I have always learned that, since the word processor supplanted the typewriter, that it was wrong to persist with the time-honored practice of two-space sentence separations. But I never quite understood the argument for one-spacing. Now a group of Skidmore College psychological researchers, in a study published in Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, prove reading is more efficient, albeit only slightly so, if sentences are more separated. I might very well go back to two spaces after periods. (If you were wondering, two-spacing after commas was not beneficial, and indeed slowed down reading speed.) Ironically, the study was submitted to the journal two-spaced, but the journal’s proofreaders deleted all the extra spaces.
‘Science-fiction writers have fantasised about virtual reality (VR) for decades. Now it is here – and with it, perhaps, the possibility of the complete physical experience of killing someone, without harming a soul. As well as Facebook’s ongoing efforts with Oculus Rift, Google recently bought the eye-tracking start-up Eyefluence, to boost its progress towards creating more immersive virtual worlds. The director Alejandro G Iñárritu and the cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, both famous for Birdman (2014) and The Revenant (2015), have announced that their next project will be a short VR film.
But this new form of entertainment is dangerous. The impact of immersive virtual violence must be questioned, studied and controlled. Before it becomes possible to realistically simulate the experience of killing someone, murder in VR should be made illegal.
This is not the argument of a killjoy. As someone who has worked in film and television for almost 20 years, I am acutely aware that the craft of filmmaking is all about maximising the impact on the audience. Directors ask actors to change the intonation of a single word, while editors sweat over a film cut down to fractions of a second, all in pursuit of the right mood and atmosphere….’
We may live in a multiverse checkered with black holes, each containing its own universe… It all centers around a different theory of what exactly a black hole is. The general understanding is nothing can escape a black hole’s intense gravity, not even light. Called the black hole information paradox, it’s thought that even the information about an object that gets sucked in vanishes into oblivion. But therein lies a problem….’
‘[I]t appears that we may have taken a step closer to making immortality reality. In a recent meeting at the National Institutes of Health, Yale neuroscientist Nenad Sestan revealed that his team has successfully reanimated the brains of dead pigs recovered from a slaughterhouse. By pumping them with artificial blood using a system called BrainEx, they were able to bring them back to “life” for up to 36 hours.
Admittedly, the pigs’ brains did not regain consciousness, but Sestan acknowledged that restoring awareness is a possibility. Crucially, he also disclosed that the technique could work on primate brains (which includes humans), and that the brains could be kept alive indefinitely….’
In the early years of FmH, one of the sites to which I was devoted and, frankly, of which I was quite envious, was Mark Wood’s enigmatically named ‘wood s lot‘. Yes, there is no apostrophe there, although I used to gently chide him about that, as part of a delightful friendly rivalry we had.
Here are my comments on his indispensability when he had to put the blog on suspension for awhile in 2002. And here is my paean to his site on the occasion of its third anniversary in 2003, which includes my peevish complaint about the solipsism of some of his content, his self-effacing style of remaining a cipher with no personal presence, and, in the last paragraph, said lack of apostrophe. (He listened… For one day, he renamed the site to ‘wood’s lot’!)
And here you will find a compendium of many of the mentions he got on FmH. I eventually fell away from following him as my blogging style morphed and his erudition soared. I was saddened to learn, in random surfing tonight, that Mark died around a year ago. You could do far worse than to go back and dip into his legacy, anywhere. My sympathies to his family.
Trump’s Doctor Says Trump Dictated 2015 Letter Saying He’d Be the Healthiest President Ever
‘Dr. Harold Bornstein, Donald Trump’s personal doctor—not that one—has told CNN that Trump personally dictated the superfluous December 2015 letter which said Trump’s “physical strength and stamina are extraordinary” and that he would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
“He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter,” Bornstein, who treated Trump dating back to 1980, told CNN. “I just made it up as I went along.” Bornstein also said that he was in a car with his wife in New York when Trump told him what he wanted to say, and compared the letter to Fargo:
“That’s black humor, that letter. That’s my sense of humor,” he said. “It’s like the movie ‘Fargo’: It takes the truth and moves it in a different direction.”…’
‘Mueller might actually be relatively close to wrapping up the investigation. Given that the FBI raid on Michael Cohen’s office, stemming from an investigation by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, was sure to provoke a reaction from President Trump—the investigative equivalent of kicking a hornet’s nest—it seems likely that Mueller and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who approved the raid, understood that one or both of them might be fired by the president in its wake. It seems likely that before they took such a provocative step on the case that they could see their way through to the investigation’s end….’
Halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, this is when the cattle are driven out to the summer pastures and rituals invoked to protect them and encourage growth and fertility in livestock and crops. The smoke of the bonfires has protective power for those who circle them or leap over the flames and the embers. Celebrants circle their houses with burning torches from the Beltane bonfires. Hearth fires and candles are quenched and then rekindled from the torches. Holy wells are visited. Doors and windows are decorated with May flowers and the community makes a May Bush, a thorn bush adorned with the flowers, ribbons and bright shells. Feasting abounds. Spirits are thought to be especially active at Beltane (as at Samhain 6 months hence) and the goal of many Beltane rituals is to appease them.
