Don’t even think about lying

From Steve Silberman, my favorite Wired writer, this piece about the reinvention of the science of lie detection through the use of functional MRI (fMRI) shows us on the crux point of transformation in hte security industry, the judicial system and our notions of privacy. The science is far ahead of the polygraph and proponents suggest so should its acceptability in the courtroom, given the fact that findings are based on peer-reviewed research and precedents such as DNA testing. The central scientific premise is that lying takes mental effort, because a person knows the truth and has to suppress it to deliberately dissemble, and that that is detectable on fMRI, which is a graphic way of watching regional cerebral metabolism (in technicolor); readers of FmH know I have long been enamored of fMRI-based insights into the localization of brain functions. The central legal battle shaping up with constitutional and privacy-rights advocates is that the technique is construed as threatening to “replace the jury as the lie detector”. Well worth reading; stay tuned, since I hope to be tracking the controversy here as it continues to unfold.


The lie detector you’ll never know is there : “The US Department of Defense has revealed plans to develop a lie detector that can be used without the subject knowing they are being assessed. The Remote Personnel Assessment (RPA) device will also be used to pinpoint fighters hiding in a combat zone, or even to spot signs of stress that might mark someone out as a terrorist or suicide bomber.” (New Scientist)

After Sharon: Bush’s Mideast Agenda

“President losing tough-guy friend in unfriendly region: Without Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, who lay gravely ill Wednesday night after a devastating stroke, President Bush’s Middle East ambitions become even more bizarre and out of reach.

In addition to its vaunted regime change in Iraq, what Bush and his neocon advisers want to do is carry out regime change in Syria and, most importantly, Iran. Now, with the hardline Sharon fighting for his life, the region could be thrown into chaos.” — James Ridgeway (Village Voice)


Semen Displacement as a Sperm Competition Strategy in Humans

Abstract: The human penis as a semen-displacement device: “We examine some of the implications of the possibility that the human penis may have evolved to compete with sperm from other males by displacing rival semen from the cervical end of the vagina prior to ejaculation. The semen displacement hypothesis integrates considerable information about genital morphology and human reproductive behavior, and can be used to generate a number of interesting predictions.” — Gordon G. Gallup, Jr. and Rebecca L. Burch (Human Nature)

How One Disease May Prevent Another.

Review of Disease Pairings Could Provide New Therapeutic Approaches: The knowledge that one disease may prevent the onset of another is not new. For example, the discovery that cowpox vaccines can prevent smallpox dates back to 1798.

Dr. E. Richard Stiehm, a professor of pediatrics at the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA, researched examples throughout medical history of ways that one disease prevents another.

His findings suggest that genetic, infectious and metabolic influences should be considered when looking for treatments, particularly in regard to HIV/AIDS.

“Clinical observations of disease-versus-disease interactions have led to an understanding of the mechanisms of several diseases,” Stiehm said. “In turn, these observations have led to the development of vaccines, therapeutic antibodies, medications and special diets.”

Detailed in the January 2006 issue of Pediatrics, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Stiehm’s research illustrated 12 disease pairs, reviewed their therapeutic implications and suggested additional applications.” (UCLA)


Dogs still dying

Too many owners remain unaware of toxic dog food: “Even though Diamond, Country Value and Professional brand dog foods have been recalled for containing highly toxic aflatoxins, they have caused at least 100 dog deaths in recent weeks, say Cornell University veterinarians, who are growing increasingly alarmed. Some kennels and consumers around the nation and possibly in more than two dozen other countries remain unaware of the tainted food, and as a result, they continue to give dogs food containing a lethal toxin.” (Cornell Veterinary School)

Extra Armor Could Have Saved Many Lives, Study Shows

“A secret Pentagon study has found that at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor. That armor has been available since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.” (New York Times )

Add to that the proportion of roadside bombing/IED deaths attributable to inadequate armoring on U.S. military vehicles and perhaps half of the 2200-plus families of American GIs lost in Iraq ought to realize that the murderers of their sons and daughters are Americans.

