Saturday, April 19, 2008

Monsters From Scottish Folklore

FROM ghosts and goblins to sea monsters and cannibals, Scottish history is littered with tales of the weird and wonderful. While some Scottish legends have become much-loved parts of our culture, other stories have disappeared into obscurity over the centuries. Now Glasgow University is set to revive Scotland's folklore thanks to a new postgraduate course examining mythical creatures, superstitions, beliefs and the storytelling that kept them alive. Here's a look at just some of the myths and legends that got handed down through the generations.

Legend has it that the Monster of Glamis was a deformed member of the Bowes-Lyon family, who was kept in a secret chamber in Glamis Castle. The "monster" was alleged to be Thomas Bowes-Lyon, the eldest child of the Queen Mother's great great grandparents, who was born in 1821. Official records suggest the child died in infancy but, over the years, rumours spread of his survival. According to the story, Thomas had an enormous chest with his head running straight into his body and had tiny arms and legs.

These mysterious sea creatures lived in the stretch of water between the Isle of Lewis and the mainland. They looked like humans but had blue skin and would swim alongside fishing boats, making their way through that stretch of water trying to lure sailors into the sea. Legend had it they would also conjure up storms to wreck ships and that they lived in underwater caves, where they were ruled over by a chief. It was said fisherman could escape them if they were good at rhyming.

Although the idea of the village that only appears once every 100 years is now considered a Scottish myth, it actually has its roots in the mythical cursed German village of Germelshausen. It was this story that inspired composers Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe but, in 1947, a musical set in Germany was a no-no, so they relocated the musical in Scotland. So the story of the Scots village where the passing of a century seems no longer than one night became part of our national folklore, with tourists still asking guides where they can find it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Unexplained Mysteries - Finding Extraterrestrial Life E.T.

Smart aliens might not even live on Earthlike planets Advanced ground and space-based telescopes are discovering new planets around other stars almost daily, but an environmental scientist from England believes that even if some of those planets turn out to be Earthlike, the odds are very low they'll have intelligent inhabitants. In a recent paper published in the journal Astrobiology, Professor Andrew Watson of the University of East Anglia describes an improved mathematical model for the evolution of intelligent life as the result of a small number of discrete steps. Evolutionary step models have been used before, but Watson (a Fellow of England's Royal Society who studied under James Lovelock, inventor of the "Gaia hypothesis") sees a limiting factor: The habitability of Earth (and presumably, other living worlds) will end as the sun brightens. Like most stars, as it progresses along the main sequence, the sun's output increases (it is believed to be about 25 percent brighter now than when Earth formed). Within at most 1 billion years, this will raise Earth's average temperature to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius), rendering the planet uninhabitable. Four major stepsApplying the limited lifespan to a stepwise model, Watson finds that approximately four major evolutionary steps were required before an intelligent civilization could develop on Earth. These steps probably included the emergence of single-celled life about half a billion years after the Earth was formed, multicellular life about a billion and a half years later, specialized cells allowing complex life forms with functional organs a billion years after that, and human language a billion years later still. Several of these steps agree with major transitions that have been observed in the geological record.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Can we really transplant a human soul?

The progress of medical science in the past 30 years has been so rapid that yesterday's miracles are tomorrow's commonplace procedures. So it has proved with heart transplants, which have become almost routine in hospitals around the world. Yet every once in a while a story emerges which should cause us all to sit up and take note that there is nothing "routine" or "commonplace" about such complex operations. The suggestion, highlighted again this week, that donor patients could not only be acquiring the organs but also the memories - or even the soul - of the donor is surely one such story. This bizarre possibility was raised by the inexplicable case of Sonny Graham - a seemingly happily married 69-year-old man living in the U.S. state of Georgia. He shot himself without warning, having shown no previous signs of unhappiness, let alone depression. His friends described it as an act of passion, not of reason. The case might have remained just an isolated tragedy were it not for the fact that Sonny had received a transplanted heart from a man who had also shot himself - in identical circumstances. To make things even more intriguing, shortly after receiving the heart transplant, Sonny tracked down the wife of the donor - and fell instantly in love with her. "When I first met her," Sonny told a local newspaper, "I just stared. I felt like I had known her for years. I couldn't keep my eyes off her." He spoke of a deep and profound love for her. It was instant and it was passionate. The kind of love where overwhelming passion seizes control of the mind and banishes reason. They quickly wed. The tragedy of Sonny Graham will, no doubt, be written off as mere coincidence. After all, there is surely no conceivable way that the memories, let alone the character of a donor, can be transplanted along with their heart. Virtually every doctor and scientist will tell you the heart is a mere pump. The seat of our mind, our consciousness, our very soul - if such a thing exists - lies in the brain.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Unexplained Mysteries of UFO Conspiracies

One important area of Ufology concerns the conspiracy theories the field has produced. The most obvious is Roswell, but I won’t bother with the immediate incident in this essay. I write about it here. Yet it produced a tradition that is still going strong six decades later. Of course, this had to happen, what with a space-age extraterrestrial ‘them’ to replace the demonic, all topped off with inevitable sinister government practices.

