Friday, May 30, 2014

That Guru's Not Dead!

In a story oddly reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch, followers and heirs of an Indian guru are now in a legal battle over whether the guru is dead or in a deep state of meditation. Shri Ashutosh Maharaj was - or is, depending on whose side you're on - one of the wealthiest gurus in India with assets valued around £100 million. According to his family, he died in January and his followers placed his body in a freezer. His followers, on the other hand, believe he is simply meditating and claim that they froze his body in order to preserve it for when he eventually awakens.

While he is thought to have died from a heart attack, his devotees believe he has simply drifted into a deeper form of the meditation he promotes as a pathway to self-realisation. A statement on the group's website reads: "His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj ji has been in deep meditative state (Samadhi) since 29th January 2014."

According to one of his aides, who asked not to be named, "Maharaj has been in deep meditation. He has spent many years meditating in sub-zero temperatures in the Himalayas, there is nothing unusual in it. He will return to life as soon as he feels and we will ensure his body is preserved until then", he said.

His body is held in a guarded room in a deep freezer on his 100 acre retreat in Nurmahal, Jalandhar, where only a few elders and sect doctors are allowed to enter.

Although Punjab Police initially confirmed his death, the Punjab High Court later dismissed its status report and local governmental officials said it was a spiritual matter and that the guru's followers cannot be forced to believe he is dead.

While there may be a spiritual component to all of this, Maharaj's followers also seem motivated by financial concerns. According to his family, if it can be successfully argued that the guru still lives his followers will maintain control of his extensive financial resources. There's no mention in the story of whether or not Maharaj made a will, but it sounds like he didn't - so everything goes to his family by default once he is officially dead. There's a lesson for any would-be gurus out there - if you don't want anything this silly to go on once you pass away, make sure that you have a will specifying exactly how much of your estate is to remain with your followers and how much of it is to be distributed elsewhere.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Constructor Theory?

"Theories of Everything" have been a focus of theoretical physics ever since the two main theories that seem to govern the universe, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, were tested and worked out. Even though the two theories model physical events with great accuracy, their fundamental precepts seem incompatible at the surface level. Therefore, the basic concept behind a "Theory of Everything" is that it must in some way unite the two theories and resolve their apparent contradictions.

Since the late 1980's the most prominent such model has been string theory. By treating particles as vibrating line segments rather than point masses, many of the apparent contradictions can in fact be explained. However, string theory is also highly complex and unwieldy. It requires either 11 or 12 dimensions of spacetime, which immediately raises the question of why we only seem to experience 4. The answer string theorists give is that the additional dimensions are "compressed" and exist only at the quantum scale.

I have in the past proposed that it might be possible to treat the additional dimensions as fractional - that is, to model them using fractal mathematics. In nature, a fractional dimension is a dimension that, while infinite in length, still remains bounded within finite space. This would seem to be a good common-sense interpretation, but as I'm not a theoretical mathematician I'll freely admit that I'm not knowledgeable enough to determine whether or not such a thing will work. And part of me imagines that if it did work, somebody probably would have integrated it into the model by now.

Now what magick behaves like, more than anything else, is a way of using personal consciousness to move information back and forth between its own quantum information field and that of some external target. Where my concept of magick differs from a strict information model such as that outlined in Patrick Dunn's Postmodern Magic is that the concept of "energy" is relevant in terms of increasing the "signal strength" of information transmission, and that the existence of independent intelligences formed from quantum information structures (or, if you will, "spirits") is acknowledged.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Jack Chick: The Movie

Most comic artists look forward to inking their first movie deal, though a few like Alan Moore claim to hate film adaptations of their material and refuse to have anything to do with them. Now Jack Chick, known worldwide for his comic-style fundamentalist Christian tracts, will finally get to see his work on the big screen. A Portland filmmaker has produced a movie adaptation of Dark Dungeons, a Chick tract from the 1980's about the dangers to young people posed by (gasp) Dungeons and Dragons. Click on the video trailer above to behold its majesty.

Based on the trailer, Dark Dungeons plays it entirely straight, presenting Chick's earnest warning from the comic strip of the same name as it was written in 1984, and letting its unintentional comedic genius shine through, like light from heaven.

