Don’t try this at home! Researchers have been conducting controlled experiments using volunteers and the fairy-tail red and white mushroom, the Fly Agaric.
Given in small quantities, many of those interviewed experienced memories they had forgotten about, usually associated with their early childhood. Playground incidents, seeing a steam train for the first time, a Christmas unwrapping… Many of those interviewed swore that these were genuine memories unlocked by the ‘shroom.
The next stage of the experiment was to increase the amount of the mushroom given to the volunteers. This had to be undertaken under strict medical supervision because too much Fly Agaric and the mouth and throat could become numb, and close due to anaphalactic shock. A proportion of those who had the higher dose of mushroom reported memories that were not of their childhood, and were not of their existing lives at all. They wrote down what they had “remembered” and were then interviewed by psycho-analysts to test the veracity of their memories. They all appeared to be genuine and not manufactured.
Researchers are preparing a report to publish but have already claimed that the mushroom has unlocked memories of previous existences that were locked and retained in some immortal part of the soul- it could not be the brain because the brain and body dies and rots. However the theory is that like a cloud-based IT application, upon being re-born, your characteristics from previous lives are re-loaded into your body as you develop in the womb. However the memories from previous lives are not normally accessible and are screened out. But the Fly Agaric mushroom stimulates a small part of the brain where these past-life memories are normally concealed.
Could this be evidence that we are immortal and have lived previous lives? The research is being peer-reviewed before publishing, and a number of volunteers are repeating the experiment to confirm the results.
But don’t try this yourselves. The Fly Agaric is a poisonous mushroom, and this experiment could only be conducted under strictly controlled medical conditions.
It sounds like something out of Star Wars or a 1950’s Ray Bradbury Sci-Fi story, but it’s true. The Japanese have invented, built and now successfully tested (on earth) a space cannon, with the intention of- wait for it- shooting an asteroid.
It’s called the Hayabusa 2 and will be launched into space next year. It’s first target is not just any old asteroid, it will be aiming at asteroid 1999 JU3. The intention is to create a crater for gathering mineral samples.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has reported that the mission “is progressing as planned”, and is still on track to arrive at the asteroid in 2018. The asteroid is in a stable orbit inbetween earth and Mars.
When it arrives the cannon which actually detach from the mothership, where it will travel to the other side of the asteroid before detonating itself. Once in position close to the asteroid, the space cannon will detach itself and remotely fire a 4lb metal projectile into the surface of the miniature planet. The mothercraft will then land on the asteroid and collect samples that have been disturbed from underneath the surface of the asteroid. The previous ship, Hayabusa 1 skimmed material from the surface of an asteroid and successfully returned to earth. This latest project will hopefully expose valuable minerals from inside the asteroid, ones that are usually not available.
“the potential to revolutionise our understanding of pristine materials essential to understanding the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life,”
It’s natural to think of an extension of this project being able to blast open or throw off course any large asteroid that might be heading towards earth. The next potantially world-ending asteroid id expected about 2032.
Unfortunately, the cannon is nowhere near large enough to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. We’ve only got less than a couple of decades to sort something out for that. Ine idea being considered is a giant catapault in space to launch a large captured asteroid towards any incoming body. Being in space, the velocity of the launched asteroid will remain constant until it impacts aginst the invader. But one problem has been the corrosive effect of space on elastic and rubber. So perhaps we’re back to just building a much bigger space cannon. Hayabusa 3 anyone?
The brain. Famously said by Woody Allen to be his “second-favourite organ”. The brain. The key component used by Baron von Frankenstein to create his creature (too bad that he had to use the damaged brain of a criminal instead of a healthy brain- damn that clumsy Igor!).
Whereas organ transplants are common these days, there has been no known attempt to effect a human brain transplant. But advances in understanding that most complex part of our body are being made.
A 65 year old European woman donated her brain to science five years ago. Over the next half a decade, the brain was sliced into extremely thin strips and then studied and copied into a computer programme known as “BigBrain”. The brain can be viewed at virtually cellular level- zooming in to a resolution of just 20 microns across (a millimetre is 1000 microns). The information is being shared; reserachers worldwide are able to download digital slices of the computerised BigBrain to assist their own research projects.
Prof. Katrin Amunts at Dusseldorf’s Heinrich Heine University said:
“It is impossible to understand the function of the brain without knowing its anatomy, and its microstructure in particular. Brain structure and function go hand-in-hand.”