In December 1984 a package was sent to movie producer and Ufologist Jaime Shandera containing a black and white film of an eight page document dated 18 November 1952. A briefing paper concerning ‘Operation Majestic-12,’ the paper concerned the setting up of a twelve man committee encompassing intelligence, the military and science following the Roswell crash. Attached to the paper was a memorandum signed by President Truman authorising the committee. The validity of this document has obviously been called into question, especially as Truman’s signature is identical to another. This is suspicious. No two signatures can ever be the same, suggesting the signature is a copy. Since that initial package, a trickle of documents have been received by Ufologists, claiming Majestic-12 is a reality. However, as such documents are always photographed, no analysis can be done on ink, etc, to prove validity. Hence, retrospective history has been called for, with researchers looking into the known lives of supposed committee members such as James Forrestal and General Nathan Twining to see if their lives fitted the facts.

A further area of ‘proof’ of Majestic-12 came from what became known as the Aviary, a number of informants in the inner circle given codenames such as ‘Condor’ and ‘Falcon’ by Ufologist Bill Moore. Such informants first began contacting Moore in 1979. Researchers Paul Bennewitz and Shandera also became involved in the Aviary. Again, whether the informants are really within the inner circle, whether their information is real or disinformation, or whether the researchers are being subjected to a hoax is difficult to tell.

One of the most incredible claims within Ufology began to circulate in the early 1980s with the revelations of ex- security officer Thomas Castello. Under the supervision of Majestic-12, he claimed to have worked in a secret underground facility near the small town of Dulce, New Mexico.A joint government-alien biogenetic laboratory, it was staffed by humans and some 20,000 aliens, mostly greys, but also a reptilian species who had been on Earth for millenia.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Unexplained Mysteries of Ghostly Orbs

Tens of thousands of ordinary people around the globe are reporting mysterious spheres of light known as ORBS, which have started appearing on their digital photographs. A few scientists are taking this phenomenon seriously and incredibly claim to have found evidence of beings from other dimensions..

The world’s first conference on the Orbs Phenomenon recently took place in Sedona, Arizona - where several scientists controversially stated that orbs, spherical or circular objects that are appearing on digital pictures - demonstrate good evidence of ‘other worldly’ life forms. Their conclusions, if correct, could have huge implications for the way we view our universe and our part in it. Dr. Klaus Heinemann, a former research professor at Stanford University and researcher in materials science for NASA, the American space agency says ‘ There is no doubt in my mind that the Orbs may well be one of the most significant ‘outside of this reality’ phenomena mankind at large has ever witnessed’.

Heinemann’s fascination with Orbs began in September 2004, when he noticed a pale but clearly defined small circle of light on several pictures that his wife had taken at a gathering of spiritual healers ‘ When I first saw the spheres, like thousands of people I presumed they were due to dust particles, flash anomalies, water particles and so on. But I was sufficiently intrigued, that I quickly returned to the room in which the pictures were taken in the hope of finding a rational explanation. None was forthcoming. ‘

As a scientist with considerable experience in sophisticated microscope techniques which examine down to atomic levels of optical resolution, Heinemann decided to try and discover the cause of the mysterious circles. He and his wife began taking hundreds of digital photographs at random events to see what happened.

Apparently, high definition digital technology can enhance the appearance of something that would otherwise at very low contrast, not previously have appeared on older type cameras hence why Heinemann states that we are now witnessing this new phenomenon. Absurd though it may sound, Heinemann quickly realised that if he asked the orbs to appear on his pictures, he claims they appeared more regularly especially at spiritual gatherings.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

1' 11" tall Indian teen is the world's smallest girl

At just 1ft 11 in tall, she is dwarfed by her neighbour's baby, but Jyoti Amge is 15 years old. The teenager, who is the world's smallest girl according to the Indian Book of Records, has a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia. Now fully grown, she weighs just 11 lb.

Far from being unhappy about her tiny size, Jyoti says that she enjoys the celebrity status her height has brought her. "I am proud of being small. I love the attention I get," she told the Sunday Mirror. "I'm just the same as other people. I eat like you, dream like you. I don't feel any different." Jyoti attends her local high school, in Nagpur, India, where she studies alongside classmates of her own age, though she sits at a specially made miniature desk.

Her mother, Ranjana, 45, explained that her daughter's condition was not apparent until some time after her birth. "When Joyti was born she seemed quite normal. We came to know about her disorder when she was five," she said. "Jyoti is small, yet cute, and we love her very much."

