code changed, as some of the stories suggested, he’d come back an entirely different species.

The misinterpretation of the study’s results spread like wildfire this week, across publications like CNN, USA Today, Time, People, and HuffPost. Even Scott Kelly himself was fooled. “What? My DNA changed by 7 percent! Who knew? I just learned about it in this article,” he tweeted earlier this week, linking to a Newsweek article.“This could be good news! I no longer have to call @ShuttleCDRKelly my identical twin brother anymore.”

Thai Government Holds Ceremony to Rid Offices of Ghosts

Via by Paul Seaburn

Are you tired of your government wasting money on things you get no benefit from? Are you disappointed when your government says it’s going to clean house and then doesn’t? Maybe it’s time to move to Thailand, where the Minister of Labour, at the request of terrified workers and citizens, presided over an hour-long ceremony to cleanse the ministry’s building in Bangkok of the ghosts many believe reside there. Thai tax dollars well spent? Let’s find out.

“Many of the civil servants are scared, even my own secretary, but I’m not afraid personally.”

That bluster came from Thailand’s Ministry of Labour’s Permanent Secretary Jarin Chakkaphark while describing why he and his boss, Labour Minister Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew, ordered an exorcism on the building in the Din Daeng district where Thai workers are registered, skill development plans are put into place nationwide employment is monitored and promoted. This doesn’t sound like place you want people to be afraid to enter.

The building has been the site of a few tragedies, which may explain some of the spirits encountered there. In 2004, a senior official jumped to his death from the 15-story roof and, in 2013, an anti-government protester who was shot nearby died in the building where he had sought protection. According to The Nation, Jarin was concerned that there were more.

“This ceremony is auspicious. It’s a way of paying respect to the supernatural beings living here and telling the wandering spirits they have died and can move on to the next world.”

Ghost Yanks Phone from Wall at Haunted Pub?


A spooky piece of security footage from a notoriously haunted pub in England appears to a phone flung to the floor by one of the site's resident spirits.

Boasting a reputation as one the UK's most haunted sites, the Jamaica Inn in Cornwall seems to have strengthened the case for that 'honor' thanks to an eerie incident that has recently come to light.

The chilling scene, captured by CCTV cameras, shows a barmaid named April finishing up her work for the night and preparing to head home.

Purportedly the only person left in the building at this late hour, it would seem that she had a visitor from the 'other side' as, suddenly, the receiver from a nearly wall phone plunges to the ground via an unseen force.

Clearly taken aback by the strange occurrence, April proceeds to walk over to the area only to find no one there.

Astronaut Returns to Earth With Different DNA

Via by Sequoyah Kennedy

Either space is weirder than we thought, or NASA ripped off The Fantastic Four. According to a study published by the space agency, space travel can permanently alter your DNA. Identical twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly were observed over the course of a year after Scott touched down on Earth after a yearlong stay on the International Space Station. The Twins Study is part of an ongoing NASA effort called the Human Research Project which studies the effects of space on the human body in preparation for eventual manned missions to Mars and other prolonged trips through the void.

Identical twins have almost identical DNA, which makes them ideal candidates for studying the mental and physical health effects of space: any changes in the space-faring twin’s physical health would have to be caused by an outside force and not due to natural variation. Identical twins are rare, and astronauts even rarer; luckily NASA has plenty of the latter and two of the former. It was Scott Kelly himself who suggested NASA use him and his brother Mark as test subjects.

Bizarre Garlic 'Exorcism' Turns Fatal


Authorities in Vietnam have arrested a pop singer accused of killing a woman in a bizarre exorcism gone wrong.

According to police, Nguyen Viet Cuong had been partying with the unnamed victim over the course of the evening when the pop singer suddenly began to have hallucinations.

These visions led the intoxicated Cuong to conclude that the woman had become possessed by an evil spirit.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Forgotten Power of the Imagination


In the modern, scientific age the word ‘imagination’ tends to have a sense of being the inverse of ‘reality’ – a non-substantial ‘escape’ from the real world where wild flights of fantasy take place, with little grounding in the important, real-world particulars of scientific laws and adult responsibilities. But have we got it wrong? Should we understand imagination better as the place where reality actually springs from?

To explain, consider this quote from Terence McKenna:

Humanity, correctly seen in the context of the last five hundred years, is an extruder of technological material. We take in matter that has a low degree of organization; we put it through mental filters, and we extrude jewelry, gospels, space shuttles. This is what we do. We are like coral animals embedded in a technological reef of extruded psychic objects.

