The show starts by positing that some people (Nostradamus in particular) have been able to predict the future. At this point, I'll cry "Bullshit!" but they continue anyway, starting with "secret" Mayan predictions of the end of the world, in 2012. (Maybe this show was supposed to be released earlier, 'cause we're still here in 2013.) This "astronomer" believes that a supervolcano, Yellowstone Perhaps, will erupt (last year), bringing cataclysm. One survivalist plans to build underground shelters around the country and the world, and has recruited people to live in them. (He refers to the show date being 2011.) Are we nuts yet? An anthropologist says it's happened before; we should be worried. But Jake Lowenstern of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory isn't worried. He points out the worriers are exaggerating statistics, and even those stats are based on too small a sample to forecast accurately. He also points out that most Yellowstone eruptions have been on the scale of a Hawaiian volcano -- and Yellowstone has numerous minor eruptions that may relieve the pressure for even that.
In a commercial break, the show points out that the first doomsday prediction was that the world would end in AD 666. How did that work out? Ready to stop listening to kooks yet? I am, but the show continues -- and, as a public service, so do I.
Next up is the idea that solar flares may kill us all. Do low sunspots portend an impending "big one" of solar flares. One "scientist" even believes that alien ships are causing flares. An actual scientist, though, believes that the changes are caused by changes in the sun's magnetic fields (and perhaps poles). No problem for us, he insists. Yet, a journalist believes that a big solar flare would wipe out our technological society -- blacking out everything. Proof, please.
Finally, futurist Ray Kurzweil believes that in 20 years, computers will be operating at human levels. He also believes man and machine will merge by the mid 21st century, and he doesn't find that scary. He thinks we will keep our humanity, but transcend the limitations of our biology. One philosopher fears that computers may become aware enough to do things we don't want -- like Skynet. Robitics maker Noel Sharkey thinks humanoid robots are a long way from taking over the world -- because there's no evidence that might happen, and robots are just not smart. "They're not bright enough to be called stupid," he says. They can't even feed themselves. They're incapable of exceeding their programming. The real problem, he says, will be the misuse of robots as weapons by humans -- not danger from evil or rogue robots.
Is there a star child? Did dinosaurs live with humans? Did Ancient Egyptians have airplanes? Let's see what the show says...
A strange 900-year-old skeleton found in Mexico is believed by some to be a human-alien hybrid, or outright alien - based on its weird appearance. This has been suggested by UFO "experts" who've seen the skull. But neurologist Steven Novella believes it is merely a deformed human with hydrocephalus. Other scientists suggest that cradle-boarding may have changed the shape of the child's skull. The owner of the skull claims to have a 2003 DNA test showing the father of the "starchild" was not human. A 2011 test makes him believe that neither of the child's parents are human. Apparently, there has been no peer review of this "evidence."
An ancient Peruvian stone seems to show an long-extinct fish. Digging up more stones, the doctor who owns the stone believes that many show scenes of creatures long dead -- including dinosaurs, which might even be alive today. Acheologist Ken Feder believes that the Peruvian stones show all the signs of a classic archaeological hoax -- created when it became clear there was a market for them. The show gets an art student to re-create the stones using simple techniques. Is it easier to believe that known archaeology must be completely overturned, or that some folks wanted to make a fast buck? One author thinks the stones are indeed, old, but not first-hand experience. Instead, he believes the Peruvians got information about the dinos from a more knowledgeable civilization: Atlantis. Ri-i-ight.
In Sakara, Egypt, archaeologists turn up something that looks like a model of a bird -- though some think it resembles an airplane. Did the Egyptians have planes? It's a theory that appeals to people who believe the ancient astronauts hoax. But Egyptologist Katya Goebs scoffs, noting bird symbolism was very important in Egypt, and bird objects in tombs were common -- perhaps it was a toy for a child's tomb. The suggestion of launching gliders from the tops of pyramids seems, at best, absurd. But one "expert" claims that the ancients had _all_ the technology we have, including flight, balloons, and electricity -- despite the fact that _no_ ancient reporters have ever mentioned any of this. A model builder on the show builds a model of the bird, and even with a suggested tail, the plane still doesn't fly. The model builder suggests the object may have been a wind vane (weather vane). And that seems to work better.
Again, the show doesn't make any conclusions, but, to me, at least, the science seems much more compelling than the speculation.
