Month: June 2014

Why Future Generations May Consider Us Barbaric

Nick Bostrom, a Swedish Oxford-educated philos...

Nick Bostrom

‘Factory farming, eating meat, Internet porn, overprescribing antibiotics, obesity, the maintenance of nuclear weapon stockpiles: these are just some of the reasons that future generations may criticize the morals of our present society, just as we object to yesterdays child labor, bear baiting, slavery, and oppression of women.

Nick Bostrom, the founding director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford, UK, argues that our unpreparedness for existential threats most risks the ire of our childrens children… “For Bostrom, the question is not simply how we deal with obvious threats; it’s whether we should take seriously even the slight chance of something happening that could end human life as we know it.” ‘ (Big Think).

The Map Of Native American Tribes Youve Never Seen Before

‘Finding an address on a map can be taken for granted in the age of GPS and smartphones. But centuries of forced relocation, disease and genocide have made it difficult to find where many Native American tribes once lived.

Aaron Carapella, a self-taught mapmaker in Warner, Okla., has pinpointed the locations and original names of hundreds of American Indian nations before their first contact with Europeans.

As a teenager, Carapella says he could never get his hands on a continental U.S. map like this, depicting more than 600 tribes — many now forgotten and lost to history. Now, the 34-year-old designs and sells maps as large as 3 by 4 feet with the names of tribes hovering over land they once occupied.’ (NPR).

Researchers find clue to stopping Alzheimer’s-like diseases

“We have to take a completely different tack: instead of targeting the cause of the disease, we need to disrupt the plaque building process.” (University of Leeds).

This rare giant flower smells like a corpse

This rare giant flower smells like a corpse Science Alert

‘With its sweet, sweet stench, the beautiful titan arum Amorphophallus titanium is quite a spectacle that draws crowds of avid tourists every time it blooms in a botanic garden.

Last week an even rarer spectacle involving this three-metre-tall flower, native to the tropical rainforests of Sumatra and Indonesia, occurred at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in the US, where two corpse flowers bloomed at the same time. The event, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, is the equivalent of a lunar eclipse in the world of botany.

The flower stays dormant for up to 10 years, hiding its fleshy red and cream petals from nosey humans—and saving the world’s nostrils for its putrid smell, which has been described by members of the United States Botanic Gardens as “the essence of rotting fish” and “a farm on a hot day, where a cow has died”.

Although it’s considered the stinkiest flower on Earth, titan arum’s smell is like Chanel No 5 for dung beetles and flies. When these creatures smell the rotten scent of the flower, they hurry towards it to make sure no other animal steals their precious meal—and they are greedy, going into every nook and cranny until they are satisfied. Once the animals are satiated, they fly away covered in pollen. Titan arum’s mission has been accomplished—the insects will pollinate other flowers.

The flower closes 48 hours after blooming. Its putrid smell disappears, and the titan arum it not seen until years later.’ (Science Alert).

Can You Feel Something If You Dont Have a Word For It?

‘In the early 1960s, Robert Levy, an anthropologist, spent two years in the Society Islands in Tahiti. Ten years later he came out with a book that coined the word

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (French, 1865-1953), "...

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (French, 1865-1953), “The gust of wind” (“La bourrasque”)

“hypocognition“, which was all about a societys inability to coin an appropriate word. Hypocognition is the lack of a necessary, or at least helpful, word to express an experience. In the case of the Tahitians that Levy studied, the missing word was “grief.” In the Society Islands, just like everywhere else, people lost loved ones and felt that loss, but they described themselves as feeling “sick” or “strange” afterwards. They didnt seem to have words like “grief” and “sorrow.”

Hypocognition, Levy argued, was not just a personal problem. It isnt like having a word stuck on the tip of the tongue. It marked a cultural deficit that wounded people. Without terms for grief and sorrow, people didnt come up with many rituals to alleviate them. Levy found that the islands had a high suicide rate, and believed that the lack of ability to express grief might have been a reason for it.’ (io9).

Bust card: Constitutionally protected smartphone edition

‘Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that warrantless smartphone searches are unconstitutional, heres a bust-card for you to print, carry, and commit to memory so that youll have it to hand when John Law wants to muscle his way into your mobile life.’  (Boing Boing).

 

‘If you forgot to lock your phone (or just didn’t feel like it), the next step you must take is to “calmly and respectfully tell the officer that his search is in violation of the Constitution under the court’s Riley decision,” says Stanley. (Riley v. United States is the name of the court case that triggered this new search warrant rule.)

Stanley suggests that anyone who is arrested “repeatedly” state to the arresting officer and any nearby witnesses, “I do not consent to this search.” By saying this key phrase more than once, you help ensure that “there is no question or ambiguity about whether you’ve consented” to the search, Stanley adds.

Making your feelings known is vitally important in this situation. And if you leave any room for the officer to legally justify the search, then no warrant is necessary.’ (Daily Dot)

Weird gremlin photographed in China

‘What is this mysterious beast photographed by a tourist in the Huairou District valleys in northern Beiking, China? “Over the weekend I and my friends went to the mountains to take a mini sci-fi film,” wrote one online commenter when the photo was first posted. “And when I was having a pee, a person popped up and took pictures of me and shot away.” ‘  (The Telegraph via Boing Boing).

Update: ‘ET Today reports this is a man dressed up to promote online game Guild Wars 2. Apparently, he was mistaken for being an actual monster, whether thats Gollum or Dobby from Harry Potter or whatever.

The game’s official Chinese social networking account uploaded behind-the-scenes photos to show that, yes, this is just a photo shoot to promote the game. ET Today reports that the actor was getting a drink from the stream when his photo was snapped. Though, The Telegraph reports the local Huairou government states, “The actor was taking a loo-break and was still wearing his costume”. ” (io9).

Inside the Worlds Largest Gathering of Snakes

‘Each spring, masses of red-sided garter snakes congregate inside limestone caves [in the Narcisse Snake Dens of Manitoba, Canada

Garter Snake; Thamnophis sirtalis

] to form mating balls, in which up to a hundred male snakes vie for a single female. She, in turn, “is desperately trying to get out of the pit,” said [Paul] Colangelo, an environmental documentary photographer.

These slithery swarms appear to be a “frenzy, but a closer look reveals a much finer dance,” Colangelo said in his field notes. “The small males court the larger female by rubbing her head with their chins and maintaining as much contact between their long bodies as possible.”‘ (National Geographic).

Controversial Copenhagen Zoo Official: Zoos Are Selling Disney “Fairy Tales”

Controversial Copenhagen Zoo Official: Zoos Are Selling Disney

‘The zoo official who euthanized a giraffe and four lions earlier this year may be stoking more controversy.

Many zoos, especially in the United States, are perpetuating a fairy-tale world that masks the realities of nature from visitors, he said this week in Copenhagen.”We should not tell the Disney story that animals are only cute and only get born and never die,” said Bengt Holst, the Copenhagen Zoos science director, at the 2014 Euroscience Open Forum. “We have to tell the real story: Death is a natural consequence of life. If [we] dont tell that story, [were doing] a bad job, because then we dont work for conservation—we work for an imaginary world.”

Zoos in Europe have been euthanizing, or culling, captive animals for about 30 years. The goal has been to create a healthy and genetically diverse population of different species, many of which are threatened by extinction. Animals are sometimes killed to make room for other animals or to avoid inbreeding.European zoos also breed more animals than they need, because its impossible to predict how many females will get pregnant and give birth to healthy offspring. Holst told National Geographic on Wednesday that the need to euthanize is actually a “positive sign,” since it means that zoos are breeding animals well enough to create a surplus.’  (National Geographic).

If You Want to Understand Cities in the 21st Century, Read This Essay

‘In 2008, a young model from rural Canada was brutally murdered in a Shanghai apartment building. The story of how her assailant was maybe caught, chronicled by journalist Mara Hvistendahl her engrossing essay And the City Swallowed Them, reveals how 21st century cities are changing the world.’  (io9)

David Duchovny on The X-Files: Its Not Done Until One of Us Dies

‘With the series finale of Californication airing this weekend, David Duchovny says he feels like he has comfortably closed the book on his character Hank Moody. Thats not the case, though, for another one of his iconic characters: The X-Files‘ Fox Mulder. During an in-depth interview with Rolling Stone about the end of the long-running Showtime drama, which will run next week after the finale, he said that he would be up for making a sequel to the 2008 movie The X-Files: I Want to Believe.

Duchovny said that he remains friends with both X-Files creator Chris Carter and his costar, Gillian Anderson. Moreover, he loves the Fox Mulder character. “Once I was able to branch out and do some other movies and do Californication, I didn’t feel like, ‘People only think I do that,'” he said. “I no longer have that anxiety.” ‘ (Rolling Stone).

Higgs Physics Should Have Destroyed Universe

‘In addition to the presence of gravity in the early Universe, there was also the Higgs field. This field isn’t a force like gravity and doesn’t accelerate particles or transfer energy, but it does interact with particles to give them mass. We can’t detect the Higgs field directly, but we can detect the Higgs boson, which is kind of like a mediator between particles and the field. The rapid expansion of the Universe should have caused a quantum fluctuation, which would have disturbed the Higgs field, creating a lower energy state that would have forced the Universe to collapse. And yet, here we are.

In order to explain the survival of the Universe in the face of that certain death, the authors “present two possible cures: a direct coupling between the Higgs field and the inflation and a nonzero temperature from dissipation during inflation.” The only problem with this explanation is that it involves the use of physics and particles that don’t currently exist in any theories. Minor detail, right?’ (IFLScience).

Powdered caffeine in salt shakers is now a thing

‘Thats right, researchers have developed powdered caffeine, so you can skip the coffee and instead simply grab a salt shaker filled with energy.

Known as CaffeinAll, the new salt shaker product is developed by Caffex, the company who brought us caffeinated marshmallows, and its ready to turn everything into energy food think caffeine-laced french fries.

Ignoring the fact that this sounds like a pretty bad idea for a second, Caffex are claiming the product is “the worlds only odourless, non-bitter, take-with-you-anywhere, use with anything caffeine powder”. They also claim it offers a cheaper and more efficient way for people to get a caffeine hit.

Although powdered caffeine has been around for a few years, Caffex have just recently launched the new salt shaker packaging, which theyre attempting to fund via IndieGoGo its still not even a third of the way to its funding goal of US$25,000 with only nine days left. The creators suggest that just one sprinkle – around 33mg of caffeine – will be enough to get most people buzzing. Three sprinkles have more caffeine than a Red Bull.’  (Science Alert).

