Debunked theories

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Not everything is a mystery.  Here is a random collection of topics for which we are pretty certain that science has an explanation.

magiccarpetLevitation – no, even the best yogi masters do not levitate when they meditate.  Magic flying carpets don’t exist either.  Nor are there witches flying around on broomsticks.  Nor will rubbing a lamp result in the appearance of a magical genie who will grant you three wishes.  The laws of physics apply to physical bodies.  Refer back to an earlier discussion on how long periods of meditation can cause the brain proprioceptive sense to get confused and result in feelings of weightlessness or growing larger or smaller.  We may get the sensation of flying, but the body does not lift off the ground.

walkingonwater.jpgWalking on water – no, at least not in the way we think of a man walking across the surface of water in bare feet.  Some clever physicists have demonstrated that it is possible to walk across non-Newtonian fluid (which isn’t exactly water).  References to walking on water in ancient texts are likely to have been referring to something else (eg Jesus knew of a sand bar just below the waves which gave the impression that he was walking on water).

Alcyone, one of the stars in the Pleiades constellation, is NOT the centre of the known universe around which our solar system rotates.  This is a New Age idea, and is based on a miscalculation in 1846.

schumannresonance.jpgSchumann Resonance of the Earth is not increasing (Greg Braden, Awakening to Zero Point, New Age idea).  This is the resonant frequency of planet Earth’s Ionosphere, and is about 7.83 Hz.  It was claimed that the resonant frequency is increasing, and this could have an affect on the consciousness of humanity of the planet.  It is possible that human brain wave patterns may align with the Schumann Resonance (theta brain waves are in the 4 – 8 Hz region), but there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that the Schumann Resonance is changing.  The Schumann Resonance is based on fundamental physical features of planet Earth (like the radius “a” of the planet and the speed of light “c”, see formula below) which aren’t likely to change in a hurry.

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If you want to do the maths, the speed of light c = 3 x 10^8 and the radius of the earth is about 6.371 x 10^6 metres (it does vary around the earth, as our planet is not perfectly symmetrical).  So the fundamental f(0) = 3 x 10^8 / (2 * 3.141 x 6.371 x 10^6) * 1 = 7.5 Hz.  In practice, it is about 7.83 Hz with higher harmonics at approximately every 6.5 Hz.

When the magnetic poles switch polarity, will the rotation of the Earth stop and direction reverse (another New Age idea)?  No, it won’t.  If you are familiar with physics do some calculations on the rotational kinetic energy of the planet, and the immense force that would be required to slow it down and cause it to rotate in the other direction.  Even when the planet is struck by massive asteroids travelling at high speed, there is hardly a stutter in speed or orbit.  The magnetic poles do change polarity quite regularly (every few hundred thousand years) but the transition happens quite slowly and would not affect the life on the planet.  The speed of orbital rotation does not change.

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Nor will the loss of magnetic field erase human memories!  The Earth’s magnetic field is about 0.5 Gauss or about 50 micro Teslas.  It varies a bit across the planet. By comparison, an MRI scan delivers a dose of 1 to 3 Teslas (ie at least 20,000 times stronger) and that can result in some people feeling a little dizzy.  A safe maximum working magnetic field strength for a hard disk is about 400 micro Teslas, and 1.5 Teslas is sufficient to erase it.  Human beings do not depend on magnetism to store memories (it is done chemically).  A sensitive compass will notice changes in the Earth’s magnetic field, but human beings are unlikely to notice.

