3/11/18  #947
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Are you afraid of ghosts and monsters? How about aliens flying down in their space-craft to kidnap you from your bedroom at night?  Or that the Men-In-Black are waiting for you just around the corner?  Do you worry that the government is listening in on your private conversations?  Or worse yet, do you worry that your community will be abandoned to the wolves and looters if a natural disaster strikes?

Well never fear - Conspiracy Journal is Here!  Yes that's right. Conspiracy Journal, your number one source of conspiracies, UFOs, the paranormal and more, is here once again to protect you from THEM, by keeping you informed on all the news and information that you won't  hear on your local 6 o'clock news.


This week, Conspiracy Journal takes a look at such insulin-robbing tales as:

-
 Why Doesn’t the Pentagon Care About UFO Encounters? -  
-  
Earth's Magnetic Field Radically Weakening Under Africa -
Scientist Says Fossilized Trace Fossils Found On Mars -
AND: The Enigma of Edinburgh’s Miniature Coffins

All these exciting stories and MORE in this week's issue of
CONSPIRACY JOURNAL!

~ And Now, On With The Show! ~

Weird Winged Wonders: The Twilight World Of Cryptid Creatures
 
THEY ARE BELIEVED BY MANY TO BE THE AGENTS OF THE “DARK GODS!” – THEIR MASSIVE WINGS, WHEN SPREAD FANLIKE, ARE KNOWN TO CAST A PARALYZING SHADOW OVER THE LAND!
 
THEY EXIST ALONGSIDE US IN THE “REAL WORLD,” YET WE KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING ABOUT THEM!
 
THEY APPEAR TO INHABIT PHYSICAL BODIES, BUT THEY COULD BE ARRIVING FROM OTHER DIMENSIONS OR THE MULTI UNIVERSE THROUGH “WINDOW” AREAS OR PORTALS!
 
They are the winged wonders from the Twilight World of Cryptid creatures.
 
*Living Pterosaurs have been seen from Guantanamo AF Base in Cuba to the jungles of Papa New Guinea where the locals call them the “Ropa.”
 
*They are the Flying Felines of the Egyptian dynasties to the Greek Heroes living in underground caverns on Mount Olympus.
 
*Here is the Mothman Creature, initially seen around the hamlet of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and associated with the collapse there of the Silver Bridge – but now recently observed by dozens of credible witnesses in downtown Chicago. Some researchers say Mothman is a harbinger of death.
 
*The Jersey Devil is said to be a demon who flies near the Pine Barrens mainly in the dead of night, while the Thunderbirds are massive creatures with wingspans of more than 30 feet.
 
*Dragons are thought of as beings rooted firmly in mythology and the stuff of movies such as “The Hobbit” and popular cable TV shows such as “Game of Thrones.” Yet sightings of these aerial demons known to spit fire have been seen worldwide and are part of every culture – past and present – from Europe to the United States, and every continent in between.
 
*Even more eerie are the flying and floating “alien” humanoids and witchy “brohaus” observed widely in Mexico and South America.
 
Here are dozens of the creepy-crawly narrations – backed up by the strangest of photographed evidence – of bizarre and unknown flying cryptids who frolic in our sky as if they have not a care in the world. Theories abound as to their origin(s) and nature and their overall grip on our perceived reality, as explored in this dramatic work by such respected researchers as Sean Casteel, Brad Steiger, Paul Eno, Allen Greenfield, Lon Strickler, Tim Swartz, Scott Corrales, Hercules Invictus, Jonathon David Whitcomb, Albert Rosales, Paul Dale Roberts, Steve Ward, Nomar Slevik, with the added editorial flare of “Exploring the Bizarre” co-host Tim Beckley.

Are they demons straight from hell or from an unknown shadow world? Ultra-terrestrials who have strayed into “our territory” from another time and space continuum? Or simply prehistoric monsters thought to have died out millions of years ago, but who still exist living just beyond our reach, ready to be rediscovered by science? Whatever they are, they are truly BIZARRE!
 

