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Posts tagged “darwinism

The Dalai Lama of Mountain Goats

dalai-lama

The above quote may or may not be authentic. It really does not matter.  Most feel-good kumbayaa (m’lawwwd) clap-trap does not really need to prove its provenance…as the masses nod along, hug and feel ‘inspired’ to another juicy apocryphal morsel.

…But, I used to wonder about Mountain Goats.

Do THEY know that life could be easier on flat ground?  Were they meant to just wander on 20 degree surfaces eternally; with 1 or 2 kids falling to their deaths every now and then?

I decided, on the latter; that was indeed just their experience, their reality, their ‘nature’…and then they die–perhaps never realizing life was easier grazing on a prairie–perhaps even only a few hundred metres away– as other ‘prairie’ goats.

So perhaps homo sapien sapiens are just supposed to live the way we always have lived–and evolved–for millennia?  Our worry and stress and lack of vision involving complex internal chemistry…our very own ‘nature’…and billions of us (in every corner of the world) are the same way about these things…most of which, only in hindsight do we realize to have been for nought.

But maybe that just IS life.

When death or illness comes close, we ponder things, but otherwise we go back to our perceptual myopism–very much as mountain goats…but there be no mountain goat dalai lama.

Our ‘not having lived’ IS life.

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[VIDEO] SAM HARRIS DOESN’T TALK ABOUT THE DALAI LAMA OF MOUNTAIN GOATS AT ALL


[AUDIO] CBC RADIO’S IDEAS: A 3-part series called “RETHINKING DEPRESSION” — After several decades of messing around, it may now be time to question the pharmacologicalization of melancholia and why the blues may indeed have an overlooked purpose in personal growth, self-development and brain-body communication

CBC IDEAS

“With the help of a number of local and world-renowned experts in the field, producer Mary O’Connell explores what we know – and what we think we know – about depression and the medications we use so often to treat it. The patient and interested listener (the entire series runs for three hours) will be rewarded with some really fascinating but often not well-publicized facts about the social, commercial and political factors that are conspiring to make psychotropic medications “a $20billion per year industry worldwide” and have led the World Health Organization to predict that depression will be the second leading caused of global disability by 2020.” Three Parts, 1 hour each.

what-is-depression

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PART ONE:

Depression. It has been called the mean reds. The blue devils. The black dog. And through history, treatments for depression have varied wildly. In the Middle Ages, depressives were caged in asylums. In Victorian England, wealthier patients were sent to seaside resorts for a change of air. In the 1930’s, procedures like lobotomies and electroconvulsive therapy were used. Psychiatry’s tools were crude and limited.  No wonder then, when the Age of the Antidepressant arrived, it was considered psychiatry’s triumph.  Prozac came onto the market in 1988, followed quickly by many similar drugs. But, since then, the number of people afflicted with depression has soared.  In this 3 part program, IDEAS producer Mary O’Connell explores the short and troubling history of the antidepressant. 
CLICK TO HEAR

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PART TWO:

Over the years, the descriptions have varied: melancholia, the Black Dog, down in the dumps. The term most used today is “depression”. The World Health Organization says depression is set to become second only to heart disease as the world’s leading disability by the year 2020. An alarming conclusion when you consider the history. One hundred years ago depression was thought to be extremely rare, with 1% of the population suffering. Today it’s often called the common cold of mental illness. But just how effective are antidepressants in treating depression?  
Unpublished clinical trials have come to light and they reveal that the antidepressant was never the triumphant treatment many psychiatrists hoped it would be.  And we’re also learning that the theory that antidepressants restore serotonin in the brain could be false. However, despite this news about serotonin and sadness, the number of depressed people continues to grow. Now some researchers wonder whether the modern antidepressant has increased rates of depression instead of lowering them. In episode two of Rethinking Depression, IDEAS producer Mary O’Connell examines the debate around antidepressants. 
CLICK TO HEAR

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PART THREE:

The World Health Organization says depression is set to become second only to heart disease as the world’s leading disability by the year 2020. More recent research over the past decade tells us that antidepressants do not work very well, if at all, for mild or moderate depression. And in severe depression, antidepressants only work in a small number of cases. 

