Standing Tall

“It’s sad the state we’ve gotten to where, apparently, even firing incompetent executive branch appointees amounts to a win for the terrorists. Back in ’04 we were still enough of a superpower that only turning out a president amounted to a win for the terrorists. That suggests that the terrorists truly have us over a barrel. We are so intimidated by them that we have to hold on to a failed defense secretary presumeably forever. Or until there are no more Muslims with a beef with us. Whichever comes first. It’s cool that we’re standing so tall.” — Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo)

Watching the brain ‘switch off’ self-awareness

“Everybody has experienced a sense of “losing oneself” in an activity – being totally absorbed in a task, a movie or sex. Now researchers have caught the brain in the act. Self-awareness, regarded as a key element of being human, is switched off when the brain needs to concentrate hard on a tricky task, found the neurobiologists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

…The brain’s ability to “switch off” the self may have evolved as a protective mechanism, [the chief researcher] suggests. “If there is a sudden danger, such as the appearance of a snake, it is not helpful to stand around wondering how one feels about the situation,” Goldberg points out.

It is possible that research into how the brain switches self-awareness on and off will help neurologists gain a deeper understanding of autism, schizophrenia and other mental disorders where this functionality may be impaired.” (New Scientist) Another fMRI study.

Gangs turn cocaine into clear plastic products

“Now cocaine smugglers have another trick up their sleeves. Evidence from a clandestine lab in eastern Europe suggests that gangs are trying to hide cocaine by incorporating it into a host of innocent-looking transparent plastic consumer products, such as fish tanks, DVD cases or light fittings for cars. These could be imported en masse with no customs officer giving them a second look.” (New Scientist premium [subscription required for access to full article])

Easter Chocolate, Milking Arguable Health Benefits

“The 90 million chocolate bunnies made for Easter, and the millions more chocolate eggs in the basket, have focused attention again on whether chocolate is a plus or minus for health.” This comes up each year around Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween, although for many of us chocolate consumption knows no season. The cardiovascular and antioxidant benefits of chocolate derive from the cocoa itself, and may be offset by the fat and sugar content. Some suggest drinking a cup of cocoa instead. (Medpage Today)

Annals of Emerging Disease

New pathogenic bacterium pinpointed: “Scientists have discovered a previously unknown bacterium lurking in human lymph nodes, a finding that suggests there are many more disease-causing bacteria still to be discovered. The bacterium is thought to cause chronic infections in patients with a rare immune disorder called chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), and the research team is now investigating whether it might be involved in conditions that are more common, such as irritable bowel syndrome.” (Nature)

Net clocks suffering data deluge

“Home network hardware supplier D-Link has been accused of harming the net’s ability to tell the time accurately. Detective work has found that many D-Link routers, switches and wireless access points are bombarding some net time servers with huge amounts of data.” (BBC)

D-Link spokespeople are “aware of the problem” but otherwise evasive as to why they are doing this on a scale no one else apparently has ever felt the need, or had the nerve, to do. Is the company run by an obsessional?