Showing posts with label Mystery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mystery. Show all posts

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Mississippi Mummy

In the 1920s, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History purchased an extensive collection of Native American artifacts from Colonel Brevoort Butler.

Included in these artifacts was one item that was clearly not of Native origin, an Egyptian mummy said to be a princess.

For decades the mummy was displayed in the Old State Capitol Building, becoming a much-loved attraction and source of local pride that Mississippi should have such an exotic item.

In 1969, Gentry Yeatman, a local medical student interested in archeology, asked the museum for the "human remains" to study for evidence of disease.

Permission was granted to remove the mummy and send it to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for an autopsy, where radiological examination showed quite a surprise!  

Inside the mummy were a few animal ribs and several square nails holding together a wooden frame. He discovered the "mummy" primarily consisted of paper-mâché, including German newsprint and pages from an 1898 issue of the Milwaukee Journal.  Our prized artifact was a forgery!

The fake mummy is 
The Mummy and the X-Ray
more famous now than ever and considered a prized possession as an artifact of Mississippi Folklore.  The Old Capitol Museum often displays the Dummy Mummy around Halloween.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Darwin's Reputation and Dark Matter

Critics of Darwin like to say "evolution is only a theory", which is true, but misleading. Evolution is a theory as opposed to a hypothesis, but there's a heck of a lot of work which substantiates the theory.

I've seen supporters of Darwin who come back saying a theory is the "highest form of scientific thought", which isn't true, but is more accurate.

The highest form of scientific thought is a law. Laws are theories worked out to a point where we can model them mathematically and use these models to accurately predict outcomes. That's the difference between Newton's Laws and Darwin's theory. Evolution will probably never become a law. There are too many variables and too many aspects of the process we don't understand to ever become a law.

People generally credit Darwin with the idea of evolution, but the concept that life changes gradually over time from one form to another predates Darwin by some four thousand years. That concept on the formation of life is actually contemporary to the creation story in Genesis, although from another culture.

What Darwin brought to the table was this idea of Natural Selection as a mechanism to drive evolution. Darwin saw random chance as the initial movement in Natural Selection which is how he ran afoul of religious people. Had he said God motivated natural selection, the religious community probably would have embraced him.

Natural selection is a pretty solid concept and comes pretty close to something we could model mathematically. The aspect of random chance creates a problem though. The problem is time. Just relying on random chance in conjunction with natural selection, there hasn't been enough time since life began on earth to explain the variety of life forms we see now.

There has to be some other force or forces acting on evolution besides random chance and natural selection. I'm not saying it has to be an intelligent force (there's simply no evidence for that) but there has to be something, and if we knew what that something was we probably could develop mathematical models for evolution.

Even though there's no evidence for it, I happen to believe there is some sort of intelligent force driving evolution. It's probably not a kind of intelligence we currently understand though, which would prevent us from finding any evidence for it. It might be something much closer to the Greek concept of universal forms rather than the Abrahamic concept of God.

If you have trouble believing there are layers to evolution that are still invisible to us, consider this: science is only now becoming faintly aware of what they're calling Dark Matter and Dark Energy which we still have no way of measuring or perceiving but can only deduce its existence mathematically.

It'd be one thing if dark matter and dark energy were rare and distantly removed from us, but if current thinking is to be believed, dark matter and dark energy are far more common in the universe than the matter and energy we know. The idea that the most common elements of the universe are completely invisible to us and undetectable by us should really change your perspective on the very nature of reality itself.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy -- Shakespeare; Hamlet Act 1,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Ghosts Among Us

As a lot of you may know, Millsaps is going through some turmoil right now. This is pretty hard for me because Millsaps was always part of my life and will always be really close to my heart.

I'm really having a hard time resisting the urge to call my dad or call my mom to talk about this. I know they're gone, but I guess they're still such a big part of me that I still really feel like I need to talk to them.

I guess, no matter how long somebody's been gone, if you still love them, they're never completely gone from inside you.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

World's Largest Snake

Scientists have uncovered the fossilized remains of the largest snake that ever lived.

In life Titanoboa cerrejonensis was some forty-three feet long and possibly weighed as much as 2,500 lbs. (that's a big snake)

It lived in South America some sixty million years ago and probably lived mostly in the water.

Artist's Conception of Titanoboa

Read more at Live Science and Popular Science

Never Work With Children Or Animals, Especially Turkeys

There's an old showbiz adage: never work with children or animals. The reason you never work with children or animals is because, no matter what you do, they're always going to upstage you.

Penn & Teller are two of the most seasoned performers in the business. They've done television, movies, live traveling shows, and they're one of the hottest acts in Vegas. They perform at Harrah's Casino (not far from The Mirage, where Siegfried & Roy also learned it was a bad idea to work with animals for a completely different reason.)

