Monthly Archives: December 2010

Zero Point- A New Woo Movement?

As part of my research for my  new book about the self illusion, I have just been writing about the subjective experience we all have of being inside our head.  This location is called the “point zero”  which is the phenomenological experience of where you think you are when you are conscious. There is a simple technique to locate your own point zero. Close your eyes and introspect. Focus on your self. With both hands, point with your index fingers to the sides of your head where you think your inner self is currently located. When both fingers are pointing to where you think you are having experience at this very moment in time inside your head, keep one finger pointing and with the other hand point to this same place from the front of your head so you can accurately triangulate where you feel your site of consciousness is. Now draw the imaginary lines to find the intersection where ‘X’ marks the spot.

This is where most people think they are at the moment

The above diagram is taken from studies of sighted and blind subjects. I think the interesting finding is that most people think that their self resides somewhere behind their eyes in the midline. Now of course, this is just a subjective experience. I think that this positioning is probably due to the need to have a point of reference for all the sensory systems to coordinate to protect the head and the brain within. Anyway we can speculate about this and I would be pleased to hear your opinions.

When I googled zero point, I discovered a decidedly woo-woo operation that is flogging wands and lotions to reduce pain. Here is one of their videos.

It was filmed this summer and has only had just over 700 hits but I see that zero point woo-woo is starting to take off using the same old ideomotor effects, suggestion and basic balance tricks to prove magical powers. Keep your third eye out for this one skeptics!

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Filed under General Thoughts, Research

Top Ten Videos from the Atheist Media

I was very pleased to discover that the BBC exposé on the ADE651 woo bomb-detector that I was involved with back in Jan this year, made it to No.6 in the top ten most viewed videos of the year from the atheist media blog.

10 – AC360: Christopher Hitchens Talks Cancer and God

9- Dan Barker on Fox News

8- QI: David Mitchell on Pascal’s Wager – Heaven For Atheists

7- Richard Dawkins: If Science Worked Like Religion

6- BBC Newsnight: UK Bans Exports of “Bomb Detecting” Dowsing Rods

5- Brit Hume: Tiger Woods Must Become Christian To Be Forgiven

4-Christopher Hitchens vs. Bill O’Reilly on Torture

3- Fox News: ‘Heaven Is For Real’

2- Florida Church Plans ‘Burn a Quran’ Day on 9/11

1- Bertrand Russel on God (1959)

But in the same breath, I am sorry to say, that these devices are still being sold and are in use around the world. Only today, Bob Couttie sent me link to the Guardian showing Bangladesh’s notorious Rapid Action Battallion, RAB, going out on patrol armed with the car aerial.

"Flashlight -check, metal-dector - check, dodgy dowsing rod - check"

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Filed under In the News

What to Do With the Bloody Qur’an?

Saddam's Blood Qur'an poses a Dilemma

Don’t worry, I am not suggesting desecration of the Islamic Holy book nor am I endorsing the attention-seeking antics of Pastor Terry Jones. Rather the bloody Qur’an in question is the one created out of 27 litres taken from former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein over two years that was painstakingly turned into a holy book. We learn from this piece in yesterday’s Guardian that since the Iraq invasion, the Blood Qur’an has been kept locked away in a vault inside a vast mosque in Baghdad.

The problem is that some prominent politicians want to rid Iraq of all connections with Saddam. In 2005, the Iraqi Government formed a committee to oversee the removal of symbols linked to Saddam. The trouble is that destroying the Qur’an would be sacrilegious. Even the reporter covering the piece was asked to stand at least 10 feet away from the glass housing the relic. I doubt there is a devout Muslim who will be able to burn it. What a dilemma?

I wish had known about Saddam’s Blood Qur’an when I was researching, “SuperSense.” In retrospect, I think he produced the mother of all essentialist relics!

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Filed under Essentialism, In the News

Hitler Joins the Osmonds

Hitler Joins the Osmonds

The Church of the Latter-Day Saints or Mormons believe that you cannot enter heaven unless you have been baptized. So if you die unbaptized then you don’t get in. One way around is to perform a baptism for the dead where a Church member may be baptized on behalf of that deceased person. Seems a bit daft but what is more surprising is that the Mormons have taken it upon themselves to baptize those who don’t share this belief such as the millions of Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust or those who probably don’t deserve a place in everlasting paradise, namely the worst Nazis themselves. Yes, that’s right a baptism for the dead was held for Adolf Hitler on Dec 10th,1993 in London.

Initially, the Mormons denied that the ceremony had taken place but it is clear from this blog, that Hitler had been converted to Mormonism, even if he did not know it. They even tried to delete the entry, but the record here appears to confirm that Hitler had been “endowed” (funny that, I had always heard rumours to the opposite) into the Mormon church in Utah. Needless to say, all these shenanigans of baptizing Holocaust victims and prominent Nazis upsets the Jewish community. Apparently, the LDS Church has removed over 300,000 names of Jewish Holocaust victims from its databases and discouraging these forms of vicarious baptism. But then, if you don’t believe in another group’s voodoo and hexes, then maybe baptism for the dead should just be ignored.

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Filed under General Thoughts

Was This Tree Really Such a Thorn?

Glastonbury Thorn photographed last month

Two days ago, somebody cut down Glastonbury’s famous thorn tree. It was reputedly said to have grown from the staff of  Joseph of Arimathea which burst into blossom when he thrust it into Wearyall Hill close to the Glastonbury Tor. It spookily used to flower every Christmas and Easter and at one point was the most famous tree in Christendom. It was only last Wednesday that I watched a local TV news report of the ritual where a child from a nearby school has the honour to cut off a branch to send to the Queen so that she can put it on the royal dining table for Christmas.