Sticking Pins in Boss Voodoo Dolls Can Improve the Workplace

Via by Paul Seaburn

Voodoo doll: a doll made to resemble a person in order to cast spells on them or to harm them by harming the doll.

Boss: the person who is in charge of an organization and who tells others what to do.

Voodoo doll + Boss = “A simple and harmless symbolic act of retaliation can make people feel like they’re getting even and restoring their sense of fairness.”

Believe it or not, someone did a study on whether sticking pins into a voodoo doll that looks like one’s boss makes a worker feel better. Believe it or not, this made workers feel better. Believe it or not, no one bothered to ask the bosses how THEY felt.

This was a real study conducted by Assistant Professor Dr. Lindie Liang of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, and published recently in The Leadership Quarterly.

“We wanted to see, rather than actually retaliating against the abusive boss, whether mistreated employees could benefit from harmless acts of symbolic retaliation.”

Progressive Lung Disease Killing Dentists For Still Unknown Cause

Image Credit: US Navy
Via by Allan Adamson

The U.S Centers for Disease Control Prevention on Thursday revealed of a cluster of progressive lung disease affecting dentists and other dental workers.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
The patients, who were treated at a single tertiary care center in Virginia, were diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, a type of chronic lung disease marked by a progressive and irreversible decline in lung function.

Symptoms of the disease include gradual onset of a dry cough and shortness of breath. The disease does not have a cure yet and those affected often live only about three to five years after diagnosis. The cause of the illness is unknown.
Cluster Of IPF Cases

Of the nine patients in the cluster, seven died over the reported period of 16 years from September 1996 to June 2017. A cluster refers to a collection of cases of a disease or a health-related condition closely grouped in time and place.

Records from the Virginia hospital showed that it treated 894 patients for IPF over the 16-year period. Nine of these patients, or 1 percent of the total number of cases, were dentists or dental technicians.

US Public Health Service medical officer Randell Nett, who is one of the authors of the study published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, said that the number of IPF cases involving dental health workers was about 23 times greater than expected.

All the cluster patients, which include one dental technician and eight dentists, were male and 64 years old on average.

The military keeps encountering UFOs. Why doesn’t the Pentagon care?

Via by Christopher Mellon

In December, the Defense Department declassified two videos documenting encounters between U.S. Navy F-18 fighters and unidentified aircraft. The first video captures multiple pilots observing and discussing a strange, hovering, egg-shaped craft, apparently one of a “fleet” of such objects, according to cockpit audio. The second shows a similar incident involving an F-18 attached to the USS Nimitz carrier battle group in 2004.

The videos, along with observations by pilots and radar operators, appear to provide evidence of the existence of aircraft far superior to anything possessed by the United States or its allies. Defense Department officials who analyze the relevant intelligence confirm more than a dozen such incidents off the East Coast alone since 2015. In another recent case, the Air Force launched F-15 fighters last October in a failed attempt to intercept an unidentified high-speed aircraft looping over the Pacific Northwest .

A third declassified video, released by To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science , a privately owned media and scientific research company to which I’m an adviser, reveals a previously undisclosed Navy encounter that occurred off the East Coast in 2015.

Is it possible that America has been technologically leap-frogged by Russia or China? Or, as many people wondered after the videos were first published by the New York Times in December, might they be evidence of some alien civilization?

Unfortunately, we have no idea, because we aren’t even seeking answers.

10 Dark Moments In The History Of Satanism

Via by Joe Duncan

Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Prince of Darkness—all names for the same dark, demonic figure who is pervasive and ubiquitous throughout the world and all of its religions. The Dark Lord has as many names and character traits as our creative minds can describe and assign to him. Throughout time, the Adversary has been different things to different people in different nations and different religions.

Since the dawn of human religious concept, people have sought supernatural explanations for world events. This leads naturally to people coming up with various interpretations of a dark figure or figures who they’ve used to explain loss, pain, hate, agony, death, misery, depression, and all manner of negative experiences. For most of human history, these figures were shunned, and believers fled them in repulsion and horror, but over time, we began to embrace these figures as telling and representative of the very real, very natural dark side of the human existence, which wasn’t possible until the victory of science and reason over superstition. From Angra Mainyu of ancient Persia to Hades of ancient Greece, from Beelzebub to Satan, here are ten monumental moments in the history of the dark figure known to the Christian religion as Satan.

