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Why Do We Fear Wolves?

header_essay_717311‘… “All stories are about wolves,” writes Margaret Atwood in The Blind Assassin. But what is the wolf? If you look at what philosopher Noël Carroll calls its “symbolic biology,” you see an animal taxidermied from myth and history, sculpted into an opponent that man—now primed as hero—can fight. When it comes to wolves, we have so long animalized humans and humanized animals. And though I do not know how to reconcile the pain that either species can bring, I have staked myself to a solemn belief that unsnarling our old metaphors might help. As Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes in Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About Human Nature: “I do not consider the suffering that prey experiences from a predator a form of cruelty.” The difference between humans and other predators, Masson believes, is choice. The animal predator does not decide to draw blood: he kills so he can stay alive. Humans, of course, are different. This is why most wolf metaphors go slack…’

Erica Berry via Literary Hub

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USA Today: Trump “not fit to clean the toilets” in Obama’s presidential library

‘USA Today isn’t known for its blistering opinion pieces. Which makes the one the paper’s editorial board just published on President Donald Trump all the more savage.

“With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office,” reads the editorial. “Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.”

The reference here is Trump’s tweet Tuesday morning in which he said that Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was “begging” him for campaign contributions not long ago “and would do anything for them.” …’

Source: CNN

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Doug Jones Pulls It Off!

hfo-alabama-joneswins-master768Thank you to the good people of Alabama for your sense in repudiating racism, misogyny and fascism.

One more nail in Drumpf’s coffin?

via The New York Times

But:

Why Doug Jones’s win in Alabama doesn’t leave me confident in American democracy

“We’re the country that almost elected Roy Moore. We’re the country that did elect Donald Trump.”

Ezra Klein via  Vox

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Former Facebook Exec: ‘You Don’t Realize It But You Are Being Programmed’

robw7j7bqhhmubuzkjha‘Last month, Facebook’s first president Sean Parker opened up about his regrets over helping create social media as we know it today. “I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because of the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other,” Parker said. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice president of user growth, also recently expressed his concerns. During a recent public discussion at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Palihapitiya—who worked at Facebook from 2005 to 2011—told the audience, “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”

Some of his comments seem to echo Parker’s concern [emphasis ours]. Parker has said that social media creates “a social-validation feedback loop” by giving people “a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.”

Just days after Parker made those comments, Palihapitiya told the Stanford audience, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” Palihapitiya said. “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem—this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.” …’

via Gizmodo

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Paranoid President may be setting up private unregulated spy agency to bolster power against Administration enemies

‘The Trump Administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering “deep state” enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency.

The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration’s political agenda.

“Pompeo can’t trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals, in describing White House discussions. “It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books,” this person said, meaning the intelligence collected would not be shared with the rest of the CIA or the larger intelligence community. “The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly.” …’

via The Intercept

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Experts challenge ban on psychiatrists discussing politicians’ mental health

‘…A prohibition against psychiatrists discussing the mental health of public figures — a rule that has become especially controversial, and sometimes flouted, since the inauguration of President Trump — is “premised on dubious scientific assumptions,” researchers concluded in an analysis scheduled for publication in a psychology journal.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defends its “Goldwater rule” by arguing that an in-person psychiatric examination is the gold standard for diagnosing mental illness and psychological traits — given that there are no blood tests or brain scans for psychiatric disorders. In fact, however, numerous studies suggest that the interview-based exam can be misleading, psychologist Scott Lilienfeld of Emory University and colleagues argue in the paper, which will appear in an upcoming issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Patients lie or hide facts, they often have poor self-insight, and psychiatrists err, the authors write. In contrast, the accounts of people who know the individual, plus his or her public behavior, writing, speech — and, yes, tweets — can provide more accurate insights into a public figure’s mind, they contend…’

via Statnews

There is an overriding public interest in bringing to bear all the available clinical evidence to diagnose Trump, given his importance and dangerousness to the entire world. For this reason, it ought to be mandatory that the President have periodic impartial mental health evaluations and that any concerns arising from such evaluations be made public. And, to paraphrase a famous saying about the sword, those who live in the public eye must be judged in the public eye.

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Nail-in-Coffin Dept.: Flynn’s Secret Text Messages Show Trump Colluded With Russia

‘..The revelation is one of the strongest pieces of evidence to date that the Trump administration wanted to cancel U.S. sanctions against Russia, and it sheds light on why Flynn originally lied about his conversation with the Russian ambassador, a former Watergate prosecutor says.

“This just confirms the materiality of Flynn’s lies about what happened during the elections. This confirms that there is a quid pro quo for Russian help with winning the elections,” Nick Akerman told Newsweek. He was an assistant special prosecutor during the Watergate investigation…’

via Newsweek

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How to Cope With the Current News Cycle as a Sexual Abuse Survivor

‘The current wave of sexual abuse news is causing thoughtful people everywhere to feel disgust, sadness and rage on behalf of those victimized. But for some of us who have endured such violence, the relentless coverage and subsequent backlash are taking us to an even more disturbing place. Here, we take a look at how survivors are affected and offer insights from mental health professionals and survivors on the best ways to cope…’

via How to Cope With the Current News Cycle as a Sexual Abuse Survivor

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The Periodic Table of All of the Exoplanets Found So Far

 

tileted-table‘Exoplanets are hot right now. In the popularity sense. Thermally, they’re also cold and medium. But every since the first one was discovered nearly 26 years ago — or 9,457 days as of this writing — we’ve been fascinated by them. Some people are intrigued by the potential any of them may hold for migration from earth should it become inhabitable. Some wonder if other life on our level could be there. And then there’s their most undeniable value: science. If you’ve been having trouble keeping track of what we’ve found so far, the Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL) of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo has just published their Periodic Table of Exoplanets, which they’ll presumably keep up to date as more of them are found…’

via Big Think

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Trump and the Risks of Digital Hate

trumptirade-878271104‘Trump’s retweets of a British anti-Muslim hate group sound alarms for those who study the propaganda behind some of history’s greatest tragedies…

To be clear and compliant with Godwin’s law no one is comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler. “That would be absurd,” says Smith. His concern is that the president and the general public have not learned history’s lessons about the impact this type of fear-mongering can have. That’s especially true today in the age of Facebook and Twitter-driven echo chambers, in which any headline, photo, or video can be slyly captioned or edited to distort its original meaning to comply with a group’s existing bias. The long past of propaganda blended with the communication channels of the present and future form a toxic mix…’

via WIRED

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What the New York Times’ Nazi story left out.

