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Un Obscura Laberinto
The Ocean is Troubled to its Depths
5th-Feb-2016 10:57 pm - Warping space and time
pion-muon decay
This is really beautiful, and a lot of other things for which I cannot, at the moment, come up with words for.

Skip ahead to about 1:17, to skip the intro.
5th-Feb-2016 05:59 pm - The need to belong
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As someone who has always felt like an outsider to all other humans, I have always had an impossibly hard time understanding the need most people feel to belong. But not just to belong to anything; rather, to belong to something that confers to you an identity. It is perhaps interesting that one's belonging to a family isn't enough; most people seem to need something more. It suddenly occurred to me to wonder if this need might come from the fact that we used to be hunter-gatherers. That is, for the overwhelming majority of the existence of humans, we lived in small communities that moved around, and our present day notion of "the family unit" didn't exist.
5th-Feb-2016 05:36 pm(no subject)
pion-muon decay
The only reason it seems like moral accountability can only be purchased by libertarian free will is because of an individualistic understanding of a person.
4th-Feb-2016 11:43 am - Poor little Donald, Part 2
Once again, Donald Trump proves to be a child. Because he didn't win the Iowa caucus, he's being a crybaby. And worse: he's calling the winner a cheater, and even threatening to sue(?). Gawd, it's sickening what a crybaby he is. And how amazingly fragile his inflated ego is.

My apologies for the lack of postings. It's an understatement to say that I am not doing well at all.
29th-Jan-2016 03:49 pm - Poor little Donald
Childish. Utterly childish. Poor little Donald Trump didn't want to take part in the debate because Megyn Kelly hurt his feelings!

I'm not sure a grown man could get any more childish than Donald Trump.

To Trump supporters: so you want a tantrum-throwing 6 year old for a president, eh? Well that says a lot about you.

The U.S. is literally the world's richest and most powerful country. We are the only superpower in the world right now. One of the ways we got here was through gaining the respect of the rest of the world. Trump has been contributing a great deal to why so many people around the world are increasingly losing respect for the U.S. Because he is turning this country into a slapstick circus sideshow – minus the talent. It's despicable and pathetic, and we should be ashamed.

Keep this in mind: when people lose respect for you, it's a hell of a lot harder to gain their respect back than it was to gain it in the first place.

And if you think you don't care what the rest of the world thinks of us, I suggest you take a serious look into just how much you yourself depend on our place in the global market. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
self inflicted
Interesting and informative. Scroll to 10:25 to skip the introductions.

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Because those bullshit and slanderous videos spread everywhere over the internet, got major headlines in a whole lot of media outlets, and the way this kind of shit usually works is that this follow-up news won't get nearly the same attention as the initial story last year. So everyone will just remember the bullshit slanderous lies, and so they will continue to be spread and passed on, and people will end up continually being disinformed about this. Please help to right the record on this. This is such an important issue. Because anti-abortion is just another form of the oppression of women, even more so for women of color and women who are financially below middle class.

Filmmakers who targeted Planned Parenthood face charges

(FYI: there's a video in the middle of the article that might automatically start playing when you get to it.) Planned Parenthood cleared, but 2 [anti-abortion activists] indicted over videos

I urge you to listen to this BBC Documentary podcast episode on how body parts are obtained for both research and for medical students in med school: The Resurrection Men
(Or, here is a link directly to the .mp3 file for it: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p02t7pm3.mp3)
22nd-Jan-2016 11:57 am - Black, Tattooed all I see…
Not sure why, but I've had this song stuck in my head for several days. (Not that it exactly reflects my life, but, …)
Sometimes I miss this era of music…
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16th-Jan-2016 09:13 pm - A rare post
pion-muon decay
I thought I was going to be skyping with a friend, so beforehand, I figured I'd make sure the lighting was okay – that my computer and myself were both angled in a way that allowed for the lighting to work okay, because my computer is right next to a window that gets the sunlight, and it was sunny out, so I wanted to make sure the angles didn't lead to me being whited out by the light. So I opened up the Photo Booth application to do that. Since I've only actually used Photo Booth maybe three or four times, I realized I'd never clicked on the "effects" button, and I was suddenly curious what "effects" there were. I chuckled at the "comic book" effect and couldn't resist clicking on it to check it out. I was purely curious just to see what it looked like, so I didn't think much of it when I clicked the button to snap a picture. I certainly didn't expect a sort of "unintentional" picture to end up being something I kind of liked.
So, it's a rare post when I actually post a picture of myself anymore.

