Friday, June 28, 2013

Albert Hofmann’s Letter To Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs has never been shy about his use of psychedelics, famously calling his LSD experience “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life.” So, toward the end of his life, LSD inventor Albert Hofmann decided to write to the iPhone creator to see if he’d be interested in putting some money where the tip of his tongue had been.

Hofmann penned a never-before-disclosed letter in 2007 to Jobs at the behest of his friend Rick Doblin, who runs an organization dedicated to studying the medical and psychiatric benefits of psychedelic drugs. Hofmann, a Swiss chemist, died in April 2008 at the age of 102.

See the letter here.

Written just after his 101st birthday, the letter’s penmanship is impressive for a man of his years. I showed it to my grandmother, Ruth Grim, who was 8 years Hofmann’s junior and did amateur handwriting analysis as long as Hofmann had been tripping. Without knowing who he was, she said in an e-mail that “something happened early in his life that made him twisted about things. Maybe he felt threatened. Also–creative with his hands, hard on himself, thinks a lot, stubborn, careful with the way he expresses himself, not influenced by other’s thinking.”

Doblin says Hofmann often said he had a happy childhood and wouldn’t characterize him as twisted. Hofmann, for his own part, often referred to LSD as his own “problem child” and in his letter he asks Jobs to “help in the transformation of my problem child into a wonderchild.”

Picture 5

He specifically asks Jobs to fund research being proposed by Swiss psychiatrist Peter Gasser and directs Jobs to Doblin’s Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

Doblin and Hofmann were close; Doblin gave the doctor his first tab of ecstasy in the ’80s when it was still legal, he says, and Hofmann loved it, saying that finally he’d found a drug he could enjoy with his wife, no fan of LSD.

Doblin provided a copy of the letter to me; Hofmann’s son, Andreas Hofmann, executor of his father’s estate, authorized its publication.

The letter led to a roughly 30-minute conversation between Doblin and Jobs, says Doblin, but no contribution to the cause. “He was still thinking, ‘Let’s put it in the water supply and turn everybody on,’” recalls a disappointed Doblin, who says he still hasn’t given up hope that Jobs will come around and contribute.

That Jobs used LSD and values the contribution it made to his thinking is far from unusual in the world of computer technology. Psychedelic drugs have influenced some of America’s foremost computer scientists. The history of this connection is well documented in a number of books, the best probably being What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer, by New York Times technology reporter John Markoff.

Psychedelic drugs, Markoff argues, pushed the computer and Internet revolutions forward by showing folks that reality can be profoundly altered through unconventional, highly intuitive thinking. Douglas Engelbart is one example of a psychonaut who did just that: he helped invent the mouse. Apple’s Jobs has said that Microsoft’s Bill Gates, would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once.” In a 1994 interview with Playboy, however, Gates coyly didn’t deny having dosed as a young man.

Thinking differently–or learning to Think Different, as a Jobs slogan has it–is a hallmark of the acid experience. “When I’m on LSD and hearing something that’s pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into anther brain state where I’ve stopped thinking and started knowing,” Kevin Herbert told Wired magazine at a symposium commemorating Hofmann’s one hundredth birthday. Herbert, an early employee of Cisco Systems who successfully banned drug testing of technologists at the company, reportedly “solved his toughest technical problems while tripping to drum solos by the Grateful Dead.”

“It must be changing something about the internal communication in my brain,” said Herbert. “Whatever my inner process is that lets me solve problems, it works differently, or maybe different parts of my brain are used.”

Burning Man, founded in 1986 by San Francisco techies, has always been an attempt to make a large number of people use different parts of their brains toward some nonspecific but ostensibly enlightening and communally beneficial end. The event was quickly moved to the desert of Nevada as it became too big for the city. Today, it’s more likely to be attended by a software engineer than a dropped-out hippie. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, are longtime Burners, and the influence of San Francisco and Seattle tech culture is everywhere in the camps and exhibits built for the eight-day festival. Its Web site suggests, in fluent acidese, that “[t]rying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind.”

At the 2007 event, I set up my tent at Camp Shift–as in “Shift your consciousness”–next to four RVs rented by Alexander and Ann Shulgin and their septu- and octagenarian friends from northern California. The honored elders, the spiritual mothers and fathers of Burning Man, they spent the nights sitting on plastic chairs and giggling until sunrise. Near us, a guy I knew from the Eastern Shore–an elected county official, actually–had set up a nine-and-half-hole miniature golf course. Why nine and a half? “Because it’s Burning Man,” he explained. Our camp featured lectures on psychedelics and a “ride” called “Dance, Dance, Immolation.” Players would don a flame-retardant suit and try to dance to the flashing lights. Make a mistake, and you would be engulfed in flames. The first entry on the FAQ sign read, “Is this safe? A: Probably not.”

