Science and Medicine

NEWS: Scientists Reveal First Image Ever Made of a Black Hole

Space scientists have used eight radio telescopes around the world to assemble data and create the first image of a supermassive black hole. The creation of this black hole picture (an object estimated to be 6 BILLION times bigger than the SUN) is a momentous occasion for science, as it took two years, 200 scientists and supercomputers, and hundreds of terabytes of data to generate it… and it looks just like the blurry Eye of Sauron. Check out the full story of Sauron’s rebirth - I mean the black hole of galaxy M87 - in the article below, issued by the Associated Press and shared on Fox29 News:

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Scientists on Wednesday revealed the first image ever made of a black hole, depicting its hot, shadowy edges where light bends around itself in a cosmic funhouse effect.

Assembling data gathered by eight radio telescopes around the world, astronomers created the picture showing the violent neighborhood around a supermassive black hole, the light-sucking monsters of the universe theorized by Einstein more than a century ago and confirmed by observations for decades.

It looked like a flaming orange, yellow and black ring.

"We have seen what we thought was unseeable. We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole. Here it is," said Sheperd Doeleman of Harvard.

Jessica Dempsey, a co-discoverer and deputy director of the East Asian Observatory in Hawaii, said it reminded her of the powerful flaming Eye of Sauron from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Unlike smaller black holes that come from collapsed stars, supermassive black holes are mysterious in origin. Situated at the center of most galaxies, including ours, they are so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape their gravitational pull. This one's "event horizon" -- the point of no return around it, where light and matter begin to fall inexorably into the abyss -- is as big as our entire solar system.

Three years ago, scientists using an extraordinarily sensitive observing system heard the sound of two much smaller black holes merging to create a gravitational wave, as Albert Einstein predicted. The new image, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and announced around the world in several news conferences, adds light to that sound.

Outside scientists suggested the achievement could be worthy of a Nobel Prize, just like the gravitational wave discovery.

While much around a black hole falls into a death spiral and is never to be seen again, the new image captures "lucky gas and dust" circling at just far enough to be safe and seen millions of years later on Earth, Dempsey said.

Taken over four days when astronomers had "to have the perfect weather all across the world and literally all the stars had to align," the image helps confirm Einstein's general relativity theory, Dempsey said. Einstein a century ago even predicted the symmetrical shape that scientists just found, she said.

"It's circular, but on one side the light is brighter," Dempsey said. That's because that light is approaching Earth.

The measurements are taken at a wavelength the human eye cannot see, so the astronomers added color to the image. They chose "exquisite gold because this light is so hot," Dempsey said. "Making it these warm gold and oranges makes sense."

What the image shows is gas heated to millions of degrees by the friction of ever-stronger gravity, scientists said. And that gravity creates a funhouse effect where you see light from both behind the black hole and behind you as the light curves and circles around the black hole itself, said astronomer Avi Loeb, director of the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard. (The lead scientists in the discovery are from Harvard, but Loeb was not involved.)

The project cost $50 million to $60 million, with $26 million of that coming from the National Science Foundation.

Johns Hopkins astrophysicist Ethan Vishniac, who was not part of the discovery team but edits the journal where the research was published, pronounced the image "an amazing technical achievement" that "gives us a glimpse of gravity in its most extreme manifestation."

He added: "Pictures from computer simulations can be very pretty, but there's literally nothing like a picture of the real universe, however fuzzy and monochromatic."

"It's just seriously cool," said John Kormendy, a University of Texas astronomer who wasn't part of the discovery team. "To see the stuff going down the tubes, so to speak, to see it firsthand. The mystique of black holes in the community is very substantial. That mystique is going to be made more real."

There is a myth that says a black hole would rip you apart, but Loeb and Kormendy said the one pictured is so big, someone could fall into it and not be torn to pieces. But the person would never be seen from again.

Black holes are "like the walls of a prison. Once you cross it, you will never be able to get out and you will never be able to communicate," Loeb said.

The first image is of a black hole in a galaxy called M87 that is about 53 million light years from Earth. One light year is 5.9 trillion miles, or 9.5 trillion kilometers. This black hole is about 6 billion times the mass of our sun.

