Via io9: ‘It was discovered Wednesday by Koichi Itagaki of Japan, and at a magnitude of 13.6, it could soon become visible in smaller telescopes. Today it was confirmed as a Type Ia-pec supernova. More to come as we learn more!’
Via io9: ‘It was discovered Wednesday by Koichi Itagaki of Japan, and at a magnitude of 13.6, it could soon become visible in smaller telescopes. Today it was confirmed as a Type Ia-pec supernova. More to come as we learn more!’
Via WIRED:’Communication between brain networks in people given psilocybin (right) or a non-psychedelic compound (left). Petri et al./Proceedings of the Royal Society Interface.’
Via Neuroscience Stuff: ‘An imaging study by Stanford University School of Medicine investigators has found distinct differences between the brains of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and those of healthy people.The findings could lead to more definitive diagnoses of the syndrome and may also point to an underlying mechanism in the disease process.It’s not uncommon for CFS patients to face several mischaracterizations of their condition, or even suspicions of hypochondria, before receiving a diagnosis of CFS. The abnormalities identified in the study, published Oct. 29 in Radiology, may help to resolve those ambiguities, said lead author Michael Zeineh, MD, PhD, assistant professor of radiology.’
Most of us who are dubious about CFS do not question that such a syndrome exists. But I feel it is a faddish diagnosis overused by clinicians and sufferers, sometimes a more acceptable less stigmatizing proxy for depression, sometimes a pretext to explain underachievement. I would venture to say that, if the radiographic changes described in this paper are legitimate, they will only appear in a subset of those currently labelled as having CFS.
A reprise of my traditional Hallowe’en post of past years:
It is that time of year again. What has become a time of disinhibited hijinx and mayhem, and a growing marketing bonanza for the kitsch-manufacturers and -importers, has primeval origins as the Celtic New Year’s Eve, Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). The harvest is over, summer ends and winter begins, the Old God dies and returns to the Land of the Dead to await his rebirth at Yule, and the land is cast into darkness. The veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead becomes frayed and thin, and dispossessed dead mingle with the living, perhaps seeking a body to possess for the next year as their only chance to remain connected with the living, who hope to scare them away with ghoulish costumes and behavior, escape their menace by masquerading as one of them, or placate them with offerings of food, in hopes that they will go away before the new year comes. For those prepared, a journey to the other side could be made at this time.
With Christianity, perhaps because with calendar reform it was no longer the last day of the year, All Hallows’ Eve became decathected, a day for innocent masquerading and fun, taking its name Hallowe’en as a contraction and corruption of All Hallows’ Eve.
All Saints’ Day may have originated in its modern form with the 8th century Pope Gregory III. Hallowe’en customs reputedly came to the New World with the Irish immigrants of the 1840’s. The prominence of trick-or-treating has a slightly different origin, however.
The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes,” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.
Jack-o’-lanterns were reportedly originally turnips; the Irish began using pumpkins after they immigrated to North America, given how plentiful they were here. The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.
According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
Folk traditions that were in the past associated wtih All Hallows’ Eve took much of their power, as with the New Year’s customs about which I write here every Dec. 31st, from the magic of boundary states, transition and liminality.
The idea behind ducking, dooking or bobbing for apples seems to have been that snatching a bite from the apple enables the person to grasp good fortune. Samhain is a time for getting rid of weakness, as pagans once slaughtered weak animals which were unlikely to survive the winter. A common ritual calls for writing down weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment, and tossing it into the fire. There used to be a custom of placing a stone in the hot ashes of the bonfire. If in the morning a person found that the stone had been removed or had cracked, it was a sign of bad fortune. Nuts have been used for divination: whether they burned quietly or exploded indicated good or bad luck. Peeling an apple and throwing the peel over one’s shoulder was supposed to reveal the initial of one’s future spouse. One way of looking for omens of death was for peope to visit churchyards
The Witches’ Sabbath aspect of Hallowe’en seems to result from Germanic influence, and fusion with the notion of Walpurgisnacht. (You my be familiar with the magnificent musical evocation of this, Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.)
Although probably not yet in a position to shape mainstream American Hallowe’en traditions, Mexican Dia de los Muertos observances have started to contribute some delightful and whimsical iconography to our encounter with the eerie and unearthly as well. As this article in The Smithsonian reviews, ‘In the United States, Halloween is mostly about candy, but elsewhere in the world celebrations honoring the departed have a spiritual meaning…’
What was Hallowe’en like forty or fifty years ago in the U.S. when, bastardized as it has become with respect to its pagan origins, it retained a much more traditional flair? For my purposes, suffice it to say that it was before the era of the pay-per-view ’spooky-world’ type haunted attractions and its Martha Stewart yuppification with, as this irreverent Salon article from several years ago [via walker] puts it, monogrammed jack-o’-lanterns and the like. One issue may be that, as NPR observed,
‘“Adults have hijacked Halloween… Two in three adults feel Halloween is a holiday for them and not just kids,” Forbes opined in 2012, citing a public relations survey. True that when the holiday was imported from Celtic nations in the mid-19th century — along with a wave of immigrants fleeing Irelands potato famine — it was essentially a younger persons game. But a little research reveals that adults have long enjoyed Halloween — right alongside young spooks and spirits.’