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- IGNORE IT AND IT WILL GO AWAY DEPARTMENT -

Military Keeps Encountering UFOs. Why Doesn’t the Pentagon Care?
By Christopher Mellon

In December, the Defense Department declassified two videos documenting encounters between U.S. Navy F-18 fighters and unidentified aircraft. The first video captures multiple pilots observing and discussing a strange, hovering, egg-shaped craft, apparently one of a “fleet” of such objects, according to cockpit audio. The second shows a similar incident involving an F-18 attached to the USS Nimitz carrier battle group in 2004. 

The videos, along with observations by pilots and radar operators, appear to provide evidence of the existence of aircraft far superior to anything possessed by the United States or its allies. Defense Department officials who analyze the relevant intelligence confirm more than a dozen such incidents off the East Coast alone since 2015. In another recent case, the Air Force launched F-15 fighters last October in a failed attempt to intercept an unidentified high-speed aircraft looping over the Pacific Northwest.

A third declassified video, released by To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, a privately owned media and scientific research company to which I’m an adviser, reveals a previously undisclosed Navy encounter that occurred off the East Coast in

Is it possible that America has been technologically leap-frogged by Russia or China? Or, as many people wondered after the videos were first published by the New York Times in December, might they be evidence of some alien civilization?

Unfortunately, we have no idea, because we aren’t even seeking answers.

I served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence for the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and as staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, and I know from numerous discussions with Pentagon officials over the past two years that military departments and agencies treat such incidents as isolated events rather than as part of a pattern requiring serious attention and investigation. A colleague of mine at To the Stars Academy, Luis Elizondo, used to run a Pentagon intelligence program that examined evidence of “anomalous” aircraft, but he resigned last fall to protest government inattention to the growing body of empirical data.

Meanwhile, reports from different services and agencies remain largely ignored and unevaluated inside their respective bureaucratic stovepipes. There is no Pentagon process for synthesizing all the observations the military is making. The current approach is equivalent to having the Army conduct a submarine search without the Navy. It is also reminiscent of the counterterrorism efforts of the CIA and the FBI before Sept. 11, 2001, when each had information on the hijackers that they kept to themselves. In this instance, the truth may ultimately prove benign, but why leave it to chance?

(A Pentagon spokesman did not respond to requests from The Washington Post for comment, but in December, the military confirmed the existence of a program to investigate UFOs and said it had stopped funding the research in 2012.)

The military personnel who are encountering these phenomena tell remarkable stories. In one example, over the course of two weeks in November 2004, the USS Princeton, a guided-missile cruiser operating advanced naval radar, repeatedly detected unidentified aircraft operating in and around the Nimitz carrier battle group, which it was guarding off the coast of San Diego. In some cases, according to incident reports and interviews with military personnel, these vehicles descended from altitudes higher than 60,000 feet at supersonic speeds, only to suddenly stop and hover as low as 50 feet above the ocean. The United States possesses nothing capable of such feats.

On at least two occasions, F-18 fighters were guided to intercept these vehicles and were able to verify their location, appearance and performance. Notably, these encounters occurred in broad daylight and were independently monitored by radars aboard multiple ships and aircraft. According to naval aviators I have spoken with at length, the vehicles were roughly 45 feet long and white. Yet these mysterious aircraft easily sped away from and outmaneuvered America’s front-line fighters without a discernible means of propulsion.

From my work with To the Stars Academy, which seeks to raise private funds to investigate incidents like the 2004 Nimitz encounter, I know they continue to occur, because we are being approached by military personnel who are concerned about national security and frustrated by how the Defense Department is handling such reports. I am also familiar with the evidence as a former Pentagon intelligence official and a consultant who began researching the issue after the Nimitz incident was brought to my attention. On several occasions, I have met with senior Pentagon officials, and at least one followed up and obtained briefings confirming incidents such as the Nimitz case. But nobody wants to be “the alien guy” in the national security bureaucracy; nobody wants to be ridiculed or sidelined for drawing attention to the issue. This is true up and down the chain of command, and it is a serious and recurring impediment to progress.

If the origin of these aircraft is a mystery, so is the paralysis of the U.S. government in the face of such evidence. Sixty years ago, when the Soviet Union put the first manmade satellite in orbit, Americans recoiled at the idea of being technologically surpassed by a dangerous rival, and the furor over Sputnik ultimately produced the space race. Americans responded vigorously, and a little more than a decade later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. If these craft mean that Russia, China or some other nation is concealing an astonishing technological breakthrough to quietly extend its lead, surely we should respond as we did then. Perhaps Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s recent chest-thumping claims about propulsion breakthroughs are not pure braggadocio. Or, if these craft really aren’t from Earth, then the need to figure out what they are is even more urgent.

