In the UK, a professor at Southampton has invented a real telepathy machine:
We are about to make history. As long as these electrodes don’t electrocute me first, I am seconds away from becoming the first journalist in the universe to try the professor’s telepathy machine.
He doesn’t call it a telepathy machine, of course. He’s a scientist so it’s called the brain-to-brain communication experiment, or B2B. Still, my brain is about to read his daughter’s brain. Gwyneth and I will communicate solely by brain wave. Which, in my unscientific book, is telepathy.
The “professor” is actually Dr Christopher James, a pioneering biomedical engineer at Southampton University, and his invention makes fact out of science fiction. Decades from now we won’t be phoning home to say the train’s late. We’ll be thinking it. Soldiers will take orders from their commanding officers cerebrally and minds imprisoned in disabled bodies will be free to communicate with others via cyberspace. Centuries from now, one evil dictator will misappropriate the brain-to-brain technology, take over all our minds and destroy us.
Right now we’re at the very beginning of this revolutionary journey. I’m at one end of an anonymous office on the university campus with two electrodes stuck to the back of my head (and one, alarmingly, on the front “for grounding”). Gwyneth is sitting at the other end thinking either “left” or “right”. Two electrodes are connecting her to a computer that can tell, from her brain waves, what she is thinking.
It then passes this information, via the internet, to my computer, which flashes a series of lights at me. I can’t tell the difference — it’s all far too quick — but my brain can. My electrodes detect the same sequence of lefts and rights that Gwyneth is thinking. In short, my brain has read her brain. Eureka.
James is keen to point out his invention’s limitations. If his 11-year-old daughter thought of a cat or Venezuela or how she’d much rather be out tobogganing than sitting here thinking of left and right, I wouldn’t know it. We can only do lefts and rights. Nevertheless, non-verbal communication has arrived.
“These are the very first baby steps towards communication by thought,” James explains. “It is not impossible to imagine a future where this direct brain-to-brain interaction is commonplace. But we have a long way to go in terms of the speed, accuracy and robustness of the technology.”
He likens the thought processes of a brain to a cocktail party. Except that it’s a cocktail party attended by 100 billion guests and they’re all jabbering away noisily at the same time: “What we’re trying to do is eavesdrop on individual conversations at that cocktail party but we’re trying to do it from outside the building. Currently, the eavesdropping is fairly crude.”
The external sensors that James uses to measure the tiny electrical currents generated when we think are haphazard. They pick up interference, they mix up signals and, frequently, James has to glue them back on when they fall off. New ones are being developed but, says James, “the point where we can measure hundreds of thought waves in isolation is still a long way off”.
The alternative is to ditch the sensors and bury electrodes directly in the brain. Invasive brain-computer interfacing is far more controversial but also far more accurate and it has already been tested in America. In 2005 Matt Nagle, a college football star left tetraplegic after a stabbing, became the first person to control an artificial hand through thought. He had a 96-electrode chip implanted on the surface of his brain. A computer was then programmed to recognise Nagle’s thought patterns, enabling him to operate the robot hand.
“I can’t put it into words,” said Nagle during the trial. “It’s just — I use my brain. I just thought it. It will give me a sense of independence.”
James believes the non-invasive route to brain-computer interaction is a more feasible one. He speculates that the holy grail of full thought-controlled navigation — a life-changing concept for the severely physically disabled — could be achieved in decades.
The next watershed is when computers become faster at reacting to our thoughts than our own bodies, when a tiny chip in your glasses can understand millions of brain waves in millionths of seconds. It is still a long way off but is by no means unimaginable.
Full brain-to-brain communication is certainly further off and faces significant hurdles. While progress in reading thoughts is rapid, passing those thoughts to another human being is fraught with both scientific and ethical problems. Since announcing his breakthrough in direct communication, James has received letters imploring him to desist in his mad science. People are gravely concerned that his team’s work will lead to an underclass of zombies controlled by the scientists of tomorrow.
I wouldn’t worry. Quite apart from the sheer complexity of reproducing the exact electrical and magnetic stimuli to precise areas of the brain that trigger thoughts and movements, the amount of electrodes (and accompanied drilling) that would be required is something of a stumbling block.
Back in the office I have swapped places with Gwyneth. I’m thinking left, right, left, left but the computer claimed that I had thought four lefts in a row. If I was in a thought-controlled wheelchair I would have shot down the stairs by now. The computer needs time to learn my brain waves. I need time to learn how to imagine right and left clearly enough for the computer to understand.
Frankly, I’d rather be out tobogganing as well. And even though it is conceivable that James’s invention will one day be viewed with the same breathlessness as Archimedes’s momentous night in his hot tub, right now I can’t help thinking it’s simply good to talk.
