Stat(s) of the Week

Driving around the UK tends to give one the impression that the country is crowded, built-upon and even ‘full’. However, the proprtion of the UK classified as “continuous urban fabric” is just 0.1% while another 5.3% is classified as “discontinuous urban fabric” in which 50-80% of land is built upon. The rest, let’s be generous and call it 94%, is rural and not built upon in any form.

It’s much the same story with the USA, with under 5% being “developed” (see map). This all feels counter-intuitive, but I think it’s a good example of how our persoanal experience and ‘view’ – if you can call it that – effects our thinking.

What if people really could see the future?

I’ve heard of the CIA and suchlike conducting experiments around everything from mind control (The Men Who Stare at Goats) to Telepathy, but until just now I’d never heard of The Premonitions Bureau, a real life Twilight-zone style bureau set up by the British psychiatrist Dr John Barker and the UK Evening Standard Newspaper’s science correspondent Peter Fairley. A new book by Sam Knight digs into this real-life ‘laboratory’ that dug into facts and checked people claiming supernatural powers or premonitions. Sounds totally nuts, but Dr Barker was a Cambridge educated head of a mental health hospital. In total he looked at 723 premonitions provided by the public, 3% of which he claimed were accurate. Pure chance? Almost certainly. Then again, don’t some animals have the ability to sense things before they happen? (e.g. incoming storms). There’s a big difference between divining meterological events (or water for that matter) and human-driven events such as assasinations or bridge collapses, but never say never in my book.