Lately, media coverage of the issue of unidentified aerial vehicles has focused on an expired $22 million congressional earmark for Bigelow Aerospace, a contractor with ties to former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (Nev.). The money mostly funded research and analysis by that contractor, without participation from the Air Force, NORAD or other key military organizations. The real issue, though, is not a long-gone earmark, helpful though it may have been, but numerous recent incidents involving the military and violations of U.S. airspace. It is time to set aside taboos regarding “UFOs” and instead listen to our pilots and radar operators.

Within a roughly $50 billion annual intelligence budget, money is not the issue. Existing funds would easily cover what’s needed to look into the incidents. What we lack above all is recognition that this issue warrants a serious collection and analysis effort. To make headway, the task needs to be assigned to an official with the clout to compel collaboration among disparate and often quarrelsome national security bureaucracies. A truly serious effort would involve, among other things, analysts able to review infrared satellite data, NORAD radar databases, and signals and human intelligence reporting. Congress should require an all-source study by the secretary of defense while promoting research into new forms of propulsion that might explain how these vehicles achieve such extraordinary power and maneuverability.

As with Sputnik, the national security implications of these incidents are concerning — but the scientific opportunities are thrilling. Who knows what perils we may avoid or opportunities we might identify if we follow the data? We cannot afford to avert our eyes, given the risk of strategic surprise. The future belongs to not only the physically brave but also the intellectually agile.

Source: The Washington Post
www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/the-military-keeps-encountering-ufos-why-doesnt
-the-pentagon-care/2018/03/09/242c125c-22ee-11e8-94da-ebf9d112159c_story.html
?utm_term=.7465c3989355

- SWAPPING POLES DEPARTMENT -

Earth's Magnetic Field Radically Weakening Under Africa
By Peter Dockrill

Above our heads, something is not right. Earth's magnetic field is in a state of dramatic weakening – and according to mind-boggling new research, this phenomenal disruption is part of a pattern lasting for over 1,000 years.

Earth's magnetic field doesn't just give us our north and south poles; it's also what protects us from solar winds and cosmic radiation – but this invisible force field is rapidly weakening, to the point scientists think it could actually flip, with our magnetic poles reversing.

As crazy as that sounds, this actually does happen over vast stretches of time. The last time it occurred was about 780,000 years ago, although it got close again around 40,000 years back.

When it takes place, it's not quick, with the polarity reversal slowly occurring over thousands of years.

Nobody knows for sure if another such flip is imminent, and one of the reasons for that is a lack of hard data.

The region that concerns scientists the most at the moment is called the South Atlantic Anomaly – a huge expanse of the field stretching from Chile to Zimbabwe. The field is so weak within the anomaly that it's hazardous for Earth's satellites to enter it, because the additional radiation it's letting through could disrupt their electronics.

"We've known for quite some time that the magnetic field has been changing, but we didn't really know if this was unusual for this region on a longer timescale, or whether it was normal," says physicist Vincent Hare from the University of Rochester in New York.

One of the reasons scientists don't know much about the magnetic history of this region of Earth is it lacks what's called archeomagnetic data – physical evidence of magnetism in Earth's past, preserved in archaeological relics from bygone ages.

One such bygone age belonged to a group of ancient Africans, who lived in the Limpopo River Valley – which borders Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Botswana: regions that fall within the South Atlantic Anomaly of today.

Approximately 1,000 years ago, these Bantu peoples observed an elaborate, superstitious ritual in times of environmental hardship.

During times of drought, they would burn down their clay huts and grain bins, in a sacred cleansing rite to make the rains come again – never knowing they were performing a kind of preparatory scientific fieldwork for researchers centuries later.

"When you burn clay at very high temperatures, you actually stabilise the magnetic minerals, and when they cool from these very high temperatures, they lock in a record of the earth's magnetic field," one of the team, geophysicist John Tarduno explains.

As such, an analysis of the ancient artefacts that survived these burnings reveals much more than just the cultural practices of the ancestors of today's southern Africans.