Last night, Walpurgis night, the eve of the Saint’s Day for Walpurga, an 8th century abbess in Francia canonized for battling witches, was the time of the Witches’ Sabbaths at the tops of wild remote mountains (most famously, the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains in central Germany, as memorialized in Goethe’s Faust) to cavort with the Devil. The attendants ride flying goats, trample the cross and are rebaptized in the name of the Devil. Magic ointments made from Deadly Nightshade (Belladonna), Henbane, Mandrake, Datura or the fly agaric mushroom evoke weird hallucinations and place participants in an altered state of consciousness, conferring the powers of flight and of shapeshifting. Walpurgisnacht also entails a procession of the dead, especially those who have died prematurely or violently during the past year and have been wandering to expiate their sins.
‘White House chief of staff John Kelly has eroded morale in the West Wing in recent months with comments to aides that include insulting the president’s intelligence and casting himself as the savior of the country, according to eight current and former White House officials.
The officials said Kelly portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe, curbing the erratic urges of a president who has a questionable grasp on policy issues and the functions of government. He has referred to Trump as “an idiot” multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they’ve witnessed the comments….’
City Upbringing, Without Pets, Increases Risk of Mental Illness
‘People who were raised in cities and without a family pet show significantly higher levels of an immune system component following a stressful event, researchers report.
Children raised in a rural environment, surrounded by animals and bacteria-laden dust, grow up to have more stress-resilient immune systems and might be at lower risk of mental illness than pet-free city dwellers, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…’
‘With meth resurgent and the opioid crisis showing no sign of abating, a growing number of people are getting endocarditis from injecting the drugs — sometimes repeatedly if they continue shooting up. Many are uninsured, and the care they need is expensive, intensive and often lasts months. All of this has doctors grappling with an ethically fraught question: Is a heart ever not worth fixing?…’
‘The Negro Motorist Green Book was a series of annual guides for African-American drivers and holiday-makers who wanted to know where they could find gas-stations, restaurants and hotels that would serve them and which “sunset towns” they should avoid on pain of violence from corrupt, racist law-enforcement.
The Green Books have taken on a new cultural relevance; they play a central role in Matt Ruff’s outstanding anti-racist Lovecraftian tale Lovecraft Country (which is being adapted by Jordan “Get Out” Peele for the small screen).
In late 2017, Jan Miles released the The Post Racial Negro Green Book, an unexpected bestseller that catalogs police killings, violence and harassment; businesses that racially profile black customers; and places where white people publicly abuse black people with impunity.
Miles created her Green Book as a way of coping with an onslaught of news about racist violence and discrimination; rather than being a passive observer of the news, she did something to process it (this is how I deal with the news, too — Boing Boing is both a public notebook and a personal way of reflecting on the news rather than letting it get on top of me).
She calls it “a snapshot of contemporary racism in America.”
It’s timely: the NAACP just released its first-ever travel advisories, warning black people to avoid both Mississippi and American Airlines….’
‘if you happen to be in England’s capital, whatever you do, don’t touch the caterpillars.
A particular breed of caterpillar (well, technically the larval stage of the oak processionary moth—or OPM if you’re into the whole brevity thing), has invaded London and has been deemed toxic by authorities at the UK’s Forestry Commision. Since they have started hatching over the last couple of weeks, the caterpillar’s 62,000 ultra-fine hairs appear to trigger severe allergic reactions in humans. The hairs, which the creatures can eject if threatened, contain a protein called thaumetopoein that appears to be the source of the allergy symptoms. The BBC reports that these hairs themselves can last up to 5 years on the ground, while the caterpillar will only last until late May or mid-June before turning into a not-so-deadly moth.
It can cause skin rash, difficulty breathing, and even death by anaphylactic shock. It also tends to kill the oak trees that they thrive on. The nests — which the Forestry Commision has warned Britons to steer clear of — tend to look like overgrown and slightly bulbous cobwebs….’
‘President Trump is privately rejecting the growing consensus among Republican leaders that they may lose the House and possibly the Senate in November, leaving party officials and the president’s advisers nervous that he does not grasp the gravity of the threat they face in the midterm elections….’
‘We all know Beyoncé, and Jay Z are most likely in the Illuminati. And George Bush is in Skull and Bones. Does that mean you have to be amazingly successful or come from blue blood to join a secret organization that rules the world through a New World Order?…’
A new CDC reports says that 1 in 59 children in 11 studied states are identified as being on the autistic spectrum, up from 1 in 68 just two years previously. But does this mean that the prevalence of autism is increasing? Probably not. Increased screening for and recognition of affected children as well as a broadened definition of the syndrome are probably to blame. Via Neuroscience News
This is emblematic of a larger problem in behavioral science overall, as diagnosis is done by descriptive criteria in the absence of definitive empirical measures. This leads to expansion and contraction of various diagnostic groups (e.g. bipolar disorder or schizophrenia) both over time and from place to place.
Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers Is Dead at 79
‘Charles Neville — who usually performed in a beret and a tie-dyed shirt, with an irrepressible smile — was the band’s jazz facet, reflecting his decades of experience before the Neville Brothers got started. His soprano saxophone was upfront on the Nevilles’ “Healing Chant,” which won a Grammy Award as best pop instrumental in 1990….’
‘This yearning is for something, anything, to end the death loop that American democracy appears to be trapped in, for a big, dramatic blowup to fix the system’s ills. In the liberal imagination, that blowup typically takes the form of Trump’s removal from office, an event that sets us back to a path of normalcy and sane politics.
This yearning is understandable — but it is both dangerous and misplaced. Ending the Trump presidency will not fix, or even substantially ameliorate, most of the problems plaguing the American political system. They were mounting for years before he took office — indeed, they made him possible — and they will continue to plague us for years after he leaves.
What’s more, the desire for a dramatic explosion of the Trump presidency at times seems to blend into a desire for the dramatic blowup of the American political system altogether, a sense that we need some apocalyptic event that will wipe the slate clean and revitalize our democracy in one big revolutionary motion. It’s no accident that the rise of Trump has coincided with fearful but titillated worries about coups d’état, collapses into tyranny, and even a second American civil war or secession. These concerns are partially specific to Trump. But they reflect worries that transcend him too….’
…I was getting a lot of new subscribers all of a sudden. I had thought it was because I had pulled the trigger on my Facebook account, where I had previously been crossposting everything on FmH. In my goodbye message to the Facebook world, I suggested that some of the people who had been reading me there might continue to follow me by seeking out the source. But as it turns out none of the new subscribers appeared to be my erstwhile Facebook friends.
I decided to look in my referrer logs and realized that people were probably coming from kottke.org, who had written about a number of us old (and new) blogging dinosaurs in a post called Blogging is most certainly not dead. Thanks for including me, Jason. Many other sites worthy of worthy of our attention — I’m just beginning to explore this new cornucopia — are mentioned in his post. [Thanks to Bruce for bringing me to kottke’s attention.]
One theory of human evolution states that our ancestors began eating meat about 2 million years ago, whose caloric and fat density allowed the enlargement and development of their brains.
Hominids didn’t begin using stones and sticks for hunting until about 200,000 years ago. So between 2.3 million and 200,000 years ago, our original strategy was to run game animals to death in order to feast upon them. Sweating was the key factor in the ability to run long distances to wear out quarry without overheating. Game animals, who cannot sweat, become overheated over time and are at risk of damaging themselves or dying if they don’t stop to catch their breath, allowing early hunters to catch and dispatch them. Animals that do not walk upright cannot fully extend their diaphragms to take deep breaths until they stop running.
Some tribal peoples still take part in persistence hunting and there is evidence that the strategy was utilized all over the world in the distant past. This helps us to understand why several aspects of human development — walking upright, hairless skin, sweating, and the ability to run long distances — appear to have evolved simultaneously.
When humans die out because of climate change, they may be the biggest and most widespread animal left, thereby inheriting the planet.
‘After humans started migrating out of Africa, the largest land mammals have died out in each territory that humans have spread to. It’s somewhat of a human hallmark, making other species extinct, although we’ve kept cows around for both food and leather. We’ve actually prioritized cows over other species, leading to a 1.5 billion total cow population across the globe. That’s more than cats and dogs combined: there are only 500 to 600 million dogs in the world and about as many cats.
If global warming keeps going at its current pace, Stephen Hawking estimated last year that humanity has about 100 years left to find a new planet to live on and only 1,000 years left on this planet before the heat completely kills all life. Pre human-kind meddling, larger animals simply adapted to climate change. But at this accelerated pace, species go extinct at an astronomical level. Between 24-100 species every day become extinct, and that’s a conservative estimate. Because there are so many cows on the planet, it’s fairly safe to say that even if all humans died out tomorrow all cows would have to do is graze and slowly move north as the planet got hotter. That’s conjecture, sure, but from a strictly numerical standpoint, there’s a good chance that cows will enjoy a very short time at the top of the food chain before the planet becomes completely uninhabitable except for cockroaches….’
‘When Stormy Daniels spoke to “60 Minutes” last month, the porn actress described a threat she received years ago after speaking to a journalist about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. A stranger approached her in a parking lot in Las Vegas. Daniels was there with her baby daughter. “Leave Trump alone,” Daniels recalled the man warning her. “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”
Daniels did not report the threat to the police. On Wednesday, Donald Trump tweeted that Daniels’ account of events was “a total con job” about a “non-existent man.”
As it happens, other people in disputes with Trump have also found themselves the targets of threats — and sometimes they’ve reported it to authorities. …’
‘…[C]ould researchers find clear evidence that an ancient species built a relatively short-lived industrial civilization long before our own? Perhaps, for example, some early mammal rose briefly to civilization building during the Paleocene epoch about 60 million years ago. There are fossils, of course. But the fraction of life that gets fossilized is always minuscule and varies a lot depending on time and habitat. It would be easy, therefore, to miss an industrial civilization that only lasted 100,000 years—which would be 500 times longer than our industrial civilization has made it so far.
Given that all direct evidence would be long gone after many millions of years, what kinds of evidence might then still exist? The best way to answer this question is to figure out what evidence we’d leave behind if human civilization collapsed at its current stage of development….’
‘Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., does not support a measure that would make it harder for President Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, but that isn’t stopping some Republicans from forcing the debate. …’
‘Despite seeing it millions of times in pretty much every picture book, every novel, every newspaper, and every email message, people are essentially unaware of the more common version of the lowercase print letter “g,” Johns Hopkins researchers have found.