Jamelle Bouie writes:

171128_pol_whitesupremacists-crop-promo-xlarge2‘…The conceit of “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland,” the New York Times’ profile of Tony Hovater—a neo-Nazi who helped start the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist group—is that there’s something incongruent in Hovater’s ordinary Midwestern life and his virulently racist and anti-Semitic beliefs. “Why did this man—intelligent, socially adroit and raised middle class amid the relatively well-integrated environments of United States military bases—gravitate toward the furthest extremes of American political discourse?” asks the writer, Richard Fausset, in a subsequent piece explaining the editorial decisions behind the story and reflecting on his conversations with Hovater.

Hovater’s extremism may demand some additional explanation, but there’s nothing novel about virulent white racism existing in banal environments. That, in fact, is what it means to live in a society structured by racism and racist attitudes. The sensational nature of Hovater’s identification with Nazi Germany obscures the ordinariness of his racism. White supremacy is a hegemonic ideology in the United States. It exists everywhere, in varying forms, ranging from passive beliefs in black racial inferiority to the extremist ideology we see in groups like the League of the South….’

via Slate

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Why Trump Stands by Roy Moore, Even as It Fractures His Party

 

trump-his-eyes-bleeding-1‘…[I]n tying himself to Mr. Moore even as congressional leaders have abandoned the candidate en masse, the president has reignited hostilities with his own party just as Senate Republicans are rushing to pass a politically crucial tax overhaul. Mr. McConnell and his allies have been particularly infuriated as Mr. Trump has reacted with indifference to a series of ideas they have floated to try to block Mr. Moore.

The accusations against Mr. Moore have lifted Democrats’ hopes of notching a rare victory in the Deep South in next month’s special election, which would narrow the Republican Senate majority to a single seat. Just as significantly, the president has handed the Democrats a political weapon with which to batter Republicans going into the midterm elections: that they tolerate child predation.

…What the president did not foresee was that the friction would reach inside his immediate family. He vented his annoyance when his daughter Ivanka castigated Mr. Moore by saying there was “a special place in hell for people who prey on children,” according to three staff members who heard his comments.

…But something deeper has been consuming Mr. Trump. He sees the calls for Mr. Moore to step aside as a version of the response to the now-famous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he boasted about grabbing women’s genitalia, and the flood of groping accusations against him that followed soon after. He suggested to a senator earlier this year that it was not authentic, and repeated that claim to an adviser more recently. (In the hours after it was revealed in October 2016, Mr. Trump acknowledged that the voice was his, and he apologized.)…’

via New York Times

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Take Charles Blow’s Challenge to Recommit to Resistance

Charles M. Blow writes:

‘ …Last Thanksgiving I wrote a column titled, “No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along,” in which I committed myself to resisting this travesty of a man, proclaiming, “I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.”

I made this promise: “As long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.”

I have kept that promise, not because it was a personal challenge, but because this is a national crisis.’

Source: The New York Times

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President Trump and accusations of sexual misconduct: The complete list

‘…Here’s a list of 13 women who have publicly come forward with claims that Trump had physically touched them inappropriately in some way, and the witnesses they provided. We did not include claims that were made only through Facebook posts or other social media, or in lawsuits that subsequently were withdrawn.

We also did not include the accounts of former beauty contestants who say Trump walked in on them when they were half nude because there were no allegations of touching. Trump had bragged on the Howard Stern show of his “inspections” during the pageants…’

via The Washington Post

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Russians hiding another nuclear catastrophe?

‘Greenpeace has called for an investigation into a potential cover-up of a nuclear accident after Russia’s nuclear agency had denied European reports of increased ruthenium-106 levels. Rosgidromet, the weather monitoring service, released test data on Monday that showed levels were indeed much higher than normal. The most potent site was Argayash in the south Urals, where levels were 986 times the norm.

Argayash is about 20 miles from Mayak, a facility that reprocesses spent nuclear fuel. The plant facility issued a denial on Tuesday. “The contamination of the atmosphere with ruthenium-106 isotope registered by Rosgidromet is not linked to the activity of Mayak,” a statement said…’

via The Guardian

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Are We Two Glaciers Away From Apocalypse?

pineislandcalvingfront‘In a remote region of Antarctica known as Pine Island Bay, 2,500 miles from the tip of South America, two glaciers hold human civilization hostage.

Stretching across a frozen plain more than 150 miles long, these glaciers, named Pine Island and Thwaites, have marched steadily for millennia toward the Amundsen Sea, part of the vast Southern Ocean. Further inland, the glaciers widen into a two-mile-thick reserve of ice covering an area the size of Texas.

There’s no doubt this ice will melt as the world warms. The vital question is when.

The glaciers of Pine Island Bay are two of the largest and fastest-melting in Antarctica. (A Rolling Stone feature earlier this year dubbed Thwaites “The Doomsday Glacier.”) Together, they act as a plug holding back enough ice to pour 11 feet of sea-level rise into the world’s oceans — an amount that would submerge every coastal city on the planet. For that reason, finding out how fast these glaciers will collapse is one of the most important scientific questions in the world today.

To figure that out, scientists have been looking back to the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago, when global temperatures stood at roughly their current levels. The bad news? There’s growing evidence that the Pine Island Bay glaciers collapsed rapidly back then, flooding the world’s coastlines — partially the result of something called “marine ice-cliff instability.”

The ocean floor gets deeper toward the center of this part of Antarctica, so each new iceberg that breaks away exposes taller and taller cliffs. Ice gets so heavy that these taller cliffs can’t support their own weight. Once they start to crumble, the destruction would be unstoppable…’

via Grist

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Here’s How the End of Net Neutrality Will Change the Internet

‘INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS like Comcast and Verizon may soon be free to block content, slow video-streaming services from rivals, and offer “fast lanes” to preferred partners. For a glimpse of how the internet experience may change, look at what broadband providers are doing under the existing “net neutrality” rules.

When AT&T customers access its DirecTV Now video-streaming service, the data doesn’t count against their plan’s data limits. Verizon, likewise, exempts its Go90 service from its customers’ data plans. T-Mobile allows multiple video and music streaming services to bypass its data limits, essentially allowing it to pick winners and losers in those categories.