But is that necessarily a bad thing? A 1984 essay by Richard Seltzer, frequently referenced in other sources, entitled “Why Bother to Save Hallowe’en?”, argues as I do that reverence for Hallowe’en is good for the soul, young or old.
“Maybe at one time Hallowe’en helped exorcise fears of death and ghosts and goblins by making fun of them. Maybe, too, in a time of rigidly prescribed social behavior, Hallowe’en was the occasion for socially condoned mischief — a time for misrule and letting loose. Although such elements still remain, the emphasis has shifted and the importance of the day and its rituals has actually grown.…(D)on’t just abandon a tradition that you yourself loved as a child, that your own children look forward to months in advance, and that helps preserve our sense of fellowship and community with our neighbors in the midst of all this madness.”
That would be anathema to certain segments of society, however. Hallowe’en certainly inspires a backlash by fundamentalists who consider it a blasphemous abomination. ‘Amateur scholar’ Isaac Bonewits details academically the Hallowe’en errors and lies he feels contribute to its being reviled. Some of the panic over Hallowe’en is akin to the hysteria, fortunately now debunked, over the supposed epidemic of ‘ritual Satanic abuse’ that swept the Western world in the ’90’s.
The horror film has become inextricably linked to Hallowe’en tradition, although the holiday itself did not figure in the movies until John Carpenter took the slasher genre singlehandedly by storm. Googling “scariest films”, you will, grimly, reap a mother lode of opinions about how to pierce the veil to journey to the netherworld and reconnect with that magical, eerie creepiness in the dark (if not the over-the-top blood and gore that has largely replaced the subtlety of earlier horror films).
In any case: trick or treat! …And may your Hallowe’en be soulful.
Via Gizmodo: ‘In 1937, Amelia Earharts plane, the aluminum-clad Electra, disappeared somewhere over the Pacific during the course of her global circumnavigation attempt. Now 77 years later, historians and aviation experts are confident they have found a part of her downed aircraft…
This confirmation has huge implications to the Earhart saga. It would indicate that Earhart and Noonan did not sink to watery graves but rather, more likely, they crash landed the Electra on the flat coral reefs surrounding Nikumaroro atoll and—either one or both, maybe neither—spent the rest of their lives as castaways on that dead speck of dry land in the middle of the ocean with nary a volley ball to keep them company.’
Via Salon.com: ‘On Tuesday night Stephen Colbert blasted the NRA for killing a Pennsylvania bill that would have made it illegal to consume meat from household pets.The bill, which was introduced after cat and dog meat were cropping up at local butchers, also contained an amendment about the shooting of pigeons. Enter the NRA, who worried that this amendment would be a “slippery slope” downward to “regulated shooting grounds.”“That’s right,” Colbert said. “In order to protect their right to kill birds, the NRA defeated the anti-pet-eating bill.” ‘ (Link to video).
Via Salon.com: ‘Fox News “Medical A Team” member Keith Ablow thinks “it’s time for an American jihad.”
Ablow issued his summons in a column he penned for Fox News on Tuesday. Noting that definitions of jihad include “war or struggle against unbelievers” and “a crusade for principle or belief,” Ablow calls on the U.S. to wage a domestic and international jihad to remind Americans and citizens around the world that America is, by definition, exceptional and perfect and noble. Ablow’s jihad entails a mixture of quasi-fascist, jingoistic propaganda; messianic crusades to force other countries to adopt U.S. institutions and political practices; and the installation of puppet regimes around the globe. What could go wrong?’
Via NPR: ‘“Adults have hijacked Halloween,” the Chicago Tribune reported in 2013. “Two in three adults feel Halloween is a holiday for them and not just kids,” Forbes opined in 2012, citing a public relations survey.
True that when the holiday was imported from Celtic nations in the mid-19th century — along with a wave of immigrants fleeing Irelands potato famine — it was essentially a younger persons game. But a little research reveals that adults have long enjoyed Halloween — right alongside young spooks and spirits.’
Jody Lanard and Peter M. Sandman: ‘The alleged U.S. over-reaction to the first three domestic Ebola cases in the United States – what Maryn McKenna calls Ebolanoia – is matched only by the world’s true under-reaction to the risks posed by Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. We are not referring to the current humanitarian catastrophe there, although the world has long been under-reacting to that.
We will speculate about reasons for this under-reaction in a minute. At first we thought it was mostly a risk communication problem we call “fear of fear,” but now we think it is much more complicated.
Some of the world’s top Ebola experts say they are worrying night and day about the possibility of endemic Ebola, a situation in which Ebola will continue to spread, and then presumably wax and wane repeatedly, in West Africa.They – and we – find it difficult to understand why Ebola has not yet extended into Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau. After we drafted this on October 23, a case was confirmed in Mali.
Fewer experts refer publicly to what we think must frighten them even more and certainly frightens us even more: the prospect of Ebola sparks landing and catching unnoticed in slums like Dharavi in Mumbai or Orangi Town in Karachi – or perhaps Makoko in Lagos. Imagine how different recent history might have been if the late Ebola-infected Minnesota resident Patrick Sawyer had started vomiting in Makoko instead of at Lagos International Airport on July 20.’
