John Unger and Schoep

‘They say dogs are man’s best friend. John Unger and Schoep are proof of that. Their friendship started when Unger adopted Schoep from a shelter as a puppy 19 years ago. It turns out Schoep wasn’t the only one who needed to be rescued.

“He’s been my guardian for a number of years,” Unger said. Time has given them memories, but it has also taken a toll on Schoep’s body. “This joint right here kind of freezes up,” Unger said pointing to Schoep’s hind leg.

Arthritis and hip dysplasia have settled into Schoep’s joints. The only comfort now is a routine that keeps Schoep off his feet. Unger takes Schoep out into Lake Superior for a dip as often as they can. Unger gently places his arm under Schoep as they float together in the water. With no pressure on his body Schoep quickly falls asleep in Unger’s arms. Schoep’s eyes close as his head rests on Unger’s chest. Sometimes they stay that way for hours.

“This is living,” Unger said as they floated in Lake Superior Thursday evening. Unger is careful with every minute. He’s not sure how much longer Schoep will be around. He wanted just one picture of them in the water to capture their friendship. He asked Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, owner of Stonehouse Photo in Bayfield, to take a few pictures. She posted one picture of Unger and Schoep on Facebook, and it went viral within a few hours. It has now been viewed more than 2 million times.’  (, with thanks to Noah)

Giant Crumpled Paper Drops From The Sky, Lands On Hill In New Zealand

‘You are standing in a park in New Zealand. You look up at the top of a hill, and there, balanced on the ground, looking like it might catch a breeze and blow away, is a gigantic, rumpled piece of paper.

Except … one side of it, the underside, is … not there. You can see the sky, clouds, birds where there should be paper, so what is this?

As you approach, you realize it is made of metal. It’s a sculpture, made of welded and painted steel that looks like a two dimensional cartoon drawing of a three dimensional piece of paper … that is three dimensional if you get close, but looks two dimensional if you stay at the bottom of the hill…

…as you can see from these two-dimensional photographs of the three-dimensional sculpture that looks like a two-dimensional cartoon sitting on a three-dimensional hill — STOP!!! My head hurts.

Here’s an artwork that fools with my brain and makes me think that what I see — or think I see — is a curious mix of expectation, distance, chance and brain circuitry. And, in this case, delight.

Neil Dawson, the sculptor, likes to work big. This one, called “Horizons” is 118 feet long, four stories high, and it sits in a private art park (the public is invited, but you have to make an appointment) owned by a New Zealand millionaire who commissioned this piece (and 21 others from different artists), then added sheep (we are in New Zealand, after all), plus a few giraffes, zebras, water buffalo and yaks to give the place a little biological variety.’  (Krulwich Wonders… : NPR).

When the Olympics Gave Out Medals for Art

‘From 1912 to 1952, juries awarded a total of 151 medals to original works in the fine arts inspired by athletic endeavors. Now, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the first artistic competition, even Olympics fanatics are unaware that arts, along with athletics, were a part of the modern Games nearly from the start.’ (Smithsonian Magazine).

Andrew Scull on ‘All We Have to Fear: Psychiatry’s Transformation of Natural Anxieties into Mental Disorders’


English: Emil Kraepelin
Emil Kraepelin

Psychiatry’s Legitimacy Crisis: ‘Horwitz and Wakefield want to argue for the harmful impact of what is often called the neo-Kraepelinian revolution in psychiatry. Emil Kraepelin was the fin-de-siècle German psychiatrist who launched the fashion for descriptive psychopathology and first made the distinction between dementia praecox and manic-depressive illness. Horwitz and Wakefield suggest that the efforts of Kraepelin’s late-twentieth century successors to make psychiatric diagnoses more rigorous and predictable have instead enabled psychiatric pathology to get out of hand. They identify two problems: the psychiatric profession’s obsession with simplistic, symptom-based diagnoses, and the looseness of its criteria for defining mental states as pathology. All sorts of anxieties that are in reality part of the normal range of human emotion and experience have been transformed by professional sleight of hand into diseases. The upshot, they contend, is that whereas thirty years ago less than five percent of Americans were thought to suffer from an anxiety disorder, nowadays some widely cited epidemiological studies have decreed that as many as 50 percent of us do so.” (Los Angeles Review of Books).

Book review: ‘Hello Goodbye Hello,’ by Craig Brown

Harpo Marx

‘According to the captivating new book “Hello Goodbye Hello” Alexander Woollcott, the writer and Algonquin Circle wit, loved to play a game called Strange Bedfellows. One of his biggest coups took place at a Cap d’Antibes villa in the summer of 1928 when he succeeded in bringing together Harpo Marx and George Bernard Shaw (“corned beef and roses,” as he called them) at lunch. The two hit it off, and later that week Harpo drove Shaw to Cannes, where a friend of Shaw’s cast them as extras in a movie; a scene featuring them playing billiards, alas, would be left on the cutting-room floor.

In “Hello Goodbye Hello” Craig Brown — a longtime columnist for the satirical British magazine Private Eye — weaves together dozens of such encounters into a glittering daisy chain that reads like a mathematical proof of the theory of six degrees of separation…

Though the volume is bookended by chapters involving Hitler, it zigzags furiously across the decades, connecting politics to show business, royalty to the art world. Along the way it illustrates the cosmic serendipity of life, somehow managing to connect the dots between Rudyard Kipling and Helen Keller (both knew Mark Twain), between Frank Lloyd Wright and Nikita Khrushchev (both met Marilyn Monroe), and between Diana, Princess of Wales, and Raymond Chandler. (Diana met Princess Grace of Monaco, who had worked with Alfred Hitchcock, who had worked with Chandler.)