Consumers will likely see more arrangements like these, granting or blocking access to specific content, if the Federal Communications Commission next month repeals Obama-era net neutrality rules that ban broadband providers from discriminating against lawful content providers. The commission outlined its proposed changes on Tuesday, and plans to publish them Wednesday. The proposal would also ban states from passing their own versions of the old rules. Because Republicans have a majority in the agency, the proposal will likely pass and take effect early next year.

Because many internet services for mobile devices include limits on data use, the changes will be visible there first. In one dramatic scenario, internet services would begin to resemble cable-TV packages, where subscriptions could be limited to a few dozen sites and services. Or, for big spenders, a few hundred. Fortunately, that’s not a likely scenario. Instead, expect a gradual shift towards subscriptions that provide unlimited access to certain preferred providers while charging extra for everything else…’

via WIRED

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We Can’t Trust Facebook to Regulate Itself

Sandy Parakilas worked as an operations manager on the platform team at Sandy Parakilas, operations manager on the platform team at Facebook in 2011 and 2012, writes:

‘I led Facebook’s efforts to fix privacy problems on its developer platform in advance of its 2012 initial public offering. What I saw from the inside was a company that prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse. As the world contemplates what to do about Facebook in the wake of its role in Russia’s election meddling, it must consider this history. Lawmakers shouldn’t allow Facebook to regulate itself. Because it won’t.

Facebook knows what you look like, your location, who your friends are, your interests, if you’re in a relationship or not, and what other pages you look at on the web. This data allows advertisers to target the more than one billion Facebook visitors a day. It’s no wonder the company has ballooned in size to a $500 billion behemoth in the five years since its I.P.O…’

via New York Times

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McMaster to Oracle CEO: Trump Has Intelligence of a ‘Kindergartner’

hmxbrxul5miiml29on45‘Citing “five sources with knowledge of the conversation,” Buzzfeed News reports that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster called his commander-in-chief an “idiot” and a “dope” during a private dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz. Catz has had a notably close relationship with the Trump administration and denied the comments when asked by Buzzfeed…’

via Gizmodo

‘…[And he] isn’t the only member of Trump’s war cabinet who seems to feel that way.

via Vox

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FmH Turns 18

Thanks for all your support through the years.  We began eighteen years ago, in a galaxy far away.  “I am the world crier, & this is my dangerous career… I am the one to call your bluff, & this is my climate.” —Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)

Please write to offer suggestions or criticisms. What would you like to see more of, less of in the coming eighteen years here?

(Please do not write to inquire about advertising on this weblog or to offer to submit thinly-disguised advertisements as if they were weblog posts. Also, please do not write to let me know you wish I go easier on the Boy King in the White House.)

Happy to continue to send these missives your way, but remember:

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This unqualified nominee is just the beginning of Trump’s efforts to remake the courts

gettyimages_460183416-0Brett Talley…, 36, a Trump nominee for the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama has never tried a case in his life (he has written more horror novels than he’s tried cases). In fact, he has only practiced law for three years, spending the bulk of his time since law school as a clerk or working for Republican campaigns. The American Bar Association unanimously ruled him “unqualified,” only the fourth such rating since 1989 (and the second under President Donald Trump). He pledged his “support to the NRA [National Rifle Association]; financially, politically, and intellectually” in a 2013 blog post and told the Senate Judiciary Committee that despite the pledge, he would not commit to recuse himself from gun control cases. Talley declined to disclose to Congress, when asked for potential conflicts of interests, that his wife, Ann Donaldson, is not only a White House staffer but chief of staff to the White House counsel, whose office is in charge of picking judicial nominees.

via Vox

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How to Lock Down Your Facebook Privacy Settings

]

Facebook deserves a lot of the flack it gets, be it for providing Russian propaganda with a platform or gradually eroding privacy norms. Still, it has some genuine usefulness. And while the single best way to keep your privacy safe on Facebook is to delete your account, taking these simple steps in the settings is the next best thing.

Remember, it’s not just friends of friends you need to think about hiding from; it’s an army of advertisers looking to target you not just on Facebook itself, but around the web, using Facebook’s ad platform. …[W]e’ll show you how to deal with both.

via WIRED

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New Research: It’s Fructan, Not Gluten, That’s Causing Stomach Problems

The gluten protein may not be the real reason for why many people experience bloating after eating wheat-containing food. Instead, a new study proposes fructan as the potential culprit for the sensitivity some are exhibiting.

As much as 13% of the population have bloating after eating gluten-containing foods and seek out alternatives. But perhaps, they should be looking for fructan-free products instead, say researchers from the University of Oslo in Norway and Monash University in Australia.

via Big Think

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The Idea of Creating a New Universe in the Lab Is No Joke

wormholecropped‘Physicists aren’t often reprimanded for using risqué humour in their academic writings, but in 1991 that is exactly what happened to the cosmologist Andrei Linde at Stanford University. He had submitted a draft article entitled ‘Hard Art of the Universe Creation’ to the journal Nuclear Physics B. In it, he outlined the possibility of creating a universe in a laboratory: a whole new cosmos that might one day evolve its own stars, planets and intelligent life. Near the end, Linde made a seemingly flippant suggestion that our Universe itself might have been knocked together by an alien ‘physicist hacker’. The paper’s referees objected to this ‘dirty joke’; religious people might be offended that scientists were aiming to steal the feat of universe-making out of the hands of God, they worried. Linde changed the paper’s title and abstract but held firm over the line that our Universe could have been made by an alien scientist. ‘I am not so sure that this is just a joke,’ he told me.

Fast-forward a quarter of a century, and the notion of universe-making – or ‘cosmogenesis’ as I dub it – seems less comical than ever. I’ve travelled the world talking to physicists who take the concept seriously, and who have even sketched out rough blueprints for how humanity might one day achieve it.’

via Big Think

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What Do Aliens Look Like? Oxford Astrobiologists Base Picture on Evolution

 

oxford-alien-drawings‘When Charles Darwin laid out his theory of natural selection in 1859, little could he have imagined that, a good 150 years later, this cornerstone of evolutionary theory might help us form a mental picture of what alien life looks like. But that’s precisely how a group of researchers from Oxford University have done: In a research paper called “Darwin’s Aliens,” they’ve applied Darwin’s theory to alien life, positing that aliens–like humans–adapt to their environment, undergo natural selection, and move from simple to complex life forms. And, by the end, they could plausibly look something like a “colony of Ewoks from Star Wars or the Octomite” pictured above.’

via Open Culture

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You’ve come a long way, baby brain

brainorganoidhopkins-1024x576‘Minuscule blobs of human brain tissue have come a long way in the four years since scientists in Vienna discovered how to create them from stem cells.