Thanks to Boing Boing for pointing me to this fantastic collection of scenes. (Japan Times).
Via TIME: ‘Earlier this month, U.S. military officers were speaking of ISIS’s “momentum,” and how its string of military successes over the past year meant that quickly halting its advance would likely prove difficult if not impossible. Yet, as far as Kobani is concerned, that seems to be what is taking place.
But that raises the stakes for the U.S. and its allies. Having smothered ISIS’s momentum, an eventual ISIS victory in the battle for Kobani would be a more devastating defeat for the U.S. military than an earlier collapse of the town.
There are concerns that the focus on saving Kobani is giving ISIS free reign elsewhere in its self-declared caliphate—that the U.S., in essence, could end up winning the battle while losing the war.
“The U.S. air campaign has turned into an unfocused mess,” Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote Friday. “The U.S. has shifted limited air strike resources to focus on Syria and a militarily meaningless and isolated small Syrian Kurdish enclave at Kobani at the expense of supporting Iraqi forces in Anbar and intensifying the air campaign against other Islamic State targets in Syria.” ‘
Via The Atlantic: ‘Voters in this weekend’s elections in Uruguay and Brazil have something in common: They are legally required to cast a ballot. Both countries have compulsory voting, under which failure to vote is punishable by a fine.
Roughly 30 countries, and nearly a fifth of electoral democracies, have some form of national compulsory voting law on the books, though only some of these laws are enforced. And of these countries, 13 of them are in Latin America.With compulsory voting laws in about half of its countries, Latin America has by far the highest concentration of such laws on any continent.
“It’s been a contentious and hotly debated question,” Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, an organization focused on Western Hemisphere affairs, told me by email. “Advocates believe a full democracy needs to respond to the views and interests of all citizens. …
Of course, the chief argument against compulsory voting is that it contradicts the freedom associated with democracy. ”These kinds of arguments are presumably applicable all over the world, so why is compulsory voting so prevalent in Latin America specifically?’
Via Salon.com: ‘How invocations of “karma” and Zen are being used to justify deeply unequal systems of power…’
George Monbiot: ‘Those in power don’t speak of ‘people’ or ‘killing’ – it helps them do their job. And we are picking up their dehumanising euphemisms…’ (via The Guardian)
Via Boing Boing: ‘The Dalai Lama set off a firestorm last month by announcing that he will no longer reincarnate in a political role, effectively ending his centuries-old political lineage.It’s the latest in a series of controversial statements about the future of his role—including a hint that his next incarnation may be born outside of Tibet, and may be a woman. And it’s another indicator of a sea change in how the Tibetan diaspora is adapting and revising its traditions for life outside of occupied Tibet. Though the Dalai Lama’s statement was hastily reported in the media as meaning that he will not reincarnate at all, what he’s saying is much more layered: he’s looking to reincarnate as a spiritual leader only, and transition the Tibetan government-in-exile from needing him as a central authority, and towards a democratically-elected committee.’
“Why you shouldn’t freak out…” yet?
Via Gizmodo: ‘Earlier today, a 33-year-old doctor named Craig Spencer, who had recently spent time treating Ebola in Guinea, tested positive for the disease in New York City. Hed ridden the A train; hed gotten an Uber; he went bowling. It sounds grim. And theres cause for concern. But its not as bad as you think.
We’ve written extensively about why Ebola fears are almost always overblown; a refresher about how the disease is transmitted is below to help keep todays news in perspective. The short version: it requires direct contact, through bodily fluids, of someone who is already symptomatic. That means that if you were on the same subway, rode in the same Uber, or rolled strikes a few lanes down, you have nothing to worry about.’
Via NOVA Next | PBS: ‘Some scientists are arguing that our new understanding of a particular network in the brain is allowing neuroscientists, psychologists, and psychiatrists—even artists and writers—to understand each other in ways that wouldn’t have made sense ten years ago. Called the default mode network, or DMN, it’s a set of brain regions that are typically suppressed when a person is engaged in an external task (playing a sport, working on a budget), but activated during a so-called “resting state” (sitting quietly, day-dreaming).
Via BBC News: ‘A paralysed man has been able to walk again after a pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord.
Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the chest down in a knife attack in 2010, can now walk using a frame.
The treatment, a world first, was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London.’
Via Salon.com: “The species now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race…”
Via Alex Jones’ Infowars: ‘In late 1989, cynomolgus monkeys from the Philippines delivered to Hazleton Research Products’ Primate Quarantine Unit in Reston, Va., began dying at an alarming rate, prompting HRP to euthanize all the monkeys in that shipment, but during the 10 days after the euthanization, other monkeys in separate rooms connected only by air ducts began dying as well, which was attributed to an Ebola strain that went airborne.
“Due to the spread of infection to animals in all parts of the quarantine facility, it is likely that Ebola Reston may have been spread by airborne transmission,” wrote Lisa A. Beltz in the book Emerging Infectious Diseases. “On several subsequent occasions during 1989, 1990 and 1996, Ebola Reston killed monkeys in colonies in the United States.”