 

Is the US Headed for Failed Statehood?

Failed States Index - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  Alert
  Warning
  Stable
  Sustainable

Since 2005, the think-tank Fund for Peace and the magazine Foreign Policy have published an annual Failed States Index. The list only assesses sovereign states as determined by membership in the United Nations… Ranking is based on the total scores of 12 indicators (four social, two economic and six political) each scored on a 0-10 scale. The indicators are not designed to forecast when states may experience violence or collapse. Instead, they are meant to measure a state’s vulnerability to collapse or conflict. Read this with current trends in US sociopolitical life in mind, if you will.

Indicators of state vulnerability

All countries in the red (Alert, FSI of 90 or more), orange (Warning, FSI of 60 or more), or yellow (Moderate, FSI of 30 or more) categories display some features that make parts of their societies and institutions vulnerable to failure. Some in the yellow zone may be failing at a faster rate than those in the more dangerous orange or red zones, and therefore could experience violence sooner [emphasis added  –FmH]. Conversely, some in the red zone, though critical, may exhibit some positive signs of recovery or be deteriorating slowly, giving them time to adopt mitigating strategies.

Social indicators

  1. Demographic pressures: including the pressures deriving from high volume population density relative to food supply and other life-sustaining resources. The pressure from a population’s settlement patterns and physical settings, including border disputes, ownership or occupancy of land, access to transportation outlets, control of religious or historical sites, and proximity to environmental hazards.
  2. Massive movement of refugees and internally displaced persons: forced uprooting of large communities as a result of random or targeted violence and/or repression, causing food shortages, disease, lack of clean water, land competition, lack of public housing, and turmoil that can spiral into larger humanitarian and security problems, both within and between countries.
  3. Legacy of vengeance-seeking group grievance: based on recent or past injustices, which could date back centuries. Including atrocities committed with impunity against communal groups and/or specific groups singled out by state authorities, or by dominant groups, for persecution or repression. Institutionalized political exclusion. Public scapegoating of groups believed to have acquired wealth, status or power as evidenced in the emergence of “hate” radio, pamphleteering and stereotypical or nationalistic political rhetoric.
  4. Chronic and sustained human flight: both the “brain drain” of professionals, intellectuals and political dissidents and voluntary emigration of “the middle class.” Growth of exile/expatriate communities are also used as part of this indicator.

Economic indicators

  1. Uneven economic development along group lines: determined by group-based inequality, or perceived inequality, in education, jobs, and economic status. Also measured by group-based poverty levels, infant mortality rates, education levels.
  2. Sharp and/or severe economic decline: measured by a progressive economic decline of the society as a whole (using: per capita income, GNP, debt, child mortality rates, poverty levels, business failures.) A sudden drop in commodity prices, trade revenue, foreign investment or debt payments. Collapse or devaluation of the national currency and a growth of hidden economies, including the drug trade, smuggling, and capital flight. Failure of the state to pay salaries of government employees and armed forces or to meet other financial obligations to its citizens, such as pension payments.

Political indicators

  1. Criminalization and/or delegitimisation of the state: endemic corruption or profiteering by ruling elites and resistance to transparency, accountability and political representation. Includes any widespread loss of popular confidence in state institutions and processes.
  2. Progressive deterioration of public services: a disappearance of basic state functions that serve the people, including failure to protect citizens from terrorism and violence and to provide essential services, such as health, education, sanitation, public transportation. Also using the state apparatus for agencies that serve the ruling elites, such as the security forces, presidential staff, central bank, diplomatic service, customs and collection agencies.
  3. Widespread violation of human rights: an emergence of authoritarian, dictatorial or military rule in which constitutional and democratic institutions and processes are suspended or manipulated. Outbreaks of politically inspired (as opposed to criminal) violence against innocent civilians. A rising number of political prisoners or dissidents who are denied due process consistent with international norms and practices. Any widespread abuse of legal, political and social rights, including those of individuals, groups or cultural institutions (e.g., harassment of the press, politicization of the judiciary, internal use of military for political ends, public repression of political opponents, religious or cultural persecution.)
  4. Security apparatus as “state within a state”: an emergence of elite or praetorian guards that operate with impunity. Emergence of state-sponsored or state-supported private militias that terrorize political opponents, suspected “enemies,” or civilians seen to be sympathetic to the opposition. An “army within an army” that serves the interests of the dominant military or political clique. Emergence of rival militias, guerilla forces or private armies in an armed struggle or protracted violent campaigns against state security forces.
  5. Rise of factionalised elites: a fragmentation of ruling elites and state institutions along group lines. Use of aggressive nationalistic rhetoric by ruling elites, especially destructive forms of communal irredentism or communal solidarity (e.g., “ethnic cleansing“, “defending the faith“).
  6. Intervention of other states or external factors: military or Paramilitary engagement in the internal affairs of the state at risk by outside armies, states, identity groups or entities that affect the internal balance of power or resolution of the conflict. Intervention by donors, especially if there is a tendency towards over-dependence on foreign aid or peacekeeping missions. (Wikipedia)

Study Strengthens Link Between Prenatal Pesticide Exposure and Autism

‘Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD] affects about 1 in 68 children in the United States, and a combination of genetic and environmental factors, along with complications during pregnancy have been associated with ASD diagnoses. A new study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Services has strengthened the link between prenatal exposure to agricultural pesticides and ASD. The study’s findings have been published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives….