Also, if the Earth did stop we would not fly off.  If it suddenly slowed and stopped then we might be affected in the same way that we jerk forward in a car when the brakes are applied.  But we do not rely on rotation to keep us on the ground – we rely on gravity.

halo.jpgDo really spiritual people have halo’s round their heads?  The white or yellow halo above a persons head or surrounding the head is purely a depiction for artistic purposes.  A person does not develop a glowing aura as they become more spiritual, though their health and vitality may improve and their vibrant energy may make you feel that they are “glowing”.  People who do see auras are generally those subject to frequent migraine headaches, and seeing an aura is an indication to them that they are about to experience one.  Kirlian photography captures coronal discharges, and any such discharge from the human head doesn’t look anything like a halo.

ghost.pngAre there such a thing as ghosts?  Disembodied entities that are trapped between the physical and spiritual world.  Despite the amount of research that has gone into this, it appears that ghostbusters are out of a job.  Most things that scare people in the middle of the night are in their own heads.  Interestingly, exposing the brain to very strong electromagnetic fields can result in illusionary visions appearing similar to ghosts.  Fear associated with sleep paralysis can lead to visions and hallucinations that seem very real at the time and are very frightening.  We have yet to be able to detect any evidence of a non-corporeal “soul”, and if it does exist the fact that it is non-physical severely restricts the way in which it could interact with physical objects in our world.

yeti.pngWhat about Bigfoot / Yowie / Abominable Snowman?  The various theories about humans degenerating into the bodies of our ancestors, or a remnant population of a ancient hominid species remaining undiscovered on the planet, seem very unlikely.  A sustainable population requires a certain number of species, and such a population could not remain undetected in the areas of sightings.  Even up in the Himalayas.  Recent evidence based on DNA suggests that sightings may have been bears.

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Do Unicorns exist?  No.  Occasionally a naturally two-horned animal may be born with a single horn or suffer an accident, but there is no creature with a single horn.  The likely origin for Unicorns is the re’em.

lochnessmonsterWhat about the Loch Ness monster?  There have been some grand theories here, about the loch being a portal into another dimension through which giant water creatures sometimes slip through.  Despite very thorough searches and people camping out watching the loch for years on end, nothing has been seen.  Occasionally large fish are known to enter the loch (some sightings could possibly be a large sturgeon), but it is unlikely that a large prehistoric creature could survive, even a small population, based on the food they would need to eat and what the loch is able to provide.

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Is the Bermuda triangle a portal into another dimension?  Some people believe that this may be location where the ancient island of Atlantis sank into the ocean.  Sorry, there is no evidence to support this and please don’t ask where the legendary island of Atlantis was (there have been many theories and books written about this).  Due to the rise and fall of sea levels between the ice ages, there have certainly been land masses come and go across the planet in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, so it is quite possible that civilisations living on a small island could have vanished under the waves – remains of unknown civilisations have been discovered off the coast of India.

eldridge.jpgDid a US navy ship disappear during the Philadelphia experiment in 1943?  This seems to be a misunderstanding on how a degaussing experiment works.  Degaussing could render a ship invisible magnetically, but only fog would have rendered the ship invisible to human sight.  If the degaussing experiment went badly wrong, it could have caused structural damage and warping of the ships infrastructure, and could have caused serious injuries to people on board at the time.

et.jpgAre we alone in the Universe?  It would be incredibly amazing if human beings are the only form of life in the entire Universe.  The Universe is a big place and has been around for billions of years.  If carbon-based life such as is found on our planet is the result of random molecular interactions, there is considerably probability that similar conditions will have happened elsewhere.  Life could also be based on Silicon and other elements in other galaxies – there is no reason for it to be based solely on carbon and water.  If life is the result of spiritual/divine influences, then it is also highly likely to have been created elsewhere.  There are still many practical difficulties in establishing contact with beings on other planets due to the immense distances and the fact that we rely on the speed of light to carry sight (telescope) or electromagnetic (radio waves) information.  Life may be found on some of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, where it is thought warm liquid water is trapped beneath a frozen exterior surface, though they are likely to be simple cellular organisms.

ufoDid a UFO crash in Area 51 near Roswell in 1948 and was there an alien autopsy?  The alien autopsy film is known to be a hoax, and whilst something happened in Roswell in 1948 it doesn’t appear to be a UFO crashing from another planet.  Whilst there can be many explanations for strange objects in the sky, it is known that experiments were done with flying saucers using air jets to hover, and also with attempts to levitate using the electric field of the earth.  The Germans were working on this technology at the end of World War II and experimental work may have been continued in Russia and Argentina.  By all accounts they were failures, but test flights may have been observed.  Using the electric field of the Earth as a propulsion mechanism is highly unstable and fraught with technical difficulties.  So flying saucers may be real, but they didn’t come from other planets – they were made right here on planet Earth.

