Aug 26, 2018


Satanic Temple statue unveiled at the Arkansas State Capitol

Dozens attended a rally held by the Satanic Temple at the Arkansas State Capitol on Thursday.

The rally comes after the Arkansas legislature approved the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds.

During the Satanic Temple's Rally for the First Amendment, a more than 8-feet-tall Baphomet statue was unveiled.

. . .

Following the installation of the Ten Commandments monument, the Satanic Temple filed a lawsuit to have its statue placed on the same grounds in the name of religious pluralism and the First Amendment.

During the 2017 legislative session, the Satanic Temple sent a letter to Arkansas legislators asking for lawmakers to sponsor a bill that would allow a Baphomet statue on Capitol grounds, but not one lawmaker responded.

These Psychedelic Drugs Show Promise for Treating Mental Health Disorders

They aren't drugs you'd ever expect to see scribbled on a doctor's prescription pad: ecstasy, "magic" mushrooms, ayahuasca.

But in recent years, a number of small studies have explored the potential for psychedelic drugs to treat certain mental health conditions. And the results suggest that, along with talk therapy, the drugs may benefit some people.

"Combined with [talk therapy], some psychedelic drugs like MDMA [or ecstasy], psilocybin [the active ingredient in magic mushrooms] and ayahuasca may improve symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]," Cristina Magalhaes, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Alliant International University in Los Angeles, said in a statement. Magalhaes co-chaired a symposium on psychedelics and psychotherapy on Aug. 9 at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA) in San Francisco.

Still, more research and discussion are needed to better understand the possible benefits of the drugs, as well as the ethical and legal issues surrounding their use, Magalhaes said. (Many psychedelic drugs, including the three addressed in the symposium, are illegal in the United States and are available only for patients in research studies.) [Trippy Tales: The History of 8 Hallucinogens]

Turns out near-death experiences are psychedelic, not religious

Near-death experiences are remarkably common. In one study, researchers found that they occurred in up to 18 per cent of cardiac arrest victims who survived to describe them. Often life-changing, they are noted for eerie similarities between people’s experiences of them. The most common characteristics include feelings of calmness, out-of-body experiences, traveling through a dark region or void, a bright and vivid light in the distance, communicating with otherworldly agents, and traveling to a mysterious and unearthly realm.

Many people who have near-death experiences claim that such occurrences are proof of an afterlife, or that consciousness is not inextricably tied to a living, working brain. Their beliefs hold that consciousness can be maintained despite the absence of a physical body.

But new research shows that these seemingly otherworldly sensations may actually be rooted in brain activity associated with psychedelics. In fact, a new study conducted at Imperial College London (ICL) is the first to show that the potent psychedelic, N,N-Dimethyltriptamine – commonly known as DMT – can elicit experiences rooted in physical brain processes, that strongly overlap with those described as near-death. DMT produces its psychedelic effects largely via neural pathways involving the neurotransmitter serotonin. In a manner similar to near-death experiences, DMT elicits mystical happenings described as “realer than real”.

There's No 'Safe' Level of Alcohol Consumption, Global Study Finds

Drinking alcohol in moderation is more harmful than previously thought, according to a new study that concludes there's no "safe" level of alcohol consumption.

The comprehensive study, which analyzed information from millions of people in nearly 200 countries, found that alcohol is tied to nearly 3 million deaths globally each year, with about 1 in 10 deaths linked to alcohol use among people ages 15 to 49.

What's more, any protective health effects of alcohol were offset by the drink's risk, including strong links between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer and injuries such as those resulting from car accidents. [7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health]

"The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising," the researchers wrote in their paper, published online Aug. 23 in the journal The Lancet. "Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none."

Ancient Girl's Parents Were Two Different Human Species

When the results first popped up, paleogeneticist Viviane Slon didn't believe it. “What went wrong?” she recalls asking herself at the time. Her mind immediately turned to the analysis. Did she make a mistake? Could the sample be contaminated?

The data was telling her that the roughly 90,000-year-old flake of bone she had tested was from a teenager that had a Neanderthal mom and Denisovan dad. Researchers had long suspected that these two groups of ancient human relatives interbred, finding whiffs of both their genes in ancient and modern human genomes. But no one had ever found the direct offspring from such a pairing.

Slon, a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, sampled the bone from another spot; she got the same result. So she did it again. After running tests on six samples in all, the results always came out the same: The bone had nearly equal amounts of DNA from a Neanderthal and a Denisovan.

The landmark find, published this week in Nature, marks the first definitive evidence for offspring that came directly from interbreeding of these ancient species and is helping shape our understanding of hominin interactions.

Ancient Egyptian mummification 'recipe' revealed

Dr Buckley and his colleagues worked out the chemical "fingerprint" of every ingredient, although each element could have come from a number of sources.

So the basic recipe was:

  • a plant oil - possibly sesame oil;
  • a "balsam-type" plant or root extract that may have come from bullrushes;
  • a plant-based gum - a natural sugar that may have been extracted from acacia;
  • crucially, a conifer tree resin, which was probably pine resin

When mixed into the oil, that resin would have given it antibacterial properties, protecting the body from decay.

How many humans would it take to keep our species alive? One scientist's surprising answer

In recent years, astronomers have found thousands of planets orbiting nearby stars, making the old science-fiction trope of off-world colonies seem a bit less absurd.

But it was the 2016 discovery of a potentially habitable Earth-size planet around Proxima Centauri, the nearest star after the sun, that really got people thinking: Are we too vulnerable to asteroid strikes and other cataclysms to stick with our single planet? Could we safeguard our species by sending a space ark to a new home, a la "Battlestar Galactica" or the movie "Passengers?"

