“The safety of cellphones has been brought into question once again by research that suggests radio waves from the devices could promote the growth of tumours. Paradoxically, the study suggests that the radiation makes tumours grow more aggressively by initially killing off cancer cells.” New Scientist
“Dogs are more relaxed and well-behaved when listening to classical music, rather than pop or heavy metal, according to a new behavioural study. The researchers say the results could help dog pounds work out the best play list for calming their canines.” New Scientist
Arts & Letters Daily to Resume Publication After Purchase by The Chronicle of Higher Education: “…Arts & Letters Daily will resume under the editorship of its founder, Denis Dutton, a professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, New Zealand.”
Sniper Letter Linked to Movement: “An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment Saturday on whether authorities were looking into the possibility that the writer borrowed from the language of the Five Percent movement, which teaches that education and family are of central importance. It rejects drinking, drugs and fornication, as well as most accepted history, authority and religion.
The 39-year-old movement started as an offshoot of the Nation of Islam, but Five Percenters say they are not Muslims. The group teaches that black men are to be called ‘God’ and black women ‘Earth,’ and that only five percent of the population is enlightened.” Yahoo! News
Self-styled ‘vampire’ prisoner denied conjugal visits: ‘The Utah State Court of Appeals on Thursday dismissed Robert Paul Rice’s claims that the Utah State Prison is violating his right to practice his religion by failing to provide him with a “vampire” diet.
The court also showed no sympathy for Rice’s complaint that he wasn’t allowed a conjugal visit when a “vampress” is available so he can partake “in the vampiric sacrament (drinking blood.)” ‘ CNN
The media’s role in the sniper hunt was debated
from long before his capture LA Times
, but just watch what happens now that the facts are compared with the press’ influence and the pundits’ predictions
sunspot.net. Almost everything the TV press told us about the sniper was wrong Washington Post; the white van was an egregious red herring Austin American-Statesman. Not only that; after the arrest, the Maryland prosecutor made a statement accusing the press of creating a climate of fear
Walter Mondale is reportedly about to bow to intense Democratic pressure and run for Wellstone’s seat. Washington Post
A review: “Newsblaster, a project developed by the Columbia NLP (natural language processing) Group, represents the next level of evolution for news on the web. The service monitors seventeen major web news services, and groups related stories together for easy access.
What’s so special about that? Isn’t that what other news aggregators do?
Yes and no. What makes Newsblaster different is that it ‘reads’ the news, using natural language and artificial intelligence techniques, and then actually writes short summaries of each major news event based on what it has ‘understood.’ And it’s remarkably good at what it does.” SearchDay [Columbia NewsBlaster itself can be found here.]
Artificial Worlds: John Benditt. Amy Bruckman. Will Calhoun. Bruce Damer. Tom DeMarco. Judith Donath. Maya Draisin. Simson Garfinkel. Dan Gillmor. General Paul Gorman. Henry Jenkins. Gerard Jones. Amy Jo Kim. Angus S. King, Jr.. Ray Kurzweil. Polly LaBarre. Jaron Lanier. Steve Larsen. Bob Metcalfe. Joe Pine. Jordan Pollack. Lauren Rabinovitz. Howard Rheingold. John Sculley. Alexander Shulgin. Alvy Ray Smith. Elliot Soloway. Warren Spector. Linda Stone. Noel Paul Stookey. Sherry Turkle. Vernor Vinge. Stephen Wolfram.
JD Lasica asks the digerati about their online newsreading recommendations. Fewer surprises than I’d expected. No one mentions FmH.
Howard Rheingold: “If you know a subject well, you see The New York Times and The Washington Post completely blow it…” OJR
“After tracking its motion for 10 years, astronomers have caught a star careening around the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s center. Their observations, reported in tomorrow’s issue of Nature, provide definitive proof that a roughly 2.6-million-solar-mass black hole lurks at the core of our galaxy.” Sky and Telescope
A movie of a star orbiting the black hole, and an explanation of the significance of this finding, are here.
