Experiment Set to Test Whether the Universe Is a Hologram

Via Big Think:  ‘In a field in Illinois sits a shed. In that shed sits a machine that is gathering data to determine whether the universe is a hologram. Created by physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, a machine called the Holometer will determine if the universe is merely a series of bits, similar to how newspaper photos are composed of colored dots, or if a more substantial material reality exists…’

Most Zen Cat Ever

Via Jezebel: ‘The next time you are at your yoga class and the instructor asks you to take a moment to clear your mind for some peaceful meditation, instead of focusing on that tabletop water fountain she bought at Ross, I want you to think about this cat with a tiny frog on its head.’


States That Legalize Medical Marijuana See Fewer Painkiller Overdoses

Via io9: ‘As the number of patients who receive opioid prescriptions to treat non-cancer pain has increased in the past decade, so too have the number of overdoses. A new study, however, finds that states that legalized medical marijuana between 1999 and 2010 had 25% fewer annual overdose deaths than the rest of the U.S.

More specifically, the research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, found that overdose deaths from opioids decreased by an average of 20% one year after the laws implementation, 25% by two years, and up to 33% by years five and six.

The study comes at a time when the CDC has warned that opioid overdoses are “skyrocketing.” Since 1999, deaths from prescription painkillers have increased 400% among women and 265% among men…


Mob Rule

via Futility Closet: ‘Eugene Graves and William Brown patented this grim game in 1902. A row of effigies stand on blocks under a gibbet. Each effigy is fitted with a noose, and the players take turns shooting balls at the blocks, “representing summary punishment meted out to the victim.”

In the patent abstract, the effigies are described only as “notorious criminals and persons opposed to law and order”; Graves and Brown note that these can be varied to suit the “location, place or country for which the game is especially designed.”

“A flag may be provided for each figure to designate the character or nationality of the effigy.” We’re lucky this didn’t catch on.’


Radical New Theory Could Kill the Multiverse Hypothesis

Via WIRED: ‘Though galaxies look larger than atoms and elephants appear to outweigh ants, some physicists have begun to suspect that size differences are illusory. Perhaps the fundamental description of the universe does not include the concepts of “mass” and “length,” implying that at its core, nature lacks a sense of scale.

This little-explored idea, known as scale symmetry, constitutes a radical departure from long-standing assumptions about how elementary particles acquire their properties. But it has recently emerged as a common theme of numerous talks and papers by respected particle physicists. With their field stuck at a nasty impasse, the researchers have returned to the master equations that describe the known particles and their interactions, and are asking: What happens when you erase the terms in the equations having to do with mass and length?’


The surprising everyday ingredient that can reduce pot paranoia

Via Salon.com: ‘‘According to a recent report by Marijuana.com, sniffing black peppercorns could be the simple answer to reducing the paranoia effects sometimes felt after smoking pot. By simply smelling or chewing on peppercorns after lighting up, smokers can mitigate these effects, writes Jay Arthur.

Owen Smith writes in Canada’s Cannabis Digest that while at Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, he witnessed the impact pepper had on pot. “Most patients who have tried this simply took a few sniffs of the black pepper to receive an almost immediate effect,” he wrote. “Others have reported that after chewing on pepper corns they felt relief within an hour, but that may be a delay most would seek to avoid.”

Why would this work? In a scientific review published by the British Journal of Pharmacology, author Ethan Russo writes of a “phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effect” that can help with “pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections.” ‘


Cities Are Making Spiders Grow Bigger and Multiply Faster

Via WIRED: ‘Something about city life appears to be causing spiders to grow larger than their rural counterparts. And if that’s not enough to give you nightmares, these bigger urban spiders are also multiplying faster.

A new study published today in PLOS One shows that golden orb weaver spiders living near heavily urbanized areas in Sydney, Australia tend to be bigger, better fed, and have more babies than those living in places less touched by human hands.’

Does indie film have a future?

Via Salon.com: ‘Imagine a world where a filmmaker could go to a studio and say, “My team has five million followers. Through crowd-funding, we’ve done 25,000 preorders for the video that we haven’t begun to shoot, and I want to be your partner in the producing and marketing of this movie.” How could that not be enticing? And we’re almost at that point. This is the beginning of the third way. And you can already see it peeking out from under the horizon. Each day, it grows larger, better, and, perhaps for some, more threatening.’


