Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sex Matters In Migraine

Halos, auras, flashes of light, pins and needles running down your arms, the sudden scent of sulfur—many symptoms of a migraine have vaguely mystical qualities, and experts remain puzzled by the debilitating headaches' cause. Researchers at Harvard University, however, have come at least one step closer to figuring out why women are twice as likely to suffer from chronic migraines as men. The brain of a female migraineur looks so unlike the brain of a male migraineur, asserts Harvard scientist Nasim Maleki, that we should think of migraines in men and women as “different diseases altogether.”

Read more here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Literature And Emotional Intelligence

A new study published this week in Science concludes that you may get something unexpected from reading great literary works: more finely-tuned social and emotional skills. Conducted by Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd (researchers in the psych department at the New School for Social Research), the study determined that readers of literary fiction (as opposed to popular fiction or non-fiction) find themselves scoring better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence. In some cases, it took reading literary fiction for only a few minutes for test scores to improve.

The New York Times has a nice overview of the study, where, among other things, it features a quote by Albert Wendland, an English professor at Seton Hall, who puts the relationship between literature and social intelligence into clear terms: “Reading sensitive and lengthy explorations of people’s lives, that kind of fiction is literally putting yourself into another person’s position — lives that could be more difficult, more complex, more than what you might be used to in popular fiction. It makes sense that they will find that, yeah, that can lead to more empathy and understanding of other lives.”

Via Open Culture

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The post-meltdown world of Wall Street

Many of the top Wall Street bankers who were largely responsible for the disaster — and whose companies either collapsed or accepted billions in government bailouts — are also unemployed. But since they walked away from the disaster with millions, they’re juggling their ample free time between mansions and golf, skiing and tennis.

Meantime, the major banks that survived the crisis, largely because they were saved with taxpayer money after being deemed “too big to fail,” are now bigger and more powerful than ever.

The Center for Public Integrity looked at what happened to five former Wall Street kingpins to see what they are up to these days. None are in jail, nor are any criminal charges expected to be filed.

Read more here

Catching up on sleep debt?

Let's do some sleep math. You lost two hours of sleep every night last week because of a big project due on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, you slept in, getting four extra hours. Come Monday morning, you were feeling so bright-eyed, you only had one cup of coffee, instead of your usual two. But don't be duped by your apparent vim and vigor: You're still carrying around a heavy load of sleepiness, or what experts call "sleep debt"—in this case something like six hours, almost a full nights' sleep.

Sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you actually get. It's a deficit that grows every time we skim some extra minutes off our nightly slumber. "People accumulate sleep debt surreptitiously," says psychiatrist William C. Dement, founder of the Stanford University Sleep Clinic. Studies show that such short-term sleep deprivation leads to a foggy brain, worsened vision, impaired driving, and trouble remembering. Long-term effects include obesity, insulin resistance, and heart disease.

Read more here


A baby elephant calf named Zhuang-zhuang wept uncontrollably for five hours after he had to be separated from his mother at the Shendiaoshan wildlife reserve in Rong-cheng, China.

After his mother was seen trying to kick and crush the poor calf, Zhuang-zhuang was isolated and treated for his injuries. Zoo keepers hoped that the attack was an accident, and released him to be with his mother, only to be attacked again. He had to be separated again in order to save his life, and has since been adopted by one of the zoo keepers.

The mother’s reaction to her calf is probably an effect of life in captivity, as animals’ protective instincts can be altered when they live outside of their traditional social structures.

Via Bored Panda 


A guide to procrastinators

Via Bored Panda

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Girl

Before it became a 30-year international legal saga, the Roman Polanski case was a story about a powerful man and a powerless young girl.

In her new memoir, The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski, Samantha Geimer, the 50-year-old woman whom Polanski had sex with in 1977, when she was only13, tells that story, offering an intimate look at one of the biggest scandals in Hollywood history. Polanski, now 80 and living in exile in Europe, recently granted a rare interview about the case with Vanity Fair’s James Fox, in which he discussed his “persecution” by the legal system and the nature of his exile, a term he rejects, saying, “I was moving freely for 32 years.”

Though Geimer is as eager as Polanski is to move on, her memoir gives the event an immediacy that the case’s many complications had long ago obscured, as she tries to rescue herself from merely being “the girl.”

Read more here.

Drawing Mental Illness

Bobby Baker draws and talks mental illness.

You Do Not Matter That Much

We've learned lots, in recent years, about the phenomenon of "choking" in sports: when players, consumed with the belief that something really matters, try to seize control of a process best left unconscious, thereby screwing everything up. But a similar problem bedevils personal life, the workplace and politics.

The message that something really matters, intended to promote a sense of urgency and thus action, has the reverse effect: big decisions get delayed, more meetings are held, commissions of inquiry are launched. Even the aforementioned ebook, sadly, turns out to be full of advice about being "epic". ("Stop waiting for permission to be epic…

Your life is a one-way train, and any second you waste is a second lost for ever.") But that kind of talk raises the stakes. Often, it's much more helpful to lower them.