One of the stranger conceits of “Hello Goodbye Hello” is that it describes 101 meetings and expends exactly 1,001 words on each one, resulting in a work that is 101,101 words long. This mathematical construct lends structure to the volume, though this is the one aspect of the enterprise that feels artificial and contrived — happily, something the reader barely notices so engaging is Mr. Brown’s narrative.’ (NYTimes)

PTSD: a modern cultural construction, not a universal response to trauma

eosphoro on heophon.(lucifer in heaven).james ...

“…[A] study published in Stress and Health looked at historical accounts of traumatic experiences from antiquity to the 16th century.

The researchers found that although psychological trauma has been recognised throughout history, with difficult events potentially leading to mental disorder in some, there were no consistent effects that resembled the classic PTSD syndrome.

Various symptoms would be mentioned at various times, some now associated with the modern diagnosis, some not, but it was simply not possible to find ‘historical accounts of PTSD’.

The concept of PTSD is clearly grounded in a particular time and culture, but even from a modern diagnostic perspective it is important to recognise that we tend to over-focus on PTSD as the outcome of horrendous events.

Perhaps the best scientific paper yet published on the diversity of trauma was an article authored by George Bonanno and colleagues in 2011. You can read the full-text online as a pdf.

It notes that the single most common outcome after a traumatic event is recovery without intervention, and for those who do remain affected, depression and substance abuse problems are equally, if not more likely, than a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder.” (Mind Hacks).

Perseid Meteor Shower—And Moon Flashes—Peaks Saturday

“Peaking late Saturday night and before dawn Sunday this year, the Perseids occur when Earth and the moon pass through a cloud of rocky particles shed by comet Swift-Tuttle.

Hitting the atmosphere at speeds of almost a hundred thousand miles (160,000 kilometers) an hour, the meteoroids burn up, producing streaks of light—meteors, or shooting stars—each lasting just a fraction of a second.

In dark, cloudless areas, the first meteors should become visible around 10 p.m. local time, with rates increasing through the night, eventually reaching a rate of one or two shooting stars per minute before dawn.” (National Geographic).

Wired Science Space Photo of the Day

“Flying over the unlit side of Saturn’s rings, the Cassini spacecraft captures Saturn’s glow, represented in brilliant shades of electric blue, sapphire and mint green, while the planet’s shadow casts a wide net on the rings.” (Wired)

Abstract mathematics may be next front in culture war

The intersection of A and B, denoted A ∩ B.
The intersection of A and B*, denoted A ∩ B. (*Just as long as A and B aren’t of the same sex.)

‘The next front in the culture war for America’s resurgent Christian fundamentalist movement may be set theory. That’s right; some fundies find the mathematical theory of sets right down there with critical thinking, mainstream paleontology and Ozzy Osbourne records:

“Unlike the “modern math” theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book teaches that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute….A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, and workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory.”

Why do the fundamentalists find set theory so objectionable? It seems to be not because of what it says (unlike, say, evolutionary biology) but because of the kinds of thought it may encourage; set theory, you see, with its paradoxes and its heretical notion of there being different kinds of infinity (i.e., the set of all real numbers and the set of all integers are both infinite, but the former is greater than the latter) could subtly seduce even the most rigorously home-schooled children into modernist habits of thinking, not based in absolute truths and rigid, God-given hierarchies but in ungodly paradoxes. And if there is more than one infinity and the the set of all statements is either incomplete or inconsistent, they may start to wonder what other statements they had accepted on divinely-ordained authority are incorrect, and before you know it, you have atheism, Red Communism and buggery on the Sabbath.’ (The Null Device).

Why the NRA Won’t Take “Yes” for an Answer

Dylan Otto Krider: “President Obama is more gun friendly than the previous Democratic president by an order of magnitude. Bill Clinton, a southerner, passed the assault weapons ban; Obama has not pushed for any gun control measures as President (Congress let it expire in 2004 and though Obama says he favors reinstatement, he doesn’t expect Congress to act). “With the election of Obama, the Democrats essentially cried uncle in the hopes the NRA would stop hitting them–and who knew? Perhaps a few gun owners might even bring themselves to vote in their economic interests once their pistols were secured. The NRA had won, all that was left to do was for it to accept the surrender.

Yet if anything, the animosity from gun owners has gotten worse.

With no actual opposition to speak of, the NRA chose to fabricate one out of thin air–if gun store owners are to be believed, consistently sparking runs on gun stores before Obama’s non-existent proposals took to take weapons away took effect. With a President content to leave them be, conservative media latched onto the Fast and Furious program, begun under Bush, weaving an intricate plot that allowed them to gin up just the kind of public outcry the Democrats are now sidestepping with Aurora.

The more Obama let the NRA be, the more convince it became he was out to get them. Out to take those guns away. If not now, then with secret plans that would begin in his second term…” (The Intersection).

Michael Tomasky on Romney’s ‘Stunning, Terrible’ Choice of Ryan for VP

“…So he’ll get some good press, and he’ll generate great enthusiasm among conservative intellectuals. But the introduction of him to the American people will inevitably involve some other things, too. It will involve explanations from the media that he is the GOP’s archconservative theoretician. It will involve explaining who Ayn Rand is. It will involve going into detail on his budget, and in particular his plans for Medicare. Learn that now, folks, if you don’t know it already. It will involve endless interpretations exactly like mine, about Romney sending a signal that he is running an ultraconservative campaign. The Ryan controversy will overtake the campaign. Romney will become in some senses the running mate—the ticket’s No. 2. Think of it: The candidate will be running on his vice president’s ideas! (The Daily Beast)