The last month has been exceptionally busy, and I have travelled far more than usual. I went a conference on the physics, chemistry and biology of water in Bulgaria, spoke at two universities in Vienna, and took part in a symposium on unexplained phenomena at the Austrian Defence Academy. A few days later I went to Eastern Germany, where I gave a lecture at the university of Frankfurt (Oder), on the Polish border, and a keynote address at a congress on medicine in Dresden. Tonight I speak in Oxford, at the Oxford University Union.
The water conference was fascinating and much of the discussion concerned the “fourth phase of water,” a liquid-crystal pattern of organization that occurs in many living cells, in gels, and also in ordinary water next to hydrophilic surfaces. These liquid crystals have remarkable properties, and many everyday phenomena can be seen in a new way in the light of this recent research. It is possible to construct batteries made just of water, which can produce electricity for months, seemingly powered by background infrared light. There is a recent survey of this field in Gerald Pollack’s excellent book . The Fourth Phase of Water
Some remarkable experiments with mice, reported a few days ago, show that mice can inherit their fathers’ fears. Male mice were trained to be afraid of the smell of a chemical called acetophenone, and their descendents were specifically startled by this smell, but unaffected by a control smell. The tested mice had never met their fathers or grandfathers. Mouse Experiment
How could this aversion have been inherited? Perhaps it involved some new kind of epigenetic inheritance, based on modified gene expression, or perhaps it was transmitted by morphic resonance. In my book The Presence of the Past, Chapter 9, I discuss several experiments that show similar transmissions of learning across generations, including an experiment with mice in the 1920s by Ivan Pavlov.
“Pavlov trained white mice to run to a feeding place when an electric bell was rung. The first generation required an average of 300 trials to learn, the second only 100, the third 30, and the fourth 10. His last statement on the subject was that “the question of the hereditary transmission of conditioned reflexes and of the hereditary facilitation of their acquirement must be left completely open.”
The editing war on my Wikipedia page shows no signs of abating. I was interviewed about the activities of militant skeptics on Wikipedia on the BBC World Service on November 1. You can hear the section of the World Update programme here: Wikipedia Editing War
This was followed, on November 8, by a highly polemical blog on the New Republic website by Jerry Coyne, attacking me and the BBC. His blog is followed by a range of comments, some accusing Coyne of scientific fundamentalism and ranting. Coyne is one of the militant materialists who ignited the TED controversy about my talk on “The Science Delusion” earlier this year.
Highly Polemical Blog
Deepak Chopra replied to Coyne’s new attack, and Craig Weiler has just published a blog about this controversy in the New Republic Craig Weiler Blog
Last month the Economist published an article called “Trouble at the Lab”, which deals with some of the serious problems that are undermining the credibility of mainstream scientific research. I highlighted some of these issues in Chapter 11 of The Science Delusion/Science Set Free, but several new studies show the situation is even worse than I thought. Problems with Mainstream Science
The Economist summarized these problems in an editorial called “How Science Goes Wrong”. How Science Goes Wrong
My only remaining trip this year is to Dublin, where I am giving a workshop on “Science and Spiritual Practices” at Christchurch Cathedral on Saturday December 7. Dublin Workshop