Tuesday, May 14, 2013

WEIRD OR WHAT? Freaks of Nature

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/14/2013

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."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

WEIRD OR WHAT - Monsters

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/7/2013

First up this episode: Mothman.  Many people have reported seeing it and being chased by it, and it's even connected with a famous bridge disaster.  Joe Nichol (PSICOP) believes that people merely misinterpreted other things, especially the bard owl (a large bird).  James Houran believes that mothman is a case of MPI - Mass Psychogenic Illness, basically mass hysteria.  He takes people to a regular forest at night and suggests it's haunted.  Very quickly people start having 'strange" sensations, proving people can be spooked easily and spread their fear among a group.  A monster hunter thinks the beast is real, and he sets audio lures and camera traps to catch mothman on film.  He catches nothing, but believes mothman to be a cursed supernatural being, a premonition of doom and destruction.  (So much for science.)

A strange thing washes up on Newfoundland and scientist and fisheries expert Garry Stenson is called in to investigate.  It seemed to have neither head nor tail, neither bones nor cartilage, so they cut some samples.  Mathew Wedel, anatomist, believes such "globsters" are dead whales, their armor-tough skin, all that remains after the "good bits" are scavenged, floating around the sea, slowly decomposing.  Dr. Hans Larsson, paleontologist, thinks in most cases, that is true.  But, there's some chance that megalodons (giant white sharks) still live in the very deep oceans, and some globsters may be their remains.  (Again, no proof.)

In India's capital, Delhi, a man-beast with lights on its head and steel claws attacks 800 people, causing a panic.  Is the monkey man science gone wrong or a plot by neighboring Pakistan?   One journalist believes so. Jay Lahkani, on the other hand, believes that the explanation lies in Indian culture and myths, accentuated by a few pranksters.  A cryptozoologist believes it may be a human-ape hybrid, an experiment  unleashed on the public.  Of course, he has no proof (because this is a crazy conspiracy theory).

Sadly, we never find out if the globster's DNA was tested.

WEIRD OR WHAT - Parallel Worlds

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/7/2013

The show starts with William Shatner (the host) positing that our universe is merely a "bubble," and in 2010 some scientists suggested that our universe has been "bruised" four times by smashing into the bubbles of other universes.  (Did I miss that science news?)  Some people believe we've already encountered beings from those other universes.

Author Rosemary Guiley believes that she's encountered "shadow people" from another dimension while hiking in the woods.  Other people claim to have seen the shadow people as well.  Psychologist Christopher French believes that the shadow people are merely shadows given "life" by pareidolia, the human tendency to see human shapes in random patterns.  He believes this is an evolutionary adaptation to protect us from potential danger.  Another believer suggests that gravity is diffused as it passes to earth by passing through the shadow people's dimensions.  He claims that the Earth should be ripped apart by the sun's gravity, thus supporting his theory.  (I must have missed that in science class.)  The shadow people use gravity to open doors to our dimension as a prelude to invasion.  Right.

Next is a man who claims to have been teleported through another dimension when he was a boy, while visiting his father's aerospace company.  He and his father teleported 2000 miles to the state capital of New Mexico.  He claims the secret has been suppressed by the US military.  Dr. Raymond Laflamme, physicist, thinks teleportation of humans is mere fantasy, though he has teleported a few bits of information using quantum entanglement.  Hypnotherapist Bruce Goldberg believes that the first man moved into a parallel universe, and some people do that and actually meet copies of themselves.  He thinks you can switch universes to escape past mistakes and make your life better.  How these people return to where they originally were, or if they do, the show doesn't say.

Are (the infamous) crystal skulls gateways to another world?  One believer thinks so, and has a lot of pseudoscience reasons for it.  Jane Walsh of the Smithsonian believes that the skulls are merely cleverly marketed fakes.  Claims they are ancient are hokum, as scanning with an electron microscope shows modern tooling.  She believes, with evidence, that the skulls not much older than whenever they were "discovered."  Josh Shapiro believes the skulls are gifts from parallel world intelligences.  He believes the quartz crystal vibrates across all dimensions, allowing communication and the learning of ancient knowledge.  Dr. Paul Stevenson thinks portals to other worlds are possible, but he doesn't say he believes crystal skulls can access them -- he's far more interested in real science.

Again, another good show, with both stories and science.  Though it's pretty sensational, you can learn a thing or two every episode.