Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Footprints yeti again.

A team of Japanese researchers claim to have found Yeti footprints in Nepal.

"The footprints were about 20 centimetres (eight inches) long and looked like a human's," Yoshiteru Takahashi, the leader of the Yeti Project Nepal, told AFP in Kathmandu on Monday.

I've just measured mine. They are 9.5 inches and I don't think I have particularly big feet. Those footprints sound like they were made by someone smaller than me. The photo of the footprint looks very human indeed.

There might well be yetis out there. There might well be Bigfoot out there too - although the last one (the body in the freezer) was another hoax. The 'yeti hair' found recently turned out to be goat hair. I'd put no credence at all in a footprint that looks exactly like a human footprint, and a small one at that. Barefoot in the snow isn't pleasant, but anyone could bear it long enough to make a few footprints.

But Takahashi said the footprints were proof enough.

No. They are not. No footprint is proof of anything. The footprint is not the foot - even if it were unusual, even if it had three long toes and claws on the ends, it's not possible to prove it wasn't made by a polystyrene cutout of the base of a 'foot'. I'm not saying they faked this print. I'm saying they can't prove they didn't.

None of the footprints, the crop circles, the dents left allegedly by alien ships' landing pads, none of the impressions left by something that might or might not have been there, none of that is proof of anything. If you are sure they weren't faked then you can count them as evidence, but not proof. That evidence applies only to your own investigation. It will not convince someone else so it isn't proof.

I sound pedantic, I know, but some words have very precise meanings when used in a scientific context. Proof is one of them It's a very strong word to bandy around because if you prove something, then you can demonstrate it to others in such a way that they find it difficult to refute what you say. No dent in the ground is ever going to be proof.

Evidence is less strong. Evidence is what leads to research. It's what makes a researcher begin and continue his research. Evidence is not, and never will be, the end point of research. It's accumulated information applicable to only one researcher or research team (although often, researchers share evidence, they do so on the understanding that it is not proof). Evidence is open to question, proof should withstand questioning.

So these footprints are not proof. They are not even convincing evidence, in my view, but that's a matter for the researchers involved.

All study of anything regarded as paranormal, including cryptozoology, attracts a lot of flak from the scientific community. In the spirit of independent, dispassionate research into all aspects of the world, they'd shut us all down completely if they could. Displaying a footprint that looks very human indeed and calling it proof of a yeti is just handing those guys the ammunition.

Photographs of the prints have been posted on the expedition's website,

Unfotunately I don't read Japanese at all so haven't been able to navigate that site. The article quoted at the start is on Yahoo news, and might not be around long. If I find a more permanent link I'll update this.

I'll have a look around when my teeth stop grinding.

Monday, October 20, 2008

One for the UFO followers.

The paranormal has been quiet lately, nothing much being reported, even though there seems to be a lot of activity around. People are all worried to death about losing their homes (mine is safe) and their savings (mine are dispersed so I won't lose everything) and about all the debts they have (I have none - but it's time to fill out the tax form so that won't last). They don't seem to be doing much more than worrying and blaming each other, as far as I can see.

Anyway, in among all the bad news, it seems the Ministry of Defence have released a lot of UFO files. I know a few who visit here are interested in UFO's and they probably already know all about this, but in case anyone's missed it, there's a report here.

Interesting stuff. I don't study UFO's myself but I might have a look at those files anyway, since nothing else is being reported to interest me at the moment.

1984 as a manual for government.

Most of the time, a mobile phone (cellphone) is just a nuisance. Especially if someone else knows your number. Sometimes it's vital, such as when you're working somewhere remote at night and if you fell down a hole, nobody would find you for months. Hasn't happened, but it might.

So, as much as I dislike mobile phones, I carry one. It's not a fancy one. I don't want a camera in my phone because phone cameras are, let's face it, rubbish. I don't want a MP3 player in there. I carry one so I can phone or text when it's vital I do so. Nothing more. I'm sure the Apple iPhone is a wonderful thing but I don't want one.