Like any other teenager, she loves listening to pop music and watching DVDs and even hopes to become a Bollywood actress. She has recently recorded an album with her favourite Indian pop star, Mika Singh.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Unexplained Mysteries of Unit 731

In the midst of continuous denial by important members of the Japanese government individually or collectively that Japan was an aggressor in World War II, the planned exhibition of the Smithsonian Institute to commemorate the end of WWII in Asia has turned into an unusually fervid debate, with which an interest in discussing and writing on Japan's wartime atrocities has been aroused. Most prominent among numerous writings on the subject is "Japan Confronting Gruesome War Atrocity" penned by Nicholas D. Kristof and published inNew York Times on March 17, 1995.

The article has given us a detailed account of the most shocking, heinous, cruel crime the civilized world has ever known: Japanese Unit 731 used human beings for vivisection in order to develop biological weapons. Equally unbelievable is that the United States has covered up the crime in exchange for the data on human experiments, an act utterly ignoring international laws and human justice. What a great irony to the lofty ideal of democracy and the so-called "American civilization" of the 20th century! The shock created by Kristof's article has been felt primarily in the U.S. and a few Western countries. However, as early as 1949, the Soviet Union held a week long trial at Khabarovsk of the Japanese war criminals for biological warfare. Among those tried, 12 people were associated with 731, including General Yamada Otozo, Commander-in-Chief of the Kuantung Army, Lt. Gen. Ryuiji Kajitsuka, Chief of the Medical Administration, and Lt. Gen. Takaatsu Takahashi, Chief of the Veterinary Division, both in the Kuantung Army; Maj. Gen. Kiyoshi Kawashima, longtime head of Unit 731's production department; Maj. Gen. Shunji Sato, head of Unit 731's Canton branch; and Lt. Col. Toshihide Nishi, Major Tomio Karasawa, Maj. Maso Onoue, Lt. Zensaku Hirazakura, Senior Sergeant Kazuo Mitomo, Corporal Norimitsu Kikuchi, and Private Yuji Kurushima, all of Unit 731.

The entire proceedings of the trial were published under the title "The Trial of Former Servicemen of the Japanese Army Charged with Manufacturing and Employing Bacteriological Weapons" by Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow, 1950. Since 1940, in Chinese theater, Ishii Shiro had led his Unit 731 to engage in biological warfare by attacking Ningpo, Chinhua, Chuchou of Chechiang province (during the Japanese-Soviet war at Nomonhan, Mongolia in the summer of 1939, Unit 731 was dispatched to the front to make bacterial assault). To retaliate the U.S. air raid of Tokyo led by Col. Doolittle in April 1942, from which over 60 U.S. airmen were rescued in Chechiang area, Japan launched a largescale mopping-up campaign, in which several hundred men from Unit 731 and its subsidiary Unit 1644 of Nanking took part. Early in November 1941, Unit 731 dispatched an airplane to spread bubonic plague at Changte, Hunan, which was verified by Dr. E. J. Bannon of American Presbyterian Church hospital at Changte. The event was well known to American and British intelligence agencies at Chungking and besides the Chinese government had fully informed the American and British government of it through its ambassadors Wellington Koo at London and Hu Shih at Washington. Chinese authorities had long learned that Japan used biological warfare against China and had repeatedly appealed to international communities for help.

Before making their escape at the time of Japanese surrender, Japanese in Unit 731 set free scores of thousands of infected rats that caused widespread plague in 22 counties of Heilungchiang and Kirin provinces that took more than 20,000 Chinese lives. As the plague was well publicized in newspapers and periodicals, many Chinese became aware of Japan's employing biological warfare in China during the war. While the Korean was raging, North Korea and China accused the United States of using biological warfare that rekindled the public interest in probing Unit 73 1. Among thousands of Japanese prisoners of war (POW) repatriated from Siberia, some belonged to Unit 73 1.

Together with those Japanese POWs then detained in China, they were tried in a special court at Shenyang (Mukden) in June 1956. Strikingly one of them was Ken Yuasa, the doctor mentioned in Kristof's article in the New York Times. Some others under trial included important members of Unit 73 1: Major Hideo Sakakihara who was in charge of Hailar branch of Unit 731 (there were four branches under Unit 731: Hailer, Sunwu, Linkou, and Mutanchiang), Dr. Yataro Ueda, Yukio Yoshizawa, Masauji Hata, etc. and also police affairs chief of the Kuantung Army Mibu Saito as well as many captains of Kempeitai (military police) who were responsible for providing Unit 731 with victims for vivisection (their oral and written testimonies were reprinted in a book entitled Chemical and Biological Warfares published by Chunghua Book Company in 1989).



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