"We were looking for recurrent behaviour of anomalies because we think that's what is happening today and causing the South Atlantic Anomaly," Tarduno says.

"We found evidence that these anomalies have happened in the past, and this helps us contextualise the current changes in the magnetic field."

Like a "compass frozen in time immediately after [the] burning", the artefacts revealed that the weakening in the South Atlantic Anomaly isn't a standalone phenomenon of history.

Similar fluctuations occurred in the years 400-450 CE, 700-750 CE, and 1225-1550 CE – and the fact that there's a pattern tells us that the position of the South Atlantic Anomaly isn't a geographic fluke.

"We're getting stronger evidence that there's something unusual about the core-mantel boundary under Africa that could be having an important impact on the global magnetic field," Tarduno says.

The current weakening in Earth's magnetic field – which has been taking place for the last 160 years or so – is thought to be caused by a vast reservoir of dense rock called the African Large Low Shear Velocity Province, which sits about 2,900 kilometres (1,800 miles) below the African continent.

"It is a profound feature that must be tens of millions of years old," the researchers explained in The Conversation last year.

"While thousands of kilometres across, its boundaries are sharp."

This dense region, existing in between the hot liquid iron of Earth's outer core and the stiffer, cooler mantle, is suggested to somehow be disturbing the iron that helps generate Earth's magnetic field.

There's a lot more research to do before we know more about what's going on here.

As the researchers explain, the conventional idea of pole reversals is that they can start anywhere in the core – but the latest findings suggest what happens in the magnetic field above us is tied to phenomena at special places in the core-mantle boundary.

If they're right, a big piece of the field weakening puzzle just fell in our lap – thanks to a clay-burning ritual a millennia ago. What this all means for the future, though, no-one is certain.

"We now know this unusual behaviour has occurred at least a couple of times before the past 160 years, and is part of a bigger long-term pattern," Hare says.

"However, it's simply too early to say for certain whether this behaviour will lead to a full pole reversal."

The findings are reported in Geophysical Review Letters.

Source: Science Alert
https://www.sciencealert.com/something-mysterious-under-southern-africa-dramatically
-weakening-earth-s-magnetic-field-south-atlantic-anomaly

- RED EYES AT NIGHT DEPARTMENT -

Red Eyes
By Linda Godfrey

I always like reports of cryptid events dating from early to the mid-1900s, before strange creatures became standardized in movies and magazine articles–even if the tales must necessarily be told by surviving family members or friends. Here is one such encounter report that concerns a certain phenomenon; occasional glimpses of glowing, incandescent red eyes.  It’s a cryptid feature to  which I’ve been giving some heavy thought. Before I get into that, here is the encounter story reader Matt Knight sent me about red eyes and bullets, told in his own words with only a few minor edits:

    "This encounter happened to my father’s uncle, Burel Knight. Burel Knight told my father, Ron Knight, his story back in the late 1970’s and my father told me back in the 1980’s.

    "It was late December 1939 just outside the town of West Jefferson, North Carolina. Burel Knight got on his horse and started  heading to his brother’s house that late afternoon to deliver some oranges for his nieces for Christmas. Back then when money was scarce, sometimes food was presented as gifts instead of toys.

    "Burel and his brother lived out in the countryside and the long dirt road that was between them, he had traveled many times. During his trip, just around a bend in the road, his horse bucked and Burel caught movement from the corner of his eye.About 50 feet away he saw a large black bear that was heading up a hill. Not unusual for North Carolina.

    "He pulled on the reins and stopped to calm his horse down. When he did this, the bear stopped and turned to look at Burel and his horse. When the bear turned his head, Burel said the eyes of the black bear looked like burning red hot coals. This scared him so bad that he unloaded his .38 caliber Smith & Wesson, all six shots.Burel said he could see the bullets go through the bear and out the other side,  burning red. After he unloaded his gun on this creature, it just turned its head back where it was originally going, hopped a fence and went over the hill,

     "Burel was stunned, he took a minute to digest just what happened, put his gun back in his holster and proceeded to his brother’s house.

    "It was still day light so no shine from a light source.