Why Virtual Therapy Could Be Better than the Real Thing

Via Big Think: ‘Thanks to advantages in facial recognition technology and natural language analysis, virtual therapists can “understand” humans better than ever before. Developed by the Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles, one virtual therapist named Ellie can measure your smile whether its ironic or sincere, spot a nervous tic, and determine the meaning of your tone of voice and your posture. She will also analyze speech patterns to determine how forthcoming you are about your true thoughts and feelings.

Were humans always willing to level with their professional caretakers about their psychological state, there might not be a need for virtual therapists. Those most in need of therapy, however, such as soldiers returning home from war, are also the most likely to avoid it. But when therapy is virtual, people are more likely to divulge information that can be useful in developing treatment. In a experiment of 239 individuals who were given sessions with virtual counselor Ellie, those were told the truth that Ellie was a computer expressed more personal information than those told a human was controlling what Ellie said.’


There Is A Man In Texas Who Has Been Imprisoned 34 Years Without A Conviction

Via ThinkProgress: ‘In 1977, a Texas man named Jerry Hartfield was convicted of murder. His conviction was tossed out three years later because the process used to select his jury was unconstitutional. Yet Hartfield was neither freed from prison nor given a new trial. Last April, a Texas trial judge held that he must remain in prison, despite the fact that the sole legal basis for his detention was overturned nearly 34 years ago, because Hartfield did not actively seek a new trial. Hartfield is intellectually disabled. His IQ is estimated to be only 51. On Thursday, Hartfield’s case grew even more similar to a Franz Kafka novel with a Texas Court of Appeals decision refusing to grant him relief.’


War in the Womb

Via Aeon: ‘A ferocious biological struggle between mother and baby belies any sentimental ideas we might have about pregnancy…’


Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By Police

Via BlackGirlDangerous: ‘A Black person is murdered by cops, security guards or self-appointed vigilantes every 28 hours in the U.S. The killing of an unarmed Black teenager named Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, which has resulted in protests in that town and harsh police push-back and brutality against even more of its citizens, and which, via social media, has gotten the attention of people around the world, probably isn’t even the latest occurrence, at just three days old.

Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed again how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.

So, to get folks back on track to focus on what matters most here—the killing of yet another unarmed Black teenager—I’ve compiled this list of 6 Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By the Police.’


ISIS: A Short History

ISIS: A Short History - The Atlantic

Via The Atlantic: ‘The Sunni militants who now threaten to take over Iraq seemed to spring from nowhere when they stormed Mosul in early June. But the group that recently renamed itself simply “the Islamic State” has existed under various names and in various shapes since the early 1990s. And its story is the story of how modern terrorism has evolved, from a political and religious ideal into a death cult.’


Gun nuts’ alcohol debacle:

Via Salon.com: ‘It would appear that Texas gun owners want to expand their rights yet again. And you won’t believe what new right their creator endowed them with this time: the right to sell alcohol at gun shows. What could go wrong?’


Groucho Marx:

Via Boing Boing: ‘ “Im sure most of you have heard the story of the man who, desperately ill, goes to an analyst and tells the doctor that he has lost his desire to live and that he is seriously considering suicide. The doctor listens to this tale of melancholia and then tells the patient that what he needs is a good belly laugh. He advises the unhappy man to go to the circus that night and spend the evening laughing at Grock, the worlds funniest clown. The doctor sums it up, After you have seen Grock, I am sure you will be much happier. The patient rises to his feet, looks sadly at the doctor, turns and ambles to the door. As he starts to leave, the doctor says, By the way what is your name? The man turns and regards the analyst with sorrowful eyes. I am Grock.” ‘


Every single Alfred Hitchcock cameo in one video

Via Gizmodo: ‘Alfred Hitchcock appeared briefly in the majority of his movies, making that his signature. Morgan T. Rhys edited all those cameos together in a video so all Hitchcocks fans can enjoy it. His cameos became so popular that Hitchcock decided to make his appearances more obvious and earlier in the film, so people wouldn’t get distracted from the movie trying to spot him.’