Most people don’t even know that two forms of the letter—one usually handwritten, the other typeset—exist. And if they do, they can’t write the typeset one we typically see. They can’t even pick the correct version of it out of a lineup….’
‘Ikeida leaves the house once every three days to buy food, shuns deliveries to avoid human interaction and has not seen his parents or younger brother for 20 years.
The 55-year-old has chosen to shut himself completely away from society — such a commonplace phenomenon in high-pressure, conformist and workaholic Japan that there is a word to describe it: “hikikomori”.
Until recently it was thought to be an issue mainly afflicting those in their teens and 20s, but ageing Japan is seeing a growing number of older hikikomori cloistering themselves away for longer periods of time.
There are more than half a million hikikomori in Japan — according to the latest government survey published in 2016 — defined as people who have stayed home for more than six months without going to school or work and interacting with no one other than family members. …’
‘Except for Sinan Antoon’s richly deserved jeremiad, the 15th anniversary of the worst foreign policy disaster in modern American history went sailing by largely unremarked, at least in this country. After all, over here, everyone was too busy keeping track of the latest news involving the vulgar talking yam the country had installed as president, how he was still truckling to Russian oligarchs, how he was still being run to ground by Bob Mueller, and about how he was being outwitted and out-lawyered by a lady from the adult entertainment industry….’
‘For Europeans, April Fools hearkens back to the transition to the Gregorian calendar in the sixteenth century. The pre-Gregorian calendar had ended the year near the end of March, coinciding with the beginning of spring. With the new Gregorian calendar, the beginning of the year was moved to January. The calendar change was slow to take hold and there was resistance to it, but those who continued celebrating the new year at the beginning of April, old style, were ultimately shamed as “fools.”…’
‘When you can’t get to sleep at night, you might explain it to someone as your brain not being able to shut off.
While your brain never truly shuts off, when you do fall asleep, your brain sends inhibitory neurons that help reduce conscious awareness to get to a point of deep sleep. Normal sleepers often feel like they’ve fallen asleep before their brain is in a scientifically-defined state of sleep, but people with insomnia aren’t so lucky.
A recent study by BYU psychology professor Daniel Kay published in Sleep suggests a dysfunction in the inhibition process could be what causes those with insomnia to have a hard time fully falling asleep.
“Previous studies found that patients with insomnia appear to be asleep, their eyes are closed and their brain is in a characteristic sleep pattern, but you wake them up and guess what they are more likely to tell you? ‘I was awake,’” Kay said.
This problem has traditionally been characterized by sleep scientists as sleep misperception. Kay, however, argues that that term is based on the assumption that sleep is categorical, either being asleep or being awake, and that when you’re asleep you don’t have consciousness.
“I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” Kay said. “I think you can be consciously aware and your brain be in a sleep pattern. The question is: What role does conscious awareness have in our definition of sleep?”…’
‘How do blind people experience psychedelic drugs? This is the topic of an interesting, but unusual, paper just out in Consciousness and Cognition.
The paper’s authors are University of Bath researchers Sara Dell’Erba, David J.Brown, and Michael J.Proulx. However, the real star contributor is a man referred to only as “Mr Blue Pentagon”.
Blue Pentagon (“BP”) is the pseudonym for a 70 year old blind man who reports taking large quantities of LSD and other drugs during his career as a rock musician in the 1970s. (“Blue Pentagon” was his favorite brand of LSD.)
How the researchers came to meet BP is not stated.
Much of the paper consists of BP’s accounts of his experiences under the influence of hallucinogens, and this is what makes the article rather unusual, as parts are more reminiscent of a late-night conversation than an academic paper.
For instance, here’s how BP describes the impact of LSD on the perception of music:…’
‘With the death of the last male northern white rhino last week, the world was reminded that yet another charismatic animal is functionally extinct because of humans. But in the future, because of synthetic biology, extinction may not be forever. And the northern white rhino could be the animal that pioneers a suite of new technologies that get us there….’
‘Self-help millionaire Tim Ferriss is a fraud. But his success says a lot about modern capitalism and its discontents….
After dozens of pages of self-help and time-management cliches (“Poisonous people do not deserve your time”; “Compile your to-do list for tomorrow no later than this evening”; “Find your focus and you’ll find your lifestyle”), Ferriss finally laid out his magic bullet solution: follow in his footsteps and become a fake expert. “Expert status can be created in less than four weeks if you understand basic credibility indicators.” …’
‘There have been 306 school shootings since 2013, or about one a week, according to Everytown. Each time such a tragedy occurs, we’re first reminded of the easy availability of assault weapons followed quickly by blame assigned to the people — local police, psychologists, social workers — who failed to identify the perpetrator as a danger to their community. But this kind of hindsight is unfair. The truth is there’s been amazingly little coordinated study of the psychology behind mass shooters and very little consensus as to what those warning signs might be. A new review of such research was compiled by sociologist Michael Rocque and criminologist Grant Duwe and is in the February issue of Current Opinion in Psychology….’
‘There is new hope for people suffering from memory related problems. Researchers have successfully implanted a neuroprosthetic system into the brains of epilepsy patients that uses the person’s own memory patterns to enhance memory encoding and recall….’