Yes, it's a little low budget, but only a little. The film is a Kickstarted project from Portland-based filmmaker JR Ralls, who said on his successful funding page that he started working on the project after winning a modest bounty in the lottery. Somehow, he also convinced Chick to give him the film rights to this pamphlet. Eventually, Zombie Orpheus Entertainment got involved, which brings us to today's trailer.

As Wired noted in its write-up of the film, Jack Chick was hardly the only person warning about the "dangers" of Dungeons and Dragons in the 1980s, or even today. Pat Robertson has echoed Chick's narrative, for instance, on his "700 Club" show, suggesting that Dungeons and Dragons contributes to teen suicide.

But Chick remains one of the most imaginative and fascinating marginal figures of the so-called "culture war." Chick, and I mean this lovingly, is so singular that he is beyond parody, as the filmmakers here seem to understand.

Hollywood tried this long ago, in the made for television movie Mazes and Monsters. Believe it or not, it starred Tom Hanks, who would go on to be nominated for five Academy Awards and win two of them, in his first acting role. Mazes has been giggled about for decades in the role-playing community, and from the trailer Dark Dungeons plays like its even more over-the-top long-lost cousin. Fundamentalist paranoia channeled through the lens of earnest satire usually means comedy gold.

I've mentioned previously how the "suicide statistics" given by 1980's fundamentalists demonstrated more their inability to do math than any actual threat from role-playing games. This looks to be more of the same, showing that the real danger lies not in pretending to be a warrior or wizard for the purposes of playing a game, but rather in seeing evil in every dark corner waiting to strike without warning whenever anyone has too much fun.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Because They're Going to Try

Here's where real Christian oppression happens. Note the enormous expanse of white that is North America

Poor Oppressed Christians often frame their imaginary persecution in terms that imply if only members of other religions would just leave them alone, everything would be fine. And you know, if they really meant it, I would agree with them. I'm not looking to drive religious expression from the public square, I just want to make sure that all religions including my own are represented there. The problem is that these folks lose sight of their own Golden Rule the moment they get even a little bit of power - like this.

In the recent Town of Greece v. Galloway decision the Supreme Court ruled that legislative bodies could open with prayers given by a rotation of volunteer chaplains so long as those of minority religions were not excluded. The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors in Virginia took that as a win, and went on doing exactly what the ruling precluded - excluding minority faiths. In fact, I wouldn't personally have a much of a problem with the Greece v. Galloway ruling if only the Poor Oppressed Christians weren't such assholes about the whole thing.

A state appeals court upheld the county’s policy in a 2005 ruling, and the board has invited local clergy whose names are drawn from an official county list. Almost all of those religious leaders have represented Christian denominations, and the county has denied a Wiccan’s request to be added to the list.

Officials defended that decision, saying the “neo-pagan” faith does not fall within the Judeo-Christian tradition and “invokes polytheistic, pre-Christian deities.” That claim led to a lawsuit by Americans United and the ACLU, but the groups say the board continues to exclude even some monotheistic faiths, such as the county’s Sikh congregation.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision permits local municipalities to open meetings with Christian prayer, but the civil liberties groups want to clarify that the ruling does not permit exclusion of non-Christian faiths.

Now this is a case that needs to be won on behalf of minority religions. The town of Greece was actually responsive to criticism of its all-Christian roster of chaplains and reformed their policies back in 2007, inviting non-Christians to participate. So even though the majority of their chaplains were still Christian, they made an effort to do the right thing. Here there's no ambiguity, though - this is clearly a case of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors establishing a religion, by only allowing the prayers of particular denominations, and they need to be stopped.

Seriously, they're so utterly not oppressed. Cases like this show that the Poor Oppressed Christian agenda isn't about being left alone, but rather about enshrining themselves as a superior class of people free to exclude and look down upon all others without any threat of legal sanction.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When Elves Attack

Elves are clearly a menace. They live for thousands of years and have incredible magical powers. Not only that, they're unbelievably effective in combat as well. In the second Hellboy film a single elf nearly defeats a demon several times his size and strength, and in the latest Hobbit movie a handful of them leap and bound their way down a river, slaying orcs left and right as they go and racking up an immense body count. Granted, they're fairly inept when it comes to capturing escaped dwarves, but I still would never want to face one in a dark alley. Or, for that matter, in traffic.

The last thing the woman from Northeast Portland probably expected when she got up Tuesday morning was that she would be attacked by a sword-wielding elf.

