Via Pacific Standard: ‘Those who study animal phobias have found that while more people are afraid of spiders or snakes than dogs, living with cynophobia is considerably more challenging—especially today, as dog-wielding humans appropriate more and more public places. [People] living with a fear of dogs [describe] a debilitating phobia that affects where they go and who they see.’
Via Pacific Standard: ‘[D]eclining wildlife populations are stoking wildlife crimes as prices for contraband animal bits rise, and as communities are forced to travel farther afield and clash with competing groups to find their dinner.
Those crimes, in turn, are fueling further declines in wildlife populations.
And the whole vicious cycle is triggering a heinous global crime wave, including everything from slavery and terrorism to piracy.’
Via Pacific Standard, ‘The majority of American children with cancer will be cured, but it may leave them unable to have children of their own. Should preserving fertility in cancer survivors be a research priority?’
Via Big Think, ‘The image above maps the location of more than 150,000 geocoded tweets that contained words deemed to be racist, homophobic or that targeted people with disabilities. The project was completed by students at Humboldt State University in California. You can view the zoomable map here.’
Via NYTimes.com, ‘Can people in high positions of power — presidents, bosses, celebrities, even dominant spouses — easily empathize with those beneath them? Psychological research suggests the answer is no.’ (thanks, Barbara)
The authors suggest that this is ‘because’ the mirror neuron system of powerful people is less responsive, but this seems to me to be an egregious example of neurological determinism. (You should always see ‘because’ in neurocognitive literature as a red flag, IMHO.) The mirror neuron system may be the neurophysiological basis of empathy, but the observed underactivity in people with power may be a reflection of rather than a reason for their empathic deficits.
Via NPR Science Friday, ‘A new online tracker is snooping on visitors to more than 5,600 popular sites, such as Cancer.org, WhiteHouse.gov and NYDailyNews.com—and its nearly impossible to block. Julia Angwin, author of Dragnet Nation and a senior reporter at ProPublica, talks about “canvas fingerprinting,” as the new technique is called, and what this post-cookie tracker means for privacy online.’ (thanks, Rich)
Via NYMag, ‘When the bodies of three Israeli teenagers, kidnapped in the West Bank, were found late last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not mince words. “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay,” he said, initiating a campaign that eventually escalated into the present conflict in the region.
But now, officials admit the kidnappings were not Hamass handiwork after all.
BuzzFeed reporter Sheera Frenkel was among the first to suggest that it was unlikely that Hamas was behind the deaths of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach. Citing Palestinian sources and experts the field, Frenkel reported that kidnapping three Israeli teens would be a foolish move for Hamas. International experts told her it was likely the work of a local group, acting without concern for the repercussions… Today, she was proven right…’
Via CityLab, ‘If you stumble or make mistakes when trying to speak a foreign language, spare a thought for Europe’s hapless politicians. Recently, the continent’s political masters have been slapped by a new form of satirical attack—Bad English Shaming. A viral-video sub-trend, Bad English Shaming sees public figures foolhardy enough to let their rusty English be recorded on camera getting mocked and mauled for their poor foreign language skills.’
Via The Weekly Wonk, ‘…[T]he downing of flight MH17 could lead to a new chapter in the Eastern Europe conflict. If reports that pro-Russian separatists downed the commercial airliner are true, it could lead to more economic sanctions from the United States, and a more unified international response.’
Via Huffington Post, ‘In a project titled “Mapping it Out: An Alternative Atlas of Contemporary Cartography,” Obrist asked 130 contemporary artists, architects, scientists and designers to reimagine the concept of the map. From renderings of the physical world to abstract images that attempt to navigate the spaces inside our minds, the stunning visualizations turn scientific data and condensed topography into contemporary artworks.’
Via WIRED, ‘Resistant “Nightmare Bacteria” Increase Five-Fold in Southeastern U.S.: There’s worrisome news here in the southeastern US, buried in a journal that is favorite reading only for superbug geeks like me. The rate at which hospitals are recognizing cases of CRE — the form of antibiotic resistance that is so serious the CDC dubbed it a “nightmare” — rose five times over between 2008 and 2012.