They also have a pretty popular program on showtime called Bullshit.

While filming a recent episode on the bullshit of insomnia cures, Penn & Teller discover yet another reason why you should never work with children or animals: in this instance, Turkeys.

There's pretty much nothing a performer can do that tops copulating turkeys.

Order Bullshit! On DVD at
Penn & Teller - Bullshit! - The First Season
Penn & Teller - Bullshit! The Complete Second Season
Penn & Teller - Bullshit - The Complete Third Season
Penn & Teller - Bullshit - The Complete Fourth Season
Penn & Teller - Bullshit! - The Complete Fifth Season

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Science of Thought

Scientists think a lot about thought, but what they've come up with so far seems to ask more questions than it answers.

Emerging is a body of theory suggesting that the brain has four distinct functions. I'll list them in order of how much we seem to understand about each.

Perception is the flow of information as raw data from our sense organs to the brain. We know that data flows from our organs to the brain through nerves allowing us to "tap into" those transmissions, giving us a pretty clear picture of what's going on. Scientists can even trace data flowing through the optic nerve to re-create the image our eyes send to our brain, (although not very well). Scientists understand enough about this function to create working artificial eyes.

Thought itself seems to be the interaction between different parts of the brain. We may know more about thought than other brain functions because technology allows us to make images of thought as it happens.

While nobody has legitimately been able to use science to "read" thoughts yet, we can see pretty clear patterns of activity within the brain based on what the subject is doing or thinking about. We're also pretty good about tracking the effect of damaging or disabling particular parts of the brain on the activity of thought.

Memory we know a lot less about. Some say memory is entirely electrical, some say it's electro-chemical, almost nobody believes it's entirely chemical anymore. Some believe memory is the interaction between clusters of brain cells, but there is study showing that individual brain cells might be capable of holding memory by themselves.

Invariably, when scientists write about or think about memory in the brain, they tend to relate it to memory as we know it in computers. I often wonder if that paradigm isn't holding us back. It's entirely possible that memory in the brain is nothing at all like memory in computers, which might explain why we've made far fewer advances in artificial intelligence than we thought we would by now.

Consciousness we know the least about. We think that consciousness is the merger of perception, thought and memory, but it might be something completely different. Although you'll never get scientists to admit it, at this point along the way, religion tells us about as much about consciousness as science does.

There's a growing number of scientists who draw a relationship between consciousness and quantum physics. If this is true, then the intelligence in "intelligent design" might be our own. If it's true that consciousness creates reality on some quantum level then that changes everything we ever thought about everything.

Image: Leonardo Da Vinci sketch-study of the brain

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Blog Just For Monsters

I've started a new blog. This one is dedicated to one of my favorite subjects, Monsters!

It features Movie Monsters, Cryptozoology, Mysteries, Models, and more madness. I've moved some of the older posts from my other two blogs to the new blog to get it started.

I had a heck of a time coming up with a name for the new project. Just about everything to do with the word "Monster" is already being used. Finally I started playing around with the sounds of the word and came up with The Constant Monster Blog!

Check it out! Let me know what you think.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Rational Flea

A flea hears from other fleas that there such things as mountains. Being a rational and inquisitive flea, it decides to set out and see for himself if it is so.

A fleas segmented eyes are made so that it can only focus on things a few inches away. Everything beyond that is a blur, so it cannot see any mountains. Fleas have acute senses of smell and taste, but since mountains have no smell or taste the flea can't detect any mountains that way either.

Fleas have moderate, but limited intellectual properties, so our flea is unable to create a tool to detect mountains or devise a system to deduce the presence of them either. The way fleas are made, he can start at sea level and walk straight up the side of a mountain and never know it.

Because he can neither detect, nor deduce the presence of mountains, the flea decides that there is no such thing, and the fleas who say there are mountains must be either deluded or fibbing.

This particular flea though, lives in the wool on a goat living in the Alps. He has, in fact, lived his entire life on a mountain, even though he has no way of knowing it.

Human beings have set out to discover God in the same way as this flea. Some of them, because neither their senses, nor their tools, nor their reasoning can detect God, have decided that there must be no God, and anyone who believes there is must be either deluded or fibbing.

Fleas cannot detect mountains, but that's not an accurate test of whether there are mountains or not. Likewise, humans cannot detect God, but that's not an accurate test of whether God exists or not.

A flea may be correct if he says he doesn't believe in mountains because he cannot detect them, but he goes beyond his bounds if he says that there is no such thing as mountains.

