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This week Conspiracy Journal brings you such cochlea-crushing stories as:
- Maybe ET's Calling, But We Have the Wrong Phone -
- Fishermen Claim Lake Monster Responsible for Strange Deaths -
- The Mystery of Dyatlov Pass -
- US Army Heat-Ray Gun in Afghanistan -
AND: Superstitions Bring Real Luck, Study Reveals
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- SORRY, WRONG NUMBER DEPARTMENT -
Maybe ET's Calling, But We Have the Wrong Phone
To date, SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) has focused on ETs who 'phone home' using the radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and even a very small region within that.
But what if ET's phone doesn't use radio waves? Possibly the mindset that says an alien civilizations would use the electromagnetic spectrum for communication points to a deep flaw in our attempts to contact, or hear from, an ETI?
When Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison suggested the possibility of interstellar communication via electromagnetic waves in a 1959 paper in Nature, only radio was feasible, as we then had the ability to detect only artificial radio signals, if produced by ETIs with 1959 human technology. Since then we've developed the ability to detect a laser signal, brighter than the Sun (if only for a nanosecond) if it came from a source several light-years away … but lasers weren't invented then.
So what might ET be using instead of radio?
Back in 1959 if you'd said that the Earth would, within a mere half century, started to go 'radio quiet', not many people would have taken you seriously. Yet that's exactly what's happened! Free to air (FTA) broadcasting, especially for TV, is being replaced by TV delivered over coaxial cable, optical fibers, or even the phone company's twisted copper pairs. And where it's continuing, as in satellite TV broadcasting, its power has dropped (today's digital formats are more efficient than the old analog ones). Military radars, the brightest source of artificial radio waves by far, no longer broadcast in a single channel, but hop, rapidly, from frequency to frequency, to avoid jamming.
"Our improving technology is causing the Earth to become less visible," says astronomer Frank Drake, SETI’s paterfamilias. "If we are the model for the universe, that is bad news."
In the past half century SETI researchers have expanded the scope of their searches. Not only are far more radio channels being examined, but artificial signals in the optical are being sought too. How to decide which of the billions or trillions of possible radio channels to search? For example, the Allen Telescope Array will, when built, monitor a billion channels between 0.5 and 11 GHz – but that's a trivial fraction of the entire radio waveband. Some ideas, however, seem cute; for example, the SETI Institute's Gerald Harp has proposed searching at 4.462336275 gigahertz, in what's called the PiHI range, because it's the hydrogen atom's emission frequency times pi. More seriously, Harvard University's Paul Horowitz says optical SETI programs should really look at infrared frequencies "Stars are darker in the infrared and lasers are brighter and the smog goes away," Horowitz says. Infrared allows astronomers to see into the galactic center, where dust scatters visible light.
There's something rather ironic about SETI today; on the one hand, we recognize that our initial hopes were far too high, being based on overly simplistic assumptions; on the other, the tremendous progress in finding exoplanets has given us greater and greater certainty that Earth-like planets not only exist, but are, very likely, common. "All of astronomy has come to embrace this idea that there must be life out there," says Harp.
So how to address the fact that we simply do not know what sorts of technologies a civilization like ours may have, a century or a millennium from now? After all, as Drake says "We are very conservative at SETI, we assume in our searches the existence of only things we ourselves have and know how to make." Other scientists, and SETI enthusiasts, have proposed hunting in different electromagnetic realms, like gamma rays. Spacecraft that rely on nuclear fusion or antimatter-matter annihilation as a power source might produce such rays. But standard SETI strategy does not embrace such "speculative" scenarios.
SETI researchers, some say, should also contemplate what technologies supersmart aliens might possess and seek out the corresponding signals. In a 2008 arXiv paper, "Galactic Neutrino Communication", John Learned of the University of Hawaii at Manoa suggested that ET could be sending beams of neutrinos Earth's way. Energy requirements for such a beam make that scenario seem implausible, but not necessarily impossible. Detectors currently under construction, such as IceCube at the South Pole, could spot unexpected stray neutrinos. If a few with the same energy came from the same direction, astronomers would know something screwy was up.