In related news, astronomer sees distant black hole ‘eat’ star. CNN
Gene tweaking safely doubles lifespan: “A US team has doubled the lifespan of the nematode worm with no apparent physiological side affects. The key to what appears to be uncompromised longevity is to silence a gene involved in ageing at just the right point in a worm’s life cycle.” New ScientistF
For Massachusetts voters: consider disarmament activist Randall C Forsberg‘s write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate. Anyone appalled at presidential aspirant John Kerry’s support for the Congressional resolution on Iraq can go in another direction. It’s riskfree, too, because Kerry has no major-party opponent on the ballot. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to throw out the thinly-veiled anti-immigrant agenda of the bilingual education referendum question (2), and to uphold the Clean Elections preferences we voted in four years ago.
As Simon says, this guy is cool. [via Experiment] Explore further around his site; don’t fail to view his personal history of corruption, for example.
Also via Simon, look at this Biblical genealogy.
Anti-War Activists Rally in Washington:
‘One graphic sign showed Bush’s face at the end of two bright red bombs with the caption: “Drop Bush, not bombs.” Another demonstrator’s sign said: “Regime change begins at home.” Bush administration policy holds that a “regime change” must come about in Iraq, by force if necessary.
Saturday’s march around the White House coincides with anti-war demonstrations in San Francisco, Rome, Berlin, Copenhagen, Tokyo and Mexico City. Organizers say they expected the combined participation of hundreds of thousands of people.’ Washington Post
Paul Krugman (now apparently thoroughly relishing repeatedly his place in the crosshairs of the Rabid Right): “Despite his public image as a plain-spoken man, President Bush is in fact as slippery and evasive as any politician in memory“. NY Times
Say Hello to Sanjeep, Er, Sam: a hilarious piece on American corporations’ attempts to Americanize their Indian technical support personnel as they migrate their tech support to the Indian subcontinent. Wired
This BBC piece summarizes an extraordinary case report, presented at the recent American Neurological Association annual meeting, of a 40-year-old married schoolteacher with no previous history of sex offenses who was on the point of incarceration after the abrupt onset of escalating sexual aberrations when his complaints of headaches led to the discovery of an egg-sized tumor in his right orbitofrontal cortex. The excision of the tumor extinguished the behavior; the recurrence of the behaviors was shown to correlate with the recurrence of the tumor, and after its re-excision his behaviors again disappeared.
The association of a brain tumor in the prefrontal cortex with such a behavioral disturbance should not be surprising. As neuropsychologically astute FmH readers know, “this is the part of the brain responsible for judgement, impulse control and social behaviour…” The question for me is whether the authors should be forgiven for so limiting the scope of the conclusions they allow themselves to draw:
Russell Swerdlow and Jeffrey Burns of the University of Virginia who treated the patient said it suggested that doctors should consider brain tumours as the reason why some people became sex offenders.
But they warned that this only applied to people who suddenly become obsessed with sex and who have no previous history.
“If someone argues that every paedophile needs a MRI, the difference in this case was that the patient had a normal history before he acquired the problem,” Dr Burns said.
Typical neurologists, they will consider brain influences on behavior only in cases of gross pathological changes (which, I agree, would be the only alterations detectable on MRI scan). The real challenge this case presents is to where we will draw the line about responsibility for antisocial actions, given that there are so many other processes, more subtle than a brain tumor, that can impair orbitofrontal (not to mention other brain) functions. Indeed, as a behavioral neurologist comments close to the end of the article, even in this case the effect of the tumor may have been indirect, via altering hormonal function, rather than structural and direct.
Joy Press: Eggers on His Face:
“Let’s try an experiment. Pretend you know nothing about Dave Eggers. You’ve never read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, never set eyes on McSweeney’s archly antiquated typeface. You’ve perused neither the Web sites mocking him nor the puff pieces lionizing him. Dave Eggers is just a fledgling novelist who has produced a self-published debut called You Shall Know Our Velocity.