The donated brain was immersed in paraffin and transported to the University in Germany. A custom built bacon-slicer was used to cut the brain into nearly 7,500 separate slices, each the thickness of plastic food wrap. The slices were then stained, mounted on slides, and then scanned onto a computer. At McGill University in Canada, computer scientists then used this to create a 3D model, BigBrain, taking up a terabyte of computer memory. The project is ongoing; the next step is to use the BigBrain to simulate the entire workings of the brain.
At what point might BigBrain comes self-aware within the computer? We are told that that is not possible…
Most people will know of the experiments conducted by Dr. Duncan McDougall in the early 1900s which led to the theory that the human body weighed 21 grams less at the moment of death. McDougall weighed six patients, while they were in the process of dying from tuberculosis. When death was imminent, the entire bed of the patient was quickly placed on a highly sensitive industrial sized scale. In each case a small weight loss- about 21 grams- was recorded. A paper summarising his findings appeared in the journal American Medicine in 1907. He did the same experiment with dogs (which were easier to procure for his experiments than humans) and said that there was no weight loss at the point of the canines’ demise. This appeared to confirm the popular theory that, unlike humans, animals had no souls to fly heavenward at death.
The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who lived in the sixth century BC, thought that the soul was composed of an unusually fine or rare kind of matter, such as air or fire. However it is not known whether he conducted any experiments.
More recently, in 1988, East German researchers carried out experiments on 200 terminally ill patients. In each case the weight loss was exactly the same – 1/3,000th of an ounce or 0.01 gram. Considerably less than 21 grams.
No further valid experimentation and measurement has been undertaken in the last three decades, and while the minute weight loss has not been scientifically explained, various theories have been assembled to explain the change in weight from life to death. Some try to say that the margin for error in the calculations was larger than stated and therefore the results are questionable, while others have used the experiments to argue in support of the theory that “dark matter” being part of the make up of all living humans.
Whether it’s 21 grams, or 0.01 gram, the jury is still out on what it all means.
If you’re into hard analysis of the edge of sciences such as noetics, the paranormal and such-like, then you should have heard of professor Richard Wiseman. Born in 1966 he is the Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in England. Interestingly, before he became an author and leading light on such subjects as the nature of luck, he was a magician!
He is probably best known for his decade-long study into luck. In his study he found that 12 percent of people in the general population identify themselves as lucky, 9 percent as unlucky and most people consider themselves neither lucky nor unlucky. In his epic study he chose equal numbers of lucky and unlucky subjects.
In an early experiment, he had everyone enter the National UK Lottery. The “lucky” people did no better in the lottery than the “unlucky” people. However he found that the people who considered themselves lucky often had a more positive outlook on life and therefore interpreted events in a more upbeat way, then those who considered themselves unlucky. For example, a lucky person whose plane developed engine trouble and who made a successful but bumpy landing at an unscheduled airport would say that they were lucky to have escaped with their life. The person who considered themselves unlucky would say that they were unlucky to have been on a plane that got diverted to a different airport, causing delay and inconvenience.
In one experiment, the doctor asked his subjects to count the number of photographs in a newspaper. Unlucky people averaged about two minutes to finish the task, lucky people just a few seconds. How come? Well on the second page of the paper was a message, in letters two-inches high, which said “Stop counting — there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” Lucky people usually noticed it. Unlucky people tended to miss it, as well as second message halfway through the paper: “Stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250.” Wiseman speculated that this was because unlucky people tended to be more tense and less likely to notice the unexpected. Those that considered themselves lucky came across as more relaxed and able to see what is there, rather than what they are looking for.
This ability to recognize and capitalize on chance opportunities is important if you are going to make the best out of what life throws at you. So is creating the opportunities for luck to occur. The study indicated that this was something that lucky people seemed to do without even thinking. Lucky people more often than not wanted to break from routine and have variety in their lives. These new or random experiences introduced new opportunities that, in turn, lucky people recognized and acted upon. And the more opportunities a person encounters, the more likely it is that one or more of these opportunities would turn out to be surprisingly good.
So you don’t need to have the luck of the Irish, a four-leaf clover, a lucky horseshoe, or some gypsy heather. What you need is a dose of inquisitiveness, inventiveness, the willing to experiment, and to make sure you don’t get stuck in a groove. Good luck with your endeavours!