News
The Power Of Light Works
July 2019
LightSail 2 is changing its orbit using only the power of sunlight. The Planetary Society announced this week that their LightSail 2 solar sail is working well, and actually raising the orbit of the spacecraft as it travels around the Earth. According to mission managers, they've been able to raise the orbit of the spacecraft by about 2 kilometers at the high point of its orbit. Unfortunately, they'll only be able to go for about a month before the sail dips into the atmosphere at the low point of its orbit and it crashes.
Sci-Fi Writers Include Religion
October 2018
At his appearance at the American Writers Museum in Chicago, John Scalzi said that it is important that science fiction writers include religion in their universes, "When 5 billion people out of 7 billion very strongly have professed religious belief of some sort or another, to ignore it, minimize it or just say it doesn't matter is foolish," he said.
Ghosts and Out-Of-Body Experiences
James C. Rocks
Are ghosts real and are people's claims to out-of-body experiences genuine? An entire media culture, books, films and TV are devoted to such things, indeed, the basis of almost all religions is that an important part of us is the ghost-like spirit, soul or daemon.

Ghosts and Out-Of-Body Experiences In my not-so-humble-opinion, it is ludicrous to believe in things like ghosts, they are last bastion of those reaching out to something they suppose (wrongly I think) will take them beyond life's clutches. Ghosts/spirits are, and please correct me if I'm wrong, the "real essences" of people and animals (usually dead). They continue to exist after we die and are a separate though (crucially) important part of our psyche ... in other words, in the event of death (no matter how horrible) that person's spirit is released into the ether for a gay little life of its own. So, one might reasonably expect a person's character to remain fairly consistent throughout their life ... yet curiously, in the event of an accident involving head trauma or an illness involving brain damage a person's intelligence, personality, thought and abilities almost always change to some degree (sometimes quite devastatingly as I shall show in a moment). Although it is not possible (or rather not considered good practice, LOL) to slice people's brains up and see how their behaviour changes the victims of many, many road accidents and war injuries have been carefully studied and our knowledge of the relationship between mind and brain is not as lacking as some would claim. Indeed, there were, last time I looked, maybe a thousand serious science journals devoted to the subject of mind and brain and it strikes me that many journals mean a lot of associated workers in the field. We may not fully grasp it all yet but I think we know more than some would have us believe ... a quick search on Amazon UK for "brain mind" reveals some 1200 books, I'm sure there's crap there but that's still a lot of books to publish about which some will naively claim we know so little.

To give a personal example an uncle of mine (who died about 20 years ago) was the most charming man and an absolutely doting and devoted husband but, at the age of about 60, had a stroke and became the most vicious, nasty individual ... he absolutely tormented his wife. There is no doubt in my mind that this latter him was real and so was the former but the problem is that if ghosts, spirits and/or souls are real which *him* goes on to this supposed afterlife? How can this be if these *ghosts* are real? To claim that only his good part went to this afterlife is insulting on every level (including intellectually) because if his good part was in him for the remaining decade or so he survived after the stroke (when he was nasty) it would have been screaming itself into a state of insanity trying to get out.

That and many other examples leads me to the conclusion that those who believe in life after death (of any sort) do so on faith and faith alone because there is absolutely no validatable evidence to support such beliefs. As Dawkins would say, they, "... do it without any evidence and sometimes in spite of it".

Now scepticism is all well and good but that still leaves the problem of explaining such things and there are two explanations equally valid and both probably in various situations.

Firstly, the basic phenomenon (the event itself) is true by which I mean it looks like a ghost, sounds like a ghost, can be verified and therefore can be investigated.

A friend of mine went around with some colleagues to a neighbours' house to investigate a claimed haunting ... every night at the same time there was terrible groaning & moaning and a ghostly figure would appear on the landing and walk across it. My friend and his colleagues investigated, finding there was some kind of "apparition" but it turned out that the "apparition" had an Earthly explanation. There were old dust covered pipes above the landing and every night at the time in question, the central heating would come on, pipes would expand and begin to vibrate with the water flowing through them and this caused the groaning/moaning sounds. At the same time the shaking pipes would shed some of the dust that lay upon them and it would fall to the landing floor but passed through a ray of light from a street light shining from outside the house and from the angle people would view it, the "apparition" would appear to resemble for a few seconds a ghostly female figure. So, the explanation for the event was entirely natural and this was just one of many similar explanations where the cause of a claimed phenomenon turned out to be something else.

Secondly, all in the mind i.e. you can see it but no one else can.

The following is an interesting idea which, to my mind, completely explains most, if not all, supernatural events.

When you look at something you assume that something is external to you but, because everything you perceive is merely data that has already entered your brain, what you perceive as external is actually a neurologically constructed model inside your brain of the real world outside your brain. This has to be so because your eyes, your ears, your skin, your tongue and so on are not intelligent enough to sense AND interpret things directly so the brain must perform the interpretation function. The key point is you NEVER perceive the external world directly you only ever perceive second-hand "messages" from where it was processed into the three-dimensional model of the real world that you “see”. The things that you perceive as being the genuine articles "out there" are actually simulations existing inside your brain.

So, you interact with the real world through a simulation and as long as that simulation is an exact analogy of the real world you do not experience problems. However, when that internal model falls out of sync with the real world you might begin to experience problems and paranormal, insane or non-sober experiences result ... one only has to drink three or four beers to get a good idea of what this can be like.

Since the internal model is a construct, it is obvious that other brain (possibly abnormal) activities can interfere with that model ... for example, if the neurological program that places the “virtual” you in one location in the model places you in a different location in error an out-of-body experience might result. If your imagination intrudes upon your "real-world" model you might have hallucinations with consequences varying from mildly entertaining, through spiritual to total insanity.

“The location of your consciousness could appear to expand and engulf the entire world-model, resulting in a "cosmic consciousness" experience. Or, inside your brain's program, experiences like pain could be placed in a location outside your simulated body, such as in the perceived location an amputated leg used to be, resulting in a "phantom pain" apparently outside your body. In each example, only the parameters of a simulated body inside the brain are transcended, and thus the evidence of a spirit body disappears like a ghost.” Ian Williams Goddard, 1999

In essence, this idea easily explains how such paranormal experiences could occur.

Oh and for those of you who are fans of the current cult of TV ghost reality and spiritual medium shows it's worth pointing out that any TV show (Derek Acorah's especially) is not the place where objective events are demonstrated ... they are out to make money and the people who believe their rubbish are being taken for a ride.

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If I killed everyone who was stupid, I wouldn't have time to sleep.
Tamora Pierce