Dec 21, 2020


Why The Jupiter And Saturn Conjunction During The 2020 Winter Solstice Is Extra Special

A rare celestial event will help mark the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere on Monday, Dec. 21.

Jupiter and Saturn are currently appearing very close together from an earthly vantage point. These two gas giants are in conjunction, an occurrence that happens every 20 years or so.

This one though, is extra special.

“Really, really close conjunctions like this one are quite rare," said Hal Bidlack with the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society. "We haven’t been able to observe Jupiter and Saturn this close since the year 1226. And we won’t see them again this close for decades and decades to come.”

The two planets were last about this close together in the year 1623. But the pairing occurred while the planets were close to the sun from earth's perspective, Bidlack said, and the sight was basically washed out in the sun’s glare.

Has Jesus’ childhood home been discovered in Nazareth?

A U.K. archaeologist is shedding new light on a fascinating ancient site beneath a convent in Nazareth.

In his new book, “The Sisters of Nazareth Convent,” Ken Dark, a professor at the University of Reading, examines the archaeological history of the area beneath the Nazareth convent, which is said to be the location of Jesus’ childhood home.

The research notes that a partly rock-cut Early Roman–period house was found at the historic site, as well as evidence of Roman-era quarrying and burial, a well-preserved cave-church, and major surface-level Byzantine and Crusader churches.

The location of the cave church and later churches are believed to be linked to the ancient house.

1,800-year-old altar to pagan god Pan hidden in a Byzantine church

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered an ancient altar honoring the Greek god Pan, the deity of flocks and shepherds, but whoever inscribed it botched the job.

The inscriber basically ran out of room — etching letters outside the altar's rectangular frame and also shrinking letters toward the end, to make them fit.

. . .

The dedication, written in Greek, likely composed by a pilgrim, says: "Atheneon son of Sosipatros of Antioch is dedicating the altar to the god Pan Heliopolitanus. He built the altar using his own personal money in fulfillment of a vow he made."

The archaeologists noted that the altar doesn't just say "Pan," but "Heliopolitanus Pan," a combination of the gods Pan and Zeus, who was popular among people in Antioch, located near what is now the Turkey-Syria border.

Archaeologists Uncover Trove Of Ice Age Paintings In Colombian Amazon

A team of British and Colombian archaeologists has made a spectacular discovery deep in the Amazon rainforest: tens of thousands of paintings strewn across nearly eight miles of cliff faces that date back to the last Ice Age.

The find is being described as “the Sistine Chapel of the ancients” — a trove of ancient paintings made in red ochre that offer a glimpse of a lost civilization.

Mark Robinson, a research fellow in the department of archaeology at the University of Exeter, was one of the members of the expedition in Colombia. He says archaeologists descended from the Bogotá plateau into the Amazon forest’s thick vegetation to observe an outcrop of painted rocks depicting people dancing, laughing and hunting. Handprints and drawings of Ice Age megafauna also were sprawled on the rocks.

The expedition team knew rock art existed far into the tropical forest, but Robinson says social unrest in Colombia made the area inaccessible to researchers. Local Colombians had previously found some rock art in the region and did their own excavations years back, he says.

Neanderthals Didn’t Use Their Thumbs Like We Do, New Research Suggests

An analysis of Neanderthal hand bones suggests these extinct humans possessed thumbs better suited for power grips, as opposed to precision grips, which could mean they used their hands differently than we do.

Researchers have found key physical differences in the thumbs of Neanderthals and modern humans (Homo sapiens), which suggests the two species used their hands in different ways. The finding, as described in Scientific Reports, potentially speaks to behavioral differences in the two species, though this could be tough to prove.

Technically speaking, Neanderthals were humans, but they exhibited some key characteristics that, if they were around today, would make them stand out in a crowd. Neanderthals were a bit shorter and thicker than early modern humans, and they had a wide nose with large nostrils. They also had weak chins and prominent brow ridges. Their hands were also bigger than ours, and as the new research points out, Neanderthal hands didn’t work in exactly the same ways as ours, either.

Dinosaur sported impressive mane and had ribbons protruding from its shoulders

A newly identified dinosaur was about the size of a chicken, sported an impressive mane and had stiff, ribbon-like structures protruding from its shoulders.