The researchers compared addresses during pregnancy to state records of applications of organochlorines, organophosphates, pyrethroids, and carbamates within 1.25 km, 1.5 km, and 1.75 km from those addresses. About a third of the 970 study participants lived within 1.5 km 0.9 miles of pesticide applications during pregnancy. While proximity to any of the four classes of pesticide resulted in an increased risk of a child with ASD or DD, some of the chemicals presented a greater risk at different stages during pregnancy.’ (IFLScience).

A Mysterious Sound Is Driving People Insane — And Nobody Knows Whats Causing It

‘ “The Hum” refers to a mysterious sound heard in places around the world by a small fraction of a local population. Its characterized by a persistent and invasive low-frequency rumbling or droning noise often accompanied by vibrations. While reports of “unidentified humming sounds” pop up in scientific literature dating back to the 1830s, modern manifestations of the contemporary hum have been widely reported by national media in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia since the early 1970s.

Regional experiences of the phenomenon vary, and the Hum is often prefixed with the region where the problem centers, like the “Windsor Hum” in Ontario, Canada, the “Taos Hum” in New Mexico, or the “Auckland Hum” for Auckland, New Zealand. Somewhere between 2 and 10% of people can hear the Hum, and inside isolation is no escape. Most sufferers find the noise to be more disturbing indoors and at night. Much to their dismay, the source of the mysterious humming is virtually untraceable.

While the uneven experience of the Hum in local populations has led some researchers to dismiss it as a “mass delusion,” the nuisance and pain associated with the phenomenon make delusion a dissatisfying hypothesis. Intrigued by the mysterious noise, [Dr. Glen] MacPherson launched The World Hum Map and Database in December 2012 to collect testimonies of other Hum sufferers and track its global impact. He now also moderates a decade-old Yahoo forum…

MacPherson quickly discovered that what to him was a strange rumbling was actually having pernicious effects on hundreds of people, from headaches to irritability to sleep deprivation. There are reports that weeks of insomnia caused by the Bristol Hum drove at least three U.K. residents to suicide. “It completely drains energy, causing stress and loss of sleep,” a sufferer told a British newspaper in 1992. “I have been on tranquilizers and have lost count of the number of nights I have spent holding my head in my hands, crying and crying.” Thousands of people around the world have shared similar experiences of the Hum; some, like MacPherson, are devoting their time to finally uncovering its source.’ (Mic).

A Mesmerizing Site That Tracks and Displays Real-Time Lightning Strikes

‘Did you know that a lightning strike emits a broadband pulse of radio waves that can be detected thousands of miles away? It’s that phenomenon which allows a website called Blitzortung to show lightning strikes as they happen all around the world, in real-time. If you thought it was hard to tear your eyes away from the World Cup, this is somehow even more entertaining to watch.’ (Gizmodo).

How fossilised ideas live on even in science

 

Andrew Crumey: ‘I would like to propose what I shall call the principle of eternal folly. It states that in nearly every era there arises, in some form, nearly every idea of which humans are capable. Certainly, there is the emergence of new ideas: technological ones are the most obvious, but there are others, too. I do think it fair to say that Jane Austen, Beethoven, and even the occasional entrepreneur have invented radically new things. However, the vast majority of ideas are recycled – and it is when we fail to recognise this, as we eternally do, that we commit folly.’ (Aeon).

Are We Approaching the End of Solitary Confinement?

‘As a new class-action lawsuit out of California’s infamous Pelican Bay State Prison that may definitively determine the future of solitary in that state moves forward, more people are taking the position that the practice amounts to inhumane punishment.’ (Pacific Standard)

The Supreme Court Green-Lighted Gun-Control Legislation

‘In a 5-4 decision, the SCOTUS blocked a conservative effort to overturn a law that makes it illegal to buy a gun for someone else. While the ruling maintains the status quo by preserving long-standing legislation, it opens the door for stricter limits on gun ownership.’ (Pacific Standard)

 

This U.S. Map Shows the Millions of Streets That Have No Name

‘Cartographer Kenneth Field is making a series of maps inspired by song lyrics about geography. Taking a cue from U2’s song “Where the Streets Have No Name,” he created this visualization of the 15 million unnamed street segments in the U.S.’ (

io9)

Study Suggests Salamanders Could Hold The Key To Human Limb Regeneration

‘Researchers have identified how a key molecular pathway in salamanders is different than in mammals, possibly revealing the amphibians’ secret for regrowing their body parts. The findings tell us more about the mechanisms behind regeneration, and maybe one day they could be useful for regenerating human cells.’ (IFLScience).

Open Wireless Movements router OS will let you securely share your Internet with the world

‘Open Wireless Movement, a joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Mozilla, Free Press and others, will reveal its sharing-friendly wifi router firmware at the HOPE X conference in NYC next month. The openwireless operating system allows you to portion out some of your bandwidth to share freely with your neighbors and passersby, while providing a high degree of security and privacy for your own communications.

The Open Wireless Movements goals are to both encourage the neighborliness that you get from sharing in your community, and undermining the idea that an IP address can be used to identify a person, establishing a global system of anonymous Internet connectivity. The project includes an excellent FAQ on the myths and facts about your legal liability for things that other people do with your network.’ (Boing Boing).

