Watch Out!

More for Halloween: the Carfax Abbey Horror Films and Movies Database includes best-ever-horror-films lists from Entertainment Wekly, Mr. Showbiz and I’ve seen most of these; some of their choices are not that scary, some are just plain silly, and they give extremely short shrift to my real favorites, the classics of the ’30’s and ’40’s — when much eeriness was allusive and not explicit. And here’s what claims to be a compilation of links to the darkest and most gruesome sites on the web. “Hours and hours of fun for morbidity lovers.”

A Brief History of Evil Children in Horror Movies

‘In celebration of Halloween, we took a shallow dive into the horror subgenre of evil-child horror movies. Weird-kid cinema stretches back at least to 1956’s The Bad Seed, and has experienced a resurgence recently via movies like The Babadook, Goodnight Mommy, and Cooties. You could look at this trend as a natural extension of the focus on domesticity seen in horror via the wave of haunted-house movies that 2009’s Paranormal Activity helped usher in. Or maybe we’re just wizening up as a culture and realizing that children are evil and that film is a great way to warn people of this truth.

Happy Halloween. Hope you don’t get killed by trick-or-treaters.’

Source: Gawker

Reverence for Hallowe’en: Good for the Soul

Three jack-o'-lanterns illuminated from within...

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.

English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-la...
English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o’-lantern from the early 20th century.

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

La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...

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.”

Three Halloween jack-o'-lanterns.

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.


How to Watch This Week’s Rare Conjunction of Venus, Mars and Jupiter

‘Over the next several nights, skywatchers will be treated to a cool celestial sight as Venus, Mars, and Jupiter hang out together in the morning sky. Here’s what you need to know about the rare conjunction and how to watch.

From now until the first week of November, the brightest planets in the night sky—Venus, Mars, and Jupiter—will appear as a bright trio of dots in the hours just before dawn. And you don’t need a telescope or binoculars to see it. This rare conjunction won’t happen again until January 2021…’

Source: Gizmodo

Fantastically Nerdy Science Humor Magazine Goes Digital

‘After 21 years, the Annals of Improbable Research — that bastion of uber-nerdy science humor — is switching from a dead tree format to an all-digital PDF format. And it’s holding a special subscription sale to celebrate. From now until October 31, you can get a yearly subscription (six issues) for just $15/year, instead of the usual $25/year….’

Source: Gizmodo

These Are the First Baby Giant Squid Ever Discovered

‘Giant squid are among the most mysterious creatures on the planet; the camera-shy behemoths lurk in murky ocean basins across the world. We’ve only seen adult giant squid a handful of times, and now, you’re looking at the first ever wee baby ones.

The three specimens of Architeuthis dux shown here measure only 5.5 to 13 inches (14 to 33 cm) across, each weighing less than a pound. According to Motherboard, they were caught by fisherman off the coast of Japan in 2013…’

Source: Gizmodo

We’ve Been Slandering Naked Mole-Rats All This Time

‘Today marks a moral victory for the flesh-twinkies of the animal world. Naked mole-rats have been slandered for years as inbred monsters, but at last research shows that that’s not always true. #notallmoleratsNaked mole-rats have long been celebrated for their clear superiority to other rodents. They live three decades longer than their peers, seem to be cancer free for their entire lives, and have a complex “eusocial” society in which multiple generations live together sharing the work it takes to keep the colony running. Really, they’re an example of what we can all achieve if we are willing to give up beauty, clothes, sugar, body hair, and the prospect of ever seeing the sun again. Oh, and also if we give up having sex with people outside our family.

Yep, mole-rat societies were found to be inbred. Eusocial societies, in mammals, seem to require a certain amount of close family bonding. Scientists puzzled about the significance of the degree of inbreeding, especially because naked mole-rats are one of the few matriarchies outside of the insect kingdom. Was there a connection?

