This article via Esquire, which you can read HERE about an AI computer, called ‘Watson’, created specifically to be a contestant on the US show Jeopardy!

To me, whilst this is a very clever step forward in the creation of AI, it is a step forward in perhaps the wrong direction. Although there could be a lot of uses for this type of intuitive AI, I think that what we all yearn for really is something you can have a chat with. But then Hal9000 could talk, and it didn’t exactly make him a nice fellow to be around did it?


“Doppelgänger” has come to refer to a double or look-alike of a person. The word is also used to describe the sensation of having glimpsed oneself in peripheral vision, in a position where there is no chance that it could have been a reflection. They are generally regarded as harbingers of bad luck. In some traditions, a doppelgänger seen by a person’s friends or relatives
portends illness or danger, while seeing one’s own doppelgänger is an omen of death. In Norse mythology, a vardøger is a ghostly double who
precedes a living person and is seen performing their actions in advance.

There are examples of doppelgangers appearing throughout history. Even Abraham Lincoln was known to have encountered visions of himself.


From an excerpt of Carl Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln, at :


A queer dream or illusion had haunted Lincoln at times through the winter. On the evening of his election he had thrown himself on one of the haircloth sofas at home, just after the first telegrams of November 6 had told him he was elected President, and looking into a bureau mirror across the room he saw himself full length, but with two faces.

It bothered him; he got up; the illusion vanished; but when he lay down again there in the glass again were two faces, one paler than the other. He got up again, mixed in the election excitement, forgot about it; but it came back, and haunted him. He told his wife about it; she worried too.

A few days later he tried it once more and the illusion of the two faces again registered to his eyes. But that was the last; the ghost since then wouldn’t come back, he told his wife, who said it was a sign he would be elected to a second term, and the death pallor of one face meant he wouldn’t live through his second term.



Percy Shelley, an English poet, once encountered his own doppelganger whilst in Italy. His double was pointing silently out to sea. Not long afterward Shelley died in a sailing accident in the same sea his double had pointing toward – the Mediterranean.

Another example from history is that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who saw his own double riding toward him dressed in a grey and gold suit. Several years later, Goethe was travelling the same road, but in the opposite direction. It was then that he realised that he was wearing a grey and gold suit, and had no doubt come face to face with his future self all those years before.

Could doppelgangers in fact be visions of our future selves? Could they be echoes bouncing back to us – ripples made in the water of time that have somehow come back our way, allowing us glimpses of ourselves – or our futures – however random they may be.

Sometimes doppelgangers are seen only by the person they appear to be a copy of. Sometimes, they can be seen and, in fact, interacted with by others. Doppelgangers are often referred to as sinister, since they often portend bad luck or even death. But if they are echoes from the future, then perhaps itis mere coincidence that they seem to appear in relation to bad times.

If doppelgangers were actual real people, surely they would be a more ‘obvious’ phenomenon. Either they are truly figments of our imaginations, or as I believe, they are visions of the future.

Perhaps both futures that will happen, and futures that could.


What do you think? Are these mysterious body doubles real? Or could they be a further part of the human psyche that as yet remains a mystery to us?

Of course, as with Fringe they could very well be visitations of our duplicate selves from mirror universes…

Weigh in below.

The Bear That’s As Big As An Elephant

A prehistoric bear weighing in at 3,500 pounds  and standing 11 feet standing up, has been identified by Blaine Schubert and Leopoldo Soibelzon, both paleontologists.

The South American bear roamed its namesake continent about 500,000 to 2 million years ago and would have been the largest and most powerful meat-eater on land at the time.

Go to National Geographic for the full story by clicking HERE


Wired has an excellent article up on its site, concerning the recent discovery that a naturally occurring crystal, called calcite prisms, can be used to make very small objects dissapear – or rather, appear to be invisible.

When I say small, I mean ant size, or as wired puts it, even as small as a grain of sand. So we’re not at the stage where we can make an Aston Martin invisible (sorry James Bond) but surely this is a step in the right direction.

From the BBC’s reporting:

The team used a prototype to demonstrate the idea, hiding centimetre-scale objects illuminated with polarised green or red laser light.