Within that bad news, there are two especially troubling points. First, the hospitals where this resistance factor was identified were what is called “community” hospitals, that is, not academic referral centers… That CRE was found so widely not in academic centers, but rather in community hospitals, is a signal that it is probably moving through what medicine calls “the community,” which is to say, anywhere outside healthcare. Or, you know, everyday life.
A second concern is that the authors of the study, which is in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, assume that their finding is an underestimate of the actual problem.
A little background first on CRE. Archive of posts on it is here. The acronym stands for “carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.” Enterobacteriaceae are a large family of bacteria that normally are carted around in your guts without causing illness. When they escape, though — for instance, during ICU treatment — they are a common cause of serious hospital-acquired infections. “Carbapenems” are a small group of very powerful antibiotics that are viewed as drugs of last resort, which work against infections that have become resistant to most other antibiotics. The acronym CRE indicates a group of resistant organisms that go by other acronyms — NDM, OXA, VIM and KPC, for instance — and that have been spreading across the globe for more than 10 years.
CREs are serious stuff: On average, at least half of those who contract CRE infections die. There are only a few antibiotics — sometimes one, sometimes two, depending on the organism — that work against them at all, and those drugs have significant problems and side effects. Broadly speaking, the emergence of CREs brings us several steps closer to the end of the antibiotic era…’
‘We seem to be living in a world that is getting less hospitable every day. Look closely at any endeavor our species has engaged in and it appears we are unaware of the harm we do, we ignore the harm we do, we intentionally do harm for our own gain, or sadly in some cases we do harm for our own pleasure and enjoyment.Has no one taught us to do no harm?‘…If you think you are a member of this nonprofit non-organization, you are.
Via Vulture, ‘The best horror writer of the 20th century youve probably never heard of was a British woman who looked like a benign but mildly dotty Hogwarts teacher.
But do not miss the occult mischief behind those 1980s mom-glasses; in a fairly standard Angela Carter story, Harry Potter would be mauled to death by a werewolf before a pan-species initiation of Hermione’s pubescent sexual power.
She made things weird like that, which is why she was great. Carter, however, was not a horror writer in the same sense as Anne Rice or Stephen King; the bulk of her work is classified as magical realism a made-up, jerk-off genre that permits English departments to acknowledge the existence of the human imagination, but her most celebrated book is a high gothic collection of short stories called The Bloody Chamber that you should read immediately if the genre holds any appeal for you.
Or even if it doesn’t — though Carter never broke into the mainstream, an incomplete list of her devotees includes Salman Rushdie, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Lethem, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Jeannette Winterson, Tea Obreht, Rick Moody, and Ian McEwan…’
Via Boing Boing, news that a (highly contagious) infected woman in Sierra Leone fled her quarantine with the assistance of her family. She is at large, presumably among the million-plus people living in Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown Authorities are asking for assistance in tracking her down. In other news, the first death in the Nigerian capital Lagos means that the outbreak, already the largest in history, has reached Africa’s most populous nation and one of its biggest cities (with an estimated 17.5 million people).
Via IFLScience, ‘While many dog owners will tell you that their canine companion gets jealous if attention is diverted away from them, given the complex cognitions thought to be involved in this emotion many have assumed that jealousy is in fact unique to humans. Some have even proposed that jealousy requires self-reflection and the ability to understand conscious intentions. However, much research into this area has primarily focused on jealousy within romantic relationships over infidelity, neglecting to investigate other forms of this emotion, especially in other species.
Published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers describe the first experimental test of jealousy in dogs which found that these animals displayed jealous behaviors when attention from owners was directed towards a fake pooch. This suggests that a form of this emotion exists in at least one other social species alongside humans.’
Via IFLScience, ‘Monkeys living in forests near Fukushima have levels of radioactive caesium in their muscles that may be dangerous. The monkeys were also found to have lower counts of both red and white blood cells than monkeys living further north, which may indicate health effects to come.
The doses detected in the monkeys are far short of those that would cause radiation sickness, and any influence on cancer rates can be hard to pick out from other factors.