The most advanced of these human brain organoids — no bigger than a lentil and, until now, existing only in test tubes — pulse with the kind of electrical activity that animates actual brains. They give birth to new neurons, much like full-blown brains. And they develop the six layers of the human cortex, the region responsible for thought, speech, judgment, and other advanced cognitive functions.

These micro quasi-brains are revolutionizing research on human brain development and diseases from Alzheimer’s to Zika, but the headlong rush to grow the most realistic, most highly developed brain organoids has thrown researchers into uncharted ethical waters. Like virtually all experts in the field, neuroscientist Hongjun Song of the University of Pennsylvania doesn’t “believe an organoid in a dish can think,” he said, “but it’s an issue we need to discuss.” …’

via Stat News

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Modern physics: ‘Mass ain’t what it used to be…’

13617_88fce63f42b8b78770aae2e70ccb67bc‘…We’ve certainly come a long way since the ancient Greek atomists speculated about the nature of material substance, 2,500 years ago. But for much of this time we’ve held to the conviction that matter is a fundamental part of our physical universe. We’ve been convinced that it is matter that has energy. And, although matter may be reducible to microscopic constituents, for a long time we believed that these would still be recognizable as matter—they would still possess the primary quality of mass.

Modern physics teaches us something rather different, and deeply counter-intuitive. As we worked our way ever inward—matter into atoms, atoms into sub-atomic particles, sub-atomic particles into quantum fields and forces—we lost sight of matter completely. Matter lost its tangibility. It lost its primacy as mass became a secondary quality, the result of interactions between intangible quantum fields. What we recognize as mass is a behavior of these quantum fields; it is not a property that belongs or is necessarily intrinsic to them.

Despite the fact that our physical world is filled with hard and heavy things, it is instead the energy of quantum fields that reigns supreme. Mass becomes simply a physical manifestation of that energy, rather than the other way around.’

via Nautilus

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Was there really a big bang?

keating_brianCosmologist Brian Keating:

‘You can’t prove a theory, but you can falsify alternatives to it. What’s raging right now in cosmology is the question of whether inflation is a theory. Is it science? Is it falsifiable? There are many eminent cosmologists and theoreticians, from Roger Penrose, Paul Steinhardt, and many others who are just as eminent as a physicist working on inflationary cosmology, who claim that not only is it not provable, it’s not even science because it cannot in principal be falsified.’

via Edge.org

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Gene Therapy Restores Seven-Year-Old Boy’s Skin in ‘Major Biomedical Triumph’

Junctional epidermolysis bullosa is the sort of rare disease you are probably lucky to have never heard of. An often lethal genetic condition, from infancy it plagues its victim with painful blisters all over the body that causes the skin to become extremely fragile.

In a major medical breakthrough, on Wednesday Italian researchers announced that they were able to almost entirely reconstruct the skin of a seven-year-old boy afflicted with JED—and they used gene therapy to do it.

It is a breakthrough that not only signals a potential curative treatment for a painful, heartbreaking disease, but demonstrates the great power that new technologies like gene therapy and stem cells may hold to address genetic conditions previously written off as hopeless.

via Gizmodo

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Texas Gunman Once Escaped From Mental Health Facility

‘The gunman behind the worst mass shooting in Texas history escaped from a psychiatric hospital while he was in the Air Force, and was caught a few miles away by the local police, who were told that he had made death threats against his superiors and tried to smuggle weapons onto his base, a 2012 police report showed.

That episode, which came to light on Tuesday, was another in a series of red flags about the threat the gunman, Devin P. Kelley, posed to those around him. But none of the warnings stopped Mr. Kelley from legally purchasing several firearms, including the rifle he used to kill 26 people at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on Sunday…’

via New York Times

But this is not an anomaly! I work in a psychiatric hospital and it is not the exception but the rule that there is no mechanism through which the fact of someone’s admission, or the determination that they are dangerous, is conveyed to any authority who might flag them if they later attempted to purchase a firearm!

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Brain Imaging Reveals ADHD as a Collection of Different Disorders

A new study sheds light on ADHD, reporting teens with the disorder fit into one of three specific subgroups with distinct brain impairments and no common abnormalities between them.

via Neuroscience News

I have long decried the maniacal overdiagnosis of ADHD by my colleagues. Of course, this leads to massive overprescribing of stimulant medication. In a bit of circular reasoning, the fact that someone’s mood or functioning often improves when they take stimulants is taken as confirmation of the diagnosis, ignoring the fact that almost anyone feels better when they take these medications. Furthermore, if a diagnosis represents a heterogeneous category, a medication which helps one subgroup may be seen as beneficial overall just by a statistical effect. It has long been clear to me that the ADHD diagnosis is used to explain a variety of unrelated difficulties in very different individuals; now there is some empirical confirmation. And let this stand as a broader challenge to one-size-fits-all diagnosis in psychiatry!

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There’s really been only one mass shooting in US history

Each shooting supplants the previous one almost completely in media attention, memory and public discussion and we act as if it has been the only one. With the Texas church massacre, we have already lost sight of Las Vegas, and so on and so on. We act as if each of these incidents should be analyzed in its own terms. In so doing, no one asks why this has become nearly a weekly occurrence in the US and what the meaning of or explanation for the underlying generic phenomenon might be.

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Is Citizen Participation Actually Good for Democracy?

Russell J Dalton writes:

While participation opportunities have broadly expanded, the skills and resources to utilise these new entryways are unevenly spread throughout the public. I describe a sizeable socio-economic status (SES) participation gap across all types of political action. A person’s education and other social status traits are very strong predictors of who participates.

via 3quarksdaily

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Stop doing companies’ digital busywork for free

‘Over the past year, I stopped responding to customer surveys, providing user feedback or, mostly, contributing product reviews. Sometimes I feel obligated – even eager – to provide this information. Who doesn’t like being asked their opinion? But, in researching media technologies as an anthropologist, I see these requests as part of a broader trend making home life bureaucratic…’

Source: The Conversation

Yes!

