Hero on Your Desktop

“…(T)he invention most deserving of your adoration, the contraption that will one day sit in the pantheon of great American machines alongside the telephone and the transistor radio, is something far more prosaic. It is the inkjet printer, and it is much more than a peripheral. Its core technology may seem simple—an array of nozzles that moves back and forth, depositing tiny droplets of ink on paper—but its breadth of uses has turned out to be nothing short of astonishing, so much so that the humble inkjet is driving innovation in disciplines from aerospace engineering to pharmacology.” (Popular Science)

Save the Fetus

In a world awash in pollutants, what exactly is our obligation to protect the health of the unborn? “When Kim Hooper gives a public talk about his work at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, he flashes a slide of his baby granddaughter. “We’ve given her the best genes we can, but what about her environment?” he asks the audience. “Already she’s had an early experience far different than my own.” After all, Hooper points out, her life in the womb began with exposure to myriad chemicals that weren’t around sixty-five years ago.” (Science and Spirit)

African herb yields its anti-addiction secret

“The secret of an African herb that helps drug addicts and alcoholics kick the habit has been discovered. The finding could lead to safer and more effective medications for treating addiction.

Since the 1960s, many addicts have reported that even a single dose of ibogaine, a hallucinogenic alkaloid extracted from the root of an African shrub, helps them kick their habit by reducing their cravings for drugs. And there is hard evidence to back these claims, as well. However, troubling side effects – including heart problems and several deaths – have kept ibogaine from being widely accepted as a medical treatment. Instead, a few researchers have begun searching for ways to deliver ibogaine’s benefits without its risks…” (New Scientist)

You Can’t Ignore My Wrath

“You can try, but you can’t ignore that angry voice yelling at you, or anyone else. Whether it’s your dad, your girlfriend, your sister or a stranger, you must pay attention.

Human brains are just wired that way, according to a study published in the Jan. 23 issue of Nature Neuroscience. Wrathful voices trigger a strong response in the brain, even when we are trying not to pay attention or the comments are meaningless, say researchers at the University of Geneva.” (Wired)

Escape from the Universe?

“The universe is destined to end. Before it does, could an advanced civilisation escape via a ‘wormhole’ into a parallel universe? The idea seems like science fiction, but it is consistent with the laws of physics and biology.

Ignore the vanity of the Bushites, America’s might is draining away

What time is it for America? If the Boston Tea Party was first light and the Gettysburg Address dawn, where between the sunrise and sunset of empire is the United States now?

To judge from his inauguration speech on Thursday, President Bush thinks it is about time for morning coffee: much to be proud of but big tasks — maybe the proudest of all — still ahead. To end tyranny on Earth is no small ambition.

Gerard Baker, the US editor of The Times, (“Don’t believe the doubters: America’s decline and fall is a long way off yet”) strikes a slightly more sanguine note. “A presidential inauguration is a chance for America to remind the world who is boss,” he smiles, “to demonstrate that the United States is the inheritor not only of Greece’s glory, but of Rome’s reach” — but Gerard would not himself go so far: he shares American anxieties about the rise of the Asian superpowers. He is confident, though, there are tremendous reserves of energy and potential still bubbling beneath the surface. “I would not bet on America’s eclipse just yet,” he concludes. For his America, I guess, it is around lunch. An afternoon’s work is still ahead.

I think it’s about half past four. For America-2005-Iraq, think of Britain-1899-Boer War. Ever-heavier burdens are being loaded upon a nation whose economic legs are growing shaky, whose hegemony is being taunted and whose sense of world mission may be faltering. “Overcommitted?” is the whisper. ” — Matthew Parris (Times of London)

The Fit Tend to Fidget, and Biology May Be Why, a Study Says

“Overweight people have a tendency to sit, while lean ones have trouble holding still and spend two hours more a day on their feet, pacing around and fidgeting, researchers are reporting in findings published today.

The difference translates into about 350 calories a day, enough to produce a weight loss of 30 to 40 pounds in one year without trips to the gym – if only heavy people could act more restless, like thin ones.” (New York Times )

Defrocked priest’s accuser wraps up testimony

“The man accusing defrocked priest Paul Shanley of sexually abusing him as a child finished his testimony Friday, despite begging the judge a day earlier to spare him from a third day of questioning.” (Boston Globe)

I don’t know how much national attention this case is getting, but we are all over it here in Boston. There has, of course, already been alot of litigation arising from the Church sexual abuse scandal, but this one is a criminal trial, and I am of two minds about it. While sexual abusers should be held responsible and punished for their actions, the prosecution here is basing their case on an unreliable and suspect accuser, several other of Shanley’s alleged victims having withdrawn from the case in the weeks before the trial. While victims of abuse become chronically psychiatrically troubled, so too do suggestible psychiatrically troubled individuals sometimes ‘become’ victims of abuse in their minds and the minds of caregivers, prosecutors and others who have zealous investments in the reality of abuse. While traumatic memories are stored in a dissociated way, protectively inaccessible to the victim until recovered, it is also demonstrable that ‘recovered memories’ can be fictitious after-the-fact creations. Human memory is malleable and, in some instances, how convincing it is is matched by how unreliable it is. I wonder if we are going to see a monumental battle of expert witnesses around the recovered memory issue in the current case. The proponents of the view that these recovered memories are false and the adherents to the trauma model are often zealots who clash as cataclysmically — and unproductively — as any do when they argue about matters of faith. Shanley and his accuser will likely become damaged icons for polemical positions in a prodigious battle played out in the Cambridge courtroom.


People are invited to send in postcards revealing their secrets, usually (but not invariably) shameful ones. A gallery of these postcards is posted here. Some of the secrets people keep are fairly predictable, but in other cases I am amazed about what people torture themselves over. I was intrigued by the Apologies Project of years past, which started before the weblogging phenomenon as a telephone answering system but made the transition to a weblog. People, as in PostSecret, anonymously reported a shameful secret they were harboring about how they had treated another, but the point was to render an apology. This served more of a purpose, IMHO, than simply posting the secret, although it is even more useful, of course, to face the person you have wronged without concealing your identity. I suppose these anonymous modes of expiation take their cue from the Catholic confessional. I am not a Catholic; if you believe in sin and the theological God, can you make amends with God for your sins without making amends with the person you have wronged?