So how can those who suffer from depression receive effective treatment and even possibly recover? In the third hour of Rethinking Depression, IDEAS producer Mary O’Connell brings us the stories of the depressed who are on the path to wellness and the methods that can be used to get them there.
CLICK TO HEAR

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The Medicated Me 

written by CHRIS NORRIS; Mens Journal
 

It’s just after dawn, and I’m sitting on someone’s sofa in someone’s apartment somewhere in New York City. An attractive young woman I used to know is sleeping 15 feet away. Books I read, photos I took, CDs I reviewed as a music critic — all sit like props from a play I half remember. The sunlight looks toxic, radioactive. The murmur of distant traffic sounds alien, hostile, a predator’s low growl. Everything is exactly as it was yesterday yet feels totally different — in a bad way and down to a subatomic level. I feel like a character in some lame sci-fi novel who wakes up in a parallel universe or as a head in a jar. I’d skimmed over this sensation in nightmares and during extreme jet lag but never felt it descend as a full-blown totality, never felt it suck me down into it. I’d compare it with a bad trip if not for one terrifying irony now sinking in. This is my brain off drugs.

Six months ago, after 10 emotionally uneventful years on antidepressants — years that somehow included getting married, losing my job, and watching two skyscrapers implode from 20 blocks away — I began tinkering with my prescription, casting about for just the right med while the sturdy old Effexor trickled out of my system, a few milligrams less each week, a long goodbye to my silent partner of a decade.

Now, having decided to go off everything, putting my years-long chemistry experiment on pause, I am drug-free at last. For the first time in a decade, I am experiencing life in all its rich tones and vivid hues, and I’m about to throw myself in front of the 6 train.

I wasn’t actually depressed when I started taking antidepressants.

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The DSM-V reviewed as if it was a dystopian novel…

“Great dystopia isn’t so much fantasy as a kind of estrangement or dislocation from the present; the ability to stand outside time and see the situation in its full hideousness. The dystopian novel doesn’t necessarily have to be a novel.”

A new dystopian novel in the classic mode takes the form of a dictionary of madness

“As you read, you slowly grow aware that the book’s real object of fascination isn’t the various sicknesses described in its pages, but the sickness inherent in their arrangement.

Who, after all, would want to compile an exhaustive list of mental illnesses? The opening passages of DSM-5 give us a long history of the purported previous editions of the book and the endless revisions and fine-tunings that have gone into the work. This mad project is clearly something that its authors are fixated on to a somewhat unreasonable extent. In a retrospectively predictable ironic twist, this precise tendency is outlined in the book itself. The entry for obsessive-compulsive disorder with poor insight describes this taxonomical obsession in deadpan tones: “repetitive behavior, the goal of which is […] to prevent some dreaded event or situation.” Our narrator seems to believe that by compiling an exhaustive list of everything that might go askew in the human mind, this wrong state might somehow be overcome or averted. References to compulsive behavior throughout the book repeatedly refer to the “fear of dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination.” The tragic clincher comes when we’re told, “the individual does not recognize that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable.” This mad project is so overwhelming that its originator can’t even tell that they’ve subsumed themselves within its matrix. We’re dealing with a truly unreliable narrator here, not one that misleads us about the course of events (the narrator is compulsive, they do have poor insight), but one whose entire conceptual framework is radically off-kilter. As such, the entire story is a portrait of the narrator’s own particular madness. With this realization, DSM-5 starts to enter the realm of the properly dystopian.”