The Difficulties of Concocting a Lethal Injection

Via The Wire: ‘Jay Chapman is the creator of the most commonly used lethal injection protocol, which he concocted in the late 1970s. This lethal recipe was adopted by 37 states. Chapman’s protocol called for three drugs: sodium thiopental, a sedative; pancuronium bromide, a paralytic agent; and to stop the heart, potassium chloride. However, in the last few years, manufacturers have pulled away from selling these drugs to states for the purpose of lethal injection. Sodium thiopental, the key sedative in the protocol, has become virtually unavailable. The last manufacturer of sodium thiopental in the United States stopped producing it in 2011. The European Union banned export of it all together, and India has banned its sale. While some states attempted to stockpile the drug before the bans, sodium thiopental has a shelf life of only four years, with expirations fast approaching in 2015.

Suddenly, states were left with prisoners on death row, and no way to kill them. They had to reinvent the lethal injection. On July 23, convicted murdered Joseph Wood was executed by the state of Arizona. His execution took almost two hours, involving fifteen doses of an experimental drug combination. Witnesses watched as he gagged and choked for the majority of the two hours, his opioid receptors filling with hydromorphone and midazolam.

An …official told the judge working to find an acceptable lethal injection protocol that “You’re not entitled to a pain-free execution.” This mentality is a point of contention on both sides of the execution battle. While some believe a painful execution qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment, others believe that with murderers who are guilty of terrible crimes against humanity, the end is more important than the means.’ 


These Fish Keep People Awake With Their Weird Mating Calls


Via io9s: ‘The midshipman fish has, all things considered, one of the more pleasant mating rituals in nature. Rather than fighting among themselves or biting the hell out of their prospective mates – as sharks do – they try to out-sing each other. The males get together in groups and start a low humming sound. He who hums best gets the girl.The group of fish humming together gets the attention of the local townspeople. Low-frequency humming carries over large distances, traveling through the ground, penetrating walls, and rattling windows. This is why we hear the bass when cars playing loud music come by the house, rather than the higher notes. It’s also why people close to the ocean hear a humming at night loud enough to keep them up. Just as a bonus, the fish are nocturnal. These people did not know where the humming was coming from, which is why power lines and local highways got a lot of complaints until someone turned their eyes on the ocean.’

I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me


Via WIRED: ‘I like everything. Or at least I did, for 48 hours. Literally everything Facebook sent my way, I liked—even if I hated it. I decided to embark on a campaign of conscious liking, to see how it would affect what Facebook showed me. I know this sounds like a stunt (and it was) but it was also genuinely just an open-ended experiment. I wasn’t sure how long I’d keep it up (48 hours was all I could stand) or what I’d learn (possibly nothing.)…

My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages.Likewise, content mills rose to the top. Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post. As I went to bed that first night and scrolled through my News Feed, the updates I saw were in order: Huffington Post, Upworthy, Huffington Post, Upworthy, a Levi’s ad, Space.com, Huffington Post, Upworthy, The Verge, Huffington Post, Space.com, Upworthy, Space.com.

Also, as I went to bed, I remember thinking “Ah, crap. I have to like something about Gaza,” as I hit the Like button on a post with a pro-Israel message.By the next morning, the items in my News Feed had moved very, very far to the right. I’m offered the chance to like the 2nd Amendment and some sort of anti-immigrant page. I like them both. I like Ted Cruz. I like Rick Perry. The Conservative Tribune comes up again, and again, and again in my News Feed.’ (Thanks, RK)


The planet’s most and least peaceful countries

Via Salon.com‘ “We are living in the most peaceful century in human history; however the 2014 Global Peace Index shows that the last seven years has shown a notable deterioration in levels of peace.”So begins this year’s peace index, an annual report released by the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace. The study ranks 162 countries covering 99.6% of the world’s population according to a complex set of indicators that gauge the absence of violence and political instability. These include a nation’s level of military expenditure, its relations with neighboring countries and the percentage of the population held in prisons.’


In defense of black rage: Michael Brown, police and the American dream

Via Salon.com: ‘The people of Ferguson are angry. Outraged. The officer’s story is dubious. Any black kid with sense knows it is futile to reach into an officer’s vehicle and take his gun.  That story is only plausible to people who believe that black people are animals, that black men go looking for cops to pick fights with. Absurdity. Eyewitness accounts like these make far more sense.