It now appears that there is not, for the simple reason that naked mole-rats aren’t actually inbred. The original genetic studies on mole-rats involved samples taken solely from an area south of the Athi river in Kenya. There was no reason at the time to suspect that these populations were in any way anomalous, but a recent study that took a look at the genetics of mole-rat populations north of the river turned up totally different results. The south river rats are inbred because they stem from a small initial founding population. Mole-rats north of the river are no more inbred than any other group of mammals.

This means that we’ve taken an animal that already has a face like a mutilated toe and somehow found a way to slander it…’

Source: Gizmodo

Alzheimer’s disease tied to brain’s navigation network

‘The way you navigate a virtual maze may predict your chances of getting Alzheimer’s. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which finds that people at risk for Alzheimer’s have lower activity in a newly-discovered network of navigational brain cells known as “grid cells.” The finding could lead to new ways to diagnose this debilitating disorder. The discovery of the grid cell network won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology last year.

The neurons that make up the “grid” are arranged in a triangular lattice in the entorhinal cortex—a region of the brain used in memory and navigation. The “grid” activates in different patterns based on how individuals move, keeping track of our location in the coordinate plane. Researchers think the cells help create mental maps and allow us to navigate through space even in the absence of visual cues.

“If you close your eyes and walk ten feet forward and turn right and walk three feet forward, the grid cells are believed to [track your position],” says neuroscientist Joshua Jacobs at Columbia University. Intriguingly, people withthe so-called e4 variant of a gene known as APOE—the largest genetic risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s later in life—are at a higher risk for developing abnormalities in their entorhinal cortex. Because the grid cells are found in the same region, scientists wondered if the reason Alzheimer’s patients are more likely to get lost and have difficulty navigating could be explained by damage to the network…’

Source: 3quarksdaily

Antioxidants help tumors to spread

‘The largely unregulated supplement industry sells a variety of weird and sometimes dangerous stuff that it wink-nudge promises will cure what ails you, but even the most accurately labeled, evidence-based supplements can make sick people much, much sicker.

People who eat diets rich in antioxidants — plants, mostly — are at a lower risk of many illnesses, including cancer. There’s good evidence to support the idea that the anti-oxidants in their diet are protecting them from cancer by attacking mutation-causing free radicals.

But when those anti-oxidants are extracted and turned into supplements, they have a very different effect from the foods in which they’re found. In a new study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the Karolinska Institute report on a study that found antioxidants were responsible for speeding up the growth of melanomas; last year they reported a similar finding for antioxidants and lung cancer.

The Karolinska Institute’s Martin Bergö, a molecular biologist, hypothesizes that antioxidants are protecting cancer cells from free radicals. Cancer cells are particularly vulnerable to “oxidative stress” — the damage from free radicals, and this retards the spread of cancer, unless, that is, you’re megadosing on anti-oxidants…’

Source: Boing Boing

Is Déjà Vu Triggered by Resonance with Parallel Universes?

‘Michio Kaku, though best known for his work with physics, has some ideas of his own about what we experience when we experience déjà vu. “There is a theory,” says Kaku in the Big Think video above,”that déjà vu simply elicits fragments of memories that we have stored in our brain, memories that can be elicited by moving into an environment that resembles something that we’ve already experienced.

”But wait! “Is it ever possible on any scale,” he then tantalizingly asks, “to perhaps flip between different universes?” And does déjà vu tell us anything about our position in those universes, giving us signs of the others even as we reside in just one? Kaku quotes an analogy first made by physicist Steven Weinberg which frames the notion of a “multiverse” in terms of our vibrating atoms and the frequency of a radio’s signal: “If you’re inside your living room listening to BBC radio, that radio is tuned to one frequency. But in your living room there are all frequencies: radio Cuba, radio Moscow, the Top 40 rock stations. All these radio frequencies are vibrating inside your living room, but your radio is only tuned to one frequency.” And sometimes, for whatever reason, we hear two signals on our radio at once.

Given that, then, maybe we feel déjà vu when the atoms of which we consist “no longer vibrate in unison with these other universes,” when “we have decoupled from them, we have decohered from them.”’

