Race and ‘Game of Thrones’

A Game of Thrones
“As a sci-fi and fantasy genre fan, this new HBO show based on a popular book series initially appealed to me. I easily stomached plotlines involving incest, attempted murder of a child, and gory beheadings. But nothing prepared me for the appearance of a nomadic race called the Dothraki.

Unlike the other alabaster-colored, civilized characters on the show, every single one of them is a shade of brown. Blacks, Latinos and actors of Indian descent make up the part of the cast that engages in fireside orgies, random disembowelments and feasts of raw meat. One could argue that, yes, nomadic people would bronze in the sun, but the Dothraki are well beyond bronze…” (via redeyechicago.com).

Nature’s Living Tape Recorders

“Many birds can mimic sounds but lyrebirds are the masters. They are nature’s living tape recorders, and sometimes their songs can be troubling.

For example, when the BBC’s David Attenborough ran into a lyrebird deep in the Australian woods, the bird not only sang the songs of 20 other forest birds, it also did a perfect imitation of foresters and their chainsaws, who apparently were getting closer. That same bird made the sound of a car alarm.

These birds were, in effect, recording the sounds of their own habitat destruction. And they were doing this, ironically, inside their mating songs.”

An incredible Youtube video is embedded in the article (via Krulwich Wonders… : NPR).

Memoirs of an Entomophage

New York Entomological Society logo

“My reputation in some circles as a person who eats bugs has been blown out of proportion. Yes, I have knowingly and voluntarily eaten insects, but I wish people wouldn’t pluck out that historical detail to epitomize me (“You remember, I’ve told you about John—he’s the bug-eater!”). It was so out of character for me. As a boy, I was fastidious to the point of annoying priggishness; other children would probably have enjoyed making me eat insects had the idea occurred to them, but I wouldn’t have chosen to do so myself. Bug eating was something I matured into, and performed as a professional duty, even a public service.

Here’s how it happened…”

— John Rennie, former editor of Scientific American (via  Retort).

The Plot to Turn On the World: The Leary/Ginsberg Acid Conspiracy

Steve Silberman interviews Peter Connors:

“The spectacular rise and fall of Leary and Ginsberg’s plot to turn on the world is the subject of a new book by Peter Conners called White Hand Society, published by City Lights Books. I knew Ginsberg well for 20 years and was his teaching assistant at Naropa, a Buddhist university in Colorado, yet I learned a lot about Ginsberg’s role in helping to create Leary’s public identity by reading the book, which is based mostly on the lively correspondence between the two men. (For more detailed analysis of White Hand Society, see this insightful review by poet, Buddhist student, and Ginsberg scholar Marc Olmsted.)  I spoke with Conners when he came through San Francisco on his book tour…” (via NeuroTribes)

China Bans Time Travel in TV Shows, Movies

Time travel hypothesis ; using wormholes.
Image via Wikipedia

‘China doesn’t want to go back to the future or the past: The Chinese government has banned any depiction of time travel in TV shows and films because the plot element “disrespects history.”

In a statement on March 31, China’s State Administration for Radio, Film  Television said that fictional time-traveling in programs “casually make up myths, have monstrous and weird plots, use absurd tactics, and even promote feudalism, superstition, fatalism and reincarnation.” ‘ (via TVGuide)

Annals of Depravity Dept. (cont’d)

One more in an occasional series:

“Twin Houston men were charged Tuesday with the murder of their 89-year-old mother after police say the pair allowed her to die on the floor in their foyer after she fell, then lived for three months with her decomposing, bug-infested corpse…

The twins later told police they lived with their mother and cared for her. On Jan. 10, Edwin Berndt said he and his brother were watching the BCS Championship football game when their mother “came in ranting and raving and she then fell down and did not get up.” He said they decided to leave her on the floor because they didn’t have money to provide her with medical treatment.

For the first day, Sybil Berndt was conscious and able to speak, but did not ask for any help, Edwin Berndt said. His brother said they didn’t give her any food or water while she lay on the floor.” (via Seattle Times).

Psychologist Who Cleared Death Row Inmates Is Reprimanded

Title capital punishment

“A psychologist who examined 14 inmates who are now on Texas’ Death Row — and two others who were subsequently executed — and found them intellectually competent enough to face the death penalty, agreed on Thursday never to perform such evaluations again. Lawyers for the 14 inmates hope the agreement will help their clients, who they argue are mentally handicapped, to escape lethal injection.

As part of a settlement, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists issued a reprimand against Dr. George Denkowski, whose testing methods have been sharply criticized by other psychologists and defense lawyers as unscientific. Dr. Denkowski agreed not to conduct intellectual disability evaluations in future criminal cases and to pay a fine of $5,500. In return, the board dismissed the complaints against him.

