CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

7 Superpowers Available to Scientologists

Original image
Getty Images

Lafayette Ronald Hubbard identified 57 areas that people who reached the higher levels of Scientology would be able to control. Here are some of the things he and the current organization’s leadership claim will make you unlike any people ever to come before.

1. Immunity from Physical Ailment

In his first book, Dianetics, Hubbard claimed that any physical ailments we suffer from are the result of bad things that happened in our past lives, or in our current lives, or even things that happened to our mothers while pregnant. Through “auditing” — a process in which you discuss life events with a counselor while holding a machine called an e-meter — Scientology promises individuals can figure out what caused their diseases and other mental or physical ailments, then fix themselves. People claim to have done this even when medical science was completely at a loss.

An official Scientology website includes some of these stories, including a woman who says that during an auditing session she felt the bones in her face breaking, and then rearranging themselves, thus curing her chronic vascular disease, which doctors had told her there was no cure for. Another woman reportedly discovered through auditing that her epilepsy was due to electric shocks her mother had gone through while pregnant. Fortunately, just a few rounds on the e-meter apparently cured her condition.

2 & 3. Psychic Abilities and Super Intelligence

Once you become an "Operating Thetan" (meaning you’ve worked through all those horrible past experiences) you are supposed to get a lot smarter. On page 16 of Dianetics, Hubbard stated, “Tests of [an OT's] intelligence indicate it to be high above the current norm.” But don’t just take his word for it. Another official Scientologist success story was one person who said, “Probably the most amazing thing which has happened to me was the fact of a 20% increase in my IQ.” You can also communicate with other OT’s through telepathy. About halfway through another of his Scientology tomes, The History of Man, Hubbard claims, “Thetans communicate by telepathy.” The book What is Scientology? states, "Can OTs read minds? ...to answer the question bluntly - yes, with varying degrees of ability.”

Hubbard also warned against being obvious with your new talents until enough people had the powers, though, because people would be jealous and try to destroy all of them. Thanks to these superhuman powers, one OT claimed she "always know[s] who's calling on the phone before it rings, and [is] able to check the progress of [a] cooking hamburger without walking into the kitchen.”

4. Super Senses

Hubbard promised maximum ability, unlike anything humans have ever known before, for pretty much every sense you can think of. Not only that, but you will be able to control how much of each of those senses you want at a given moment. Say, for example, you are at a concert. Your new abilities mean you would have hearing inestimably better than any of the non-Scientologists around you. Thankfully, you can control your amazing hearing and would tone it down so the concert’s music wouldn't be too loud and uncomfortable.

In Chapter 2 of Dianetics, Hubbard also promises that if a clear (an early level) just pays attention to improving their eyesight, they can go from almost blind to extraordinary. As evidence, the official Scientology website offers the story of one individual who took off their glasses halfway through their first auditing session and never needed them again. Another Scientologist claims they can now see clearly what it used to take a magnifying glass to see.

5. Telekenesis, Mind-Control, and a Universal Stopwatch

Once you get to a high enough level in Scientology, you should be able to control absolutely everything in the physical world. One person claimed that when their coffeemaker went on the fritz, they “corrected the molecular structure” with their mind and it started working again. In A History of Man, Hubbard says OT’s “emit a considerable electrical flow.” While you might be able to think of some nice ways to use such a power, Hubbard’s proposed examples include giving “somebody a very bad shock,” “putting out his eyes” or “cutting him in half.”

Other official Scientology literature includes the claim of one woman who decided the turbulence on a flight was bothering her so she stopped it, twice, and as she deplaned thought, “How lucky it was for these people to have me on board.”

Hubbard was very clear about keeping this all hidden: “Let's not go upsetting governments and putting on a show to ‘prove’ anything to homo sapiens for a while; it's a horrible temptation to knock off hats at fifty yards and read books a couple of countries away.”

6. Controlling the People Around You

If you have slightly more megalomaniacal goals than just controlling coffeemakers, once you reach OT level 7, Scientology promises that you can control what people think and how they act. Hubbard said in A History of Man that, once at that level, a Scientologist could project a feeling onto another person and make them feel sad or happy as desired. In fact, according to people with access to official Scientology course requirements, a large part of level 7 is to practice projecting thoughts and feelings onto other people. Before you work your way up to controlling the thoughts of other humans, it is recommended that you communicate first with plants and then animals.

7. Become Like a God and Create Your Own World

Once you can control everything, there is really just one more thing to do, and that is become a god-like being that can create its own reality. In both Dianetics and A History of Man, Hubbard refers to the “godlike” being you will become if you follow his program. Another Hubbard book called Scientology 8-8008 discusses how to "postulate universes into existence," and promises that “a Thetan who is completely rehabilitated can… create his own universe; a person who is able to create his own universe… is able to create illusions perceivable by others.” Tom Cruise is reportedly at this level.

So once you spend the necessary money and complete the extensive training, you should be able to make your own world where you control absolutely everything. But once again Hubbard warns against taking it too far: “Don't go off on wild chases after fourth and fifth dimensions, time warps and other time-space universes.” Sound advice.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
iStock
arrow
Health
200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
Original image
iStock

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES