Monday, November 05, 2012
Just the Facts?: 'Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution' -- The Future of Ufology -- Ojibwa 'Alien' Tale?
Stephen Hawking: 'Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution'
Although It has taken homo sapiens several million years to evolve from the apes, the useful information in our DNA, has probably changed by only a few million bits. So the rate of biological evolution in humans, Stephen Hawking points out in his Life in the Universe lecture, is about a bit a year.
"By contrast," Hawking says, "there are about 50,000 new books published in the English language each year, containing of the order of a hundred billion bits of information. Of course, the great majority of this information is garbage, and no use to any form of life. But, even so, the rate at which useful information can be added is millions, if not billions, higher than with DNA."
This means Hawking says that we have entered a new phase of evolution. "At first, evolution proceeded by natural selection, from random mutations. This Darwinian phase, lasted about three and a half billion years, and produced us, beings who developed language, to exchange information."
But what distinguishes us from our cave man ancestors is the knowledge that we have accumulated over the last ten thousand years, and particularly, Hawking points out, over the last three hundred.
"I think it is legitimate to take a broader view, and include externally transmitted information, as well as DNA, in the evolution of the human race," Hawking said.
In the last ten thousand years the human species has been in what Hawking calls, "an external transmission phase," where the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. "But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage," Hawking says, "has grown enormously. Some people would use the term, evolution, only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes."
The time scale for evolution, in the external transmission period, has collapsed to about 50 years, or less.
Meanwhile, Hawking observes, our human brains "with which we process this information have evolved only on the Darwinian time scale, of hundreds of thousands of years. This is beginning to cause problems. In the 18th century, there was said to be a man who had read every book written. But nowadays, if you read one book a day, it would take you about 15,000 years to read through the books in a national Library. By which time, many more books would have been written."
But we are now entering a new phase, of what Hawking calls "self designed evolution," in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA. "At first," he continues "these changes will be confined to the repair of genetic defects, like cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy. These are controlled by single genes, and so are fairly easy to identify, and correct. Other qualities, such as intelligence, are probably controlled by a large number of genes. It will be much more difficult to find them, and work out the relations between them. Nevertheless, I am sure that during the next century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence, and instincts like aggression."
If the human race manages to redesign itself, to reduce or eliminate the risk of self-destruction, we will probably reach out to the stars and colonize other planets. But this will be done, Hawking believes, with intelligent machines based on mechanical and electronic components, rather than macromolecules, which could eventually replace DNA based life, just as DNA may have replaced an earlier form of life. - Daily Galaxy
The Grand Design
The Universe in a Nutshell
Nail-Biting = Mental Disorder?
Are you a nail-biter?
It might be officially considered a type of obsessive compulsive disorder in the upcoming version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Other "pathological grooming" habits like hair-pulling and skin-picking will also be included in the OCD classification, ABC News reported.
"The beauty is that a categorization in the DSM-V gives it a whole new light," Dr. Nilay Shah, medical director of the Integrated Medicine of Mount Kisco, N.Y., told ABC News. "And the research institutions can have a unified definition and approach that will lead to drug company and NIH funding."
The Toronto Star reported that nail-biting moves from being in a "not otherwise classified" disorder in the DSM to being considered an OCD behavior.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a condition where a person keeps having obsessions (unwanted, repeated thoughts) and compulsions (behaviors where they feel like they have to do something), according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. OCD can manifest as the need to count everything, being overly afraid of germs or uncleanliness, or having to check things over and over again to make sure they've been done.
Even though nail-biting is being proposed to be given this new classification in the new DSM, that's not to say that everyone who bites their nails will be diagnosed with OCD.
"As with hair pulling and skin picking, nail biting isn't a disorder unless it is impairing, distressing, and meets a certain clinical level of severity," Dr. Carol Mathews, M.D., a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, told Women's Health. Most people who bite their nails don't fit in this category, which is only comprised by "a very small minority of people."
NPR points out that "pathological grooming" behaviors -- when normal grooming turns uncontrollable -- and OCD are similar in that they both involve doing a certain behavior to the extreme.
But they also differ because "in OCD, the compulsion is really unwanted," Mathews told NPR in another interview. With pathological grooming, "it's rewarding. It feels good. When you get the right nail, it feels good. It's kind of a funny sense of reward, but it's a reward."
What do you think? Should nail-biting be considered a kind of OCD, or is this just a case of adding a label to something that didn't need one? Weigh in in the comments section below. - THP
What is the future of Ufology?
For decades, they have been scanning the skies for signs of alien activity.
But having failed to establish any evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial life, Britain’s UFO watchers are reaching the conclusion that the truth might not be out there after all.