But that's what happened around 7 a.m. as she drove her red BMW by the intersection of Southeast 7th and Morrison.A man dressed in chain-mail with a helmet, shield and carrying a sword and staff ran into traffic and started attacking her car.

She called 911, reporting that "a pirate" was attacking her car. When police got there, they detained Konrad Bass of Glendale, Oregon. Bass told officers that he wasn't a pirate but a "high-elf engaged in battle with the evil Morgoth."

I suppose confusing a BMW with a Ringwraith steed could be an honest mistake. As we all know it's the ultimate driving machine, and a Ringwraith would cruise around in no less. Still, said elf must be pretty lacking in the smarts department to simply charge in and start hacking away. One thrust with a Morgul-blade and the battle would have been over, and let's face it, chain mail is primarily designed to stop slashing attacks. Hopefully now the Portland Police can call upon their vast resources and connections to aid in the battle against the evil Morgoth. Either that, or get this elf the psychiatric care and/or drug rehab that he clearly desperately needs.

UPDATE: Vocativ now has an exclusive interview up with the elf, who is currently undergoing psychiatric evaluation. He claims to be a simple live-action role-player, but of course that's precisely what a real out-of-control elf would say in order to allay suspicion.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bad Psychic

One of the reasons that I bash debunker-type skeptics less than you might expect is that even though I don't agree with them on the existence of paranormal phenomena, I'm of the opinion that they perform a valuable service. They expose fraudulent psychics, preachers, and others who claim to have special powers but who really are nothing more than glorified confidence artists preying upon credulous marks.

Statistically speaking, psychics who show off their abilities - particularly for paying audiences - are more likely to be frauds than are those who keep said abilities to themselves. Here's an account of a particularly bad performance that happened in Middlesbrough, UK. British psychic Sally Morgan asked members of the audience to submit photographs of deceased loved ones with whom she would attempt to communicate as part of her show. However, one of these photos was not what it seemed.

Sally then became in direct contact with the woman in the photo who began to tell her that there was a lot of confusion around her death and that she felt it was very very quick. She later went on to say that the day Wednesday has a specific link to her death and that she either died on a Wednesday or was taken ill that day.

As the woman in the audience was not responding to any thing Sally was saying, she decided to ask how the woman in the photo was related to her. It turns out the woman in the audience got the whole concept of submitting a picture of someone you wanted to talk to from the afterlife completely wrong – and for some unknown reason submitted a younger picture of herself.

The hall erupted in laughter, which quickly changed into disapproving mumbles that lasted the rest of the night. No matter how hard Sally tried, she was unable to get the audience back, who were becoming increasingly disgruntled with the number of ‘misses’ she was getting. Not only that, but the audience seemed to become more restrained when Sally was asking them questions.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ghost Sex?

There's a new craze going around, and by "craze" I mean "something two different celebrities have mentioned that the press reported on." Apparently said celebrities have had sex with ghosts. Even though paranormal investigators have found even less evidence for this possibility than they have for the existence of ghosts in the first place, these are celebrities making anecdotal claims. Of course they need to be taken seriously! Furthermore, these claims must also represent a trend. You know, because allegedly trendy people are making them!

Increasing numbers of ‘spectrophiliacs’ are reportedly ‘visualising’ sexual experiences with saucy spirits. Actress Natasha Blasick caused quite the stir among professionals recently when she made the controversial claim that she has had sex with ghosts on multiple occasions, swearing that the experiences were ‘really, really pleasurable’.

She said: “It was fun. I think ever since I was a child I always wanted to know if there is anything more to this world, I was always asking the questions and I think this made me feel kind of reassured that there is something more than what we can see with the naked eye. It gave me comfort, support and love.”

But the Paranormal Activity 2 star isn’t the first of her peers to report antics with a spirit. Singer Ke$ha reported her naughty nookie with an incubus last year, claiming the romp inspired the track Supernatural which was a hit for the star in 2012. Ke$ha believed her experience was an opportunity to engage with the supernatural in ‘a sexy way’, and assured fans that she was very open to such an experience.

The article correctly points out these experiences are most likely the result of sleep paralysis, during which the brain is neither fully asleep nor fully awake and still partially in a dream state. It would be easy to test for, too; a simple brain scan would do the trick, as it has a recognizable brainwave signature. Sleep paralysis is generally caused by sleep apnea, in which the airway is restricted during sleep causing the individual to partially wake throughout the night.