The unusual fossil was found in Brazil and is the first of its type from South America to show evidence of feathers. The authors of the study think that the elaborate plumage would have been used for display and implied the dinosaur had sophisticated mating behavior.

"If confirmed, this find will be a significant discovery for two reasons: the first feathered dinosaur from southern continents and a bizarre display structure in a dinosaur from a relatively early lineage," said Xu Xing, a paleontologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, said via email.

"Similar structures have been previously reported from some very bird-like dinosaurs, but in those cases, the ribbon-like structures are attached to the tail, which is the normal, but in this new find, they are attached to the shoulder, which is unusual," added Xu, who wasn't involved in the research. He discovered some of the first feathered dinosaur fossils in China.

Researchers think they spotted new whale species off Mexico

Researchers believe they have found a previously unknown species of beaked whale in waters off Mexico’s western coast. If confirmed, the new species would mark a significant discovery among giant mammals.

The team of researchers came upon three unusual specimens while tracking a different, rare species of typically shy beaked whales on Nov. 17 near Mexico’s remote San Benito Islands, about 300 miles south (500 km) of the U.S. border.

“These animals popped to the surface right next to the boat,” said Jay Barlow, a marine mammal biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

“It was just a phenomenal encounter. It’s very rare to even see a beaked whale, and to find a friendly group of beaked whales, it’s even rarer,” he said.

Freemasons Say They're Needed Now More Than Ever. So Why Are Their Ranks Dwindling?

Freemasons have long wielded the qualities most irresistible to thriller writers and conspiracy theorists — secrecy, politics, power and celebrity. Among their members are Founding Fathers, presidents, musicians, artists and businessmen. But today, as membership plummets within one of the oldest international fraternal organizations ever to exist, a new question persists: What is the point?

The challenges facing the organization have been decades in the making. While part of the problem is that Americans simply don't join clubs or fraternities as often as they used to, some critics argue that Masons have also struggled to keep up with the changing face of the nation. Many lodges still don't allow women to join, and others have struggled to attract members of color. In recent years, membership has dropped roughly 75% from a high of more than 4.1 million in 1959 — when about 4.5% of all American men were members.

Within the organization's ranks, some members hoped the coronavirus pandemic might offer an opportunity to shed its reputation for mystery and secrecy and instead showcase the charitable work that Masons perform in communities nationwide. But that hasn't been the case. Instead, the virus continues to sweep the nation, keeping men away from their lodges and making it even more difficult to induct new members — something some say is too steeped in tradition to be attempted over Zoom.

. . .

Like many organizations facing an uncertain future — one that could be more online and less interconnected — Freemasons are approaching an inflection point.

Church of Scientology, worth billions, took at least 30 PPP loans

The Church of Scientology and businesses operated by Scientology have received at least 30 different Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans worth approximately $4 million, according to government PPP data released on Tuesday.

Eleven news organizations successfully convinced federal judge James Boasberg of the public interest in releasing the data this week.

As of this writing, the Daily Dot has identified 30 loans, while continuing to search under the names of many other Church of Scientology-operated companies.

Data initially released in July showed the Church of Scientology received three loans, but updated figures and disclosures of all loan amounts under $150,000 gave a clearer picture of Scientology’s windfall from the PPP program.

George Rutler, Prominent Catholic TV Channel Priest, Accused of Sexually Assaulting NYC Female Security Guard

Rev. George William Rutler, the 75-year-old pastor at Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Manhattan, allegedly forcibly touched Ashley Gonzalez on Nov. 4, according to News12. The assault allegedly happened during the overnight security guard’s second day on the job, moments after Gonzalez says she saw the priest watching gay porn on an office computer in the church rectory.

“He looked at me with a smile, looked away, and he put his hand inside his pants, and he was playing with himself,” said Gonzalez, who is now calling for the priest’s arrest. When she tried to leave the pastor’s office, the 22-year-old said he shut the door, “aggressively threw himself on me and grabbed me sexually, aggressively, and I was fighting him off of me.”

. . .

Rutler, who has written over 30 books, is also nationally known for his appearances on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), his contributions to Crisis Magazine, and his weekly newsletter that is reprinted in Church Militant, a fringe right-wing website.

. . .

Gonzalez is now demanding Rutler’s arrest—and has even released a cellphone recording of the pastor that she says proves her account. In the 18-second video, obtained by The Daily Beast, a bald man can be seen sitting under several religious icons watching porn on a computer with his hands down his pants.

