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Found Poem

For you: This is all in your head.
The bluish glow, the call across the years,
all of this, it’s phase II, you cannot deny it.
So, slickly, coyly, will we offer,
close to home,
A little food, which we like
A little confusion, which we like in her.
Because all the pulse points are exposed,
both for weakness and strength,
soft and slight….

I think this really serves no purpose
Unless it will govern history, as well as health.
And let diseases follow as they will.
Then, see that what is needed now is a healer
But only in need,
personal ills at a constant level.

He is at work, old, I think.
Still, it has to come to light;
no, it was visible already,
Creating, at base, some control.
The undulation of goals, good and bad, in your view.

No cause,
not pierced,
now discharged fully.
Oh yes, it will be pleasant, so we wish to pass it on to you
and, in raising the issue, absolve you.
Today used in full, this child,
To see the most likely and complete explanations.

In this year, used in full, we will, we will, we will…
Will be sent, will be good, and the line will be incised
Here, a flood, without closed eyes.
A chord, at least for you.
A locality, at least for us.
We will live here, and he and she,
and not hand in the years.
This is too much; this is too little,
For you, used in full.

What do you think this is about? A clue?

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‘Shadow Biosphere’ theory gaining scientific support

The concept of a shadow biosphere was first outlined by Cleland and her Colorado colleague Shelley Copley in a paper in 2006 in the International Journal of Astrobiology, and is now supported by many other scientists, including astrobiologists Chris McKay, who is based at Nasa’s Ames Research Centre, California, and Paul Davies.These researchers believe life may exist in more than one form on Earth: standard life – like ours – and “weird life”, as they term the conjectured inhabitants of the shadow biosphere. “All the micro-organisms we have detected on Earth to date have had a biology like our own: proteins made up of a maximum of 20 amino acids and a DNA genetic code made out of only four chemical bases: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine,” says Cleland. “Yet there are up to 100 amino acids in nature and at least a dozen bases. These could easily have combined in the remote past to create lifeforms with a very different biochemistry to our own. More to the point, some may still exist in corners of the planet.”Science’s failure to date to spot this weird life may seem puzzling. The natural history of our planet has been scrupulously studied and analysed by scientists, so how could a whole new type of life, albeit a microbial one, have been missed? Cleland has an answer. The methods we use to detect micro-organisms today are based entirely on our own biochemistry and are therefore incapable of spotting shadow microbes, she argues. A sample of weird microbial life would simply not trigger responses to biochemists’ probes and would end up being thrown out with the rubbish. (The Raw Story).

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R.I.P. Martyl Langsdorf

Artist Behind Doomsday Clock Dies at 96: “Martyl Langsdorf’s clock has yet to strike midnight.

Martyl Langsdorf, Artist Behind Doomsday Clock, Dies at 96 - NYTimes.com

In 1953, with the United States and the Soviet Union testing hydrogen bombs and the cold war increasingly frigid, that ominous minute hand of hers stood just two ticks from the symbolically catastrophic 12. By 1991, after the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, it retreated to a relatively reassuring 11:43 p.m.

But the Doomsday Clock, which Mrs. Langsdorf drew for the June 1947 cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as a way to evoke the potential devastation of nuclear weapons, did not stay in reverse. Before Mrs. Langsdorf died on March 26, at 96, the board of the Bulletin, which adjusts the minute hand according to its annual assessments of threats to humanity, had set the clock to 11:55 p.m.” (NYTimes obituary)

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The Iron Lady Is Dead

I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion,
As that young child’s face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
Coming down on that child’s lips
Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
Long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down
When England was the whore of the world
Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
The black tar macadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn’t
Haunted by every tiny detail
‘Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
All she thought of was betrayal
And now the cynical ones
Say that it all ends the same in the long run
Try telling that to the desperate father
Who just squeezed the life from his only son
And how it’s only voices in your head
And dreams you never dreamt
Try telling him the subtle difference between justice and contempt
Try telling me she isn’t angry with this pitiful discontent
When they flaunt it in your face as you line up for punishment
And then expect you to say thank you
Straighten up, look proud and pleased
Because you’ve only got the symptoms,
You haven’t got the whole disease
Just like a schoolboy, whose head’s like a tin-can
Filled up with dreams then poured down the drain
Try telling that to the boys on both sides
Being blown to bits or beaten and maimed
Who takes all the glory and none of the shame
Well I hope you live long now
I pray the lord your soul to keep
I think Ill be going before
We fold our arms and start to weep
I never thought for a moment that human life could be so cheap
‘Cos when they finally put you in the ground
They’ll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down.

    – Elvis Costello.

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Sorrowful News About an Author to Whom I’m Devoted

Iain Banks diagnosed with gall bladder cancer: ‘Scottish author unlikely to live longer than a year and latest novel The Quarry set to be his last, he revealed on his website

His website soon broke under pressure from wellwishers who wanted to read the news and leave tributes.

Banks has delighted fans with his prolific output under two names, and outraged literary puritans with his blithe assertion that he aimed to devote no more than three months a year to writing, because there were so many more interesting things to do – like driving fast cars and playing with fancy technology.

So it must have seemed a very black joke indeed when he discovered a back problem he had ascribed “to the fact I’d started writing at the beginning of [January] and so was crouched over a keyboard all day” was something much more serious.

“When it hadn’t gone away by mid-February, I went to my GP, who spotted that I had jaundice. Blood tests, an ultrasound scan and then a CT scan revealed the full extent of the grisly truth by the start of March,” he wrote.

“I have cancer. It started in my gall bladder, has infected both lobes of my liver and probably also my pancreas and some lymph nodes, plus one tumour is massed around a group of major blood vessels in the same volume, effectively ruling out any chance of surgery to remove the tumours either in the short or long term.”

He said he and his new wife intend “to spend however much quality time I have left seeing friends and relations and visiting places that have meant a lot to us”.

His publishers, meanwhile, are doing all they can to bring forward the publication date of his new novel, The Quarry, “by as much as four months, to give me a better chance of being around when it hits the shelves”. ‘ (The Guardian).

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Can chimps, not only humans, ‘think about thinking’?

‘Humans’ closest animal relatives, chimpanzees, have the ability to “think about thinking” — what is called “metacognition,” according to new research by scientists at Georgia State University and the University at Buffalo.

Michael J. Beran and Bonnie M. Perdue of the Georgia State Language Research Center (LRC) and J. David Smith of the University at Buffalo conducted the research, published in the journal Psychological Science of the Association for Psychological Science.

“The demonstration of metacognition in nonhuman primates has important implications regarding the emergence of self-reflective mind during humans’ cognitive evolution,” the research team noted.

Metacognition is the ability to recognize one’s own cognitive states. For example, a game show contestant must make the decision to “phone a friend” or risk it all, dependent on how confident he or she is in knowing the answer.’ (Science Daily).

The report seems to indicate that the chimps can distinguish what they do and do not know, as evidenced by the use of that recognition as the basis for action. I agree that this would fit the bill for being ‘metacognition’ if it were true, but I am not sure the study demonstrates that.

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H7N9 is coming…

One contact of dead Shanghai H7N9 patient shows flu symptoms – “SHANGHAI, April 5 (Xinhua) — A person who had close contact with a dead H7N9 bird flu patient in Shanghai has been under treatment in quarantine after developing symptoms of fever, running nose and throat itching, local authorities said late Thursday.

So far, China has confirmed 14 H7N9 cases — six in Shanghai, four in Jiangsu, three in Zhejiang and one in Anhui, in the first known human infections of the lesser-known strain. Of all, four died in Shanghai and one died in Zhejiang.” (Xinhua)

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Hated Invasive Species Helps Restore an Ecosystem

“It’s not quite redemption, but one of most loathed invasive species in the world—the European green crab Carcinus maenas—has had a surprisingly positive effect on an ecosystem. On Cape Cod, Massachusetts, researchers have found that the crab is reversing a decades-long trend of damage that another species has inflicted on salt marshes. It might be the first nice thing that the green crab has done for anyone.” (ScienceNOW).

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The Internet ‘Narcissism Epidemic’

narcissism 003

‘We are in the midst of a “narcissism epidemic,” concluded psychologists Jean M. Twnege and W. Keith Campbell in their 2009 book. One study they describe showed that among a group of 37,000 college students, narcissistic personality traits rose just as quickly as obesity from the 1980s to the present…

Evidence for the rise in narcissism continues to come up in research and news. A study
by psychologist Dr. Nathan DeWall and his team
found “a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and
hostility in popular music” since the 1980s. Shawn Bergman, an assistant
professor of
organizational psychology at Appalachian State University in Boone,
North Carolina notes that “narcissism levels among millennials are higher than
previous generations.”

Researchers at Western Illinois University measured
two socially disruptive aspects of
narcissistic personalities — grandiose exhibitionism and
entitlement/exploitativeness. Those who had high scores on grandiose
exhibitionism tended to
amass more friends on Facebook. Buffardi and Campbell found a high
correlation between Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) scores and Facebook
activity
. Researchers were able to identify those with high NPI scores by studying their Facebook pages.

Elias Aboujaoude, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford, notes
that our ability tailor the Internet experience
to our every need is making us more narcissistic. He observes, “This
shift from e- to i- in prefixing Internet URLs and naming electronic
gadgets and apps parallels the rise of the self-absorbed online
Narcissus.” He goes on to state that, “As we get accustomed to having
even our most minor needs …
accommodated to this degree, we are growing more needy and more
entitled. In other words, more narcissistic.” ‘ (The Atlantic)

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Times Haiku

Haiku Deck

“Whimsy is not a quality we usually associate with computer programs. We tend to think of software in terms of the function it fulfills. For example, a spreadsheet helps us do our work. A game of Tetris provides a means of procrastination. Social media reconnects us with our high school nemeses. But what about computer code that serves no inherent purpose in itself?

This is a Tumblr blog of haikus found within The New York Times. Most of us first encountered haikus in a grade school, when we were taught that they are three-line poems with five syllables on the first line, seven on the second and five on the third. According to the Haiku Society of America, that is not an ironclad rule. A proper haiku should also contain a word that indicates the season, or “kigo,” as well as a juxtaposition of verbal imagery, known as “kireji.” That’s a lot harder to teach an algorithm, though, so we just count syllables like most amateur haiku aficionados do.” (Times Haiku).