In another paper, "The Cepheid Galactic Internet", Learned suggests that ET could send a signal using a neutrino beam to deliver energy to a Cepheid variable. A Cepheid "blows up and comes crashing back down," he says. "And the energy builds up and it blows again, like a geyser." ET could leverage a Cepheid’s inherent instability by delivering a boost of energy that messes with the star's schedule. Looking through existing data could reveal whether such meddling has occurred. "All that is needed is people analyzing for other reasons to do their analyses in another way," Learned says.
Drake and most others agree that SETI's approach should be multidirectional – let a thousand alien hunters bloom. The only ideas that don't do anybody any good, Horowitz says, are the ones for which there is no conceivable way to look. "I'd like to keep an open mind," he says, "but not so much that my brain falls out."
Physicist Paul Davies of Arizona State University in Tempe, however, suggests that researchers don't need to know what to look for. Find the fishy thing first, and then argue about its origin, he says.
As Davies has argued, maybe discovering ET does indeed depend on a thought revolution. Fifty years of signal-less searching suggests that the problem could lie not with the aliens among the stars, but with ourselves.
Source: Universe Today
- UFO REPORTS AROUND THE WORLD DEPARTMENT -
New Photos Allegedly Show Hangzhou UFO
Around 9 PM on July 7, 2010, Xiaoshan Airport in Hangzhou in Eastern China was reportedly closed for four hours after a large, brightly lighted aerial object of unknown origin was seen and photographed. The People's Daily Online in its July 9, 2010, English edition, quoted an unnamed airport spokesman, “Some flights were rerouted to airports in the cities of Ningbo and Wuxi.
According to UFO investigator Linda Moulton Howe at her website www.earthfiles.com, Neil Gould with Exopolitics Hong Kong sent her an email with four new photographs, allegedly of the same aerial phenomenon over Hangzhou that closed the Xiaoshan Airport.
Gould writes: "I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the UFO depicted which are claimed as true. China is full of lies!!! But I can vouch for the similarity of the description."
- ALSO FROM CHINA DEPARTMENT -
'Rain of Luminous Beams' Appears in the Sky of Xiamen
Dozens of vertical luminous beams appeared in the night sky of Xiamen about 11:30pm last Friday, reports Southeast Express.
The singular sight, which lasted for nearly one hour, was first discovered by Mr. Wang's friend, a resident in Huangcuo, near Xiamen’s famous Huandao Road.
According to Mr. Wang, his friend first saw several luminous beams in the sky and then told them to go outside and take a look. They were stunned by the sight before their eyes.
“At first, there were only five of them, hanging very low in the sky, but after a short while, the number increased to about 50, and they were higher and higher, just like a stave hanging in the sky,” Mr. Wang said.
The Xiamen meteorological observatory said no such astronomical phenomenon was monitored by the observatory. “But it was not a meteor shower,” a staff member said.
Source: What's on Xiamen
- DON'T GO IN THE WATER DEPARTMENT -
Fishermen Claim Lake Monster Responsible for Strange Deaths
Russian fishermen are demanding a probe into a creature resembling the Loch Ness monster in a remote Siberian lake.
Locals say that 'Nesski' has devoured anglers who have been pulled into the murky waters of Lake Chany from their boats.
Those claiming to have glimpsed the creature say it resembles the classic long-necked image of Scotland's fabled monster. It has also been called 'snake-like', while other accounts suggest a large fin and huge tail.
The latest mysterious death of a 59-year-old man last week has fuelled demands for a proper probe into what lurks beneath the surface of Chany, one of Russia's largest freshwater lakes.
