“Joss Whedon knows how to sneak complex ideas into pop packages. Having created an alternate feminist universe with ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ he is exploring existentialism with his new sci-fi series, ‘Firefly.’ ” NY Times Magazine
U.S. Taking Steps to Ready Forces for Iraq Fighting: “Mobilizing for a possible attack on Iraq, American commanders have taken many steps to prepare and deploy their forces, Defense Department and military officials say. But the early steps have been calculated not to interfere with the Bush administration’s campaign to build diplomatic and political support for taking action.” NY Times
“Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested on Sunday that any American invasion of Iraq would directly target Baghdad’s “dictatorial, repressive” government while attempting to spare the Iraqi people.”
“Prominent members of the U.S. Congress warned on Sunday that a unilateral U.S. attack on Iraq could draw in Israel and lead to a wider Middle East war.”
“In a half-hour phone call Friday, Bush failed to persuade Putin to follow Washington’s lead on Iraq.”
“An additional 4,000 US Marines are due in Kuwait next week as part of joint military exercises.”
“As the Bush administration moves aggressively at the United Nations and in Congress to win support for a possible military strike against Iraq, a consensus has begun to emerge among Pentagon war planners that the United States should conduct a narrowly focused but extremely intense attack that would be radically different from the 1991 Gulf War.”
Maureen Dowd: Culture War With B-2’s: “The administration isn’t targeting Iraq because of 9/11. It’s exploiting 9/11 to target Iraq.” NY Times op-ed
“The nature v nurture debate has never been so fierce. Robin McKie and Vanessa Thorpe report on the bitter row between two leading scientists:
One is a boor, a scientific dinosaur and ‘a hardline left-winger’ whose ideas have long since ceased to matter. The other is a ‘wicked’ individual whose ideas could lead more children to be assaulted by abusive parents.
That is how two leading scientists have denounced each other over their claims to know the causes of human aggression. Violence is in the air and, it appears, at its roots.
In his book They F*** You Up British psychologist Oliver James argues family influences are critical. Neuroscientist Steven Pinker says nothing matters more than our genes. Both are openly abusive about each other’s stance. Hence, the accusation of one of Pinker’s allies that James is ‘fucked-up’ while he has retorted in turn that his opponent is telling lies.
The extraordinarily angry row reveals the depth of the scientific battle that is emerging over the soul of mankind. On one side stand the followers of the fledgling science of evolutionary psychology, led by Pinker. They say studies of human evolution show that parents have little impact on their children’s behaviour. Only their genes, and a person’s interaction with peers and friends, matter in the shaping of violent personalities. Road rage and murder are in our DNA.
On the other side are traditional psychologists and psychoanalysts who say that children’s aggressive behaviour is picked up from violent parents. The family is the root of all troubles. Genes have only a limited role in the birth of of criminal, violent behaviour. Learning from parents is key.
Pinker, head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s centre of cognitive neuroscience, outlines his views in The Blank Slate. His and James’s books were published last week and sparked an exchange of vitriol between the authors. Guardian-Observer
“Electric signals can be transmitted at least four times faster than the speed of light using only basic equipment that would be found in virtually any college science department.
Scientists have sent light signals at faster-than-light speeds over the distances of a few metres for the last two decades – but only with the aid of complicated, expensive equipment. Now physicists at Middle Tennessee State University have broken that speed limit over distances of nearly 120 metres, using off-the-shelf equipment costing just $500.” New Scientist
“Translations of hieroglyphs on the staircase of a pyramid in Guatemala reveal details of a superpower struggle between two city-states at the peak of the Mayan civilisation.
The 1300-year old hieroglyphs support theories that the Mayan world was riven by battles between two major powers, rather than smaller-scale clashes between multiple rival dynasties.” New Scientist
“Males suffer more parasitic infections than females, which could help explain why they die earlier, say Scottish researchers.” New Scientist
“ Alexandra Morton is about as independent a scientist as you’re likely to find. For the past two decades she has been living in remote Echo Bay in British Columbia studying the intricate patterns of sounds killer whales use to communicate. She has had no graduate training, yet has become an authority on orcas. On her boat, she talked to Bob Holmes about her unusual career, her passion for the wild and the curse of salmon farming.” New Scientist