The vast majority of people find sleep paralysis frightening and not at all fun, and apnea is easily treated by wearing a CPAP machine during the night that increases the air pressure into the lungs and prevents airway obstructions. I will say, though, that if this were happening to me and it was as enjoyable as these two claim, I'll freely admit that I would put off getting that CPAP as long as possible.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Isaac Newton, Esotericist

It's relatively well-known among occultists that Isaac Newton was one of the last prominent thinkers who approached the natural world in the holistic manner of the "Renaissance man," studying both its physical and spiritual aspects. Newton wrote detailed expositions of the Book of Revelation and performed alchemical experiments in addition to his better-known work with gravitation, motion, and optics. Wired has an interview up with Sarah Dry, the author of a new book that delves into Newton's esoteric interests.

Even in his lifetime, Newton was hailed as an eminent scientist and mathematician of unparalleled genius. But Newton also studied alchemy and religion. He wrote a forensic analysis of the Bible in an effort to decode divine prophecies. He held unorthodox religious views, rejecting the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

After his death, Newton’s heir, John Conduitt, the husband of his half-niece Catherine Barton, feared that one of the fathers of the Enlightenment would be revealed as an obsessive heretic. And so for hundreds of years few people saw his work. It was only in the 1960s that some of Newton’s papers were widely published.

The story of Newton’s writing and how it has survived to the modern day is the subject of a new book, The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Isaac Newton’s Manuscripts. Author Sarah Dry traces their mysterious and precarious history and reveals both the lucky twists and purposeful turns that kept the papers safe.

Newton is a classic case of the "Enlightenment" being somewhat less than enlightened. Rather than admit that one of the greatest scientists in all of history viewed the world in way that did not necessarily separate matter and spirit into two completely distinct domains, Newton's heirs and supporters chose instead to publish and make available only his work in the physical sciences. The idea that a holistic approach to understanding the universe might have contributed to his genius and revolutionary scientific insight was thus allowed to fall by the wayside.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Roman Catholic Church Seeks Exorcists

It sounds like the Roman Catholic Church wants to get in on more of the exorcism action. At a recent conference in Rome, 250 more priests were trained in the ancient art of casting out the devil. It only makes sense that the denomination that preserved the Rite of Exorcism from antiquity would never leave it to the likes of the Teen Exorcist Squad, who make doing battle with the forces of evil look a little too much like a day at the mall. But the reasoning of the conference organizers leaves something to be desired. Apparently, they believe that some substantial portion of non-religious people practice magick.

The conference, “Exorcism and Prayers of Liberation”, has also attracted psychiatrists, sociologists, doctors and criminologists in what the Church called a “multi-disciplinary” approach to exorcisms.

Giuseppe Ferrari, from GRIS, a Catholic research group that organised the conference, said there was an ever growing need for priests to be trained to perform exorcisms because of the increasing number of lay people tempted to dabble in black magic, paganism and the occult.

“We live in a disenchanted society, a secularised world that thought it was being emancipated, but where religion is being thrown out, the window is being opened to superstition and irrationality,” said Mr Ferrari.

The abandonment of religion “inevitably leads people to ask questions about the existence of evil and its origins”, he told Adnkronos, an Italian news agency. About 250 priests were trained as exorcists in Italy, but many more were needed, the conference organisers claimed.

All this shows me is that Ferrari doesn't know any actual secular atheists. What's so silly about his statements is that hardly any of the atheists I know even believe in the paranormal, let alone practice occultism, and most occultists I know are religious in some fashion. Often they're Thelemites or Pagans of some sort (and to be fair, Paganism does get a mention up there), but a few of them are even Christian. It's hard to see how Ferrari could have missed that if he spends any time on the Internet. The most vocal atheists are so smug about how rational and free of superstition they are that they would never cast a spell to save their lives - or for that matter have anything to do with an exorcist.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Poor Oppressed Christians Just Don't Get It

Many news sites are up in arms over last week's Supreme Court ruling in the case of Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway, which allowed the town to continue beginning legislative meetings with prayers performed by volunteer chaplains. What some of the "sky is falling" headlines fail to mention is that, as I mentioned in a recent discussion on Facebook, nothing about the law of the land has actually changed.

