The Science of Ghosts: What's Really Happening When Your Brain Detects a Ghoul?

Research on ghost sightings reveal underlying manifestations that affect us in weird ways. 

 

Once, in middle school, a gang of boys and I were lured to a spot behind the Dunkin' Donuts in our town. We went after dark, to a place where a kid from school witnessed a paranormal experience. Once there, we saw nothing. We chided our classmate until suddenly, a column of white light appeared out of nowhere. We scattered.

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Mind & Brain

The Natural Origins of Supernatural Experiences

Altered states of consciousness are documented across cultures, from shamans to Silicon Valley coders. As different as these experiences seem, there are four neurological features they all have in common.

Transcendent experiences that were once attributed to gods, angels, muses, or even possession, are now being demystified by neuroscience. Jamie Wheal, Director of Programs at the Flow Genome Project, explains that each culture has unique rituals and narratives when it comes to non-ordinary experiences of consciousness or ‘altered states’, whether that’s mediation, flow state, psychedelic experiences, or others. A farmer in India, a peasant in Mexico, and a coder in Silicon Valley will all have vastly different ways of approaching altered states, and will give vastly different descriptions once they come out the other side – perhaps they saw a vision of Ganesh the elephant God, received a message from the Virgin of Guadalupe, or produced a brilliant line of code while in a Matrix-like binary blur. However, those experiences are more alike than we think. Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler devised a functional framework so they could compare non-ordinary experiences across cultures. Here, Wheal explains that they identified four common elements of altered states of consciousness, which they coined as STER: selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness and richness. Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler's book is Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.

Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler's book is Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.

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Surprising Science

Large hadron collider disproves the existence of ghosts, British professor claims

There are many scientific explanations for ghost sightings. This is the first ever to involve CERN. 

 

CERN.

40% of Americans believe in ghosts. For them, a remark by a famous leading scientist, regarding the large hadron collider (LHC), at CERN, may provide consternation. On the border of Switzerland and France, 300 ft. below the picturesque suburbs of Geneva, lies a vast, underground facility, five miles across and seventeen miles in circumference. This is one of science's greatest achievements.

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Study: Religious and Superstitious People Struggle to Understand the Physical World

People who believe in God or the supernatural don’t quite understand the physical world, claims a new study from researchers at the University of Helsinki. 

Priests attend a special mass for Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Square on April 3, 2005, in Vatican City. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

People who believe in God or the supernatural don’t quite understand the physical world, claims a new study from researchers at the University of Helsinki. 

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What’s Spookier Than a Ghost in The Room? The One in Your Body

Whatever you do, don't look behind you – because the answer isn't there, says psychologist Alison Gopnik. The real ghosts are glitches in your brain, and in a way, that's even scarier.

According to a 2009 Pew Research survey, 18% of adults in the U.S. say they’ve seen a ghost or at least felt its presence. An even greater number (29%) say they have felt in touch with someone who has died.

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