Source: Open Culture

What Would Real Brain-to-Brain Communication Look Like?

‘The past few years has seen “brain-to-brain communication” move from the realm of science fiction into reality. Numerous papers have reported on different brain-to-brain interface devices, of which a typical example is this 2014 report by Rajesh Rao and colleagues describing a device in which EEG is used to detect activity in one person’s brain, which then sends a message over the internet and then uses a TMS coil which generates a magnetic pulse that induces activity in the brain of another person.’

Source: Neuroskeptic

Ebola Is Coming Back (It Never Really Went Away)

‘Last Friday, London’s Royal Free Hospital announced that it was treating Pauline Cafferkey, a Scottish nurse who had served in Sierra Leone during this year’s West African outbreak, for what they termed “an unusual late complication” of Ebola. Somehow, the Ebola virus was once again raging through her system, nine months after her initial infection and recovery.

The case is dismaying, but it’s no freak occurrence. Even though the worst of the Ebola outbreak is over, the virus keeps reappearing—in survivors, new patients, and the press. In the past 24 hours, Ebola has struck two people in Guinea, and a paper out this week in the New England Journal of Medicine announced that Ebola patients still housed traces of the virus’s RNA up to nine months after they first showed symptoms. And even if they’re not wracked by the disease anymore, Ebola survivors suffer a whole range of maladies that come from the lingering virus: back pain, hearing loss, meningitis, seizures. (Though, thankfully, the survivors probably aren’t infectious.)

The WHO counts 42 days without new cases as the cut-off for a region to be Ebola-free (Guinea was weeks away), but they may need to rethink that length of time, or the very idea that a region can be Ebola-free, says Dan Kelly, an Ebola researcher at UC San Francisco.  To stretch the mole analogy, the squiggly virus collects in certain hidey-holes the immune system doesn’t patrol as well—eyes, brains, testes, and even semen—where it can then lurk for months before replicating and causing problems for its host. (In another study this week in NEJM, scientists found that Ebola can be transmitted through sex, which presents a whole ‘nother set of risks.) Scientists still don’t know how long Ebola stays infectious in the body.’

Source: WIRED

These 50 Treasured Places Are At Risk of Disappearing

‘Fifty cultural heritage sites in 36 countries are threatened by everything from climate change and looting to natural disasters and commercial development, according to a report released Thursday by the World Monuments Fund.Compiled every two years, the World Monuments Watch list raises awareness and mobilizes funding for the preservation of endangered sites of outstanding significance. In its 20-year history, the program has named 790 sites in 135 countries and arranged roughly $350 million of financial support for treasured places around the world.POPULAR STORIES An Isolated Tribe Is Emerging From Peru’s Amazonian WildernessWill a New Bout of King Tut Fever Bring Visitors Back to Egypt?Will a New Bout of King Tut Fever Bring Visitors Back to Egypt?The 50 sites on the 2016 list range from World War II concentration camps in Italy to the approximately 5,000-year-old underwater city of Pavlopetri off the coast of the Southern Peloponnese in Greece.’

Source: National Geographic

Extraordinary Artificial Skin Can Transmit Sense Of Touch To Brain Cells

‘Even though there have been incredible advancements in the field of prosthetics, including some more unorthodox ones, those who are unfortunate enough to lose a body part will be unable to replicate the sense of touch with their artificial limb. A remarkable new study by a team of Stanford University engineers, published today in Science, has perhaps begun to finally address this problem: they have created a plastic skin that can “feel,” transmitting sensory information as an electric signal to the brain.’

Source: IFLScience

How the illusion of control leads you to perpetually wait for your life to begin

‘As the Bennetts explain in the book, most people seek a therapist in an effort to actively deny that they don’t have any control over their emotions. Stuck in a neurotic, fruitless loop, people begin to wonder why they can’t achieve perpetual happiness or erase their proclivity to procrastinate. If they could just fix the things they see as broken, they could then become the people they’ve always wanted to be and finally begin their lives. But just how much control do you really have over your feelings or your essential nature? According to the Bennetts, much less than you would like to believe. Your efforts are better spent elsewhere. In this episode, listen as Michael and Sarah explain what you should be doing instead, and why they say – “Fuck feelings.” ‘

Source: Boing Boing

Delete these genes, extend your life by as much as 60 percent

‘A 10-year effort to identify the genes responsible for ageing has led to researchers finding 238 specific genes that, when removed, significantly extend the lifespan of yeast cells in laboratory testing.If the results of this genetic editing can be replicated in humans – which is a possibility, since many of the genes and genetic pathways involved are also found in higher life forms – we may be able to seriously boost human lifespans by turning off ageing processes. The researchers found that the life of yeast could be extended by as much as 60 percent in some circumstances…’

Source: ScienceAlert via Newsvine

We’re flushing all these antidepressants into our water. How big is the problem?

‘There’s no way around it, the headlines are disturbing. And they come, not from tabloids or click-bait blogs, but from papers published in scientific journals. They describe fish and birds responding with altered behavior and reproductive systems to antidepressants, diabetes medication, and other psychoactive or hormonally active drugs at concentrations found in the environment. They report on opiods, amphetamines and other pharmaceuticals found in treated drinking water; antibiotics in groundwater capable of altering naturally occurring bacterial communities; and over-the-counter and prescription drugs found in water leaching from municipal landfills. And these are just some of many recent studies examining the countless pharmaceuticals that are now being found just about everywhere scientists have looked for them in the environment…’

Source: Vox

We have passed Peak Fish

‘I noted the other day that since the early 1980s, the world has lost about half of its coral reefs. According to a recent study, there’s more to worry about in the sea: the ocean contains half the fish it did 45 years ago.’

Source: kottke

The Internet May Be Changing Your Brain In Ways You’ve Never Imagined

Five years ago, journalist Nicholas Carr wrote in his book The Shallows: How The Internet Is Changing Our Brains about the way technology seemed to be eroding his ability to concentrate. “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words,” he wrote. “Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

In the book, which became a New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Carr explored the many ways that technology might be affecting our brains. Carr became particularly concerned about how the Internet seemed to be impairing our ability to think deeply and to focus on one subject for extended periods.

Today, social media and digital devices have an arguably greater place in our lives and hold on our attention spans than they did in 2011. So what has  changed since Carr wrote his seminal work five years ago? We chatted with the journalist and author about how our increasing interactions with mobile technology might be affecting the most important organ in our bodies…’

Source: Huffington Post

The Home Depot shooter must be jailed

The NRA encourages a culture of irresponsible gun ownership: ‘Those who oppose even the smallest movement towards better gun safety policies do so love to invoke the figure of the “responsible gun owner” as their reason for wanting more unfettered gun access. “Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for acts of criminals,” NRA head Wayne LaPierre said in his 2013 remarks to Congress. “Teaching safe and responsible gun ownership works.

”It all sounds good on paper, but Detroit got to see what that mentality actually looks like in practice this week, when a woman who was certified for concealed carry—meaning she had to take gun safety classes and everything—decided that the best way to deal with a shoplifting that had nothing whatsoever to do with her was to pull out her gun and open fire in a Home Depot parking lot. This is what you get from the simplistic dividing of people into “law-abiding” and “criminal”, as well as assuring people that taking a few classes makes you a responsible gun owner: A woman who was so sure of her righteousness and responsibility that it didn’t even occur to her not to do something so immoral and stupid. Immoral because under no circumstances should the penalty for shoplifting be death at the hands of a vigilante. Stupid because she was in a parking lot, where innocent people are milling around, with soft bodies that will take a stray bullet whether the NRA considers them law-abiding or not.