    "Burel told my Father it looked like a bear and I believe if it didn’t turn it’s head to show its eyes, Burel wouldn’t have thought anything of it, just another bear. I believe the eyes scared him so bad that his first reaction was to shoot at it. That was kind of “the way” back at that time.

    "I wish I was older and around when Burel Knight was alive. I would have asked him if he felt the bear was evil or if he felt anything from it. Given what happened, it could have been an evil entity giving the shape as a bear or an omen. The area they both lived is Cherokee Indian country, maybe that has something to do with it. This is not the first time Burel has had a paranormal experience. Maybe these “things” are just drawn to certain people…

    "I know this story sounds crazy but Burel had the reputation as being a very honest man. He was a WW1 vet and not a lot bothered him but (the encounter) disturbed him enough to share this story. Burel passed away in the late 1970’s."

Concerning the glowing red bullets that apparently went right through the “bear” and then seemingly super-heated or otherwise gained the appearance of glowing metal. I’ve had reports, as have many other investigators, of people who shot at various cryptids and who were sure the bullets found their mark but had little effect on the animals. This is the first time I know of, however, that the shooter was able to actually see the bullets continue on after penetrating the cryptid’s body. And where the bullets themselves changed appearance. Was it because they had passed through some sort of high-energy field disguised as a bear? It’s intriguing, to say the least. And then there are those eyes.

Backyard Red Eyes

I’m always interested in the topic of eyeshine, as its color may be helpful in determining which species of critter is eyeing you up as its body remains cloaked in darkness. As most readers probably know, animals blessed with eye shine to help them see at night have a membrane called the Tapetum lucidum that reflects available light. Canine eyeshine is usually in the yellow-yellow green range. Deer eyes will display as bright white tinged with blue or yellow. Red is a bit more unusual but bears may show as a dark orange-red, as may owls and alligators. (All of these colors may vary in any creature).

Bigfoot is also reported by many witnesses as having red eyeshine,  often described as laser-like or resembling the lit end of a cigarette–even though humans, chimps, gorilla and most other primates lack the Tapetum lucidum to create any eye shine, let alone glowing, incandescent red lights. And yet, there they are.

So about six weeks ago, in January 2018, I carried out my nightly ritual that I have performed every night since we moved into our present home about a year and a half ago. Our backyard backs up to a marshy, wooded green belt and in front of that I have some perennial stalks and tall grasses I leave in place over winter. As usual, I walked to the back door, turned off the indoor room lights and flicked on the yard lights to see if anything shined back at me.

Nothing ever has for a year and a half, but that night there was a small, bright, incandescent red light shining at me from a group of dry, five foot tall plant stems. The red light was at about three feet above the ground, with no possible source I could determine. I did not have a camera in hand and didn’t want to move for fear of startling it. I searched for any possible other red light that could have been creating a reflection and found nothing, nor was there anything at that spot that would have reflected anything.

As I watched it and searched for reflections, it was as if its head  turned and suddenly there were two red eyes staring at me. They were at the eye level of a large quadruped canine, too low to be a deer and too high to be a fox, raccoon or even a coyote. It stared back for at least ten seconds, then both eyes turned away and vanished. I could see a darker form pacing in those weeds between a few openings, and then some adjacent, ten-foot tall grasses shook by themselves. The next day I saw my neighbor’s large dog run in front of that garden and its eyes were right at that same level I had seen the red lights.

I have not seen them since. I went out a day or so later and discovered something had crushed the center, only, of the 10-foot marsh grasses to create a resting place or hunting cover. I’ve found deer beddings in other places around the yard, but they usually just mash everything down, and deer eyes don’t usually glow red like focused lasers. Every night I still look at those bushes, and try to remember to have my camera in my hand, set to video.

I do not call this incident a sighting, because I didn’t really see anything I can describe except for a pair of red lights that functioned in a way that looked like unknown animal eyes. One friend asked me if I thought the lights were from rifle scopes. I sure hope not!

Burel Knight, however, saw a bear that didn’t behave like a bear, that looked at him with red, incandescent eyes and then allowed bullets to flow through him like watermelon seeds through a butterfly net. We may not know what Burel saw, but that was a sighting! Thanks to Matt Knight for sharing here!