An Archaeologist Excavates a Hippie Commune, Preserved in 1969 by Fire

Loads of compelling material in io9 tonight:

‘In 79 AD, the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius covered Pompeii in ash, preserving the city for millennia. In 1969 AD, a fire broke out at the mansion of the famed Chosen Family commune north of San Francisco. Most of the possessions were left behind—providing archaeologists with a one-of-a-kind time capsule of hippie life.

If youre a Grateful Dead fan, youre already familiar with the commune, which was founded at Olompali State Park in 1967. The band—one of many musical legends who played there—used a photograph of the bucolic commune as the back cover for their album, Aoxomoxoa.’ (io9)

Can you dig it? [Sorry, couldn’t help myself.]

 

For The First Time Since WWII, Global Peace Is On The Decline

‘In what should be a surprise to nobody, a new report by the Institute for Economics and Peace shows that world peace is on the decline — a reversal of six decades of steady improvement. The annual report, called the Global Peace Index, cites militant attacks and growing crime as the primary culprits, particularly in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. The number of people killed in militant attacks has risen in such areas as the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. Murder rates are escalating in growing urban centers and more refugees are having to flee war zones. (io9)

Weve Now Lost So Much Arctic Ice That We Have to Change Our Atlases

‘The amount of Arctic ice left has been steadily shrinking. But its now dwindled by so much that National Geographic has said their updated maps will feature a much smaller ice sheet, in what theyre calling the most visible change to the atlas since the break up of the U.S.S.R. National Geographic drew its current map of the Arctic in its 1989 edition of the Atlas. Since then, though, the decrease of not just the area, but the volume of Arctic sea ice as seen in the graphic below, charting sea ice volume from 1979 to the present has been sharp. The newest edition, which comes out in September, will redraw the lines into a significantly smaller area, based on NASA and the NSIDC data on the amount of remaining multiyear ice.’ (io9)

The Graciousness and Dignity of Richard B. Cheney

 

Dick Cheney - Has a Heart

Dick Cheney – Has a Heart

James Fallows: ‘A few hours ago I said sincerely that a number of prominent officials who had set the stage for todays disaster in Iraq deserved respect for their silence as their successors chose among the least-terrible of available options.I unwisely included Dick Cheney, former vice president and most ill-tempered figure to hold national office since Richard Nixon, on that list.If Id waited a little while, I would have seen a new op-ed by Cheney and his daughter Liz in where else! the WSJ denouncing the Obama administrations fecklessness about Iraq and much else. They say, unironically, about the current occupant of the White House:Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many. You want a specimen of being so wrong about so much at the expense of so many? Consider the thoughts of one Richard B. Cheney, in a major speech to the VFW in August 2002, in the run-up to the war…’ (The Atlantic).

10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing

Poster frog

‘Many ideas have left the world of science and made their way into everyday language — and unfortunately, they are almost always used incorrectly. We asked a group of scientists to tell us which scientific terms they believe are the most widely misunderstood. Here are ten of them.’ (io9)

 

Study: Morality Can Trump Tribalism

The frontispiece of the book Leviathan by Thom...

The frontispiece of the book Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes 

‘Encouraging research points to a way to decouple loyalty to one’s own tribe with disdain for outsiders…

The results suggest a strong sense of moral identity could temper “some of the less-desirable effects of the binding foundations,” Smith and his colleagues conclude. They add that this could potentially be achieved by “creating environments that increase the salience of people’s moral self-concepts.” ‘ (Pacific Standard)

Meet the Cute, Wellies-Wearing, Wikipedia-Reading Robot That’s Going to Hitchhike Across Canada

Meet the Cute, Wellies-Wearing, Wikipedia-Reading Robot Thats Going to Hitchhike Across Canada - Alexis C. Madrigal - The Atlantic

‘…no joke. [A team of roboticists at Ryerson University in Canada is] going to put their cute little bot on the side of the road in Halifax and hope that somehow the robot can talk its way to Victoria.

“This is both an artwork and social robotics experiment,” Zeller and Harris told me in an email. “Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots, e.g. as helpers in our homes. But this project takes it the other way around and asks: can robots trust human beings?” ‘ (The Atlantic).

Why the First Antibiotic-Resistant Superbug Found in Food Is a Big Deal

‘In very bad news, a superbug resistant to last-resort antibiotics was found in imported squid, according to a report this week. This is a scary development in antibiotic resistance—even if you dont eat squid. Here is why one small finding has frightening implications.’ (Gizmodo)

A Short History of the Executioner

‘The history of the professional executioner is a chronicle of perfecting the choreography of death. It’s a story of exacting skill and the never-ending search for a more efficient means to enact and contain the spectacle of death. The professionalization of death—a chilling business—was cultivated for centuries by a profane tribe of men who were denied civil status and ostracized from nearly every aspect of daily life. Forced to live at the margins, the executioner was defined by ambiguities: a pivotal actor in the multipart drama of public killing, an extension of the crown, and yet morally hazy and universally despised.’ (The Appendix).