'I was with my friend... some 300 yards from the shore,' said 60-year-old Vladimir Golishev. ''He hooked something huge on his bait, and he stood up in the boat to reel it in.
'But it pulled with such force that he overturned the boat. I was in shock - I had never seen anything like it in my life.
'I pulled off my clothes and swam for the shore, not daring hope I would make it.'
He said his friend was pulled under the surface, a description in common with earlier incidents.
'He didn't make it - and they have found no remains.'
Three years ago 32-year-old Mikhail Doronin - a special services soldier - was lost.
'The lake was calm, but suddenly the boat was rocking, and it capsized,' said his 80-year-old grandmother Nina, who has lived beside the lake all her life.
'Something of an awesome scale lives in the lake, but I have never seen it,' said her husband, Vladimir, 81.
Official figures say 19 people have drowned in the lake in the past three years and in most cases their remains were never found. Locals say the true figures are higher.
Some bodies that have been washed up had been eaten by a creature with large teeth, they claim.
'It is time to find out the truth,' said Golishev.
Unlike deep Loch Ness, Lake Chany is no than 23 feet in depth. Frozen in winter, it is warm and popular with swimmers in summer. It is known to contain large carp.
The lake is 57 miles in length by 55 miles in width. A relic of the Ice Age, accounts of monsters in its waters were first made public in Soviet times.
In a related story from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, there’s been a buzz in the neighborhood around Lakeside Park about the goings-on in the pond. It involves something that has come to be called Lakeside Nessie.
Yep, Lakeside has its own sea monster.
Well, sea monster might be a bit of an exaggeration, but whatever it is, it’s big and it has features that in some respects aren’t exactly fish-like.
One of the people who has seen the creature is Hannah Ramsey. She was walking her dog a couple of weeks ago by the pond, near a small bridge next to a building, when she saw a large fish-like creature near the shore.
“It was really weird,” Ramsey said. “It had a snake’s tail. It was really long and really big in the middle and it had fish scales.”
Ramsey said she was only about 6 feet away from it.
“It stayed there for a couple of minutes, but it wouldn’t turn so I could see its face. It was acting like it was strangling a fish or something.”
Ramsey’s mother, Laura, said she believes it was a giant carp. People feed bread to the ducks at the pond and some of that food sinks, attracting the fish. In the past, she’s seen two gigantic carp near the shore in the pond.
But her daughter’s description of a snake-like tail makes one wonder: Is it something else?
Then there is the account of Larry Kenner, who is a photographer. Last summer, he was trying out a new camera when he happened to see a weird creature in the water near the pillars that surround the rose garden and snapped a photograph.
That picture shows a long, snake-like creature in the water.
“It looked bigger than a snake. It had a lot of girth,” Kenner said. “But it was long.”
“Some friends say, ‘Oh, that’s a carp,’ ” Kenner said, “but it kind of slithered through the water.”
The photo shows an animal that does seem to be slithering and bending its body, sort of like a giant snake.
Kenner posted the photo on his Facebook page, and suddenly friends who had lived in the Lakeside area for years started telling stories of the odd things they’ve seen in the pond.
So far, no one has reported seeing anything dramatic, like a duck disappearing into a hole in the water, a la Jaws.
We talked to park officials about the report, but they had heard nothing about strange sightings in the water. One official, though, jokes that tales like that might be a good way to keep people out of the pond. Swimming is prohibited there.
At the park last week, there was nothing odd-looking going on, just ducks lazily floating around. People who work at the park also reported seeing nothing unusual.
So, for now, we’ll just have to label it a mystery. There’s nothing wrong with mysteries, though. They add a little spice to life.
And if Loch Ness can have its elusive monster and Fulk Lake in Churubusco can have its elusive giant turtle, why can’t the Lakeside pond have its own elusive creature?
Source: Daily Mail (UK)
Source: The Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette
- WEIRD UNSOLVED MYSTERIES DEPARTMENT -
The Mystery of Dyatlov Pass
Nine experienced cross-country skiers hurriedly left their tent on a Urals slope in the middle of the night, casting aside skis, food and their warm coats.