Frédéric Marin is among those who are doing the hard thinking. The University of Strasbourg astrophysicist has been focusing not on the engineering issues of interstellar travel (which lie beyond current technology) but on the biology side of the question: How many crew members would be needed for an interstellar voyage that might last dozens of generations? In other words, what is the minimum number of people required to deliver and successfully plant a self-sustaining population of Homo sapiens on another Earth?

. . .

The number Marin came up with is 98. Just 98 healthy people would be needed to operate the ship over many generations and to set up a healthy (non-inbred) population on another world, he estimates. That number holds even for his test case of a space ark mission lasting more than 6,000 years, although he allows for the population aboard the ark to grow over time — up to about 500, perhaps.

Earth's Magnetic Field Can Reverse Poles Ridiculously Quickly, Study Suggests

Like the invisible force shield around the Death Star, Earth's magnetic field surrounds and protects our planet from the hottest, most statically charged particles the sun can throw our way. This shield — the natural product of molten iron swirling around the planet's core — has had our backs for billions of years, and prevented Earth from becoming an irradiated, electrified wasteland. Every now and then, though, that shield lets down its guard.

A few times every million years or so, Earth's magnetic field reverses polarity. Imagine a giant bar magnet inside our planet got flipped upside down; iron molecules in Earth's outer core would switch direction, the magnetic North Pole would become the magnetic South Pole, and the invisible currents of energy that make up our planet's magnetic armor would tangle and break, potentially reducing the shield's protective strength by up to 90 percent, previous studied have suggested. [6 Visions of Earth's Core]

Luckily, full reversals are uncommon and unfold slowly over thousands of years. (The last full reversal occurred about 780,000 years ago.) But according to a new study published Monday (Aug. 20) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, partial or temporary shifts in Earth's magnetic poles can occur much, much faster than was previously thought possible — potentially, within a single human lifetime.

Eerie Sky Glow Called 'Steve' Isn't an Aurora, Is 'Completely Unknown' to Science

Late at night on July 25, 2016, a thin river of purple light slashed through the skies of northern Canada in an arc that seemed to stretch hundreds of miles into space. It was a magnificent, mysterious, borderline-miraculous sight, and the group of citizen skywatchers who witnessed it decided to give the phenomenon a fittingly majestic name: "Steve."

Given its coincidence with the northern lights, Steve was just thought to be part of the aurora — the shimmering sheets of nighttime color that appear in the sky when charged plasma particles streak out of the sun, sail across space on solar winds and jolt down Earth's magnetic field toward the planet's poles. However, a new study published today (Aug. 20) in the journal Geophysical Research Letters suggests that such a simple explanation might not apply. [Aurora Images: See Breathtaking Views of the Northern Lights]

According to researchers at the University of Calgary in Canada and the University of California, Los Angeles, Steve does not contain the telltale traces of charged particles blasting through Earth's atmosphere that auroras do. Steve, therefore, is not an aurora at all, but something entirely different: a mysterious, largely unexplained phenomenon that the researchers have dubbed a "sky glow."

"Our main conclusion is that STEVE is not an aurora," lead study author Bea Gallardo-Lacourt, a space physicist at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, said in a statement. "So right now, we know very little about it. And that's the cool thing."

The Universe as We Understand It May Be Impossible

On June 25, Timm Wrase awoke in Vienna and groggily scrolled through an online repository of newly posted physics papers. One title startled him into full consciousness.

The paper, by the prominent string theorist Cumrun Vafa of Harvard and his collaborators, conjectured a simple formula dictating which kinds of universes are allowed to exist and which are forbidden, according to string theory. The leading candidate for a “theory of everything” weaving the force of gravity together with quantum physics, string theory defines all matter and forces as vibrations of tiny strands of energy. The theory permits some 10500 different solutions: a vast, varied “landscape” of possible universes.* String theorists like Wrase and Vafa have strived for years to place our particular universe somewhere in this landscape of possibilities.

But now, Vafa and his colleagues were conjecturing that in the string landscape, universes like ours—or what ours is thought to be like—don’t exist. If the conjecture is correct, Wrase and other string theorists immediately realized, the cosmos must either be profoundly different than previously supposed or string theory must be wrong.

Inside Scientologists’ Bizarre Plot to Sell Bogus Meat to the Poor

In the summer of 1973, Conrad Romo, a 19-year-old boy from L.A. whose Catholic upbringing had been derailed by books like Hermann Hesse’s Siddartha and John G. Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks—anything that “spoke of more than just this world”—turned on the TV and watched an advertisement for a new religion called “Scientology.”

. . .

Forty-five years later, Conrad Romo would point to that advertisement as the genesis of a 14-year devotion to the controversial religious group. In some ways, Romo’s story of Scientology resembles so many of the survivor tales told by ex-members: he got seduced, spent years of his life and thousands of dollars on Scientology, and then “woke up,” confused and lonely, sometime in the late 1980s.

But in recent interviews with The Daily Beast, Romo and several other former members explained another aspect of scientologist life—one rarely reported on in the documentaries or chart-busting tell-alls—a niche industry that employed countless hopeful converts around Los Angeles and San Francisco for nearly a decade: selling meat.

For four years, in the name of Scientology and its charismatic, sci-fi-writing leader, L. Ron Hubbard, Romo drove a climate-controlled truck around greater Los Angeles, parked it outside food stamp stores, and hawked overpriced steaks to anyone who passed by.

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