“By using natural crystals for the first time, rather than artificial metamaterials, we have been able to scale up the size of the cloak and can hide larger objects, thousands of times bigger than the wavelength of the light,” said Shuang Zhang, the University of Birmingham physicist who led the research.

“This is a huge step forward as, for the first time, the cloaking area is rendered at a size that is big enough for the observer to ‘see’ the invisible object with the naked eye.”

What sort of uses could this technology have?

Wired reports:

It’s not a Harry Potter cloak,” says Shuang Zhang, a physicist at the University of Birmingham in England and one of the Nature Communications study coauthors. The cloak works only under one light polarization. And while it works at all angles, it’s not three-dimensional. It only cloaks when Zhang aims the light source dead-on at the crystals. But, he says, scaling up to 3-D isn’t too big of a leap from 2-D. Zhang imagines similar technology one day concealing submarines on the sea floor.

Leonhardt says the future of optical legerdemain lies not in hiding things, but in revealing them. He uses the same geometric tools to design better microscopes. “We use similar ideas not to make things disappear but to make them visible,” he says.

Go to Wired directly to read the article, by clicking HERE

and also have a look at the BBC’s article on it by clicking HERE


The term Rigor Mortis defines the state of a body that has died, and the stiffening of the joints, and is Latin for ‘Stiffness of Death’.When a person dies, the joints become stiff and lock into place. Rigor Mortis usually lasts 72 hours.

Rigor mortis can be used in Forensic Pathology to help estimate time of death. The onset of rigor mortis may range from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on factors including temperature (rapid cooling of a body can inhibit rigor mortis, but it occurs upon thawing).
Heat such as that from a fire can speed up the onset of Rigor Mortis.


Maximum stiffness is reached around 12-24 hours post mortem. Facial muscles are affected first, with the rigor then spreading to other parts of the body.

The joints are stiff for 1-3 days, but after this time general tissue decay causes the muscles to relax.

After death, respiration in organisms ceases to occur, depleting the corpse of oxygen used in the making of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is no longer provided to operate the SERCA pumps in the membrane of the sarcoplasmic reticulum, which pump calcium ions into the terminal cisternae.

This causes calcium ions to diffuse from the area of higher concentration (in the terminal cisternae and extracellular fluid) to an area of lower concentration (in the sarcomere), binding with troponin and allowing for crossbridging to occur between myosin and actin proteins.

Unlike normal muscle contractions, the body is unable to complete the cycle and release the coupling between the myosin and actin, creating a perpetual state of muscular contraction.

So that is what Rigor Mortis is, and what it is caused by. It is worth noting that Rigor is very important in the food industry as not only does it have a major part to play in the preperation of fresh meats, it can also make fresh meat, such as steaks, much more tender and succulent after Rigor has passed.

I wonder if Hannibal the Cannibal had Rigor in mind when he prepared his victims…



What is spontaneous human combustion? How does it happen?

Cases of human combustion go back hundreds of years, and there is photographic evidence of many of them – so why does the cause behind it remain a mystery to us?

I myself have been fascinated by human combustion, ever since seeing these pictures as a child:

The victims of spontaneous human combustion seem to burn all the way through in most cases, however legs, feet, hands are almost always left intact and untouched. And what is even more mysterious is that the fire is always contained to the body; it never results in a house fire.

The site has an excellent article on spontaneous human combustion that is well worth reading.

Here is a highlight:

“One of the most popular theories proposes that the fire is sparked when methane (a flammable gas produced when plants decompose) builds up in the intestines and is ignited by enzymes (proteins in the body that act as catalysts to induce and speed up chemical reactions). Yet most victims of spontaneous human combustion suffer greater damage to the outside of their body than to their internal organs, which seems to go against this theory.

Other theories speculate that the fire begins as a result of a buildup of static electricity inside the body or from an external geomagnetic force exerted on the body. A self-proclaimed expert on spontaneous human combustion, Larry Arnold, has suggested that the phenomenon is the work of a new subatomic particle called a pyroton, which he says interacts with cells to create a mini-explosion. But no scientific evidence proves the existence of this particle.”

To read the article, written by Stephanie Watson, go HERE