What is confirmation bias? When a group of ghost hunters walk into a “haunted house”, they’ll most likely find evidence of a ghost. When a pair of demonologists investigate the troubled ravings of a seriously mentally ill young girl, they are likely to find evidence of possession. When UFO-hunters go to spot those elusive UFOs, a majority of them actually spot unusual things moving around in the skies. After spending half a decade rubbing elbows with people who are interested in paranormal and fringe topics, I can tell you two central themes that I’ve seen over, and over, and over. The first is that people who become interested in fringe topics nearly always find evidence that supports their particular theory within that topic. The second is that these people often become consumed with the topic – it takes over their lives and it becomes core to their identity. What is this phenomenon? Why are people who become so convinced that UFOs have to be aliens visiting earth so difficult to convince otherwise? Why are skeptics, so dead-set against the possibility that unseen spirits exist in the world, unwilling to incorporate evidence to the contrary into their world-view? The reason for this is also the reason why our own particular community – the level-headed, on-the-fence skeptics – are so small in number.
Browsing Fringe Science
These days, Internet privacy and web security are some of the hottest topics being discussed. Even though many people have voiced, quite loudly I might add, that they are not okay with any government prying into their Internet lives, the experts contend that anything you do online is susceptible to the prying eyes of the government or anyone else with the know-how. It is possible that the NSA has basically exploited nearly all Internet encryption currently available. Some people have gone to great lengths to keep those prying eyes out of their web lives. Some use operating systems geared toward anonymity (such as TAILS) or they surf the web via the TOR network. Others get together and create their own private internets known as meshnets. Unfortunately, though effective, none of these methods are impervious to prying eyes. However, there is one method which is thought to be one of the most powerfully secure methods of Internet communication because it is based on quantum mechanics to obscure data. This method is known as the Quantum Internet and it may become a reality very soon if it is not already in use.
The maiden flight of an unusual aircraft on November 17, 2013, in Karlsruhe, Germany, ushered in the possibility of a machine that could have a dramatic effect on personal, commercial, international aid, rescue, and military operations. How do you make an aircraft that functions like a helicopter yet a.) is powered by electricity b.) is much easier to fly than a helicopter c.) is cheaper to purchase and operate than a helicopter? The answer: the Volocopter. Volocopter: Not a Helicopter Although it resembles a helicopter in a basic way, the company that produced the Volocopter, E-volo, resists using that word. Helicopters are incredible machines. Currently, nothing beats them for their ability to take off and land vertically, hover, and transport people and material into small places. However, they also consume significant fossil fuels, 9-16 gallons per hour for a small two seater and up to 30 gallons per hour for a 5 seat turbine. More powerful versions burn more. They’re also tough to fly. The stresses on the helicopter airframe are immense; the torque of those big blades is huge. Aside from the fact that it can take up to 30% of the helicopter’s energy to power the tail rotor that keeps the aircraft from spinning like a big eggbeater, that tail rotor is also a difficult way to control yaw that requires either constant work from the pilot or, as on the larger copters, there’s basically an automated system that runs it. The Volocopter has no tail rotor. It has no engine. It has no giant rotor blades swinging overhead. What it does have looks like some kind of elaborate German waffle cookie with small rotors. Yolanka Wulff, executive director of the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, presented the Lindberg Award to the Volocopter team in April, [...]
Since 1978, the U.S. Military has been has used Jet Propellant 8 (JP-8) to fuel vehicles that range from aircraft to tanks. By the 1990s, the fuel proved itself in the eyes of military leaders and by that time the Department of Defense made efforts to replace diesel and JP-4, which was a 50/50 gasoline-kerosene mix. Since that time, JP-8 has become the go to fuel for the U.S. Army. It is planned that JP-8 will remain in use by the military until at least 2025. Because of the military’s heavy reliance on JP-8, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory is looking to broaden its scope by converting it to hydrogen for fuel cells.
