The Pentagon’s Secret Scream

Sonic devices that can inflict pain–or even permanent deafness–are being deployed. “Marines arriving in Iraq this month as part of a massive troop rotation will bring with them a high-tech weapon never before used in combat — or in peacekeeping. The device is a powerful megaphone the size of a satellite dish that can deliver recorded warnings in Arabic and, on command, emit a piercing tone so excruciating to humans, its boosters say, that it causes crowds to disperse, clears buildings and repels intruders.” —LA Times

How Will the Universe End?

A cosmic detective story about the demise of the world, in three parts. Jim Holt contemplates alternative cosmological notions about the ultimate fate of the universe, a good layman’s roundup. But, more uniquely, he considers the possible ultimate fates of intelligent life at the universe’s demise. These range from Frank Tipler’s seductive notion of “an infinite frolic just before the Big Crunch” to Freeman Dyson’s “vision of a community of increasingly dilute Black Clouds staving off the cold in an eternal Big Chill” to Michio Kaku’s idea of commandeering a cosmic lifeboat through a wormhole to a brand new universe. Kaku, by the way, feels solving superstring theory would be a necessary precursor to this development, and is exhilarated at the impending death of the universe because of the incentives it will provide to do so. Illustrious physicist Steven Weinberg has a more sanguine attitude toward the death of the universe: “For me and you and everyone else around today, the universe will be over in less than 10^2 years.” Holt, ultimately, ponders what if anything is the point of this cosmological speculation at all.

The Perpetual Adolescent

and the triumph of youth culture: “Life in that different day was felt to observe the human equivalent of the Aristotelian unities: to have, like a good drama, a beginning, middle, and end. Each part, it was understood, had its own advantages and detractions, but the middle–adulthood–was the lengthiest and most earnest part, where everything serious happened and much was at stake. To violate the boundaries of any of the three divisions of life was to go against what was natural and thereby to appear unseemly, to put one’s world somehow out of joint, to be, let us face it, a touch, and perhaps more than a touch, grotesque.

Today, of course, all this has been shattered. The ideal almost everywhere is to seem young for as long as possible. The health clubs and endemic workout clothes, the enormous increase in cosmetic surgery (for women and men), the special youth-oriented television programming and moviemaking, all these are merely the more obvious signs of the triumph of youth culture. When I say youth culture, I do not mean merely that the young today are transcendent, the group most admired among the various age groups in American society, but that youth is no longer viewed as a transitory state, through which one passes on the way from childhood to adulthood, but an aspiration, a vaunted condition in which, if one can only arrange it, to settle in perpetuity.” —Joseph Epstein, Weekly Standard

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

American Troops are Killing and Abusing Afghans, Rights Body Says: “US troops in Afghanistan are operating outside the rule of law, using excessive force to make arrests, mistreating detainees and holding them indefinitely in a ‘legal black hole’ without any legal safeguards, a report published today says.

Having gone to war to combat terrorism and remove the oppressive Taliban regime, the United States is now undermining efforts to restore the rule of law and endangering the lives of civilians, Human Rights Watch says.” —CommonDreams

Six Ways Kerry Can Win

Arianna Huffington:

  • “You may share JFK’s initials, but you need to campaign with RFK’s passion.
  • Don’t pick a VP by looking at the map.
  • Don’t fall back on the tried-and-untrue swing voter strategy that has led to the prolonged identity crisis of the Democratic Party.
  • Don’t run away from your voting record.
  • Remember: He who controls the language defines the political debate. Bush Republicans’ control of certain magical words, starting with “responsibility,” has been a key to their success. You need to take back “responsibility” from the grossly irresponsible GOP.
  • Strike a new bargain with the American people. Tell them, ‘Let’s put an end to the tyranny of low expectations. You can expect a lot more of me, and I will ask a lot more of you.'” —AlterNet

Troops Rally For Regime Change Battle

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“MoveOn is now over two million people strong in the United States. This number is unprecedented in the history of hands-on activist organizations with the freedom to operate in political campaigns. As MoveOn itself points out: ‘We’re bigger than the Christian Coalition at its peak. To put it another way, one in every 146 Americans is now a MoveOn member. And we’re still growing fast.'” —Don Hazen and Tai Moses, AlterNet

‘The Ralph Naders of Psychiatry’

Defying Psychiatric Wisdom, These Skeptics Say ‘Prove It’: “They have been called assassins and parasites. They receive hate mail from the proponents of a variety of popular psychotherapies. The president-elect of the American Psychological Association has accused them of being overly devoted to the scientific method.

But the ire of their colleagues has not prevented a small, loosely organized band of academic psychologists from rooting out and publicly debunking mental health practices that they view as faddish, unproved or in some cases potentially harmful.


In journal articles and public presentations, the psychologists, from Emory, Harvard, the University of Texas and other institutions, have challenged the validity of widely used diagnostic tools like the Rorschach inkblot test. They have questioned the existence of repressed memories of child sexual abuse and of multiple personality disorder. They have attacked the wide use of labels like codependency and sexual addiction.

The challengers have also criticized a number of fashionable therapies, including ‘critical incident’ psychological debriefing for trauma victims, eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing, or E.M.D.R., and other techniques.” —New York Times

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field (Pending)

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: “The above picture will be replaced later today (between 9 and 10 am EST) by the newly released Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). The HUDF is expected to be the deepest image of the universe ever taken in visible light. It is expected to show a sampling of the oldest galaxies ever seen, galaxies that formed just after the dark ages, when the universe was only 5 percent of its present age. The Hubble Space Telescope’s NICMOS and new ACS cameras took the image. Staring nearly 3 months at the same spot, the HUDF is reported to be four times more sensitive, in some colors, than the original Hubble Deep Field (HDF), currently pictured above.” [thanks, abby]