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What the Manafort and Papadopoulos indictments tell us about Mueller’s strategy

‘…Put together, the charges against the three men illustrate a clear pattern of using whatever charge you can stand up — even if it doesn’t directly relate to the Russian collusion — to build a case against anyone who was involved, with the ultimate goal of getting the lower-level people to testify against the bigger fish.You’ve probably heard of this kind of approach in mob movies, but it’s also what real prosecutors do. Experts say that Mueller is adapting this playbook for the Russia investigation…’

Source:  Vox

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Reverence for Hallowe’en: Good for the Soul

Three jack-o'-lanterns illuminated from within...

A reprise of my traditional Hallowe’en post of past years:

It is that time of year again. What has become a time of disinhibited hijinx and mayhem, and a growing marketing bonanza for the kitsch-manufacturers and -importers, has primeval origins as the Celtic New Year’s Eve, Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). The harvest is over, summer ends and winter begins, the Old God dies and returns to the Land of the Dead to await his rebirth at Yule, and the land is cast into darkness. The veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead becomes frayed and thin, and dispossessed dead mingle with the living, perhaps seeking a body to possess for the next year as their only chance to remain connected with the living, who hope to scare them away with ghoulish costumes and behavior, escape their menace by masquerading as one of them, or placate them with offerings of food, in hopes that they will go away before the new year comes. For those prepared, a journey to the other side could be made at this time.

With Christianity, perhaps because with calendar reform it was no longer the last day of the year, All Hallows’ Eve became decathected, a day for innocent masquerading and fun, taking its name Hallowe’en as a contraction and corruption of All Hallows’ Eve.trick-or-treat-nyc

All Saints’ Day may have originated in its modern form with the 8th century Pope Gregory III. Hallowe’en customs reputedly came to the New World with the Irish immigrants of the 1840’s. The prominence of trick-or-treating has a slightly different origin, however.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes,” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.

English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-la...
English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o’-lantern from the early 20th century.

Jack-o’-lanterns were reportedly originally turnips; the Irish began using pumpkins after they immigrated to North America, given how plentiful they were here. The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.

Nowadays, a reported 99% of cultivated pumpkin sales in the US go for jack-o-lanterns.

Folk traditions that were in the past associated with All Hallows’ Eve took much of their power, as with the New Year’s customs about which I write here every Dec. 31st, from the magic of boundary states, transition, and liminality.

The idea behind ducking, dooking or bobbing for apples seems to have been that snatching a bite from the apple enables the person to grasp good fortune. Samhain is a time for getting rid of weakness, as pagans once slaughtered weak animals which were unlikely to survive the winter. A common ritual calls for writing down weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment, and tossing it into the fire. There used to be a custom of placing a stone in the hot ashes of the bonfire. If in the morning a person found that the stone had been removed or had cracked, it was a sign of bad fortune. Nuts have been used for divination: whether they burned quietly or exploded indicated good or bad luck. Peeling an apple and throwing the peel over one’s shoulder was supposed to reveal the initial of one’s future spouse. One way of looking for omens of death was for peope to visit churchyards

La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...

The Witches’ Sabbath aspect of Hallowe’en seems to result from Germanic influence and fusion with the notion of Walpurgisnacht. (You may be familiar with the magnificent musical evocation of this, Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.)

Although probably not yet in a position to shape mainstream American Hallowe’en traditions, Mexican Dia de los Muertos observances have started to contribute some delightful and whimsical iconography to our encounter with the eerie and unearthly as well. As this article in The Smithsonian reviews, ‘In the United States, Halloween is mostly about candy, but elsewhere in the world celebrations honoring the departed have a spiritual meaning…’

Reportedly, more than 80% of American families decorate their homes, at least minimally, for Hallowe’en. What was the holiday like forty or fifty years ago in the U.S. when, bastardized as it has now become with respect to its pagan origins, it retained a much more traditional flair? Before the era of the pay-per-view ’spooky-world’ type haunted attractions and its Martha Stewart yuppification with, as this irreverent Salon article from several years ago [via walker] put it, monogrammed jack-o’-lanterns and the like? One issue may be that, as NPR observed,

“Adults have hijacked Halloween… Two in three adults feel Halloween is a holiday for them and not just kids,” Forbes opined in 2012, citing a public relations survey. True that when the holiday was imported from Celtic nations in the mid-19th century — along with a wave of immigrants fleeing Irelands potato famine — it was essentially a younger persons’ game. But a little research reveals that adults have long enjoyed Halloween — right alongside young spooks and spirits.’

Is that necessarily a bad thing? A 1984 essay by Richard Seltzer, frequently referenced in other sources, entitled “Why Bother to Save Hallowe’en?”, argues as I do that reverence for Hallowe’en is good for the soul, young or old.

“Maybe at one time Hallowe’en helped exorcise fears of death and ghosts and goblins by making fun of them. Maybe, too, in a time of rigidly prescribed social behavior, Hallowe’en was the occasion for socially condoned mischief — a time for misrule and letting loose. Although such elements still remain, the emphasis has shifted and the importance of the day and its rituals has actually grown.…(D)on’t just abandon a tradition that you yourself loved as a child, that your own children look forward to months in advance, and that helps preserve our sense of fellowship and community with our neighbors in the midst of all this madness.”

Three Halloween jack-o'-lanterns.

That would be anathema to certain segments of society, however. Hallowe’en certainly inspires a backlash by fundamentalists who consider it a blasphemous abomination. ‘Amateur scholar’ Isaac Bonewits details academically the Hallowe’en errors and lies he feels contribute to its being reviled. Some of the panic over Hallowe’en is akin to the hysteria, fortunately now debunked, over the supposed epidemic of ‘ritual Satanic abuse’ that swept the Western world in the ’90’s.

Frankenstein

The horror film has become inextricably linked to Hallowe’en tradition, although the holiday itself did not figure in the movies until John Carpenter took the slasher genre singlehandedly by storm. Googling “scariest films”, you will, grimly, reap a mother lode of opinions about how to pierce the veil to journey to the netherworld and reconnect with that magical, eerie creepiness in the dark (if not the over-the-top blood and gore that has largely replaced the subtlety of earlier horror films).