The telescope data was gathered by the Event Horizon Telescope two years ago, but it took so long to complete the image because it was a massive undertaking, involving about 200 scientists, supercomputers and hundreds of terabytes of data delivered worldwide by plane.

The team looked at two supermassive black holes, the M87 and the one at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. The one in our galaxy is closer but much smaller, so they both look the same size in the sky. But the more distant one was easier to take pictures of because it rotates more slowly.

"We've been hunting this for a long time," Dempsey said. "We've been getting closer and closer with better technology."

Is this generated image what you expected a black hole to look like? Share your thoughts about this scientific accomplishment in the comments - and also enjoy this totally accurate LOTR-Black Hole meme… probably the first of many to come.

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NEWS: Chapman University 2018 Survey Shows Paranormal Beliefs Are on the Rise

For the last 5 years, Chapman University in California has conducted a battery of surveys focusing on in-depth examinations of American fears. Their research studies a range of topics, from government, health and environmental matters, to disaster preparedness, personal anxieties, and paranormal beliefs.

In 2018, their most recent survey revealed that government corruption is currently the primary fear that concerns Americans. However, the survey also revealed that fears and beliefs in the paranormal have been gradually rising over the past few years! Take a look below at the breakdown of the paranormal study, directly from Chapman University:

Paranormal America 2018 Chapman University Survey of American Fears

The Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 5 (2018) includes a battery of items on paranormal beliefs ranging from belief in aliens and psychic powers to Bigfoot and haunted houses.

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Paranormal Beliefs

Currently the most common paranormal belief in the United States is that places can be haunted by spirits (57.7%), followed closely by the belief that ancient, advanced civilizations, such as Atlantis once existed (56.9%). More than two out of five Americans (41.4%) believe that that aliens visited Earth in our ancient past and more than a third believe aliens are visiting now (35.1%). Of the items we asked about, Americans are the most skeptical about fortune tellers, with only approximately 17.2% believing that others can see the future.

The Prevalence of Paranormal Beliefs

Paranormal beliefs have become the norm in the United States, if we examine how many such beliefs a person holds. Using the seven paranormal items included on the Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 5 (2018), we find that only about a fourth of Americans (24.1%) do not hold any of the seven beliefs. What this means is that more than ¾ of Americans believe in at least one paranormal phenomenon.

All Paranormal Beliefs are On the Rise

The Chapman University Survey of American Fears has included the same set of questions about paranormal beliefs on three waves of the survey. What is striking is how rapidly such beliefs are rising.

Belief in six of the seven paranormal items increased between 2017 and 2018, the only exception being the belief that fortune tellers and psychics can foresee the future. All seven items have risen in levels of belief since 2016. For example, Americans are fourteen percent more likely to believe that aliens once visited the earth than they were in 2016. Americans have become seven percent more likely to believe in Bigfoot in only two years.

Given that our survey includes a margin for error of +/- 3%, we should note that some of these changes maybe be slightly bigger or smaller than presented. However, the major pattern is clear – American is becoming more paranormal.

What do you think is responsible for this increase in paranormal fears and beliefs? Share with us in the comments!

NEWS: Scientists Believe DNA Has Finally Identified Jack the Ripper

After over 100 years of mystery and speculation, a team of scientists in the U.K. believes they have DNA proof that definitively identifies the legendary serial killer Jack the Ripper - and it appears he was a real-life Sweeney Todd, Demon Barber of Fleet Street.The breaking story originally from Fox News on March 18, 2019 continues below:

‘Forensic analysis by scientists in the U.K. may have unmasked Jack the Ripper more than a century after the murderer's brutal killing spree sent shockwaves through Victorian London.

Research by Dr. Jari Louhelainen, senior lecturer in molecular biology at Liverpool John Moores University and Dr. David Miller, reader in molecular andrology at the University of Leeds, claims to shed new light on the notorious serial killer. In an abstract of their research published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, Louhelainen and Miller explained they used what is, to their knowledge, the only remaining physical evidence linked to the murders, recovered from one of the Ripper's famous victims at the scene of her death.

Jack the Ripper is thought to have claimed the lives of at least five women in the Whitechapel area of London between August and November 1888. However, the identity of the notorious murderer remains shrouded in mystery.