Read more here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chocolate Is Good For You

Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products, announced that the EU Commission approved its health claim submission on cocoa flavanols (Regulation No 851/2013),

The company received the right to use the health claim that “cocoa flavanols help maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, which contributes to normal blood flow” – the first in the cocoa and chocolate industry. Barry Callebaut was able to provide evidence that the daily intake of 200 mg of cocoa flavanols (provided by 2.5 g ACTICOA® cocoa powder or 10 g ACTICOA® dark chocolate) supports a healthy blood circulation by helping to maintain the elasticity of the blood vessels.

Barry Callebaut now has the proprietary right to use the cocoa flavanols claim within EU countries. The claim can be used for cocoa beverages (with cocoa powder) or for dark chocolate providing at least a daily intake of 200 mg of cocoa flavanols. Barry Callebaut will be able to use the claim for its ACTICOA® cocoa and chocolate products which retain most of the cocoa flavanols naturally present in the cocoa bean.

Read more here.

Knitting versus video games?

Ageing is a daunting process, not least because some of the first things to fail are also the most useful, such as memory, attention and motor skills. The idea that some form of regular mental activity—doing a crossword, for example—can postpone mental decline is not new. Now researchers have found another: playing a certain type of video game could help the elderly stay sharper for longer.

Find out more here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Where Is Syria?

As world leaders continue to debate Syria and conversation amongst the commentariat focuses ever more sharply on whether we should go to war, the professional quiz masters over at usvsth3m have created an interactive map, asking ‘Do you know where Damascus is? The US and UK are probably about to bomb it.’

Players are asked to click on where they are from and then click on where they think Damascus is, before their accuracy is revealed. A heat map then appears, showing how their answers compare with all the others who take the quiz.

Given the widespread news coverage of Syria over the past week and frequent reporting of the conflict for the past twenty months, it seems surprising that anyone wouldn’t know where Damascus was.
But Rob Manuel of usvsth3m told the Independent that preliminary analysis showed 19 of 1,150 people who responded to the quiz this morning had done so from computers inside the Houses of Parliament. Of those responses, one guessed Damascus was in Western Mongolia.

He said "I can tell you that, as of writing this sentence, there have been 19 answers sent through the Houses of Parliament's proxy servers: 18 were very close, but one guess was in the middle of western Mongolia. I hope that respondent isn't in charge of anything military. "

There is more here.

Poverty Versus Mental Capacity

People who are poor expend so much mental energy on the immediate problems of paying bills or cutting costs that they are left with less capacity to deal with other complex but important tasks, including education, training or managing their time, suggests research published on Thursday.

The cognitive deficit of being preoccupied with money problems was equivalent to a loss of 13 IQ points, losing an entire night's sleep or being a chronic alcoholic, according to the study. The authors say this could explain why poorer people are more likely to make mistakes or bad decisions that exacerbate their financial difficulties.

Read more here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The WSJ Juicing Guide

'A juice bar...

...on every corner" could be the unofficial slogan of the Obama era. In New York, the trend hit critical mass in the last year or so, but long before that, there was Melvin Major, Jr. "When I got into juicing 23, 24 years ago, it was kale, collards, chard," he said of the prevailing circa-1990 approach. "I couldn't do all-green—it was too hard-core. I wanted a great taste."

Perhaps you will find that great taste with the help of some recipes here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Goussainville-Vieux Pays

It was once the archetypal French village. Weekend markets with farmers selling local fresh produce drew hundreds to Goussainville-Vieux Pays’ squares, as church bells rang, and shops and cafes did a roaring trade.

But seemingly overnight Goussainville-Vieux Pays was left virtually deserted – a mixture of tragedy and noise pollution compelling the village’s rustic residents to abandon their homes, leaving them overgrown and rotting.
The problems can be traced back to the mid-1960s when plans were drawn up for a new airport to be built in the suburbs north of Paris.

Read more here.

The Mashco Piru Tribe, Peru

News emerged this week that an indigenous tribe in the Peruvian Amazon, the Mashco-Piro, has been trying to make contact with outsiders. In the past, the Mashco-Piro have always resisted interaction with strangers, avoiding – and sometimes killing – any they encounter. How should Western societies respond to these so-called uncontacted tribes? New Scientist looks at the issue.

How many uncontacted tribes are still left?

No one knows for sure. At a rough guess, there are probably more than 100 around the world, mostly in Amazonia and New Guinea, says Rebecca Spooner, of Survival International, a London-based organisation that advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples. Brazil's count is likely to be the most accurate. The government there has identified 77 uncontacted tribes through aerial surveys, and by talking to more Westernised indigenous groups about their neighbours.
There are thought to be around 15 uncontacted tribes in Peru, a handful in other Amazonian countries, a few dozen in the Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea and two tribes in the Andaman Islands off the coast of India. There may also be some in Malaysia and central Africa.

War Crimes: When Veterans Bring The Violence Back Home

At one point, one in five people behind bars in America were Vietnam veterans.