A woman in San Pedro, CA, calls paranormal investigators in to investigate strange events, including apparitions and even physical attacks. She believes that an evil entity is in her attic. One investigator reports being strangled during the investigation (and there's a fuzzy photo), and a strange oozing substance from the walls is identified as human blood plasma. One investigator believes the trouble all started with a Ouija board seance. Loyd Auerbach, former president of the Psychic Entertainers Assoc., believes that the woman herself was a poltergeist agent -- a "haunted" person, similar to an epileptic seizure, affecting the world subconsciously when repressed rage builds up. (He also believes in psychokinesis.) He notes that the events followed her when she moved -- though subsequent tenants also experienced strange things. John Huntington, professor, believes that infrasound, low frequencies inaudible to humans, may have built pressure waves causing residents physical and psychological distress. (As someone who has trouble sleeping when car engines are running outside, I can attest to low frequency noise making life difficult.)
A Connecticut housewife heard voices in 1992 and believed herself to be possessed. Bruises appeared on her body, with no apparent medical explanation. The Catholic church decided she was possessed and preformed an exorcism. After 16 exorcisms, she died of cancer, which some believe was caused by demons. Psychologist Christoper Rosik believes she had dissociative identity disorder (split personality). He believes that religious ritual can repress such symptoms ... at least, for a time. Reverend Bob Larson, self-proclaimed exorcist, disagrees. He thinks demonic possession is real -- and common. He believes that (supposed) speaking in languages foreign to the "possessed" is proof.
Teenager Fae Jackson believes that ghosts talk to her, and have since she was 10. She sometimes sees up to 5 at a time, and they only come when she's alone. When the family seeks advice from local mediums, they convince the family that Fae has a gift, and she works to "master" it. Author Karen Good believes that children can see ghosts, but adults lose this "ability." She believes that everyone has this ability and its root lies in the pineal gland. Jack Rourke believes that parents can (perhaps unknowingly) encourage this fantasy in children, through positive reinforcement. The child gains the reward of extra closeness with their parent(s), and the parent gains more control over the child through their shared experience. One paranormal researcher believes that people who see ghosts have different eyes that can see more infrared than the rest of us -- and ghosts show up in the infra red. (No explanation of why IR cameras aren't overflowing with ghost images. And no evidence that children see further into the infrared than adults.)
Another decent episode of this series, which is distinguished by having rational explanations along with paranormal mythology.
In 1978, a weird glowing ball of light appeared to a boy in Bell Island, Newfoundland, before vanishing. Other people on Bell Island reported strange electromagnetic effects from the light, including shock waves and exploding fuses and TVs, and 3 holes "drilled" in the ground. It was like a bomb had gone off, without a bomb. The RCMP concluded it was lightning, but some people claim that three men from Los Alamos Lab (in the US) came and questioned witnesses. Journalist Brian Dunning believes it was part of a series of booms at the time and was likely caused by overflight by the Concorde Super-Sonic Transport passenger plane -- a new phenomenon at the time. Engineering professor Karl Stephan thinks it might have been caused by a super lightning bolt - a positive-charged freak of nature. (Most lightning is negatively charged.) Superbolts usually occur in the upper atmosphere over oceans, but can cause severe damage on the ground. He thinks it could also have caused ball lighting (seen by the boy), which is so incredibly rare it can't effectively be studied. One researcher, though, believes the effect was caused by accidental EMF build up caused by a Soviet early warning system called the "Woodpecker Signal."
Does a deadly time-bending fog haunt Lake Michigan? One woman reports a series of disorienting events, including a boat spinning around and "losing" two hours. One man calls it "electronic fog," and believes it can magnetically attach to a vessel and disorient both people and instruments. He thinks it may be associated with freak lighting storms. But Dr. Donadrian Rice believes the explanation is much simpler: hallucinations caused by disorientation, and the time loss is merely a result of that and normal human perception of time flowing at different rates. He's conducted experiments in sensory deprivation where subjects report strange visions and believe the experiment lasted 5 minutes, though it actually lasted 20. It's caused, he says, by the human brain trying to make sense out of situations where the senses have been deprived. One paranormal author believes that the effect is caused by "ley lines" -- lines of paranormal force -- encircling the earth. Where the lines cross in "powerful areas," vortex hyperspace spots/portals are formed. (Too bad he has no actual proof of this.)
In 1979, two blinding flashes of light (seen by satellite) lit up a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean and sent world powers into high alert against possible nuclear war. But planes and inspectors checking for radiation found nothing, so the event remains a mystery. One nuclear weapons designer, Thomas Reed, believes it was a nuclear test, and satellite data seems to confirm the signature "double flash" of energy. He thinks that the test was conducted over the ocean and when weather (a typhoon) would wash the radiation away; he thinks it was an Israeli test (with support from South Africa). Physicist Richard Muller, who investigated the incident for the government, came to a different conclusion. The two satellite meter readings don't match, and Muller believes that a micrometeorite knocked dust in front of the two satellite sensors -- and a dim flash close up was mistaken for a bright flash thousands of miles away on the Earth's surface. Muller dismisses conspiracy theories, saying these things "...were pretty much settled by people who understood the arguments at the time."