“Some of the people at the colony in Texas and several of the workers at the facility in the Philippines also produced antibodies to the virus but did not become ill.”The 1989 incident validates concerns that a new, airborne strain of Ebola could infect humans, and if such a mutated strain already exists, it would easily explain why Ebola is currently spreading so rapidly in Africa.’
Via IFLScience: ‘Flying across time zones throws your biological activities out of sync with the time of day. Turns out, your gut microbes have circadian clocks too, and when their daily rhythms are disrupted, that might lead to obesity and metabolic problems for you. These findings are published in Cell this week. ‘
Via Pacific Standard: ‘Can an intense belief that you’re about to die actually kill you? Researchers are learning more about “voodoo death” and how it isn’t limited to superstitious, foreign cultures.’
‘At Scientific American, Clara Moskowitz has the transcript from a recent interview with [astronomer David] Weintraub, in which they discuss the implications of extraterrestrial life on humanity’s assorted religious sensibilities. Here’s Weintraub on the difficulties that could be faced by religions that see humans as “the sole focus of Gods attention”:
The religions that see the world through that viewpoint tend to be some of the Christian evangelicals. The Eastern Orthodox Church, a branch of Catholicism, also has that view.There are some people who claim that if God had created extraterrestrials, then there clearly would be words in the Old and New testaments, which we would have already found, that would have said explicitly that God created extraterrestrials—and since those words don’t exist, there can’t be. Well, theres nothing in the Old and New testaments that talks about telephones either, and telephones do seem to exist.
As for which religions would accept the existence of alien life most readily, Weintraub points to the expansive cosmological scope of Buddhism as an indication that practitioners of that belief system “wouldnt be surprised to find life existing in other places.” Mormonism, too, he says, is “pretty interesting”:
There is a clear belief in Mormonism in extraterrestrial life. All Mormons have as a goal to become exalted, to become a god. To become a god you effectively get your own planet with your own creatures on it and youll take good care of them. The only place in the universe where you have the opportunity to become exalted is Earth. Those Mormons that receive the highest level of exaltation will be equals with God and have their own worlds, occupied with living beings seeking their own salvation and immortality. The prophet Joseph Smith taught that these worlds are or will be inhabited by sentient beings. It is everywhere taken for granted. They’re not vague at all. There’s no doubt that the Mormons are comfortable about the idea that there are others on other worlds. They’d be unhappy if we didnt find anybody. But they’d just say we haven’t looked hard enough.
The interview is definitely worth reading in its entirety for the section on whether Jesus saved the Klingons as well as humanity, alone, so check it out over at SciAm. See also the closely related, but very different, question of what effect the discovery of alien life would have on society’s deism.’
Via io9: ‘A new study looking at the last 59 years of tornadoes in the United States reveals something surprising: We have fewer tornadoes today than we used to. But those tornadoes are hitting in a terrifying new way.
Harold Brooks, atmospheric scientist at NOAA, who you may also remember from his io9 Q&A on tornado season, is the lead author of the study, published today in Science. Starting at around 1980, the total number of tornadoes in a year starts to trend downward — at the same time, however, the days when multiple tornadoes struck started to trend upwards.’
Via Sploid: ‘This Sunday something historical will happen: An ancient rare comet will arrive to Mars after millions of years traveling at 33 miles per second from the Oort cloud. It will look like you can see above, passing just within a third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon, engulfing the Red Planet in its large tail.’
Andy Borowitz: ‘There is a deep-seated fear among some Americans that an Ebola outbreak could make the country turn to science.In interviews conducted across the nation, leading anti-science activists expressed their concern that the American people, wracked with anxiety over the possible spread of the virus, might desperately look to science to save the day.’ (via New Yorker)
Via Science Alerts: ‘Mind-controlled prosthetic limbs that work outside the lab are now a reality, with a Swedish man becoming the first recipient of a fully implanted device in the world.’
Via Jezebel: ‘The Western medical discourse on Africa has never been particularly subtle: the continent is often depicted as an undivided repository of degeneration. Comparing the representations of disease in Africa and in the West, you can hear the whispers of an underlying moral panic: a sense that Africa, and its bodies, are uncontainable. The discussion around Ebola has already evoked—almost entirely from Tea Party Republicans—the explicit idea that American borders are too porous and that all manners of perceived primitiveness might infect the West.
And indeed, with the history of American and European panic over regulating foreign disease comes a history of regulating the perception of filth from beyond our borders, a history of policing non-white bodies that have signified some unclean toxicity.’
Via WIRED: ‘…So far McGuire’s team has built a structure—a few meters long by a meter in diameter—to test its plasma confinement claims. If they can iterate fast enough, they may just be the first to get to a functional nuclear reactor… probably in about 10 years.’
[And just what is Neil Patrick Harris doing moonlighting as a nuclear engineer?]
(via Brain Pickings)
Via National Geographic: ‘Why we need to terminate Ebola 2014 before the virus learns too much about us.’
Related: How Bush opened the door for ISIS
‘One thing is clear: the foreign armies that the U.S. invests so much money, time, and effort in training and equipping don’t act as if America’s enemies are their enemies. Contrary to the behavior predicted by Donald Rumsfeld, when the U.S. removes those “training wheels” from its client militaries, they pedal furiously when they pedal at all in directions wholly unexpected by, and often undesirable to, their American paymasters. And if that’s not a clear sign of the failure of U.S. foreign policy, I don’t know what is.’ (Via Salon.com).