Source: Linda Godfrey's Blog
https://lindagodfrey.com/2018/03/04/red-eyes/

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- SECRETS OF MARS PAST DEPARTMENT -

Scientist Says Fossilized Trace Fossils Found On Mars
By Allan Adamson

NASA's Mars rover – dubbed Curiosity – has snapped what may be trace fossils, according to researcher Barry DiGregorio.

DiGregorio, a research fellow at the University of Buckingham, said: "They look remarkably similar to Ordovician trace fossils I have studied and photographed here on Earth.

"If not trace fossils, what other geological explanations will NASA come up with?"

DiGregorio, studies gases, rocks, and other materials that serve as indicators of life. The scientist has professional and personal interest in the search for life on planet Mars.

He earlier published a study that revealed rocks on the Red Planet have rock varnish coatings that cover them. He also wrote two books about Mars: Mars The Living Planet (1997) and The Microbes of Mars (2011). The two books concluded that the 1976 Viking Labeled Release experiments found the first evidence of microbial activity on Martian soil.

Now, the scientist claims that images of crystal-shaped features on Mars that NASA shared earlier this year provide evidence of fossilized alien footprints.

Recently, NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover, which explores the Gale Crater on Mars as part of the U.S. space agency's Mars Science Laboratory mission, found star-shaped and swallowtail-shaped tiny, dark bumps on a Martian ridge.

Scientists said that these features are so tiny they are about the size of a sesame seed. They also look similar to gypsum crystals on Earth.

"These shapes are characteristic of gypsum crystals," said Sanjeev Gupta, Curiosity science team member at Imperial College, London who has studied these crystals in rocks found in Scotland. "These can form when salts become concentrated in water, such as in an evaporating lake."

Indirect Evidence Of Life In The Past

After analyzing these images captured by the Curiosity Rover, DiGregorio thinks that he has discovered trace fossils on Mars that are similar to those found on Earth.

Trace fossils are footprints, tracks, and feces, which were left behind by once-living creatures. They provide indirect evidence of life in the past because these are not the preserved remains of the body of the actual animal.

DiGregorio said that these trace fossils, which date back about 450 million years, offer proof of life on Mars.

Working With Other Experts

DiGregorio said that NASA does not currently see these features as trace fossils. Nonetheless, he said that he will continue to study trace fossils and even plans to present his hypothesis to a conference that will be held in Australia this June. He said that he is currently working with two other experts.

Source: Tech Times
http://www.techtimes.com/articles/222402/20180305/scientist-may-have-found
-evidence-of-fossilized-alien-tracks-on-planet-mars.htm

- THEY KNOW SOMETHING WE DON'T DEPARTMENT -

Amazon Echo Devices "Laughing" For No Reason

Owners of Amazon Echo devices with the voice-enabled assistant had reported hearing them laugh at unexpected moments, with some calling the sound "really creepy".

Sometimes, people reported, they’d be just sitting there in silence before Alexa began to laugh. Others said they might have just asked Alexa to turn off the lights–to be met with an eerie cackle. But in each case, the Alexa seemed unsettlingly amused at the nature of humanity itself.

@CaptHandlebar posted on Twitter: "So Alexa decided to laugh randomly while I was in the kitchen. Freaked @SnootyJuicer and I out. I thought a kid was laughing behind me."

In a statement, Amazon said: "In rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase 'Alexa, laugh.'

"We are changing that phrase to be 'Alexa, can you laugh?' which is less likely to have false positives, and we are disabling the short utterance 'Alexa, laugh.'

"We are also changing Alexa's response from simply laughter to 'Sure, I can laugh' followed by laughter," it added.

The company says the fix has already been rolled out.

@kylefitzy8 summed up many users' response, posting: "WHY DID MY ALEXA JUST LAUGH OUT OF THE BLUE?!?!?!?

Like Apple's Siri, Alexa is a responsive digital assistant built into several Amazon devices. It is activated by saying the word "Alexa" or "Amazon", then a command like "play music".

But some users reported that the laughter occurred without Alexa being prompted to wake.

@DavidSven said: "Having an office conversation about pretty confidential stuff and Alexa just laughed. Anybody else ever have that? It didn't chime as if we had accidentally triggered her to wake. She simply just laughed. It was really creepy."