Likewise, a man may be telling the truth if he says he doesn't believe in God because he cannot detect God, but he goes beyond his bounds if he says there is no God, because he has no way of knowing whether there is or not. Hubris leads us to believe the only things to exist are those our meager senses can detect or our limited intellect can deduce.

Just like the flea who lives on the goat who lives on the mountain, I believe we would be amazed at the remarkable things that do exist but are beyond our ability to detect them.

Image: Mountain Goat Statue Near Corviglia - St. Moritz, Switzerland

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cool animated GIF

I hope everybody can see this in all the various formats they read the blog from

At first I thought maybe it was just an optical illusion, but it really is an animated gif. I love images with subtle movement.

The source is an article on the Popular Science website about a real-life cloaking device which sounds way cool but is still pretty limited in its capabilities.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Charles Darwin Loses His Religion

As you may know, Charles Darwin studied to become a clergyman before settling on biology. It is said that he finally lost his faith, long after publishing his controversial theories, when his daughter died as a child.

Like many of us, Darwin hoped his faith might spare him that kind of pain and suffering. If you read the bible though, you'll see fairly clearly that the faithful and the faithless often share the same fate.

The promise of faith is not that you'll have a better time of it here on earth. The promise of faith is that this isn't the end of the story. Though we can't see it or tell anything about it, faith promises us that we transcend these bodies and we survive the suffering here on this planet.

I can't imagine the pain Darwin endured on losing his child. There can't be anything worse. Nor can I blame him for losing his faith in the wake of such a tragedy, even though it was really the only thing I can think of that might offer some solace to a man in that horrible position.

Darwin's suffering did end though, with his death; and I believe, he and his beloved daughter were then reunited in a way unimaginable here on earth.

Though often vilified by the faithful, Darwin gave us much knowledge with which we can celebrate and marvel at the beauty of God's creation. His work brings me much closer to God because, through it, I can see the brushstrokes of the master's creation. I only wish his faith had brought more comfort in his own life.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dinosaurs and the Bible

Suppose you read a history book that said "John Kennedy said we should go to the moon, so we went to the moon."

Now, that would be a fairly accurate reporting of what happened, but it also omits a heck of a lot of important information, like "who", "why", and most importantly, "how".

The bible tells us that God created the universe and God created us, but like the example above it omits pretty much all of the details, especially "how".

Many people believe there's this conflict between science and religion because science has come up with a different narrative for the creation of life than the one found in Genesis. I don't see a conflict at all, but rather two different ways of telling the same story.

The Genesis writers were primarily concerned with telling the story of God's relationship to us. They tell us that God created us and God created the universe, but they make no attempt to get into the details of "how". Neither do they give us any indication of "who" or "what" God is.

Science, on the other hand, is completely concerned with the details of "how" man and the universe were created, but make no attempt to give the details of "why".

If you're reading the bible hoping to make it a book of science or history then you're going to be disappointed, it simply doesn't deal with those questions.

The bible is a collection of many different stories, written by many different people over an extraordinarily long period of time, trying to illuminate the relationship between God and man. They weren't even trying to account for the types of information one finds in books about history or science. It simply wasn't their purpose.

People who find a conflict between the bible and science or history are trying to make the bible something it's not, which means they're completely missing the point of the bible for what it is.

There's an incredible amount of valuable information in the bible, but if you're looking for the answer to where dinosaurs came from, or why the earth orbits around the sun, then you'll simply have to look elsewhere.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What Happens When We Die: Reincarnation

Reincarnation is probably the most difficult topic for me to cover in this series because it is the most alien to my culture, but, perhaps foolishly I'll give it a try anyway because it's something a significant number of people believe in and I think there are lessons in it for all of us.

Most modern Christians reject the concept of reincarnation because the larger church always has. We're learning now though, that reincarnation was a concept shared by many early, pre-Constantine, Christians in one form or another. Since we can't posit any theology as undeniable fact, perhaps it's wise to inform ourselves of all of them, even if we've already chosen the one that suits us best.

The basic tenet of reincarnation is that, like most religions, there is a greater form of life beyond this physical one, and each of us is invested with some aspect of it. There is a spirit that invests the physical body and survives it when the body dies.

What separates reincarnation from other religious beliefs is that they believe the spiritual form inhabits the physical form to improve and perfect it through a process called "karma", and when the physical form dies, the spirit moves on to another physical form to continue the process of perfecting the karma.

Part of this, I think, comes from observation. When one thing dies, other things are born. Even in cases of massive destruction, like the eruption of Mt. St Helens, the process of rebirth begins almost immediately.

If one believes that some physical forms are invested with a spirit, then it's not an unreasonable stretch to believe that all physical life is invested with a spirit. This also prevents the hubris that comes with believing we're the only creatures blessed with such an endowment.