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15th-Jan-2016 06:24 pm(no subject)
pion-muon decay
So, I mentioned the other day feeling vindicated when I hear or read about neuroscientists talking about things that I had suspected or inferred ought to be true:
Two articles, similar topic:
Neural reuse: a fundamental organizational principle of the brain
Neural reuse in the evolution and development of the brain: evidence for developmental homology?
14th-Jan-2016 06:34 pm - "Mein Kampf" Redux
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The copyright for Hitler's Mein Kampf just expired, putting the text into the public domain, which means it can be published in Germany again. (Republications and reprintings in Germany were forbidden by the Allies after the war, and the copyright was handed over to Bavaria.) In preparation, a group of historians with relevant specializations went through the text, line by line, and put together as thorough and as detailed as possible a collection of annotations and comments in order that a fully annotated version could be published as soon as the copyright expired. With their annotations included, the page count was more than doubled. Which gives you an idea of just how thorough and detailed they were.

New York Times article: http://nyti.ms/1PNGLD8
Politico article: http://www.politico.eu/article/hitlers-mein-kampf-back-on-sale-ausgabe-reprint-in-germany/

Obviously, a lot of people are upset by this, feeling it to be offensive, to put it mildly. The thing is, the offensiveness of the original text is precisely why I wholeheartedly support its republication, and even more so for this annotated version. Some people criticize the project because, they claim, it gives the impression that Hitler's ideas and his book have intellectual legitimacy and credence, that they "deserve" – whatever that means – to be part of an intellectual tradition and have a place in an ongoing intellectual discussion. I do see their point, and I would have likely said the same thing several years ago. But I think that line of reasoning is misguided and actually misses a much larger, more significant, and far more important point.

[I will get into that last point in a separate entry. Maybe. I wanted to go ahead and get this posted, because the trend for me lately has been that, the writing is so slow, because I have been doing really just horribly awful, extremely bad, so by the time I get through deeper philosophical stuff, a couple of months or more have passed. And at that point, why even bother posting? I probably have about 10-20 half finished entries that never got posted – actually, there's probably more than that – and will probably never be posted because they remain unfinished. Climate change, CRISPR, and more neuroscience have been in the works for months; given my current condition, I highly doubt those entries will ever get finished. I know, it's all extremely disappointing. Trust me, I have no idea why I even bother to continue living.]

Before going any further, I will direct your attention to another Politico article that caught my attention in the list of related articles. Because, at least in some sense and to some degree, this article is pretty much in line with what I wanted to say. It is on the Charlie Hebdo attack a year ago, what incited it, and more importantly, how the media, particularly here in the U.S., but also in Britain, failed horrendously in how they chose to [mis]report on it. It is written by a journalist who worked at Charlie Hebdo. It is a little long, but very well worth the read.


Back to Mein Kampf.
The very offensiveness of the work and its historical context is part of why I think it ought to be republished and reprinted, made openly available. It is disgusting, yes. It is painful, undoubtedly. It is something that a whole lot of people would rather just completely forget altogether, because the memories are horrific.
But we know how people are: forbidding something makes it alluring. And the last thing we need is to make it alluring, to give it a gloss of dangerous mystery, to give it a special status inviting a "cult following". And censorship often provides the censored with fodder to present themselves as being wronged – and they would be right – as victims of an oppressive force that should be fought against. (Of course the author here is long since dead, but 'the censored' can be anyone who identifies as a follower of Hitler's views, or something close enough to that.) And the ability to identify as victims often helps recruitment for fringe ideologies.

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13th-Jan-2016 10:57 pm - In Brussels after Paris
This was a very interesting and rather shocking at some points BBC Documentary Podcast: Molenbeek Through the Looking Glass. Molenbeek is a neighborhood in Brussels from which came the "frontman" and a few others who took place in the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. It is a predominantly Muslim neighborhood with a notorious reputation.
And here's a few more words about it from someone who lived there for nine years: Molenbeek Broke My Heart
12th-Jan-2016 05:43 pm - On the psychology of terrorism
This really is a great discussion about psychology in general – theorizing, theory-building and theoretical paradigm; real-world application to both explaining and understanding behavior in actual instances; and the practice of psychology as both an academic and scientific discipline. The terrorism stuff is surely quite interesting, especially with respect to real-world application; Horgan offers both criticisms of actual application and prescriptive recommendations for application; he even suggests the applicability to law enforcement in general, not just in dealing with terrorism.
But throughout the whole discussion, a lot of his comments and points are generalizable to other topics in psychology and psychology broadly.