The affected monkeys also had decreased counts of both red and white blood cells, consistent with results in people living near Chernobyl. Immature monkeys appeared to have been more affected than adults. No signs of ill health were observed, but healthy white blood cells are essential to protect against infections.’
Via Gizmodo, ‘The biggest building boom in the history of astronomy is upon us. In Chile and Hawaii and in space, astronomers are getting powerful telescopes that dwarf the current state-of-the-art instruments. When the mountain blasting and the mirror polishing are all done, we will have the clearest and most detailed views of outer space ever.’
Via Pacific Standard, ‘The health care community is not doing enough to track and prevent widespread harm to patients, and preventable deaths and injuries in hospitals and other settings will continue unless Congress takes action, medical experts said last week on Capitol Hill.’
Via The Atlantic, ‘If Seinfeld was a show about nothing, the National Geographic Channel’s new show Going Deep With David Rees raises existential questions about what is less than nothing. There are episodes that teach the best way to do such thrilling stunts as open a door, climb a tree, dig a hole, tie your shoes, and make ice. But Rees, the creator of the comic strips “Get Your War On” and “My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable” and author of How To Sharpen Pencils, takes deadly dull themes and makes them both extraordinary and instructive.
It may sound like watching paint dry. But were Rees to ever film a segment on paint drying, I guarantee it would live up to the show’s motto: “DEFAMILIARIZING THE UBIQUITOUS SO AS TO INCREASE OUR APPRECIATION AND WONDER THEREBY.”The show extends the concept of Ree’s hilariously deadpan book about artisanal pencil sharpening, which he has also performed before live audiences. Rees, a native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina who hails from a family of academics, liked the idea of his weird how-to series airing under the august National Geographic banner. .. Rees acknowledges that his most significant influence in making this show was Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.Rees is a kind of a Mr. Wizard anti-hero for millennials…’
I’ve watched the first couple of episodes and I’m hooked. It’s funny and I’ve learned something.
Via Salon.com,‘The good news in Paul Ryan’s newly released anti-poverty proposal is that, for the first time in as long as anyone can remember, Ryan is not advocating the wholesale destruction of the social safety net. His past budgets – including the most recent – have envisioned catastrophic cuts to social programs all in the service of boosting military spending and alleviating the tax burden on the wealthy. At least for now, he’s transitioned from “destroy the safety net” to “grudgingly accept its continued existence.” So hooray for progress!
The bad news is that Paul Ryan’s view of that safety net is still largely detached from reality. Also, his approach to curing poverty seems to be to treat the poor in as paternalistic and insulting a way as possible by proposing that they sign “contracts” to remain eligible for public assistance. For real. “Contracts.” ‘
Via Boing Boing, ‘BB pal Scott Matthews snapped this sublime photo of Gabriel on the roof of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. Scott says, “Twice a year the sun rises aligned behind the statue, its kind of my personal Manhattanhenge.” ‘
Via Boing Boing, ‘Logo Removal Service takes discarded gimme shirts bedecked with sponsor logos, and carefully patches over them with new fabric, transforming them into amazing and abstract new one-of-a-kind garments.’
I’ve long been vehemently opposed to being a free advertising billboard for corporate America. I rarely buy items that are conspicuously branded unless I can remove the labels or logos. I should’ve been the one to start a Logo Removal Service!
Via The Atlantic, ‘The idea behind CV dazzle is simple. Facial recognition algorithms look for certain patterns when they analyze images: patterns of light and dark in the cheekbones, or the way color is distributed on the nose bridge—a baseline amount of symmetry. These hallmarks all betray the uniqueness of a human visage. If you obstruct them, the algorithm can’t separate a face from any other swath of pixels.
CV dazzle is ostentatious and kind of rad-looking, in a joyful, dystopic way. The first time I saw it, three years ago, I found it charismatic and captivating. Here was a technology that confounded computers with light and color. Since then, more and more people have learned about the technology. Harvey has contributed op-art about dazzle to The New York Times and enthusiasts have held facial dazzle parties. After documents from the Snowden tranche revealed the NSA had harvested an enormous database of faces from images on the web, CV dazzle seemed all the more urgent.
No one I could find, though, had undertaken the real challenge: wearing the dazzle for days while going about everyday life. That final hurdle had been left for me to surmount.’