Clad in their sleepwear, the young people dashed headlong down a snowy slope toward a thick forest, where they stood no chance of surviving bitter temperatures of around minus 30 degrees Celsius.
Baffled investigators said the group died as a result of “a compelling unknown force” — and then abruptly closed the case and filed it as top secret.
The deaths, which occurred 49 years ago on Saturday, remain one of the deepest mysteries in the Urals. Records related to the incident were unsealed in the early 1990s, but friends of those who died are still searching for answers.
“If I had a chance to ask God just one question, it would be, ‘What really happened to my friends that night?’” said Yury Yudin, the only member of the skiing expedition who survived.
Yudin and nine other students from the Ural Polytechnic Institute embarked on the skiing expedition to Otorten Mountain in the northern Urals on Jan. 28, 1959. Yudin fell ill near Vizhai, the last settlement before the mountain, and was left behind.
What happened next has been reconstructed from the diaries of the rest of the group and the photographs they took. Copies of the diaries, photos and investigators’ records were reviewed for this article.
The skiers, led by Igor Dyatlov, 23, set up camp for the night of Feb. 2 on the slope of Kholat-Syakhl, a mountain next to Otorten. They pitched their tents at around 5:00 p.m., investigators said, citing photos that they developed from rolls of film found among the abandoned belongings.
Why the nine skiers picked the spot is unclear. The group could have detoured just 1.5 kilometers down the mountain to a forest, where they would have found shelter from the harsh elements.
“Dyatlov probably did not want to lose the distance they had covered, or he decided to practice camping on the mountain slope,” Yudin said by telephone from Solikamsk, a town near Yekaterinburg, where the institute, now named Ural State Technical University, is located.
When the group left the institute for the expedition, Dyatlov promised to send a telegram as soon as they returned to Vizhai from Otorten Mountain, which he said would be by Feb. 12.
But Yudin said Dyatlov told him when they parted ways that the group would probably return a few days later than planned. As such, no one was worried when the group failed to reappear on Feb. 12.
Only on Feb. 20, after relatives raised the alarm, did the institute send out a search-and-rescue team of teachers and students. The police and army dispatched their airplanes and helicopters later.
The volunteer rescuers found the abandoned camp on Feb. 26.
“We discovered that the tent was half torn down and covered with snow. It was empty, and all the group’s belongings and shoes had been left behind,” Mikhail Sharavin, the student who found the tent, said by telephone from Yekaterinburg.
Investigators said the tent had been cut open from inside and counted traces of footprints from eight or nine people in meter-deep snow. The footprints had been left by people who were wearing socks, a single shoe or were barefoot.
Investigators matched the footprints to the members of the group, saying there was no evidence of a struggle or that other people had entered the camp.
The footsteps led down the slope toward the forest but disappeared after 500 meters.
Sharavin found the first two bodies at the edge of the forest, under a towering pine tree. The two — Georgy Krivonischenko, 24, and Yury Doroshenko, 21, were barefoot and dressed in their underclothes.
Charred remains of a fire lay nearby. The branches on the tree were broken up to five meters high, suggesting that a skier had climbed up to look for something, perhaps the camp, Sharavin said. Broken branches also were scattered on the snow.
The next three bodies — Dyatlov, Zina Kolmogorova, 22, and Rustem Slobodin, 23 — were found between the tree and the camp. The way the bodies were lying indicated that the three had been trying to return to the camp.
The authorities immediately opened a criminal investigation, but autopsies failed to find evidence of foul play. Doctors said the five had died of hypothermia. Slobodin’s skull was fractured, but the injury was not considered fatal.