John Gilmore was the fifth employee at Sun Microsystems and registered the domain name in 1987. A Burner and well-known psychonaut, he’s certainly one of the mind-blown rich. Today a civil-liberties activist, he’s perhaps best known for Gilmore’s Law, his observation that “[t]he Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” He told me that most of his colleagues in the sixties and seventies used psychedelic drugs. “What psychedelics taught me is that life is not rational. IBM was a very rational company,” he said, explaining why the corporate behemoth was overtaken by upstarts such as Apple. Mark Pesce, the coinventor of virtual reality’s coding language, VRML, and a dedicated Burner, agreed that there’s some relationship between chemical mind expansion and advances in computer technology: “To a man and a woman, the people behind [virtual reality] were acidheads,” he said.

Gilmore doubts, however, that a strict cause-and-effect relationship between drugs and the Internet can be proved. The type of person who’s inspired by the possibility of creating new ways of storing and sharing knowledge, he said, is often the same kind interested in consciousness exploration. At a basic level, both endeavors are a search for something outside of everyday reality–but so are many creative and spiritual undertakings, many of them strictly drug-free. But it’s true, Gilmore noted, that people do come to conclusions and experience revelations while tripping. Perhaps some of those revelations have turned up in programming code.

And perhaps in other scientific areas, too. According to Gilmore, the maverick surfer/chemist Kary Mullis, a well-known LSD enthusiast, told him that acid helped him develop the polymerase chain reaction, a crucial breakthrough for biochemistry. The advance won him the Nobel Prize in 1993. And according to reporter Alun Reese, Francis Crick, who discovered DNA along with James Watson, told friends that he first saw the double-helix structure while tripping on LSD.

It’s no secret that Crick took acid; he also publicly advocated the legalization of marijuana. Reese, who reported the story for a British wire service after Crick’s death, said that when he spoke with Crick about what he’d heard from the scientist’s friends, he “listened with rapt, amused attention” and “gave no intimation of surprise. When I had finished, he said, ‘Print a word of it and I’ll sue.’”

You can see the letter here

Originally posted on: Psychedelic Medicine News

Ancient African Coins Could Rewrite History

The ruins of Kilwa, a once-glittering trading center on the eastern coast of Africa.
CREDIT: Stefanie van der Vinden | 
Can a handful of ancient African coins, discovered almost 70 years ago by a lone soldier on a remote island, rewrite history?

A weathered, hand-drawn map, with an "X" marking the spot on the Australian island where the African coins were discovered, might help an international team of researchers, who will travel to the island this summer, answer that question.

The story begins over a thousand years ago, when the city of Kilwa was the richest trading center on the eastern coast of Africa.

A bustling harbor, a glittering mosque decorated with Chinese porcelain and the Husuni Kubwa palace (famed for its octagonal swimming pool) made Kilwa a premier destination for wealthy merchants, who traded African gold and ivorty for spices and perfume from the Far East.

A dazzling era ends
But the city's eminence ended when Portuguese traders, intent on controlling commerce throughout the Indian Ocean, sacked the port in the 16th century.

"The Portuguese destroyed Kilwa in the 1500s, burnt it to the ground and looted everything," Ian McIntosh, a professor of anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), told Australian broadcaster ABC.

The deserted, crumbling ruins of Kilwa — now a UNESCO World Heritage site located near Zanzibar in modern-day Tanzania — are all that remains of the city's former splendor.

A handful of coins
Centuries later and thousands of miles away, an Australian soldier named Maurie Isenberg was operating a World War II radar station on one of the uninhabited Wessel Islands off Australia's northern shore, CNN reports.

One day, during his off-hours, Isenberg went fishing down at the remote island's beach, where he discovered a few old, copper coins with exotic markings embedded in the sand. Isenberg tossed the coins in a tin container, where they stayed for decades.

But before he forgot about his discovery, on a map of the island hand-drawn by a fellow soldier, Isenberg drew an "X" showing where he found the coins.

In 1979, Isenberg sent the coins off for appraisal. He was astonished to discover their origin: Four of the coins were from the Dutch East India Company — a trading company founded by the Dutch in the early 17th century — and one of those coins dated from the late 1600s, according to CNN.

But five of the coins were minted in Kilwa and are believed to be about 1,100 to 1,200 years old (from about A.D. 900), ABC reports.

"It's a very fascinating discovery," McIntosh told CNN. "Kilwa coins have only ever been found outside of the Kilwa region on two occasions.