Now, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are increasingly showing up behind bars. Many experts are saying the common thread is often posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. While half of all Vietnam vets with PTSD have been in jail at least once, alarmingly many signs indicate that the numbers for veterans from these two recent wars could be even worse. In this episode, Vanguard correspondent and Navy SEAL, Kaj Larsen, examines the root factors of this growing trend.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Jeff Bridges & Photography

Jeff Bridges photographs the world he knows best: the movie sets he ends up in while he is working as an actor. Using a Widelux camera, each time he captures a world never seen before. And thus he produces a behind-the-scenes perspective of an industry many of us find intriguing.

His latest work documents the making of R.I.P.D. You can check it out here.

Van Morrison To Receive "Freedom of Belfast"

Van Morrison is to be granted the Freedom of Belfast.

The 68-year-old singer-songwriter, who was born in the east of the city, is likely to receive the accolade next year. Belfast City Council is expected to agree the honour - the highest it can bestow -at a meeting next month.

Read more here.

Female sexual desire?

What do women want? Sigmund Freud famously asked the question, but he didn't have an answer. Even today, the question of what motivates female sexual desire continues to resound. Definitive answers have proven elusive.

The female body,studies show, likes everything, or at least responds to everything (or does not know what it likes, the cynics will say). Female physiological arousal (as measured by vaginal lubrication) occurs in response to viewing most any type of sexual activity: man with woman, woman with woman, man with man. Even watching sex among Bonobo monkeys stimulates physiological arousal in women.
The prominent anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy of the University of California Davis has proposed that this all-inclusive arousal pattern is an evolutionary adaptation. According to this theory, the vagina immediately becomes moist at any hint of sexual activity in the vicinity so as to protect the woman from injury in the event of rape or sexual violence. This arousal is not necessarily related to the sexual desires, intents, or preferences of the woman. After all, women do not really want to have sex with Bonobos.

Indeed, it turns out that unlike men, women’s objective bodily responses don’t reflect their subjective mental desires. This is one reason Viagra does not work for women. Physical preparedness does not imply desire. That the woman can have sex does not mean she wants to.
So what does she want?

See if you can find out here.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The House In The Woods

Finnish photographer Kai Fagerström presents unique photo series, where he captures wild animals making themselves comfortable in abandoned houses in the woods of Finland. Titled The House in the Woods, the photo series is set in cottages near Kai’s summer house, which were abandoned by their tenants after the owner of the place died in a fire. Award-winning photographer noticed how the place was slowly being reclaimed by the nature, and what started as a few snapshots, ended up being a book, published in Finnish, German, and English.

Check it out here (via Bored Panda).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Beautiful Minds

Scientific American has published an article about "the real neuroscience of creativity".

Neuroscientists are investigating what actually happens in the brain during the creative process. And their findings are overturning conventional notions surrounding the neuroscience of creativity.

The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right brain/left brain distinction is not the right one when it comes to understanding how creativity is implemented in the brain. Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

Instead, the entire creative process– from the initial burst of inspiration to the final polished product– consists of many interacting cognitive processes and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.

Green: the attentional control network - red: the imagination network
Importantly, many of these brain regions work as a team to get the job done, and many recruit structures from both the left and right side of the brain. In recent years, evidence has accumulated suggesting that “cognition results from the dynamic interactions of distributed brain areas operating in large-scale networks.”
Depending on the task, different brain networks will be recruited. For instance, if you’re attempting to mentally rotate an image in your mind (e.g., trying to figure out how to fit luggage into the trunk of your car), the Visuospatial Network is likely to be active. This network involves communication between the posterior parietal cortex and frontal eye fields.

Read more here about the networks which are involved.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Voices in Eleanor's Head

To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other student, heading to college full of promise and without a care in the world. That was until the voices in her head started talking. Initially innocuous, these internal narrators became increasingly antagonistic and dictatorial, turning her life into a living nightmare. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, drugged, Longden was discarded by a system that didn't know how to help her. Longden tells the moving tale of her years-long journey back to mental health, and makes the case that it was through learning to listen to her voices that she was able to survive.
Eleanor Longden overcame her diagnosis of schizophrenia to earn a master’s in psychology and demonstrate that the voices in her head were “a sane reaction to insane circumstances.”

Bad driving

According to The Guardian the following are 10 of the most interesting biases and errors we face when behind the wheel:

1. We fail to realize when we are being aggressive - or we do not care.
2. We believe we are safer than we really are.
3. We forget that other drivers are people too.
4. We behave more aggressively to those of "lower status".
5. We believe we can see everything happening around us.
6. We also believe other drivers cannot see us.
7. We attribute near misses to a lack of ability in other drivers.
8. We overestimate our own skills at the same time.
9. We drive more recklessly when we are going solo.
10. We believe hands free car phones are safe.

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela

Can you spare 67 minutes of your time helping others?
Every year, on Mandela Day, people around the world are asked by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to do just that.
By devoting 67 minutes of their time – one minute for every year of Mr. Mandela’s public service – people can make a small gesture of solidarity with humanity and a step towards a global movement for good.