Human ancestors that left Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago to see the rest of the world were no landlubbers. Stone hand axes unearthed on the Mediterranean island of Crete indicate that an ancient Homospecies — perhaps Homo erectus — had used rafts or other seagoing vessels to cross from northern Africa to Europe via at least some of the larger islands in between, says archaeologist Thomas Strasser of Providence College in Rhode Island.
Several hundred double-edged cutting implements discovered at nine sites in southwestern Crete date to at least 130,000 years ago and probably much earlier, Strasser reported January 7 at the annual meeting of the American Institute of Archaeology. Many of these finds closely resemble hand axes fashioned in Africa about 800,000 years ago by H. erectus, he says. It was around that time that H. erectus spread from Africa to parts of Asia and Europe.
Until now, the oldest known human settlements on Crete dated to around 9,000 years ago. Traditional theories hold that early farming groups in southern Europe and the Middle East first navigated vessels to Crete and other Mediterranean islands at that time.
“We’re just going to have to accept that, as soon as hominids left Africa, they were long-distance seafarers and rapidly spread all over the place,” Strasser says. The traditional view has been that hominids (specifically, H. erectus) left Africa via land routes that ran from the Middle East to Europe and Asia. Other researchers have controversially suggested that H. erectus navigated rafts across short stretches of sea in Indonesia around 800,000 years ago and that Neandertals crossed the Strait of Gibraltar perhaps 60,000 years ago.
Questions remain about whether African hominids used Crete as a stepping stone to reach Europe or, in a Stone Age Gilligan’s Island scenario, accidentally ended up on Crete from time to time when close-to-shore rafts were blown out to sea, remarks archaeologist Robert Tykot of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Only in the past decade have researchers established that people reached Crete before 6,000 years ago, Tykot says.
Strasser’s team cannot yet say precisely when or for what reason hominids traveled to Crete. Large sets of hand axes found on the island suggest a fairly substantial population size, downplaying the possibility of a Gilligan Island’s scenario, in Strasser’s view.
In excavations conducted near Crete’s southwestern coast during 2008 and 2009, Strasser’s team unearthed hand axes at caves and rock shelters. Most of these sites were situated in an area called Preveli Gorge, where a river has gouged through many layers of rocky sediment.
At Preveli Gorge, Stone Age artifacts were excavated from four terraces along a rocky outcrop that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. Tectonic activity has pushed older sediment above younger sediment on Crete, so 130,000-year-old artifacts emerged from the uppermost terrace. Other terraces received age estimates of 110,000 years, 80,000 years and 45,000 years.
These minimum age estimates relied on comparisons of artifact-bearing sediment to sediment from sea cores with known ages. Geologists are now assessing whether absolute dating techniques can be applied to Crete’s Stone Age sites, Strasser says.
Intriguingly, he notes, hand axes found on Crete were made from local quartz but display a style typical of ancient African artifacts.
“Hominids adapted to whatever material was available on the island for tool making,” Strasser proposes. “There could be tools made from different types of stone in other parts of Crete.”
Strasser has conducted excavations on Crete for the past 20 years. He had been searching for relatively small implements that would have been made from chunks of chert no more than 11,000 years ago. But a current team member, archaeologist Curtis Runnels of Boston University, pointed out that Stone Age folk would likely have favored quartz for their larger implements. “Once we started looking for quartz tools, everything changed,” Strasser says.
Gobekli Tepe ( Turkish for “hill with a belly” ) is an archeological Neolithic site that was discovered by American Peter Benedict in 1964, but was ignored by American academia until German archeologist Klaus Schmidt from the German Archeological Institute led a team thirty years later to excavate the site.
What was discovered sent mainstreamers into epileptic seizures and outright denial since.
For you see, Gobekli Tepe is one of the first constructed temple sites discovered to this date.
But that’s not the reason mainstream archeologists are ignoring the site, oh no.
The reason, as I see it, and others, is the extreme antiquity of the site.
According to Professor Schmidt, organic material scraped from the “T” shaped monuments radio-carbon dated the site to 10,000 to 8,000 B.C.!
That’s right, 5,000 to 7,000 years before the Egyptian Pyramids, or even Stonehenge !
So you can see how a monkey-wrench was thrown into the contemporary theory that sedentary societies ( farming/early towns ) under a single elite ruler could muster the manpower needed for such demanding construction projects.
The monkey-wrench being that Gobekli Tepe was most certainly constructed by hunter-gatherers !
It’s either that, or entertain the notion that agriculture/farms/towns/cities started earlier than hypothesized!
