What’s So Hot About Chili Peppers?

This picture was taken by Gannon Anjo in Tezpu...

“Bolivia is believed to be the chili’s motherland, home to dozens of wild species that may be the ancestors of all the world’s chili varieties—from the mild bell pepper to the medium jalapeño to the rough-skinned naga jolokia, the hottest pepper ever tested. The heat-generating compound in chilies, capsaicin, has long been known to affect taste buds, nerve cells and nasal membranes (it puts the sting in pepper spray). But its function in wild chili plants has been mysterious.

Which is why Tewksbury and his colleagues have made multiple trips to Bolivia over the past four years. They’re most interested in mild chilies, especially those growing near hot ones of the same species—the idea being that a wild chili lacking capsaicin might serve as a kind of exception that proves the rule, betraying the secret purpose of this curiously beloved spice.” via Smithsonian Magazine.

Disease Mongering or Medicalization

MIAMI - MARCH 22:  Juan Ruiz (L) and Pablo Men...

“The medicalization of many social facets of our lives, multitasking pharmaceuticals and disease mongering are problems we should face head on…” via Sciencebase.


If there is any justice, Bobby Jindal’s national political career is over

{{w|Bobby Jindal}}, member of the United State...

“A month after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal complained about wasteful spending in President Obama’s economic stimulus package, including money for “something called ‘volcano monitoring,'” Alaska pilots were grateful for such expenditures. The Alaska Volcano Observatory was ready with warnings to flight officials when Alaska’s Mount Redoubt blew five times Sunday night and Monday morning, sending potentially deadly ash clouds north of Anchorage.” via The Associated Press.

Keep the Schoolbus Routes, Lose the Buses

View of Lake Como from Mount San Primo

“Each morning, about 450 students travel along 17 school bus routes to 10 elementary schools in this lakeside city at the southern tip of Lake Como. There are zero school buses.

In 2003, to confront the triple threats of childhood obesity, local traffic jams and — most important — a rise in global greenhouse gases abetted by car emissions, an environmental group here proposed a retro-radical concept: children should walk to school.” via NYTimes.

Mugged by our genes?

Sylvia Plath's grave at Heptonstall church, We...
Grave of Sylvia Plath

“Last Monday, Nicholas Hughes, son of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, killed himself. His mother was one of the world’s most famous suicides, and news stories have mentioned the tendency of suicide and depression to run in families. But this tragic inheritance is just part of a more complex story in which our lives are shaped by genes, environment — and unexpected connections between the two.” via International Herald Tribune opinion

Levitation Toys Operated Directly by Brainwaves

‘With both Mattel’s “Mind Flex” and Uncle Milton’s “The Force Trainer,” the goal is to focus your thoughts in order to levitate a ball. There are no blinking lights or 3-D graphics -– just a wireless headset, a lightweight ball and a fan.

Both toys use a modified form of electroencephalography — or EEG — technology to measure electrical signals emitted by the brain, says Jim Sullivan of NeuroSky, the company that created the technology that makes the toys work.’ via NPR.


To Congress: Prohibit Selling Patients’ Private Medical Data

Google Health 17 - Import Medical records

“Electronic patient records legislation that will convert our health records from paper to data in electronic systems will put our personal medical records at risk of becoming a commodity that businesses can sell or trade.

Even Microsoft promises they won’t use health information in their database for commercial purposes. The Federal government needs to provide that basic level of protection and more.

Tell Congress we need real patient control of our health data and and that means prohibiting companies from selling or buying medical records or private information mined from records.” via American Civil Liberties Union.

The Null Device

Margaret Thatcher, 1983

Every so often I remember to check in on The Null Device, and I am usually rewarded with a rich harvest of stimulation and idiosyncracy. For instance, right now, you’ll find:

  • a meditation on the reformation of Spandau Ballet and its relationship to Thatcherism;
  • a review of the state of the art in neo-Nazi haute couture;
  • a piece on anti-teenage lighting, the latest in Britain’s war on out-of-control youth;
  • a summary of Lord Whimsy’s essay on bizarre and grotesque fashions throughout history;
  • the revelation of the world’s most alienating airport;
  • how to tell how credit-worthy a person is by looking at their face;

and much more.