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Rupert Sheldrake speaks on the TED censorship controversy

Last night, acclaimed author and biologist (not to mention public enemy to skeptics and atheists) Rupert Sheldrake gave a lecture in Maryhill, Glasgow.

At the talk, Sheldrake spoke about his recent experience of being censored by the TED organisation. If you are not aware of the story, this past January in London Sheldrake was invited to give a TEDx talk on his book The Science Delusion—a book that calls into question some of the fundamental beliefs of science—which was filmed and uploaded to the TED website.

Sheldrake’s video was subsequently removed from the site as it was deemed to be “unscientific,” and his own reputation was called into question (along with fellow speaker Graham Hancock, the video of whose talk on consciousness was also removed). Understandably, this action upset quite a lot of people, both members of the public and professionals in various fields of science alike. A group of scientists and philosophers have publicly addressed the issue, and the response from TED’s Chris Anderson, at the Huffington Post.

In this audio clip, which was recorded by Innes Smith (of the Scottish Society for Psychical Research) Sheldrake talks openly about the controversy, the people he thinks were behind the initial censorship, and, having spoken to Anderson directly,  believes he was pressured into the removing the video and now regrets it:

With thanks to Innes Smith. The Scottish Society for Psychical Research can be found here. Sheldrake’s talk can be found here.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Ricky Gervais 2: Religion 0

Ricky Gervais tweets:

Dear Religion,

This week I safely dropped a man from space while you shot a child in the head for wanting to go to school.

Yours, Science.

Love him or loathe him, sometimes he is just right.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Ricky Gervais: ‘Oh no, the atheists are fighting again’
Via Ricky Gervais

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The Life Cycle of the Pin Mould’: Time-lapse film of fungi from 1943

The order Mucorales consists of 13 families, 56 genera, and 300 species. Mucoralean fungi, or pin mold, is typically fast-growing, and generally found on food, with the most ubiquitous example being bread mold (Rhizopus stolonifer), or the equally common genus mucor, found in rotten vegetables or soil. In The Life Cycle of the Pin Mould we can see the development of fungi through the use of time-lapse photography, watching spores grow on an apple, cheese and porridge.

Made in 1943, The Life Cycle of the Pin Mould was originally intended for educational purposes, and is now one of 125 films currently being re-released by the British Council on Vimeo. Already available are films on London during wartime, hospitals, growing vegetables, the life cycle of a rabbit, the gardens of England and how to make a bicycle, amongst many others. Check here for details.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Excellent drama on Stephen Hawking, starring Benedict Cumberbatch


Before he struck mass market appeal as Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch proved his exceptional talents as Stephen Hawking in this classy BBC film from 2004. Written by Peter Moffatt, and directed by Philip Martin, Hawking tells the story of the scientist’s early years at university, examining his relationships, his work and the onset of the motor neurone disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Cumberbatch is wonderfully supported by John Sessions, Lisa Dillon and Peter Firth as a grumpy Sir Fred Hoyle, the renowned scientist and author of the classic sci-fi work The Black Cloud.

More Hawking, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Interactive Scale of the Universe
05:05 pm



Size does matter, as this rather lovely Interactive Scale of the Universe shows.

See it here.

With thanks to Steve Duffy
Bonus Big Stuff animation of planetary scale, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Do Automata Dream of Clockwork Sheep?
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This collection of short films comes from The House of Automata, a specialist company that restores, builds and maintains historic and antique automata, and make new ones to commission.

Two highlights from this incredible collection are the eerie but quite magical automated harpist by Vichy, and life-like “Nancy - the automaton”.

More videos from The House of Automata can be seen here.


Nancy - the automaton
More amazing automata after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Back to the future: Douglas Adams’s ‘Hyperland’

In 1990, Douglas Adams wrote and presented a “fantasy documentary” called Hyperland for the BBC. In it Adams dreamt of a future where he would be able “to play a more active role in the information he chooses to digest.” Adams throws away his TV and is met by:

[a] software agent, Tom (played by Tom Baker), [who] guides Douglas around a multimedia information landscape, examining (then) cuttting-edge research by the SF Multimedia Lab and NASA Ames research center, and encountering hypermedia visionaries such as Vannevar Bush and Ted Nelson. Looking back now, it’s interesting to see how much he got right and how much he didn’t: these days, no one’s heard of the SF Multimedia Lab, and his super-high-tech portrayal of VR in 2005 could be outdone by a modern PC with a 3D card. However, these are just minor niggles when you consider how much more popular the technologies in question have become than anyone could have predicted - for while Douglas was creating Hyperland, a student at CERN in Switzerland was working on a little hypertext project he called the World Wide Web…

Hyperland is an excellent film - prescient, fascinating and greatly entertaining.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Scientists Create Invisibility Cloak

Since Perseus escaped the gorgons with his helm of invisibility, the idea of a cap or cloak of invisibility has been a fixture of myth and fairy tale. A helmet of invisibility appears in Norse mythology, and the first mention of an invisibility cloak occurs in Welsh folklore, with the story of Caswallawn (the historical Cassivellaunus), who used one to murder Caradog ap Bran and his fellow chieftains. From then via H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man through Jack the Giant Killer, via science-fiction to Harry Potter, invisibility has been the stuff of fantasy.

Now scientists at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland maybe about to change all that, as they have created a material which could be used to create an invisibility cloak. The material, called Metaflex, may provide a way to manipulate light to render objects invisible.

Metamaterials have already been developed, which bend and channel light to render objects invisible at longer wavelengths, but visible light poses a greater challenge because its short wavelength means the metamaterial atoms have to be very small. So far such small light-bending atoms have only been produced on flat, hard surfaces unsuitable for use in clothing.

In 2006, a group of US/UK scientists announced they had devised a way of cloaking that made solid objects disappear from sight.   At the time, Sir John Pendry, the theoretical physicist at Imperial College London, who developed the idea, said cloaking devices to hide vehicles from radar were only a matter of years away, but as Pendry explained, “Our device is more an invisibility shed than an invisibility cloak.”

Today newspapers report scientists at St Andrews believe they may have overcome this problem, as:

They have produced flexible metamaterial “membranes” using a new technique that frees the meta-atoms from the hard surface they are constructed on. Metaflex can operate at wavelengths of around 620 nanometres, within the visible light region.

Stacking the membranes together could produce a flexible “smart fabric” that may provide the basis of an invisibility cloak, the scientists believe. Other applications could include “superlenses” that are far more efficient than conventional lenses.

Describing their work in the New Journal of Physics, the researchers write: “Arguably, one of the most exciting applications of Metaflex is to fabricate three-dimensional flexible MMs (metamaterials) in the optical range, which can be achieved by stacking several Metaflex membranes on top of one another…

“These results confirm that it is possible to realise MMs on flexible substrates and operating in the visible regime, which we believe are ideal building blocks for future generations of three-dimensional flexible MMs at optical wavelengths.”

Lead scientist Dr Andrea Di Falco said: “Metamaterials give us the ultimate handle on manipulating the behaviour of light.”

The full report from the New Journal of Physics can be read here.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment