’…In a world of endless distraction, Mueller kept his focus. It is hard not to see the inquiry as an epic cultural and moral clash between the honorable American and the irredeemably ugly one; between the war-hero public servant and a draft-dodging liar and thug; between elegant, understated class and fathomless, bullhorn vulgarity….
…I’m grateful Mueller did not find a clear-cut case of provable treasonous criminality either on the president’s part or his family’s. The reason I’m relieved is that, however grave the crime, Trump would almost certainly have gotten away with it. In our current politics, there is simply no way for this Senate to convict Trump of an impeachable offense. And so there was always a real danger that this entire ordeal would end with an obviously proven high crime and misdemeanor, a thereby unavoidable impeachment process, and then an inevitable failure to convict in the Senate. And so Trump would become an openly criminal president, a walking inversion of the rule of law, leverage impeachment into his reelection, and our slide into strongman politics would have accelerated still further.…’
Dakin Andone writes:
‘Nearly 20 years after the mass shooting at Columbine High School captured the nation’s attention, some of the school’s current students are using its legacy to combat gun violence.
Their campaign, #MyLastShot, asks students to put a sticker on their ID or cellphone that indicates their desire for images of their body to be publicized and shared if they are killed as a result of gun violence.
“Our country has a history of photography effecting real change,” the campaign’s founder, 17-year-old Kaylee Tyner, told CNN in a phone interview Saturday.
Tyner said she was inspired by Emmett Till’s death, his legacy and how that was connected to the painful imagery of his body….’
Only solution appears to be cessation of use:
’It’s no longer illegal to smoke marijuana in 10 U.S. states and its medical use is allowed in 33. In Colorado, it’s been fully legal since 2014, with a variety of THC — the active agent in grass — products available for sale. A new study, however, looks to harsh the buzz: There’s been a dramatic rise in emergency-room visits for cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS.
It’s a condition characterized by stomach pain, extreme nausea, and repeat vomiting. Researchers’ concern is exacerbated by the assumption that if this many people are showing up at ERs, many more are likely to be dealing with it on their own. Part of the appeal of marijuana has always been how unlikely it is that you’ll overdose on it. Doctors don’t yet know exactly what’s going on.…’
Via Big Think
Apparently not an April Fool’s piece.
’This is a map of ARPANET circa May 1973 via David Newbury, who found it among his father’s papers. The first part of ARPANET was built nearly 50 years ago and became the basis of the modern internet. The network was so small in the early days that those circles and squares on the 1973 map represent individual computers and routers, not universities or cities.…’
Can you see me on the map? (Striped shirt, beanie cap, thick glasses)
’Scientists have determined that the way an animal rests—reclining on its back, sprawling on its belly, standing up, or sitting, is determined by primarily by its size. But more importantly, the study authors have provided a large selection of images of animals luxuriating in various ways, and they are delightful…’
’Previous studies have shown that dogs can smell low blood sugar levels in their diabetic owners, along with certain cancers. They can even sniff out malaria in worn socks. Their keen sense of smell allows them to detect the associated changes to a person’s body odor resulting from an illness or health condition, a specific scent scientists refer to as an “olfactory profile.”
Anecdotal evidence suggests dogs are capable of detecting epileptic seizures before they happen—sometimes as much as 5 hours before an attack—but scientists haven’t been able to conclusively prove this, or figure out how our four-legged friends might be able to do it. Dogs might be picking up on cues beyond scent, such as detecting certain behaviors, movements, or postures in their epileptic owners prior to the onset of a seizure. At the same time, an olfactory profile for seizures doesn’t seem entirely plausible, given how variable seizures are in nature, and the specific ways in which each individual is affected.
…The aim of the new study, published today in Scientific Reports and co-authored by Amélie Catala from the University of Rennes in France, was to see if dogs are in fact capable of detecting a general epileptic seizure odor. The results of this preliminary investigation were undeniably encouraging.…’
“Infections” found on brand new PCs:
’Office Depot and [Office Max] tricked customers into buying unneeded tech support services by offering PC scans that gave fake results, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers paid up to $300 each for unnecessary services.
The FTC yesterday announced that Office Depot and its software supplier, Support.com, have agreed to pay a total of $35 million in settlements with the agency. Office Depot agreed to pay $25 million while Support.com will pay the other $10 million. The FTC said it intends to use the money to provide refunds to wronged consumers.…’
Via Ars Technica
As if you needed more reason not to shop there.
’California state lawmakers this week introduced a bill that would grant the state’s health department the power to approve all medical exemptions for childhood vaccinations, revoke fraudulent exemptions, and maintain a database of exemptions and the physicians who issue them.
The bill, SB 276, is designed to thwart the state’s recent problem of “unethical” doctors exempting children from mandatory vaccinations based on dubious or outright bogus medical grounds—often for fees.…’
Via Ars Technica
’During one Scottish woman’s lifetime, she has broken bones, burned her skin, and undergone surgery without feeling any pain—and she didn’t realize she’d been experiencing anything unusual until she was well into her 60s, according to a new case study.
Scientists are interested in people who feel little pain, as they hope to find ways to help those who do suffer from it. In this case, the woman had visited the hospital for a “normally painful” hand surgery but didn’t require any painkillers afterward. Thinking that seemed odd, a team of researchers were able to pinpoint her condition as linked to a pair of genetic mutations.
The woman had previously been diagnosed with arthritis in her hip, which she didn’t feel despite the “severe degree of joint degeneration,” according to the paper. She lived a long life of painlessness before realizing something strange was happening, reporting dental surgeries without anesthesia, painless cuts and broken bones, and even burns in which it took smelling her charred flesh to notice something was amiss. She even told the researchers she could eat scotch bonnet chili peppers with no effects other than a “‘pleasant glow’ in her mouth.” Oh, and she rarely felt any sort of anxiety, depression, fear, or panic—not even during a recent car accident, according to the paper.…’
A number theorist with programming prowess has found a solution to 33 = x³ + y³ + z³, a much-studied equation that went unsolved for 64 years:
’Mathematicians long wondered whether it’s possible to express the number 33 as the sum of three cubes — that is, whether the equation 33 = x³+ y³+ z³ has a solution. They knew that 29 could be written as 3³ + 1³ + 1³, for instance, whereas 32 is not expressible as the sum of three integers each raised to the third power. But the case of 33 went unsolved for 64 years.
Now, Andrew Booker, a mathematician at the University of Bristol, has finally cracked it: He discovered that (8,866,128,975,287,528)³ + (–8,778,405,442,862,239)³ + (–2,736,111,468,807,040)³ = 33.
Booker found this odd trio of 16-digit integers by devising a new search algorithm to sift them out of quadrillions of possibilities. The algorithm ran on a university supercomputer for three weeks straight. (He says he thought it would take six months, but a solution “popped out before I expected it.”)…’
Via Quanta Magazine
’The Arctic community that’s home to the “doomsday vault” may be warming faster than any other town on Earth. Longyearbyen, Norway, is the world’s northernmost town, just 800 miles from the North Pole. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault — where copies of crop seeds are stored in case of global catastrophe — is located there. But the climate in Longyearbyen is heating up faster there than anywhere else, a Norwegian researcher says, because of accelerated Arctic warming: warmer temps reduce ice and snow cover, causing less sunlight to be reflected and more solar energy to be absorbed. So the vault, which was supposed to be an insurance policy of sorts against disasters like climate change, is being threatened by climate change itself..…’
‘…There will never be a shared sense of reality about what really happened in 2016 or whether Trump obstructed justice during the investigation. No authoritative document could overcome the deep systemic forces that produced this dispute…’
“The Beat poets began the counterculture movement in the arts that is the reason all the artists I know are still here in San Francisco,” said Andrew Sean Greer, a San Francisco-based novelist who won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for “Less.”
“Ferlinghetti and his friends changed the city from men in gray flannel suits to poets in leaky basements, black and female and queer poets even then,” Greer tells CNN Travel. “We’re a continuation of that hope and rage and art. I still go to Caffe Trieste with a friend to write and Vesuvio to drink and City Lights for poetry.”
As he turns 100 on March 24, both Ferlinghetti and City Lights — which remains a beacon of poetry and progressive thought in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood– are celebrating.
City Lights is hosting an open house, galleries are featuring his photographs and paintings and San Francisco Mayor London Breed will declare March 24 Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day. There will also be events in New York City for the Bronxville native, who moved to San Francisco after attending University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, serving in the US Navy during World War II and graduate school at Columbia University in New York and the Sorbonne in Paris.
“Sunday should be a great day of celebration in Lawrence’s honor,” said punk art surrealist Winston Smith, who designed the controversial Dead Kennedys’ album cover, “In God We Trust, Inc.” in 1981.
“He is so very beloved by his friends and neighbors in North Beach and people all round the world. Putting up with the human race for a full century deserves a reward.”
US licensing of esketamine, a version of the drug ketamine, “could usher in a wave of fast-acting treatments, but experts are worried.”
As a clinical psychiatrist, wrestling with the treatment of severe resistant depressive conditions in my patients, I share some of the concerns about possible side effects, long-term risks and potential associated social ills raised in this Guardian article.
Ketamine has a broad range of brain effects. It is a euphoriant, a hallucinogen, a dissociant, and an anaesthetic in overlapping but different dosage ranges. The article quotes Dr Carlos Zarate, head of experimental therapeutics and pathophysiology at the US National Institute of Mental Health, who conducted the first clinical trial of ketamine for depression in 2006, who says, in part,
“What’s particularly interesting about ketamine is that it has multiple effects throughout different brain biologies… This makes it much more unique than other treatments. Many of the symptom domains seen in depression, but not all, seem to respond to it.”
Zarate and other prominent psychiatrists can perhaps be forgiven for their enthusiasm for what they describe as the first truly novel development in the drug treatment of depression in several decades. However, let’s look at what I see as the absurdity in this comment. ‘Depression’ is a catchall name for biologically diverse conditions and states of mind, and increasingly so in the past few decades as manufacturers have marketed the expansion of the term in order to expand demand for their antidepressant products. Ketamine is far from ‘unique’ in its nonspecificity! If it acts immediately and acts across a range of depressive types and symptoms, it is fairly certain that it is not addressing the underlying pathophysiology of the condition but rather providing a generic ‘feel-good’ effect. To mix metaphors, it is sort of like using a sledge hammer to drive in a thumb tack… and, if it’s the only tool you’ve got, then it pays to see everything as if it is a thumb tack, right? (Certainly, those who sell sledge hammers would have you see it that way!)
Any drug with nonspecific euphoriant effects will make depressed people feel better. Indeed, they make anyone feel better. In this manner of speaking, cocaine and stimulant drugs (‘speed’) ‘treat’ depression. In fact, there is a school of thought (the ‘drug-of-choice’ model, or ‘self-medication hypothesis’) that some proportion of substance abuse patients may be unknowingly treating an underlying psychiatric disorder through their drug use. This extends to other intoxicants such as alcohol and sedative-hypnotics as well. Using nonspecific euphoriants for their antidepressant effects causes immense problems, and the use of ketamine may fall into that category.
The first of these is potential tolerance. This refers to the fact that the brain inures itself over time to the effects of the substance. It is not clear that ketamine will cause physiological tolerance — and there have not been long-enough duration studies to tell — but it is certainly possible. The brain resists being pushed out of its usual range of functioning into a euphoric state. With increasing resistance, it takes more and more of the substance, or more and more frequent administration, to produce the desired effect. One will be chasing one’s tail, so to speak, in a vicious cycle — the more one uses, the more one needs. There may come to be less and less therapeutic benefit or benefit only at such dosage that toxic effects start to predominate. To maintain its antidepressant effect, current guidelines suggest a weekly interval for esketamine treatment. Given the chronicity of some depressive conditions, patients may need to continue treatment over a period of years or even indefinitely. Dosages may need to be higher or treatments more frequent as time goes on. One could imagine that the pharmaceutical industry would welcome such captive audiences requiring open-ended treatment modalities.
Closely related to the development of tolerance is the potential for dependency. Ketamine is probably not physiologically dependency-inducing (“addictive”), in the sense of needing to keep using it to stave off physiological withdrawal (“drug sickness”) upon cessation. But a substance that makes people feel good so quickly is highly reinforcing and may thus be psychologically addictive even if not physically.
Proponents point out that the benefits of treatment may outweigh the risks for patients who have no other options. This begs the question of whether its use will continue to be restricted to patients whose depression is treatment-resistant and has failed other available options. After all, the last innovation in antidepressant development, the introduction of the SSRIs (Prozac and its cousins) in the 1980’s was originally meant to rescue those whose depression was resistant to the treatments of the day (the tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors). Now they have become the first-line treatments, completely supplanting the older agents in modern psychiatric practice… and some argue that they are inferior antidepressant agents for clinically significant clinical depression. To call them good antidepressants, society has had to accept a vastly expanded definition of depression. This loss of linguistic precision contributes to the ongoing medicalization of everyday life problems, to our detriment.
(I’m talking about the circular reasoning pitfall here. If someone’depression seems happier on ketamine, then ketamine is having an antidepressant effect. And if it is seen as an antidepressant, then anyone who responds to it had depression. And so on.)
I share the misgivings of Dr. Julie Zito, professor of pharmacy and psychiatry at the University of Maryland, who sums it up:
“There’s been a huge expansion in what constitutes depression. There are low-moderate depressives who are going through a divorce or struggling with a new job… What they might really need is counselling. But in the US, we love our pills and simple solutions to very complex problems.”
A further complication of esketamine use may be that, once available in the marketplace, we may be unable to stem its diversion for street use, either for recreational use or unsupervised self-medication for self-diagnosed depression. After all, we haven’t done such a great job with prescription opiates, and it does not appear we have learned much from that.
It is also important to recognize that esketamine was approved after only four relatively small and short-lived clinical trials with decidedly mixed results. As Zito points out,
“The FDA created this new innovative study category, which means they only required one randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trial, not two, which is usually the criterion for a new drug.”
Furthermore, not only the breadth or duration of the drug’s benefit but its depth are in question. A treatment may be found to be superior to placebo in the sense of demonstrating a statistical toy significant difference on an outcome measure in a clinical trial, but this may not translate into something clinically meaningful to the patient’s life. In other words, this may not be a distinction that makes a difference. Such logically fallacious conclusions are a generic problem in psychopharmacological research. Zito, again, on the ketamine trials:
“They evaluated the efficacy using symptom score change and there was only a three- to four-point improvement on a 60-point scale, which you have to say is very modest. And that is what the whole thing hangs on.”
In the absence of robust and extensive double blind placebo-controlled trials, the interest in ketamine relies heavily, then, on anecdotal and first-person accounts of dramatic improvement. The benefits may derive from suggestion effects — a substance that drastically alters consciousness or subjective experience, as ketamine does, is a strong candidate to mobilize the placebo response, inspiring in the recipient the self-fulfilling prophecy that it is having a powerful effect. I am not entirely scoffing about this; I believe that a good part of the effect of many of the medications we use arises from enlisting the patient in a belief system in which the medication is helping, thus mobilizing their self-healing.
Concerns have repeatedly been raised about effects of ketamine administration such as hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, and fluctuations in blood pressure. Patients receiving esketamine will be required to remain in the clinic or the doctor’s office for two hours of monitoring after each treatment. But people are different; who is to say that someone will be free of risk precisely at the two-hour point? In preapproval studies, there were three suicides in the esketamine group as well as a fourth death in which a patient crashed his motorcycle shortly after dosing. (Hard to say, but did that represent suicidal intent? Impairment of judgment? Or perceptual and coordination problems?)
Of course, the manufacturer asserts that all those events were unrelated to the actions of the drug, but there were no corresponding events in the placebo group. With such a small studied group, certainly this difference may have been statistical accident, and severe depression indubitably carries suicide risk. But there have also been concerns about exacerbation of suicidal tendencies with earlier antidepressants. Going into detail about this concern is the subject for a different essay, but I’ll mention several different potential dangerous mechanisms. First, any side effects that make a person more uncomfortable (e.g. the restlessness and agitation caused by several of the SSRIs) can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, tipping them over the edge to decide not to endure discomfort any longer. Second, not all symptoms of depression respond to treatment at the same rate. If a person’s depressive lack of energy and paralysis of will improve before their despair does, their motivation to act on their despondency may be mobilized. Third, some drugs, and ketamine as a euphoriant may be among them, may act by lowering inhibitions, including control over latent self-destructive urges.
Advocates of the use of ketamine and esketamine, thus, may be ignoring the fact that the Emperor has no clothes. We know too little about the pathophysiology of depression and too little about the pharmacology of ketamine. Classically, exposition on antidepressants has relied on the ‘monoamine hypothesis’ for the illness and the fact that the drugs address monoamine (primarily norepinephrine and serotonin) deficits. Yet, that has clearly been an incomplete or inadequate explanation. More recently, the focus in depression and just about every other psychiatric condition has turned to a different neurotransmitter, glutamate. There’s a lot of handwaving but we do not have a precise or coherent understanding of how glutamate is implicated in the mechanism of various disorders; certainly nothing that would guide clinical practice. And, surely enough, ketamine is thought of, among other actions, as a glutamate receptor blocker. Post hoc ergo propter hoc?
Similarly, in this post-monoamine world, there is a lot of handwaving interest in the idea that depression treatments may also work by correcting physical damage to nerve cells implicated in depression. Sure enough, the article invokes this ‘neuromythology’:
“…one idea is that (ketamine) triggers the brain to regrow connections between cells that are involved in mood, but no one really knows for sure.”
A complicated set of misgivings. In short, let us hope that ketamine, through its hallucinogenic effect, is not causing us to hallucinate clothes on the Emperor.
Whiting Awards Celebrate 10 Emerging Writers:
’Fair warning: It may be tough to find some of the 2019 Whiting Award winners on the shelves of your local bookstore. Most of the emerging writers have little more than a single widely published book to their name. A couple of them don’t even have that.
But what the 10 new Whiting recipients lack in publishing credits and international awards, they more than make up for in talent and promise — at least, according to the prize’s judges, who are bestowing $50,000 on each of them in the hopes of giving the winners “a first opportunity to devote themselves fully to writing, and the recognition has a significant impact.”
The winners announced at a ceremony Wednesday night in New York City, listed in alphabetical order, are: poet Kayleb Rae Candrilli, poet Tyree Daye, novelist Hernan Diaz, playwright Michael R. Jackson, nonfiction writer Terese Marie Mailhot, nonfiction writer Nadia Owusu, short fiction writer Nafissa Thompson-Spires, novelist Merritt Tierce, poet Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, and playwright Lauren Yee.…’
’We can’t blame people for giving up on a pet, especially when we don’t have the scaffolding in place to help them. And yet equally, if we say that animals are important to us, that they’re our family, and science demonstrates that they are capable of complex cognitive abilities and emotional states, then relinquishing them, knowing that it might kill them, is morally problematic.
The more we learn about animals – the more we force them into roles of friend, family member, surrogate child – the murkier become our obligations to them.
Maybe the solution is not keep pets at all…”The paradox is that the more we think of animals… as autonomous beings that have emotions and wants, the less right we have to keep them as a pet.” …’
Via Boston Globe
‘As far as liberal democracy is concerned, this is an extinction-level event…’
Via New York Mag
’The Sun is getting grumpy again after years of relative peace.…’
But the real story may be more disturbing:
’A new exhibit at the British Museum seems to clear up a longstanding debate. The figure in the painting is not screaming, but hearing a scream.
In a new exhibit titled Edvard Munch: Love and Angst, the museum features a lithograph version of the image that predated the iconic 1893 painting. Scrawled along the bottom is an inscription by the artist: “I felt the great scream throughout nature.”
The cryptic sentence refers to a walk Munch took near a fjord overlooking Oslo. He described it in a diary entry headed “Nice 22 January 1892”: I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
Another bit of supporting evidence: The painting’s original German title was “Der Schrei der Natur,” or “The Scream of Nature.”…’
’After more than two years of criminal indictments and steady revelations about contacts between associates of Donald J. Trump and Russia, we already know a lot about the work done by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Here are the main findings and lines of inquiry and the people involved in each.…’
Ruling: Interior Department violated federal law by failing to take into account the climate impact of its oil and gas leasing…[F]irst time the Trump administration has been held to account for the climate impact of its energy dominance agenda, and it could have sweeping implications for the president’s plan
This is good news, and I’m tickled to learn that it comes from legacy activism. The friend, Yvonne, who pointed me to this development, noted that the case was brought by advocacy group Physicians for Social Responsibility. Nearly forty years ago, both she and I were strongly involved in the disarmament activities of this group, founded by charismatic Australian physician Helen Caldicott. PSR took the stance that the threat of nuclear war was an urgent public health threat and organized large numbers of physicians and other health professionals to make it a core issue. So pleased to learn that Caldicott and PSR are still out there fighting the good fight. Thanks, Yvonne!
’…[K]ey supporters are expressing misgivings as they sour on displays of his abrasive, abusive personality. In recent days, Trump has attacked the late Republican war hero John McCain, his own aide’s staunchly conservative, influential husband George Conway, and an autoworker union boss in Ohio.
…[T]here are signs that some voters in key blocs are expressing misgivings. Here are a few examples…’
…One can only hope.
’Saving the world from the apocalyptic impact of climate change should be a dream for many Silicon Valley titans concerned about legacy, says David Wallace-Wells, and yet few are dedicating themselves to addressing the catastrophe. Negative emissions technology funded by Bill Gates exists. It would cost $3 trillion per year to operate and would mean human industry could continue at current levels without global warming. That figure sounds astronomical, however global subsidies to fossil fuel industries cost $5 trillion per year.…’
Via Big Think
’Real wasabi, Wasabia japonica, is apparently one of the most expensive vegetables to grow. That green stuff you’re eating? Ground horseradish, Chinese mustard, and, you guessed it, green food coloring. Yum.
According to The Atlantic, “Worldwide, experts believe that this imposter combination masquerades as wasabi about 99% of the time.”…’
Via Boing Boing
’Some animals, when faced with predators, play dead instead of trying to escape. But for death-feigning to work, a lot of things have to go well.…’
Via JSTOR Daily
Orange Menace continues to unravel:
’President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the late Sen. John McCain in the past weeks, for reasons known largely to himself. On Wednesday, Trump escalated his feud with a dead man, launching into an unprompted rant about McCain’s funeral (among other things) during a speech at a tank factory in Lima, Ohio.…’
A vet toxicologist explains:
’As a board-certified toxicologist at a major veterinary diagnostic laboratory, I have had experience working with a broad spectrum of poisoning incidents in all types of animals, including our companions. Recently, our lab has seen an increase in the number of positive tests for marijuana in dogs, many of whom may have accidentally ingested edible forms of marijuana. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has reported a more than 700 percent increase in calls related to marijuana to its poison center in 2019….
THC is known to be toxic to dogs. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, common signs of marijuana toxicosis that owners may notice include inactivity; incoordination; dilated pupils; increased sensitivity to motion, sound or touch; hypersalivation; and urinary incontinence. A veterinary exam can reveal depression of the central nervous system and an abnormally slow heart rate. Less common signs include restlessness, aggression, slow breathing, low blood pressure, an abnormally fast heart rate, and rapid, involuntary eye movements. In rare cases, animals can have seizures or become comatose.…’
Via The Conversation
’Welcome to an equinox on planet Earth. Today is the first day of spring in our fair planet’s northern hemisphere, fall in the southern hemisphere, with day and night nearly equal around the globe. At an equinox Earth’s terminator, the dividing line between day and night, connects the planet’s north and south poles as seen at the start of this remarkable time-lapse video compressing an entire year into twelve seconds. To make it, the Meteosat satellite recorded these infrared images every day at the same local time from a geosynchronous orbit. The video actually starts at the September 2010 equinox with the terminator aligned vertically. As the Earth revolves around the Sun, the terminator tilts to provide less daily sunlight to the northern hemisphere, reaching the solstice and northern hemisphere winter at the maximum tilt. As the year continues, the terminator tilts back again and March 2011 equinox arrives halfway through the video. Then the terminator swings past vertical the other way, reaching the the June 2011 solstice and the beginning of northern summer. The video ends as the September equinox returns.…’
’Every now and then an image appears online which people claim shows a time traveller somewhere they shouldn’t be. But are they just cases of people letting their imaginations run wild?
We’ve rounded up some of the best and most interesting images of time travellers throughout history. Some turned out to be plain fakes or cases of mistaken identities, but others are certainly intriguing.…’
Via Pocket Lint
Elizabeth Warren hits it at town hall, but is it realistic?
’To ditch the Electoral College entirely, the US would have to pass a constitutional amendment (passed by two-thirds of the House and Senate and approved by 38 states) — or convene a constitutional convention (which has never been done, but would have to be called for by 34 states). Either method is vanishingly unlikely because each would require many small states to approve a change that would reduce their influence on the presidential outcome.
There is one potential workaround, however: the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a clever proposal that uses the Constitution’s ambiguity on electors to its own ends.
A state signing on to the compact agrees that it will pledge all its electors not to its state winner but to the victor in the national popular vote — but only if states controlling 270 or more electoral votes have agreed to do the same. If they do, and everything works as planned, then whoever wins the popular vote will necessarily win the electoral vote too.
It’s an interesting proposal that’s already been enacted into law by 12 states (including the large states of California and New York) and the District of Columbia, which together control 181 electoral votes. But there’s one big obstacle: Most of the states that have adopted it are solidly Democratic, and just one is a swing state.
So unless a bunch of swing states decides to reduce their own power or Republican politicians conclude that a system bringing the power of small and rural states in line with that of big urban centers is a good idea, the compact isn’t going to get the support it needs, as FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver has written.…’
’As an experienced airline pilot, aircraft accident investigator and professor of aviation, I know that such major crash investigations are an enormous effort often involving many countries’ governments and input from dozens of industry partners. The inquiries can take months of painstaking work. They often yield important insights that improve flight safety for everyone long into the future. Here’s how an investigation generally goes.…’
Via The Conversation
Once-fringe phenomenon taking root among the powerful:
’A new book by D.W. Pasulka — professor and chair of the department of philosophy and religion at the University of North Carolina Wilmington — American Cosmic: UFOs Religion, and Technology, focuses not on grassroots investigative societies or marginal cults, but on UFO believers in the halls of power.…’
Via The Outline
’A huge fireball exploded in the Earth’s atmosphere in December, according to Nasa. The blast was the second largest of its kind in 30 years, and the biggest since the fireball over Chelyabinsk in Russia six years ago. But it went largely unnoticed until now because it blew up over the Bering Sea, off Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. The space rock exploded with 10 times the energy released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb.…’
Via BBC News
’While this capability, called magnetoreception, is well known in birds and fish, there is now evidence that our brains are also sensitive to magnetic fields. The researchers from Caltech and the University of Tokyo measured the brainwaves of 26 participants who were exposed to magnetic fields that could be manipulated. Interestingly, the brainwaves were not affected by upward-pointing fields.…’
Via Boing Boing
’A Pennsylvania couple spotted one of the world’s most unusual birds in their backyard feeder. The northern cardinal looked like it was painted down the middle: one half was the brown of a female cardinal, and one half had the bright red plumage of a male. This unusual specimen is called a gynandromorph; half the animal is male and half the animal is female. Gynandromorphy is an extremely rare condition observed in a variety of insects, snakes, crustaceans, and birds.…’
Via JSTOR Daily
Love to drop F-bombs? Thank the shift to agriculture:
’A new study suggests that the f and v sounds were made easier to pronounce by the change in our diets the invention of farming made possible.
The idea isn’t a new one, but is only now being taken seriously.
Even today, many hunter-gather cultures lack labiodentals in their languages.…’
Via Big Think
’This is the first study to explore not only what percentage of people in the general population choose to watch videos of graphic real-life violence, but also why.…’
Via Big Think
Via John Cage’s Silence
’The drawing above is Pegasus by Jean-Michel Basquiat. His first art dealer, Annina Nosei, once called it “the most beautiful drawing ever”. I am not going to disagree with her. I’ve only seen Basquiat’s work sporadically, mostly single paintings included in larger exhibitions with Warhols and Harings, but when I saw Pegasus in this short video about the artist’s life & work, it grabbed me, an instant favorite.…’
BEFORE THE FLOOD
Why did he promise me
that we would build ourselves
an ark all by ourselves
out in back of the house
on New York Avenue
in Union City New Jersey
to the singing of the streetcars
after the story
of Noah whom nobody
believed about the waters
that would rise over everything
when I told my father
I wanted us to build
an ark of our own there
in the back yard under
the kitchen could we do that
he told me that we could
I want to I said and will we
he promised me that we would
why did he promise that
I wanted us to start then
nobody will believe us
I said that we are building
an ark because the rains
are coming and that was true
nobody ever believed
we would build an ark there
nobody would believe
that the waters were coming
— W.S. Merwin
’A team of scientists just demonstrated something that might shock you: Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth on average.
The researchers presented their results this week in an article in the magazine Physics Today. They explain that our methods of calculating which planet is “the closest” oversimplifies the matter. But that’s not all.