It took two months to locate the remaining skiers. Their bodies were found buried under four meters of snow in a forest ravine, 75 meters away from the pine tree. The four — Nicolas Thibeaux-Brignollel, 24, Ludmila Dubinina, 21, Alexander Zolotaryov, 37, and Alexander Kolevatov, 25 — appeared to have suffered traumatic deaths. Thibeaux-Brignollel’s skull had been crushed, and Dubunina and Zolotarev had numerous broken ribs. Dubinina also had no tongue.
The bodies, however, showed no external wounds.
The four were better dressed than the rest, and those who had died first had apparently relinquished their clothes to the others. Zolotaryov was wearing Dubinina’s faux fur coat and hat, while Dubinina’s foot was wrapped in a piece of Krivonishenko’s wool pants.
Deepening the mystery, a test of the clothes found they contained high levels of radiation.
The investigation, however, was closed after a few months, and investigators said they could not find anyone to accuse of wrongdoing. Case files were sent to a secret archive. Skiers and other adventurers were barred from the area for three years.
“I was 12 at that time, but I do remember the deep resonance that the accident had with the public, despite the authorities’ efforts to keep relatives and investigators silent,” said Yury Kuntsevich, head of the Yekaterinburg-based Dyatlov Foundation, which is trying to unravel the mystery.
Investigators first explored the theory that the local Mansi people had killed the skiers in revenge for trespassing on their land. No evidence, however, was found to back up the theory; Neither Otorten nor Kholat-Syakhl were considered sacred or taboo places by the Mansi, case documents said.
Further debunking the theory, a doctor who examined the bodies in 1959 said he believed that no man could have inflicted the injuries because the force of the blows had been too strong and no soft tissue had been damaged,
“It was equal to the effect of a car crash,” said the doctor, Boris Vozrozhdenny, according to case documents.
In 1990, the chief investigator, Lev Ivanov, said in an interview that he had been ordered by senior regional officials to close the case and classify the findings as secret. He said the officials had been worried by reports from multiple eyewitnesses, including the weather service and the military, that “bright flying spheres” had been spotted in the area in February and March 1959.
“I suspected at the time and am almost sure now that these bright flying spheres had a direct connection to the group’s death,” Ivanov told Leninsky Put, a small Kazakh newspaper. He retired in Kazakhstan and has since died.
The declassified files contain testimony from the leader of a group of adventurers who camped about 50 kilometers south of the skiers on the same night. He said his group saw strange orange spheres floating in the night sky in the direction of Kholat-Syakhl.
Ivanov speculated that one skier might have left the tent during the night, seen a sphere and woken up the others with his cries. Ivanov said the sphere might have exploded as they ran toward the forest, killing the four who had serious injuries and cracking Slobodin’s skull.
Yudin said he also thought an explosion had killed his friends. He said the level of secrecy surrounding the incident suggests that the group might have inadvertently entered a secret military testing ground. He said the radiation on the clothes supported his theory.
Kuntsevich agreed, saying another clue to the deaths was the fact that the faces of the first five bodies had been inexplicably tan. “I attended the funerals of the first five victims and remember that their faces look liked they had a deep brown tan,” he said.
Yudin also said the released documents contained no information about the condition of the skiers’ internal organs. “I know for sure that there were special boxes with their organs sent for examination, “ he said.
No traces of an explosion, however, have been found near Kholat-Syakhl.
While a missile fired from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan could have reached the northern Urals, there are no records of any launches at the time, said Alexander Zeleznyakov, a historian on Soviet missiles and a senior official with the Korolyov Rocket and Space Corporation Energia. The Soviet Union’s other main launch pad, Plesetsk, only opened in late 1959. Zeleznyakov also said the surface-to-air missiles that could have been launched from the pads had not yet been built.
The Defense Ministry and the Yekaterinburg regional prosecutor’s office said they had no immediate information, citing the age of the case.
Kuntsevich said he had led a group to the area last year and found a “cemetery” of scrap metal that suggested the military had conducted experiments there at some time.