I have a friend who has this phone--he says it's a phone--which looks for all the world like a miniature computer. It works like one too. It browses the Internet in full colour and he can even type on it. The one thing he can't do is answer it when it rings. By the time he's scrolled through the options and put it in 'phone' mode, his caller has given up. He had to buy another, simple phone for calls and now he carries both.

So I have a cheap one. It makes phone calls. It can do texts. It can do other things but that's because those other things are now standard. It does something called 'bluetooth' which doesn't look like something I want a phone to do so I turned it off. It has a camera, which I used once and was disgusted at the result. It's on a pay-as-you-go tarriff, I bought it with cash and my name is not associated with it at all.

That is changing.

Our Government decided that every phone call must be logged, along with every Email and every web page we visit. They claim 'terrorism' as the reason, but the terrorists have been silent for years. The real reason is control.

Someone must have realised that these cheap phones, bought with cash and with no contract attached, cannot be associated with any individual. Their huge database of logged calls will be even more useless if they can't pin a call to an individual. So we will have to register, or the phone will die.

This is supposed to deter criminals. I don't see how it will do that since the criminal only has to steal a phone and their activities will be blamed on the poor sap who is registered to that phone. The only reason to do this is population control. Keeping people scared of government is the Stalin way of doing things. Now it's happening here.

I used to laugh at management. I used to joke that they used Scott Adams' 'Dilbert' books as manuals.

Now it seems our government is using George Orwell's '1984' as their manual.

That's not nearly as funny. It's not funny at all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Only in America.

An American senator has decided to sue God for making terrorist threats against Omaha. I have two Bibles here, the King James version and the American Standard version (for some reason, they gave us that one in school in the UK, years ago. I doubt it would be allowed now - they'd have to give out the Bhagavad-Gita and the Q'ran and all the others too). Anyway, I've checked in them both, and even had a skim through my New Testament in Welsh, which I can't actually read but keep for historical value, and I can find no mention of Omaha at all.

The judge threw the case out, on the grounds that they don't know where God lives and so can't send out a summons. The senator responded that since the court has tacitly admitted the existence of God, they must also admit he knows everything so he knows about the summons already. Since the common perception of God is that he is everywhere, there's no need to wonder about where he lives either. He's already in the courtroom and always has been.

I'm not sure what point this senator is making. Something to do with accessibility to the law for lunatics, perhaps?

If there is no God, there is no case.

If there is a God, then deliberately irritating him seems like a bad idea. Besides, if there is a God then the law cannot apply. If there is a God, then God made Man, and Man made laws. It's like saying that the heirarchy your pet lizards live by applies equally to you, their owner.

I did find the whole thing amusing. Perhaps it's in one of the lost books of the Bible?

And God spake, and did say 'Adam, thou shalt father my people,and they shall spill forth across the face of the earth. Except Omaha, which is a terrible place. I shall smite all those who abide there.'

And Adam did say 'Yo, whatever, Dad. See you in Omaha. Not!' And he did weave and bob and make gangsta gestures.

And God was displeased, and spake thus: 'Disrespect me not, thou callow youth. Thou art but the dust on my beard. Verily, I will smite Omaha, especially those who name themselves Senator, for they are litiginous filth.'

And so on. I expect the stake will be set up on the village green for me tomorrow night, but well, it is comical, isn't it?

I wish British politicians had a sense of humour. Then again, I just wish they had sense.

Those ice floes await.

Society in the UK has degraded to the point where old people can no longer trust their relatives.

Someone else put it much more eloquently than I could, so I'll just give a link.

Prepare to be disgusted.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Expert Speaks.

Many have said that, when it comes to anything that can be called 'paranormal', there are no experts.

It's true. Those of us who devote considerable time and effort to paranormal matters do end up knowing more about them than those who don't study them at all, but that's true of anything. None of us can claim to be 'an expert' because we can't prove any of it to anyone else yet.

If you're an architect, and all the buildings you design stay up, then you're an expert. If you drive a racing car and never crash, whether you win or not you're an expert driver. Things like that are quantifiable - an architect whose buildings are hideous and unsafe is not an expert, one whose buildings are attractive and secure is an expert. The paranormal is not quantifiable in this way because I can't present a ghost on demand, a UFO researcher can't show any piece of a spaceship or an alien, Bigfoot hunters have never caught one, and so on. We can claim to be 'researchers' but we can't claim to be 'expert' because there is no solid evidence as yet so there is nothing to base any claim to expertise on.

