Monday, October 23, 2006

Don't Look Up

US adopts tough new space policy

"The United States will preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space... and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests."

Corpse Scam

US undertakers admit corpse scam

Other evidence includes X-rays and photographs of exhumed corpses showing that where leg bones should have been, someone had inserted white plastic pipes.

The pipes were crudely reconnected to hip and ankle bones with screws before the legs were sewn back up.

New York City Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, said: "The unspeakable desecration of the bodies - PVC pipe was used to replace bones. Indeed, the very equipment that they used, the mask and gloves and surgical items were tossed into the bodies."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Pure Novelty Spurs The Brain:

Now, researchers Nico Bunzeck and Emrah Duzel report studies with humans showing that the SN/VTA does respond to novelty as such and this novelty motivates the brain to explore, seeking a reward. The researchers of University College London and Otto von Guericke University reported their findings in the August 3, 2006, issue of Neuron, published by Cell Press.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Nation of Neurotics? Blame the Puppet Masters?

According to this blog entry, personality traits like self-doubt and insecurity, can sometimes be attributed to a brain parasite infestation.

"So Lafferty wondered, is there a relationship between a country's prevalence of Toxoplasma and its culture?

The answer, he argues, is yes. He selected a few key features of human personality that Toxoplasma appears to influence, and which have been measured on a national scale--such as neuroticism, uncertainty avoidance, and "masculine" sex roles. Lafferty predicted that in countries with higher Toxoplasma rates, these features would all be stronger. He gathered data from studies on 39 countries in from all five continents. He corrected for various factors, for example including per capita gross domestic product as a variable. He found a signficiant correlation between high levels of the parasite and high levels of neuroticism. There was a positive but weak correlation between Toxoplasma and levels of uncertainty avoidances and masculine sex roles. However, if he excluded the non-Western countries of China, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, and Indonesia, the correlations of both personality measurements with Toxoplasma got much stronger."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Reality Grip

Our grip on reality is slim, says UCL scientist:
The neurological basis for poor witness statements and hallucinations has been found by scientists at UCL (University College London). In over a fifth of cases, people wrongly remembered whether they actually witnessed an event or just imagined it, according to a paper published in NeuroImage this week.

"Our work has implications for the validity of witness statements and agrees with other studies that show that our mind sometimes fills in memory gaps for us, and we confuse what we imagined occurred in a situation - which is related to what we expect to happen or what usually happens - with what actually happened.

"Most of us, though, have a critical reality monitoring function so that we are able to distinguish well enough between what is real and what is imagined and our imagination does not have too great an impact on our lives - unless the reality check system breaks down such as after stroke or in cases of schizophrenia."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Self Publishing

BookSurge Publishing:
BookSurge Publishing is a key partner for authors who, like you, choose to initiate the publishing of their work. We provide professional services throughout your publishing experience and beyond, from polishing your manuscript and creating an effective cover to providing valuable expertise and marketing services for maximum results.

Our staff are experts in publishing and marketing books, and our company is a pioneer in the self-publishing industry. BookSurge services are offered with one goal in mind: to provide you with a quality, marketable book and to arm you with a strategy to reach your full potential as an author.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Disabled Japanese to scale Swiss mountain aided by 'robot suits':
The battery-powered suit, code-named HAL, detects muscle movements through the natural electrical currents that pass over the surface of the skin and anticipates the next move. In this way, it aids movement and enhances the strength of the wearer.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

New StringTheory Notion Redefines the Big Bang:
A group of theoretical physicists has recently published an interesting string-theory scenario that describes a new way to approach the development of the Big Bang. They propose that the universe began as a type of theoretical space-filling object called a “brane.”

“Perhaps the most ambitious problem in cosmology is the question of the initial conditions of the universe — what it looked like before expanding into the stars and planets we see today,” said a physicist involved in the study, Robert Leigh of the University of Illinois, to “We propose that the universe, before expansion, was an unstable brane that decayed into innumerable string-loops to form the universe as we now know it.”

Neural Space

The Universe trapped in its own web:

This inhomogeneous distribution of matter is called the “Large-scale distribution of the Universe.” When the Universe is considered as whole, this distribution has a similar appearance to a spider’s web or the neural network of the brain.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

And Away We Go....

