Psychological disorder causes you to hallucinate your doppelgänger

Via Boing Boing: ‘In the book The Man Who Wasn’t There, Anil Ananthaswamy explores mysteries of self, including the weirdness of autoscopic phenomena, a kind of hallucination in which you are convinced that you are having an out-of-body experience or face to face with your non-existent twin. From a BBC feature based on one of the book chapters…’

Of the lectures I have given, one of those that most fascinated my audience, and which I have therefore rolled out over and over to entertain, has been a roundup of odd and offbeat psychiatric disorders. These include autoscopic phenomena, as noted above, as well as Fregoli, Cotard’s, apotemnophilia, Alice in Wonderland syndrome, Munchausen’s (of course) and my personal favorite, Capgras, about some of which I have written here in the past and all of which challenge fundamental aspects of our perception of reality. Do a Google search on “odd unusual psychiatric|psychological syndromes” to explore these topics further.


Obama: Denali, not McKinley

Via Vox: ‘On Sunday, the Obama administration announced that the peak formerly known as Mount McKinley will henceforth be known as “Denali,” its traditional Native Alaskan name.The mountain was officially named after President William McKinley in 1917, a gesture originally proposed by an Alaska gold prospector in recognition of McKinley’s support for the gold standard.The Denali name is widely supported by Alaskans regardless of ethnicity.Politicians from McKinley’s home state of Ohio are leading the opposition to the change.’


R.I.P. Oliver Sacks

Via The New York Times: ‘Casting Light on the Interconnectedness of Life: Dr. Sacks, who died on Sunday at 82, was a polymath and an ardent humanist, and whether he was writing about his patients, or his love of chemistry or the power of music, he leapfrogged among disciplines, shedding light on the strange and wonderful interconnectedness of life — the connections between science and art, physiology and psychology, the beauty and economy of the natural world and the magic of the human imagination. In his writings, as he once said of his mentor, the great Soviet neuropsychologist and author A. R. Luria, “science became poetry.”..’


Meet the world’s foremost Loch Ness Monster hunter

Via Salon.com: ‘The monster hunter isn’t quitting.

Do not believe the news reports that pinged around the world last month faster than the flick of a dragon’s tail.

Steve Feltham, full-time professional seeker of the Loch Ness Monster, holder of the Guinness World Record for longest continuous vigil for “Nessie,” has reached no conclusions about the cryptid that may or may not inhabit this freshwater lake in the Scottish Highlands.

He has not determined that Nessie is a giant catfish. He has not ended his search. He is not walking away from his dream.

“I’m not leaving Loch Ness,” Feltham, 52, says in a video filmed inside the van where he lives and posted to his website. “Never have intended to. Never will, until we solve this mystery.”..’


What the world would look like if humans had never existed

Via Independent.UK: ‘Put simply, Danish researchers behind a new study believe that without humans, most of northern Europe would be home to bears, elephants and rhinoceroses: areas where they were historically hunted to extinction by Homo sapiens…’



Users describe the effects of the drug some are calling ‘weaponised marijuana’

Via Matti Viikate – Newsvine: ‘Synthetic marijuana, also referred to as ‘replacement cannabis’, ‘K2’, and ‘Spice’, is a lab-produced mind-altering drug that aims to mimic the effects of marijuana, but is known to have unpredictable and sometimes dangerous effects, despite its marketing as a safe, legal alternative to marijuana. New York City’s police commissioner, William Bratton, recently said that the drug, which he referred to as “weaponised marijuana” is of “great and growing concern” to the city’s police force, which has seen a spike in hospitalisations from the drug..’


