Friday, July 05, 2013

Just the Facts?: Late 19th Century UFO? -- Late Pope John Paul II To Get Sainthood -- Man Hears People Before They Speak


Late 19th Century UFO?

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This photo was forwarded by a reader. Is there a UFO in the image?

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Humans could eventually grow beaks, scientist predicts

Dr Gareth Fraser, of Sheffield University, said a beak would be “more robust and practical” than teeth and would not rot, chip or fall out.

We will not be seeing beaked humans in our lifetime, however, as any evolutionary change in which the teeth fused together to form a tough, pointy bill, would not happen for several million more years.

Dr Fraser said: “It could be possible for humans to evolve to grow beaks, like pufferfish, which may be more robust and practical.”

The biologist has explored why humans grow only two sets of teeth in their lifetimes, while some other creatures grow many more.

Sharks, for example, form a new set of teeth about once a fortnight.

Dr Fraser has pinpointed the cells responsible for the growth of new teeth in other animals and believes scientists could eventually stimulate similar cells in the human mouth to create more sets of teeth.

He told the Daily Mail: “I guess people will be looking at whether you can make perfect teeth. But there will always be orthodontists employed because even when you have new teeth, there is going to be a need for positioning.

“With our extended lives and modern diets, the limited supply of human teeth is really no longer fit for purpose.

“Our research is focused on looking for ways in which we can replicate the way that fish create an endless supply of teeth and bring this capability to humans.”

This is unlikely to happen for at least another 50 years however, he added.

In 2009 scientists from the University of Tokyo successfully grew replacement teeth in mice from cells in a laboratory. - Telegraph

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Late Pope John Paul II to get sainthood, Vatican says

The Roman Catholic Church will declare the late Pope John Paul II a saint, the Vatican announced Friday.

Pope Francis signed the decree Friday morning, the Vatican said. John Paul was pope from 1978 until his death in 2005, and was in a way the first rock star pontiff, drawing vast crowds as he crisscrossed the globe.

At his funeral, thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square and chanted "Santo subito" -- Sainthood now! The Polish-born pope was fast-tracked to beatification and became "the blessed" John Paul II barely six years after his death, the fastest beatification in centuries.

No date has been announced for the canonization ceremony.

Pope John Paul II, the third-longest serving pope in history, died in April 2005 at the age of 84.

He had suffered from Parkinson's disease, arthritis and other ailments for several years before his death.

During his tenure, he became the most widely traveled pope in history and canonized more saints than any other pope.

His papacy included a lot of firsts. He was the first modern pope to visit a synagogue and the first pope to visit Cuba.

There are essentially three steps to becoming a Catholic saint after death.

First, the title "venerable" is formally given by the pope to someone judged to have exhibited "heroic virtues." Second, a miracle must be attributed to the deceased person's intervention, allowing beatification. Canonization -- or sainthood -- requires a second attributed miracle.

In 2010, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI approved John Paul's first reported miracle: a French nun supposedly cured of Parkinson's disease.

Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, a nun whose order prayed to the pope after he died, said she was cured of the disease, an ailment that also afflicted John Paul.

The second miracle reportedly occurred in Costa Rica, where a woman said she recovered from a severe brain injury thanks to the intervention of John Paul, sources told CNN Vatican analyst John Allen.

Patrick Kelly, executive director of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine in Washington, explained the church's process for investigating reported miracles.

"A team of doctors first examine the miracle. Secondly, the team of theologians look at the miracles, and then they discuss amongst themselves the legitimacy and all the facts surrounding the miracles," he said.

Despite being so beloved, John Paul didn't live up to expectations at a crucial moment in the church's history, as revelations of sexual abuse scandals involving thousands Catholic priests erupted across the world in the early 2000s, critics say.

In the United States alone, the scandal involved more than 16,400 victims or alleged victims and cost the church $2.6 billion in settlements, therapy bills, lawyers' fees and care for priests removed from ministry, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

John XXIII was famed for calling the Second Vatican Council in 1962, which ushered in great changes in the Roman Catholic Church's relationship with the modern world.

He was pope from 1958 to 1963, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000. - CNN

Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II

John Paul II and the Meaning of Suffering: Lessons from a Spiritual Master


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First man to hear people before they speak

Ever been watching an old movie, only for the sound and action to go out of sync? Now imagine every voice is like this – even your own. That's the world PH lives in.

PH is the first confirmed case of someone who hears people speak before registering that their lips have moved. His situation is giving unique insights into how our brains unify what we hear and see.

Light and sound travel at different speeds, so when someone speaks, visual and auditory inputs arrive at our eyes and ears at different times. The signals are then processed at different rates in the brain. Despite this, we perceive the events as happening simultaneously. How this happens, however, is unclear.

An opportunity to study this process came about when 67-year-old PH started experiencing bad dubbing following surgery. "I said to my daughter 'hey, you've got two TVs that need sorting!'," he recalls. PH then realised that he was hearing his own voice before feeling his jaw move. A scan of his brain showed he had two lesions in areas that may play a role in hearing, timing and movement.

To investigate, Elliot Freeman at City University London and colleagues performed a temporal order judgement test. PH was shown clips of people talking and was asked whether the voice came before or after the lip movements. Sure enough, he said it came before, and to perceive them as synchronous the team had to play the voice about 200 milliseconds later than the lip movements.

The team then carried out a second, more objective test based on the McGurk illusion. This involves listening to one syllable while watching someone mouth another; the combination makes you perceive a third syllable.

Since PH hears people speaking before he sees their lips move, the team expected the illusion to work when they delayed the voice. So they were surprised to get the opposite result: presenting the voice 200 ms earlier than the lip movements triggered the illusion, suggesting that his brain was processing the sight before the sound in this particular task.

And it wasn't only PH who gave these results. When 34 others were tested on both tasks, many showed a similar pattern, though none of the mismatches were noticeable in everyday life (Cortex, doi.org/m3k).

Freeman says this implies that the same event in the outside world is perceived by different parts of your brain as happening at different times. This suggests that, rather than one unified "now", there are many clocks in the brain – two of which showed up in the tasks – and that all the clocks measure their individual "nows" relative to their average.

In PH's case, one or more of these clocks has been significantly slowed – shifting his average – possibly as a result of the lesions. Freeman thinks PH's timing discrepancies may be too large and happened too suddenly for him to ignore, resulting in him being aware of the asynchrony in everyday life. He may perceive just one of his clocks because it is the only one he has conscious access to, says Freeman.

Tim Griffiths at Newcastle University, UK, says any interpretation is hard, but that Freeman's multi-clock theory is possible. As for PH, help may be at hand: Freeman is looking for a way to slow down his hearing so it matches what he is seeing. - New Scientist

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