"A single coin was found in … Zimbabwe, and one coin was found in the Arabian Peninsula, in what is now Oman, but nowhere else," McIntosh said. "And yet, here is this handful of them in northern Australia — this is the astonishing thing."

Will 5 coins rewrite history?
The Eurocentric view of history holds that Australia, populated by Aboriginal settlers for some 60,000 years, was "discovered" by European explorers in 1606.

But since the discovery of the ancient coins, which came to the attention of McIntosh before Isenberg died in 1991, that history may need to be rewritten. McIntosh also has the old map showing where the coins were discovered.

This July, McIntosh will carry that map back to the Wessel Islands, where he's leading an international team of researchers intent on solving the mystery of how the coins found their way to a remote beach in Australia.

"We have five separate hypotheses we're looking to test about how these coins got there — each one quite different from the other," McIntosh told CNN.

Some speculate that the Portuguese sailed along Australia's northern shores much earlier than was previously known. Another hypothesis suggests that African sailors from Kilwa were hired by merchants from the Far East to navigate the seas of China.

"Once you shift from the Eurocentric focus — and this is how it could change Australian history — you start seeing north Australia as part of this ancient trading network which links southern Africa, Arabian Persia, India, the Spice Islands and China," McIntosh told ABC.

A cave of treasures
Adding to the adventure's appeal is an Aboriginal legend that mentions a hidden cave, located near where the coins were found, that holds a treasure of doubloons and weaponry from an ancient era, according to a news release from IUPUI.

Despite their rich history, the old copper coins — now in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney — have limited financial value.

"If you bought these coins in a shop in Kilwa, you could probably get them for a few dollars," McIntosh told CNN. "But in northern Australia, these are priceless in terms of their historical value."

Original article on

Imagination Changes What We See & Hear

A study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows, that our imagination may affect how we experience the world more than we perhaps think. What we imagine hearing or seeing "in our head" can change our actual perception. The study, which is published in the scientific journal Current Biology, sheds new light on a classic question in psychology and neuroscience -- about how our brains combine information from the different senses.

"We often think about the things we imagine and the things we perceive as being clearly dissociable," says Christopher Berger, doctoral student at the Department of Neuroscience and lead author of the study. "However, what this study shows is that our imagination of a sound or a shape changes how we perceive the world around us in the same way actually hearing that sound or seeing that shape does. Specifically, we found that what we imagine hearing can change what we actually see, and what we imagine seeing can change what we actually hear."
The study consists of a series of experiments that make use of illusions in which sensory information from one sense changes or distorts one's perception of another sense. Ninety-six healthy volunteers participated in total.
In the first experiment, participants experienced the illusion that two passing objects collided rather than passed by one-another when they imagined a sound at the moment the two objects met. In a second experiment, the participants' spatial perception of a sound was biased towards a location where they imagined seeing the brief appearance of a white circle. In the third experiment, the participants' perception of what a person was saying was changed by their imagination of a particular sound.

Illusion of colliding objects. (Credit: Image courtesy of Karolinska Institutet)
According to the scientists, the results of the current study may be useful in understanding the mechanisms by which the brain fails to distinguish between thought and reality in certain psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Another area of use could be research on brain computer interfaces, where paralyzed individuals' imagination is used to control virtual and artificial devices.
"This is the first set of experiments to definitively establish that the sensory signals generated by one's imagination are strong enough to change one's real-world perception of a different sensory modality" says Professor Henrik Ehrsson, the principle investigator behind the study.

Story Source: 
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Karolinska Institutet.
  Originally posted on: Science Daily
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. 

Journal Reference:
  1. Christopher C. Berger, H. Henrik Ehrsson. Mental Imagery Changes Multisensory PerceptionCurrent Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.06.012

Have We Finally Found Atlantis?

VITAL CLUES: One of the massive Olmec stone heads in Mexico displaying negro features - these suggest the presence of black Africans in the Americas as early as 1200 BC
By Dominic Utton

The fabled "Lost City" of Atlantis is one of mankind's greatest and most enduring mysteries. First written of 2,350 years ago by the Greek philosopher Plato in his works the Timaeus and the Critias, the island beneath the sea has fascinated historians, poets, and the public ever since, but has remained tantalizingly hidden, shrouded in myth, legend and exaggeration.

However, a new book by acclaimed historian Andrew Collins provides for the first time a clear argument for the civilization's existence and a pointer to its location.

Plato described Atlantis as an empire founded by the sea god Poseidon on a land mass the size of "Libya and Asia put together". It possessed a thriving capital, with sumptuous palaces, royal courts and harbours constantly receiving vessels from all over the world. For many generations, it ruled the Atlantic Ocean as well as parts of what Plato called "the opposite continent", what we now know as the Americas.