Via io9: ‘To work out what kind of diseases the rats of NYC were carrying, the scientists trapped 133 rats at five sites around the city, focussing on those inside residential buildings in particular, for obvious disease-spreading reasons.They then used molecular testing to look for known bacterial pathogens and viruses in the rats’ tissue and excretions.
They found that 15 of the 20 bacterial pathogens they were testing for were present in the rats, as well as one virus, Seoul hantavirus, which causes Ebola-like heamorrhagic fever in humans. This is the first time the virus has been documented in New York City, and the genetic clues in the rats suggest it’s a new arrival.
Perhaps even more interestingly and worryingly, the researchers also found 18 completely new viruses in the rats. None of these have been seen in humans as yet, but the scientists say that transmission is possible.’
Via The Atlantic: ‘The CDC is contacting all 132 passengers who were onboard the Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday along with a nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan before he became the first person to die of Ebola in the U.S. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden bluntly told reporters on Wednesday that the nurse “should not have traveled” on the plane because she was one of dozens who were being monitored for exposure to the deadly disease.
…Frieden said all health workers who came in contact with Duncan, who died October 8, would now be restricted from traveling commercially. Still, he said that because the second nurse did not exhibit symptoms on the flight from Cleveland, the risk to other passengers remains “extremely low.” The passengers are being contacted, he said, as “an extra margin of safety.”
Any passengers on Flight 1143, which landed at Dallas-Fort Worth at 8:16 p.m. Central, should call 1-800-CDC-INFO. Frontier Airlines released a statement saying the plane had been cleaned twice before resuming its service.’
Via Medium: ‘We took a hacker to a café and, in 20 minutes, he knew where everyone else was born, what schools they attended, and the last five things they googled.’
Via The Atlantic: ‘How, exactly, did clowns go from lovable children’s entertainers to the bewigged, bone-chilling incarnation of evil? The answer is complicated, and spans a period of almost 200 years…’
Behold, Every Horror Movie on TV This October
Via The Atlantic: ‘October is the most wonderful time of the year for horror fans. TV networks pack their schedules with scares, allowing viewers to create their own horror marathon out of hundreds of different combinations. Below, I’ve put together a calendar of all 300+ horror films set to air on cable for the month—and looking at the list, it’s clear how incredibly versatile the definition of “horror” can be.’
The Scary Truth: Horror Films (Alarmingly) Based on True Stories
Via The Atlantic: ‘These ten horror movies are all inspired by real events—unfortunately.’
Why Do Some Brains Enjoy Fear?
Via The Atlantic: ‘The science behind the appeal of haunted houses, freak shows, and physical thrills.’
Via The Washington Post: ‘A man wearing a surgical mask and a woman got onto a bus in Los Angeles Monday afternoon. He proclaimed, “I have Ebola!” Moments later, he threw the mask on the ground, and they both got off the bus. Now, the FBI is involved in trying to track down the man, with an investigation being treated as a possible terrorist or criminal threat, according to Los Angeles Metro officials.’
Via IFLScience: ‘A researcher claims to have produced a simulation of Hawking radiation, which if true will give physicists the chance to test one of Stephen Hawkings most significant predictions.
In 1974, Hawking upended ideas about black holes with his theory that just outside the event horizon, particle-antiparticle pairs should appear as a result of the black holes gravitational field. One of these would be drawn into the hole, but the other escape. Since the appearance of the pair draws energy from the hole and only half of this is recaptured, the effect is to reduce the holes mass, causing it to eventually evaporate.’
Via The Atlantic: ‘Are the presidents dumbing down? Or are their speechwriters smartening up?’
Via Yahoo News: ‘The Hague (AFP) – The Dutch public prosecutor said on Tuesday that motorbike gang members who have reportedly joined Kurds battling the Islamic State group in Iraq are not necessarily committing any crime.
“Joining a foreign armed force was previously punishable, now its no longer forbidden,” public prosecutor spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP. “You just cant join a fight against the Netherlands,” he told AFP after reports emerged that Dutch bikers from the No Surrender gang were fighting IS insurgents alongside Kurds in northern Iraq.’
Via Boing Boing: ‘Ben Marks explores the history of the psychedelic rock poster.’ Marks is a serious scholar and collector of San Francisco rock poster art and curator of a major exhibit that is now hanging at SFO. This article fascinated me, as someone who is just nuts about this genre of graphics. I had a sizable collection of originals myself, and I have long been kicking myself for losing track of most of my collection in moves over the years. (My brother may have them in storage somewhere…) My favorite artist of the genre? Rick Griffin, without a doubt. Gotta pass through San Francisco while the exhibit is still up…
Via Boing Boing: ‘Artist Concetta Antico is a tetrachromat, meaning a genetic mutation in her eyes enables her to see approximately 100 times more colors than an average person. “Around the edge of a leaf I’ll see orange or red or purple in the shadow; you might see dark green but I’ll see violet, turquoise, blue,” she told Popular Science. “It’s like a mosaic of color.”Cognitive scientists are studying Antico to better understand human perception and how it can be shaped by this genetic mutation. Below, Antico’s painting “Rainbow Gully, Mission Hills, SD.” See more of her work at concettaantico.com.’