If you would like to donate your own time to public service, here are some things you can do to take action and inspire change:
  • Make a new friend. Get to know someone from a different cultural background. Only through mutual understanding can we rid our communities of intolerance and xenophobia.
  • Read to someone who can’t. Visit a local home for the blind and open up a new world for someone else.
  • Help out at the local animal shelter. Dogs without homes still need a walk and a bit of love.
  • Help someone get a job. Put together and print a CV for them, or help them with their interview skills.
  • Many terminally ill people have no one to speak to. Take a little time to have a chat and bring some sunshine into their lives.
  • Get tested for HIV and encourage your partner to do so too.
  • Take someone you know, who can’t afford it, to get their eyes tested or their teeth checked.
  • Donate a wheelchair or guide dog, to someone in need.
  • Buy a few blankets, or grab the ones you no longer need from home and give them to someone in need.
To see all 67 suggestions for action, visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation site.

Via UN

Vampire Burial

a "vampire" grave
When archaeologists opened an ancient grave at a highway construction site near Gliwice, Poland, they came across a scene from a horror movie: a suspected vampire burial.

Interred in the ground were skeletal remains of humans whose severed heads rested upon their legs—an ancient Slavic burial practice for disposing of suspected vampires, in hopes that decapitated individuals wouldn't be able to rise from their tombs.
But the recent Polish discovery isn't the first time that archaeologists have stumbled upon graves of those thought to be undead. Here's what science has to tell us about a few of history's famous revenant suspects.
Read more here.

The Belgians!

On 21 July Belgium celebrates Independence Day. Moreover, King Albert II will abdicate in favor of his son, Prince Filip, this year. As long as life just goes on, the Belgians will not lose much sleep over it, I guess and hope. Meanwhile, some clever guy produced a YT clip about them "miserable fat Belgian bastards"...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What Is Music?

What is Music? from Christian Robinson on Vimeo.
Animated short documents children's understanding of music.

Animal Sounds In Different Languages

Bow Wow Meow - Animal Sounds in Different Languages from properniceinnit on Vimeo.
Ever wanted to know how different languages interpret animal sounds?

Featuring English, Mandarin, French, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Hindi, Canadian-French, Romanian, Japanese, Russian, Dutch, Bengali, Brazilian-Portuguese, Colombian-Spanish, Swahili and Mongolian.

I wanted to get as many languages as possible but had to draw the line somewhere. The video grew out of a conversation I had with some friends on a lunch break.

The Atlantic Wall

I visited the Atlantic Wall, an open air, military museum which preserves fortifications of the Atlantic Wall dating to the First and Second World Wars.The section of fortifications owned by the museum - over 60 bunkers and two miles of trenches - is among the best preserved sections of the defensive line in Europe. The fortifications survive because they were built on land belonging to Prince Charles of Belgium who decided not to destroy them after liberation. They were kept as a national monument.

The weather was hot yesterday, but the site is worth the sweat. Here are some of the pictures I took.

Sperm Crisis?

Are today's young men less fertile than their fathers were? It's a controversy in the fertility field, with some experts raising the alarm over what some are calling a "sperm crisis" because they believe men's sperm counts have been decreasing for a decade or more.

Experts here for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual conference last week debated the issue for an entire day.

Read more about it here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Cronut

You have probably never tasted it, but you have likely heard of it: the cronut.

The cronut

It rolled out in May at in New York City. Since then, it has taken off. A black market has sprung up, with scalpers selling them for up to . Social and traditional media have lit up with coverage, and imitators around the world are trying to tap in on the success.

Chef-owner Dominique Ansel only makes about 300 cronuts a day. Some customers camp out overnight to get their hands on one. And some leave disappointed: Cronuts always sells out.

Via NPR.

Bruce Springsteen @ Werchter: Jailhouse Rock

Raymond Loewy

Raymond Loewy, the hugely influential industrial designer who put his mark on the American automobile industry with groundbreaking vehicles such as the Studebaker Champion, Starliner and Avanti, died on this day in 1986 at his home in Monte Carlo at the age of 92.

Raymond Loewy
 Born in France, Loewy served as an engineer in the French army during World War I before completing his degree in engineering and moving to New York City. He had found success as a fashion illustrator by 1929, when Sigmund Gestetner, a British manufacturer of duplicating machines, commissioned him to improve the appearance of his company's product. Loewy revamped the look of the Gestetner duplicator, covering its protruding parts with a smooth shell mounted on a simple base. The design's success earned him a product design job at the Hupp Motor Company, where he began his long association with American automobile manufacturers.

Loewy advocated longer, lighter vehicles that would be more fuel-efficient, a bias that was ahead of its time and clashed with the prevailing attitudes in Detroit. Among his design contributions over the years were slanted windshields, built-in headlights and wheel covers. The Loewy-designed 1947 Studebaker Champion, was dubbed the "coming or going" Studebaker, as it looked very similar whether viewed from the front or the back. His 1953 Starliner Coupe made a splash with its clean lines, lightweight body and relative lack of chrome—quite a contrast from the large, shiny vehicles popular in that era. (In 1972, a poll of American car stylists would pick the Starliner as the industry's best: As Automotive News announced, "The 1953 Studebaker, a long-nosed coupe, with little trim and an air of motion about it, was acclaimed the top car of all time.") Loewy also designed the classic Avanti and Avanti II sports cars for Studebaker.

Studebaker Champion 1947

Founded in the 1930s, Raymond Loewy Associates grew into the largest industrial design firm in the world. Among Loewy's other famous designs were the Lucky Strike cigarette package, the slenderized Coca-Cola bottle, the U.S. Postal Service emblem and the Exxon logo. His signature streamlined look spread to hundreds of products, from toothbrushes and ballpoint pens to refrigerators, but was particularly influential in the transportation industry. Loewy went from streamlining the trash receptacles at New York's Pennsylvania Station to designing the first all-welded locomotive (in 1937). Loewy also designed the modern Greyhound bus (and logo), the interior of NASA's Saturn I, Saturn V, and Skylab spacecraft, and Air Force One, which he redesigned for President John F. Kennedy, giving it the sleek white missile-like exterior it has today.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


royal cartoons in The New Yorker.

The Rich Get Richer

Harmonic Fields

The wind is currently playing 500 instruments and thus creating another symphony in Genk (Belgium). This art project was set up by Pierre Sauvageot, who found inspiration in Bali where local people use wind chimes as scarecrows.

John Lennon visits Happy Days

Those were the days. Loved watching The Fonz! 


Here's a definitive sign that Americans have taken multitasking way too far: They're looking at their smartphones while doing it.

Nearly 20 percent of young adult smartphone owners in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 34 use their smartphones during sex,and nearly 1 in ten U.S. adults who own smartphones use them during sex.

The survey from Harris Interactive on behalf of startup Jumio did not ask respondents what they are "using" the phones for. Perhaps there's something much more kinky going on here. Probably though it's just a lot of people surreptitiously glancing at their iPhones to see if they got a text or a new comment on their Facebook post.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Terry Gilliam / Monty Python

Bazz Is Ready For Work

Bazz isn’t just wearing adorable doggie sneakers and a scary-looking perma-cone of shame. And he’s not headed into space. He’s trained to sniff out American foulbrood, a quick-spreading disease that infects bee larvae and wipes out beehives.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Can I Just Have One More Moondance With You?

Since it is one of my faves, here is a priceless version of Moondance, brought to you by Van, George Benson, Etta James and some other talented folks. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Interspecies Internet?

Apes, dolphins and elephants are animals with remarkable communication skills. Could the internet be expanded to include sentient species like them? A new and developing idea from a panel of four great thinkers -- dolphin researcher Diana Reiss, musician Peter Gabriel, internet of things visionary Neil Gershenfeld and Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet.

Johannes Stötter Art

Great stuff from Johannes Stötter

Via Bored Panda

Holding The Human Heart

Immersion: what the NSA knows about you

Looking for an intuitive way to understand the kind of data the N.S.A. has been collecting on all of us? A team at MIT has developed a helpful graphic for GMail users. "Immersion" is a program that reads only the meta data from your email – precisely what the N.S.A. is collecting from telephone and internet records – and creates a visual web of interconnectedness between you and the people in your inbox.

What’s the big deal about collecting this information? If you’re of the mind to give Immersion a try, you can get a sense of the kind of information it can reveal, particularly over time. According to The New Yorker's Jane Mayer, you don’t need to know the content of conversations to get the gist of what’s going on. Mayer’s post points out that you might make an appointment with a gynecologist, then an oncologist, and then you may make a series of calls to close family members and friends. What’s going on? It’s not hard to deduce that you’ve received a diagnosis of cancer. Likewise, journalists who count on anonymity to protect their sensitive sources can be outed easily with meta data. And lest you think you are carrying on an extramarital fling unnoticed, meta data can reveal that, too.
This type of intrusion is easy to minimize because meta data is not meaningful or even familiar to most people. Intuitively, we are more concerned with revealing the content of our conversations. Yet if we are to fully understand the significance of this type of data mining, we must present the data in ways that hit home. Immersion is one such way. Check it out.

They do not seem to have much on me. But then I do not really make much use of GMail.


Monday, July 8, 2013

A Circus Lion

The UK government recently announced that a ban prohibiting the use of wild animals in circuses in Britain would come into effect in 2015.

 How many big cats, elephants and other animals watch the world through the bars of cages, without ever having known the infinity of wilderness? Knowing, instead, the blurred scenery of tarred roads, as they travel in gaudy procession from town to town.

read more

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Eternal flames

Eternal flames mark only our most important shrines – but nature has them aplenty. This one, burning behind a waterfall veil in Erie county, New York, has now been studied in detail.

The flames can arise in places where natural gas seeps continually from underground rocks. When the flow concentrates into a strong "macroseep" and ignites, the resulting flame need never go out.