Welcome to my new online home. I've finally decided to establish my world-wide domination with a place where I can post my boring crap and don't bother anyone else. As you can probably see, I've posted a lot of stuff today, but don't worry gentle reader, my hands are not bloody from typing. I've just transferred a bunch of things I've posted on a group blog over the past year or so, to make it seem as if I'm not just starting this thing out today.

Clever, eh?

Okay. Not really.

Anyway, I think I'm gonna try to keep this updated and use it as a place to store news items and ideas that I might be able to use somewhere down the line. Thus, there will be a definite slant toward weird news, tech stuff, pictures from around the house (including kitty pics -- sorry) and my own drunken, late-night ramblings.

Let's see if I can actually keep up with this.

Lent Lent Lent

So, I know this is a little late, but even though I'm not religious in the least, I thought about what I might want to give up for Lent and realized that I wanted to give up giving up shit.

Take that, Lent!

By the way, I stole this cartoon from somewhere online a long time ago and have no idea where it came from now. If it's yours, I'm not taking credit for it. It made me laugh.

Now I Know Not To Do This...

Professor Allegedly Shows Explicit Video.

To his criminal justice class.

Of a man having sex with a pig.

"His pedagogy was to teach real life. His classes were very earthy. Some students took that very well, and some students didn't."


To his credit, I suppose, he hadn't planned on showing it. It wasn't part of the curriculum. It seems some of the students "begged" him "to show the 10-second footage." If they're anything like the 101 students I'm teaching at the moment, I can believe that.

He's still an idiot for showing it. And now he doesn't have a job. Brilliant.

Kitty Cuteness

Although, while cute, it was really all about both Tomie and Dru wanting the sweet spot on the back of the couch. They sat like this for a little while, groomed each other a bit, then Tomie made Dru leave.

But it was cute while it lasted. Tee-hee.

Jewish Millionaire Marries Dolphin

Jewish Millionaire Marries Dolphin

I'm not sure why her being Jewish is essential to the headline...

Best quote: "And I am not a pervert," she has stressed.

Welcome to a brand new year of weird.

Happy Holidays from Pope Palpatine!

What Does Your Birth Date Mean?

Here's mine. Somehow they know my weakness.

Your Birthdate: February 25

You excel at anything difficult or high tech.

In other words, you're a total (brilliant) geek.

It's difficult for you to find people worth spending time with.

Which is probably why you'll take over the world with your evil robots!

Your strength: Your unfailing logic

Your weakness: Loving machines more than people

Your power color: Tan

Your power symbol: Pi

Your power month: July

How The Death Star Works

Click Here to visit the collection of pages dedicated to the planet destroyer itself.

There's lots of good stuff here, like did you realize that by blowing up the first Death Star, Luke actually became a mass murderer? Check out the interesting "Life On the Death Star" link (or click here) to check out the Empire's interpretation of what the Rebel Alliance did that dark day.

News From The UK

Badger rampage injures five

"My husband opened the door and the badger sat there and then, gradually, just slowly walked towards him and attacked him."

Mike Weaver, from the Worcestershire Badger Society, said: "I have never heard of anything like this in 24 years of work with badgers throughout the UK."

And then there's this:

"A man carrying a suitcase which contained the torso of a murdered prostitute caught a bus."

"He paid her £20 for sex. They both smoked crack cocaine and after that he killed her," said Dorian Lovell-Pank QC, prosecuting.

One more:

"Gang fires rockets on main road."

Ok, they were fireworks, but it sounds like England is going crazy while the Royals are out of town.

Yes. I will probably try this...

New Scientist Breaking News - Invention: Coffee beer

After trying the eye-popping energy of Tilt, the new caffeine enhanced beer from the Anheuser Busch company, I think I'm probably ready to try coffee beer.

I would only recommend Tilt for someone who really doesn't want to get drunk, but wants to say he or she just had a beer before doing a lot of cleaning or fast talking. Seriously. They're marketing this stuff for twenty-something males who want to drink right after work but before a night of partying. The caffeine burns away any buzz and it tastes just like Red Bull. And no one should drink more than one of these giant 16 oz, orange concoctions.