When anyone comes up with 'an expert says' as 'proof' that their statements are true, I loose a little more enamel from my teeth when they grind together.

So, let's take a look at the most recent case of this, in which an 'expert' claims that UFO's have been visiting Earth since 1947. Let's not even mention Alexander the Great's claimed sighting, nor any of the others that might or might not have been alien ships in the historical record. Let's hear this expert speak. He's talking about Roswell, the famed 'Area 51'.

The area is surrounded by charred trees and bushes and a mysterious blue substance that dribbles down rocks.

We have stuff like that here. We call it 'water'. Seriously though, if there is a 'mysterious blue stuff' then it should be simple enough to sample and test it. Charred trees and bushes - in a desert - don't sound too surprising either. Dry trees and bushes catch fire easily. We even have occasional forest fires in the UK, where there are no deserts, few forests, and it rains almost every day. So, aside from the mysterious blue substance which, it seems, evades attempts to sample it, there's nothing paranormal so far.

US physician Dr Ronald Rau said in the 1940s high levels of radiation pointed to a ship landing there in the 1940s.

Two things here. First, in the 1940's there were quite a few nuclear bomb tests in the American desert. Nobody knew quite how deadly the radiation was so I'm betting there were no serious attempts to track where the fallout landed. When Chernobyl blew up, in Russia, there were radiation effects here in the UK. So those bomb tests probably spread fallout over quite a lot of desert.

Second, how does Dr. Rau know the propulsion mechanism of unknown alien spacecraft? Even if their engines are nuclear, if they leak radioactive material to the point where it can be detected at landing sites, then their occupants would all be dead on arrival. Would an alien race capable of travelling between worlds really build such shoddy machines?

Saying that high levels of radiation indicate a landing site for an alien ship is not just jumping to conclusions, it's Olympic standard pole-vaulting to them. Science is not advanced by guessing.

Mr Mantle said: "A good friend of mine Ed Gerham first found the site and I flew over as soon as I could. It was a real find and as soon as I arrived there I knew what a special and peculiar place it was. There is nothing around it for around 70 miles, it is literally in the middle of nowhere."

The only thing special about this place, it seems to me, is that nobody wants to go within 70 miles of it. That doesn't lead me to conclude that an alien landed there. It leads me to conclude that this is an especially horrible place to be. Since these aliens must have come a very long way, choosing a landing site that's 70 miles from anything interesting doesn't sound like good planning. Did they really travel all those light years to land somewhere so dreadful that none of the locals want to live there?

I can't see why this expert is so convinced that he's found anything interesting at all. What he appears to have found is a place nobody else wants to visit, so why would an alien find such a place irresistible? And why does it prove that aliens only arrived in 1947?

"Us Brits really have beaten the Americans at their own game and it is really great that we have done that. It really is revolutionary for the UFO world."

Really great? Why? Are you researching or competing? Before you claim glory, it might be an idea to wait until you've discussed your findings with other researchers, and not just UFO researchers. If you have some blue stuff, get a chemist and a geologist to look at it. It might just turn out to be something natural. Have a biologist take a look too, in case it's some kind of lichen.

The 'blue stuff' might turn out to be the UFO equivalent of 'ectoplasm'. Ectoplasm never existed. It was made up by fakes in the 1800's, and was usually muslin, treated to make it glow in the dark. For a long, long time, and still to this day, that faked paranormal phenomenon has dogged those who try to study real paranormal phenomena. It was eventually debunked, proved to be nothing but fakery, and it had fooled some pretty eminent scientists. It absolutely fooled the public.

Ectoplasm is one of the sceptic's main weapons now. This 'blue stuff' could turn out be another such weapon, handed on a plate to those who want to deride an entire subject. The sensible thing to do would be to get it tested every way possible, get it analysed, and get experts (who really can claim the title) in chemistry, geology, biology and any other relevant subject to attest that it has no natural explanation. Then, it's paranormal. If it turns out to be normal after all, then this guy has just made a rod for his own back.