Middle East Week Podcast: The Psychology of Terrorism

I like that his approach and methodology come off as both sensical and sensible. He is careful to distinguish as separate projects inquiries or research that ultimately have different goals, but superficially seem to be asking the same thing. One of his criticisms is that, failure to make such distinctions creates confusion and misguidance in the field. He highlights the need to distinguish between asking questions sparked by the desire to understand, and asking questions sparked by the demand to act. And it is the latter that he takes as the directive for his approach and methodology; because terrorism is the sort of thing that demands us to act, and action is the ultimate goal of his work. And I appreciate that he points out that his approach and methodology are partly the result of learning from past mistakes and errors. It is not at all common enough that experts and practitioners are willing to acknowledge, even to themselves, their mistakes.
8th-Jan-2016 10:10 pm(no subject)
In search of time
I have to admit, and I'm sure this might sound arrogant to some, but I feel slightly vindicated every time I hear (or read) neuroscientists talking about things that confirm what I suspected, based on what little neuroscience I know and on reflection of my own or others' experiences.
Considering that I have no formal education in neuroscience, and I just learn what I can of my own accord – alongside several other areas of interest, not all of which are in the sciences – and I just spend a lot of time thinking about all of this stuff, I take that to be an accomplishment of some sort. Though it is a bit strange at times to find myself thinking, well of course! and obviously!, to more than a few things about the brain; and I find myself wondering why and how anyone thought something different. It's not always of brand new findings from current research; some of it is stuff that's been known for a little while, but that I'd never previously come across being discussed. But some of it does come out of newer research that I hear about, usually through one of the few science heavy neuroscience podcasts I follow, or one of several any-sciences podcasts that I follow.
And: that sort of accomplishment in the face of mental disorders I struggle with everyday.

Oh yeah, there's that.
Yeah, mentally, psychologically, I've been a complete wreck, and still am. Probably even getting worse.
Not that that matters anyway. I'm just drifting further and further out to sea…
7th-Jan-2016 09:15 pm - What do Milgram's experiments show?
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Perhaps a more interesting question is, what do discussions of Milgram's experiments show?

A few years ago, Radiolab did a segment on Milgram's experiments, and it is worth listening to. Skip ahead to about 8 minutes in: http://www.radiolab.org/story/180103-whos-bad/
Obviously this is not scholarly discussion, but ordinary folk, but it's kind of fascinating to read through some of the comments on that piece.

I think it is fair to say that one thing discussions of Milgram's experiments show is the power of paradigm indoctrination and dogma in psychological research.
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200 years later, Percy Shelley's poetical essay on war and the state of humankind is finally revealed to the public world for the first time.

I always loved Shelley. Some of you may have noticed the Shelley poem on my profile "bio".

My apologies for failing to post anything lately. I have been severely struggling the past few weeks.
Writing bit by bit, if I can manage to muster anything at all. Trying to work on other projects. And of course, still always learning, as that seems the best distraction from depression and its destructive force.
4th-Nov-2015 06:06 pm - Plantains and Cassava
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Podcast episodes well worth listening to, to further or start to educate yourself on gravely important global issues such as agriculture. Especially in our time when climate change is increasingly affecting our capabilities for growing food. And notice I said "increasingly affecting": this is not new; this has been happening for longer than you can probably guess; it's just getting a whole lot worse. But on the good side, communication and information sharing technology – like, you know, the internet – is also increasingly aiding our abilities to actually deal with these problems, attending to them more quickly, hopefully more effectively and with the help of more people getting involved. Not to mention, of course, the great advances in sciences and technology that we can utilize in solving these problems.

Biotechnology in Uganda (First half of the episode.)

A Life Saving Banana for Uganda (First half of the episode.)

Solutions for Cassava – Biofortification and Characterizing Disease Vectors

Cassava Part 2: History, Domestication; Biotech Virus Resistance

I should have more to say about these larger, global agricultural issues at some point.
22nd-Oct-2015 03:19 pm - Autism, A.I., and Torture
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Being alive linked to autism! (The original blog post is actually a few years old, but it's not available at the original url.)

I highly recommend listening to the first half of this podcast episode: How attitudes to autism have changed Only the first half has to do with the autism stuff – especially for some of the very enlightening historical bits about autism.

A.I. and Robots
How far along do you think robotics and artificial intelligence are these days? How close do you think we really are to the science fiction image of robots and A.I.?
If you think we're getting close, think again.

We are still so very far from just getting artificial / robotic vision anywhere near to human vision. The significance of that ought not be underestimated. Robots would have to have something at least very, very close to, if not identical to, human vision, if they were to be anything even remotely like how we imagine them in science fiction.
Because we imagine – and want! – robots as seeing the same world of objects as we do. But you have to step back and realize and appreciate just how amazingly complicated our vision is, which you can only really see when you look at it from the perspective of neuroscience. Those who work in fields of robotics, particularly specializing in robotic vision, have consistently for decades had a hell of a time trying to develop even the most basic robotic vision. When you look at the neuroscience of visual perception, it immediately begins to become clear why. When you then start looking at that from the perspective of the evolution of the brain, it all really becomes clear.

So, with that in mind:

Pay particular attention to what's being said starting at about 7:35 in: BBC Documentaries: Revolutionaries: Artificial Intelligence The entirety is most certainly worth listening to. There are some audience member questions, too.