Astronomers discover that star grazed solar system 70K years ago:
‘Astronomers identify the closest known flyby of a star to our solar system: a dim star that passed through the Oort Cloud 70,000 years ago A group of astronomers from the US, Europe, Chile and South Africa have determined that 70,000 years ago a recently discovered dim star is likely to have passed through the solar system’s distant cloud of comets, the Oort Cloud. No other star is known to have ever approached our solar system this close – five times closer than the current closest star, Proxima Centauri.
In a paper published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, lead author Eric Mamajek from the University of Rochester and his collaborators analyzed the velocity and trajectory of a low-mass star system nicknamed “Scholz’s star.”
The star’s trajectory suggests that 70,000 years ago it passed roughly 52,000 astronomical units away (or about 0.8 light years, which equals 8 trillion kilometers, or 5 trillion miles). This is astronomically close; our closest neighbor star Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light years distant. In fact, the astronomers explain in the paper that they are 98% certain that it went through what is known as the “outer Oort Cloud” – a region at the edge of the solar system filled with trillions of comets a mile or more across that are thought to give rise to long-period comets orbiting the Sun after their orbits are perturbed….’
‘The implication that Mr. Cruz’s mental health problems could have been solved if only he had been loved more by his fellow students is both a gross misunderstanding of how these diseases work and a dangerous suggestion that puts children on the front line….’
Newfound ‘organ’ had been missed by standard method for visualizing anatomy
‘Researchers have identified a previously unknown feature of human anatomy with implications for the function of all organs, most tissues and the mechanisms of most major diseases.
Published March 27 in Scientific Reports, a new study co-led by an NYU School of Medicine pathologist reveals that layers of the body long thought to be dense, connective tissues – below the skin’s surface, lining the digestive tract, lungs and urinary systems, and surrounding arteries, veins, and the fascia between muscles – are instead interconnected, fluid-filled compartments….’
”The Society of Blue Buckets (Russian: Общество синих ведёрок Obshchestvo sinikh vedyorok) is a free protest movement that emerged in Russia in 2010 as a response to the arbitrary, self-serving use of emergency rotating blue flashers by public servants. Inspired by blue toy buckets‘ strong resemblance to emergency blue rotating lights, members of the Society affix buckets to their vehicles’ roofs during automotive flashmobs, as a manifestation of their protest against misuse of emergency lights…”
‘Irish music lost one of its legends this week, with the passing of Liam O’Flynn.
A player of the Uilleann pipes, O’Flynn, or as he was known by the Gaeilge iteration of his name, Liam Óg Ó Floinn, was born in 1945 to a family of musicians. In his youth, his piping earned him prizes at county and national levels, but it wasn’t until he was in his thirties that he really hit his stride. As one of the founding members of Irish trad super group Planxty, O’Flynn helped to breathe new life to traditional Irish music by showing that it could be every bit as exciting and full of life as rock and roll. Without Planxty, there may not have been a Dexy’s Midnight Runners; No Waterboys, Pogues, or Dropkick Murphys. We’d all be poorer for it….’
Wildlife ranger Zacharia Mutai comforts Sudan, the last living male Northern White Rhino left on the planet, moments before he passed away March 19, 2018 at Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya.
Conservationists were expecting the death of Sudan, the world’s last remaining male northern white rhinoceros. But when he died on Monday night, the news was met with international dismay.
The 45-year-old male rhino had been living under armed guard at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Earlier this month, Sudan developed an infection on his back right leg. He had already been suffering from age-related complications, and the infection worsened his condition.
Now, only two female northern white rhinos remain at the conservancy—the last of their kind on Earth….’
A New York Times reporter spends two days with a former tech executive who retired to a pig farm in Ohio to make art and has rigorously arranged his life so that, since deeply upset about Trump’s election, he has entirely avoided exposure to any news since the election. The piece flirts with the suggestion that those of us who loathe Trump and what the country has become under his reign might envy such a move, but of course the only way to survive this is to commiserate. And precious few of us have the luxury of living in the illusion that they are not impacted.
Humans have shared values, believe it or not. And libertarian isn’t one of them, says Steven Pinker:
‘Could we ever agree on a set of values? The knee-jerk response for any student of history would be ‘no’, but the data tells a different story. Psychologist and author Steven Pinker offers proof in the form of Wagner’s law: “One development that people both on the Left and the Right are unaware of is almost an inexorable force that leads affluent societies to devote increasing amounts of their wealth to social spending, to redistribution to children, to education, to healthcare, to supporting the poor, to supporting the aged.” Until the 20th century, most societies devoted about 1.5% of their GDP to social spending, and generally much less than that. In the last 100 years, that’s changed: today the current global median of social spending is 22% of GDP. One group will groan most audibly at that data: Libertarians. However, Pinker says it’s no coincidence that there are zero libertarian countries on Earth; social spending is a shared value, even if the truest libertarians protest it, as the free market has no way to provide for poor children, the elderly, and other members of society who cannot contribute to the marketplace. As countries develop, they naturally initiate social spending programs. That’s why libertarianism is a marginal idea, rather than a universal value—and it’s likely to stay that way….’
First signs of the machines’ disdainful rebellion?
Reports are coming in that Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker has begun laughing all on its own.
People who claim to have experienced this generally say they’re not interacting with their Amazon Echo, but it will suddenly begin laughing. Many of the descriptions describe the robolaughter as “creepy.”
Because Alexa’s frightening laugh allegedly only happens at unexpected times, nobody has managed to capture a recording. Amazon’s voice assistant has a laugh that it will use when prompted, but it doesn’t sound very creepy.
Amazon confirmed the creepy Alexa laughs, issuing the following statement to The Verge: “We’re aware of this and working to fix it.” …’
‘If we want to move from a pathologically death-phobic culture to a more well-adjusted one… we need to rethink our cultural tradition of giving death the silent treatment. That is the sentiment underlying the death-positive movement, a loose collective of artists, writers, academics, and funeral industry professionals agitating for more open conversations about dying. As the mortician and author Caitlin Doughty explains in her bestselling memoir ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’, “A culture that denies death is a barrier to achieving a good death.”
At the very minimum, our culture of death denial creates a population unprepared for the inevitability of death, one in which every dying individual burdens family and friends with painful healthcare decisions, legal battles, and property disputes that could have been avoided with a little forethought. At its worst, death denial promotes a youth- and health-obsessed society whose inability to address death …’
‘Like you, I’ve seen the memes and articles floating around social media about checking ATMs for the telltale signs of an ATM Skimmer; loose card ports, keypads sticking up and general shadiness. It’s always one of those things I’ve kept in the back of mind, even though I never took it terribly seriously. This time it paid off! …’
‘Given how our smartphones have taken over what were once functions of our brains – remembering dates, phone numbers, addresses – perhaps the data they contain should be treated on a par with the information we hold in our heads. So if the law aims to protect mental privacy, its boundaries would need to be pushed outwards to give our cyborg anatomy the same protections as our brains. …’
They weren’t the first mass-shooting victims the Florida radiologist saw—but their wounds were radically different. Heather Sher writes:
As a doctor, I feel I have a duty to inform the public of what I have learned as I have observed these wounds and cared for these patients. It’s clear to me that AR-15 and other high-velocity weapons, especially when outfitted with a high-capacity magazine, have no place in a civilian’s gun cabinet. I have friends who own AR-15 rifles; they enjoy shooting them at target practice for sport and fervently defend their right to own them. But I cannot accept that their right to enjoy their hobby supersedes my right to send my own children to school, a movie theater, or a concert and to know that they are safe. Can the answer really be to subject our school children to active-shooter drills—to learn to hide under desks, turn off the lights, lock the door, and be silent—instead of addressing the root cause of the problem and passing legislation to take AR-15-style weapons out of the hands of civilians? …’
Compulsive Decluttering, the need to shed possessions, is a life-consuming illness for some —but the cultural embrace of decluttering can make it hard to seek help….
“Do we just assume that decluttering is a good thing because it’s the opposite of hoarding?” says Vivien Diller, a psychologist in New York who has worked with patients… who compulsively rid themselves of their possessions. “Being organized and throwing things out and being efficient is applauded in our society because it is productive. But you take somebody who cannot tolerate mess or cannot sit still without cleaning or throwing things out, and we’re talking about a symptom.”…’
All the President’s Men Who Might Leave the White House:
‘It’s looking like it might be spring-cleaning season at the White House.
Not only did Communications Director Hope Hicks announce her departure on Wednesday, ending her run as President Trump’s longest-tenured staffer, but a series of reports have suggested a number of other top-ranking officials might be clearing out their offices and desks soon. Those rumored to be considering exits include Jared Kushner, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Gary Cohn, and Jeff Sessions….’
‘[A] new study asserts that standings desks are, in fact, bad for you. They’re also not the promoters of workplace productivity they’ve been claimed to be. They apparently result not only in physical pain, but — literally adding insult to injury — make you a bit slower mentally….’
To anyone who follows science, the notion that other animals can be sentient, have emotions, suffer, engage in relationships, and be highly intelligent has become nearly inescapable. Study after study presents fresh evidence that we’ve been underestimating animals.
Chimpanzees, crows, and cephalopods apparently use tools, apes form social groups, elephants mourn, goldfish get depressed, whales converse, crows, chickens, and goldfish remember faces, and on and on.
For many, the findings are confirmation of something we already suspected. But make no mistake, they call for a fundamental change in the way we see our place in the world: All other life on Earth is not, after all, here simply to serve us, and we thus have no moral right to continue treating it as if it is. It’s not surprising that there’s been some resistance, given the manner in which our casual, entitled use and treatment of animals is so embedded in our culture.
We’re only beginning to address the protection of non-human rights. That’s where the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) comes in. Now a group of philosophers has submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of its ongoing efforts to secure protection for the basic rights of two chimpanzees named “Tommy” and “Kiko”. We’ve written about the chimps’ cases and their tortuous journeys through the courts of New York State before. The NhRP is attempting to havion.” The organization is the subject of an excellent HBO documentary, Unlocking the Cage. (Trigger warning: The film contains just a handful of brief scenes that are difficult to watch.) NhRP knows its goals will take time and a lot of work….’
‘Tamiflu (generic: oseltamivir), the go-to drug for combatting influenza has a new challenger.
Japanese drugmaker Shionogi has announced that test results are in: its drug kills the flu virus in 24 hours. With one pill.