In the case of Marsh v. Chambers in 1983, the Supreme Court ruled "legislative prayer" a protected class of speech so long as it did not consist of "advancing or disparaging a particular religion." So such prayers have officially been allowed for more than thirty years. In fact, this latest ruling did add a further restriction not found in the one from 1983 - that the selection of prayers could not discriminate against minority faiths.

The town's practice of opening its town board meetings with a prayer offered by members of the clergy does not violate the Establishment Clause when the practice is consistent with the tradition long followed by Congress and state legislatures, the town does not discriminate against minority faiths in determining who may offer a prayer, and the prayer does not coerce participation with non-adherents.

Prior to 2007 the town of Greece allowed only Christian chaplains to deliver prayers, and if that were still the case the court likely would have ruled against them. However, in 2007 the town revised the practice and began including some members of minority religions, even though the majority were still Christian. That's nonetheless a hard sell to overturn in an establishment clause case, as most of the religious denominations in the town are Christian and members of minority religions who want to be included in the rotation can be.

In fact, in an ideal world, I think that this is a fine state of affairs so long as it indeed does not discriminate against minority religions or atheists. But the problem with that, as usual, is the Poor Oppressed Christians. Even before the ruling was released, they predictably objected because that further restriction meant that they might have to sit through prayers they don't believe in - you know, like members of minority religions and atheists have to do all the damn time. But the Poor Oppressed Christians are apparently special snowflakes who can't bear to endure any statement of religious belief not their own.

Friday, May 9, 2014

More Creationist Ignorance

With every episode of the new incarnation of "Cosmos" with Neil deGrasse Tyson, creationist organization Answers in Genesis (AiG) releases yet another embarrassingly ignorant response. The latest "controversy" - if it can be called that - is over the oxygen levels that previously existed on Earth. Scientists have shown quite convincingly that long ago oxygen levels were much higher by performing experiments such as testing bubbles of ancient atmosphere preserved in amber, but Answers in Genesis was having none of that. Predictably, they issued a statement questioning the scientific evidence, even going so far as to describe it as "dogmatic."

At the start of the episode, Tyson describes what the early earth was like and its oxygen levels, and discusses some rather large insects that were able to thrive because of the massive amounts of oxygen on the planet. AiG says:

"Actually the notion that atmospheric oxygen levels were higher (estimated at 31–35 percent compared to our 21 percent, not really 'almost twice') has not been demonstrated. But high levels of oxygen can be toxic, and not all insects preserved with these giants were giants. Biologists are not certain why some insects grew so large and investigation is ongoing."

What makes this so funny is not only how wrong they are—scientists do know why these bugs grew so large (hint: it’s oxygen)—but the only things AiG links to are more pages inside of AiG; they don’t use actual peer-reviewed studies to back up their claims. In essence they are saying it’s true because they say it’s true. This is called circular reasoning. They even go so far as to call scientific claims about the earth’s oxygen levels dogmatic:

"One cannot be dogmatic about whether the pre-Flood atmosphere differed from today’s. However, we need not invoke high oxygen levels or evolution to explain giant insects."

No, "dogmatic" doesn't mean what they think it means. Now I do realize that Answers in Genesis has no choice but to spin this as hard as they can, because their young-Earth version of creationism is probably the least scientifically tenable model of the universe out there. But I do find it kind of amusing that years ago I heard of another creationist group claiming that the reason carbon dating was wrong was because the oxygen level in the atmosphere used to be higher. So apparently Answers in Genesis replaces complete ignorance about how radioactive decay works with complete ignorance about atmospheric science. It's hard to say which is worse.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Oklahoma Satanic Monument Takes Shape

The Satanic Temple is moving forward with the creation of its monument to Satan intended for the Oklahoma Capitol grounds. For those not familiar with the controversy, Oklahoma recently passed a law allowing religious displays on public property, and promptly erected a monument of the Ten Commandments. The Satanic Temple rightly pointed out that according to the Constitution, allowing religious displays of any sort means that the right to do so must be extended to all religious groups and in that spirit proposed their monument.

Now the group has gone ahead and hired a sculptor to create the molds that will be used to cast the statue, pictured above. It looks great, and I expect the eventual sculpture will be of similar quality. While it's true that Satan and Baphomet are completely different concepts and it might be nice to see an acknowledgement of that, this is more a political statement than any sort of magical operation. In popular culture something sort of like Levi's Baphomet is what people think of when they imagine Satan, so I expect that's why the temple went with it.