Science Magazine reports that the scientists analyzed a blood-stained shawl from Catherine Eddowes, the fourth of the so-called "canonical five" Jack the Ripper victims. Eddowes was killed on Sept. 30, 1888, and her badly mutilated body was found on Whitechapel's Mitre Square.

Aaron Kosminski (or Jack the Ripper?)

The scientists' genetic testing linked Aaron Kosminski, a 23-year-old Polish barber living in London, to the crimes, according to Science Magazine. Although identified as a Jack the Ripper suspect, police are said to have lacked sufficient evidence to charge Kosminski for the murders.

"We applied novel, minimally destructive techniques for sample recovery from forensically relevant stains on the evidence and separated single cells linked to the suspect, followed by phenotypic analysis," say the scientists, in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. "The mtDNA [mitochondrial DNA] profiles of both the victim and the suspect matched the corresponding reference samples, fortifying the link of the evidence to the crime scene."

Mitochondrial DNA is often described as the "powerhouse of the cell."

Kosminski had been identified by a witness to one of the Jack the Ripper killings, although the witness refused to testify against him, experts say.

However, the latest research claims to back up the witness who pointed the finger at Kosminski.

"Genomic DNA from single cells recovered from the evidence was amplified, and the phenotypic information acquired matched the only witness statement regarded as reliable," said Louhelainen and Miller, in the abstract. "To our knowledge, this is the most advanced study to date regarding this case."

Science Magazine reports that, while Kosminski has been linked to the horrific crimes before, this is the first time that the DNA evidence has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More extensive information on the research will be released later this year. "The full story that the paper, and new revealing graphic evidence relating to the case, will be published in September," explained Liverpool John Moores University, in a statement emailed to Fox News.’

Is Aaron Kosminski truly the Demon Barber of Whitechapel? It has long been speculated that Jack the Ripper possessed some kind of medical knowledge due to the way he cut apart his victims. But it is also possible that a barber, responsible for precisely cutting hair and shaving faces (and necks), would have similar handy skills when wielding sharp implements like scissors or a blade. For centuries there were even so-called “barber surgeons,” who were exactly what they sounded like - barbers with limited medical knowledge who performed surgical procedures, from tooth-pulling to bloodletting to limb amputation. Though the practice of barber surgeons was largely ended in the early 19th century, could Aaron Kosminski have studied their methods, and applied them to carrying out gruesome serial killings?

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Another interesting detail is the timing of the killings, which is still up for debate. Though the canonical number of murders committed by Jack the Ripper is five, all in 1888, Whitechapel actually saw 11 brutal and unexplained murders which finally ended in 1891. Also in 1891, suspect Kosminski was admitted to an insane asylum. He would remain in asylums until his death in 1919, reportedly suffering from auditory hallucinations, a paranoid fear of being fed by other people, and a refusal to bathe. Could he be responsible for any, or all, of the Whitechapel murders?

With so many years elapsed between Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror and the modern day investigations into his identity, it may be that not even DNA can conclusively solve his mystery. But it certainly does not stop us from continuing to speculate, theorize, and find ourselves morbidly fascinated by this unknown killer of legendary proportions. Was Jack the Ripper really Aaron Kosminski, or is the identity of the true murderer still at large? Share your own theories with us in the comments!

Written Confession: Strange Rock Looks an Awful Lot Like a Tiny Skull

The following written confession and accompanying photo images were submitted via social media and email.

A listener of The Confessionals recently reached out via social media and then email for opinions about a strange rock he found in Texas. He first submitted photos of the rock/skull to the Paleontology Department at the University of Colorado, which responded that it “vaguely resembled a skull.” We think that the weathered-looking artifact, though it is no bigger than a man’s thumb, looks a bit more than “vaguely” like a skull. The object appears to have eye sockets, a nasal cavity, and possible mouth with teeth. The closest comparison we can draw at present is to a fetal chimpanzee skull, though there are many other possibilities as to what it could really be. Here are the details of its discovery:

“I found the skull while helping a friend who owns a lawn care business. I was done with the trimming, but he had a lot of grass left to cut, so I spent that time kicking through the rocks that made up the driveway of the residence. At the time that I noticed the skull, I didn't notice it for what it was. I thought it interesting because of the hole that went clean through, plus it was caked with dirt. I put it in my pocket until I got home . . . Joaquin, TX is where the skull was found. The skull is 1 1/2 in. in height and about the same wide at its widest point. The back side is completely blown out. By that I mean, it looks to be broken or crushed off. It's not a recent break though. The edges have the same coloration as the rest. It's not a more vivid or brighter color which indicates weathering the same as the rest of it. Suture lines are apparent as are cheek bones, brow ridges, symmetrical eye sockets and nasal cavity, lower jaw bone and obvious teeth. If this is just a rock, I want to know what the odds are that it came out like this by pure accident.”

Along with this rock/skull, other fossilized objects including feathers were also found, causing our listener to wonder if the quarry that supplied the driveway gravel holds other strange items or clues to the mystery. What do you make of this odd find?

10 Common Things You May Not Realize Use Artificial Intelligence

10 Common Things You May Not Realize Use Artificial Intelligence

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While it was once something only dreamed about in science fiction, artificial intelligence has become a widespread, mainstream reality throughout the world. Nearly every day it seems like a new A.I. advancement is making headlines - for better or for worse. From artificial intelligence creating sellable artwork, to the pros and cons of self-driving cars, to warnings that A.I. will outstrip the abilities of mankind within 50 years, the tangibility of artificially intelligent machines is becoming steadily more prominent in our technological age. For every person who believes that artificial intelligence is the key to a better future, there is someone else who believes that a large-scale A.I. takeover of the human race is imminent. But what some may not be aware of is how artificial intelligence has already integrated itself into our everyday lives in many small-scale ways. While the majority of A.I. systems are not dangerous (so far…), they are everywhere. Although this is by no means a comprehensive list, here are 10 common things you may not realize use artificial intelligence:

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1) YOUR EMAIL INBOX

Yes, your email is being read by somebody else - an A.I. technology that learns about your email content to help you better navigate your own inbox. The tech uses machine-learning algorithms to constantly learn your patterns and preferences from signals like message metadata, the specific words you use in emails, and what types of messages you consider spam. This is how Gmail knows how to categorize different emails as ‘primary’, ‘promotion,’ and ‘social’ when filtering them to the appropriate inbox. Every time you mark an email as ‘important’, ‘spam,’ or some other label, Gmail is learning and adapting to be one step ahead of you the next time!

2) INTERNET RADIO

For those who listen to Spotify, Pandora, and other internet radio platforms (which is about 300 million people), every time you listen to music you are helping a simple A.I. program learn all about your musical tastes. The A.I. from these radio sites examines all the data it absorbs - keywords, length of tracks, descriptions, artists, key signatures, and so much more - to specially construct playlists based on your personal preferences.

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To up the ante, recent speculation says that Spotify is developing groundbreaking technology to use A.I. to actually compose original music, just for you! Last year the company added Francois Pachet to its payroll, one of the world’s foremost experts on the application of artificial intelligence in the world of popular music. Patchet previously oversaw the project that brought us Hello World”, the first musical album to be composed entirely by a computer. It may only be a matter of time before every song on your playlist is custom-crafted by a machine!

3) RIDE-SHARING APPS

If you’ve ever used a transportation service like Uber or Lyft to get from place to place, artificial intelligence has been tracking your every move! Ride-sharing apps are another piece of tech that use machine-learning algorithms to create the most optimal ride for customers. Uber, for example, analyzes the data collected from its 5 billion logged trips to determine the most accurate times of arrival, best pick-up locations, appropriate prices, and traffic patterns. The A.I. used in ride-sharing apps isn’t just filtering data to generate best approximations; it is continuously learning as it goes to improve with each new ride.

4) MOBILE BANKING APPS

Financial institutions are swiftly becoming more and more A.I.-driven as they try to stay relevant in their market and improve their customer service functions. Mobile banking apps provide the perfect platform for them to roll out different types of A.I., including natural language processing, virtual assistance, and robotic process automation. The various artificial intelligences work within the apps to do simple things like send customers reminders, process transactions (faster and with less error than could a human), and use voice technology; or, to perform more advanced functions like providing customer service support, financial planning recommendations, or investment advice.