The drug, named Xofluza (generic: baloxavir marboxyl), was recently granted accelerated approval by the Japanese government after trials of the drug showed great promise.
by inhibiting the enzyme that the flu virus needs in order to replicate, it kills the virus within a human in 24 hours. The symptoms continue for about the same amount of time as when Tamiflu is used, however, but they’re lessened and begin to go away faster. And both drugs lessen the effects of the flu versus no drug at all…’
When you think of a psychopath, what qualities do you imagine? Your answer may depend on the country you’re from. Newly published research suggests that psychopaths are not the same worldwide: The most salient feature of psychopaths in the US seems to be callousness and lack of empathy, while the most central feature of psychopaths in the Netherlands is their irresponsibility and parasitic lifestyle.
Futurologist Predicts that Humans Will Be Immortal by 2050
‘If someone told you that the human race is very close to living forever, what would you say? According to futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson, by 2050 we’ll have the capability to become “immortal.”
…One technique for extending our lifespan? Pearson points to advances in genetic engineering to prevent cell aging and scientists attempting to create 3D printed organs. This would allow us to simply replace “old parts” when necessary. While it might sound crazy, IFL Science points out that he may be alluding to factual studies, such as the gene editing tool, CRISPR-Cas 9.
But Pearson is really banking on android bodies as our pathway to immortality. Equating it to “renting a car,” he theorizes that “the mind will basically be in the cloud, and be able to use any android that you feel like to inhabit the real world.”
One final theory by Pearson eschews a physical body altogether, in lieu of the virtual world. “You could make as much fun as you could possibly imagine online. You might still want to come into the real world,” he predicts. “You could link your mind to millions of other minds, and have unlimited intelligence, and be in multiple places at once.” But alas, if you are getting ready for 2050, you better start saving your cash. Pearson predicts the first wave of technology will only be available to the ultra-rich, with it taking about 10 to 15 years to trickle down to the rest of us….’
‘Yep, right there at No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening to them. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, “I hear you.”
Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” the card reads. So two-fifths of this card is dedicated to making sure the president of the United States assured those assembled that he was interested in what they had to say and their vantage points….’
‘Yesterday, a telescope in Chile spotted Elon Musk’s electric car 3.7 million kilometers from Earth as it was passing by star cluster NGC 5694. Using orbital elements published by NASA, amateur astronomers are setting new distance records almost every day as they track the Roadster en route to the orbit of Mars. …’
‘I’m sure the Germans or the Japanese have a word that means, precisely, “Life-changing ideas that do not change our lives because we only read about them once, agree enthusiastically, and then forget them before we act on them.” …’
‘…[T]he 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey [was] released Monday by professors Brandon Rottinghaus of the University of Houston and Justin S. Vaughn of Boise State University. The survey results, ranking American presidents from best to worst, were based on responses from 170 current and recent members of the Presidents and Executive Politics section of the American Political Science Association.
Obama moved from 18th in 2014, when the survey was last conducted, to 8th in the current survey. Reagan jumped from 11th to 9th. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, fell from 8th to 13th — perhaps as a result of heightened attention to sexual misconduct in the midst of the #MeToo movement.
‘As accounts of past sexual indiscretions threatened to surface during Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, the job of stifling potentially damaging stories fell to his longtime lawyer and all-around fixer, Michael D. Cohen.
To protect his boss at critical junctures in his improbable political rise, the lawyer relied on intimidation tactics, hush money and the nation’s leading tabloid news business, American Media Inc., whose top executives include close Trump allies.
Mr. Cohen’s role has come under scrutiny amid recent revelations that he facilitated a payment to silence a porn star, but his aggressive behind-the-scenes efforts stretch back years, according to interviews, emails and other records. …’
‘Mr. Cohen declined to answer questions about whether Mr. Trump had reimbursed him, whether the two men had made any arrangement at the time of the payment, or whether he had made any payments to other women or accusers of the president….’
Sorry to have missed my chance to post this yesterday:
‘Happy Valentine’s Day to all. And to those who hate the day, I say this: Valentine’s Day is a Christian corruption of a pagan festival involving werewolves, blood and fucking. So wish people a happy Horny Werewolf Day and see what happens….’
‘Andrew Yang, a well-connected New York businessman, … is mounting a longer-than-long-shot bid for the White House. Mr. Yang, a former tech executive who started the nonprofit organization Venture for America, believes that automation and advanced artificial intelligence will soon make millions of jobs obsolete — yours, mine, those of our accountants and radiologists and grocery store cashiers. He says America needs to take radical steps to prevent Great Depression-level unemployment and a total societal meltdown, including handing out trillions of dollars in cash.
“All you need is self-driving cars to destabilize society,” Mr. Yang, 43, said over lunch at a Thai restaurant in Manhattan last month, in his first interview about his campaign. In just a few years, he said, “we’re going to have a million truck drivers out of work who are 94 percent male, with an average level of education of high school or one year of college.”
“That one innovation,” he continued, “will be enough to create riots in the street. And we’re about to do the same thing to retail workers, call center workers, fast-food workers, insurance companies, accounting firms.”Alarmist? Sure. But Mr. Yang’s doomsday prophecy echoes the concerns of a growing number of labor economists and tech experts who are worried about the coming economic consequences of automation. A 2017 report by McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm, concluded that by 2030 — three presidential terms from now — as many as one-third of American jobs may disappear because of automation….’
‘Scientists from the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London showed that psilocybin, the active compound in psychedelic mushrooms, makes people less likely to embrace authoritarian views like fascism and more connected with nature….’