Via NBC News.com, ‘An Arizona execution took nearly two hours on Wednesday, and witnesses said the inmate gasped and snorted for well over an hour after the lethal injection. The execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood — which Arizona carried out with a two-drug combination it had never before tried — is certain to fan the debate over how U.S. states carry out the death penalty.’
Via Gizmodo: ‘The land where Bingham Canyon Mine sits was settled by Mormon 166 years ago, but it didn’t emerge as a powerhouse producer until the turn of the 20th century. Today, the mine is 2.5 miles wide and more than half a mile deep. It’s so big, it can be seen from the naked eye aboard the ISS.
Last year, Bingham became the site of the largest landslide thats ever taken place in North America outside of volcanos. But because Rio Tinto, the company that owns the mine, keeps an incredibly close watch on the pit—including using an interferometric radar system to monitor stability—the extraordinary events of April 23, 2013, were predicated long in advance. There was even time to issue a press release.
That night, a landslide shook the area around the mine so hard, it registered as a 5.1 earthquake. Upwards of 70 million cubic meters thundered down into the open pit, creating a huge swath of debris and rock that cascaded down the mines neat, striated walls. No one was hurt, remarkably—except for Rio Tinto, the mines owner, which reported that the “rock avalanche” would cut production by 100,000 tons.
Via Sploid, ‘NASA has revealed spectacular, newly reprocessed images of four of the most amazing supernovas ever captured by a human science instrument—the Crab Nebula, Tycho, G292.0+1.8, and 3C58—to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Chandra observatory. I decided to go one step further and collect them all…
What you can see here are the complete collection of most important ever captured by humankinds instruments, starting with the rest of the new Chandra series…’
Via Gawker, ‘Prince George, heir to the British throne, turned one human year old on Tuesday. An occasion for celebration, perhaps, and yet we find ourselves troubled: If one thing has become clear over the last year, it is that George Alexander Louis of Cambridge is far from ready to serve as the solemn figurehead of a commonwealth of nations whose combined population numbers in the hundred millions.
Even with a restrained British press, palace media offices have been unable to quell the yearlong deluge of photographs of Prince George at official events crying, screaming, sneering, leering, pouting, shouting, squirming, flailing, grabbing a boob, eating his moms hair, and looking on with chilling coolness as the world around him descends into godless chaos.’
Via io9,‘Some patients found the drug to be unbearably bitter. Some found it only slightly bitter. Some didnt notice a flavor at all. With a little research, scientists found that those who could taste the bitterness in PROP tended to have more taste receptors, and that this ability seemed to run in families. Now PROP is used in one of tests that determines if someone is a supertaster. Patients swish a cup of liquid, with some PROP mixed in, around in their mouths, or they put a paper saturated with PROP on their tongue. If theyre supertasters, they wont want to be tasting long. Supertasters find PROP overwhelmingly bitter and unpleasant. People with slightly heightened senses of taste find it only slightly bitter. Everyone else tastes only the water or the paper.
Supertasters arent only repulsed by the bitterness in PROP. They can also taste the bitterness in alcohol, and in caffeinated drinks. Adding a lot of sugar to the drinks can mitigate the taste, and supertasters, like everyone else, love the taste of sugared-up coffees. Still, for the most part, people who respond badly to PROP tend to be the sort of people who only go into coffee shops for the pastries, and sit hollowed-eyed in bars, wondering why they never serve cake. Lifes bitter enough already.
An interesting side note – PROP is the first test for a supertaster. The next one? A peppermint LifeSaver. If Wrigley announced on the wrapper that peppermint LifeSavers were medical-strength candy, Id start buying them.’
Via io9, ‘This single and quite colorfully blossoming tree grows 40 different varieties of peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and even almonds… After sculptor Sam Van Aken bought a failing orchard in upstate New York full of hundreds of different fruit trees, he began the painstaking process of grafting several of the different varieties together into one tree. Six years later, the result is this 40-fruit bearing tree, which includes some heirloom varieties that are centuries old.’