The Carfax Abbey Horror Films and Movies Database includes best-ever-horror-films lists from Entertainment Weekly, Mr. Showbiz and Hollywood.com. I’ve seen most of these; some of their choices are not that scary, some are just plain silly, and they give extremely short shrift to my real favorites, the evocative classics of the ’30’s and ’40’s when most eeriness was allusive and not explicit. And here’s what claims to be a compilation of links to the darkest and most gruesome sites on the web. “Hours and hours of fun for morbidity lovers.”

Boing Boing does homage to a morbid masterpiece of wretched existential horror, two of the tensest, scariest hours of my life repeated every time I watch it:

‘…The Thing starts. It had been 9 years since The Exorcist scared the living shit out of audiences in New York and sent people fleeing into the street. Really … up the aisle and out the door at full gallop. You would think that people had calmed down a bit since then. No…’

Meanwhile, what could be creepier in the movies than the phenomenon of evil children? Gawker knows what shadows lurk in the hearts of the cinematic young:

‘In celebration of Halloween, we took a shallow dive into the horror subgenre of evil-child horror movies. Weird-kid cinema stretches back at least to 1956’s The Bad Seed, and has experienced a resurgence recently via movies like The Babadook, Goodnight Mommy, and Cooties. You could look at this trend as a natural extension of the focus on domesticity seen in horror via the wave of haunted-house movies that 2009’s Paranormal Activity helped usher in. Or maybe we’re just wizening up as a culture and realizing that children are evil and that film is a great way to warn people of this truth. Happy Halloween. Hope you don’t get killed by trick-or-treaters.’

In any case: trick or treat! …And may your Hallowe’en soothe your soul.

Related:
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After Death You’re Aware That You’ve Died, Scientists Claim

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in? Some scientists have studied near death experiences (NDEs) to try to gain insights into how death overcomes the brain. What they’ve found is remarkable, a surge of electricity enters the brain moments before brain death. One 2013 study out of the University of Michigan, which examined electrical signals inside the heads of rats, found they entered a hyper-alert state just before death…’

Source: Big Think

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Is Trump Responsible for Deaths of US Soldiers in Niger?

‘…[Rachel Maddow] linked President Donald Trump’s travel ban with the deaths of four soldiers.Maddow’s report, delivered Thursday and reiterated Friday, strongly suggested that Trump’s addition of Chad to his travel ban prompted the country to withdraw its U.S.-partnered counterterrorism troops in Niger, thus causing an increase in attacks by the self-described Islamic State in the area. …’

Source: HuffPost

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In New Alarming Trend, Poachers Target Rescued Circus Lions in South Africa

‘[Poachers are] targeting lions at sanctuaries, private nature reserves, and breeding farms for their body parts. Lion bones are sought after in Asia for use in traditional medicine—as health tonics and wines—and increasingly as a substitute for remedies made from the bones of tigers, whose numbers in the wild are somewhere around 3,900. Lion teeth and claws are also in high demand in China and elsewhere in Asia as necklaces and other adornments and trinkets. In some African countries the heads, tails, and paws are favored for use in traditional medicine, known as muti.

Source: National Geographic

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How ‘Talking’ Corpses Were Once Used to Solve Murders

‘The skull of Richard III, discovered under a parking lot, was analyzed by forensic scientists at the University of Leicester. In Shakespeare’s play about the infamous monarch, Richard is accused of murder when he nears a corpse and it begins to bleed.

For centuries, oozing wounds were seen as proof of guilt in court—but even in death, women’s testimony was considered less credible than men’s…’

Source: National Geographic

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Why We Still Need Monsters

Philosopher Stephen T. Asma of Columbia College Chicago and author of On Monsters and the Evolution of Imagination, argues that the encounter with the monstrous is useful. The term monster is from the Latin word, monstrare, to warn. Monsters activate our sense of repulsion or disgust (about which I have written here), which is why we demonize or monsterize our enemies, casting them as uncivilized or disgusting. Similarly with mass murderers such as Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas.

Calling others monsters is deeply adaptive from an evolutionary perspective, operating to contribute to group survival by getting us to be nervous about both non-human and human predators. Asma gives as an example the fact that the traditional werewolf story was strong in Europe, since wolves were a predator for Europeans, whereas there is a werebear tradition in the Americas because Native Americans were worried about bear predation.

But there is a “xenocurious” as well as a xenophobic piece to considering monsters. For instance, St. Augustine stressed the “wondrous” aspects of the monstrous creatures thought to be living in Africa and the East.

He says, “These guys are scary, but if we can talk to them, and they demonstrate some kind of rationality, they might be capable of being saved, they could be part of redemption.”

This is the project of Western liberalism — to expand the circle of tolerance to those who are different from you. From the liberal point of view, disgust for strangers is terrible. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for instance, can be read as a way to show that you create aggression and violence by not welcoming difference into your group.

Liberal humanism may also factor into the fact that monster has come to be a term for persons as well, now that we are able to see members of the out-group as humans as well. Simultaneously, we began to understand that we have hidden incomprehensible parts within ourselves that could make us do monstrous or revolting things. Although it is a much older notion (why Medea killed her children, for instance) it comes to fruition in Freud’s notion of the id.

There’s a part of us all that has to be carefully managed. Otherwise it does psychopathological actions. You see this now with the Las Vegas shooter. We want to know why he did it. Is there some part of ourselves that if we don’t manage it correctly, it could, in fact, lead us to some kinds of behaviors like this?

There is an impulse to understand the monstrous. The first question we ask about someone like Stephen Paddock is what his motives were, the second whether there is something wrong with his brain. But sometimes it will remain inexplicable and we must be content with the fact that humans beings can be monsters, although it is probably quite rare.

Our literature and culture creates icons of immorality, and they help shape our behavior and our thinking. A lot of people enjoy horror like The Walking Dead because it’s a form of rehearsal. I’m not expecting a zombie apocalypse, but I do wonder what would happen if the grid went down and we had no electricity and suddenly there’s a food shortage. What would happen if modern society came to some screeching halt? Many of the monster scenarios would be a surrogate training for what could happen between human beings.