Mark Wilson, writing for Fast Co.Design, suggests that Alexa should have never been designed to laugh on command in the first place.

"Silicon Valley has been obsessed with making its chatbots feel like our human friends rather than brands run by corporate AIs. The problem is that, while chatbots understand our spoken words with incredible accuracy, they are eons away from understanding the real subtleties of human interaction. So companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Google have all invested incredible resources in building puns and jokes into Cortana, Alexa, Siri, and Google Home. The goal? To make this invasive, always-listening technology feel relatable. Like a friend."

The Amazon Echo was trained to respond to “Alexa, can you laugh,” because it was a means to amuse a human who was bored and out of ideas as to what to do with their talking speaker. Never mind that you’d never, ever, ever ask a human to laugh–you’d try to make them laugh, instead.

But the Alexas of the world could never really know when to laugh, because they lack the social instinct of humans. Instead, Alexa associates with people by blindly keyword-searching a database for the right answer or punchline. Alexa only ever knows to laugh because she hears “laugh.”

Alexa’s recent case of the “Ha Ha Has” underlines the uncanny valley between Amazon’s Alexa and any real human. It’s why Star Trek poked at the inabilities of the logic-based aliens known as Spock and Data to understand humor. Humor is an insanely complicated topic considered intrinsic to human evolution. It’s why knowing if to laugh and when to laugh, even with a close friend, can still be challenging at times for any of us!

In 10 or 20 years, maybe chatbots will master these social graces. But until they do, Amazon could have avoided its weird laughing problem entirely simply by positioning Alexa’s own personality as a computer you can talk to, rather than a cyborg bestie. Simply put, Alexa should be an “it” rather than a “she” because Alexa is nowhere near human, and bound to let us down again (or scare us) when we expect it to act like us. If Alexa weren’t ever trained to laugh, it would have never laughed like some soulless creep in the first place.

Source: Sky News
https://news.sky.com/story/alexas-really-creepy-laugh-that-freaked-out
-users-fixed-says-amazon-11280826

- FUNERAL OF THE DOLLS DEPARTMENT -

The Enigma of Edinburgh’s Miniature Coffins
By Allison C. Meier

It was a group of boys out hunting for rabbits who found the coffins one summer’s day in 1836. They were roaming a rocky peak known as Arthur’s Seat that overlooks Edinburgh, Scotland, when their attention was caught by a small cave, its entrance carefully covered with pieces of slate. After pulling back the slabs of stone, the boys found 17 coffins, each about 3.7 inches long, arranged in three tiers—two rows of eight, and a solitary coffin at the start of a third row. Inside each was a small wooden doll, its face carved with wide-open eyes, dressed in plain cotton clothes that covered the thin body from bare head to flat feet.

The question of who carved the figures and coffins—and why—has been a mystery ever since. Were the objects tools of witchcraft, part of a pagan ritual, or a memorial to one of the era’s most notorious killing sprees?

A STRANGE DISCOVERY

The Scotsman was the first to report on the discovery, on July 16, 1836, noting that the "Lilliputian coffins" were all "decently 'laid out' with mimic representation of all the funeral trappings which usually form the last habiliments of the dead." Stranger still, it seemed "evident that the depositions must have been made singly, and at considerable intervals—facts indicated by the rotten and decayed state of the first tier of coffins and their wooden mummies [… while] the coffin last placed, and its shrouded tenant, are as clean and fresh as if only a few days had elapsed since their entombment."

From the beginning, theories swirled around the discovery of the so-called "fairy coffins," with some declaring them ritualistic offerings, and others describing them as creepy child’s playthings. The Scotsman wrote, "Our own opinion would be, had we not some years ago abjured witchcraft and demonology, that there are still some of the weird sisters hovering about Mushat's Cairn or the Windy Gowl, who retain their ancient power to work the spells of death by entombing the likenesses of those they wish to destroy.” Indeed, the moody Arthur’s Seat has long drawn tales of witches casting spells on its volcanic hill; Edinburgh’s dark history includes an estimated 300 people sentenced for witchcraft, with more burned there in the 16th century than anywhere else in Scotland.