The one in Erie County is 20 centimetres tall and burns about a kilogram of gas a day – mostly methane, although it also contains the highest proportions of ethane and propane ever recorded in a natural seep. The chemistry of the gas revealed that its source is a known shale formation about 400 metres down.

Local tectonic events have "naturally fracked" the underlying rocks. The researchers suggest that such sites might present good opportunities for hydrocarbon exploration without resorting to artificial fracking.
Seepage of natural gas has important implications for the atmosphere too. Almost a third of the methane in air comes from natural sources: natural gas seeps and wetlands are the biggest.

Size Zero

The fashion industry is not a pretty business. One of its own, Kirstie Clements describes a thin-obsessed culture in which starving models eat tissues and resort to surgery when dieting isn't enough

One of the most controversial aspects of fashion magazines, and the fashion industry, is models. Specifically, how young they are and how thin they are. It's a topic that continues to create endless debate, in the press and in the community. It's a precarious subject, and there are many unpleasant truths beneath the surface that are not discussed or acknowledged publicly.

In the late 1980s models were generally drawn from a pool of local girls, who were naturally willowy and slim, had glowing skin, shiny hair and loads of energy. They ate lunch, sparingly for sure, but they ate. They were not skin and bones. I don't think anyone believes that a model can eat anything she wants, not exercise and still stay a flawless size 8 (except when they are very young), so whatever regime these girls were following was keeping them healthy.
There were signs that other models were using different methods to stay svelte like fainting on a more than regular basis or spending time in hospital "being on a drip". Such was the fate of fit models. A fit model is one who is used in the top designer ateliers, or workrooms, and is the body around which the clothes are designed. That the ideal body shape used as a starting point for a collection should be a female on the brink of hospitalisation from starvation is frightening.

read full article

Weight loss thanks to Online Social Networks?

Online social networks (OSNs) are a new, promising approach for catalyzing health-related behavior change. To date, the empirical evidence on their impact has been limited.

Using a randomized trial, the impact of a health-oriented OSN with accelerometer and scales on participant’s physical activity, weight, and clinical indicators was assessed.

A sample of 349 PeaceHealth Oregon employees and family members participated in the research scheme (iWell OSN) or a control group and were followed for 6 months in 2010-2011. The iWell OSN enabled participants to connect with “friends,” make public postings, view contacts’ postings, set goals, download the number of their steps from an accelerometer and their weight from a scale, view trends in physical activity and weight, and compete against others in physical activity. Both control and intervention participants received traditional education material on diet and physical activity. Laboratory data on weight and clinical indicators (triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, or low-density lipoprotein), and self-reported data on physical activity, were collected at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months.  

At 6 months, the intervention group increased leisure walking minutes by 164% compared with 47% in the control group. The intervention group also lost more weight than the controls (5.2 pounds compared with 1.5 pounds). There were no observed significant differences in vigorous exercise or clinical indicators between the 2 groups. Among intervention participants, greater OSN use, as measured by number of private messages sent, was associated with a greater increase in leisure walking and greater weight reduction over the study period.

The study provides evidence that interventions using OSNs can successfully promote increases in physical activity and weight loss.

read full article here

The Advantages of Not Saying You Are Sorry

Most apologies exact some toll on the offender, as it can be embarrassing to admit a mistake publicly or even to just one other person. And, as with Deen’s apology, the offender often suffers additional penalties as a result of the admission of guilt. Confession of a wrongdoing can damage a relationship, lead to loss of status or power, or even result in the termination of employment. These common costs may help explain the seemingly widespread reluctance to say, “I’m sorry.”  From politicians and professional athletes to friends and co-workers, denial of culpability is far too familiar.

Beyond avoiding the embarrassment and potential penalty associated with admitting a wrongdoing, new research by Tyler Okimoto and colleagues in Australia suggests that there are deeper internal motives for our refusal to apologize. Okimoto's research shows that those who refuse to express remorse maintain a greater sense of control and feel better about themselves than those who take no action after making a mistake.
Such findings may seem paradoxical, given the common wisdom that we should take responsibility for our actions and say we are sorry if we do harm. Indeed, research confirms the benefits of apologies for both victims and offenders. For victims, an apology serves as a form of moral restitution. When you apologize to a person you have offended, you convey a sense of power to that person. The victim can accept or reject the apology, and can extend or withhold forgiveness. As a result, the balance of power shifts from the offender to the offended. Victims may assume a position of superiority when they take the moral high ground and offer mercy to the guilty party, or they may gain a sense of power over the transgressor by denying pardon. Thus for victims, the culprit's admission of guilt and contrition can be restorative.

There are upsides to apologies for the offenders too. By acknowledging personal mistakes and conveying remorse,offenders may diffuse anger and decrease the impending punishment or penalty, enhance their image in the eyes of the victim and other people, regain acceptance in a social group, or restore personal relationships. They may even reduce their own sense of guilt.