Viaio9, ‘54% of Americans agreed with the statement, “The climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity.” While thats a slight majority, it ranks last compared to the other countries polled, including France 80%, Brazil 79%, South Korea 77% and Great Britain 64%. That result could help explain why the U.S. also ranked last on whether “we are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly.” On that question, 57.3% of Americans agreed, compared to France 74.7%, Brazil 78.4%, South Korea 77.2% and Great Britain 58.8%.’
Via Pacific Standard, ‘Plenty of research has suggested immersing yourself in nature has significant mental and physical health benefits. But can it also make you a better person? New research from France suggests it just might.’
Via Gizmodo, ‘A new specimen of an insect was found this month in a mountain in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China. The insect belongs to the order of Megaloptera and has a wingspan of 21 centimeters—8.3 inches.’
via Telegraph.UK, ‘More than 200,000 people have signed an online petition calling for a polar bear living in ‘deplorable’ conditions in an Argentinian zoo to be moved.Supporters of the online appeal want to transfer Arturo, who has been dubbed the ‘world’s saddest animal’, to Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Canada.’
Via Salon.com: ‘It stops us from seeing them as human — and dismisses their experience. “Hero” sounds like praise, but its not: It glosses over the human cost of war, and keeps us from helping our vets. ‘ — CARA HOFFMAN
[In fact, mightn't it be more appropriate to refer to many of them as "victims"?]
Via Boing Boing, ‘US “suspected terrorist” database had 1.5M names added to it in past 5 years: The scale of the secret blacklist was revealed in a civil suit over the Terrorist Screening Database, and it shocked the judge.99 percent of the names submitted to the list are accepted; the court called this “wildly loose.” The database has grown from 227,932 names in 2009 to its current stratospheric heights. There is no official, public procedure for having your name removed from the list.’
Via IFLScience, ‘The two men, ages 47 and 53, respectively received bone marrow transplants three and four years ago to treat lymphoma and leukemia. Though the HIV virus is no longer detectable in either of them, they are still undergoing antiretroviral therapy ART as a precaution, and Cooper refuses to say that the men have been “cured” due to the possibility of relapse, as witnessed in other patients whose viral loads had dropped to undetected levels only to reappear later.’
Via IFLScience, ‘Who knows where a nose grows? Here’s a curious case. An 18-year-old woman sustained a spinal cord injury that left her legs paralyzed. Three years later, stem cells from her nose were transplanted into the injury site. She developed back pain eight years afterwards, and imaging revealed a mass at the implantation site. The 3-centimeter-long spinal cord mass was mostly nasal tissue and contained large amounts of thick, mucus-like material.’
‘It’s only a matter of time before the chikungunya virus spreads in the U.S. When the name of a virus translates as “to become contorted” as in, with joint pain you know it is not something you want to catch. Unfortunately, your chances of encountering chikungunya are increasing.Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne illness that has no cure. On the plus side, its unlikely to kill you. On the downside, if you catch it, treatment is about easing the discomfort of symptoms and waiting for it to pass.’ Via Boing Boing.
Via kottke, ‘According to data collected by a European satellite array, the Earths magnetic field is shifting and weakening at a greater pace than previously thought. One of the reasons for the shift might be that the magnetic North and South poles are swapping positions.’
Via The Chronicle of Higher Education, ‘There is, in short, far too much written—and still being written—on the subject of laughter for any one person to master; nor, frankly, would it be worthwhile to try. Confronted with the product of centuries of analysis and investigation, one is tempting to suggest that it is not so much laughter that defines the human species, as Aristotle is supposed to have claimed, but rather the drive to debate and theorize laughter.
Partly in response to the profusion of views and speculation, theories of laughter are typically divided into three main strands. Few books on laughter fail to offer, somewhere near the beginning, a brief enumeration….’
The three theories, broadly, are described as the superiority theory, the incongruity theory, and the relief theory. Each has attractions and shortcomings. What appeals to you? (What makes you laugh?)
Via io9, ‘Philosopher Nick Bostroms famous Simulation Argument suggests its highly probable that we live inside a supercomputer. But one philosopher takes this hypothesis to task, arguing in a new paper that there are other post-human scenarios that need to be taken into account.’