Source: Nautilus

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What We Got Wrong About the Lyme Epidemic

‘The genetic and ecological history of the Lyme disease bacterium make it clear: Neither ticks nor the bacterium are invaders onto our pristine landscapes. They are the beneficiaries of an artificial and fragmented ecology created by the real invaders, us. Having sectioned and sliced the continent into a patchwork, we are confronted with the consequences…’

Source: Nautilus

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Why Facebook Is the Junk Food of Socializing

‘Have you ever been walking in a dark alley and seen something that you thought was a crouching person, but it turned out to be a garbage bag or something similarly innocuous? Me too. Have you ever seen a person crouching in a dark alley and mistaken it for a garbage bag? Me neither. Why does the error go one way and not the other?

 

Human beings are intensely social animals. We live in hierarchical social environments in which our comfort, reproduction, and very survival depend on our relationships with other people. As a result, we are very good at thinking about things in social ways. In fact, some scientists have argued that the evolutionary arms race for strategic social thinking—either for competition, for cooperation, or both—was a large part of why we became so intelligent as a species. Back then, if you saw something that looked like a person, by golly it was a person.

 

This affinity for social reasoning, however, has resulted in systematic quirks in human reasoning about the non-human. This happens in two ways. First, we tend to see humanlike agency where there isn’t any, a common form of pareidolia.

 

…Why would we evolve to have a systematic error like this? Like most biases, it takes advantage of patterns in our environment to help us (or, more accurately, paleolithic people) reproduce and survive. In the environment where humans first evolved, mistaking a log for a lion is much safer than mistaking a lion for a log, favoring the survival of those who err on the side of seeing agency in many places. And for a hunter-gatherer at greater risk from wild animals and interpersonal violence than we face today, living things tend to be more dangerous than non-living things. We tend to see agency in everything, and children have it more than adults, suggesting that it has an inborn element.

 

…The other interesting effect of this is that we treat virtual people as real people. …[W]hen we interact with “friends” on social-networking sites or through texting, it can feel like we’re getting quality social contact, but we are not. It turns out that face-to-face interaction with other people—real people, right in front of us, not characters on TV or friends we communicate via text messages—is absolutely vital for longevity and happiness. In fact, it is a larger contributor than exercise or diet! …’

Source: Nautilus

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Why We’ll Have Evidence of Aliens—If They Exist—By 2035

‘The rapid growth in digital processing means that far larger swaths of the radio dial can be examined at one go and—in the case of the Allen array—many star systems can be checked out simultaneously. The array now examines three stars at once, but additional computer power could boost that to more than 100. Within two decades, SETI experiments will be able to complete a reconnaissance of 1 million star systems, which is hundreds of times more than have been carefully examined so far. SETI practitioners from Frank Drake to Carl Sagan have estimated that the galaxy currently houses somewhere between 10,000 and a few million broadcasting societies. If these estimates are right, then examining 1 million star systems could well lead to a discovery. So, if the premise of SETI has merit, we should find a broadcast from E.T. within a generation.

 

…Furthermore, scientists have been diversifying. For two decades, some SETI researchers have used conventional optical telescopes to look for extremely brief laser flashes coming from the stars. In many ways, aliens might be more likely to communicate by pulsed light than radio signals, for the same reason that people are turning to fiber optics for Internet access: It can, at least in principle, send 100,000 times as many bits per second as radio can.

 

…Physicists have also proposed wholly new modes of communications, such as neutrinos and gravitational waves. Some of my SETI colleagues have mulled these options, but we don’t see much merit in them at the moment. Both neutrinos and gravitational waves are inherently hard to create and detect. In nature, it takes the collapse of a star or the merger of black holes to produce them in any quantity. The total energy required to send “Hello, Earth” would be daunting, even for a civilization that could command the resources of a galaxy. …It is hard to imagine that aliens would go to the trouble of smashing together two huge black holes for a second’s worth of signal.

 

But there is a completely different approach that has yet to be explored in much detail: to look for artifacts—engineering projects of an advanced society. Some astronomers have suggested an alien megastructure, possibly an energy-collecting Dyson sphere, as the explanation for the mysterious dimming of Tabby’s star (officially known as KIC 8462852). It is a serious possibility, but no evidence has yet been found to support it.

…It’s also conceivable that extraterrestrials could have left time capsules in our own solar system, perhaps millions or billions of years ago, on the assumption that our planet might eventually evolve a species able to find them. The Lagrange points in the Earth-moon system—locations where the gravity of Earth, moon, and sun are balanced, so that an object placed there will stay there—have been suggested as good hunting grounds for alien artifacts, as has the moon itself.

 

Another idea is that we should search for the high-energy exhausts of interstellar rockets. The fastest spacecraft would presumably use the most efficient fuel: matter combining with antimatter. Their destructive “combustion” would not only shoot the craft through space at a fair fraction of the speed of light, but would produce a gamma-ray exhaust, which we might detect…’

Source: Nautilus

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Lots of Interesting Stuff Recently on Neuroskeptic

If you are a neuroscience nerd like me, maybe you will find all of these recent articles as fascinating as I did:
Problematic Neuropeptides And Statistics: ‘Back in May I discussed a paper published in PNAS which, I claimed, was using scientific terminology in a sloppy way. The authors, Pearce et al., used the word “neuropeptides” to refer to six molecules, but three of them weren’t neuropeptides at all. The authors acknowledged this minor error and issued a correction. Now, it emerges that there may be more serious problems with the PNAS paper. ..’
A Parade of Scientific Mice: ‘Recently I was reading a neuroscience paper and was struck by the cuteness of the two mice that formed part of Figure 1: So I decided to look further and collect a montage of scientific mice. All of these drawings are taken from peer-reviewed scientific papers…’
Is Parkinson’s A Prion Disease? ‘The Journal of Neuroscience recently featured a debate over the hypothesis that Parkinson’s disease is, at least in some cases, caused by a prion-like mechanism – misfolded proteins that spread from neuron to neuron. ..’
“Happy Chemical” Discovered In Beer? ‘A curious flurry of headlines in praise of beer appeared this week: Beer really DOES make you happier! Key molecule boosts brain’s reward centre …’
Is It Time To “Redefine Statistical Significance”? ‘A new paper in Nature Human Behaviour has generated lots of debate. In Redefine Statistical Significance, authors Daniel J. Benjamin and colleagues suggest changing the convention that p-values below 0.05 are called ‘significant’. Instead, they suggest, the cut-off should be set at 0.005 – a stricter criterion…’
Vagus Nerve Stimulation Restores Consciousness: ‘A report that nerve stimulation was able to partially restore consciousness in a patient in a vegetative state has attracted a great deal of attention this week…”
The Heavy Metal Brain: ‘Get your earplugs ready because this post is metal. Last week, a group of neuroscientists published a paper reporting altered brain activity in heavy metal lovers. The paper raised a few eyebrows, not least for its statement that metal fans show “disorders of behavioral and emotional cognition.” …’
Can Neuroscience Inform Everyday Life? The “Translation Problem”: ‘A new paper asks why neuroscience hasn’t had more “impact on our daily lives.” The article, Neuroscience and everyday life: facing the translation problem, comes from Dutch researchers Jolien C. Francken and Marc Slors. It’s a thought-provoking piece, but it left me feeling that the authors are expecting too much from neuroscience. I don’t think insights from neuroscience are likely to change our…’
Scientific Papers Are Getting Less Readable: ;'”The readability of scientific texts is decreasing over time”, according to a new paper just out. Swedish researchers Pontus Plaven-Sigray and colleagues say that scientists today use longer and more complex words than those of the past, making their writing harder to read…’