Then listen to: The Science Show: The hurdle for robots making sense of a 3D world

Now for the neuroscience! Skip ahead to 28:35 for a discussion on visual perception – pay careful attention, as it is discussed in the context of a recent experiment regarding hallucinations, but how that relates to normal vision may surprise you: The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, Episode 536. The whole discussion is 14 minutes long, and do listen to the whole thing, as there are some interesting points brought up at the end that give some more food for thought.

Also worth listening to a world authority on artificial intelligence and cognitive science, who also happens to have a very interesting background in a variety of different fields: BBC The Life Scientific: Margaret Boden She does express her thoughts on how much she believes we will achieve in A.I. and robotics. I have to admit, listening to the things she says about her background in a variety of different fields,… well, I feel I can certainly relate, especially to the idea of drawing upon so many different fields and seeing connections between so many of them. So I suppose I feel a bit comforted and perhaps even vindicated about the fact that I am interested in and read and learn about such a wide variety of fields and topics.

And finally, let's all get it fucking straight: Torture Does Not Work, and it's wrong. BBC Documentaries: Fighting Terror with Torture In all honesty, I would think anyone who knew anything about psychology would know that torture would be an utterly ineffective method of interrogation.

Interestingly, this site lists some problems with the above documentary, claiming it is "a subtle piece of propaganda for torture apologists", which is interesting to me precisely because I did not at all take it that way. I found the documentary to be obviously against torture, arguing that it doesn't work. (Maybe whoever wrote that is misunderstanding what 'apologist' means?)
One thing stated on that site is that the documentary doesn't really get into British involvement in torture. That's a fair criticism, of course. So, if you wanted to dip into just how dark and dirty the skeletons are in Britian's closet: Radiolab: Mau Mau.

My apologies, my dear readers, for my lack of postings. But you know, paralyzing depression's a bitch.
12th-Oct-2015 01:36 pm - Interview with Edward Snowden
An Interview with Edward Snowden via BBC

We need more whistleblowers willing to stand up against the highest powers in the land in order to stand up for the rights and liberties of the people, the rights and liberties that were supposed to make the United States the greatest place to live.

How did we end up being the place with some of the highest rates of violent crime in the developed world, the most unhealthy people in the developed world, and the greatest inequalities in the developed world?
self inflicted
I am linking the article below not because I agree with the author about the Nobel Peace Prize – I don't disagree either – but rather for the purpose of raising awareness about the awful violent rape that regularly occurs in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Having already known about this, I can tell you that this article does not really do justice to the victims in giving you an idea of just how violent and awful it can be. Given the type of website the article is published on, it makes sense to not go into a lot of the details. But I can tell you that there are lots of incidents with details so awful and so gruesome, it's the kind of mental imagery you spend the rest of your life wishing you could forget.

Denis Mukwege is a Congolese physician who… has personally treated over 20,000 women, girls, men and boys who have suffered the physical and psychological wounds of traumatic rape.
pion-muon decay
I haven't even listened to this all the way through, but it is really fascinating, especially if you like neuroscience. But also just for the fact that things like dementia and Alzheimer's – which are some of the things discussed – are a concern on most people's minds, because of family members suffering from such things. But also because the idea of developing something like that is really quite scary, and we still don't fully understand these diseases and don't really know how to prevent them or stop them.
It's also extremely fascinating to consider the idea that things like dementia or Alzheimer's might, at least in part, be the result of the body trying desperately to save itself, or in this case, the brain trying desperately to save itself. Thinking about that from the perspective of evolution… just deeply fascinating and interesting in trying to understand why and how we are the way we are, and how much of that we can "hack", so to speak.
But anyway…

I'll warn you, some bits of the conversation get a little technical, so if you're like me and want to grasp all of the nitty gritty details, you might need to backtrack at times and relisten to some of those bits.

Talkin' Immunology podcast: Neurodegenerative Diseases, Protein Misfolding, and Prion-like Proteins
I don't like the title of the original article, because it just kind of supports the persistently prejudiced perspective of those who end up in prison. So I'm not reposting it.

Original source: Wall Street Journal by Leslie Brody

NAPANOCH, N.Y.—On one side of the stage at a maximum-security prison here sat three men incarcerated for violent crimes.

On the other were three undergraduates from Harvard College.

After an hour of fast-moving debate Friday, the judges rendered their verdict.

The inmates won.
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self inflicted
Seriously, what the fuck? U.S. air strike on a known MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan (MSF, for those of you who don't know, is Doctors Without Boarders.)
UN says the attack may count as a war crime.

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. is trying to pin the blame on the Afghans, claiming that Afghan forces asked U.S. for the air strike.

