Stunning temples secretly carved out below ground

From the Daily Mail: Eighth wonder of the world? The stunning temples secretly carved out below ground by ‘paranormal’ eccentric.

But it is deep underground, buried into the ancient rock, that the region’s greatest wonders are concealed.

Here, 100ft down and hidden from public view, lies an astonishing secret – one that has drawn comparisons with the fabled city of Atlantis and has been dubbed ‘the Eighth Wonder of the World’ by the Italian government.

For weaving their way underneath the hillside are nine ornate temples, on five levels, whose scale and opulence take the breath away.

Constructed like a three-dimensional book, narrating the history of humanity, they are linked by hundreds of metres of richly decorated tunnels and occupy almost 300,000 cubic feet – Big Ben is 15,000 cubic feet.

Few have been granted permission to see these marvels.

Indeed, the Italian government was not even aware of their existence until a few years ago.

But the ‘Temples of Damanhur’ are not the great legacy of some long-lost civilisation, they are the work of a 57-year-old former insurance broker from northern Italy who, inspired by a childhood vision, began digging into the rock. [continue, see photos]

Carvings riddle stumps villagers

From the BBC: Carvings riddle stumps villagers.

Puzzled residents across Yorkshire are turning detective after mysterious stone heads were left outside their properties in the dead of night.

The sculptures feature the same carved symbol and come with a riddle attached.

Despite CCTV film showing a man leaving three heads outside a post office, their origin remains unknown.

So far, 12 have appeared in Goathland and Kilburn, North Yorkshire; four in Arthington, West Yorkshire and three in Braithwell in South Yorkshire.

Each of the heads, which are up to a foot tall, looks different but all feature the same carving – which appears to spell out the word "paradox" – and a note bearing the riddle: "Twinkle twinkle like a star does love blaze less from afar?" [continue, see photo]

Out-of-body experience recreated

From the Beeb: Out-of-body experience recreated.

Experts have found a way to trigger an out-of-body experience in volunteers.

The experiments, described in the Science journal, offer a scientific explanation for a phenomenon experienced by one in 10 people.

Two teams used virtual reality goggles to con the brain into thinking the body was located elsewhere.

The visual illusion plus the feel of their real bodies being touched made volunteers sense that they had moved outside of their physical bodies.

The researchers say their findings could have practical applications, such as helping take video games to the next level of virtuality so the players feel as if they are actually inside the game.

Clinically, surgeons might also be able to perform operations on patients thousands of miles away by controlling a robotic virtual self. [continue]

Potential robber disarmed by taste of a fine bordeaux

From the Guardian: Potential robber disarmed by taste of a fine bordeaux.

It’s a good thing it wasn’t cheap plonk. The last guests at the barbecue in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood of Washington were savouring the remains of a very fine bottle of Chateau Malescot St Exupery when a robber appeared in their midst and held a gun to the head of a teenage girl. (…)

In the following minutes the terrified party guests tried to calm the robber.

After what seemed an eternity another guest offered the robber a sip of the bordeaux they were drinking. " He tasted the wine, and said: ‘Damn, that’s really good wine.’ And it really was," Mr Rabdau said. The guests offered him a glass, and then the entire bottle.

The would-be robber helped himself to a piece of camembert.

He put the gun away, and told the guests: [continue]

Another lawn-chair flight

From an Associated Press article in the Statesman Journal: Oregon man takes lawn chair up to 13,000 feet, travels 193 miles.

Last weekend, Bend gas station owner Kent Couch settled down in his lawn chair with some drinks and snacks – and a parachute.

Attached to the lawn chair were 105 balloons of various colors, each 4 feet around. Bundled together, the balloons rise three stories high.

Couch carried a global positioning system device, a two-way radio, a digital camcorder and a cell phone. He also had instruments to measure his altitude and speed and about four plastic bags holding five gallons of water each to act as a ballast – he could turn a spigot, release water and rise.

Destination: Idaho.

Nearly nine hours later, Couch was short of Idaho. But he was 193 miles from home, in a farmer’s field near Union, having crossed much of Oregon at 11,000 feet and higher.

Couch, 47, is the latest American to emulate Larry Walters – who in 1982 rose three miles above Los Angeles in a lawn chair lifted by balloons. [continue]

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Poppy quarter led to U.S. spy warnings

The more I think of this, the more I giggle. From the Globe and Mail: Mystery revealed: Poppy quarter led to U.S. spy warnings.