Given that apologies offer a relatively simple way to mend relations and heal wounds for victims and offenders, why do people refuse to apologize? Beyond escaping punishment, there may be some psychological benefits to standing one's ground. For example, adopting a self-righteous stance may feed one's need for power. If the act of apologizing restores power to the victim, it may also simultaneously diminish the power of the transgressor. Thus actively denying any wrongdoing may allow the offender to retain the upper  hand. If one cannot deny an error entirely, minimizing the error may be the next best thing.  Perhaps one reason that many felt Deen’s apology rang hollow was that she attempted to mitigate the severity of her infraction by stating that she only made the racial slur once, with a gun pointed at her head.


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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Van Morrison- BBC Four Sessions (Full Concert, 2008)


Precious Time
Magic Time
I’m Not Feeling it Any More
Song of Home Playhouse
End of the Land Vanlose Stairway
Help Me
One Irish Rover
That’s Entrainment
Keep it Simple
Behind the Ritual

What The Amazonian Tribes Can Teach Us


We at the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) have had the great honor and pleasure of collaborating with the Waurá people since 2003, when ACT and 14 tribes of the Xingu Indigenous Reserve of Mato Grosso state began collaborative ethnographic and land use mapping of the Reserve.   Following the completion of mapping, ACT provided material support to enable the Waurá and other Xingu tribes to mobilize against the first of a series of planned hydroelectric dams in their territory, effectively (at the time) delaying its construction.  As one of the most activist groups of the region, the Waurá also requested that ACT sponsor overflights of their territory to allow them to conduct surveillance for illegal activities.   
ACT provided material and supplies (including food and hammocks) to the Waurá for border fencing, signing, and general surveillance, and also provided fuel and replenishment parts for Waurá boats to permit them to travel to the border region with greater frequency and to monitor the rivers to prevent illegal incursions by outside hunters and fishermen.

Capacity building has been an essential element of our partnership: ACT has sponsored training for the Waurá in land monitoring and park ranger techniques, GPS utilization, basic computer use, forest fire control, environmental pollution control, first aid, outboard motor maintenance and repair, project proposal writing, project management, accounting, and institutional strengthening for indigenous associations.  In 2009, the Waurá were visited by a delegation from the Skoll Foundation—Jeff Skoll, Sally Osberg, and David Rothschild—who were able to observe firsthand the Waurás’ struggle to organize themselves and other Xingu tribes to decide the fate of their cultures, their rivers, and their forests.
From a cultural perspective, ACT has also sponsored multiple exchanges between the Waurá and indigenous leaders from other regions of the Amazon as well as North America, supported their expeditions through culturally significant sites outside the Reserve in order to improve their documentation, and helped them to take essential steps to preserving the integrity of their primary ancestral site outside their current territory, the Kamukuaká Cavern.
In 2010, three structures were completed for the benefit of the Waurás’ Tulukai indigenous association: an office to house administrative work and meetings; guest quarters to receive visitors, especially from the government and NGOs, and to provide a workspace for visitors; and a kitchen to provide for those visitors and associated meetings.  With this construction, the Waurá became able to conduct the majority of their association business within their primary community, bringing others to temporarily reside with them and hold meetings in context.

In 2011, with ACT’s help, the Waurá began construction of a second village, Ulupuene, to enable them to better protect the reserve’s southwest border.  Subsequently, ACT supported the creation of a new association for the Waurá, also named Ulupuene on the Batovi River.  ACT staff made a first visit to the new village in April 2013.

Currently, ACT is partnering with a Brazilian NGO partner, SynbioBrasil, to provide technical and logistical support to the Waurá, who are determined to protect their territory and traditions while reconciling their need to adapt to an ever-changing world. Though, the outside world has closed in on several sides, as Ken Brecher saw during his fieldwork, the Waurá remain a proud and traditional people, determined to protect their forest and their culture. They need our help to make this possible.

What The Amazonian Tribes Can Teach Us

Sunday, June 23, 2013


In the massive economic misery that has engulfed Greece, the people at the very bottom of Greek society -- namely, the homeless of cities like Athens -- are being decimated by a cheap new drug called sisa, which is described as a kind of ”cocaine for the poor."

A report in delineated how Athens’ swelling ranks of homeless and prostitutes have fallen prey to this new drug.

Bizarrely, no one is quite sure what all the ingredients are in sisa, although methamphetamine is definitely a core component.

But at only one or two euros ($1.29 to $2.58) per hit, it’s an attractive buy for the poor and/or homeless seeking any temporary escape from grim realities. For those who were already addicted to other, more expensive drugs like heroin or cocaine, sisa provides a far better value.

On a broader scale, Greek’s economic catastrophe -- which features, among other woes, a gargantuan 27 percent unemployment rate that has thrown tens of thousands of people into the streets -- has triggered not only more suicides, but higher rates of alcohol and drug addiction.

“Rates of drug and alcohol consumption ... as well as the associated mental health problems are set to rise the longer the recession continues,” Charalampos Poulopoulos, director of Kethea, a government-funded anti-drug organization, wrote in a report last year.