Opt Out From Online Behavioral Advertising By Participating Companies

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

‘Welcome to the consumer opt out page for the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising. Our participating companies are committed to transparency and choice.Some of the ads you receive on Web pages are customized based on predictions about your interests generated from your visits over time and across different Web sites. This type of ad customization — sometimes called “online behavioral” or “interest-based” advertising — is enabled through your computer browser and browser cookies. Such online advertising helps support the free content, products and services you get online.Using the tools on this page, you can opt out from receiving interest-based advertising from some or all of our participating companies.’ (AboutAds)

Stop Facebook and Other Companies from Using Your Web History for Ads

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

‘We already knew that Facebook is tracking our every move on the web, just like everyone else is, but now the social network says it’s going to use data from the other sites we visit and the apps we use to deliver more relevant ads. If you want to opt out of this enhanced behavioral targeting, there’s a form for that…’ (Lifehacker)

How BBQ Transcends Race

Michael Pollen: “When I was talking to historians of barbecue, and we now have historians of barbecue, they said that even during the tensest periods of racial strife, during the civil rights movement, if the good barbecue place in town was black, whites wanted to eat there and they would,” he says. “Barbecue is something that blacks and whites in the South share.” (Big Think).

10 Real-Life Laws That Regulate The Supernatural World

Halloween (2 be or Not 2 be)

‘When do you need to tell a prospective buyer your house is haunted? Where do you need a license to practice necromancy or to be reincarnated? And where can you file a lawsuit against a supernatural being? These real-life laws will tell you all that and more.’ (io9).

 

Study Suggests Rats Capable Of Feeling Regret Over Poor Choices

‘Choosing a restaurant can be somewhat serious business if you’re anything like me, that is. Many animals can have a favorite food, but what if they choose something that isn’t what they wanted? New research from scientists at the University of Minnesota suggests that rats can actually experience regret after making the “wrong” food choice. The study was conducted by David Redish and Adam Steiner, and the paper was published in Nature Neuroscience.’ (IFLScience).

Male faces may have evolved to take a punch, study suggests

Male faces may have evolved to take a punch, study suggests Science Alert

‘Researchers in the US have studied the skulls of ancient human ancestors and concluded that fist-fighting may have played a role in shaping the male face.The new study is published in Biological Reviews, and it isnt the first time scientists have suggested the idea. As George Dvorsky reports for io9, back in 2012 researchers controversially made the claim that fists had changed the course of our evolution. Now the new theory, based on the study of the skulls of distant hominid relatives known as australopiths, is likely to stir up similar debate over the role violence has played in human evolution.’ (Science Alert).

R.I.P. Sasha Shulgin

Shulgin-2001f

Psychedelia Researcher Dies at 88: ‘Alexander Shulgin, a chemist who specialized in the creation of and experimentation with mind-altering substances, and who introduced the controversial drug popularly known as Ecstasy for potential therapeutic use, died on Monday at his home in Lafayette, Calif., east of Oakland. He was 88.The cause was cancer, his wife, Ann, said.

Dr. Shulgin, whose interest, as he put it once, was “in the machinery of the mental process,” was both a rogue and a wizard, a legitimate scientist and a counterculture hero. Over more than four decades, working generally within the law if occasionally on the edge, trying out his concoctions on himself, his wife and a few friends, and publishing his results, he was the creator of almost 200 chemical compounds capable of rejiggering the quotidian functions of the mind.’ (NYTimes obituary)

George W. Bush “competency” myth: Why Beltway media is dangerously confused again

Washington Post piece suggests a presidents ability to “get things done” and “competency” are analogous. Nope! We’re not going to argue that Obama is the most “competent” president in history and George W. Bush is the least. Neither really seems to make the Presidential All-Star team in that respect. But the question about a president’s ability to “get things done” seems more an issue of how well Washington is working and the state of gridlock at any given time than about an individual president’s competency.’ (Salon.com).

Robert Reich: Mississippi is turning back the clock on the civil rights movement

‘Mississippi used its new voter-identification law for the first time Tuesday — requiring voters to show a driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID at the polls.The official reason given for the new law is alleged voter fraud, although the state hasn’t been able to provide any evidence that voter fraud is a problem.The real reason for the law is to suppress the votes of the poor, especially African-Americans, some of whom won’t be able to afford the cost of a photo ID.It’s a tragic irony that this law became effective almost exactly fifty years after three young civil rights workers — Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman – were tortured and murdered in Mississippi for trying to register African-Americans to vote.’ (Salon.com).

Ronald Reagan “treason” amnesia

 

GOP hypocrites forget their hero negotiated with terrorists. He was just really bad at it – ‘It’s been said that if President Obama were to walk on water, the headline news would be “President Can’t Swim.”

That can explain why what would normally be a cause for celebration — the return of America’s only prisoner of war in Iraq or Afghanistan — quickly became a controversy, with talk of it being a crime. Reactions to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, in exchange for five Taliban members being held at Guantanamo, have been so severe that even the hometown joy at his release has been dampened.GOP criticism — picked up by the media — initially focused on two lines of attack on Obama, the first claiming that “negotiating with terrorists” sets a bad precedent, and the second claiming that Obama broke the law by failing to consult with Congress 30 days in advance of releasing the Taliban detainees.

There were calls for “investigations,” the GOP’s favorite word in Obama’s second term. But the consultation requirement in a bill passed by Congress was countered by a presidential signing statement — and acting on such signing statements was never a problem for the GOP when Bush was president.As for “setting a bad precedent” by “negotiating with terrorists,” the GOP’s very serious concern comes three decades too late: Their hallowed icon, Ronald Reagan, firmly established that precedent in a still-murky tangle of secret dealings with Iran, only some of which came to light in the Iran-contra scandal….’ (Salon.com).

