May 18, 2017


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Tennessee Scientology facility closed after cops find patients held against their will

A series of psychiatric facilities run by the Church of Scientology in Cannon County, Tenn. has been closed after police found that patients there were being held against their will.

Via Tony Ortega, the Cannon Courier reports that several facilities in the county were shut down after police received a 911 call from someone within one of the facilities, whom they found locked inside a cabin with no way to get out.

The man then told officers that he had been held at the facility for the past nine months, during which he had been treated with unknown drugs.

The operator of the facilities, a man named Marc Vallieres, was arrested and charged with two felony counts of facilitation of kidnapping, while two other men who worked at the facility pled guilty to misdemeanors.

Do You Realize How Far Trump's Religion Speech Went?

It’s no surprise that Donald Trump chose Liberty University—the evangelical Christian college founded by the fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell—as the venue for his first graduation commencement speech as president. White evangelicals were Trump’s strongest religious demographic last November, with more than four out of five voting for him, so it was perhaps predictable that he would repay the faithful with a visit on graduation day.

But what was surprising—and more than a bit concerning for those who see conservative Christian political ideology as troublesome in the modern world—is the degree to which Trump’s speech threw red meat to his evangelical constituency. Some God-talk was to be expected, but Trump went much further—arguably further than any modern president has gone in defining American values in terms of Christian nationalism.

“America is a nation of true believers,” he declared, going on to remind the crowd of the religious language that has become common in American public life, such as “under God” in the pledge of allegiance and the national motto of “In God We Trust.” Conveniently omitting that most public God-references are relatively recent inventions (“under God” wasn’t added to the pledge until 1954, and “In God We Trust” became the national motto two years later), Trump also neglected to mention that about one in five Americans claim no god belief at all.[1] Instead, the speech was all about God and country, using language of unanimity: “We all salute the same great American flag,” he proclaimed, “and we are all made by the same almighty God.”

With college grads as Trump’s audience, one might have expected that he would at least pay lip service to critical thinking, empiricism, or intellectual inquiry, but there was none of that. Instead, faith and nationalism stayed in the forefront. Trump even portrayed his presidency as an instrument of God’s plan, stating that many thought his election “would require major help from God. . . And we got it.”

Lutheran Minister Preaches A Gospel Of Love To Junkies, Drag Queens And Outsiders

Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber admits that she does not look — or act — like a typical church leader. Heavily tattooed and with a tendency to swear like a truck driver, Bolz-Weber was once a standup comic with a big drinking problem.

But she was drawn to Lutheran theology, and when a group of friends asked her to give a eulogy for another friend who had committed suicide, Bolz-Weber discovered her calling.

. . .

After going to seminary, Bolz-Weber founded a church in Denver called The House for All Sinners and Saints. She writes about the church, which she describes as "Christo-centric," in the new memoir Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People.

Bolz-Weber's congregation includes LGBT people, people with addictions, compulsions and depression, and even nonbelievers. "Some churches might have a hard time welcoming junkies and drag queens; we're fine with that," she says.

Study finds link between brain damage and religious fundamentalism

A new study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has shown that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait which involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.

Religious fundamentalism refers to an ideology that emphasizes traditional religious texts and rituals and discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues. Fundamentalist groups generally oppose anything that questions or challenges their beliefs or way of life. For this reason, they are often aggressive towards anyone who does not share their specific set of supernatural beliefs, and towards science, as these things are seen as existential threats to their entire worldview.

There's Now More Evidence Linking Psychopathy to Disturbances in The Prefrontal Cortex

Researchers have added to a growing body of evidence linking criminal psychopathy and changes in the prefrontal cortex of the brain.

After scanning the brains of 124 inmates in the US, the team found that psychopathic traits such as a lack of empathy and impulsive antisocial behaviour were associated with larger than average grey matter volumes in the prefrontal cortex.

The find doesn't necessarily mean changes in the prefrontal cortex can cause psychopathy or vice versa - correlation does not equal causation, after all.

But it's not the first study to connect changes in the prefrontal cortex to psychopathy, and it suggests a link worth investigating further - particularly if it could help researchers find ways to better predict who might be at risk of displaying psychopathic traits and intervening before they commit a crime.

Scientists Achieve Direct Counterfactual Quantum Communication For The First Time

Quantum communication is a strange beast, but one of the weirdest proposed forms of it is called counterfactual communication - a type of quantum communication where no particles travel between two recipients.

Theoretical physicists have long proposed that such a form of communication would be possible, but now, for the first time, researchers have been able to experimentally achieve it - transferring a black and white bitmap image from one location to another without sending any physical particles.

If that sounds a little too out-there for you, don't worry, this is quantum mechanics, after all. It's meant to be complicated. But once you break it down, counterfactual quantum communication actually isn't as bizarre as it sounds.