WASHINGTON — An odd-looking Canadian coin with a bright red flower was the culprit behind the U.S. Defence Department’s false espionage warning earlier this year, The Associated Press has learned.

The odd-looking — but harmless — "poppy coin" was so unfamiliar to suspicious U.S. Army contractors travelling in Canada that they filed confidential espionage accounts about them. The worried contractors described the coins as "anomalous" and "filled with something man-made that looked like nano-technology," according to once-classified U.S. government reports and e-mails obtained by the AP. [continue, see photo of coin]

Next time we should help these guys think we’ve hidden trackers in their underwear.

Slime mould

From E-Flora BC we have this fascinating article on slime mould.

In an environment that is varying hues of brown and green, hot pink or coral red is hard to miss, so even the most preoccupied of hikers will stop agog having come across a slime mold, one of nature’s most mysterious creations.

The typical first reaction is to mutter, "What is this stuff?" The typical second reaction is to poke it with a stick.

Slime moulds are mysterious. They have been considered animals, protozoans, fungi or space aliens. Were they larger, they would come to life in cheesy 1950’s sci-fi flicks.

They are usually classified within a group called the Myxomycetes. (Note that reading this column will greatly increase Scrabble scores.)

Slime moulds have several life stages. Perhaps the most interesting is the plasmodium, which is basically a single enormous cell with hundreds of nuclei.

Experiments have shown it can find its way through mazes to find food. More amazing, if chopped into pieces that are then returned to a previous maze, the plasmodial bits will reassemble and start to move, avoiding dead ends and heading directly back to the food again. Intelligent slime? [continue]

In other news, New Scientist reports of a Robot moved by a slime mould’s fears.

A bright yellow slime mould that can grow to several metres in diameter has been put in charge of a scrabbling, six-legged robot.

The Physarum polycephalum slime, which naturally shies away from light, controls the robot’s movement so that it too keeps out of light and seeks out dark places in which to hide itself. [continue]

Pretty weird.

South Sea tribe’s favourite god? Prince Philip

As if the Cargo Cult stuff isn’t strange enough, now this! From The Telegraph: South Sea tribe prepares birthday feast for their favourite god, Prince Philip.

At the base of a banyan tree, an elderly village chief held his most prized possession between bony fingers. "Philip sent this to us," he said. "Now we have three of them."

A signed portrait of Prince Philip is an incongruous sight in a South Pacific jungle, but for the people of this remote village, in the island state of Vanuatu, the picture is an integral part of their lives.

As unlikely as it sounds, the people of Yaohnanen and surrounding villages worship 85-year-old Prince Philip as a god.

They believe him to be the son of an ancient spirit who inhabits a nearby mountain, on the island of Tanna. [continue]

Cargo cult lives on in South Pacific

Look what I found at the BBC tonight: Cargo cult lives on in South Pacific.

At the base of a sacred volcano in an isolated corner of the South Pacific young men play the “Star Spangled Banner” on bamboo flutes.

Others go bare-chested with the letters “USA” painted in bright red letters on their bodies.

Nearby, a giant Stars and Stripes flutters in the breeze from the main flagpole.

This is the heart of John Frum country on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu.

Villagers at Sulphur Bay worship a mystical figure who they believe will one day bring them wealth and happiness.

"John is our god," declares village chief Isaac Wan, who beats his fists into the ground to emphasise his words.

"One day he will come back," he says.

Believers are convinced that John Frum was an American. [continue]

Got milk? Got beer!

From Reuters: Got milk? Got beer!

Great news for beer and milk lovers: A liquor shop owner in Japan’s largest dairy farming region has stopped crying about local spilled milk and started making beer from it instead.

"We came up with the idea after hearing about surplus milk," said Chitoshi Nakahara, head of the Nakahara liquor shop on the northernmost island of Hokkaido.

Milk consumption has been declining steadily in Japan, and Hokkaido disposed of nearly 900 tonnes of milk last March due to over-production, according to the Japan Dairy Association.

Nakahara’s new brew, "Bilk" — a combination of "milk" and "beer" — is about 30 percent milk. It also contains hops, and the production process does not differ much from that of regular beer, he said. [continue]