5) GOOGLE TRANSLATE

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Google Translate is a valuable tool that breaks language barriers for about half a billion people on a daily basis. But what started in 2006 as just an algorithm has developed into the one of the most widely used artificial intelligence programs in the world. In 2016, Google introduced a “neural machine translation” to its translation app, a system that processes entire sentences at once (instead of word by word) and uses artificial intelligence to improve its translations over time. By utilizing broad context, the translation A.I. determines the most relevant translations, and then adapts them to mimic the way a real person would speak. Google Translate not only learns these speaking patterns and words, but remembers them for its next translation, in order to continually improve its ability to talk like a real human. Even more impressive (and pretty intimidating) is that Google Translate’s artificial intelligence has the ability to perform this function in 103 different languages. 

6) YOUR FAVORITE EMOJI

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Those fun little icons on your phone keyboard are more than just modern-day hieroglyphics. Since emoji was first rolled out as a feature, it’s been steadily bolstered by A.I. tech to start learning to ”speak” emoji like a language, and predict what emoji (as well as GIFs and stickers) you may want to use based on your digital conversations. Emoji apps like Dango use a form of artificial intelligence called “deep learning” to understand the nuances of human emotion, and predict emoji based on what you communicate through the words you type. This type of predictive machine learning is meant to make it easier to add emoji into your texts and posts instead of having to scroll for the applicable icons you want to use. Though this A.I. sounds like a simple program that regulates something as innocuous as an emoji, at its core it is a technology that is actually learning, reacting, and adapting to your feelings.

7) CUSTOMER SERVICE CHATS

For those who can’t stand spending minutes to hours on the phone waiting for customer service help (and that’s everyone), an increasingly available option is to use “Chat” help on a company’s website to resolve an issue or ask questions. But also increasing with this feature is the probability that you are not communicating with a flesh-and-blood person. Instead, you are more than likely chatting with an artificially intelligent chat bot. These chat bots are not just automatic responders that parrot out pre-programmed dialogue. They actually extract information from your conversation, and use a “natural language processing” program to learn how to 1) respond appropriately to your request, and 2) do so like they are actually a real live person. The highly sophisticated A.I. these chat bots utilize means they are learning to understand and respond to natural language, and they’re getting better at it every day.

8) NETFLIX

It may be no big surprise that Netflix utilizes artificial intelligence. How else would they know which shows we shamelessly binge like no one is watching us, and offer suggestions about what to view next? But it may be surprising to find out just how deep their artificial intelligence goes.

Netflix does indeed use machine learning A.I. to analyze customers’ viewing choices and make the most applicable movie and show recommendations to enhance user experience. In 2013, Netflix claimed “there are 33 million different versions of Netflix” - meaning that each and every viewer (there were 33 million at the time; now there are over 130 million) was receiving a completely unique, personalized viewing experience based on their own preferences. Netflix determined those preferences by using A.I. to learn from millions of ratings, searches and plays each day, as well as the history of billions of hours of content streamed every month.

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The streaming service juggernaut is also now working with A.I. tech to crack down on paying users who are sharing their accounts with non-paying individuals. Using a machine learning system developed by Synamedia, Netflix has started analyzing account activity to recognize unusual patterns, such as account details being used in two locations within similar time periods, to pinpoint these offending account sharers. This artificial intelligence should, allegedly, be able to learn so much about customer activity that it will even be able to determine if a customer is at home or away on a vacation when they access their Netflix account.

Finally, Netflix is prepared to use artificial intelligence not only to curate entertainment, but to create it. By using algorithms and studying six years of user content consumption, Netflix has already engineered the creation of the once wildly popular show “House of Cards.” Since then, Netflix has increasingly used this formula to make new shows and movies, achieving success rates of 80% compared to 30% - 40% success rates of traditional TV shows. Given time, Netflix may also be using sophisticated A.I. programs to collaborate on scripts, CGI, and video editing. Already they are so advanced in their A.I. systems that The New York Times has claimed, “Netflix is commissioning original content because it knows what people want before they do.”

It’s a very Netflix-and-chilling thought.

