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.

Pictures: Light Paths Reveal Water Currents

Pictures: Light Paths Reveal Water Currents

Saturday, June 1, 2013