In an ideal world, this is how a critic should approach You Shall Know: separate the book from the miasma of hype and cult of personality that surrounds its author, and consider the work as an entity in itself. The novel doesn’t have a sleeve or a first page, only a rough-hewn cover that serves as the story’s first page. “Everything within takes place after Jack died and before my mom and I drowned in a burning ferry in the cool tannin-tinted Guaviare River”: Not a classic first line, but not a complete stinker. By the bottom of the cover, though, he’s dropping clunkers about “wind coming low and searching off the jagged half-frozen lake.” If my mind were a critical blank slate, I might have stopped reading right there. But OK, I do know something about Eggers, and so the benefit of the doubt kicks in: Maybe this is a pastiche of an overwritten novel that will unfurl into majestic cleverness.” [more] Village Voice
Chemical Sensitivity Tied to Anxiety, Depression
Anxiety and depression may be important features of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), a controversial diagnosis given to some people with apparent allergic reactions to a range of everyday exposures.
A small study of MCS patients found that they were more likely to suffer depression than either healthy individuals or people with asthma. And both asthmatics and those with MCS showed greater-than-average “anxiety sensitivity,” an exaggerated response to anxious feelings that is characteristic of panic disorder.
People diagnosed with MCS typically report a range of symptoms, from headaches and joint and muscle pain to fatigue, memory loss and depression. The medical community is divided over whether MCS actually exists, but some believe that low-level exposures to everyday chemicals like those in cosmetics, soaps and detergent trigger physical reactions in MCS patients.
Some researchers have also proposed that the psychological disorders that often accompany MCS are a reaction to the syndrome, and not the underlying cause, according to the authors of the new study. Reuters Health
While some organic basis to some MCS may exist, most of the cases I have seen seem to be of people using a physical metaphor for emotional distress. Investigation of physiological parameters, immune function, etc., in MCS show no consistent findings. This may be because it is non-physiological or because the study group is heterogeneous. A study finding consistent psychological alterations in MCS sufferers is more supportive of psychological causation of the syndrome, although the authors are hesitant to draw that conclusion [being more cautious than I am about being seen as opinionated… — FmH].
Review: The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel M. Wegner (MIT Press, 2002):
“A book with this title is likely to cause a reaction even before you read it. Some will immediately dismiss it as more of the obviously wrong idea that, despite appearances, iron laws rule our behaviour, while others will welcome it as a much-needed thump on our grandiose convictions of free-will. Those who actually read the book may very well be surprised to find out that Daniel Wegner is not so much concerned with taking sides on the subject of free-will vs. determinism, but rather in providing a psychological theory of how the experience of conscious will arises in us and how reliable it is in tracking down the causes of our behaviour. To be sure, the book is of direct relevance to all those interested in the more traditional puzzles about the nature of free will but warning should be made that what you’ll find here is mostly on the theme of mental causation.
…His view is that “the experience of consciously willing an action is not a direct indication that the conscious thought has caused the action”, and the book does a good job of supporting that claim with empirical studies showing how our experience of consciously willing (or not) an action often bears little relation to the actual causes of the action. While at times we will claim authorship for actions we could not possibly have caused, others we will dismiss authorship for actions that clearly have been cause by us. Particularly instructive in this respect are Wegner’s analyses of automatisms (i.e., actions we would deny having consciously willed) such as ‘table turning’, ‘pendulum divining’ and ‘automatic writing’, and action projection. Equally interesting is his exploration of the ‘ideal agent’, someone who always knows his actions prior to their occurrence. The use of the term ‘illusion’ to characterize the experience of conscious will is, thus, justified by the fact that first-person impressions of agency are not by themselves guarantee that the subject is indeed the cause of a particular action.”