9) CANCER HEALTHCARE

Not all facets of healthcare utilize artificial intelligence, nor is A.I.-based healthcare widely available for public use. But using artificial intelligence in medicine may become a more accepted practice as it continues to learn and develop. Hanover, a machine learning program created by Microsoft, is already assisting doctors to accurately diagnose forms of cancer and recommend various cancer treatments. Project Hanover is currently being developed to:

  • Use natural language processing to build genome-scale knowledge bases by automatically reading millions of biomedical articles.

  • Offer cancer decision support by developing A.I. technology for cancer precision treatment and personalized drug combinations.

  • Provide chronic disease management by developing predictive and preventive A.I. technology for more personalized medicine.

These advancements using artificial intelligence could make it possible to treat or prevent cancer more accurately and efficiently than by human intervention alone. But conspiracy theorists and all those leery of A.I. may wonder what kind of slippery slope we are treading if, or when, humans eventually come to rely on intelligent machines to weigh their healthcare options.

10) THE NEWS

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It sounds almost impossible and a bit far fetched, but it’s becoming increasingly real: artificial intelligence is writing the news. Although the practice is still not as widely used as other forms of A.I., there are several ways in which the news has been utilizing machine intelligence to write stories.

Automated routine reporting is a process that uses A.I. to generate reports on topics like sports statistics or corporate earnings, and also summarize long articles into short info pieces to share on social media. A.I. news-writing is also being used to generate and distribute information faster, because it has the ability to instantly react to real-time data with the outlines of a story. For example, a quarterly report released by a large mutual fund may take a small team of portfolio managers weeks to draft. Using machine learning, that same report can now be prepared by A.I. in seconds. Reuters, one of the largest news providers, has already partnered with Graphiq, a service that uses A.I. to build and update data visualizations. That tool enables faster access to data, and once it is embedded in a news story, the visualizations are updated in real time. Other artificial intelligence programs, like WordSmith (used by Twitter) turn structured data into compelling text that is almost indistinguishable from one written by a human author.

In limited capacities, A.I. algorithms have proven they are fully able to generate fact-based articles and news stories. Whether they will become intelligent enough to match  actual journalists in both creativity and accuracy - or whether they will become congested with too much information and start churning out infamous “fake news” stories - still remains to be seen. 

From apps to customer service to healthcare decisions, machine learning is at once a pervasive and pragmatic part of how we’ve all come to function. That we as humans rely so much on thinking machines to live our daily lives is something that spells a technological victory to some and an impending downfall to others (with just a touch of irony all around). Although artificial intelligence is already all around us, its constant advancement means it is going to continue to shape our present and our future - probably both for better and for worse.

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Did any of these common A.I. items surprise you? What other forms of everyday artificial intelligence could be added to the list? Comment below!

Scientist Talks Giant Fossil Find on Coast to Coast AM

Scientist Talks Giant Fossil Find on Coast to Coast AM

You’re hiking happily through the woods and come upon a huge boulder jutting out of the earth. It’s impressive, picturesque, and ancient-looking, so you decide to take  a closer look. Your hike quickly changes from happy to creepy when you realize, upon closer inspection, your boulder isn’t a boulder at all - it’s a giant finger bone.

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...Sound crazy? Not to scientist and researcher Michael Tellinger, who believes he has discovered enormous fossilized body parts near his home in South Africa. Initially thinking he was standing atop plain old rocks, Tellinger was shocked to realize the rocks were what he believes to be the remains of ancient giants. From knuckles to teeth to hearts, Tellinger unearthed massive fossils that he thinks may be evidence of former Anunnaki or Nephilim who were killed by a huge flood.

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If true, the sheer size of the fossilized bones would mean that mile-high giants, alluded to in the Bible and in apocryphal texts like the Book of Enoch, really did once stalk the planet. So the next time you venture into rocky terrain, pay close attention to what, or who, you’re walking on!

Tellinger joined Coast to Coast AM recently to share details and theories about his big fossil find. Check out the episode HERE!

For more on giants and Nephilim, read The Confessionals Exclusive: Are Old Legend Giants Living in the Modern Day World? or listen to The Confessionals Podcast Episode 4: Nephilim - Then & Now, Episode 18: L.A. Marzulli: UFOs & Nephilim Giants, and Episode 42: The Genesis 6 Conspiracy with Gary Wayne.