But the fact that there are idiots in this world isn’t the most troubling fact about this story. No, what is even more troubling is that the woman remains unarrested and uncharged, and may not be facing any criminal charges at all. Unfortunately, under Michigan law, it may not be possible to charge her with a crime at all because, foolishly, the state allows people to take potshots at people who are fleeing from the commission of a felony…’


Meet the Chimps That Lawyers Argue Are People

‘Earlier this summer, these two chimps received worldwide attention when activists with the Nonhuman Rights Project argued in a New York courtroom that Leo and Hercules should legally be considered people with a right to be free. Absent from those proceedings were Hercules and Leo themselves. News stories about the lawsuit—eventually dismissed, currently being appealed—were illustrated with stock chimpanzee photographs. A video accompanying the new study is the first chance most people will have to see the chimps, and their appearance raises anew the question: Is a chimpanzee a person?’

Source: National Geographic

Ebola Nations Declare First Week With No New Cases

‘The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed the lives of over 11,000 people to date, mainly in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, as reported by BBC News. Today, it is a pleasure to report that these three countries at the very heart of the deadly epidemic have recorded their first week with no new cases since the outbreak began in March of last year…’

Source: IFLScience

The placebo effect grows stronger

‘It’s getting more difficult for new painkilling drugs to be approved because the rate of effectiveness vs. placebos in drug tests is falling. But oddly, the drop is only being seen in the US. Based on patients’ ratings of their pain, the effect of trialled drugs in relieving symptoms stayed the same over the 23-year period — but placebo responses rose. In 1996, patients in clinical trials reported that drugs relieved their pain by 27% more than did a placebo. But by 2013, that gap had slipped to just 9%. The phenomenon is driven by 35 US trials; among trials in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, there was no significant change in placebo responses. The analysis is in press in the journal Pain…’

Source: Kottke

There Is Red Water on Pluto

“New Horizons has detected numerous small, exposed regions of water ice on Pluto,” NASA noted in the press release. NASA doesn’t know yet why water appears on some regions of Pluto and not others, but it notes that Pluto’s watery regions are a deep red color.“I’m surprised that this water ice is so red,” Silvia Protopapa, New Horizons scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park. “We don’t yet understand the relationship between water ice and the reddish tholin colorants on Pluto’s surface.”..’

Source: Motherboard

How To Talk To A Grieving Person 

‘In the weeks and months after my father died, “How are you?” became my least favorite question. It was always benign and well-intentioned, but it also inevitably reminded me that I felt like shit. I’d rather have given a gruesome blow-by-blow account of how my father died than talk about how I felt. But talking—or, more importantly, finding someone who will listen—is what grieving people so desperately need.

There is a gulf between mourners and the rest of the world. We want to talk, but we don’t want to make people uncomfortable. We can tell they want to say something, but they don’t know how. But how the hell do you talk to a grieving person? It can be baffling, especially when a simple “Hey, what’s up?” can set someone off.

But you have to start somewhere. “I think it’s important for people who haven’t lost someone to say, ‘I have no idea what you’re going through, but I’m here to listen,’” my friend Tessa told me of her own experience mourning her father. “And for people that have been through it, share that. It makes us feel less alone, I think.”

True, you might say the wrong thing! It’s okay, though…’

Source: Dead Spin

How guards and prosecutors retaliate against solitary confinement prisoners who blow the whistle / Boing Boing

‘The Dallas Six is a group of prisoners who were beaten, shocked and gassed by prison guards who had previously beaten them in retaliation for complaints about abuse in solitary confinement.

The letters of grievance the men sent were intercepted by guards who violently retaliated against them, sparking a nonviolent protest (the men covered the windows of their cells). This, in turn, was used as a pretense for “cell extractions” during which the non-violent prisoners were beaten, shocked, gassed and left in their underwear, covered in gas residue, shackled in stress positions.

Prosectors collaborated with the guards who attacked the men, bringing trumped up assault charges against the men for allegedly resisting the guards, though the videos don’t support the charge (the prosectors have argued against introducing the videos into evidence).

The story of the Dallas 6 is a microcosm for the everyday torture in the American penal system, which imprisons more people than any other country in the world’s history. It’s not a coincidence that the Dallas 6 are black, nor that they began their journey into the penal system with zero-tolerance busts for petty crap like shouting at their elementary school teachers.