Already, the proposed date of wheat domestication has been pushed back somewhat by the discovery of the site:
Thus, the complexes originated before the so-called Neolithic Revolution, the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry, which is assumed to begin after 9,000 BC. But the construction of the Göbekli Tepe complex implies organisation of a degree of complexity not hitherto associated with pre-Neolithic societies. The archaeologists estimate that up to 500 persons were required to extract the 10-20 ton pillars (in fact, some weigh up to 50 tons) from local quarries and move them 100 to 500m to the site. For sustenance, “wild cereals may have been used more intensely than so far; perhaps they were even deliberately cultivated.” Residential buildings have not been discovered as yet, but there are some “special buildings” which may have served for ritual gatherings.
There is also a theory that the story of the Sumerian creation myths/Biblical Genesis come from this site. There isn’t much empirical proof of such, oral histories passed from generation to generation before they were written down are considered heresay evidence:
Archaeologist Klaus Schmidt downplays extravagant spiritual interpretations of Göbekli Tepe, such as the idea, made popular in the press, that the site is the inspiration for the Biblical Garden of Eden. But he does agree that it was a sanctuary of profound significance in the Neolithic world. He sees it as a key site in understanding the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and from tribal to regional religion.
That being said, the oral and written links between the Garden of Eden tales and the transition between the hunter/gatherer and agricultural societies persist and aren’t easily dismissed:
[…]“To build such a place as this, the hunters must have joined together, in great numbers. After they finished building, they probably congregated for worship, and for funerals. But then they found that they couldn’t feed so many people with the game. So I think they began cultivating the grasses on the hills. Einkorn wheat, a forerunner of domestic wheat, grows wild here. So they domesticated it.” Schmidt looks at the solitary mulberry tree on the hill. “In other words, they began farming to support their religious community. But it was the farming that maybe caused their downfall.”
According to Schmidt, it seems that agriculture began here, in the province immediately surrounding Gobekli, sometime around 8,000BC.
This indeed was one of the very first places in the world where people farmed. We know roughly when and where farming began, because of the archæological evidence: domestication is a shock to the physiology of man and beast. The skeletons of people change, they temporarily grow smaller and less healthy, as the human body adapts to a protein-poorer diet and a more arduous lifestyle. Likewise, newly domesticated animals get scrawnier at first.
But 8,000BC, it seems, was also the time when the local landscape began to alter. As the trees were chopped down, and the soil leached away, the area became arid and bare. What was once a glorious pastoral region of forests and meadows, rich with game and wild grasses, became a toilsome place that had to be worked ever harder.
Schmidt and I descend a ladder to the floor of the dig, where the ancient dust is banked against the T-stones. He continues: “The really strange thing is that in 8,000BC, during the shift to agriculture, Gobekli Tepe was buried. I mean deliberately – not in a mudslide. For some reason the hunters, or the ex-hunters, decided to entomb the entire site in soil. The earth we are removing from the stones was put here by man himself: all these hills are artificial.”
The link is becoming irresistible: a lost paradise, a forsaken lifestyle, a terrible ‘mistake’, even a solitary tree. Could there really be a connection between Gobekli Tepe and the Garden of Eden story…?
This is not the first time this hypothesis was made. I remember watching a documentary about Stonehenge on the Science Channel last year and proposed theories why lunar calculations were a big deal at the site when solar calendars and relationships to the northern growing season mattered. The theory was that when these people were still hunter-gatherers, they hunted at night and needed to know when the phases of the Moon occurred.
Kind of like a “legacy” system.
And memories of a more “simpler” time perhaps.
It makes sense. Hunting at night during times of the half to full Moon provides just enough light to see by.
And to catch unsuspecting prey animals off-guard.
But when agriculture came along, with its adherence to a “day to night” time keeping schedule because of working the crops and domesticating/maintaining livestock, a different means of keeping and measuring cycles needed to happen.
Thus, our present means of solar-based timekeeping and seasonal measurement was born.
These events believe it or not was traumatic to our peaceful hunter-gatherer ancestors. A whole new way of life was evolving and certain groups of people and animals didn’t survive the transition.
Along with the Ice Ages ending around the 10,000 B.C. time-frame and possible local environmental changes nascent agriculture might have been causing, well it’s no wonder that stories and legends of more pristine, pure/innocent times were passed on.
Now, after our present means of civilization has grown up from these events, the agricultural town/city/nation-state model of coveting and stealing our neighbor’s property after we used up our own backyard has brought us to these precipitous times, the culmination of 6,000 years of collective “materialistic” knowledge so to speak, we must ask ourselves these very same questions our pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors must have asked asked themselves:
“Is this truly what we want? Is this what life is? Are we any better off than when we hunted the Mammoth, Deer and Bear?”
A paradigm shift is coming our way again, Armageddon, 2012 and the Apocalypse not withstanding.
What legends and tales will we be passing on down the line 6,000 years hence?
P.S.: Tip of the chapeau to The Daily Grail !
Klaus Schmidt used to grub around in caves in his native Germany in the hope of finding prehistoric paintings. Thirty years later, as a member of the German Archaeological Institute, he found something infinitely more important: a temple complex almost twice as old as anything comparable.
