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California Drought Brings On A Downpour Of Pseudoscience

Finding Water

Across drought-stricken California, farmers, vintners, and plenty of others are desperate for water. So, many of them are calling dowsers.

These ‘water witches’, draped in dubious pseudoscience or self-assembled mythologies—or both—typically use divining rods and some sort of practiced intuition to “find” water. The professional variety do so for a fee (sometimes a ‘suggested donation’). And business is booming.

More at Motherboard

The Mystery Of Death Valley’s Moving Rocks Has Been Solved

Extraordinary World Phenomenons

One of Death Valley’s most enduring mysteries has been solved by what one researcher called “the most boring experiment ever.” For decades, people have puzzled over Racetrack Playa, where hundreds of rocks weighing as much as 700 pounds roam across the surface of the dry lake bed, leaving meandering tracks hundreds of yards long.

Researchers have investigated the phenomenon since the 1940s, but all they ever produced was speculation. No one ever actually saw the rocks move. Until now.

More at Las Vegas Review-Journal

What Life Is Like When You’re Born On A Commune

Hippies

My parents spent the 1970s on communes: first, a shared house in Boulder; after that, a “self-realization fellowship” in Paonia, Colorado; then the Spring Hollow farm in Tennessee, with a dozen other couples. They were out to save the world, or at least themselves. Peace, love, and understanding.

After several successful years, my family moved, with Spring Hollow, to the Farm. With a population of about 1,500 at its peak, The Farm was the largest commune in the U.S.. Founded by Stephen Gaskin in 1971, it still hosts a premiere midwifery school run by Stephen’s wife, Ina May Gaskin, whose book Spiritual Midwifery remains a standard for those seeking an alternative to hospital births.

More at Vanity Fair

Natural Born Killers At 20

Natural Born Killers

When it opened 20 years ago, Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers caused a stir, a ruckus, and an indignant, instant backlash. The film — which he described in interviews at the time as the change-of-pace lark he needed to re-charge his batteries after the heavy historical lifting of JFK — was the director’s hallucinatory, chaotic, yet closely argued critique of media cynicism. The road-trip/prison-flick tale of thrill-kill lovers Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis), NBK found Stone hyperventilating a script by Quentin Tarantino and making what he would later assert in his DVD commentary was a movie suggesting that “our media and our corporations are the modern enemy.” But Tarantino disowned the film, tried to have his name removed, and settled for a “story by” credit (the script is credited to Stone, David Veloz, and Richard Rutowski). NBK was panned by many prominent movie critics, and condemned as being at least partially responsible for inspiring real-life violence, including the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

More at Playboy

What Lies Beneath Stonehenge?

Stonehenge

We walked the Avenue, the ancient route along which the stones were first dragged from the River Avon. For centuries, this was the formal path to the great henge, but now the only hint of its existence was an indentation or two in the tall grass. It was a fine English summer’s day, with thin, fast clouds above, and as we passed through fields dotted with buttercups and daisies, cows and sheep, we could have been hikers anywhere, were it not for the ghostly monument in the near distance

More at Smithsonian

Asking For Advice Makes You Seem Smarter

Seeking Advice

You hear a lot about fears of heights or spiders or clowns, but down deep, most people are most afraid of this one thing: sounding dumb. New research shows that people shy away from asking for help for fear of appearing less competent, but that this is an unfounded fear: Asking for advice actually makes you seem more capable.

Across five studies, a research team led by Harvard Business School’s Alison Wood Brooks finds that people think better of others when they ask for advice — mostly because people really love to give advice. Being asked for advice seems to give us a self-confidence boost, which in turn enhances our opinion of the advice-seeker, Brooks and colleagues write in the paper, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Management Science.

More at Science Of Us

Creative People Walk

Walking

Creative people walk. The philosopher and compulsive stroller Friedrich Nietzsche left little room for debate when he claimed 125 years ago, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”

And he had a lot of company in this belief, especially among the pantheon of the early big heads: Tchaikovsky, Rousseau, Dickens, Mahler, Thoreau, Kant — all were habitual walkers, some to the point of obsession. Thoreau, for instance, adhered to a simple calculus — he could write for an hour only if he offset that with an hour of walking. Tchaikovsky walked precisely two hours every day to remain creative. Rousseau believed he could conceive thoughts worthy of committing to paper only if he walked. Rousseau further claimed that just looking at a desk left him dissipated and vaguely nauseous, foreshadowing the affliction of modern cubicle dwellers everywhere.

More at The Smart Set

The Most Amazing Lie In History

WWII

In the weeks leading up to D-day, Allied commanders had their best game faces on. “This operation is not being planned with any alternatives,” barked General Dwight D. Eisenhower. “This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be!” Indeed, more than 6,000 ships were ready to cruise across the English Channel to plant the first wave of two million troops on the white beaches of Normandy. Nearly 20,000 vehicles would crawl ashore as 13,000 planes dropped thousands of tons of explosives and thousands of paratroopers.

More at Mental Floss

The Rise And Fall And Rise Of Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality

The promise of virtual reality has always been enormous. Put on these goggles, go nowhere, and be transported anywhere. It’s the same escapism peddled by drugs, alcohol, sex, and art — throw off the shackles of the mundane through a metaphysical transportation to an altered state. Born of technology, virtual reality at its core is an organic experience. Yes, it’s man meets machine, but what happens is strictly within the mind.

More at The Verge

Madame Claude And Her High Profile Client List

Madame Claude

I met Madame Claude in her Los Angeles exile in 1981. Despite the comforts and status of her A-table at the lodestar Hollywood commissary Ma Maison, despite the homesickness-curing cuisine of Wolfgang Puck, and despite having her hand kissed by the likes of Swifty Lazar and Johnny Carson, France’s—and, surely, the world’s—most exclusive madam was as depressed and displaced as Napoleon on St. Helena. She had relocated to L.A. in 1977, after French authorities had begun pursuing her for tax evasion. I was hoping to cheer her up with a pot of gold in the form of a seven-figure book advance for a tell-all we would write together. We had been introduced by a rising young filmmaker, a member of the post-Shah Persian diaspora whose family included a Claude regular in Paris, where the madam claimed to have assembled a dazzling client list of the rich, powerful, and famous, whose names seemed to be public secrets: de Gaulle, Pompidou, Kennedy, Agnelli, Rothschild, the Shah of Iran.

More at Vanity Fair