Texas defense lawyers and forensic psychologists across the nation have watched the case closely. Although Dr. Denkowski admitted no wrongdoing and defends his practice, those critical of his methods said the settlement could give those inmates still on death row an important appellate opportunity.

“It really suggests that he screwed up,” said Dick Burr, a lawyer who represents Steven Butler, a death row inmate, and who filed one of the complaints against Dr. Denkowski.

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that states cannot execute mentally handicapped people. But the court did not provide guidelines for determining whether a person is mentally handicapped, leaving it up to the states to create criteria.” (via NYTimes.com)

As far as I am concerned, his reprimand should not be a matter of whether his methodology met standards or not. A “caregiver” is inherently ethically compromised when acting in the service of the taking of a life.

FermiLab Physicists May Have Found New Particle


Fermilab's Accelerator Rings

‘Physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory are planning to announce Wednesday that they have found found a suspicious bump in their data that could be evidence of a new elementary particle or even, some say, a new force of nature. 

…“Nobody knows what this is,” said Christopher Hill, a theorist at Fermilab who was not part of the team. “If it is real, it would be the most significant discovery in physics in half a century.” ‘  (viaNYTimes.com).


How Japan’s Tsunami Massive Debris Plume Will Hit California and Hawaii

Debris floats in the water off the coast of Ja...

“If you live in Hawaii, California, British Columbia, Alaska or Baja California, here is some bad news: According to computer models made by scientists at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, all the debris washed out by the Japan tsunami is coming your way.

This is how the trash will spread through the Pacific and hit the West Coast of the United States, Canada and Mexico…” (via Gizmodo).

Is The “Paleolithic Diet” Really Better?

Primate skulls provided courtesy of the Museum...

GOOD Asks the Experts: A roundtable discussion among four anthropologists (who know what they are talking about with respect to our Paleolithic ancestors). Did our evolutionary forebears evolve eating alot of meat? Should we?

Leonard: Although there’s an extraordinary range of variation, based on the climate and the environment, hunter-gatherers get a fair amount of meat in their diet. We require a diet that is more energy-dense than other primates and historically, we may have reached that point by incorporating more meat. It’s reflected in evolutionary changes in our face, our teeth, and in our gastrointestinal tract. Indeed, the GI tract of modern humans looks more like a carnivore’s than a large primate’s. Because early humans increasingly used tools to hunt, we don’t show the same kinds of dental adaptations as modern carnivores…” (via GOOD).


What to Do When Your Pilot Gets Sucked Out the Plane Window

Cockpit of a Boeing 767

In light of the recent Southwest decompression incident:

“It was a routine day at the Birmingham, England airport in 1990. The British Airways crew had gotten up early to prepare for a trip to Malaga, Spain. About 13 minutes into the flight, flight attendant Nigel Ogden walked into the cockpit to offer the captain Tim Lancaster and co-captain Alistair Atcheson a cup of tea. As he was walking out, the plane was rocked by an explosion. He turned around and this is what he saw, as he told it to the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Julia Llewellyn Smith.” (via The Atlantic).

Mysterious Cosmic Blast Keeps on Going

Artist's illustration of one model of the brig...
‘Astronomers have witnessed a cosmic explosion so strange they don’t even know what to call it. Although the blowup, discovered with NASA’s Swift satellite on March 28, emits high-energy radiation like a gamma-ray burst would, the event has now lasted for 11 days. Gamma-ray bursts last for an average of about 30 seconds.
Also unlike a gamma-ray burst, the explosion has faded and brightened, emitting staccato pulses of energetic radiation lasting for hundreds of seconds. 

“It’s either a phenomenon we’ve never seen before or a familiar event that we’ve never viewed in this way before,” says Andrew Fruchter of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore…’ (Wired)


Paralyzed woman conducts orchestra with her mind

EEG with 32 elektrodes
“A British woman with locked-in syndrome has been able to conduct an orchestra using just the power of her thoughts.The woman is only able to make eye, facial and slight head movements orllowing a stroke which left her paralyzed.But, monitored using electroencephalography EEG, she wore a cap with electrodes which picked up different patterns in her brainwaves depending on what she was looking at on a screen – in this case objects flickering at different frequencies.This ‘frequency-following’ effect was then adapted so that the different frequencies related to different musical instruments which the patient operated with her eyes. After a couple of hours of the trial, the patient was able to play a mini orchestra solo, just by brainpower alone.” (via TG Daily)