It seems far easier to focus on the few looters who have reacted unproductively to this tragedy than to focus on the killing of Michael Brown. Perhaps looting seems like a thing we can control. I refuse. I refuse to condemn the folks engaged in these acts, because I respect black rage. I respect black people’s right to cry out, shout and be mad as hell that another one of our kids is dead at the hands of the police. Moreover I refuse the lie that the opportunism of a few in any way justifies or excuses the murderous opportunism undertaken by this as yet anonymous officer.’ — Brittney Cooper, Rutgers


Researchers investigate what it means to hear voices

Via theguardian.com: ‘Children will often have imaginary friends, the recently bereaved sometimes hear their loved ones and for some people voices in their head can be a horrible, destabilising ordeal.

The full gamut of experiences are to be explored in detail at this years Edinburgh International Book Festival, in a project investigating why and how people hear voices when no one is speaking.

Researchers from Durham Universitys Hearing the Voice project will be at the festival asking both readers and writers what their experiences are. There will also be interviews, panel discussions and workshops delving into what is still a little-talked-about subject.

The projects director, Charles Fernyhough, said: “It is usually considered a troubling symptom of a severe mental illness but is more and more being recognised as something that happens to a lot of people and there are a lot of different contexts.

…”There’s a terrible stigma about it,” he said. “It is something many people who have the experience feel very uncomfortable talking about because they fear the reaction of society, for good reason.

“Having the opportunity to talk to a “captive audience” of writers will be invaluable, said Fernyhough. “They often have to hear the voices of their characters before they can write.”Similarly, for readers, hearing the voices of the people they are reading about is an important part of the process.’

Keep a good thought for Bob Weir

Via Cloud Surfing: ‘ “Circumstances have necessitated that all scheduled tour dates for Bob Weir & RatDog are being cancelled. This applies to all dates on the summer tour starting on Thursday, August 14 in Boston through September 14 in Nashville and also includes the Jamaica event in January of 2015….” ‘

If you know who Bob Weir is, you will likely care…

Who Are the Yazidis, the Ancient, Persecuted Religious Minority Struggling to Survive in Iraq?

Who Are the Yazidis, the Ancient, Persecuted Religious Minority Struggling to Survive in Iraq?

Via National Geographic: ‘For their beliefs, they have been the target of hatred for centuries. Considered heretical devil worshippers by many Muslims—including the advancing militants overrunning Iraq—the Yazidis have faced the possibility of genocide many times over. Now, with the capture of Sinjar and northward thrust of extremists calling themselves the Islamic State of the Levant, or ISIL also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, Iraq’s estimated 500,000 Yazidis fear the end of their people and their religion. “Sinjar is, hopefully not was, home to the oldest, biggest, and most compact Yazidi community,” explains Khanna Omarkhali, a Yazidi scholar at the University of Göttingen. “Extermination, emigration, and settlement of this community will bring tragic transformations to the Yazidi religion,” she adds.

The Yazidis have inhabited the mountains of northwestern Iraq for centuries, and the region is home to their holy places, shrines, and ancestral villages.  Outside of Sinjar, the Yazidis are concentrated in areas north of Mosul, and in the Kurdish-controlled province of Dohuk. For Yazidis, the land holds deep religious significance; adherents from all over the world—remnant communities exist in Turkey, Germany, and elsewhere—make pilgrimages to the holy Iraqi city of Lalesh. The city is now less than 40 miles from the Islamic State front lines.’

The Growing Quandary of Dark Tourism


Via Pacific Standard: ‘The moral quandary with Dark Tourism is rather obvious: Is this an industry that seeks to profit from the suffering of others or educate those still living among us?’

Related: IDTR: ‘Dark tourism as the act of travel to sites of or sites associated with death has gained significant attention with media imaginations and academic scholarship. There is a growing body of literature on the representation and tourist experience of ‘deathscapes’ within contemporary visitor economies. As such, dark tourism is now a recognisable field of academic study, which include interdisciplinary perspectives of the ‘darker side of travel’ in sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, geography, thanatology, and business management.

The Institute for Dark Tourism Research iDTR, based at the University of Central Lancashire UK and led by Dr Philip Stone, is a world-leading academic centre for dark tourism scholarship, research and teaching.