“This place is a supernova,” said Mr. Schmidt, standing under a lone tree on a windswept hilltop 35 miles north of the Syrian border.
“Within a minute of first seeing it, I knew I had two choices: go away and tell nobody, or spend the rest of my life working here.”
Behind him are the first folds of the Anatolian Plateau. Ahead, the Mesopotamian plain, like a dust-colored sea, stretches south hundreds of miles to Baghdad and beyond. The stone circles of Gobekli Tepe, his workplace since 1994, are just in front, hidden under the brow of the hill.
Compared with Stonehenge, they are humble affairs. None of the circles that have been excavated, four out of an estimated 20, is more than 100 feet across. Two of the slender, T-shaped pillars tower at least three feet above their peers.
What makes them remarkable are the carved reliefs of boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions that cover them, and their age. Dated at about 9500 B.C., these stones are 5,500 years older than the first cities of Mesopotamia and 7,000 years older than Stonehenge.
Nevermind wheels or writing, the people who erected them did not even have pottery or domesticated wheat. They lived in villages, but were hunters, not farmers…
While I am usually sceptical about what’s inside the pages of The Washington Times, this is the real deal. What I don’t understand is how archeologists have determined that the people who built these monuments/religious carvings didn’t practice agriculture? Is it because the estimated age of the site pre-dates ‘mainstream’ dates of when agriculture started and the culture who built these structures were ‘assumed’ to be hunter/gatherers? Or did they actually do some science and test around the area, other than to say there weren’t any houses in evidence?
It would be great if another site like that popped up in Central Europe, only a little older. Michael Tsarion would love it! So would I.
Archaeological studies on some engravings on rocks on Khark Island have identified them as a compass and ancient game boards.
The engravings are between 2000 and 3000 years old, archaeologist Reza Moradi Ghiasabadi, who conducted the recently concluded studies, told the Persian service of CHN on Saturday.
The compass has been etched in rectangular form with rounded angles on a flat rock located on the ground beside an ancient route, Moradi Ghiasabadi explained. A curve has been engraved on the upper half and four lines forming a cross stretch to the four sides of the rectangular shape, he noted.
The lines have been placed in a position to determine the cardinal points and have only two degrees of error based on the Global Positioning System (GPS), he added.
The compass has been damaged in some parts because it appears to have been severed from a larger rock in a collapse.
“It is a unique discovery in Iran and a great effort should be made to safeguard it because we must not relocate it due to its use in positioning,” Moradi Ghiasabadi noted.
Iran is another ancient nation like Iraq was. Say what you want, “the British created Iran and Iraq after WWI after the break-up of the Ottoman Empire”, yadda-yadda-yadda. Whatever. The point is the region was touted as the beginning of our civilization at one time, now it’s a geopolitical hot-zone with oil as the prize, cultural history be damned. One country has been destroyed and another has been in the gun-sights for a while. It does seem awfully timely for Iran to discover these ancient sites at these most precipitous times, but hey, if you’re into conspiracy theories and ancient history, this stuff is great!
Our great grandfathers called it Ta-Seti, Land of the Bow. They were referring to the area south of the First Cataract at Aswan, and the reason behind the name was the unparalleled skill its inhabitants demonstrated when using the bow as a method of arm. Those excellent bowmen were actually the Kushites.
At first, Egyptians, as back as the First Dynasty, would send expeditions to the area in pursuit of slaves as well as the exploration of new sites where copper and gold could be mined. Egyptian influence grew and by the Middle Kingdom, a series of strongholds and fortresses controlled the Nile at the Second Cataract. Their influence over the area grew further through the New Kingdom; Pharaoh Tuthmoses III marched as far south as the Fifth Cataract. But change is a question of time, and by the end of the New Kingdom, Kush began to rise.
Historians have universally agreed that King Alara unified Upper Nubia around 780 BC, declaring Napata (near Jabal Barrkal, Karima, North Sudan) the capital. The job was completed by his successor King Kashata when Lower Nubia joined the crown. Nubia had been united and Kashata claimed for himself the title Pharaoh. But that was not the end of it; following suit was Pharaoh Piye, better known in history as Pharaoh Piankhy, conqueror of Thebes and founder of Egypt’s 25th Dynasty, the dynasty of the Black Pharaohs.
Little is discussed about this ‘late’ period in ancient Egyptian history, probably because of the racial thing, but that’s only my guess. Mainstream archeologists won’t come out and say that specifically. But they do admit the intercession of the Nubian kings prevented the Assyrians and other outside invaders from taking the country over for one hundred years. And the Nubians went out of their way to honor the ancient traditions instead of wiping them out during their reign. It’s a shame they’re not recognised as they should be.