A Conversation With Master Fictioneer Harry Mathews
Harry Mathews and Joseph McElroy met last week to talk—about the writing of fiction, strange maps of New York, and other topics—and celebrate the release of Mathews’s The Human Country: New and Collected Stories (Dalkey Archive). Mathews, the author of five novels and several volumes of poetry and nonfiction, is the sole American member of the Oulipo, the legendary Paris-based “workshop for potential literature,” whose members have included Italo Calvino and Georges Perec. On October 15 he was decorated with the title of Officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters. McElroy’s eighth novel, Actress in the House, is forthcoming from Overlook next year. Village Voice
I wanted to quote some particularly pithy piece of Matthews’ wisdom as a ‘hook’ to this interview, but I wound up wanting to quote every paragraph. I can’t wait for the bookstore to open…
The public plans and secret dreams of the men who sold the moon: ‘ “It is necessary for humankind to move off-planet, and in the near future, if we are not to stagnate,” TransOrbital executive Paul Blase says. And if the moon isn’t turned into a commercial space, “then we are limiting ourselves to an observational presence only. . . . This will be only signing a suicide pact.” ‘ Village Voice
“Many veterans advocates believe a certain anthrax vaccine to be a major cause of Gulf War sickness. The company manufacturing it has launched a massive lobbying campaign to persuade the Bush administration to stockpile the controversial drug so it can be administered to civilians.” Wired
“Paul Kingsnorth seeks out the Yes Men – the ultimate ‘cyber- hoaxers’, whose spoof WTO website has led to them giving lectures to committed neo-liberals subverting and ridiculing their beliefs by taking free trade logic to its most absurd extreme.” The Ecologist
Universe is ‘doomed to collapse’
Forget the idea that we live in a youthful universe.
If two American professors are correct, the cosmos is middle-aged.
And it has not got an old age to look forward to.
Despite what recent observations suggest, Professor Andrei Linde from Stanford University and his wife Professor Renata Kallosh say the universe will stop expanding and collapse in the relatively near future.
New insights into the mysterious “dark energy” that appears to be pushing the universe apart suggest it may eventually lose its power. BBC
‘Rights depend on money. This has to end…’: “You may not have heard of him yet, but peasant farmer Evo Morales is one of Bolivia’s most influential figures. With popular support established for his party MAS, he is a force to be reckoned with in congress and may well be his country’s next president. The US has other ideas, however…
A tireless campaigner for the rights of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples, Evo Morales is at the forefront of the cocaleros movement in the jungle region of Chapare. The movement has pitted peasant farmers against US-sponsored attempts to eradicate the production of coca leaves. (The latter are used – but by no means exclusively – to make cocaine.) Morales has been involved in struggles over land and resources since he moved to Chapare as a teenager. ” The Ecologist
Why it is hard to keep a straight face: “If you meet someone who looks angry or happy, it is often hard to remain expressionless yourself – and now scientists believe they know why.
Researchers in Sweden believe your unconscious mind exerts direct control of your facial muscles.
However much you struggle to keep a blank face, your brain may be letting you down.” BBC
Blogs Tell All: “Conspiracy theories have long been an Internet staple. But a dearth of evidence about the sniper — and the phenomenal explosion of blogs — have brought online speculation to a screeching crescendo.” Wired
“Shortly after Chief Charles Moose of the Montgomery County police had his lunchtime press conference yesterday, in the wake of another shooting, the reviews rolled in on MSNBC.” Boston Globe
Key Internet servers hit by attack
Nine of the 13 computer servers that manage global Internet traffic were crippled by a powerful electronic attack this week, officials said.
But most Internet users didn’t notice because the attack only lasted an hour. Its origin was not known, and the FBI and White House were investigating.
One official described Monday’s attack as the most sophisticated and large-scale assault against these crucial computers in the history of the Internet. CNN
Poet a Contender to Run Federal Arts Agency:
(Dana) Gioia (pronounced JOY-a), 51, has published three books of poetry: Daily Horoscope (1986), The Gods of Winter (1991) and Interrogations at Noon (2001), which won the American Book Award in May. He is well known as someone who has revived rhyme and meter, though he also writes in free verse.