The act has been called vandalism but really it is sacreligious. It was done deliberately because the tree was considered sacred. Katherine Gorbing, the director of Glastonbury Abbey said, “The mindless vandals who have hacked down this tree have struck at the heart of Christianity. It holds a very special significance all over the world and thousands follow in the footsteps of Joseph Arimathea, coming especially to see it.” The local folk of Glastonbury are shocked.

No doubt this was done by someone who takes exception to Christian superstitions. It could have been someone from a different religion but I imagine that it was probably someone who does not like religion. I think that the act was pointless and destructive. I do not want to see these religious practices eliminated and I think it gives atheists a bad reputation (if indeed the desecration was done in this cause). Where would we stop? This part of Somerset is dotted with the legacy of obsolete religions from the prehistoric mounds and Stonehenge to the incredible abbeys of Bath, Wells, and Salisbury. I, for one, do not want to see these go and take great joy and satisfaction considering the foibles of mankind and the need for superstition.

However, the Glastonbury Thorn will triumph in the end. Cromwell’s soldiers cut it down and burned it during the English Civil Wars but it was replanted. There is also more than one tree as I understand with another one in the grounds of the Church of St John. In fact, the thorn has been replaced continuously over the centuries and so it wont be long before the tree is replanted on Wearyall Hill.

You might be interested to learn that there are other sacred trees in the world. The apple tree under which Newton is supposed to have observed a falling apple and hit upon the idea of gravity has been grafted and can be found in a number of auspicious locations including MIT. Do you think that someone might take the hump against science and cut that down?

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Filed under In the News

Museum Murderbillia

Ted Kaczynski’s 1.4 acre plot of land in Montana has just gone up for sale valued at $69,000. Ted Kaczynski, a former mathematics professor is the Unabomber who posted parcel bombs that ended up killing three people. One of his intended victims was James McConnell who I wrote about in Supersense. He was the wacky scientist who believed in the cellular memory hypothesis where learning could be transferred from one animal to another by simply feeding the first animal to the second. I described McDonnell’s cellular memory work in the book to explain the claims of transplant patients who believe they take on the personalities of their donors. But I digress.

The sale of  Kaczynski’s land is not that newsworthy and I doubt the story will raise much of an eyebrow as he was not your hardcore disgusting murderer like Jeffrey Dahmer or Fred West. But where was the cabin where Kaczynski plotted to overthrow the modern world? It turns out that this is now in the possession of the Newseum, Washington – DC’s Most Interactive  Museum. I used to think that murderbillia was really for the cranks and weirdos but now it seems that museums are also getting into the macabre.

I shouldn’t be too surprised. As a kid growing up in Dundee in Scotland, I remember that my favourite exhibits were the executioner’s block, replete with many grooves from the accompanying axe, a moth eaten mummy from Eygpt, but best of all, the shriveled, shrunken head from South American. Yup, I guess the signs were all there from the very beginning.

Thanks to Steve for sending me the story.

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Filed under In the News

Bruce Feels a Terranoid

I finally got round to loading this short movie of my encounter with a terranoid robot at Kyoto’s ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories back in October. This is a “terranoid ” – a robot that you can hold as you interact.

The Westerners working at ATR had nicknamed it, “Casper” after the lovable friendly ghost, but I was reminded more of the cult horror classic “Basketcase” about the wretched siamese twin who is separated from his brother to be carried around in a basket from where he terrorizes his victims. BTW,the origin of the term ‘basketcase’ comes from the British slang for quadruple amputees during WWI.

The aim of the terranoid is to produce androids that one can hold. You can tell where this technology is going but as you can see, there was something very strange about this encounter and I clearly do not seem at ease. The texture of the synthetic skin was very lifelike but it did feel like I was holding a deformed human.

I will get round to uploading my encounter with Geminoid soon. I even got to be her for while and experience what it feels like to remotely control an android. The future is just round the corner, and a lot weirder than you imagine!

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Murderbillia Coffin For Sale

Not the last resting place of Lee Harvey Oswald

Murderbillia is the growing trend to collect objects that are connected with murderers in the same way that some people collect memorabilia of celebrities. Today we learn that the coffin of JFK’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald is to go under the auctioneer’s hammer later this month. Bidding is starting at $1,000 but I predict that the final price will much, much higher as museums get interested in any Kennedy memorabilia. The coffin is on sale because they disinterred Oswald’s body to satisfy yet another conspiracy theory that the corpse had been switched with a lookalike Russian agent. When they found that the corpse was indeed Oswald’s they re-buried it in a new casket. GIven all the decades that have passed since Oswald was buried, I am sure the original simple pine box has plenty of Oswald’s essence in it!

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Filed under Essentialism, In the News

In Japan, Just Say “No”

Finally here is the cover for the Japanese translation of “SuperSense.” It does seem like a big REJECT but apparently the Japanese publishers have been quite cunning. Above the X is the question”Could you wear a killer’s cardigan?” which by now, as you know, is one of my opening gambits to the notion of essentialism that I develop in the book. The X stands for a “No” but as it happens is also a sacred symbol in Japanese that is often incorporated into knot tying. I kind of like it. It almost compels you knot to buy it.

Below is a recap of some of the best kitty covers adopted by different countries.

Ok, as promised, that will be the end of the blatant self-promotion…..

BTWDid I tell you that I am working on my next book about the self?????

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Filed under book publicity