There was a great episode of Radio Lab that touched on tetrachromats several years ago. One of the takeaway messages from that piece was that we are the misfits of the animal world in terms of the impoverishment of our color vision.
Via Gizmodo: ‘Inside your smartphone’s camera, whether a Galaxy S5 or an iPhone 6, are silicon photodiode pixels—the things that detect visible light and turn it into something you can see on your screen. But as the UC team explains in their new paper PDF, they can also detect high-energy particles. The app is basically a piece of software that records when your camera senses these particles, then records the levels, location, and time of the “shower.”
It runs itself automatically and imperceptibly only when your phone is charging, so it doesnt suck up battery life, and it only uploads relevant captures to UCs server when youre connected to Wi-Fi. What about privacy? The data the app is uploading is able to detect the different between shower data and actual photos, and will never upload actual images. The team at UC says theyve spent over a year on the beta of the app, all because to achieve the number of users they need for their telescope to function, their app needs to be as invisible and convenient as possible—hence the focus on battery life, data, and privacy.’
You can request access to the app, which is still in pre-release, here.
Via io9: ‘The Gostak distims the doshes. This is a sentence that has no meaning in the real world – except the one that is has built up over its extensive history. Learn about the gostak, the doshes, and their surprising science fiction connection…
The sentence was first written editor and progressive educator Simon Ingraham, who believed that one of the “uses of language” was to “keep the grammarians busy.” The point is that, while the sentence has no meaning in the real world, it has a perfect, understandable, and self-contained meaning inside that sentence. The doshes are things that are distimmed by the Gostak. Distimming is what Gostaks do to doshes. And, well, the Gostak distims the doshes. We know what it means. All we need is more context to understand what is actually happening. We feel that, if we could keep reading for a few more paragraphs, we could pick up what each of these things actually are – the way we pick up almost all language.
This elusive lack of context has led to a lot of people playing with the sentence in different contexts. The Gostak shows up in a lot of areas. One of the most notable was “The Gostak and the Doshes,” a science fiction story by Miles Breuer. In the story, “The Gostak distims the doshes,” was a political slogan that made people furious. A visitor tries in vain to get people to explain what it is thats so bad about this idea, but cant even find out what any of the words mean. People didnt know what was being said, but they still couldnt bear the idea that that Gostak was out there. Distimming.’
Via space.com: ‘A densely packed star-forming galaxy is reproducing the events that brought light to the early universe. The nearby compact galaxy named J0921+4509, which is rapidly producing stars, has many of the characteristics that would have been required to light up the early universe. Located approximately 3 billion light-years from the Milky Way, the star-forming regions of the tightly bound galaxy are surrounded by dense clouds of gas. Holes in the gas allow radiation to leak out, mimicking events that would have broken through the darkness that followed the birth of the universe.’
Via NYTimes: ‘A health care worker here who helped treat the Liberian man who died last week of the Ebola virus has tested positive for the disease in a preliminary test, state health officials said Sunday.The worker, who was not identified, was an employee of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Thomas E. Duncan, died last week.
Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer of Texas Health Resources, which oversees Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, told reporters on Sunday that the worker came into contact with Mr. Duncan during his second visit to the emergency room. The person was wearing protective gear at the time, though Dr. Varga did not elaborate on the type of contact or the type of job the person has at the hospital.“This individual was following full C.D.C. precautions,” Dr. Varga said, adding, “Gown, glove, mask and shield.” ‘
Some people may ask how this could have happened. But I am asking, How could it have not?
Via io9: ‘In whats being called one of the most important advances to date in the field, researchers at Harvard have used stem cells to create insulin-producing beta cells in large quantities. Human transplantation trials could only be a few years away.
By using human embryonic stem cells, a research team led by Doug Melton created human insulin-producing beta cells that are virtually equivalent to normally functional beta cells in the kind of large quantities required for cell transplantation and pharmaceutical purposes.’
Via Sploid: ‘On its 100th anniversary, The Great Martian War tells the story of the catastrophic events and unimaginable horrors of 1913-17, when Humankind was pitted against a savage Alien invasion.’
Via Gizmodo: ‘Time travel is possible—or at least a lot of serious physicists say so. Its probably not possible to pull it off in a souped-up Delorean, but there are wormholes, Tipler cylinders, and other Einstein-inspired theories for how it could work. Which raises the question: Why havent we met any visitors from another time?It sounds like a silly question, but its one that many scientists actually take very seriously. Meeting someone from the future would, of course, serve as definitive proof that we can indeed travel through time, and that would be a quite a simple way to solve a huge scientific riddle. So its no surprise that a handful of enthusiasts and experts have staged experiments in order to attract the time travelers that could be hiding among us.
One of them is Stephen Hawking. The renowned physicist totally believes time travel is a scientific possibility, and even says he knows how to build a time machine. He also famously wondered, “If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?” Its a good question. Heres how weve tried to answer it…’
Via NYTimes.com: ‘A few days ago, I was on a panel on Bill Maher’s television show on HBO that became a religious war.