Dark tourism as an academic field of study is where death education and tourism studies collide and, as such, can shine critical light on the social reality of death. Dark tourism can also reveal tensions in cultural memory, interpretation and authenticity, and political and moral dilemmas in remembering our ‘heritage that hurts’. Dark tourism is also a recognised research brand in which scholars around the world can locate and analyse a diverse range of death-tourism related sites and tourist experiences.The iDTR promotes ethical research into the social scientific understanding of tourist sites of death, disaster, and atrocities, and the tourist experience at these places. Dark tourism is not simply a fascination with death or the macabre, but a multi-disciplinary academic lens in which to scrutinise fundamental interrelationships of the contemporary commodification of death with the cultural condition of society.’

Comet rendezvous today, streamed live

Via Spaceweather.com, ‘The European Space Agencys Rosetta probe has reached 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and is maneuvering to go into orbit around the comets core. This is an historic event. After Rosetta goes into orbit, it will follow the comet around the sun, observing its activity from point-blank range for more than a year. Moreover, in November, Rosetta will drop a lander onto the comets strange surface. Today’s events are being streamed live by the ESA.’


Controversial Zen Master Sasaki-Roshi dead at 107

Via Sweeping Zen, ‘Joshu Sasaki Roshi, the Japanese-born Rinzai Zen teacher and founder of Rinzai-ji, died on Sunday at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California at 107 years old. He was musician Leonard Cohen’s teacher. Sasaki Roshi came to America in 1962 and in 1963 the Rinzai Zen Dojo Association was created, later becoming Rinzai-ji and opening as Cimarron Zen Center in Los Angeles. In 1970 Mount Baldy Zen Center was established, serving as Rinzai-ji’s main training facility for monks and nuns. In more recent years allegations of years of sexual impropriety with some of his female students surfaced online and in print, eventually making it to The New York Times…’

Blood Test Predicts Suicide Risk, Study Suggests


My Suicide

Via Discovery News, ‘A new gene linked to suicide risk has been discovered… [R]esearchers scanned the genes of brain tissue samples from people who had died by suicide, and compared these genes with those of people who died of other causes. …A genetic mutation in a gene called SKA2, was more common among the people who died by suicide [and] a chemical change, called anepigenetic change, on that same gene was more common among people who committed suicide than in those who died from other causes…


Next, the researchers examined whether these genetic changes could predict a person’s risk of having suicidal thoughts orattempting suicide. Using blood samples from 325 people, the scientists created a model that took into account whether a person had the SKA2 genetic mutation and the epigenetic change… The model correctly identified 80 percent to 96 percent of people who experienced suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide. It was more accurate among people at severe risk for suicide….

If the findings are confirmed and lead to a blood test for suicide risk, such a test might be used to screen people in psychiatric emergency rooms or to determine how closely a person needs to be monitored for suicide risk, the researcher said.’

However, from my perspective as a clinical psychiatrist working with suicidal patients, this is a meaningless finding. From the universe of those who are at “suicide risk” or have “suicidal thoughts” and would be identified by such a test, those who are at imminent risk constitute a vanishingly small proportion. And we can already identify those at theoretical suicide risk on demographic, historic and clinical grounds.


How Ebola works

Via Boing Boing, ‘The MicrobeWiki has a really detailed explanation of the biological mechanisms behind an Ebola infection. It gets a little technical in places, but its a good read if youve ever wondered how the virus creates hemorrhaging and why its hard to treat.’


Mysterious holes in Siberia may be craters of climate change explosions

Via Boing Boing, ‘Holes like this one have been appearing in Siberia — at least three are known so far. There are a couple of theories for whats causing them and both are linked to climate change.

First, there’s the idea that the holes are created when mounds of ice, covered with earth, melt. Called pingos, the loss of the ice would leave behind a big hole that collapses in on itself. Given the rising temperatures and melting of permafrost in Siberia, it wouldnt be surprising to find that pingos are melting.

But, other scientists argue, these holes dont really fit the look of a pingo collapse. Which brings us to the other, fairly awesome, possible explanation. Some observers have noted the presence of smoke and flashes of light in the places where the holes appeared. Theres also been some weirdness in the atmospheric science world with spikes of methane turning up in air over Siberia.Thats leading some scientists to speculate that the holes could be forming when methane from melted permafrost builds up in a space left by a melting pingo — eventually leading to an explosion.’