Enthusiasts admit that a continued failure to provide proof and a decline in the number of “flying saucer” sightings suggests that aliens do not exist after all and could mean the end of “Ufology” – the study of UFOs – within the next decade.
Dozens of groups interested in the flying saucers and other unidentified craft have already closed because of lack of interest and next week one of the country’s foremost organisations involved in UFO research is holding a conference to discuss whether the subject has any future.
Dave Wood, chairman of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (Assap), said the meeting had been called to address the crisis in the subject and see if UFOs were a thing of the past.
“We look at these things on the balance of probabilities and this area of study has been ongoing for many decades.
“The lack of compelling evidence beyond the pure anecdotal suggests that on the balance of probabilities that nothing is out there.
“I think that any UFO researcher would tell you that 98 per cent of sightings that happen are very easily explainable. One of the conclusions to draw from that is that perhaps there isn’t anything there. The days of compelling eyewitness sightings seem to be over.”
He said that far from leading to an increase in UFO sightings and research, the advent of the internet had coincided with a decline.
Assap’s UFO cases have dropped by 96 per cent since 1988, while the number of other groups involved in UFO research has fallen from well over 100 in the 1990s to around 30 now.
Among those to have closed are the British Flying Saucer Bureau, the Northern UFO Network, and the Northern Anomalies Research Organisation.
As well as a fall in sightings and lack of proof, Mr Wood said the lack of new developments meant that the main focus for the dwindling numbers of enthusiasts was supposed UFO encounters that took place several decades ago and conspiracy theories that surround them.
In particular, he cited the Roswell incident, in 1947 when an alien spaceship is said to have crashed in New Mexico, and the Rendlesham incident in 1980, often described as the British equivalent, when airmen from a US airbase in Suffolk reported a spaceship landing.
Mr Wood added: “When you go to UFO conferences it is mainly people going over these old cases, rather than bringing new ones to the fore.
“There is a trend where a large proportion of UFO studies are tending towards conspiracy theories, which I don’t think is particularly helpful.”
The issue is to be debated at a summit at the University of Worcester on November 17 and the conclusions reported in the next edition of the association’s journal, Anomaly.
The organisation, which describes itself as an education and research charity, was established in 1981. Its first president was Michael Bentine, the comedian and member of the Goons.
It contains both sceptics and believers in UFOs and has been involved in several notable sightings and theories over the years.
Its current president Lionel Fanthorpe has claimed in its journal that King Arthur was an alien who came to Earth to save humans from invading extraterrestrials.
The summit follows the emergence earlier this year of the news that the Ministry of Defence was no longer investigating UFO sightings after ruling there is “no evidence” they pose a threat to the UK.
David Clark, a Sheffield Hallam University academic and the UFO adviser to the National Archives, said: “The subject is dead in that no one is seeing anything
“Look at all the people who now have personal cameras. If there was something flying around that was a structured object from somewhere else, you would have thought that someone would have come up with some convincing footage by now – but they haven’t.
“The reason why nothing is going on is because of the internet. If something happens now, the internet is there to help people get to the bottom of it and find an explanation.
“Before then, you had to send letters to people, who wouldn’t respond and you got this element of mystery and secrecy that means things were not explained.
“The classic cases like Roswell and Rendlesham are only classic cases because they were not investigated properly at the time.”
But Nick Pope, who ran the MoD’s UFO desk from 1991 to 1994 and now researches UFO sightings privately, said there was a future for the subject: “There’s a quantity versus quality issue here.
“So many UFO sightings these days are attributable to Chinese lanterns that more interesting sightings are sometimes overlooked.
“The same is true with photos and videos. There are so many fakes on YouTube and elsewhere, it would be easy to dismiss the whole subject out of hand.
“The danger is that we throw out the baby with the bathwater. And as I used to say at the MoD, the believers only have to be right once.” - Telegraph
Ufology and the New Religion
The Flying Saucers are Real
Ojibwa tale of a 'Skyman' visitor may have been alien
The modern Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) craze began in the late 1940s, when a wave of people reported seeing strange objects in the skies above America.
Indeed, it was in 1947 the term flying saucer entered the popular consciousness after pilot Kenneth Arnold witnessed several brightly-lit saucer-like objects weaving in and out of distant mountain peaks while he was flying in Washington State.
This wasn’t the first wave of UFO sightings, however. An earlier wave occurred in Britain in 1909, when hundreds of people described flying objects shaped like dirigibles and emitting beams of light carrying out extremely advanced manoeuvres overhead. A decade earlier, throughout 1896 and ’97, there was a rash on similar sightings in the United States.