Its downfall came when its masters set their sights on conquering the Mediterranean. The Greeks rose in defiance and, in a terrible naval battle, defeated the Atlanteans. In the wake of this defeat, the god Zeus unleashed earthquakes and floods and submerged the island of Atlantis in a single "terrible day and night". Plato gives two dates for this catastrophe: 8,570 BC in the Timaeus, and 9,421 BC in the Critias.

More than 2,000 books have been written about Plato's lost kingdom, placing it in the Americas, the mid-Atlantic, North Africa, Northern Europe and Antarctica. The current favourite location in academic circles is Crete.

But Collins says we must look for Atlantis in the place where Plato said it was all along: the Atlantic. In the Critias, he records that the island had a vast, irrigated plain that "stretched for three thousand stadia [552km] in one direction, and at its centre, for two thousand [368km] inland from the coast".

To the north, west and east were "mountain ranges" stretching to the shoreline, and the southern end of the plain was at sea level and housed the great capitol. Plato was thus describing an east-west oriented island, perhaps as little as 700km by 400km in size.

The great size attributed to Atlantis by Plato refers not to the "home" island, but to the extent of the empire over which the Kings of Atlantis held dominion. The Empire consisted of a series of islands that lay in front of the "opposite continent". But if the opposite continent was the Americas, and thus the series of islands referred to situated on the West Atlantic seaboard, then how could Plato, writing in 350 BC, know of their existence? After all, America was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492.

Yet there is evidence to suggest that there was transatlantic contact thousands of years before Columbus. In Paris in 1976, the mummy of Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II was found to contain tobacco. The implications were clear; the tobacco plant, thought to have been introduced to the west by Sir Walter Raleigh was known in the Ancient World as early as 1200 BC.

In 1992, the German toxicologist Svetlana Balabanova examined mummies in the Munich Museum. Extensive evidence was found of high amounts of cocaine having been absorbed into the bodies. Cocaine is the active ingredient of the coca plant, native only to the Americas. Thus the possibility stands that coca leaves were being imported to Ancient Egypt via transoceanic contact with the Americas.

Also, in the eastern provinces of Mexico are great stone heads, each weighing several tonnes, positioned at the centres of the Olmec peoples who thrived between 1200 and 400 BC. They display Negroid features, suggesting the presence of black Africans in the American continent at this time. Other statues show Semitic features, suggesting contact with Mediterranean seafarers.

AND the evidence mounts. As a consequence of the submergence of Atlantis, Plato tells us "the outer ocean [the Atlantic] cannot be crossed or explored, the way being blocked by mud, just below the surface, left by the settling down of the island". This can only have been what we call the Sargasso Sea; the free floating seaweed stretching between the Azores and the Bahamas. The Bahamas are notorious for shallow banks and take their name from the Spanish "baja mar", meaning shallow sea.

It seems certain, concludes Collins, that Plato's Atlantis was on the western Atlantic seaboard, somewhere in the Caribbean. In the Timaeus, Plato tells us the island was situated within easy reach of other islands that acted like stepping stones for voyagers. Such a description matches the chains of the Caribbean. The idea that Atlantis may have been in the Caribbean is not new. In 1798, Italian scholar Paul Cabrera identified Atlantis with Hispaniola, or Haiti and the Dominican Republic as the land mass is now called. He thought so "not only on account of its position and magnitude exceeding all others, but also from its fertility and numerous navigable rivers".

However, he picked the wrong island. Plato tells us "the district as a whole...was of great elevation and its coast precipitous", an adequate enough description of Hispaniola's mountainous coastline. However, the island had no strategic importance to seafarers, unlike neighboring Cuba, whose many lobe-like bays made for better ports. Furthermore, Cuba's coastal waters guard the northerly and southerly entrances to the Gulf of Mexico, making it ideal for journeys to Mexico or North America.

Cabrera's claim that Hispaniola was "in magnitude exceeding all others" is also wrong. At around 640km by 256km, it is around two thirds the size of Cuba. He also mentions Hispaniola's "fertility" and Cuba is the most fertile island of the Caribbean, famous for tobacco and sugar. Cuba also has "numerous navigable rivers".

All this suggests Cuba is the location of Atlantis. According to Plato, "around the city was a plain, enclosing it and itself enclosed in turn by mountain ranges which came down to the sea". The description matches Cuba's western plain, that stretches from Havana westwards to Pinar del Rio. Until around 9,000 years ago, the plain extended southwards, across what is today the bay of Batabano to the Isle of Youth. In other words a great plain, drowned in part during the time Plato wrote of.