Scientists: A mysterious animal ate an entire 9-foot great white shark

‘Scientists in Australia tagged a healthy 9-foot great white shark as part of program to track these animals. Four months later they found the tracking device washed up on a beach.Something—something really big—had eaten this apex predator. But what creature could dine on such ferocious prey?

The recovered tracking device showed a rapid temperature rise and a sudden 1,900-foot-deep plunge. It stayed there for many days, moving around and occasionally ascending to go down again until it finally reached the shore. That’s all the information that scientists gathered from the tracking device.

The researchers believe the data shows that a super-predator gobbled the shark, then swam down at high speed, and kept going on with his life. The recorded temperature indicates that the tracking device was inside the mysterious monster’s digestive system until it got out.

UPDATE: Mystery solved! Find out who ate the great white shark here.‘ (io9)

Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis

I praise those ancient Chinamen

Who left me a few words,

Usually a pointless joke or a silly question

A line of poetry drunkenly scrawled on the margin of a quick

splashed picture—bug, leaf,

caricature of Teacher

on paper held together now by little more than ink

& their own strength brushed momentarily over it

Their world & several others since

Gone to hell in a handbasket, they knew it—

Cheered as it whizzed by—

& conked out among the busted spring rain cherryblossom winejars

Happy to have saved us all.

— Philip Whalen (Shambhala Sun)

Lone Wolf No More

 

No Longer a Loner, Westernmost Wolf in Lower 48 States Is a Dad

Westernmost Wolf in Lower 48 States Is a Dad: ‘In what may herald a new era of wolf expansion into the West Coast, a lone male wolf that gained fame by wandering hundreds of miles west of any known wolf pack in the lower 48 states has become a father.The so-called westernmost wolf, which wears a collar transmitting his GPS coordinates and is known as OR7, recently settled down on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains in southwestern Oregon to what was expected to be a life of solitude.But in early May, biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who study the wolf were stunned to see photos of what looked like a dark black female caught by the same motion-triggered cameras that capture images of OR7. It looked very much as if the lone wolf of the West had found a mate. How she got there remains a mystery.On June 2, government biologists visited the site, in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, and saw and photographed two pups. There may well be more, as most wolf litters include between four and six pups. Biologist John Stephenson says he thinks he heard more pups.The pups are the first known wolf reproduction in the Oregon Cascades since the mid-1940s, according to the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.’ (National Geographic)

65 Things We Know About NSA Surveillance We Didn’t Know a Year Ago

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Marylan...

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland.

‘It’s been one year since the Guardian first published the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order, leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, that demonstrated that the NSA was conducting dragnet surveillance on millions of innocent people. Since then, the onslaught of disturbing revelations, from disclosures, admissions from government officials, Freedom of Information Act requests, and lawsuits, has been nonstop. On the anniversary of that first leak , here are 65 things we know about NSA spying that we did not know a year ago…

There’s no question that the international relationships Obama pledged to repair, as well as the confidence of the American people in their privacy and constitutional rights, have been damaged by the NSAs dragnet surveillance. But one year later, both the United States and international governments have not taken the steps necessary to ensure that this surveillance ends. That’s why everyone must take action— contact your elected representative, join Reset the Net, and learn about how international law applies to U.S. surveillance today.’ (Gizmodo)

The worst Bowe Bergdahl trutherism, debunked

John McCain says the released Gitmo prisoners are historically dangerous. Records tell a slightly different story…’ (Salon).

 

Also includes a discussion on what for me is the more interesting question, of the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture:

 

By all accounts, Bergdahl was a troubled young man, with naive and very unrealistic views on his service in Afghanistan. He thought he was joining “the Peace Corps with guns,” going over to help Afghans. What he found instead was an ugly, brutal war.

Rolling Stone quoted emails he sent to his parents:

“We don’t even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks … We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them.”

Bergdahl called the US Army “the biggest joke the world has to laugh at … the army of liars, backstabbers, fools and bullies.” He said he was ashamed to be an American.

Disappointment in America’s flawed efforts in Afghanistan is not a sign of mental illness. But, as journalist Matthieu Aikins, who reports regularly from Afghanistan, tweeted: “Does running unarmed into Taliban terrain seem sane to you? Maybe Bergdahl’s act should be seen through PTSD/mental health prism.”

Are Warming Arctic Temperatures Spawning New Hybrid Whales?

‘As Arctic temperatures rise and the ice melts, animals that once had separate migration patterns are suddenly encountering each other — and that could lead to some new animal hybrids.Tim McDonnell over at Nautilus has written a piece about just what the increased interaction between Arctic species could mean. Sometimes it’s as simple as increased competition for food or for space, but it can also mean the possibility of new hybrid animals. Incidences of “grolar” — or polar/grizzly hybrid — bears are already pretty well documented, and scientists are also looking into the possibility that a bowhead/right whale hybrid has recently been spotted.’ (i09)

Happy Birthday, Allen Ginsberg

 

Allen Ginsberg

The Beloved Poet Sings William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence & Experience”: ‘In December of 1969, Allen Ginsberg June 3, 1926–April 5, 1997, one of the most beloved and influential poets of the twentieth century, recorded a strange and wonderful LP, setting William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience to song. Accompanied by an eclectic orchestra — Cyril Caster on trumpet, Janet Zeitz on flute, Bob Dorough on piano, Don Cherry on bass trombone, beaded gourd, sleigh bells and finger cymbals — Ginsberg gives Blake’s binary battery of innocence and experience a whole new dimension of enchanting duality.