“Instability that results from widespread and increasing nationwide poverty leads to hopelessness, health problems and self-medication by way of street drugs. In the last two years, drug users have become more self-destructive, especially in the region of Athens where the effects of economic crisis are more obvious.”
Poulopoulos told Vice that the high from sisa is accompanied by dreadful after-effects, including insomnia, delusions, heart attacks and aggressive behavior. Other reported side effects are anorexia, palpitations and anxiety.

“It’s often compared with cocaine,” he said. “It’s the drug of the streets, produced in home-based laboratories.”

read more:
A Cheap New Drug Decimating Greece’s Homeless As Economic Crisis Tightens Grip

Saturday, June 22, 2013


“Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.”

Decades before the dawn of the positive psychology movement and a century before what neuroscience has taught us about the benefits of optimism, Helen Keller — the remarkable woman who grew up without sight and hearing until, with the help of her teacher Annie Sullivan, she learned to speak, read, write, and inhabit the life of the mind with such grace and fierceness that made her one of history’s most inspired intellectual heroes — penned a timeless treatise on optimism as a philosophy of life. Simply titled Optimism (public library; public domain), it was originally published in 1903 and written — a moment of pause here — after Keller learned to write on a grooved board over a sheet of paper, using the grooves and the end of her index pencil to guide her writing.
She opens the first half of the book, Optimism Within, by reflecting on the universal quest for happiness, that alluring and often elusive art-science at the heart of all human aspiration:

Could we choose our environment, and were desire in human undertakings synonymous with endowment, all men would, I suppose, be optimists. Certainly most of us regard happiness as the proper end of all earthly enterprise. The will to be happy animates alike the philosopher, the prince and the chimney-sweep. No matter how dull, or how mean, or how wise a man is, he feels that happiness is his indisputable right.

brain pickings

Edward Snowden charged with espionage

Federal prosecutors have filed a criminal complaint against Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked a trove of documents about top-secret surveillance programs, and the United States has asked Hong Kong to detain him on a provisional arrest warrant, according to U.S. officials.
Snowden was charged with theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person,” according to the complaint. The last two charges were brought under the 1917 Espionage Act.

 read more here


Perhaps it is no coincidence that the animals we think of as being the most stupid – pigs, chickens, sheep – are also the ones we don't always treat too well. However, humans might be the ones who have to rethink the definitions of "bird-brain" and "pig ignorance".

According to a new report, chickens appear to be much more intelligent than previously thought, with better numeracy and spatial awareness skills than young children. "The domesticated chicken is something of a phenomenon," Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University, told the Times. "Studies over the past 20 years have revealed their finely honed sensory capacities, their ability to think, draw inferences, apply logic and plan ahead."

When we underestimate the intelligence of animals we already consider clever – for instance, last year, researchers at the University of Manchester who had been studying orangutans in Indonesia found the apes built complex nests in trees, using a wide variety of specially chosen materials – it is hardly surprising that those considered to be at the low end of the smart scale can surprise us.

We know that flies can remember their destination, even when a distraction is put in their path. Researchers have found that fish can be trained to associate a sound with feeding times, and even remember this when released into the wild; an earlier study suggested the idea that a goldfish had a three-second memory was unfounded – goldfish could learn to press a lever for food, something they would be able to recall months later.

read more here

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Happy B-Day Paul McCartney

Hey, Paul McCartney! They say it's your birthday...

At 71, Sir Paul is still rocking out harder than musicians half his age. Case in point, he plays for nearly three hours straight on his current tour.

For the young ones who might not know or if you've been living under a rock, Paul McCartney was in The Beatles and Wings ... and he brought us timeless classics like "Hey Jude," "Yesterday," "Band On The Run," "Live And Let Die" and many, many, many more. He's also been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and is known for his vegetarianism and support of animals.

While we'd really like to give him 71 hugs in honor of his special day, we settled for scouring the Internet for 71 Beatles GIFs to help us all celebrate. See more here.

Forget Lab Rats

Some researchers are now testing medicines on a silicon chip that could provide a better read on how a drug will work.
These scientists are building "organs on a chip," spooling together the important cells that make up, say, a lung, and then mimicking the key functions of the organ. Then researchers test to see what kind of impact a potential drug has on this lung-like system, created on a chip that is only a few inches long.
Companies are starting to tinker with this new technology, mostly for internal decision-making, since health regulators haven't yet authorized their use in decisions about whether a compound can enter human testing.

Lung on a Chip -- Wyss Institute from Wyss Institute on Vimeo.

Read more: WSJ

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The man who saved the world

50 years ago, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, second-in-command Vasilli Arkhipov of the Soviet submarine B-59 refused to agree with his Captain's order to launch nuclear torpedos against US warships and setting off what might well have been a terminal superpower nuclear war.
The US had been dropping depth charges near the submarine in an attempt to force it to surface, unaware it was carrying nuclear arms. The Soviet officers, who had lost radio contact with Moscow, concluded that World War 3 had begun, and 2 of the officers agreed to 'blast the warships out of the water'. Arkhipov refused to agree - unanimous consent of 3 officers was required - and thanks to him, the world was saved from being scarred badly. His story is finally being told - the BBC is airing a documentary on it.