Whether or not Islam itself inspires conflict, debates about it certainly do. Our conversation degenerated into something close to a shouting match and went viral on the web. Maher and a guest, Sam Harris, argued that Islam is dangerous yet gets a pass from politically correct liberals, while the actor Ben Affleck denounced their comments as “gross” and “racist.” I sided with Affleck.After the show ended, we panelists continued to wrangle on the topic for another hour with the cameras off. Maher ignited a debate that is rippling onward, so let me offer three points of nuance…’
Via IFLScience: ‘Today a New York court will decide whether or not Tommy the Chimpanzee qualifies as a legal person. Tommy, a chimpanzee in his 20s, became well-known late last year when lawyer Steven Wise discovered him being held in a small, unclean cage and receiving inadequate care.
It is important to note that even if Tommy is declared a legal person, it does not mean he is human with human rights. Legally speaking, it would just afford him protection beyond existing animal cruelty laws. Personhood would give him rights pertaining to his self interest that would hold up in a court of law, similar to a parent or guardian acting on behalf of a child or disabled adult. Last year, India made headlines when they granted dolphins the status of nonhuman persons.’
Via laughingsquid.com: ‘A simulation by the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research ICRAR shows what the collision between our own Milky Way Galaxy and the nearby Andromeda Galaxy will look like in approximately five billion years. The video represents gasses in the galaxies in blue and newly formed stars in red.’
Via alphagalileo.org: ‘The results of a four-year international study of 2060 cardiac arrest cases across 15 hospitals published and available now on ScienceDirect. The study concludes:
· The themes relating to the experience of death appear far broader than what has been understood so far, or what has been described as so called near-death experiences.· In some cases of cardiac arrest, memories of visual awareness compatible with so called out-of-body experiences may correspond with actual events.
· A higher proportion of people may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits.
· Widely used yet scientifically imprecise terms such as near-death and out-of-body experiences may not be sufficient to describe the actual experience of death. Future studies should focus on cardiac arrest, which is biologically synonymous with death, rather than ill-defined medical states sometimes referred to as ‘near-death’.
· The recalled experience surrounding death merits a genuine investigation without prejudice.’
Via New Yorker: ‘There are more than forty thousand Chinese restaurants across the country—nearly three times the number of McDonald’s outlets. There is one in Pinedale, Wyoming population 2,043, and one in Old Forge, New York population 756; Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania population 1,085, has three. Most are family operations, staffed by immigrants who pass through for a few months at a time, living in houses and apartments that have been converted into makeshift dormitories. The restaurants, connected by Chinese-run bus companies to New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, make up an underground network—supported by employment agencies, immigrant hostels, and expensive asylum lawyers—that reaches back to villages and cities in China, which are being abandoned for an ideal of American life that is not quite real.’
Via The Daily Beast: ‘Antarctica is losing so much mass that it’s actually changing Earth’s gravity.
…The immediate consequence of the melting is the growing instability of ice shelves, places where the ice covering extends into the ocean. …As Antarctic ice melts, it shifts mass from the continent into the oceans, slightly changing Earth’s gravitational field in that part of the world…’
Via Washington Post: ‘While the international community has been accused of dragging its feet on the Ebola crisis, Cuba, a country of just 11 million people that still enjoys a fraught relationship with the United States, has emerged as a crucial provider of medical expertise in the West African nations hit by Ebola.
On Thursday, 165 health professionals from the country arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to join the fight against Ebola – the largest medical team of any single foreign nation, according to the World Health Organization WHO. And after being trained to deal with Ebola, a further 296 Cuban doctors and nurses will go to Liberia and Guinea, the other two countries worst hit by the crisis.’
Via Salon.com: ‘If critics of income inequality are wondering why the growing gap between rich and poor hasn’t been a more potent political issue in the upcoming elections, a new study offers some answers: Americans grossly underestimate this inequality. That’s one of the key findings of a survey showing the gap between CEO and average worker pay in America is more than 10 times larger than the typical American perceives.’
I’m down with this. Via Vox: ‘Benjamin Mazer is a third-year medical student at the University of Rochester. Last year, after becoming increasingly concerned with the public-health impact of Dr. Mehmet Oz’s sometimes pseudoscience health advice, he decided to ask state and national medical associations to do something about it.
“Dr. Oz has something like 4-million viewers a day,” Mazer told Vox. “The average physician doesnt see a million patients in their lifetime. Thats why organized medicine should be taking action.”
Last year, Mazer brought a policy before the Medical Society of the State of New York — where Dr. Oz is licensed — requesting that they consider regulating the advice of famous physicians in the media. His idea: Treat health advice on TV in the same vein as expert testimony, which already has established guidelines for truthfulness. In 2014, Mazer also launched a website to gather first-hand accounts from health professionals about their run-ins with Dr. Oz-based medicine on the front line. Its called “Doctors In Oz.”‘
Via Vox: ‘Author and former Democratic political consultant Naomi Wolf published a series of Facebook posts on Saturday in which she questioned the veracity of the ISIS videos showing the murders and beheadings of two Americans and two Britons, strongly implying that the videos had been staged by the US government and that the victims and their parents were actors.