But you know, at first, the U.S. claimed it was an accident ("collateral damage"). Hmm…

It would be naïve to think that the U.S. military and the U.S. government in the international sphere don't engage in shit you never hear about, naïve to think they're totally transparent with the American public about what they do in other, vulnerable countries. Supposedly they somehow represent you globally; but they don't ask for your permission to do the things they do internationally, and they often don't ever tell you, because sometimes they'd much rather you not know.

And no, I do not mean that in some conspiracy sort of way. Conspiracies make fun plots for high budget Hollywood movies, but it pretty much ends there. The real world is too complicated a mess to sustain any conspiracy. In so many ways too much of the American public just doesn't get, the reality is far worse than any conspiracy.
pion-muon decay
Many other countries celebrate great scientists by putting them on their currency. So what the hell are we lagging behind for?
The Treasury is redesigning the $10 bill and the goal is to feature a notable woman.

So how about an awesome scientist whose work has actually been crucial in and done so much for the field of genetics, but whom you've probably never even heard of?

Sign the petition to get Barbara McClintock on the bill!

[My apologies, dear readers, for the shortage of entries lately. It has been and still is a rough period right now. That's all I can say.]
11th-Sep-2015 06:43 pm - Genome Editing with CRISPR, Part IV
pion-muon decay
Part I
Part II
Part III

Picking up where I left off:

As stated in Part III, this whole discussion was prompted by the recent publication of some work using CRISPR in human embryos, and the reaction by the scientific community, which has bled over into part of the public sphere. Many have reacted negatively, calling for a moratorium, or an outright permanent ban, on the use of CRISPR in human embryos. Some of the reasons offered are perfectly legitimate concerns, but are rather misplaced, or are real concerns but not good reasons to prohibit such research.

Most of the legitimate concerns are basically practical concerns. The current state of our knowledge and understanding of the human genome and human genetics is simply not nearly robust enough for human genome editing to be safe, both with respect to immediate results and with respect to the consequences for future generations. It would therefore be unethical to use CRISPR for genome editing in humans at this time.
But this is surely not specific to human genome editing: all unsafe research and medical procedures are unethical. So, yes, safety is clearly a legitimate concern, but it's misplaced as a reaction to the recent CRISPR research on human embryos, which was far from being an attempt to use genome editing in humans. (I'll have more to say about this below.)

This brings me to a very crucial point in this discussion.

Because when you clear away the practical concerns, which all pretty much center around safety issues and our incomplete knowledge and understanding of human genetics, the refrain that so often comes up is, "we just should not alter the human genome (germ line)." In other words, some people want to say that, even if we could have complete knowledge and understanding of the human genome and human genetics, we still just shouldn't edit the human genome (germ line). Why? Because there's just something inherently wrong about that; it's just a line we shouldn't cross. Which is really just to say that it feels wrong, but they have no idea why, but they're sure it must be, even though they can't really give a reason. So, they urge, CRISPR should not be used in human embryos at all, and so should not be used on human embryos in research.

Now, I don't agree that we just shouldn't alter the human genome (germ line), but here's the thing: it's a non sequitur.
Genome editing in human embryos that will never [be able to] develop into actual people is not at all the same thing as editing "the human genome", or human germ line.
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5th-Sep-2015 12:10 am - Gadawan Kura
pion-muon decay
I love dogs, but, a hyena would be pretty damn awesome.
(Click on the image.)

self inflicted
How can humanity be so cruel and so terrible to its own? (Let us not forget that turning a blind eye can be an act of cruelty, too. After all, we throw parents in jail for negligence.)

Now that bodies of Syrian refugees, including those of small children, are washing up on beaches in Turkey, will the world take seriously Syria's ever-worsening humanitarian crisis?

Yes, ISIL is a serious problem, but it seems people keep forgetting that the Syrian government itself, Bashar al-Assad's regime, is killing its own citizens, too. And very likely, it's killing more than the so-called "Islamic State".
Is it any wonder so many Syrians are so desperate to flee?

I just don't get how so many people in Europe can see them as a problem.
"Yes, they need help," they say, "but now it's affecting our lives, too. Now this is too much."
Wait, so, there's a humanitarian crisis going on, tons of people are dying, at the hands of both terrorists and their own fucking government, and tons of those who flee in utter desperation from such dire conditions are dying as a result of being victims of heartlessly selfish people smugglers. But, the refugees who actually finally make it alive to your countries, as soon as they become an annoying inconvenience to you, that's too much? Well, what a fucking privilege you have.
In a heartbeat, it wouldn't take a second moment's thought, I'd open up my home, my little one bedroom apartment, to ten refugees, whether from Syria or Sudan or wherever.