“Further, Mercury is the closest neighbor, on average, to each of the other seven planets in the solar system,” they write. Wait—what?…’
Steve Calandrillo, Professor of Law, University of Washington:
’In an effort to avoid the biannual clock switch in spring and fall, some well-intended critics of DST have made the mistake of suggesting that the abolition of DST – and a return to permanent standard time – would benefit society. In other words, the U.S. would never “spring forward“ or “fall back.”
They are wrong. DST saves lives and energy and prevents crime. Not surprisingly, then, politicians in Washington, California and Florida are now proposing to move to DST year-round.
Congress should seize on this momentum to move the entire country to year-round DST. In other words, turn all clocks forward permanently. If it did so, I see five ways that Americans’ lives would immediately improve.…’
Via Big Think
Doctor couldn’t be bothered to tell him face-to-face:
’Ernest Quintana’s family knew he was dying of chronic lung disease when he was taken by ambulance to a hospital, unable to breathe.
But they were devastated when a robot machine rolled into his room in the intensive care unit that night and a doctor told the 78-year-old patient by video call he would likely die within days.
“If you’re coming to tell us normal news, that’s fine, but if you’re coming to tell us there’s no lung left and we want to put you on a morphine drip until you die, it should be done by a human being and not a machine,” his daughter Catherine Quintana said Friday.
Ernest Quintana died Tuesday, two days after being taken to the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center emergency department in Fremont.…’
Via Chicago Tribune
A story of Biblical proportion:
’A diver in South Africa survived an experience out of a biblical passage last month when he ended up almost being swallowed by a whale.
Rainer Schimpf, 51, was snorkeling off the coast of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, when he ended up in the path of a Bryde’s whale, which opened his jaws and engulfed him headfirst.
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“We were very astonished that out of nowhere this whale came up,” he told Sky News. “I was busy concentrating on the sharks because you want to know if the shark is in front of you or behind you, left or right, so we were very focused on the sharks and their behavior – then suddenly it got dark.”
Schimpf, who has worked as a dive operator for over 15 years, said he was in the water with two others for just a matter of minutes before the whale appeared. He had happened to be with a group recording a sardine run, which is where marine animals such as dolphins, whales, and sharks gather fish into bait balls.
The 51-year-old said once the whale grabbed him, he felt pressure around his body but soon realized he was too big for the whale to swallow him whole which was “kind of an instant relief.”
“So my next thought was that the whale may take me down into the ocean and release me further down, so I instantly held my breath,” he told Sky News. “Obviously he realized I was not what he wanted to eat so he spat me out again.”…’
Via Fox News
’From wild dogs to horned frogs, all manner of animals are still capable of keeping out of our sight, some for over 100 years…’
Via The Guardian
New Approach To Flu Treatment Mimics Antibodies:
’Influenza’s shifty nature has thwarted scientists’ efforts to develop a vaccine that could be administered once, or rarely, and provide long-lasting protection against most or all strains. Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu, administered post-infection, can be effective, but some quickly shifting strains soon become resistant to the drugs.
Research published Thursday in Science details the early development of what might eventually become a drug that’s more broadly effective. It’s designed to target areas of the influenza virus that hold constant from strain to strain.…’
What Americans Need to Know:
’Starting in 2021, Americans, as well as others from visa-free countries, will have to do a little more work before they’ll be able to visit a number of European countries. Now, getting into places like Germany, France, and Spain just requires your U.S. passport, but in a little under two years you’ll also need to apply for entry into those countries and several others before you go. Curious what that means? Here’s a rundown of what you need to know…’
A number of news outlets have been reporting that you will need a visa, but this is erroneous. One applies through the European Travel Information and Authorization System, ETIAS, and pays a fee estimated to be around $7. About 95% of applications will be approved, within a few minutes of an online submission, and authorization lasts 3 years. One applications covers travel to all countries in the Schengen Area, comprising: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Courts can grant human rights to nonhuman entities such as rivers, forests, mountains, and nonhuman animals. When this is done, harm against the entity carries the same punishment as harm against humans.
New, ethically controversial, era of neurointervention:
’A team of scientists in Spain is getting ready to experiment on prisoners. If the scientists get the necessary approvals, they plan to start a study this month that involves placing electrodes on inmates’ foreheads and sending a current into their brains. The electricity will target the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that plays a role in decision-making and social behavior. The idea is that stimulating more activity in that region may make the prisoners less aggressive.
This technique — transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS — is a form of neurointervention, meaning it acts directly on the brain. Using neurointerventions in the criminal justice system is highly controversial. In recent years, scientists and philosophers have been debating under what conditions (if any) it might be ethical.
