Tuesday, April 30, 2013

WEIRD OR WHAT - Life After Death

SyFy - Original Air Date: 4/30/13

The first story is of a man who has strange emotions while visiting the battlefield of Antietam (US Civil War).  Later, a palm reader told him he had those feelings because he was the reincarnation of a soldier that died there.  Intriguingly, the man discovers that he resembles General John B. Gordon, and believes there are other parallels in their lives as well.  Dr. Cynthia Meyersburg (Harvard) believes that reincarnation is a phenomena of the way we deal with memories (and create false memories).  Lab tests have shown that past life believers have increased vulnerability to creating false memories.  A hypnotist specializing in Past Life Regression believes reincarnation is true, and he takes people to them hypnotically.  One scientist believes that our memories/souls are contained in quantum level energy and can return into a human embryo.  But of all these stories, only Dr. Meyersburg's hypothesis seems testable.

In 1993 researchers in Scole, England, held a series of seances to "prove" there is life after death.  The so-called "Scole Experiment" participants witnessed events the show describes as "baffling to science" and held in an "impenetrable" cellar room.  The experimenters claimed to see spirit lights, hear spirit voices, and be "touched" by spirit people.  (Where's the video?)  There were materialization of things falling out of the air, and spirit photographs "appeared" on a roll of film in a security box.  (Me, I'd be more impressed with IR video of these supposed events).  Supposedly the resulting photos show the afterlife -- and a mysterious "woman."  (Are you crying "Bullshit!" yet?  I am.)  Scientist Brian Dunning thinks the events of Scole are merely an illusion, based on a series of 200-year old magic tricks -- in essence  performance art.  Naturally, all this took place in the pitch dark.

Re-creating the seance with a professional magician and an IR camera easily fools the test subjects.  As Dunning points out, at Scole "no controls were applied."  (Too bad Houdini isn't still around debunking this shit.)  A photographic expert believes most of the effects can be explained by developing process distortion.  He also believes the faces are from a previous exposure of the film, which was then wound back and represented as "new."

A Haitian man dies of a mysterious illness, only to return 18 years later.  Was he a zombie? Scientists theorize that certain injuries or illnesses to the brain might give a zombie-like demeanor.  Puffer fish toxin can also make people appear dead, only to be "revived" later.  Meanwhile, the show looks at a cryogenic facility, and ponders whether it can really work, to be frozen and then revived later.

"Is life after death really life at all?" Shatner ponders, wondering about zombies and frozen people.  The show can't say for sure, but at least there's some science here -- and pretty good science at that -- along with the usual supernatural hokum.

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