Blake’s poetry was a particularly poignant choice for Ginsberg at a time when his own spiritual journey had taken him into the depths of Buddhism — at once a curious contrast with Blake’s heavy Christian influence and a sensical parallel to the ambivalence about the human soul, coupled with social and religious ambivalence, at the heart of Blake’s message.

Thanks to the remarkable PennSound archive… these rare recordings endure in digital form. Here are three of them for our shared delight.’ (Brain Pickings).

Scientists Selectively Erase And Restore Memories

‘In a groundbreaking new study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego erased and then reactivated memories by stimulating neurons in the brains of genetically engineered rats with a series of light pulses that have been previously shown to strengthen or weaken the connections between brain cells. This is the first study to be able to directly show that the strengthening or weakening of these connections, called synapses, is the underlying basis for memory. The study has been published in Nature.’ (IFLScience)

Why Slenderman Works: The Internet Meme That Proves Our Need To Believe

‘Despite being visually creepy, Slenderman highlights the strength and weaknesses of the Internet simultaneously. In fact, I think Slenderman is a subversive masterpiece in terms of monster creation. Of course when Victor Surge first created him, he was just a creepy picture with minimal back story. Now he is a cultural phenomenon and terrorises the dreams and thoughts of many.  What makes Slenderman a fascinating study is that he is the the personification of how modern myths work. At the core of Slenderman, most of us know he is created. You can trace back his history to specific posts and websites. The internet ruins the myth but at the same time, the Internet gives it an authenticity and connectivity that continually builds upon it.’ (Whatculture.com)

In the news this evening was the story of two 12 year olds in Waukesha, Wisconsin who held down a friend and stabbed her 19 times, apparently motivated by a desire to prove they were worthy of becoming disciples of Slenderman. Need to believe, indeed!

Why You Hate Work

‘The way we’re working isn’t working. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not very excited to get to the office in the morning, you don’t feel much appreciated while you’re there, you find it difficult to get your most important work accomplished, amid all the distractions, and you don’t believe that what you’re doing makes much of a difference anyway. By the time you get home, you’re pretty much running on empty, and yet still answering emails until you fall asleep…’ (NYTimes).

‘I could have been Elliot Rodger’

 

Brian Levinson: ‘Anyone can find plenty to hate in the 141-page manifesto by Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who killed six people and wounded 13 more last week in Isla Vista, California. The manifesto’s blend of misogyny, racism, self-pity, entitlement, and violent fantasy would make Patrick Bateman blanch.

Of course, I’ve got my own reason to hate the manifesto: Elliot Rodger could have been me.I could’ve written an identical screed as a teenager or college student…

Rodger and I fit the profile of a handful of other lonely psychos: John Hinckley, who shot Reagan in a bid to impress Jodie Foster; Dylan Klebold, the lovelorn, less-psychopathic half of the Columbine shooters; Seung-Hui Cho, whose morbid short stories foreshadowed the Virginia Tech massacre. Let me explain…’ (Slate)

Download Pixar Renderman for free

 

Make your own Toy Story: ‘Aspiring animators, listen up! Pixar’s working on a brand new version of Renderman, the in-house software they use to render duh all their awesome digital creations. There are a slew of improvements coming, but the big news is that there’s a version you can download for free.That’s a pretty amazing giveaway — Renderman is a $500 piece of software…’ (Geek.com).

The Wrong Way to Treat Child Geniuses

From left to right, Lawrence Pressman as Dr. C...

‘Those of us who managed sky-high SAT scores at 13 were 20 times as likely as the average American to get a doctorate; lets say, being charitable, that were 100 times as likely to make a significant scientific advance. Since were only 1 in 10,000 of the U.S. population, that still leaves 99% of scientific advances to be made by all those other kids who didnt get an early ticket to the genius club. We geniuses arent going to solve all the riddles. Most child prodigies are highly successful—but most highly successful people werent child prodigies.

This can be a hard lesson for the prodigies themselves. It is natural to believe that the just-pubescent children on the mathletic podium next to you are the best, the ones who really matter. And for the most part, my fellow child stars and I have done very well. But the older I get, the more I see how many brilliant people in the world werent Doogie Howser-like prodigies; didnt shine in Math Olympiad; didnt go to the inner circle of elite colleges. Im embarrassed that I didnt understand at 13 that it would be this way. But when they keep telling you youre the best, you start to believe youre the best.

One of the most painful aspects of teaching mathematics is seeing my students damaged by the cult of the genius. That cult tells students that its not worth doing math unless youre the best at math—because those special few are the only ones whose contributions really count. We dont treat any other subject that way. Ive never heard a student say, “I like Hamlet, but I dont really belong in AP English—that child who sits in the front row knows half the plays by heart, and he started reading Shakespeare when he was 7!” Basketball players dont quit just because one of their teammates outshines them. But I see promising young mathematicians quit every year because someone in their range of vision is “ahead” of them.’ (WSJ).