(You know, I have to admit, it sounds vaguely familiar to something I heard some people saying about the problems blacks have been facing for too long now in Ferguson. I remembering seeing in some video some woman saying, "Yeah, I understand, they got problems, they need help. But," in reference to the protesters last month blocking the highway and stopping traffic for awhile, "now you're affecting other people's lives, and that's just taking it too far." No, lady, no; apparently you don't understand. Somehow, I'm sadly certain that if it was white people suffering such treatment, y'all'd be sending in the Marines, metaphorically speaking.)
Humans were hunter-gatherers first, and for a very long time. Every hunter-gatherer society we've encountered – the Hadza being one – displayed the same entirely egalitarian characteristics and communal child-rearing (no nuclear family). Cooperation, altruism, sharing, working together and helping each other: that is what made humans a successful species. None of that bullshit about competing in some tooth and nail race against each other; none of the bullshit you've been brainwashed to believe in with the infamous phrase, "survival of the fittest". Humans could not exist without some kind of community, some kind of society. And that means that, the humans who were compassionate, empathetic, generous and inclined to share, help someone, cooperate, and who saw the futility of sustained conflict and aggression, these were the humans who were fittest to survive.

I have to say, it kind of upsets me that I've never learned nor heard about these people before. It would be so much better for all of us if we were taught about peoples like this – and not just some one line in a textbook in sixth grade.

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pion-muon decay
On the one hand, our advancements in robotics are downright amazing. On the other hand, keeping in mind that these are clips of robot successes and not fails – of which there are plenty! – we are clearly nowhere near the kind of robots that conspiracy mythology would have you think.

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pion-muon decay
But will that stop them from making fools of themselves? No.

Alleged dinosaur cave painting is now 100% debunked. Just one more reason why technology is awesome.
One thing that amazes me again and again is people's failure to see the commonality between certain things. Like sexism and racism and homophobia (or heterosexism).
Take sexism and racism, for example.
One extremely significant commonality between them is the consistent refusal to listen and believe the things women and blacks say when they describe their experiences.

Now these days, more and more women are standing up for themselves and for other women, and doing a damn good job of calling men out on how much they are completely dismissive of what women say when they describe their experiences. And more and more men are finally listening, because the evidence has been stacking up against them.

Bother to educate yourself and have a listen:

Renee Hlozek: Who looks like a scientist? (about 10 min.)
BBC Inside Science: Women Scientists on Sexism in Science (about 30 min.)
BBC Discovery: Women on the ‘Problem with Science’ (about 30 min.)

Now it has to be said that, yes, for the most part, but not entirely, we're talking mostly about white men. Because a lot of this sort of discussion starts in the academic or professional spheres, which are still dominated by whites.

So there are more men nowadays who are pretty aware of the sexism that still occurs, how it affects women, and these men are pretty supportive of women being truly respected just as much as men are. And of course, that requires actually believing women.

The really hard thing about that – and more men are finally realizing this – is that Read more...Collapse )

Lastly, on this topic: I applaud The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe for their having added (starting the beginning of this year) to each and every episode a new segment called 'Forgotten Superheroes of Science', and they specifically pick out a lot of women scientists and non-white scientists to teach you about, precisely because tons of women and non-whites have been consistently intentionally left out of the textbooks and history of science. The segment in the podcast is always at the beginning, after a bit of introduction; so you could easily go through the archive (linked above) just to listen to those segments of any of this year's episodes. Obviously, I highly recommend doing so. It seriously puts things into perspective on how many really important people have been left completely unknown and unacknowledged in the general public and in schools.
26th-Aug-2015 01:30 pm - History is hard to own up to.
self inflicted
Just reposting this.
In case y'all forgot about it.
Or in case you missed it.
Or just overlooked it.

The Case for Reparations: An Intellectual Autopsy

And gotta have this one along with that:

The Case for Reparations
25th-Aug-2015 07:48 pm - Genome Editing with CRISPR, Part III
pion-muon decay
Part I
Part II
Part IV

[Let me make this very clear: I am being very pessimistic here in some of the things I say, especially regarding some hypotheticals. There might be some people who would disagree with me about how those hypotheticals might play out. While what I say about them does reflect my actual sentiments about these issues, I really do hope that I am wrong.]

So, what do I mean when I say this whole issue is an issue for the privileged of the Westernized world?

Those who are not part of the Westernized world, or are far enough out on the periphery between Westernized and not, since the boundary spans a hazy territory, don't get to take part in the discussion and the debate over CRISPR. That is to say, they don't have a voice in the discussion. (Just to get it out of the way: Yes, there are several millions of citizens of the Westernized world who also don't get to weigh in on the discussion. And I don't think they should. Much like in matters of auto mechanics, aeronautics, and heart surgery, these discussions ought to be left to the relevant experts and the legislators to deal with, not Joe Schmoe off the street. So in talking about those peoples of the non-Westernized world not having a voice in the discussion, it's their relevant experts and legislators that we need to be considering.)