The statue is a direct response to the state's installation of a Ten Commandments monument outside the Capitol in 2012. State Representative Mike Ritze paid for the controversial statue with his own money, and therefore it was considered a donation and OK to place on government property. Following that line of reasoning, the Satanic Temple submitted a formal application for their monument.

As Trait Thompson of the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission told CNN last December, “Individuals and groups are free to apply to place a monument or statue or artwork.” The applications are then approved or rejected by the Commission. Unfortunately, the state has placed a halt on issuing permits for any other monuments until a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against Ritze’s Commandments monument is settled.

Nonetheless, the Satanists are building this thing, and I was offered an early peek at the work in progress by Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves. Greaves told me he has received numerous threats from people who want to attack the sculpture, but that he “wouldn’t expect these outraged and nearly insensible reactionaries to actually know how to assault a bronze monument without severely hurting themselves in the process.”

Still, he’s not taking any chances. The Temple is building a mold of the sculpture so they can pop these things out like evil, terribly expensive action figures whenever they need a new one.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Own a Haunted House!

If you happen to be shopping for a house in the Chicago area, check out this listing. For a mere $159,000 you can own a 5-bedroom, 4960 square foot mansion complete with an actual four-story tower, perfect for setting up an oratory. The Hiram B. Scutt Mansion in Joliet, IL was built in 1882 in the Second Empire style, and remains a single-family home rather than having been converted into a duplex or apartments. Also, according to Huffington Post, the house is reputed to be haunted, which explains the low price.

The home has something of a dark history, however, and some say it is haunted. In 2004, a 19-year-old man named Steven Jenkins was fatally shot during a party in the home. A few years later, a John Wilkes Booth impersonator named Seth Magosky bought the home and died suddenly there in 2007, just six months after he began work on turning the mansion into a Victorian museum, Patch's Joseph Hosey reports.

Real estate agent Maria C. Cronin told Patch an energy reader she had come to the home said it was not haunted, but paranormal investigators who have flocked to the mansion over the years would likely disagree. One paranormal group claims the spirits of children, as well as the home's two original owners, can be encountered there.

Spiritual observer and psychic reader Edward Shanahan also wrote in 2010 on his Chicago Paranormal and Spiritual blog that the mansion, which also came to be known as "Barb Villa," is very haunted and pointed to compelling videos from multiple paranormal groups as alleged proof.

I've owned two houses from the 1880's including my current residence, built in 1886, and I've never come across anything in either of them resembling ghostly activity. Of course, the first thing I do when I buy a house is set up a temple and start doing my daily practices there, so that could have something to do with it, but I still find myself a little disappointed about it now and then. I imagine that for readers of Augoeides, the mansion's haunted reputation is something of a bonus. It drives the price way down, all because of events that are either made up or easily dealt with by practicing magicians.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Another Pyramid Mystery Solved

There have been many theories proposed to explain how the Egyptians were able to move the enormous stones used to construct the pyramids. In the last few decades it has been discovered that much of Egyptian technology employed two specific components: sand and water. With the Nile River, the Mediterranean Sea, and the North African desert nearby, the Egyptians had access to plenty of both.

First, it was discovered that the secret to erecting gigantic obelisks was to lay the obelisk on the ground, dig the hole into which it would stand, and then start piling sand under the far end. Once the slope is high enough, the obelisk slides into place. A second piece of "pyramid tech" is the water saw that we now know was used to cut the stones. By passing a circular blade through a trough of water, the saw can reach much higher speeds without overheating. In both of these cases, it's unlikely that the aliens had anything do with it.

Recently a group of scientists worked out the method used to move the stones across the desert, and it's no big surprise that the trick once more involves sand and water. Illustrations like the one above clearly depict pyramid stones and large stone monuments being transported on what look like giant sleds, but experimenters found that building a similar sled and just putting a pyramid stone on it didn't work. The sand "bermed up" in front of the sled, slowing it down to the point where it became extremely difficult to move.

The trick, as it turns out, was water. By wetting the sand to the proper level, not only will it stop collecting in front of the sled, but the force necessary to slide it along is also greatly reduced. This friction reduction was far more dramatic than experimenters expected, making it quite feasible that the stones were moved exactly as depicted in ancient Egyptian illustrations.