The End of Walking

Via Antonia Malchick – Aeon: ‘For decades, Americans have been losing their ability, even their right, to walk. There are places in the United States – New York City, for example – where people walk as a matter of habit and lifestyle, commuting in ways familiar to residents of London or Paris. But there are vast blankets and folds of the country where the ability to walk – to open a door and step outside and go somewhere or nowhere without getting behind the wheel of a car – is a struggle, a fight. A risk…’


Staring Into Someone’s Eyes For 10 Minutes Can Alter Your Consciousness

Via IFLScience: ‘Forget LSD: eyes are the new high. Of course, we’re not talking about consuming them, but rather staring intensely into a pair for a prolonged period of time. Apparently, this can make people enter into an altered state of consciousness.

This intriguing discovery was made by vision researcher Giovanni Caputo from the University of Urbino in Italy, but it isn’t his first staring contest study. A few years ago, the scientist recruited 50 volunteers and got them to gaze upon their reflections in a mirror for 10 minutes in a dimly lit room. For many of them, it took less than one minute to start experiencing something trippy.

Their faces began to warp and change, taking on the appearance of animals, monsters or even deceased family members; a phenomenon imaginatively named the “strange-face illusion.” But it seems the bizarre effects are even more dramatic when the mirror is swapped for another person…’


10 of Our Favorite Orangutan Pictures

10 of Our Favorite Orangutan Pictures

Via National Geographic: ‘On International Orangutan Day, we take a look at these lovable tree-dwelling apes, whose numbers are plummeting fast due to deforestation.

Solitary and intelligent, the orangutan is the only great ape native to Asia—but it’s possible the continent may soon have none. That’s because orangutan numbers are dwindling as the animals are driven from their habitats by deforestation for palm oil plantations.

The island of Borneo may house only 54,000 of the endangered animal, and on Sumatra (map), just 6,600 remain, according to WWF. That’s a drop from possibly 230,000 of the primates a century ago.

But there’s one bright spot for this fiery-furred ape: Many companies have committed to only using palm oil from areas that weren’t destroyed by logging…’


According To New Study, A Blood Test Could Predict Suicide Risk

Via IFLScience: ‘In what is sure to be highly controversial research, a new study claims to be able to predict a person’s risk of committing suicide with over 90% accuracy, using only a blood test coupled with a questionnaire.

According to the researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine, they have developed a simple test that looks for 11 biomarkers in a patient’s blood. When they coupled this with an app-based questionnaire, they say they were able to predict which individuals in a group of patients already being treated for psychiatric disorders would go on to develop suicidal thoughts over a period of two years…’


The Death of LOL

Via The Awl: ‘“A new report from Facebook into how users express laughter shows that ‘haha’ and its variants are by far the most common terms used on the social network. They accounted for 51.4 percent of mirth in the anonymized comments and posts looked at by Facebook’s data team, with laughter emoji claiming 33.7 percent, and ‘hehe’ and its cognates 13.1 percent. The once-mighty ‘lol’ only appeared in 1.9 percent of the text sampled by Facebook — a pretty staggering fall for an expression that was once synonymous with online txt speak. Although not surprising for such a venerable term, ‘lol’ proved slightly more popular with older users. Differences between generations were not heavily pronounced, but it was emoji that were most popular with users with the youngest median age, while ‘haha,’ ‘hehe,’ and ‘lol’ were favored by progressively older individuals.”..’


Are There Too Many Meta-Analyses?

Via Neuroskeptic: ‘Meta-analyses are systematic syntheses of scientific evidence, most commonly randomized controlled clinical trials. A meta-analysis combines the results of multiple studies and can lead to new insights and more reliable results.

However, according to Italian surgeon Giovanni Tebala writing in Medical Hypotheses, meta-analyses are becoming too popular, and are in danger of taking over the medical literature.

…Why is this? Tebala suggests that researchers are turning to meta-analyses to bolster their CVs:

Randomized controlled trials require hard work and financial commitment, whereas meta-analyses and systematic reviews can be relatively easy to perform and often get published in high impact journals. Many researchers might decide to devote themselves to the latter approach.

…Tebala doesn’t actually spell out why the glut of meta-analyses is a problem for science; he seems to be concerned at the unfairness of meta-analysts getting credit for their work with “someone else’s data”.