zombie.jpgCan I catch a disease which will turn me into a zombie in a matter of seconds?  Do zombies exist – undead, mindless people with a hunger for human flesh?  There are some pretty nasty bacterial and viral diseases, but they generally take at least a few hours to affect the body, and victims are usually incapacitated rather than turning in to superhuman killing machines.  The zombie myth is great for making movies, but don’t worry, they don’t exist in reality.  Nor do the vampires of folklore, but vampire bats do exist (the main danger to humans is contracting rabies from the bite) and there has been a practice of drinking human blood going back thousands of years.  Laurence Gardner has documented some of the practices which he says is based on the health properties derived from hormones in the blood such as melatonin, oxytocin, prolactin, etc.  The menstrual blood from women who haven’t given birth (eg vestal virgins) is said to be particularly beneficial.  It may be an acquired taste!

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Should I get a frontal lobotomy?  No, not really!  The lobotomy was introduced as an experimental technique to combat mental illness.  The procedure involves breaking nerve connections between the pre-frontal cortex and other parts of the frontal lobe.  After the operation, patients lose most of their personality and become quiet and docile and sometimes happy.  It may solve the problem of mental illness for some people, but it stops the brain from working properly.  Today, mental illness is usually addressed through medication and re-uptake inhibitors for the brain chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, etc.).

There are also stories about activating the Third Eye chakra, such as the Third Eye book by Lobsang Rampa.  This is a work of fiction and not a requirement for enlightenment or for activating the brain in any way.  Some people believe that it is necessary to drill a hole in the forehead (trepanation) in order to properly activity the third eye.  Any damage to the delicate brain tissue is not going to help you utilise the prefrontal cortex to its full extent.  Please don’t try this at home!!!

12 strand DNA – A number of new age sites have been promulgating the idea that human DNA is evolving from the current 2 strands to a new 12 strand structure.  For the avoidance of doubt, this is rubbish!  There is a lot that scientists are still understanding about DNA, and it is still puzzling that 97% of the DNA appears to be junk (this is unusual, because in nature, nature is usually very efficient and does not retain unused things).  DNA sequencing of the human genome is continuing to reveal interesting aspects of our past.  But our DNA is not acquiring new strands!

Biorhythms.  This was an attempt to predict when we are most healthy, based on a 23-day physical cycle, 28-day emotional cycle, and a 33-day intellectual cycle.  These cycles were said to begin when we are born.  They are based on neat sinewave curves, and show our physical, emotional and mental peaks.  It is a nice idea, but there has been no scientific verification of this.  Ignore biorhythm calculators and concentrate on being your healthiest and best all the time.

Astrology.  The idea that our lives and fate is predetermined by the movement of stars in the heavens dates back thousands of years.  A lot of work has gone into studying how the positions of the planets at birth impacts our lives, and this is reflected in horoscopes in magazines.  There are some impressive calculators and software that print out astrological charts for individuals based on the exact time of their birth, and also for calculating the compatibility between two people as potential partners in marriage.  In my investigations, none of this has any scientific basis.  You can debate whether it is the time of birth or time of conception that is important for the planetary positions, but the gravitational influence they would have over your DNA is extremely small.  Our DNA does not have the final say in how we develop – why exactly some genes are activated and why others remain recessive is not known.  Environmental factors play a large part in our development.  Don’t resign yourself to predetermined fate; use the power of your own will to determine your future.

As an alternative to reading material from the skeptics, Mythbusters is another great source of open-minded people verifying the truth through practical experimentation (rather than arguing about it).  Alternatively, there is Nexus Magazine if you want to read about the latest conspiracy theories (and don’t believe everything you read, despite how convincing the arguments sound).

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