Read the entire review by Sam Kriss in The New Inquiryepitomizing perhaps, the function of artful perspective

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The Dalai Lama of Mountain Goats


[AUDIO] “Anxiety is an essential human emotion but it’s important to distinguish between normal day to day worry and an actual anxiety disorder. It can manifest in a range of forms including obsessive compulsive disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety and panic attacks. New Yorker Daniel Smith has lived with chronic anxiety, or his ‘Monkey Mind’, for most of his life and says it’s the only mental disorder which can be both excruciatingly painful and funny at the same time. Hear about what eventually helped him manage his intense worrying.”

CLICK TO HEAR

Australian Broadcasting CorporationABC - All In The Mind

First Broadcast: Sunday 21 April 2013

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“Monkey Mind is a tragicomic memoir about anxiety — both the emotion, which is universal, and the clinical condition, which is rampant. Mostly it’s about the clinical condition. It’s about anxiety so acute and chronic that it permeates every waking moment, affecting your body and mind, your friendships and relationships, your work and your will.MonkeyMind_bookcover

Write what you know, they say.

I’ve known anxiety for most, maybe all, of my life. The condition is genetic. My father was anxious. My mother was anxious. My grandparents were anxious. Probably my ancestors were all anxious. My last name is Smith, but this is what’s known as an “Ellis Island name” — something the authorities gave my great-grandfather when he arrived in the early twentieth century. The original family name is Gomolski.

In other words, we’re Jewish. There is no race or ethnic group on Earth that does not suffer from anxiety. But Jews are particularly good at that kind of suffering.

I didn’t know I was anxious until I was a teenager. Before that, I was “sensitive” and “nervous.” I had phobias and tics and sudden fears. Then, when I was sixteen, I lost my virginity under odd, unfortunate circumstances (see the book; it’s a cool story), and my anxiety began to take over my life. Monkey Mind tells how that happened; the troubles and difficulties that followed over the coming years; and the many attempts, wise and unwise, I have made to alleviate my anxiety.

Notice: alleviate, not cure. Anxiety isn’t a condition like pneumonia or chicken pox. It isn’t something you can eradicate. It’s a state of being, a coloration in the way a person thinks, feels, and acts. It isn’t a disorder, necessarily, though it can be exquisitely painful and it does sometimes stem from trauma. What it is, is a state of mind. It can be reduced, in some cases radically, but it never totally goes away.

What I set out to do in Monkey Mind was to describe and explain the experience of anxiety. Anxiety is often spoken of in cultural and collective terms: we are living, it is said, in an “age of anxiety.” But what does anxiety feel like? How does it affect everyday life? Kierkegaard, who was maybe the most anxious person ever to live, described anxiety in this way:

And no Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as has anxiety, and no spy knows how to attack more artfully the man he suspects, choosing the instant when he is weakest, nor knows how to lay traps where he will be caught and ensnared, as anxiety knows how, and no sharpwitted judge knows how to interrogate, to examine the accused, as anxiety does, which never lets him escape, neither by diversion nor by noise, neither at work nor at play, neither by day nor by night.

What does it mean for a person to have to deal — day after day, night after night — with that Grand Inquisitor in her head?

The short answer is: It isn’t fun. The long answer is this book.

So then why tragicomic? Because for all the pain, anxiety is an inherently comical disorder. It destroys lives, but it destroys them with absurdity. To witness a person in the throes of true anxiety is to witness a person actively tripping himself, a person whose sane faculties — the ability to reason and recognize threat, the capacity to apply logic — have grown to monstrous, B-movie proportions. Anxiety is the intellect gone feral. Also, to treat anxiety as an absurd state of mind is to declaw the experience and reveal its pettiness. Anxiety can indeed destroy relationships. It has destroyed some of mine. But it can do so only when the sufferer treats it with blind seriousness, when he treats it as applicable to meaningful bonds and meaningful decisions. Yet anxiety doesn’t care what its object is: it’s ecumenically corrosive. In the grip of anxiety, a sufferer is capable of reasoning himself not just out of marriage but out of lunch. On more than one occasion anxiety has paralyzed me over a salad, convincing me that a choice between blue cheese and vinaigrette is as dire a choice as that between life and death. Once this is recognized, anxiety loses some of its power.