“We can’t say what kind of military technology was tested, but the catastrophe of 1959 was man-made,” he said.
Yudin said the military might have found the tent before the volunteer rescuers. He said he had been asked to identify the owner of every object found at the scene and had failed to find a match for a piece of cloth that looked like it had come from a soldier’s coat, a pair of glasses, a pair of skis and a piece of a ski.
Yudin also said he had seen documents that led him to believe that the criminal investigation had been opened on Feb. 6, 14 days before the search team found the tent.
Dyatlov’s friends have looked into whether the deaths might have been caused by an avalanche. Setting up the camp on the slope might have disturbed the snow above, causing it to tumble down a few hours later. This would explain the ripped tent, which the skiers would have had to cut open to exit.
Skeptics of this theory point out that the skiers left the camp by foot and traveled more than a kilometer in minus 30 C.
Thibeaux-Brignollel would have been unconscious due to his shattered skull, said Mikhail Kornev, a doctor with the S.M. Kirov Russian Medical Military Academy. But his friends could have carried him. After all, investigators could not decide whether there were eight or nine pairs of footprints in the snow. Also, Dubinina and Zolotarev could have walked with their broken ribs, Kornev said. “I can grant this possibility since the situation was extreme,” he said.
Six former rescuers and 31 independent experts gathered Friday in Yekaterinburg to look for answers about the incident. They concluded that the military had been carrying out tests in the area and had inadvertantly caused the deaths.
But “we still lack documents and ask the Defense Ministry, the space agency and the FSB to provide us with them to obtain a full picture,” the participants said in a statement.
The conference was organized by Ural State Technical University, the Dyatlov Foundation and several nongovernmental organizations.
What really happened on the night of Feb. 2, 1959, may never be known. But Dyatlov is unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.
The area where the group set up their last camp has been officially named Dyatlov’s Pass.
Source: St. Petersburg Times
US Army Heat-Ray Gun in Afghanistan
A newly-developed heat-ray gun that burns the skin but doesn't cause permanent injury is now with US troops in Afghanistan.
The Active Denial System (ADS) is a non-lethal weapon designed to disperse violent crowds and repel enemies.
It uses a focused invisible beam that causes an "intolerable heating sensation", but only penetrates the skin to the equivalent of three sheets of paper.
The discomfort causes whoever it's pointed at to immediately start moving away. They often scream but the US military says the chance of injury from the system is 0.1%.
It's already been tested more than 11,000 times on around 700 volunteers. Even reporters have faced the heat-ray.
Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a US military spokesperson, says the kit is now in Afghanistan but no decision has yet been made on its use.
There's been much talk about the need to keep civilian casualties in Afghanistan to a minimum. The heat-ray gun could help.
The beam produced by the ADS can travel more than 500m (1,640ft) and is seen as an important new way to limit unnecessary deaths and minimise war zone casualties.
Developers also say it could also be adapted to other operations, like fighting drug smuggling at sea and general peacekeeping operations.
Research is continuing to make the system smaller, lighter and less expensive, says the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program.
The Active Denial System was first introduced in 2007 when during a media demonstration, airmen fired beams from a large dish antenna mounted atop a Humvee at people pretending to be rioters and acting out other scenarios that U.S. troops might encounter in war zones.
The device's two-man crew located their targets through powerful lenses and fired beams from more than 500 yards away. That is nearly 17 times the range of existing non-lethal weapons, such as rubber bullets.
Anyone hit by the beam immediately jumped out of its path because of the sudden blast of heat throughout the body. While the 130-degree heat was not painful, it was intense enough to make the participants think their clothes were about to ignite.
Documents acquired using the Freedom of Information Act claim that most of the radiation (83 percent) is instantly absorbed by the top layer of the skin, heating it rapidly.
The beam produces what experimenters call the "Goodbye effect," or "prompt and highly motivated escape behavior." In human tests, most subjects reached their pain threshold within 3 seconds, and none of the subjects could endure more than 5 seconds.