And it is the great drowning, the "terrible day and night", that provides the last piece in the puzzle. Just such a cataclysm did annihilate the western Atlantic at the time Plato posits for the destruction of Atlantis.

In around 8500 BC, a comet exploded above North America. The fragments made more than 500,000 craters, known as the Carolina Bays, ranging from a few hundred metres to 11km in length. Each explosion held the force of a small nuclear blast, causing a huge tidal wave drowning the Caribbean and Bahamas. Any great civilisation on Cuba would almost certainly have been razed, ruined, and lost to the sea - as if Zeus himself had struck it down

Gateway to Atlantis, by Andrew Collins with an introduction by David Rohl, published by Headline, at £18.99, is available from The Express Bookshop, 250 Western Avenue, London W3 6EE or call 0870 901 9101.

Originally posted on: UFO Digest

Mars Had An Oxygen-Rich Atmosphere 4 Billion Years Ago

Artist's impression of the Spirit rover on Mars
Scientists inferred the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere by comparing Martian meteorites with data from rocks examined by Nasa's Spirit Mars rover. Image: Nasa

The oxygen was either produced by life forms or by a chemical reaction in the atmosphere of Mars
Mars had an oxygen-rich atmosphere more than a billion years before the Earth, say scientists. An examination of meteorites and rocks on the planet suggests that oxygen was affecting the Martian surface four billion years ago.
On Earth, oxygen did not build up to appreciable quantities in the atmosphere for at least another 1.5bn years.
The researchers compared Martian meteorites that have crashed onto the Earth with data from rocks examined by Nasa's Spirit Mars rover. Differences in their composition can best be explained by an abundance of oxygen early in Martian history.
Spirit was exploring an ancient part of Mars containing rocks more than 3.7bn years old. The rocks bear the hallmarks of early exposure to oxygen before being "recycled" – drawn into shallow regions of the planet's interior and then spewed out in volcanic eruptions.
Volcanic Martian meteorites, on the other hand, originate from deeper within the planet where they would be less affected by oxygen. The meteorites travel to Earth after being flung into space by massive eruptions or impacts.
The new research, published in the journal Nature, has implications for the possibility of past life on Mars. On early Earth, the atmosphere was gradually filled with free oxygen by photosynthesising microbes. Scientists call this the Great Oxygenation Event.
The link between oxygen and life on Mars is less certain. Oxygen could have been produced biologically, or by a chemical reaction in the atmosphere.
Lead scientist Professor Bernard Wood of Oxford University said: "The implication is that Mars had an oxygen-rich atmosphere at a time, about 4,000 million years ago, well before the rise of atmospheric oxygen on Earth around 2,500 million years ago.
"As oxidation is what gives Mars its distinctive colour, it is likely that the 'red planet' was wet, warm and rusty billions of years before Earth's atmosphere became oxygen-rich."
Originally posted on: Guardian

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cliff Wall In Bolivia Covered In Thousands Of Dinosaur Tracks

This amazing wall has been discovered dozen years ago near the cement factory in Bolivia. After detailed research scientists found that this wall contains a huge number of dinosaur trails.
The wall is 80 meters high and 1,2 km long and it contains more than 5000 trails of dinosaurs. They named it “The dinosaur dance floor”. The most unusual thing about this wall that should amaze you is that the wall is pretty awry and it is real mystery how dinosaurs could walk over it and leave such trails.
Images source
Article source

102-Year-Old Abandoned Ship is a Floating Forest

The SS Ayrfield is one of many decommissioned ships in the Homebush Bay, just west of Sydney, but what separates it from the other stranded vessels is the incredible foliage that adorns the rusted hull. The beautiful spectacle, also referred to as The Floating Forest, adds a bit of life to the area, which happens to be a sort of ship graveyard.
Originally launched as the SS Corrimal, the massive 1,140-tonne steel beast was built in 1911 in the UK and registered in Sydney in 1912 as a steam collier which was later used to transport supplies to American troops stationed in the Pacific region during World War II. The ship went on to serve as a collier between Newcastle and Miller's terminal in Blackwattle Bay.
Eventually, in 1972, the SS Ayrfield was retired and sent to Homebush Bay which served as a ship-breaking yard. While many ships were taken apart, about four metallic bodies of vessels that are over 75 years old currently float in the bay, though none are enveloped by nature quite like the Ayrfield. The ship continues to attract visitors to its majestic presence, rich with mangrove trees.
Top image by Andy Brill

Image by Neerav Bhatt

Image by Steve Dorman

Image by Rodney Campbell

32 Pictures To Help You Appreciate The Wonders Of Nature

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Originally posted on: Ned Hardy