Then there are the other half of the grieving families who should consider that, in another sense, all the deaths in Iraq have been needless deaths (even if you believe in the necessity for ‘just war’ at all), based as this war has been on craven deception, cowardice and criminal intent on the part of the Bush cabal.

And we should keep in mind as well that the tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian victims don’t have any armour.


Fiddling-while-Rome-burns Dept.

The end of the global warming debate: “…to the extent that facts can settle anything, the debate over human-caused global warming has been settled. Worldwide, 2005 was equal (to within the margin of error of the stats) with 1998 as the warmest year in at least the past millennium.

More significantly, perhaps, 2005 saw the final nail hammered into the arguments climate change contrarians have been pushing for years. The few remaining legitimate sceptics (such as John Christy), along with some of the smarter ideological contrarians (like Ron Bailey), have looked at the evidence and conceded the reality of human-caused global warming.” (Crooked Timber)


World’s longest concert sounds second chord

“A new chord has sounded in the world’s slowest and longest concert, which will take 639 years to perform.

An abandoned church in eastern Germany is the venue for the 639-year-long performance of a piece of music by American experimental composer John Cage.

The performance of “organ2/ASLSP” (or “As SLow aS Possible”) began in the Buchardi church in Halberstadt on September 5, 2001, and is scheduled to last until 2639.

The first year-and-a-half of the performance was total silence, with the first chord, G-sharp, B and G-sharp, not sounding until February 2, 2003.” (ABC.net.au)


How the universe’s first magnetic field formed

“Relatively confined magnetic fields like those in the Earth and Sun are generated by the turbulent mixing of conducting fluids in their cores. But large-scale fields tangled within galaxies and clusters of galaxies are harder to explain by fluid mixing alone. That is because most galaxies have rotated only a few dozen times since they formed.

…Now, researchers led by Kiyotomo Ichiki of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan in Tokyo have used standard physics to explain the seed field. They say the field began before the first atoms formed, when the universe was a hot soup of protons, electrons and photons – a state that lasted for the first 370,000 years after the big bang.” (New Scientist)


R.I.P. Hugh Thompson

//graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/01/07/national/07thom184.jpg' cannot be displayed] Vietnam-era whistleblower hero dead of cancer at 62: Thompson was the helicopter pilot who, while flying a reconnaissance mission over the South Vietnamese village of My Lai in March, 1968, spotted the bodies of numerous villagers strewn over the landscape. Realizing that a massacre was underway, he landed his copter and evacuated a group of villagers, ordering his gunner to shoot any American soldiers who opened fire on the civilians (none did). He reported what he had seen after returning to base. “‘They said I was screaming quite loud,’ he told U.S. News & World Report in 2004. ‘I threatened never to fly again. I didn’t want to be a part of that. It wasn’t war.'” He ended up testifying before Congress and at the court-martial of Lt. William Calley, the platoon leader at My Lai who was the only American soldier convicted for the massacre. For his trouble, Thompson endured ostracism and death threats, although in 1998 he was awarded the Army’s Soldier’s Medal. He has worked as a veterans’ counselor and continued to speak about the moral and legal obligations of soldiers in wartime, including invited talks at West Point and other military installations. (New York Times )


Vietnam war ‘deserter’ charged: “In a possible message to would-be deserters in Iraq, the US marines have charged a pensioner for not going to war in Vietnam 40 years ago.

Former marine private Jerry Texiero was found selling boats and classic cars in Florida under a false name. He was identified as a result of a fraud conviction in 1998, which he said was the result of wrongdoing by a former partner.

Seven years later marine investigators from an “AWOL apprehension unit” compared his fingerprints with their records of deserters. He was first arrested by Florida police in August and handed over to the military on December 21.

Mr Texiero, 65, is being held in Camp Lejeune, a marine base in North Carolina.” (Guardian.UK)