‘In the United States alone, someone dies by suicide once every 13 minutes. For the longest time, there was a cloak of secrecy about the details of a death by suicide, but talking about suicide may be the best hope for stopping it, according to researchers.
Until recently, many religious leaders were not well-prepared to talk about suicide with their congregants. Now some clergy have become an important part of suicide prevention….’
‘It’s been a long time since it was first proposed, but now scientists appear to have finally found evidence of a weird quantum object called an “odderon“. “We’ve been looking for this since the 1970s,” says Christophe Royon of the University of Kansas (UK)….’
‘We speak about the “Mueller probe” as a single entity, but it’s important to understand that there are no fewer than five (known) separate investigations under the broad umbrella of the special counsel’s office—some threads of these investigations may overlap or intersect, some may be completely free-standing, and some potential targets may be part of multiple threads. But it’s important to understand the different “buckets” of Mueller’s probe..
1. Preexisting Business Deals and Money Laundering…
Co-founder of EFF and Grateful Dead lyricist dead at 70:
‘John Perry Barlow, a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, rancher, and lyricist for the Grateful Dead, died Wednesday at the age of 70.
The San Francisco-based digital rights advocacy organization said that it was mourning the loss of its co-founder. “It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership,” Cindy Cohn, the group’s executive director, wrote in a blog post. “He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”…’
The case of a 13-year-old Oakland girl whose family has fought to continue care for her for more than two years after she was declared dead (in the face of complications of a tonsillectomy) raises questions about our definition of death, the medical establishment’s response to costly mistakes, and largely overlooked dimensions of the disparity in the healthcare of ethnic and religious minority patients.
Interestingly, she began to menstruate several years into this state, a change mediated by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. A condition called ischemic penumbra, proposed by some (but hardly generally accepted) might lead to a misdiagnosis of brain death in patients whose diminished but continuing cerebral blood flow could not be detected by standard tests, holding out the promise of some degree of recovery. Moreover, even if she was brain dead, is it necessarily the case that “the destruction of one organ is synonymous with death”? How similar is our notion of brain death to the concept embraced by the Nazis after the publication, in 1920, of a widely read medical and legal text called “Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Living”?
If one did not take the issues in this case seriously, some of them have a strong flavor of black comedy. The girl’s family brought a malpractice suit against the Oakland Children’s Hospital where she had undergone her surgery, but the hospital is fighting the legal standing of a corpse to bring a lawsuit. The IRS has rejected mother’s tax return saying that one of the ‘dependents’ she had listed was dead.I couldn’t help thinking of the movie Weekend at Bernie’s.
The case has provoked a so-called shadow effect in which a number of families, many of them from ethnic or racial minorities, have been going to court to prevent hospitals from turning off the ventilators of their loved ones declared brain-dead. One neurologist has done research on hundreds of cases of what he called “chronic survival” after brain death. When the director of the Center of Bioethics at Harvard, which had been instrumental in the consensus conference fifty years ago establishing the definition of brain death, began to refer to it as a ‘catastrophic brain injury’ instead of death, he prompted a backlash from, among others, transplant surgeons decrying the immorality of “…[putting] doubts in the minds of people about a practice that is saving countless lives.” There is even growing discussion of the morality of taking organs from such patients even if we do not believe them to be dead.
‘Over at The Intercept, Josh Begley, a data visualization artist, has posted a video entitled “Field of Vision – Concussion Protocol.” By way of introduction, he writes:
Since the season started, there have been more than 280 concussions in the NFL. That is an average of 12 concussions per week. Though it claims to take head injuries very seriously, the National Football League holds this data relatively close. It releases yearly statistics, but those numbers are published in aggregate, making it difficult to glean specific insights….’
‘…”[D]og shaming” has become popular on Twitter and Instagram, as owners around the world post shots of their trembling pets beside notes in which the dogs seem to cop to bad behavior… Human enthusiasm for guilty dogs seems boundless: A 2013 collection of dog-shaming photos landed on the New York Times best-seller list; [one] video has been viewed more than 50 million times.
But according to Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition expert at Barnard College, what we perceive as a dog’s guilty look is no sign of guilt at all… Far from signaling remorse, one group of researchers wrote in a 2012 paper, the guilty look is likely a submissive response that has proved advantageous because it reduces conflict between dog and human …’
However, I’m not sure I share the conclusion that this does not represent guilt. What we call guilt in humans is assumed to reflect a sense that one has done wrong by violating some moral code. But moral philosophers and psychologists know that some proportion of humans operate on the level not of governing their actions by some intrinsic sense of what is right or wrong but rather that of simply not getting caught by some powerful other — just what the researchers are saying is happening in the canine world.
PS: There is also a difference between “shame” and “guilt”. A rule of thumb is that shame is discomfort at who you are, whereas guilt is discomfort at something you’ve done. If you shame someone for something they did, you are globally condemning them as a person — or a dog — for a single action.
‘…[F]ruit can still surprise us. Whether it’s a bright-orange bulb that tastes like peanut butter, a poisonous lychee relative that becomes edible and egg-like when cooked, or a Pacific Island native that doubles as sugary treat and fibrous dental floss, these plants show us that the fruit world still holds many wonders for those willing to explore it….’