Mr Mantle is set to reveal his full findings at the UFO Data Annual Conference later this month in Leeds.

Unfortunately I won't be able to go. I expect Fortean Times will cover the event so I'll just have to wait for that.

I don't claim the title 'expert' because that particular pedestal is very fragile indeed. It's based on personal experience and theory only. Paranormal research doesn't have collections of samples and artefacts to study. The things I study can fade into the air before my eyes, the UFO's these guys study can fly away and leave no trace (I refuse to believe they have leaky engines). Unless someone else sees them for themselves, there is no way to convince anyone else of their existence. There are no specimens in jars.

Until there is some absolutely incontrovertible evidence, claiming the title 'expert' is just asking to be shot down in flames.

I'll stick with 'researcher'.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

One for the writers.

Whether you write fiction, or you're a journalist (much the same in the UK these days) or just an ordinary blog-babbler like me, this article might be of interest.

Some points:

- I haven't read the story in question and I'm not going to. It sounds like tacky porno to me. Not interested.

- It wasn't on a blog. It was on a porno story site which, I assume (hope!) is members only with safeguards concerning the age of members. Not a public-view blog that anyone could happen across.

- The guy is not a blogger. He's a writer. Possibly a severely twisted writer, but a writer nonetheless.

- It is illegal (in the UK) to write stories including real, living people without their express consent. He hasn't been arrested for that. The band he wrote about have not complained. I'm guessing they knew nothing of this until the story broke.

- He was arrested because some self-appointed watchdog group were scanning the site, looking for something to complain about. I'm afraid we have far too many of these professionally offended types here now.

So he posted a (presumably very unpleasant) story to a (presumably members-only) website, one of the professionally-offended found it because they were looking for it (therefore they must have joined the site), and now he's prosecuted.

What he did was illegal. He wrote about the torture and killing of people who are currently alive, who are in the public eye, and there are individuals out there who are deranged enough to try to act out that fantasy. They might have tried anyway, but his story gave them a specific target and therefore put specific people at risk. He should be prosecuted for that, not for the content of the story.

Although, if the moderators of the site were any use, they should have spotted the legal implications of the story and pulled it at once, then sent him a note to the effect that if he rewrites with fictional characters, he can put it back.

What makes me uneasy is the way in which it happened. His story was not on public view. Someone had to get into a site to see it. A site that only a certain kind of person would be interested in joining. That 'someone' was not just a member, shocked at the story, but was a person who had joined the site with the specific intention of looking for something to complain about.

I'm not interested in porno sites. I'd never have joined this one so I'd never have seen the story. Neither would anyone else who doesn't share that particular interest.

I'm not much interested in Western gunslinger stories, although I enjoy films of that type. So I wouldn't join a line-dancing group or a country and western club or a website set up to cater for those who are interested in the Wild West types of thing.

That does not mean I think such things should be banned. I don't want to see them. All I have to do is not go to those websites, those clubs, those places which are not interesting to me. I would never dream of infiltrating a line dancing group with the intention of seeking out some health and safety risk that would get them shut down.

Okay, nobody could possibly get offended by line dancing. It's completely inoffensive. Just dull.

That, however, is what these self-appointed moral guardians are doing. They are joining clubs they don't like for the specific purpose of looking for things to report to the police.

The police do this sort of thing for legitimate reasons. They watch sites known to be used by terrorists and paedophiles and often catch dangerous people as a result. It is, however, a matter for the police. Not for Web-based vigilante groups with their own ideas of what should be illegal.

It's an underhand form of censorship by self-appointed censors that could have serious repercussions. If they win this case then nothing they disagree with will be safe, whether fiction or reality.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Weasel Stomping Day

Okay. There's a sense of humour, there's a twisted sense of humour, and then there's just plain sick.

I think I just crossed the line because I laughed till I cried at this one. If there's a Hell, this video booked my room.

Yours too.

(I get a 'no longer available' on the link, but it is. It's here).