This is what Monkey Mind is designed to accomplish. I have written with sheer honesty about the self-destructive absurdities, both major and minor, into which anxiety has led me. The goal is to expose anxiety as the pudgy, weak-willed wizard behind the curtain of dread. The goal is to tame what has always seemed to me, and to the tens of millions of others who suffer from anxiety, as a horrible, sharp-fanged beast.”

—FROM: http://monkeymindchronicles.com/about-the-book/

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MonkeyMind_bookcover


The origin and purpose of the diamond engagement ring

!Bo5CsB!B2k~$(KGrHqEH-DkEuY-t54vGBLpS36UpWg~~_12“many (consumer) products thrive because they are associated with agreeable personalities and activities. Since the 1930s diamond engagement rings have been the premier symbol of romantically honorable intentions and likely spousal agreeableness. Early twentieth-century women faced a problem: prosecution of men for financial damages following breach of promise was declining. It was becoming all too common to be seduced by a psychopath promising marriage and then abandoned after he availed himself of one’s virginity during the engagement. Into this reliable-signaling gap jumped De Beers with the diamond ring, heavily promoted with the slogan “A diamond is forever.” Diamond marketers recommended that women ask men to spend two months’ salary (or about a year’s disposable income) on a ring, as a sign of the seriousness of their committment. Ever since, engagement rings have dominated the demand for diamonds larger than one carat.”

-Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior; by Geoffrey Miller

Spent.-741197


[VIDEO] [BOOK] [AUDIO] MATING MIND – GEOFFREY MILLER: The book that made more sense of the world around me than any other I had ever read

A MIND MADE FOR MATING! by @JasonSilva

The-Mating-Mind-Miller-Geoffrey-F-9780385495172

Edited by CITIZEN
Music by SECESSION
Footage by Shutterstock, Imaginaty Foundation, and..

Inspired by Geoffrey Miller and his book “THE MATING MIND”

The Human Brain is essentially a sexual Ornament, a “courtship device”, so that it’s extraordinary capacities for art, language, poetry, are but human versions of the peacock feather, used to capture and manage the attention of potential mates. And with the advent of culture, we still employ these extraordinary capacities, these “technologies of rhetoric” to ‘capture the attention’ of others, except no longer to spread our genes but to spread our MEMES, a new replicator, born from the primordial soup human culture.. one that leaps and spreads… All of this is still perfectly natural, we’ve just swapped sperm for the currency of digital information– but as Dawkins said, biological life has been an information technology all along: “If you want to understand life, do not think of throbbing gels or oozing liquids, think about information technology”

“What lies at the heart of every living thing is not a fire, not warm breath, not a ‘spark of life.’ It is information, words, instructions,” – Richard Dawkins

“The human mind’s most impressive abilities are like the peacock’s tail: they are courtship tools, evolved to attract and entertain sexual partners.”

nytimes.com/books/first/m/miller-mating.html

What Makes Ideas Travel: (Is there a signature for virality written into certain MEMES?) 
blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/11/think_like_an_information_dj.html

“Men write more books. Men give more lectures. Men ask more questions after lectures. Men post more e-mail to Internet discussion groups. To say this is due to patriarchy is to beg the question of the behavior’s origin. If men control society, why don’t they just shut up and enjoy their supposed prerogatives? The answer is obvious when you consider sexual competition: men can’t be quiet because that would give other men a chance to show off verbally. Men often bully women into silence, but this is usually to make room for their own verbal display. If men were dominating public language just to maintain patriarchy, that would qualify as a puzzling example of evolutionary altruism–a costly, risky individual act that helps all of one’s sexual competitors (other males) as much as oneself. The ocean of male language that confronts modern women in bookstores, television, newspapers, classrooms, parliaments, and businesses does not necessarily come from a male conspiracy to deny women their voice. It may come from an evolutionary history of sexual selection in which the male motivation to talk was vital to their reproduction.”
― Geoffrey Miller, The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature

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The Ape and the Lady

A LADY fair, of lineage high,
Was loved by an Ape, in the days gone by -
The Maid was radiant as the sun,
The Ape was a most unsightly one -
So it would not do -
His scheme fell through;
For the Maid, when his love took formal shape,
Expressed such terror
At his monstrous error,
That he stammered an apology and made his ‘scape,
The picture of a disconcerted Ape.

With a view to rise in the social scale,
He shaved his bristles, and he docked his tail,
He grew moustachios, and he took his tub,
And he paid a guinea to a toilet club.
But it would not do,
The scheme fell through -
For the Maid was Beauty’s fairest Queen,
With golden tresses,
Like a real princess’s,
While the Ape, despite his razor keen,
Was the apiest Ape that ever was seen!

He bought white ties, and he bought dress suits,
He crammed his feet into bright tight boots,
And to start his life on a brand-new plan,
He christened himself Darwinian Man!
But it would not do,
The scheme fell through -
For the Maiden fair, whom the monkey craved,
Was a radiant Being,
With a brain far-seeing -
While a Man, however well-behaved,
At best is only a monkey shaved! 

–William Schwenck Gilbert (1836 – 1911)

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation

ABC’S ‘ALL IN THE MIND’ AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S ZONE RADIO SHOWS’ SPECIAL: HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHARLES DARWIN

CLICK TO HEAR

First broadcast: Saturday 14 February 2009 1:00PM

The human animal is a complex beast—we mate, fight, emote, and socialise in curious ways. Charles Darwin’s theories continue to provoke controversy over how and why we behave the way we do. Join leading evolutionary scientists and philosophers in this one-hour special, as presenters Alan Saunders and Natasha Mitchell consider how Darwin radically influenced the life of the mind.

Guests

Martin DalyProfessor of Psychology 
McMaster University 
Hamilton 
Ontario, Canadahttp://psych.mcmaster.ca/dalywilson/

Stephen GaukrogerProfessor 
Department of Philosophy 
University of Sydneyhttp://www.arts.usyd.edu.au/departs/philos/staff/profiles/sgaukroger.shtml

Colin GrovesProfessor of Biological Anthropology 
Australian National University 
Canberra 
Australiahttp://arts.anu.edu.au/arcworld/aboutus/groves.htm

Delton HedgesPhd candidate 
School of Philosophy 
University of Tasmaniahttp://fcms.its.utas.edu.au/arts/philosophy/index.asp

Michael RuseLucyle T. Werkmeister Professor 
Director of History & Philisophy of Science Program 
Florida State Universityhttp://www.fsu.edu/~philo/new%20site/staff/ruse.htm

Jonathan MarksProfessor of Anthropology 
Uuniversity of North Carolina 
Charlotte 
North Carolinahttp://personal.uncc.edu/jmarks/

Geoffrey MillerAssociate Professor 
Psychology Faculty 
University of New Mexicohttp://www.unm.edu/~psych/faculty/lg_gmiller.html

(more…)


[VIDEO] Jim AI.Khalili – ORDER AND DISORDER BBC HORIZON – The Story of Energy & Information and the Advancement of Man

Professor Jim Al-Khalili investigates one of the most important concepts in the world today – information. He discovers how we harnessed the power of symbols, everything from the first alphabet to the electric telegraph through to the modern digital age. But on this journey he learns that information is not just about human communication, it is woven very profoundly into the fabric of reality.