Wolf published a separate Facebook post, also on Saturday, suggesting that the US was sending troops to West Africa not to assist with Ebola treatment but to bring Ebola back to the US to justify a military takeover of American society. She also suggested that the Scottish independence referendum, in which Scots voted to remain in the United Kingdom, had been faked.
Wild-eyed conspiracy theories are common on Facebook. You may naturally wonder, then, why you are reading about these ones. Partly its because Wolfs posts on ISIS deeply offended many people who knew one or more of the four murdered Westerners whom Wolf accused of being actors. And as American victims James Foley and Steven Sotloff were journalists, their outraged friends included a number of fellow journalists, so you may have seen them discussing Wolfs posts online and wondered what had happened.’
‘ISIS’ brutality did not emerge in a vacuum; rather, it is part of a whole ecology of cruelty spread out over more than a decade…’ — Alireza Doostdar,The University of Chicago Divinity School.
Via Collectors Weekly: ‘As a rock-poster collector, I’ve always found that handoff from artist to printer to be one of the most interesting aspects of the form. Many of the artists working between 1966 and 1971, talented though they were, did not know the first thing about offset lithography, the dominant printing technique of the day. In this light, the unsung heroes of San Francisco’s rock-poster scene may have been the printers. Sure Graham and Helms wrote the small checks, and the ideas belonged to the artists. But with a few notable exceptions Wilson had a small offset press, and Moscoso taught stone lithography, most poster artists of the era had no formal training in the printing techniques used to disseminate their work. As a result, career pressmen were often unsigned collaborators, teaching artists how to get the most out of a medium they absolutely had to understand if they were going to make it as poster artists.’
Via Salon.com: ‘The real promise of the MacArthur Fellowship program is that it does not require grant writing, or applications, or even achievement of a conventional sort. It could theoretically be used to bypass the world of foundation favorites altogether. It could single out worthy individuals who have been unfairly overlooked, lift them up, launch their careers, and force the world to pay attention. That even seems to have been one of the ideas for the program in the beginning.
Well, today the program rarely does any of those things. Instead, and just like nearly every other prize program in the world, it chooses noncontroversial figures and rewards the much-rewarded, giving in to what James English calls “the desire to have already famous and massively consecrated individuals on their list of winners.
”Sort through that list of winners and you’ll find lots of the usual prize magnets, the foundation favorites, the celebrated New Yorker authors, the “20 Under 40” set, the people you heard profiled on NPR a short while ago, the person who just got the National Book Award, or the John Bates Clark medal, or a Ford Foundation Leadership Grant. The résumés of certain winners are thick with honors: Junot Diaz was a literary champion many times over by the time he won in 2012, while Robert Penn Warren, who received one of the very first MacArthur Fellowships, had won the Pulitzer three times by that point in his life and had received more than a dozen honorary degrees.My point here is not that some particular Genius didn’t deserve the prize. Few of the MacArthur Fellows represent genuinely poor choices. But many are certainly unoriginal choices, choices that by definition do nothing to advance creativity or innovation, as they are given to people who already have tenure, or recognition, or funding.
This particular criticism of the Genius Grant has been around since the beginning, but instead of changing course and concentrating on the business of finding brilliant but obscure people, the Foundation seems to have persuaded itself that rewarding the amply rewarded isn’t really a problem at all…’
Via Salon.com: ‘The leading scholar indicts the president — and Black leadership and the media for not calling out his failures…’
Via Gizmodo: ‘If you want protection from privacy intrusions by private UAV pilots, dont go all Annie Oakley on your neighbors quadcopter like this guy; thats super illegal in most American cities. Instead, try these simple means of dissuasion. Youll definitely look like a bit of a loon, but thats just the price of freedom. And/or paranoia…’
First Weekend in America With No Saturday Morning Cartoons (via Gizmodo): ‘Saturday morning American broadcast TV was once animations home field. Filling a cereal bowl with artificially colored sugar pebbles and staring at the tube was every kids weekend plan. Not any more: For the first time in 50-plus years, you wont find any animation on broadcast this morning….’
Via ANIMAL: ‘Everyone likes to get high. Whether from your morning cup of coffee, taking 2C-I to trip balls, or a surge of endocannabinoids after doing exercise, we love the feeling. This is rooted in a common chemistry that all creatures share.Scientists and cat toy makers have long known that animals too enjoy the fruits of our shared biology. They go for the chemical shortcut to fun times as much as we do. Here are just a few…’
Via Bloomberg: ‘Islamic State extremists have herded hundreds of women to be given to its fighters in Syria as a reward or sold as sex slaves and have summarily executed women in professions, according to the United Nations.’
Via The Atlantic: ‘This week surgeons at the University of Chicago found that the strength of a person’s ability to identify odors is an eerily excellent predictor of impending death. If and when your sense of smell fades, it seems, your risk of dying within the next five years is several times higher than that of your inviolate friends…’
Via New Statesman: ‘A growing community of scientists, philosophers and tech billionaires believe we need to start thinking seriously about the threat of human extinction…’
Via Substance.com: ‘Against all medical guidelines, children who are two and three years old are getting diagnosed with ADHD and treated with Adderall and other stimulants. It may be shocking, but its perfectly legal…’
Via The Atlantic: ‘Psychologists have found that we like stories more after theyve been “spoiled.” Why?’