Researchers Have Achieved Sustained Long-Distance Quantum Teleportation

In a major breakthrough for the quest toward quantum internet, a technology that would revolutionize computing in myriad ways, a consortium of well-regarded institutions have announced the first demonstration of sustained, high-fidelity quantum teleportation over long distances.

Led by Caltech, a collaboration between Fermilab, AT&T, Harvard University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the University of Calgary reports the successful teleportation of qubits, basic units of quantum information, across 22 kilometers of fiber in two testbeds: the Caltech Quantum Network and the Fermilab Quantum Network.

. . .

Quantum teleportation does not involve the actual transfer of matter. Rather, quantum particles are entangled (dependent on each other, even over long distances) and somehow know the property of their other half. From our explainer earlier this year:

In a way, entangled particles behave as if they are aware of how the other particle is behaving. Quantum particles, at any point, are in a quantum state of probabilities, where properties like position, momentum, and spin of the particle are not precisely determined until there is some measurement. For entangled particles, the quantum state of each depends on the quantum state of the other; if one particle is measured and changes state, for example, the other particle’s state will change accordingly.

‘Google Brain’ Implants Will Allow Access To All Information Instantaneously

As the lines between the use of technology and doing anything manually become increasingly blurred, the general public and policy makers don’t have time to consider the potential implications of too much technology, or more alarmingly, the merging of humans with AI. It’s like all of those great sci-fi movies are coming to life, right before our eyes. Some, especially those who are developing AI, are more optimistic, like Nikolas Kairinos, founder and CEO of, who believes that this technology could improve our lives and completely change how we learn.

During an interview with the Daily Star, Kairinos explained that he has been working on a game-changing AI to “personalize education” claiming “anyone can learn almost anything using AI.”

He believes that within the next 20 years our brainpower will be boosted with AI implants so you “won’t have to memorize anything.” Apparently, according to Kairinos, people won’t even have to bother typing any questions, as the moment the question comes to mind it will be answered via an AI implant. He believes this will result in the end of what he calls “parrot fashion” learning at schools.

While the current educational system could definitely use some work, should we be eliminating the process of learning altogether just because a chip can do it for us?

Scientist Proposes A New Theory For The Mystery Of Consciousness

A recent study published by the eminent Oxford University Press journal of Neuroscience of Consciousness claims to have solved the age-old mystery of human consciousness.

According to the paper’s author, Dr. Johnjoe McFadden, a molecular geneticist and director of quantum biology at the University of Surrey, consciousness is merely the brain’s energy field and a result of interactions between brain matter and electromagnetic energy.

“Consciousness is the experience of nerves plugging into the brain’s self-generated electromagnetic field to drive what we call ‘free will’ and our voluntary actions,” said McFadden in a statement.

McFadden’s theory appears to contest the widely accepted view that consciousness is a biological function of the brain. However, as he outlines in his paper, McFadden believes he’s been able to find a scientifically valid middle-ground between mind and matter.

Does the human brain resemble the Universe?

An astrophysicist at the University of Bologna and a neurosurgeon at the University of Verona compared the network of neuronal cells in the human brain with the cosmic network of galaxies... and surprising similarities emerged

In their paper published in Frontiers in Physics, Franco Vazza (astrophysicist at the University of Bologna) and Alberto Feletti (neurosurgeon at the University of Verona) investigated the similarities between two of the most challenging and complex systems in nature: the cosmic network of galaxies and the network of neuronal cells in the human brain.

Despite the substantial difference in scale between the two networks (more than 27 orders of magnitude), their quantitative analysis, which sits at the crossroads of cosmology and neurosurgery, suggests that diverse physical processes can build structures characterized by similar levels of complexity and self-organization.

The human brain functions thanks to its wide neuronal network that is deemed to contain approximately 69 billion neurons. On the other hand, the observable universe is composed of a cosmic web of at least 100 billion galaxies. Within both systems, only 30% of their masses are composed of galaxies and neurons. Within both systems, galaxies and neurons arrange themselves in long filaments or nodes between the filaments. Finally, within both systems, 70% of the distribution of mass or energy is composed of components playing an apparently passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable Universe.