[VIDEO] Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception

“Michael Shermer says the human tendency to believe strange things — from alien abductions to dowsing rods — boils down to two of the brain’s most basic, hard-wired survival skills. He explains what they are, and how they get us into trouble.” – TED Talks


[VIDEO] JIM JEFFRIES – MY NEW FAVOURITE COMEDIAN – He may be the fresh-faced Aussie George Carlin heir


[AUDIO] LUCRETIUS – A 1st century BC philosopher who conceived of atoms, astronomy, atheism and evolution almost 2000 years before others

Titus Lucretius Carus (ca. 99 BC – ca. 55 BC) was an Epicurean poet writing in the middle years of the first century BC. His six-book Latin hexameter poem De rerum natura  (On the nature of things) survives virtually intact. As well as being a pioneering figure in the history of philosophical poetry, Lucretius has come to be our primary source of information on Epicurean physics, the official topic of his poem. Among numerous other Epicurean doctrines, the atomic ‘swerve’ is known to us mainly from Lucretius’ account of it. His defence of the Epicurean system is deftly and passionately argued, and is particularly admired for its eloquent critique of the fear of death.

Virtually lost during the Middle Ages, it was rediscovered in a monastery in Germany in 1417.

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Lucretius anticipated the core scientific vision of modernity.

The Answer Man

An ancient poem was rediscovered—and the world swerved.

by Stephen Greenblatt
August 8, 2011

When I was a student, I used to go at the end of the school year to the Yale Co-op to see what I could find to read over the summer. I had very little pocket money, but the bookstore would routinely sell its unwanted titles for ridiculously small sums. They were jumbled together in bins through which I would rummage until something caught my eye. On one of my forays, I was struck by an extremely odd paperback cover, a detail from a painting by the Surrealist Max Ernst. Under a crescent moon, high above the earth, two pairs of legs—the bodies were missing—were engaged in what appeared to be an act of celestial coition. The book, a prose translation of Lucretius’ two-thousand-year-old poem “On the Nature of Things” (“De Rerum Natura”), was marked down to ten cents, and I bought it as much for the cover as for the classical account of the material universe.

Ancient physics is not a particularly promising subject for vacation reading, but sometime over the summer I idly picked up the book. The Roman poet begins his work (in Martin Ferguson Smith’s careful rendering) with an ardent hymn to Venus:

First, goddess, the birds of the air, pierced to the heart with your powerful shafts, signal your entry. Next wild creatures and cattle bound over rich pastures and swim rushing rivers: so surely are they all captivated by your charm and eagerly follow your lead. Then you inject seductive love into the heart of every creature that lives in the seas and mountains and river torrents and bird-haunted thickets, implanting in it the passionate urge to reproduce its kind.  (more…)


“Space scientists recently completed an examination of orbital debris, recovered after circling the Earth for several years. They discovered that much of it was coated with a thin film of what was delicately described as “fecal matter”, attributed to astronaut’s sloppy sanitation. This may solve one of the mysteries of life’s origin on Earth: it seems to have arisen almost as soon as conditions were favorable, and not after the billions of years of molecular trial and error required by what Isaac Asimov called the “unblind working of chance.””

Toilets of the Gods 
Or: The Colonisation of Space
By Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Space scientists recently completed an examination of orbital debris, recovered after circling the Earth for several years. They discovered that much of it was coated with a thin film of what was delicately described as “fecal matter”, attributed to astronaut’s sloppy sanitation.

This may solve one of the mysteries of life’s origin on Earth: it seems to have arisen almost as soon as conditions were favorable, and not after the billions of years of molecular trial and error required by what Isaac Asimov called the “unblind working of chance.”

Obviously, organized life-forms need have occurred only once in this Galaxy, if the very first space-faring civilization was as careless about the environment as we are. Years ago, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe suggested that life had a cosmic, and not terrestrial, origin. They may be right, though not precisely in the way they imagined. It’s a humbling thought that we may have arisen from dumped sewage; the first chapter of Genesis would certainly require drastic revision.