"It will repel you," one test subject said. "If hit by the beam, you will move out of it -- reflexively and quickly. You for sure will not be eager to experience it again."
But while subjects may feel like they have sustained serious burns, the documents claim effects are not long-lasting. At most, "some volunteers who tolerate the heat may experience prolonged redness or even small blisters," the Air Force experiments concluded.
The reports describe an elaborate series of investigations involving human subjects.
The volunteers were military personnel: active, reserve or retired, who volunteered for the tests. They were unpaid, but the subjects would "benefit from direct knowledge that an effective nonlethal weapon system could soon be in the inventory," said one report. The tests ranged from simple exposure in the laboratory to elaborate war games involving hundreds of participants.
The military simulated crowd control situations, rescuing helicopter crews in a Black Hawk Down setting and urban assaults. More unusual tests involved alcohol, attack dogs and maze-like obstacle courses.
In more than 10,000 exposures, there were six cases of blistering and one instance of second-degree burns in a laboratory accident in 1999, the documents claim.
As well, Air Force Times reported that "an airman received second-degree burns" during a test of the weapon at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.
"He was being treated at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga., and is expected to make a full recovery," Marien Corps spokeswoman Maj. Sarah Fullwood, spokeswoman Fullwood said.
The ADS was developed in complete secrecy for 10 years at a cost of $40 million. Its existence was revealed in 2001 by news reports, but most details of ADS human testing remain classified. There has been no independent checking of the military's claims.
- KNOCK ON WOOD DEPARTMENT -
Superstitions Bring Real Luck, Study Reveals
The next time you cross your fingers or tell someone to break a leg, you may actually be bringing some luck.
Superstitious ways of bringing good luck are found in cultures around the world, and it turns out they may be ubiquitous for a very good reason: To some extent, superstitions work. New research shows that believing in, say, the power of a good luck charm can actually help improve performance in certain situations, even though the charm and event aren't logically linked.
This is what a team of psychologists at the University of Cologne in Germany report in the May issue of the journal Psychological Science. In a series of experiments employing tasks involving memory and motor skills, the scientists studied the effect of behavior and "object superstitions" – which rely on good luck charms – in college students.
Cross your fingers
The first experiment looked at the influence of the concept of good luck in a test of putting a golf ball. Experimenters handed participants a ball, and those who were told the ball was lucky tended to outperform those who weren’t.
In another experiment, participants were given a cube containing tiny balls and a slab with holes. The goal was to get as many balls in the holes as quickly as possible. Again, participants who were told, "I’ll cross my fingers for you," by the experimenter performed better.
The final two experiments involved a lucky charm brought by each participant. In a memory test and an anagram test, the participants who were permitted to keep their lucky charms with them performed better.
To find out if superstitious beliefs were truly giving students an edge, the scientists surveyed them before the final two experiments to gauge their confidence levels. The participants who kept their good luck charms set higher goals for what they wanted to achieve on the tasks, and said they felt more confident in their abilities.
"Engaging in superstitious thoughts and behaviors may be one way to reach one's top level of performance," the researchers write in the journal article.
People often become superstitious when faced with unknown and stressful situations, possibly explaining why athletes and students are often superstitious, the researchers say. Engaging in a superstition could reduce tension related to a high-stakes competition or an exam.
As the study showed, superstitious beliefs may also increase a person's belief in his or her own abilities and talents.
"Superstitious behavior won't help you win the lottery," said Barbara Stoberock, a psychologist and co-author of the study. "But it could help you win a sporting event or pass a test," she told Life's Little Mysteries.
And what may seem like a "lucky break" when the underdog team wins may really be the result of team-wide, superstition-induced confidence.
The researchers plan to next look at the effects of negative superstitions, such as believing that crossing the path of a black cat will bring bad luck.
Source: Lifes Little Mysteries
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