Nonetheless I think there is a scientific problem, which is that as the ratio of meta-analyses to actual data increases, the scientific literature becomes dominated by interpretation and analysis resting on a limited amount of evidence. Put simply, the risk is that science will get “top heavy”…’


The Universe Is Dying; Nice Knowing You

Via IFLScience: ‘We’re all screwed. Well, if you’re planning to stick around for a few more billion years.

Researchers have found that galaxies are losing energy at a rather alarming rate, and confirm that all energy in the universe will eventually dissipate into nothingness. A study of 200,000 galaxies found they had lost half their energy in just two billion years. “The universe is slowly dying,” a statement from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) somberly says.

The theory that the universe is dying through an increase in entropy is not new, but this is the most extensive analysis yet of what’s going on. The energy output of a large portion of space containing the galaxies was measured more precisely than ever before. It was studied in 21 wavelengths, from ultraviolet to the far infrared, and all were found to be decreasing…’


A Child in Los Angeles Has the Plague

Via Gizmodo: ‘A Los Angeles County child is recovering from the plague, and public health agencies are searching the wilderness for the source of the infection.

It’s the third case of plague this year in the U.S. The first two both happened in Colorado, and both were fatal. Earlier this week, an adult in Pueblo County, Colorado, died of the plague, and back in June, the disease killed a Larimer County high school student.

There are about 7 cases of plague in the U.S. every year, mostly in the West, where the disease is endemic among wild mammals, especially rodents, in rural or wilderness areas…’


Mimas and Dione Beam up at Saturn in a Stunning Portrait

Via Gizmodo: ‘The Moon may be Earth’s kid brother, but Saturn’s moons seem more gnats on an elephant in this incredible image captured by the Cassini probe.

Pictured here are Saturn’s moons Mimas (right) and Dione (left) staring up at their behemoth of a planet, with the unilluminated side of the rings angled about one degree from the ring plane. They’re certainly large enough to be spotted, but at 240 and 698 miles across respectively, Mimas and Dione are quite a bit smaller than Earth’s moon (2160 miles across). And they’re total pipsqueaks on the scale of the Saturn system: The gas giant itself measures 75,400 miles across, and its ring system extends more than a thousand fold further out into space.

We all grew up learning that the gas giants are massive, but images like this really help put the numbers in perspective….’


This Frightening Animation Shows Every Single Nuclear Explosion That Occurred Between 1945 And 1998

Via IFLScience: ‘Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto created the animation to display the number of nuclear explosions that went off between 1945 and 1998: a staggering 2,053.

Beginning with the Manhattan Project’s first nuclear device detonated near Los Alamos, New Mexico, the number of explosions starts slowly at first and then quickly speeds up right through to Pakistan’s own nuclear tests in 1998.

Each explosion corresponds to a beep and a flash of color, with the totals for each country rapidly stacking up. It is especially poignant given that today is the 70th anniversary of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, “Little Boy”, at the end of World War Two.

Hashimoto created the animation in 2003, which is why more recent nuclear tests such as those by North Korea in 2006, 2009 and 2013 are excluded.’


Read the Full Text of John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” A Story of 6 Survivors​

Read the Full Text of John Hersey's "Hiroshima," A Story of 6 Survivors

For the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The New Yorker has published online the full text of John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” to which the magazine devoted the entire editorial space of its August 31, 1946 issue. “It does so in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible destructive power of this weapon,” wrote the magazine’s editors, “and that everyone might well take time to consider the terrible implications of its use.”


National Geographic Changed Its Maps To Reflect The Effects Of Climate Change In The Arctic

Via IFLScience: ‘Picture the Arctic and you’re probably imagining vast expanses of pure, white ice or enormous cliffs of jagged glaciers surrounded by icy waters. However, the ice sheets of the Arctic are melting so quickly and in such large amounts that maps of the world must reflect these momentous changes. Atlas of the World makers National Geographic announced last year that there would be major changes made to the 10th edition of its map. In his announcement of plans to fight global warming, President Obama referred to these changes in a speech given at the White House. “Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart,” Obama said….’