This matters because so many of those peoples and nations face some very different problems than we in the Westernized world face. But if some of those problems could potentially be mitigated or solved with the help of CRISPR technology being used in very early human embryos, then it would seem to be wrong to prohibit that. (I will be a little more specific about this further below, and then in Part IV as well.)

Before continuing on this point, I need to bring up the actual issue that is being currently discussed amongst scientists and in the media since March/April this year. Because it's important to understand that "designer babies" are not what other scientists are worried about. (For the most part, but I'll get to that.) Several scientists have openly stated and argued that CRISPR should not be used on human embryos. Some of them claim it should never be used on human embryos, while others are willing to consider a potential future in which we might be able to, but for the time being, we ought not to. (Of course, saying you are open to a possible future in which it might be okay is one thing; but actually taking the next step sometime in the future to go ahead and allow it is quite another thing.) I will get to some of their reasons below.
This is all in response to a publication in April of the work of a group of scientists (in China) who had used CRISPR on human embryos.

No, China is not trying to genetically engineer their babies.
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25th-Aug-2015 10:36 am - Show me a hero, indeed.
spaces in between

"White people, by and large, are not very good at sharing physical space or power or many other kinds of social dynamics with significant numbers of people of color. It’s been documented time and time again. There is a great book by Andrew Hacker called Two Nations. My God, it’s almost a quarter century old, but it is an incredible primer on just how specific the desire of white America is to remain in a hyper-majority. … 'Show Me a Hero' is not about police violence. It’s certainly not about a white racist backlash against changing demographics, which is how I would characterize the Charleston or Lafayette shootings. Part of the implied power of the piece is we are taking you back 25 years and nothing has changed!"
self inflicted
Hatred is weaponizing Jesus

The thing, this is hardly a new thing. Christians have historically been very good at using their religion for hatred and oppression.
pion-muon decay
If you're nerdy and geeky enough, then I recommend the following two podcast episodes, both of which are hilarious as much as they are science nerdy.

Mendel's Finches, "Augmented Humanity": https://mendelsfinches.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/podcast-augmented-humanity/

Talkin' Immunology with BioLegend, "Science Ignorance and the Inner Workings of the Brain": http://www.biolegend.com/newsdetail/2417/
22nd-Aug-2015 12:36 am - Let's not forget Libya is in crisis
spaces in between
The latest news on the situation in Libya: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/08/libya-crisis-misrata-fight-150819105051589.html
In a nutshell:
The rival governments and divided factions across the country can't seem to come to any agreements so that they can create a unified government. This is a problem because – for whatever political reasons I don't feel up to researching at the moment, but I'm sure it's a lot of bureaucracy – the United Nations can't provide any help to Libya until it has a single government. And Libya is in serious need of help. ISIL is down there killing lots of civilians in their typically horrible ways. Citizens are suffering because the economy has fallen apart, and things like water and electricity haven't been consistent. And then there's the booming industry of smuggling refugees off the Libyan coast on those now infamous migrant death boats of the Mediterranean.

All right, I am gonna rant:Collapse )
21st-Aug-2015 02:49 pm - Sources of interest
In search of time


Apparently, if you are in the U.S. and you try to go to www.aljazeera.com, you will automatically be redirected to http://america.aljazeera.com/
What's the difference?
It's the difference between the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
So if you want to access the UK site, this will work: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/default.html
Al Jazeera on Africa: http://www.aljazeera.com/topics/regions/africa.html
Al Jazeera on the Middle East: http://www.aljazeera.com/topics/regions/middleeast.html
Al Jazeera also has a think tank site: http://studies.aljazeera.net/en/

Audio Global News from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nq0gn/episodes/player
Audio Africa Today from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nrtyw/episodes/downloads

Audio Middle East Week: http://middleeastweek.org/
21st-Aug-2015 12:17 pm - "Peacock" earrings
Most recent creation. Having gauged ears makes it very hard to find earrings I can wear and actually really like and can afford. But, I guess I'd kind of rather make my own anyway, just because what I like is so quirky, and because it almost entirely comes from out of my own mind and not directly from stuff I see. (Not directly, but of course I am influenced by all sorts of things I see, because we are all influenced by many things.)
I call them "peacock" because it's suddenly what came to mind one day while wearing them.

Images behind the cut…Collapse )
20th-Aug-2015 05:23 pm - The real paleolithic diet
self inflicted
When I first heard about "the paleo diet", my immediate reaction was, bullshit.
I knew it was bullshit because all diets are bullshit. Anyone who tells you that s/he has figured out "the perfect" diet is either lying to you (i.e., scamming you) or is deluded because s/he doesn't actually understand how biology works.