 

Source: Neuroskeptic

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Happy Diwali

‘Indian Sikh devotees light candles to mark Bandi Chhor Divas, or Diwali, at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on October 19th, 2017. Also known as the festival of lights, Diwali is the biggest festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists around the world.’

Source: Pacific Standard

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Should We Fear Article V?

gettyimages-1322226

‘The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress..’

We may be dangerously close to a Constitutional convention, if endorsed by two-thirds of the states (by a simple majority in each state), that might advance any of the many reactionary and cockamamie notions for amendments that Republicans have been unable to push through with the other method, a two-thirds vote in Congress, as provided for in Article V of the Constitution.

Source: Should We Fear Article V? – Pacific Standard

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Can Adults Develop ADHD? Probably Not, Researchers Say

adult-onset-adhd-neurosceinenews

‘Researchers report up to 80% of people diagnosed with adult onset ADHD likely do not have the condition. For the 20% of adults who may have ADHD, doctors may have missed the condition during childhood, the researchers conclude…’

Source: Neuroscience News

In my psychiatric practice, I began treating adult ADHD in the ’80’s, soon after it was recognized that the disorder, heretofore thought to affect children and adolescents only, could persist into childhood, albeit with a slightly modified picture as one aged. It was a necessary criterion for diagnosing it in an adult that it had begun in childhood, even if not recognized at the time. As the disorder was popularized, I turned away many people seeking to have their underperformance in life validated by an ADHD diagnosis — and usually seeking to be prescribed stimulants — because a careful look back revealed that they had shown no signs of having had the disorder as children. Unfortunately, this distinction has been lost in the decades since, resulting in an epidemic of overdiagnosis and unjustified treatment in adults. (The reprehensible epidemic of overdiagnosis of ADHD in children is a different matter.) It warms my heart to see some credible research bearing on the issue. However, I might quibble on the basis of my clinical experience with the inflated assertion that “20% of adults may have ADHD.”

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Anger is temporary madness, and the Stoics knew how to curb it

Massimo Pigliucci, professor of philosophy at City College, writes:

‘…[H]ere is my modern Stoic guide to anger management, inspired by Seneca’s advice:

– Engage in preemptive meditation: think about what situations trigger your anger, and decide ahead of time how to deal with them.

– Check anger as soon as you feel its symptoms. Don’t wait, or it will get out of control.

– Associate with serene people, as much as possible; avoid irritable or angry ones. Moods are infective.

– Play a musical instrument, or purposefully engage in whatever activity relaxes your mind. A relaxed mind does not get angry.

– Seek environments with pleasing, not irritating, colours. Manipulating external circumstances actually has an effect on our moods.

– Don’t engage in discussions when you are tired, you will be more prone to irritation, which can then escalate into anger.

– Don’t start discussions when you are thirsty or hungry, for the same reason.

-Deploy self-deprecating humour, our main weapon against the unpredictability of the Universe, and the predictable nastiness of some of our fellow human beings.

-Practise cognitive distancing – what Seneca calls ‘delaying’ your response – by going for a walk, or retire to the bathroom, anything that will allow you a breather from a tense situation.

– Change your body to change your mind: deliberately slow down your steps, lower the tone of your voice, impose on your body the demeanour of a calm person.

– Above all, be charitable toward others as a path to good living.

Seneca’s advice on anger has stood the test of time, and we would all do well to heed it. …’

Source: Aeon Ideas

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The Court Challenge Begins: Is Trump Taking Unconstitutional Emoluments?

Peter Overby writes:

‘On Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Manhattan will hear preliminary arguments in a case that claims President Trump is violating the Constitution’s ban on accepting foreign payments, or emoluments.

Here is what is at stake: The Founding Fathers wrote a clause into the Constitution saying U.S. officials cannot accept “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title” from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. Trump’s critics say that by refusing to sell off his global businesses, the president is failing to uphold the Constitution.

But before that issue can be debated, the court first has to decide whether the plaintiffs even have standing to bring their Emoluments Clause case. And that first step is what is happening in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. …’

Source: NPR

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George Saunders Wins Man Booker Prize For ‘Lincoln In The Bardo’

Camila Domonoske writes:

‘American author George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, a polyphonous meditation on death, grief and American history.

Saunders, widely lauded for his short stories, was considered the favorite to win the award. His novel centers on the death of Abraham Lincoln’s beloved son Willie and the night that Lincoln reportedly spent in the graveyard, devastated by his grief and lingering by his son’s body.

In the book, Saunders weaves fragments of historical documents (both authentic and imagined) with the voices of ghosts trapped in the graveyard with young Willie, watching in wonder at the strength of his father’s love. The devastating toll of the Civil War is the backdrop for the scene of very particular loss …’

Source: NPR

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LIGO Detects Fierce Collision of Neutron Stars for the First Time

DENNIS OVERBYE writes:

‘After two months of underground and social media rumblings, the first wave of news is being reported Monday about one of the least studied of cosmic phenomena: the merger of dense remnants known as neutron stars, the shrunken cores of stars that have collapsed and burst. …’

Source:  NYTimes.com

First gravitational wave catastrophe that astronomers saw as well as heard, and the most observed astronomical event to date. The video accompanying the article is a lovely explanatory simulation (thanks, Abby).