But these weren’t the first accounts of alien spacecraft on record. Legends of god-like beings coming from the heavens exist in many cultures. Throughout North America, there are numerous caves that date back thousands of years. These paintings figures and objects much like the modern imagery of aliens and flying saucers.
One intriguing legend comes from the First Nations people of central Ontario. Their ‘Skyman’ tale may in fact be one of the earliest alien encounters on record.
According to the story recorded in 1917 by ethnologist Colonel G.E. Laidlaw, 500 years ago there was a large Ojibwa village about 550 native people living somewhere in our region. One day, a pair of them stumbled upon a stranger sitting on the grass in a field. This figure, a male, was notably “clean and shining bright.”
The natives approached the stranger and asked who he was and how he came to be in the field. “I am not one of you. I do not belong to this land. I dropped down from above,” the stranger explained.
Showing unusual hospitality, the Ojibwa invited him back to their village. The stranger agreed, but on one condition: “Go home and clean the place where I will stay, and when you come back for me, I will go with you for a few days.”
Agreeing, the Ojibwa men went back to their community, told their fellow villagers about their experience, and cleaned the hut where they would house the ‘Skyman.’
The stranger did in fact accompany them to their village, but he was clearly restless. He watched the skies often and told people that in two days something would come and get him to take him back up to the sky.
One afternoon, Skyman looked up and said, “It is coming.” The villagers craned their necks and turned their eyes above and saw something that looked like a bright shining star streak down from the heavens and hover near the ground.
This was the most beautiful thing any of them had ever seen. Skyman entered the shining star and disappeared from view. The shining star then shot back into the sky and faded away.
This tale seems to be a description of an encounter with an ‘ancient astronaut,’ as seen in many cultures and popularized by Swiss theorist Erich von Daniken of Chariots of the Gods fame.
Many modern UFO theorists believe Skyman was a marooned extraterrestrial astronaut whose own craft was somehow damaged or destroyed. They point to the fact Skyman clearly entered the glowing star as proof the object was a spacecraft of some sort. Was he ‘clean and shining bright’ because he wore a silvery pressure suit? Did he request his hosts clean his quarters out of fear of contracting human viruses against which he had no immunity?
Many researchers believe Skyman was no mythological tale, but rather an actual encounter of the first kind between an ancient alien and an entire Ojibwa community. And it was said to have occurred somewhere nearby. Maybe we too should be craning our necks and scanning the skies. - Orangeville
The Ojibwa: People of the Great Lakes (American Indian Nations)
The Ojibwa of Southern Ontario
Man sues wife for birthing ugly baby
Apparently in China, bad genes are grounds for divorce — and six-figure fines
"Failed relationships can get ugly," says Ji Lin at the Irish Examiner, but the weird, sad tale of Jian Feng and his wife "really gives meaning to the old cliché." The story starts out conventionally enough: Feng, a resident of northern China, met and married a beautiful woman, and they had a baby girl. That's when things reportedly got, um, ugly. Feng was "so sure of his own good looks, so crushed by the wrinkly ugly mess that was handed to him in a swaddle, that he decided to sue his wife because the awful looking baby was totally her fault," says Madeline Holler at Babble. And then things went from ugly to crazy: He won. Here's what you should know:
How was the ugly baby the mom's fault?
Since the baby didn't look like either parent, Feng accused his wife of infidelity — "because jumping to conclusions about your wife's faithfulness is the obvious thing to do when you have an ugly baby," says Sam Smith at Planet Ivy. After a DNA test proved that the baby is, in fact Feng's, the wife came clean on her little secret: Before they had met, she had undergone about $100,000 worth of cosmetic surgery in South Korea. And unverified before-and-after photos circulating on Western and Chinese blogs do show a marked improvement in looks after the women went under the knife.
On what grounds did he sue?
False pretenses — Feng claimed that his wife misled him by not telling him about her plastic surgery before they wed. "I married my wife out of love, but as soon as we had our first daughter, we began having marital issues," he reportedly said. "Our daughter was incredibly ugly, to the point where it horrified me." A judge agreed, and ordered the wife to fork over $120,000. Ugh, says Babble's Holler. The wife "should probably file her own lawsuit for even more damages from having married Feng under the false pretense that he wasn't a shitty husband and father."
Who's the biggest loser here?
Well, "it's usually the victim of court cases that you're supposed to feel sorry for," says Planet Ivy's Smith, but who wants to give emotional succor to a "man who is angry at his beautiful wife for being ugly at some point in her life." The wife obviously has to pay a huge amount of money, and got publicly humiliated in the process, but at least she's free of an obviously odious husband. So "if you're going to feel sorry for anyone, feel sorry for their child, who will forever be known as the baby that broke her parent's marriage — with her face." - Yahoo