Technology seems to speed up at a very quick- almost alarming – rate every year. How quickly will it be until technology matches up with the functioning of a human body? With this new experiment, which will be the subject of a documentary on the Smithsonian Channel, some expect that it will not be very long. “(It’s) an attempt to showcase just how far medical science has gotten,” Richard Walker, the lead Roboticist on this very intriguing project, stated. A team of engineers have assembled a bionic man that uses artificial organs, limbs, and other body parts. It boasts a functioning heart, artificial kidney, lungs, and pancreas. Some of these parts, though, are still in development as they usually need human connection to function.
Stories of people who die and are resuscitated aren’t unusual, but when that person was dead for 45 minutes or even hours, then it becomes more than just a news story. These stories become what many tout as miracles and divine intervention. But, are they? Ohio Man Dead for 45 Minutes Comes Back to Life On August 5, 2013, an Ohio man, Tony Yahle (37 years old) died. The medical team tried to resuscitate him, but failed. He was declared dead. It was nearly an hour after he was declared dead as the attendants were preparing him for view by his family that the nurses noticed sudden “signs of life”. Yahle was immediately medevaced to Ohio State University’s medical facility where he remained in a coma until five days later when he awoke without any signs of brain damage or other physical residue of his death.
What would you say if I told you that science has finally discovered a way to eventually manufacture actual light sabers just like those used in the Star Wars movie series? Crazy right? Well it’s true. Scientists at Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms were able to successfully bind together photons into a new state of matter that up until now has been entirely theoretical in nature. The successful test was published in a September 25 paper in Nature. The finding is tremendous, because it turns the understanding of light on its head. Instead of particles without any mass that don’t interact with one another, these new “photonic molecules” are made up of photos that do interact with each other and develop into molecules with mass. This discovery could potentially lead to real world devices that may not be very much unlike the mythical light sabers of Star Wars.
It is American inventor Thomas Edison who is widely celebrated for inventing the light bulb. In 1879, Edison produced a bulb that could glow for 1500 hours. Apart from the arrival of the energy saving light bulb, little has changed in the mechanics of the light bulbs which have been lighting up our homes since the nineteenth century. That was until 2002. In 2002, a mechanic in Brazil named Alfredo Moser had an Edison moment and came up with a way to light up his house without having to rely on electricity. The solution? Three simple ingredients found in practically every kitchen – water, bleach and a plastic bottle. The ingeniously simplistic “Moser light” quickly became a sensation throughout the world. By early next year it is expected that the Moser light will be installed in over one million homes. So how exactly does such a simple method give light? Talking to the BBC, Moser explains that the illumination is caused by a simple refraction of sunlight. “Add two capfuls of bleach to protect the water so it doesn’t turn green [with algae]. The cleaner the bottle, the better,” said Moser. (1) To install the bottle you drill a hole in the roof and push it from the bottom upwards. “You fix the bottle with polyester resin. Even when it rains, the roof never leaks – not one drop,” the mechanic said to the BBC. (1) Alfred Moser continued that an engineer measured the amount of light the bottle produced. Depending on how strong the sunlight is, the light typically gives 40 to 60 watts.
It is almost impossible to predict how one scientific discovery or invention could alter the future of the entire planet. Did Alexander Graham Bell ever think the majority of the world’s population would carry a phone around with them? Did Henry Ford ever stop to think that mass adoption of the automobile would have consequences on the environment? It’s hard to say if either of these ideas ever crossed the minds of the two innovators. Nevertheless, there have been many inventions that have definitely altered the future of the human race. Recently, scientists announced that they have made just such a discovery: a remote human-to-human brain interface.
The Amazon is teeming with plant and animal life that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Scientists conducting research in the world’s rain forests expect the unexpected, but sometimes what they discover is so bizarre it baffles all of them. This is the case of the web formation that Troy Alexander, a Georgia Tech graduate student, found one morning at the Tambopata Research Center. Located in Peru’s 275,000 hectare (679,250 acres) conservation, Tambopata National Reserve, the research center is “one of the most remote rainforest lodges in South America”. (1)