Nor are witches the only aspects of folklore to be mentioned in connection with the coffins. Later in 1836, the Edinburgh Evening Post posited that the coffins might be related to an "ancient custom which prevailed in Saxony, of burying in effigy departed friends who had died in a distant land." The Caledonian Mercury chimed in, saying that they had "also heard of another superstition which exists among some sailors in this country, that they enjoined their wives on parting to give them 'Christian burial' in an effigy if they happened [to be lost at sea]."

Yet as George Dalgleish, keeper of Scottish history and archaeology at National Museums Scotland, says in a 2015 video, there’s little evidence of such ceremonial burial practices in Scotland. And if a doll were created for witchcraft purposes, he notes, it’s likely it would have been mutilated or destroyed rather than carefully bundled in stitched cotton clothing and hidden within a cave.

In the 1990s, a new theory emerged—linked to one of the darkest chapters in Edinburgh’s history.

In the early 19th century, Edinburgh was home to a thriving underground trade in dead bodies. The buyers were medical students and their teachers, who required the corpses for training and study but who were legally limited to a small number of executed convicts for their supply.

William Burke and William Hare saw an opportunity. Their gruesome business plan was sparked when, in 1827, one of the lodgers at Hare’s boarding house died suddenly while still owing £4 in rent, and they sold his remains to anatomist Dr. Robert Knox for 7 pounds 10 shillings (about $820 today). Rather than waiting for more spontaneous deaths, the pair turned to murder, targeting travelers and downtrodden characters whose disappearance was not likely to be noticed. After making a small fortune from the sale of their victims to Dr. Knox, they were caught when a lodger discovered a body in a pile of straw. Hare turned king's evidence on Burke, agreeing to testify against his fellow murderer for immunity. Burke was hanged, dissected as punishment, and his skin bound into a book.

But what do these infamous murders have to do with the enigmatic coffins? As author Mike Dash notes for Smithsonian.com, the link was first proposed by two visiting fellows at the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh—Professor Samuel Menefee and Dr. Allen Simpson, a curator at National Museums Scotland. The pair examined the construction of the coffins and concluded that they had all been deposited in the 1830s. They also noted that the 17 coffins found in the cave match the number of Burke and Hare victims (including the first, who died a natural death).

As to why someone would create such a strange tribute to the murders, the answer may be tied to the belief in the need for a complete body on Resurrection Day. This is part of the reason dissection was often used as a punishment for criminals. Menefee and Simpson theorized that perhaps the coffins were crafted to return corporeality, or at least some symbolic dignity, to the dissected victims. As they write, "it would not be unreasonable for some person or person, in the absence of the 17 dissected bodies, to wish to propitiate these dead, the majority of whom were murdered in atrocious circumstances, by a form of burial to set their spirits at rest."

Of course, correlation does not imply causation, and there are many holes to be poked in the Burke and Hare theory. For one thing, all the wooden bodies were dressed in men’s clothing, but the pair’s victims were mostly women. Furthermore, the eyes of the figures are open, not closed like a corpse. Some have even speculated that Burke himself made the coffins, as their woodworking and tin decorations suggest the hand of a shoemaker—Burke’s profession when he was not suffocating Hare’s guests.

Eight of the coffins have been on display almost continuously at Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland since 1901. (As to what became of the nine other coffins, the Scotsman wrote in their initial report that "a number were destroyed by the boys pelting them at each other as unmeaning and contemptible trifles.")

David S. Forsyth, principal curator of Renaissance and early modern history at National Museums Scotland, says the coffins still draw comments from museum goers. "It’s the mystery behind them that makes them so compellingly intriguing, no one can solely own their story," he tells Mental Floss. "They can be linked to the more intangible aspects of our culture and history, or to real episodes such as Burke and Hare."

In December 2014, there was a curious twist in the case. A box was delivered to the museum with no return address. Inside was a detailed replica of the coffins found in 1836, down to the metal details on the lid and the roughly carved face of its figure. A note included with the object cryptically began "XVIII?," suggesting this was an 18th addition to the group, and quoted Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story "The Body Snatcher" (1884), itself inspired by Burke and Hare.

The handwritten text declared the miniature coffin a "gift" to the National Museum of Scotland, "for caring for our nation's treasures." Especially the eight that cannot be explained.

Source: Mental Floss
http://mentalfloss.com/article/524144/enigma-edinburghs-miniature-coffins

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