The diet industry is a multi billion dollar industry. Making up a new kind of diet is one of the common ways people make money, and some make lots of money from it.
(Seriously people, just spend a little time thinking carefully about how many people out there are making tons of money off of your ignorance, fooling you because they know you don't know any better, manipulating you because they know they can play with your emotions.)

But the paleo diet just by name I knew had to be total bullocks: a new diet trend trying to come off as based on evolution, and all about "returning" to some "original" human state. Anyone who actually understands evolution from a well-informed scientific perspective knows that that doesn't even make any sense. The reason it doesn't make any sense is basically the same reason that "missing link" doesn't make any sense when used in the context of evolution.

When I heard that the paleo diet was a low carb diet, it screamed "bullshit!" even louder. (Good lord, what a joke.)
I knew there was absolutely no way a low carb diet could have sustained our ancestors in order for things to have then played out the way they did so that they became a very successful species and then evolved into our species, with the brains that have allowed us to do all the kinds of amazing things humans have done over the past several thousand years, including launching ourselves into outer fucking space.

Well, the first story covered in this podcast is on the so-called "paleo diet" and it's lack of a scientific basis:
20th-Aug-2015 01:40 pm(no subject)
pion-muon decay
I love that I get emails with subject headings like, "Make every cloning project an easy one," and in the body of the email, "Can multi-insert reactions set you free from cloning frustrations?"

Of course this reminds me that I still have so much I keep wanting to write about genetics…
18th-Aug-2015 10:46 pm - Genome editing with CRISPR, Part II
pion-muon decay
Part I
Part III
Part IV

Picking up from where I left off:

What would it take to edit or alter the human genome?
This is related to getting at what exactly the human genome is, what it means to say that the human genome exists in every one of us, and yet we each have our own unique genome. What is the underlying relationship that links all of our individual genomes in a way that gives meaning to the concept of "the human genome"?
The passing on of DNA via reproduction. And changes to the genome of any species is just what evolution is.

Therefore, the only genetic material relevant to any discussion centering around altering or editing the human genome is genetic material that might be passed on and inherited. Which is to say, the only genetic material relevant to the discussion is that which is carried by gametes, i.e., sperm and ova. In humans, the cells that will give rise to sperm and ova are already present and distinguished from all other cells in the body before you're even born. (Genome editing done on an infant would not be ethically problematic with respect to concerns about altering the human genome.)

The only way to potentially affect the human genome would be by editing the genomes of the germ cells. One could, in principle, attempt to do this in a mature person by using CRISPR and targeting only the germ cells in the gonads (testes or ovaries).
However, there is a much easier way, and it is this particular method that is giving rise to all the hype. CRISPR can be used on a very early embryo – in the first week – before the cells that will become germ cells are set aside (in the early developing gonads). At such a stage, there is either no differentiation of cell types yet, or very little; so the cells that are present at this stage – embryonic stem cells – will give rise to all or most of the different cell types. Using CRISPR at this stage would then allow the edited genome to "get into", so to speak, a whole lot of cells throughout the developing embryo; but which particular cells it shows up in is basically left to chance, which is to say that, at that point, we have no control over where the edited genome "goes". But the earlier that editing takes place after fertilization, the far greater the chances are that all or most of the cells that get set aside to become germ cells will be carrying the edited version of the genome.

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Skin bleaching: https://youtu.be/SsULBY1kfOs
I hate this.
It is dangerous, but that's not the worst thing about it.
I am the last person to be against body modifications of any kind. I may think something is ugly, but if it makes a person genuinely feel good and feel true to him- or herself, then I am supportive of body modifications.

This is not about body modification. This is about racism: socially teaching people that black skin and black hair are ugly and undesirable and disgusting and just plain inferior.
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(You know, like Hitler and the Nazis needed their own fallacy, reductio ad hitlerum, or, argumentum ad nazium.)

I am so sick and disgusted with hearing and seeing people say, "More blacks are killed by other blacks than by cops." So obviously that makes it totally okay for cops to kill them, right??!! WTF is wrong with you??!!

DO NOT EVER confuse violent crime with police brutality!! DO NOT compare them!

You think that just because blacks commit violent crimes against other blacks justifies or makes it okay that cops are overly aggressive and violent and brutal toward them and even kill them?

Okay, let's carry that logic through, shall we?

Whites commit far more crimes against whites than blacks do.
More whites are killed by other whites than by blacks.
So clearly that justifies or makes it okay for blacks to kill whites. Or commit other crimes against them.
I mean, in the very least, what are y'all whites so scared of blacks for? It's other whites you need to watch out for! It's way more likely some other white person is gonna harm you in some way or other. The blacks who kill whites are just doing you a favor.

Maybe we should carry this one out, too, eh?
More women are harmed by their boyfriends and/or husbands than by anyone else…
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