They are pretty cheap though. And will keep you up all night.

Poll: Majority Reject Evolution

Click Here for details

51% of those polled believe "God" created humans in their current form, while 30% believe humans evolved, but "God" "guided" the process. Only 15% believe that "God" did not guide the process (which, I suppose, sidesteps the question of the existence of "God" and just asserts that "He/She/It" has better things to do). All the results are stated in the past tense as if the evolutionary process is finished and we are its pinnacle.

As someone who doesn't believe in "God", I find this very depressing. But as someone who believes in evolution, at least there's a total of 45% who support that in some form. Although it is only a random sample of 808 adults with a +/- margin of 4 points.

When did science become a matter of public opinion?

At least the Women's Movement was deemed worthwhile in another poll.

Welcome to NK News

Click here to check out the Database of North Korean Propaganda! It's loads of fun!

For even more entertainment click on the little head of Li'l Kim on the right and check out the Random Insult Generator to "find out what it's like to be a target of the KCNA's wrath."

"You black-hearted human scum, you have glaringly revealed your true colours!"


UFO Maps

UFO Maps

This is too cool!

Click on the little flying saucers and read the sighting reports!

Conan The Cow

What Is Best In LIfe?

Dogs fight Cow.

Cow wins.

Nothing bloody or gory, but lots of flying dogs.


For the Power Geeks

ThinkGeek :: PowerSquid Outlet Multiplier

I can't count the times that I've gotten ticked off trying to plug all of my electronic devices into the power strip only to lose an outlet (or two!!!) to those oversized plugs. It's about time someone came up with a way to fix the waste. Who needs the strip in the power strip?

If I hadn't just bought a battery back-up to plug everything into, this would be my very next purchase. Hell, I might still buy one for other parts of the apartment.

Words To Live By

Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
When in another's lair, show him respect or else do not go there.
If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.
Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and he cries out to be relieved.
Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
Do not harm little children.
Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him.

"Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink"

This is an item called "Kid's Beer" and is just a regular fizzy drink, but packaged and marketed like beer. The title of this posting is something the creators actually said in an interview about the stuff.

I truly enjoy Japanese marketing.

Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

First published in Argentina in 1941, Jorge Luis Borges' short story "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" tells the story of a secret encyclopedia of an imaginary world that slowly encroaches on "our" reality. For more insight into the story click here. Aww. Just read the story anyway.

Now, in 2005, an online gaming group called Orion's Arm is putting together a world of their own in which to write and play. It's hard sci-fi and they're building the world from the ground up, encyclopedia-style. Sounds cool, if time consuming. Now, if they can just keep their new reality from mine...

The Profits Of Fear

If anyone is interested, click here for a long interview/essay about Sam Cohen, the inventor of the neutron bomb. He was involved with RAND, the think tank that influenced most of American military policy during the cold war.

It's a very interesting tale of a very earnest and honest-sounding man. He cuts no one involved with nuclear defence any slack, including himself. It's a good read.

If you're into this sort of thing.

Dragons Over Tibet

From the Epoch Times International:

On June 22, 2004, the photographer went to Tibet’s Amdo region to attend the Qinghai-to-Xizang Railroad laying ceremony, and then took a plane from Lhasa to fly back inland. When flying over the Himalaya’s, he accidentally caught these two "dragons" in a picture that he took. He called these two objects "the Tibet dragons."

Looking at the photo, these two objects appear to have the characteristics of crawling creatures: The bodies seem to be covered by scales, the backs have spine-like protuberances, and also they have gradually thinning rear ends. Although the photo caught only a portion of the entire scene, it was sufficient create the appearance of two gigantic dragons flying in the clouds.

Pictures at the link.

SFPD Creative Crime Writing

Do as I say.

Go here. This is the San Francisco Police Department Community Update site. "Community Updates is a weekly information newsletter to inform the Northern District residents of incidents in the district."

Someone writing up these reports is taking the time to get creative. It's very very entertaining. Try starting out with July 19. It opens a .pdf file. Once open, scroll down to July 14th: 1:31 PM, Loitering for the Purpose of Narcotics Sales.