New ALICE experiment results show novel phenomena in proton collisions

In a paper published today in Nature Physics, the ALICE collaboration reports that proton collisions sometimes present similar patterns to those observed in the collisions of heavy nuclei. This behaviour was spotted through observation of so-called strange hadrons in certain proton collisions in which a large number of particles are created. Strange hadrons are well-known particles with names such as Kaon, Lambda, Xi and Omega, all containing at least one so-called strange quark. The observed ‘enhanced production of strange particles’ is a familiar feature of quark-gluon plasma, a very hot and dense state of matter that existed just a few millionths of a second after the Big Bang, and is commonly created in collisions of heavy nuclei. But it is the first time ever that such a phenomenon is unambiguously observed in the rare proton collisions in which many particles are created. This result is likely to challenge existing theoretical models that do not predict an increase of strange particles in these events.

“We are very excited about this discovery,” said Federico Antinori, Spokesperson of the ALICE collaboration. “We are again learning a lot about this primordial state of matter. Being able to isolate the quark-gluon-plasma-like phenomena in a smaller and simpler system, such as the collision between two protons, opens up an entirely new dimension for the study of the properties of the fundamental state that our universe emerged from.”

The study of the quark-gluon plasma provides a way to investigate the properties of strong interaction, one of the four known fundamental forces, while enhanced strangeness production is a manifestation of this state of matter. The quark-gluon plasma is produced at sufficiently high temperature and energy density, when ordinary matter undergoes a transition to a phase in which quarks and gluons become ‘free’ and are thus no longer confined within hadrons. These conditions can be obtained at the Large Hadron Collider by colliding heavy nuclei at high energy. Strange quarks are heavier than the quarks composing normal matter, and typically harder to produce. But this changes in presence of the high energy density of the quark-gluon plasma, which rebalances the creation of strange quarks relative to non-strange ones. This phenomenon may now have been observed within proton collisions as well.

Humans Accidentally Created a Protective Bubble Around Earth

Earth already has its own protective bubble, a magnetosphere stretched by powerful solar winds. The artificial bubble that NASA found is an accident, an unintended result of the interplay between human technology and nature. When humans want to communicate with submarines near the surface of the ocean, they use a type of radio communication known as very low frequency waves, or VLF, transmitted from stations on the ground. Some of the waves can stretch all the way out into Earth’s atmosphere and beyond, where they affect the movement of the radiation particles bouncing around in the region. Sometimes, the interaction between VLF and these particles creates a barrier that can be seen by spacecraft orbiting the planet.

. . .

Scientists say the edge of the outer edge of artificial bubble lines up almost exactly with the inner edge of the Van Allen belts, which suggests VLF waves can push radiation particles away. According to satellite data, the inner edge of the belts is much further from Earth now than it was in the 1960s, when humans sent fewer VLF transmissions. Scientists suspect that VLF wasn’t around, the radiation belts would hover closer to Earth.

The researchers believe the bubble could help protect Earth from solar flares, which release huge amounts of energy, or coronal mass ejections that discharge hot material called plasma. Both events send can radiation particles into Earth’s atmosphere, which could disrupt radio waves and overload electrical power grids.

Is this evidence of a parallel universe? 'Cold Spot' in space suggests there are alternate worlds with their own versions of reality

For years, scientists have been stumped by the Cold Spot, which measures around 1.8 billion light years across.

Measurements of the universe's background radiation found this spot is colder than its surroundings by around 0.00015 degrees Celsius (0.00027 degrees Fahrenheit).

Researchers had previously suggested that the spot was cooler simply because it contained as many as 10,000 galaxies less than other, comparable regions of space.

But a new study has shown that this 'massive supervoid' could not possibly exist, meaning the Cold Spot cannot be explained by any 'missing' matter.

This opens the origin of the Cold Spot to more peculiar explanations, with one being that it is proof of the 'multiverse'.

I f**king hate science

Scientism refers to the view that science possesses a unique claim to truth, and that it reduces knowledge to that which is provable by the scientific method. It’s not even a particularly new or novel idea.

The publication of Thomas S. Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” in 1962 marked a major turning point in thinking about science. Kuhn challenged the old enlightenment ideal that pitched scientific discovery as a straight line trending ever upwards, with knowledge and discoveries accruing across time.

According to Kuhn’s historical research, scientific discovery was marked by stops and starts, dead ends, and plain wrongheaded thinking, occasionally reoriented by major discoveries and revolutions in scientific thought (such as those undertaken by Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, etc.). Such discoveries tend to be regarded as “inevitable” only after the fact. It’s sort of like the old adage about history books being written by the victors. The history of science is similarly revisionist, positioning all discoveries as necessary stages in an ongoing process of unfolding, when they really may be the result of revolutionary thinking, anomalistic approaches to scientific thinking, crises in knowledge, as well as the mitigating influences of society and culture. Kuhn called these — minting what is now a pretty much meaningless buzzword — “paradigm shifts.”

Kuhn’s book undermined the idea that science and the scientific method held a unique relationship to the truth of existence and being. Facts and truths are tinkered with to fit the idea of scientific methodology as a grand process that is slowly unpeeling itself like some coy, gargantuan banana. In reality, facts are slippery, and sometimes malleable to the point of meaninglessness. Just think back to those old kitschy magazine ads with boastful claims like “More Doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” for examples of how science, and facts, can be wrested to serve the most malicious agendas.

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