Scientists Discover Outer Space Isn't Pitch-Black After All

"Is space truly black?" says Tod Lauer, an astronomer with the National Science Foundation's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab) in Arizona. He says if you could look at the night sky without stars, galaxies and everything else known to give off visible light, "does the universe itself put out a glow?"

It's a tough question that astronomers have tried to answer for decades. Now, Lauer and other researchers with NASA's New Horizons space mission say they've finally been able to do it, using a spacecraft that's traveling far beyond the dwarf planet Pluto. The group has posted its work online, and it will soon appear in The Astrophysical Journal.

New Horizons was originally designed to explore Pluto, but after whizzing past the dwarf planet in 2015, the intrepid spacecraft just kept going. It's now more than 4 billion miles from home — nearly 50 times farther away from the sun than the Earth is.

That's important because it means the spacecraft is far from major sources of light contamination that make it impossible to detect any tiny light signal from the universe itself. Around Earth and the inner solar system, for example, space is filled with dust particles that get lit up by the sun, creating a diffuse glow over the entire sky. But that dust isn't a problem out where New Horizons is. Plus, out there, the sunlight is much weaker.

9th planet discovered? Researchers find evidence of 'lost planet' in the solar system

Though researchers continue to hunt for the mysterious Planet 9, experts have discovered evidence that another planet, residing between Uranus and Saturn, "escaped" billions of years ago.

The research, published in the scientific journal Icarus, suggests that an "ice giant" was "kicked out" in the early days of the solar system by unknown forces.

“We now know that there are thousands of planetary systems in our Milky Way galaxy alone,” the study's lead author, Carnegie Institution for Science researcher Matt Clement said in a statement. “But it turns out that the arrangement of planets in our own solar system is highly unusual, so we are using models to reverse engineer and replicate its formative processes. This is a bit like trying to figure out what happened in a car crash after the fact – how fast were the cars going, in what directions, and so on.”

. . .

In October, scientists discovered an Earth-sized rogue planet found floating in the Milky Way.

It's Official: The Fast Radio Burst Coming From Within Our Galaxy Is Repeating

The first object within the Milky Way galaxy caught emitting fast radio bursts is now officially a repeater.

In a new peer-reviewed paper, SGR 1935+2154 has been described spitting out two more powerful radio signals consistent with those seen from extragalactic sources.

The new signals, however, are not all the same strength. This suggests that there could be more than one process inside magnetars that are capable of producing these enigmatic bursts - and that SGR 1935+2154 could be a dream come true, an excellent laboratory for understanding them.

Fast radio bursts have been a puzzle since their discovery in 2007. They're extremely powerful bursts of energy only in radio frequencies, lasting just milliseconds long at most. And there were several major difficulties in figuring out what they were.

Former Israeli space security chief says aliens exist, humanity not ready

Has the State of Israel made contact with aliens?

According to retired Israeli general and current professor Haim Eshed, the answer is yes, but this has been kept a secret because "humanity isn't ready."

Speaking in an interview to Yediot Aharonot, Eshed – who served as the head of Israel's space security program for nearly 30 years and is a three-time recipient of the Israel Security Award – explained that Israel and the US have both been dealing with aliens for years.

And this by no means refers to immigrants, with Eshed clarifying the existence of a "Galactic Federation."

The 87-year-old former space security chief gave further descriptions about exactly what sort of agreements have been made between the aliens and the US, which ostensibly have been made because they wish to research and understand "the fabric of the universe." This cooperation includes a secret underground base on Mars, where there are American and alien representatives.

A month after a mysterious monolith was discovered in Utah, at least 87 more have appeared around the world

Utah state employees were conducting a survey of wild bighorn sheep last month when they saw it: A shiny metal tower was sticking out of the rocky canyon floor.

Images of the tower, which came to be known as the "Utah monolith" due to its resemblance to the similar objects in "2001: A Space Odyssey," spread rapidly.

Though found on November 18, the structure seems to have been in the canyon since at least October 2016. Then it disappeared on November 27; video later surfaced of a group of men taking it down.

The same day, a second monolith appeared in Piatra Neamț, Romania, only to disappear on December 2. That was when a third appeared in Atascadero, California.

After those three, another monolith appeared. Then another. Within a month after the Utah monolith was discovered, at least 87 similar metallic towers have popped up around the world.

Often eerily beautiful, the structures have been spotted in California, the Netherlands, Morocco, Canada, Australia, and dozens of other locations.

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