10. Azazel

Azazel is one of the oldest devil figures in the history of the world. The Torah contains a few references to him.[1] He’s thought to be a goat-like demon figure and is referenced when God instructs the Israelites to give him an offering and also send two goats off into the wilderness for Azazel. Leviticus 16:10 reads: “But the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.”

Azazel is the original (and literal) scapegoat figure, a demon who is often thought by modern interpreters to be an incarnation of Satan himself. He’s thought to be referenced in the Revelation verse 12:9, which reads: “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”

9. Angra Mainyu

Zoroastrianism is an ancient Persian religion and the first to adopt a dualistic worldview that would be handed down to all other religions and be carried along with us to this day. Zoroastrianism started in what is now called Iran at least as early as 600 BC. Its fundamental premise is pretty simple and extremely common in religions throughout the world today: the idea of good and evil.

Zoroastrianism was founded by a prophet named Zoroaster, and his basic world conception was that there is a god who is good by the name of Ahura Mazda and a dark, evil entity named Angra Mainyu.[2] While Ahura Mazda lives in Heaven, a concept that’s as old as time immemorial when humankind first gazed upon the stars with wonder, Zoroastrianism is one of the first mentions of the concept of Hell—the dwelling place of Angra Mainyu. In the Zoroastrian religion, Angra Mainyu and Ahura Mazda fight one another on the world stage, controlling various forces. Angra Mainyu and Ahura Mazda are immortal beings who fight one another, but Ahura Mazda is the omnipotent God who, according to the religion, will ultimately win.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Beware of mystery killer Disease X, says WHO

Via by Paul Nuki and Alanna Shaikh

London: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has put scientists and health workers around the globe on alert for a new and potentially deadly pathogen - Disease X.

Each year the Geneva-based organisation, which is charged with monitoring and safeguarding world health, convenes a high-level meeting of senior scientists to list diseases that pose a serious risk of prompting a major international public health emergency.

In previous years the list has been confined to known killers such as Zika, Lassa fever, which is sweeping Nigeria, and Ebola, and which killed more than 11,000 people in an epidemic in west Africa between 2013 and 2016.

However, this year a mystery pathogen has been added as the ninth item on the watch list for the first time. "Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease," said the WHO in a statement.

"History tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before," said John-Arne Rottingen, chief executive of the Research Council of Norway and a scientific adviser to the WHO committee.

"It may seem strange to be adding an 'X' but the point is make sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests. We want to see 'plug and play' platforms developed which will work for any, or a wide number of diseases; systems that will allow us to create countermeasures at speed."

The Deepfake Phenomenon: Telling “Fact From Face” in a World of Digital Fakery

Via by Micah Hanks

In the 1997 action thriller Face/Off, actors John Travolta and Nicholas Cage trade places after an experimental surgery is used to replace each man’s face with the other. In the film, Travolta’s character is an FBI agent named Sean Archer, which poses problems for him when the face of Cage’s character, criminal Castor Troy, becomes his own… and he has to stop the real criminal who is now impersonating him.

Perhaps the premise of this film–and actor Nicholas Cage’s role in it–played at least some part in the recent popularity associated with a video trend involving what are called “deepfakes.” These use advanced digital manipulations to superimpose one person’s face onto another body, which have resulted in a number of compilations like the one linked here, depicting the Face/Off actor in a variety of roles, from Lois Lane to Indiana Jones: Video

At first glance, the use of digital technology to create weird mashups with Nicholas Cage, or anybody else, for that matter, may seem benign. However, Kevin Roose, writing for the New York Times noted the concerns that can arise, ontologically and otherwise, from the creation of deepfake videos. “Does a naked image of Person A become a naked image of Person B if Person B’s face is superimposed in a seamless and untraceable way,” Roose asked. “In a broader sense, on the internet, what is the difference between representation and reality?”

Some might say no, that if it’s just a computer simulation, then it isn’t real. However, much like in the film Face/Off, questions arise as to whether deepfake technology might be used in far more nefarious ways. Rather than meme-worthy snippets on YouTube and Reddit threads where actors faces are replaced with that of Nicholas Cage, legitimate concerns could arise from a person’s face being misrepresented in a number of ways… from crime scenes to other compromising situations like the set of pornographic films.