The Spanish team is the first to use tDCS on prisoners. They’ve already done it in a pilot study, publishing their findings in Neuroscience in January, and they were all set to implement a follow-up study involving at least 12 convicted murderers and other inmates this month. On Wednesday, New Scientist broke news of the upcoming experiment, noting that it had approval from the Spanish government, prison officials, and a university ethics committee. The next day, the Interior Ministry changed course and put the study on hold.…’
’Christine Korsgaard is a distinguished philosopher who has taught at Harvard for most of her career. Though not known to the general public, she is eminent within the field for her penetrating and analytically dense writings on ethical theory and her critical interpretations of the works of Immanuel Kant. Now, for the first time, she has written a book about a question that anyone can understand. Fellow Creatures: Our Obligations to the Other Animals is a blend of moral passion and rigorous theoretical argument. Though it is often difficult—not because of any lack of clarity in the writing but because of the intrinsic complexity of the issues—this book provides the opportunity for a wider audience to see how philosophical reflection can enrich the response to a problem that everyone should be concerned about.
Since the publication of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation in 1975, there has been a notable increase in vegetarianism or veganism as a personal choice by individuals, and in the protection of animals from cruel treatment in factory farms and scientific research, both through law and through public pressure on businesses and institutions. Yet most people are not vegetarians: approximately 9.5 billion animals die annually in food production in the United States, and the carnivores who think about it tend to console themselves with the belief that the cruelties of factory farming are being ameliorated, and that if this is done, there is nothing wrong with killing animals painlessly for food. Korsgaard firmly rejects this outlook, not just because it ignores the scale of suffering still imposed on farmed animals, but because it depends on a false contrast between the values of human and animal lives, according to which killing a human is wrong in a way that killing an animal is not.…’
’This photo, courtesy of the British Tarantula Society, shows the recently-discovered burrow-dwelling spider [Birupes simoroxigorum] in its full glory.
It’s been described as the most beautiful spider (more via Metafilter) but not without controversy.…’
Via Boing Boing
Let’s stop kidding ourselves about that:
’The normalization of Trump’s unpredictable, spasmodic presidency, as well as the fact that so many of us don’t have the stomach to tolerate two-plus hours of watching him, are perhaps the only reasons why more Americans aren’t gathered as we speak, devising how best to legally remove him from office. For what it’s worth, I propose here and now that this conversation must begin in earnest.
Trump’s obvious mental instability and emotionally erratic behavior has reached a harrowing new depth. They need to be addressed by our political leadership with the same urgency as the myriad investigations into his crimes. This has to begin now before it’s too late. He will clearly do and say whatever it takes to secure his status, and it’s the presidency alone that’s keeping him out of federal prison. He’s at least competent enough to understand this, and he might be crazy enough to do anything to avoid accountability. We’re in new territory. There is no road map, and what we do now will determine whether Trump is the last Trump, or possibly the first of many Trumps along the not-so-lengthy journey into a permanent form of lunatic authoritarianism. It’s time to take his madness seriously now before he levels-up again.…’
‘Cant was a lawless language. If it got into your head, it might make you lawless, too…’
via JSTOR Daily
’Even as the 2020 race begins in earnest, President Donald Trump is already suggesting that Democrats cannot beat him fairly – raising the specter that if he loses next November, he will suggest that the election was not legitimate.…’
Eric Boehlert in AlterNet:
‘If over the weekend you saw a rambling madman give a frighteningly incoherent, sweaty, two-hour shoutfest of a speech at a right-wing summit, then you viewed a president coming unglued on national television in a way that has probably never been seen before in United States history. And that is extraordinary cause for alarm. But if, instead, you saw nothing more than a “fiery” Donald Trump give a “zigzagging,” “wide-ranging,” “campaign-like” address where the Republican really “let loose,” then you likely work for the D.C. press, which once again swung and missed when it came to detailing the escalating threat that Trump represents to the country.…’
Via 3 Quarks Daily
’The New York Times reports that a team of scientists plan to announce tomorrow that a patient in London has been effectively cured of HIV. The cure reportedly was the result of a bone-marrow transplant that came with a genetic mutation that naturally blocks HIV from spreading throughout the body. This approach isn’t quite practical to implement on a large scale, but the knowledge gained from it will likely help scientists develop more scalable approaches.…’
Via Big Think
William Spivey writes in Medium:
’Rest assured, potential Republican challengers are making secret plans to be the literal white knight to rescue the Party from the chaos that is Trump. Presenting themselves as the rational alternative to the man circling the political drain. It’s the Democrats who must have a strategy besides running against Donald J. Trump. What if the only message they have is, “Trump is bad,” and it turns out he isn’t on the ballot?
At the moment, enough Republicans have tied themselves to the Trump anchor that it’s hard to see a Republican victory. But it’s a long time between now and the election in November of 2020. Democrats need to have a plan for a different Nominee…’
‘Researchers from Harvard, the University of Michigan, and UCLA have conducted the first ever randomized controlled trial on the efficacy of parachutes. As detailed in a cheeky study published late last year in the prestigious British Medical Journal, the researchers enlisted 23 volunteers to jump out of a plane or helicopter to test whether the use of parachutes reduced risk of injury or death…
Remarkably, the researchers found that “parachute use did not significantly reduce death or major injury.” Indeed, there were zero deaths or serious injuries in either group. As the researchers noted in their conclusion, however, this likely had to do with the fact that… (more)’