Astronomers Discover Enormous Structure 5 BILLION Light-Years Across

Via IFLScience: ‘It’s pretty hard to fathom just how big some things in the universe are, but this possible feature is so large that it borders on the ridiculous.

Astronomers think they have found a ring of nine gamma ray bursts (GRBs) inside galaxies that, together, measure 5 billion light-years across. For a comparison, that’s about 50,000 times bigger than the Milky Way, or more than one-ninth the size of the observable universe. The research was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

A GRB is an intense flash of gamma rays caused by a supernova, the dramatic death of a fiery star, and thus their detection indicates the presence of a galaxy – suggesting all nine of the GRBs are in separate galaxies. They are the brightest electromagnetic events in the universe, releasing more energy in a few seconds than the Sun in its entire 10 billion-year lifetime, and thus they can be used to detect distant galaxies.

While it is not one physical whole structure, the Hungarian-American team who made the discovery think the nine galaxies are gravitationally bound to each other – just as our Local Group contains the Milky Way and a few dozen other galaxies.

In this case, all the GRBs studied by a variety of observatories are about 7 billion light-years away from Earth, suggesting that we are seeing the structure “face on.” Alternatively, we may be seeing a projection of a “sphere.”

But there’s one problem. The structure, if confirmed, would break our current models of how large things can be; a previous theoretical limit stood at 1.2 billion light-years. On large scales, the cosmos should be uniform and not have structures like this….’


What if your hometown were hit by the Hiroshima atomic bomb?

Via Public Radio International: ‘While the graying Hiroshima Generations who survived the atomic bomb attack seven decades ago are struggling to pass their memories to the younger generations, much of the world has allowed that fateful morning on Aug 6, 1945 to slip from their minds.

About 66,000 people, mostly civilians, perished, according to a report prepared by the US Army one year after the attack. Another 69,000 were injured and tens of thousands more were affected by radiation disease.

But how to show the damage more clearly? We’ve developed an application that allows you to visualize the damage of the same atomic bomb on another location in today’s world, such as your hometown. You may be surprised at the extent of the damage….’


Ebola Vaccine Proves 100% Effective in Its First Trial

Via Big Think: ‘A vaccine that did not exist a year ago has proven 100 percent effective at preventing people who are at extremely high risk of infection from contracting the Ebola virus.

The recent trial took place in Guinea, a West African nation that, along with Liberia and Sierra Leone, was hit hard by an Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 11,000 people since December 2013…

The vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, is composed of “an attenuated livestock virus engineered to produce an Ebola protein…

Still, the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine is considered a first-generation tool, especially since it must be stored at –80° C and it protects against a limited number of species of the Ebola virus. Researchers are already hard at work developing second-generation iterations….’ 


Hitchhiking Robot Lasts Just Two Weeks in US Because Humans Are Terrible

Via Gizmodo: ‘When hitchBOT the hitchhiking robot started his journey in Boston two weeks ago he wanted to see the entire country. Unfortunately, he never made it out of the Northeast. The researchers who built hitchBOT announced today that they need to stop the experiment because hitchBOT was vandalized in Philadelphia.

From the researchers who built hitchBOT:

hitchBOT’s trip came to an end last night in Philadelphia after having spent a little over two weeks hitchhiking and visiting sites in Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead, and New York City. Unfortunately, hitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad things happen to good robots. We know that many of hitchBOT’s fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over. For now we will focus on the question “what can be learned from this?” and explore future adventures for robots and humans.

The goal of the hitchhiking trip was to see how humans would interact with hitchBOT. And apparently the answer was “not well.” HitchBOT has been around the world, including trips across the entirety of Canada and Germany without major incident. But America is clearly a hard land for our robot brothers and sisters….’