Here's an excerpt: "Challenging anyone to a fight is a misdemeanor. Challenging Jim Kreps to a fight is just plain foolish. Kreps is a big guy who is light on his feet and carries himself like a pugilist. His strength, however, is his professionalism."

This is excellent! I'm gonna go read more now.

edit - 2:52AM

Holy crap! Check out the Tuesday, May 24th link. The first full entry is for May 16th at 8:55AM. It's bloody brilliant! Even better than the Officer Kreps entry above!

Check this out: "Now the officer who had been running to keep pace with him closed in, and fear of capture charged the fleeing man like a cattle prod. He had just enough time to squeeze in front of the officer and run up a set of stairs, but it would be close. He could plainly hear the officer’s boots hit the pavement behind him. "Stop, police!" If he just concentrated on running, maybe that stolid mask of determination behind him would fade away. He took two stairs at a time."

This is good stuff!

A Collection of Unusual Neurological States

This is pretty interesting. Kind of small for a "collection" though. There are 4 neurological states described with a link for each to further research or articles. If nothing else, this is an excellent source for story ideas for you creative types.

It includes Capgras' Syndrome ("The Capgras' patient will typically identify people close to them as being imposters - identical in every possible way, but identical replicas."), along with some other, even more disturbing neurological hiccups.

I'm especially intrigued by Cotard's Syndrome, where the patient believes that they are dead, even though they are walking and talking. Creepy.

You'd Have To Be Crazy To Join the Romanian Orthodox Church...Oh, Wait...

Telegraph | News | 'Possessed' nun crucified after row with priest

Brain Downloads? For Real? - Brain downloads 'possible by 2050' - May 23, 2005

Words Influence Smells

Here's an interesting study.

It seems that our brains' interpretation of stimulus is affected by the sight of words. I'm not sure if this has any bearing on the ongoing discussion of qualia, but it might.

Need to think about it more.

Paper Toys

For your perusal, a page filled with links to .pdf files you can print out and put together to form cute (and sometimes very attractively designed) paper toys. They're very cool, if you ask me.

Mind Reading or Virtual Reality?

Click here for a very interesting article on how empathy might be established in individual minds.

If this theory is correct, and the evidence in the article seems pretty substantial (of course, being a single article with the intention of publicizing the theory, there could be some bias), I'm not sure the short-hand implication that's being touted is totally accurate.

Instead of being an example of mind-reading, these "mirror neurons" seem to me to be establishing an internal "virtual" reality simulation of events outside of the bio-temporal meat suit we all wear; A form of role playing rather than the communication implied in the "mind-reading" model. If this is true, the implications for the definition of individual identity and that pesky free will question we're talking about below, are pretty staggering, I think. It's not just empathy that's a possible result of the functioning of these "mirror neurons" but learning and decision making (at least decisions not based entirely on previous personal experience) as well.

Or maybe I'm just overreacting.

More Human Than Human

Here's a very interesting news item about monkeys and robot arms. Long story short: the monkeys tested demonstrated neurological evidence that their brain structures are adapting to treat the robot arm as if it were their own appendage. It could be used at the same time as their natural arms OR instead of them. Extrapolated, this implies that the usage of tools of any sort temporarily incorporates said tools into our body concept. I pick up a hammer and pound a nail, that hammer is part of me while using it. This might seem almost common sensical to some of us, since the idea of targeting the hammer, or the gun, or the joystick, involves spatial relations, controlled force, and eye-hand coordination, that almost always lead to a feeling of connection between us and our tools. However, it is also the premise of an interesting book that Marc and Di gave me for Xmas 2004: Natural Born Cyborgs.

The author, Andy Clark, asserts that we don't have to go so far as to have electronics or machinery physically incorporated into our bodies to fit the definition of a cyborg. That we are already functioning cyborgs, with things like eye glasses, hearing aids, and prosthetic limbs, (and even watches and cell phones) serving the purposes of science-fiction-like implants, however temporary. When we're using them, they are part of us. It's a very nice book that makes some interesting claims about conceptions of self and personal identity that could easily be incorporated into a discussion of consciousness and what makes a human being human.

Or what makes a monkey a monkey, for that matter.