He was widely recognized for his essay “Can Poetry Matter?,”
which appeared in The Atlantic in 1991. In the essay, Mr. Gioia argued that a clubby academic subculture that had grown up around poetry was preventing it from being widely available to the mainstream. The essay prompted considerable debate and was included in Mr. Gioia’s 1992 collection of essays, Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture, which was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of its Best Books of 1992 and became a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. NY Times
From “Can Poetry Matter?”
The situation has become a paradox, a Zen riddle of cultural sociology. Over the past half century, as American poetry’s specialist audience has steadily expanded, its general readership has declined. Moreover, the engines that have driven poetry’s institutional success—the explosion of academic writing programs, the proliferation of subsidized magazines and presses, the emergence of a creative-writing career track, and the migration of American literary culture to the university—have unwittingly contributed to its disappearance from public view.
The world does not need words. It articulates itself
in sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the path
are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.
The fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being.
The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken.
And one word transforms it into something less or other–
illicit, chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert.
Even calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands
glancing the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow
arching of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues.
Yet the stones remain less real to those who cannot
name them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica.
To see a red stone is less than seeing it as jasper–
metamorphic quartz, cousin to the flint the Kiowa
carved as arrowheads. To name is to know and remember.
The sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds,
painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving
each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it.
The daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always–
greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.
‘an alternative to the abstinence-only drug abuse prevention strategies currently dominating public discourse. Acknowledging that experimentation with consciousness is nearly universal, we believe that the creation of socially-sanctioned contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana may be a powerful approach to reducing drug abuse. In other words, education about appropriate drug use may be more effective in reducing drug abuse than the pursuit of an undesirable and entirely unobtainable “Drug-Free” world.’ MAPS
“MAPS is a membership-based non-profit research and educational organization with about 1800 members. We assist scientists to design, fund, obtain approval for and report on studies into the healing and spiritual potentials of MDMA, psychedelic drugs and marijuana.”
Lester Grinspoon MD: A Cannabis Odyssey:
Every age has its peculiar folly and if Charles Mackay, the author of the mid 19th century classic, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds were alive today he would surely see “cannabinophobia” as a popular delusion along with the “tulipmania” and “witch hunts” of earlier ages. I believe that we are now at the cusp of this particular popular delusion which to date has been responsible for the arrest of over twelve million US citizens. I also believe that future historians will look at this epoch and recognize it as another instance of the “madness of crowds.” Journal of Cognitive Liberties
John Perry Barlow: Liberty and LSD:
Over the last 25 years, I’ve watched a lot of Dead Heads, Buddhists, and other freethinkers do acid. I’ve taken it myself. I still do occasionally, in a ritual sort of way. On the basis of their experience and my own, I know that the public terror of LSD is based more on media propagated superstition than familiarity with its effects on the real world.
I know this, and, like most others who know it, I have kept quiet about it. Journal of Cognitive Liberties
As mentioned recently somewhere on MetaFilter, this utility is the most heavy-duty solution to problems with pop-up web browser ads and spam mail I’ve ever found.
Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Abnormal Psychology, Second Edition:
- Is the DSM-IV a useful classification system?
- Is there gender bias in the DSM-IV?
- Is multiple personality disorder a valid diagnosis?
- Does ADHD exist?
- Is MDMA (Ecstasy) a dangerous drug?
- Does post-abortion syndrome exist?
- Are repressed memories valid?
- Is Prozac safe and effective?
- Has too much emphasis been placed on empirically supported therapies?
- Is Ritalin overprescribed?
- Should psychosurgery be used to treat certain psychological conditions?
- Does media violence promote violent behavior in young people?
- Is pornography harmful?
- Is divorce always psychologically detrimental to children?
- Do evolutionary factors explain rape?
- Has the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill worked?
- Should mental health professionals serve as gatekeepers for physician-assisted suicide?
- Is sexual orientation conversion therapy ethical?
- Is the abuse excuse overused?
- Is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) ethical?
“Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, talks about his new kids book, Summerland, and the freedom he fears is vanishing from children’s lives.” Salon
Republicans plan to control Congress
“White House officials and Republicans on Capitol Hill are so optimistic about winning control of both chambers of Congress in next month’s elections that they have begun mapping how they would use their new power…”
Former sixties radical launches ‘National Campaign to Take Back Our Campuses’: ‘You can’t say “he’s baaaack”… because he hasn’t gone away. He’s a (virtual) bomb thrower who pays little attention to casualties or collateral damage. His campaigns, as numerous as they are notorious, are long on launch and short on staying power. If his latest effort was a CD, it might be called the “Greatest Hits” album as he returns time and time again to one of his favorite targets — campus “radicals.” ‘ WorkingforChange
“Twice now in the past decade, the overwhelming military and economic dominance of the US has given it the chance to lead the rest of the world by example and consensus. It could have adopted (and to a very limited degree under Clinton did adopt) a strategy in which this dominance would be softened and legitimised by economic and ecological generosity and responsibility, by geopolitical restraint, and by ‘a decent respect to the opinion of mankind‘, as the US Declaration of Independence has it. The first occasion was the collapse of the Soviet superpower enemy and of Communism as an ideology. The second was the threat displayed by al-Qaida. Both chances have been lost – the first in part, the second it seems conclusively. What we see now is the tragedy of a great country, with noble impulses, successful institutions, magnificent historical achievements and immense energies, which has become a menace to itself and to mankind.”
Anatol Lieven, a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC, is the author of Chechnya and Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry. London Review of Books [via Miguel]
Abstract: “This article reports an
…libertarianism? ‘Apparently someone’s curse worked: we live in interesting times, and among other consequences, for no good reason we have a surplus of libertarians. With this article I hope to help keep the demand low, or at least to explain to libertarian correspondents why they don’t impress me with comments like “You sure love letting people steal your money!” ‘ The Mutaverse [via Walker; thanks!]
Rumble of a Coming Ice Age: “A remarkable change in the waters of the North Atlantic has thrown what one leading oceanographer is calling a “curve ball” into thinking that the planet will gradually warm due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Instead, there is a real possibility that global warming may soon trigger the sudden onset of an ice age that could last hundreds of years.” National Post [via Red Rock Eaters]
Place, Morality, and Art in Human Worlds
by Ciarán Benson:
”Wherever you are you are right now having the experience of being somewhere: here. Sometime: now. Someone: you” (Kolak, 1999). Being located somewhere and its bearing on the sense of self identity is the main theme of Benson’s Cultural Psychology of Self. He suggests that self is a locative system with both evolutionary and cultural antecedents. He relies on the idea that body’s very structure shapes our conceptual systems in important ways and that one of these influences in the creation of centredness constitutive of self as being a primary means for navigating human worlds. The understanding of the identity of self as a woven narrative is a central claim of cultural psychology of selfhood.
“Our bodies are designed for people who used to walk 20 miles each day looking for food and water”, says Professor Randolph Nesse.
People become ill because their bodies are unable to cope with the pressures of modern Western life, according to a leading scientist.
Professor Randolph Nesse believes that conditions like heart disease, obesity and drug abuse can all be explained by the fact that the human body was not designed for the 21st Century.
He suggests many serious illnesses occur because the human body has failed to evolve and is still designed for a much simpler existence.
Dr Nesse, who is professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, is one of the leading proponents of evolutionary or Darwinian medicine.
Mind-control trials were the secret inspiration: “Anthony Burgess was inspired to write his most famous novel A Clockwork Orange by his real-life involvement in CIA-run mind-control experiments, a new biography claims.
The revelations, published next month, come as the controversial film version gets its first mainstream British television screening.” Independent UK
Redheads may be more resistant to anesthesia, study finds: “A new study suggests people with naturally red hair need about 20 percent more anesthesia than patients with other hair colors.” The Nando Times
A Word for Brainy People: “…(M)ost scientists believe that a neuron stuck in a boring brain will also die. So keeping your cranial neuron colony frisky but relaxed seems to be the key to successful living and aging.” Wired