There is a trap here to be avoided where a person might get the idea that they do better in life because their karma is superior and it's acceptable when bad things happen to people, because it'll all be corrected in the next iteration of incarnation. The correction is that hubris is bad for your own karma and should be avoided, lest you be the person bad things happen to next time.

Many forms of reincarnation believe that eventually the spiritual form reaches a point where it can exist entirely separate from the physical world in something similar to the Abrahamic concept of heaven. This answers the question many people have of why there would be a physical world if the spiritual world is all that really mattered.

So, what to make of all this? Perhaps there is a difference between spiritual energy and the individual personality we consider our spirit form.

What if we possess not just one individual spirit, but a million, each one sharing the experience known as our lives. When we die, some of these spirits could move on to plants or animals or some could combine with other spirits in new people and some still could move on to the purely spiritual plane we call heaven.

Each would be still fully and completely "us", but after we die they would scatter through the universe to occupy new forms and fulfill new purposes. Grandma would still be looking down on us from heaven, but she would also be a part of the grass beneath our feet, the birds in the air and the new baby we hold in our arms.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What Happens When We Die: Part 1

What happens when we die?

It's an obvious enough question. It happens to each of us and to everyone we know, yet nobody really seems to know for sure.

So far nobody who crossed that boundary for more than a few moments has reported back. They say Jesus was dead for two days before he came back, but that was almost two thousand years ago and the only testimony we have was passed around a good bit before anyone wrote it down so basically what we have from Jesus just wouldn't stand up in court.

There are several schools of thought on this issue. The first and nominally the most logical is that nothing happens when we die. We wink out of existence like a cheap light bulb and our bodies are disposed of.

This philosophy depends on the idea that our consciousness is nothing more than the biological and electrical processes of the brain and once those processes break down, we cease to exist.

The proof of this comes from observation. If you cut off the head then death is almost immediate. So far nobody has been able to keep a head alive without a body or a body alive without a head.

I think a lot of people refuse to even consider this possibility because it's very discomforting. It's not themselves they're worriying about primarily, when it's your turn to go, there's pretty much no turning back, but we all have friends and loved ones who died and most of us would like to think they continue somehow, even in a way that's utterly beyond us.

You can't posit this as the final word on the matter yet though. We understand so little of how the brain really works. We know some tricks, for instance if you add certian chemicals it produces certian effects, but when it comes to the real basics of how ideas are formed and stored we just don't understand how it's done.

It may be that the brain isn't the repository for our conciousness, but rather a conduit between our real selves and this physical world.

Marcus Aurelius talks about the futility of life because there's such a huge spance of time before we're born and after we die and such a brief moment in-between when we're alive, but, what if the issue here really is time itself.

We exist in four dimensions: three of space and one of time. The demensions of space we move about pretty freely in. We can go forward and back or up and down at any speed we wish whenever we wish. Not so with time, we are a slave in time. In time we can only move from the past to the future and only at one speed.

But, it's only in time that we die. Six months ago, my mother was alive, sixteen years ago, my dad was alive, and sixty years ago, my great-grandfather was alive. It's only in the present that they are not alive.

If we were somehow freed of time, then everyone who ever lived would still be alive because all we have to do is move through time to the peroid where they were alive or they could move from the time when they were alive to times when they weren't. If we could move into the past or the future of our own will then we would effectivly live forever.

Perhaps that's what happens we die. Perhaps that moment of breaking between life and death is the moment where we become free of time and maybe the reason nobody ever reports back after death is because our perspective is so different once we are free of time that there is no way to communicate with those who are still its slave.

I'm convinced that we are still in just the earliest stages of our full development. In time, we will overcome these ideas of life and death.

There was a time when light and dark were absolute forces to us. During the day, we had light, but at night or in the shadows we had none and there was nothing we could do about it. Then we discovered fire, then mirrors, then electricity and more and now light and dark are a matter of choice to us. We can bring light to the darkest room or the longest night.

Perhaps it will be that way with life and death too. At the present we have no control over it, but perhaps, in time, we will come to a place where we can illuminate death as easily as turning on a lamp.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Shakespearean Trivia

I love Shakespeare.

Not the man from Stratford, he's pretty dull, but Shakespeare as a genre has it all. Mystery, Drama, politics, humor, love, beauty, melodrama, you get the idea.

Mental Floss blog published an article on little known facts about the bard's remarkable Scottish Play, Macbeth. Elizabeth Lunday even explains why it's called The Scottish Play.

Read the entire article here.

(image information: Victorian Actor, Sir Henry Irving as Macbeth)

Official Ted Lasso