Molly Crabapple’s reporting on the Dallas 6 is a must-read, and her accompanying illustrations are beautiful and haunting.’

Source: Boing Boing

Without People, Wildlife Make a Comeback at Chernobyl

The accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986 had a devastating impact on the local population and forced 116,000 people to permanently leave their homes. But now researchers have discovered that, while the people may not have returned, the contaminated area of Belarus is teeming with wild animals, including elk, wild boar, deer and wolves. Perhaps surprisingly, many of these numbers seem to be on the rise and some of them are higher than in uncontaminated areas.

The abandoned area around the nuclear power plant, known as the Chernobyl exclusion zone, includes about 4750 square kilometres of land in both Ukraine and Belarus. The contamination in the exclusion zone is patchy, as the distribution of radioactive isotopes on the ground was influenced by the weather conditions at the time of the accident and the days following it. The radiation levels have reduced over the nearly 30 years since the accident, but in many parts of the zone they are too high for people to return.

Source: Gizmodo

Reddit Without Comments!

‘Reddit is launching a brand new website today to unearth news from its social aggregator. Called Upvoted, the site will surface pictures, videos and commentary from Reddit and present it as news — without the option to comment on a single thing.Wired reports that the new website, which is set to launch later today, “looks and feels much like any other news site out there.” That means you should expect stories, pictures, videos, infographics, podcasts and the like, covering anything from politics and science to sports and, presumably, cats. The Verge suggests that the new website will dig a little deeper, too, “providing more context on their background through interviews with the Reddit users behind the stories” — something that will be powered by a dedicated editorial team.’

Source: Gizmodo

Want to get American gun violence to European levels? Then you need to confiscate guns.

President Obama is clearly fed up. His speeches after mass shootings — speeches that have become a bit of a morbid ritual, given how regularly the shootings occur — have grown angrier, more emotional, and more disgusted at America’s gun violence problem and Congress’s unwillingness to do literally anything to stop it. “This is a political choice that we make,” Obama declared Thursday night, after the 294th mass shooting of 2015, “to allow this to happen every few months in America.”But let’s be clear about precisely what kind of choice this is. Congress’s decision not to pass background checks is not what’s keeping the US from European gun violence levels. The expiration of the assault weapons ban is not behind the gap. What’s behind the gap, plenty of research indicates, is that Americans have more guns. The statistics are mind-blowing: America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population but almost half of its civilian-owned guns.

Source: Vox

Why is there something rather than nothing?

That is the question that physicist Lawrence Krauss answers in his book, A Universe from Nothing. The book’s trailer provides a little more context. Everything we see is just a 1% bit of cosmic pollution in a Universe dominated by dark matter and dark energy. You could get rid of all the things in the night sky — the stars, the galaxies, the planets, everything — and the Universe would be largely the same.And my favorite line from the trailer: Forget Jesus, the stars died so you could be born.

Source: Kottke

An Ancient Volcanic Collapse Triggered an 800 Foot Tsunami Wave

‘Scientists have just uncovered one of the largest tsunami events in the geologic record, and naturally, it started with an epic splash. 73,000 years ago, the eastern flank of Cape Verde’s Fogo volcano collapsed into the sea, kicking up an 800-foot wave.

Think about that for a sec. That’s two thirds the height of the Empire State Building. If a mega-tsunami of that size struck a coastal city today, the consequences would be pretty apocalyptic. And such events aren’t outside the realm of possibility.

“Most of these fairly young oceanic volcanoes — such as in the Azores and the Canary Islands and Hawaii — are incredibly high and steep, so the potential energy for a collapse to happen again is there,”said Ricardo Ramalho, a co-author on a study describing the mega-tsunami that was published this week in Science Advances.’

Source: Gizmodo

Check Out the Ghost Shark!

‘The ghost shark is creepy as hell. It floats around the darkest part of the ocean looking like a fallen angel that just clawed its way out of hell. It’s not entirely a shark. It’s more like a shark’s earlier, eerier relative.’

Source: io9