On the other hand, if – as some philosophers have suggested- this Earth does indeed harbor the only life in the Universe, that deplorable state of affairs is now being rectified. We may draw some consolation – I hesitate to say inspiration – from the fact that our descendants are already on their way to the stars.

But we certainly would not recognize them, and it might be tactless to ask exactly how they got there.


[VIDEO] A DRIVE THROUGH THE HONG KONG NIGHT THAT WILL SCARE THE LIVING DAY LIGHTS OUT OF YOU

and my urban planner brain draws this metaphor:


Scientists reveal favourite ‘deep, elegant or beautiful’ scientific theories

January 15, 2012

By Sharon Begley

NEW YORK – From Darwinian evolution to the idea that personality is largely shaped by chance, the favourite theories of the world’s most eminent thinkers are as eclectic as science itself.

Every January, John Brockman, the impresario and literary agent who presides over the online salon Edge.org, asks his circle of scientists, digerati and humanities scholars to tackle one question.

In previous years, they have included “how is the Internet changing the way you think?” and “what is the most important invention in the last 2,000 years?”

This year, he posed the open-ended question “what is your favourite deep, elegant or beautiful explanation?”

The responses, released at midnight on Sunday, provide a crash course in science both well known and far out-of-the-box, as admired by the likes of Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, physicist Freeman Dyson and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

Several of the nearly 200 scholars nominated what are arguably the two most powerful scientific theories ever developed. “Darwin’s natural selection wins hands down,” argues Dawkins, emeritus professor at Oxford University.

“Never in the field of human comprehension were so many facts explained by assuming so few,” he says of the theory that encompasses everything about life, based on the idea of natural selection operating on random genetic mutations.

Einstein’s theory of relativity, which explains gravity as the curvature of space, also gets a few nods.

As theoretical physicist Steve Giddings of the University of California, Santa Barbara, writes, “This central idea has shaped our ideas of modern cosmology (and) given us the image of the expanding universe.”

General relativity explains black holes, the bending of light and “even offers a possible explanation of the origin of our Universe – as quantum tunneling from ’nothing,”’ he writes.

Many of the nominated ideas, however, won’t be found in science courses taught in high school or even college.

Terrence Sejnowski, a computational neuroscientist at the Salk Institute, extols the discovery that the conscious, deliberative mind is not the author of important decisions such as what work people do and who they marry. Instead, he writes, “an ancient brain system called the basal ganglia, brain circuits that consciousness cannot access,” pull the strings.

Running on the neurochemical dopamine, they predict how rewarding a choice will be – if I pick this apartment, how happy will I be? – “evaluate the current state of the entire cortex and inform the brain about the best course of action,” explains Sejnowski. Only later do people construct an explanation of their choices, he said in an interview, convincing themselves incorrectly that volition and logic were responsible.

To neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University, the most beautiful idea is emergence, in which complex phenomena almost magically come into being from extremely simple components.

For instance, a human being arises from a few thousand genes. The intelligence of an ant colony – labor specialization, intricate underground nests – emerges from the seemingly senseless behavior of thousands of individual ants.

“Critically, there’s no blueprint or central source of command,” says Sapolsky. Each individual ant has a simple algorithm for interacting with the environment, “and out of this emerges a highly efficient colony.”

Among other tricks, the colony has solved the notorious Traveling Salesman problem, or the challenge of stopping at a long list of destinations by the shortest route possible.

THE OTHER PAVLOVIAN EFFECT

Stephen Kosslyn, director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, is most impressed by Pavlovian conditioning, in which a neutral stimulus such as a sound comes to be associated with a reward, such as food, producing a response, such as salivation.

That much is familiar. Less well known is that Pavlovian conditioning might account for placebo effects. After people have used analgesics such as ibuprofen or aspirin many times, the drugs begin to have effects before their active ingredients kick in.

From previous experience, the mere act of taking the pill has become like Pavlov’s bell was for his dogs, causing them to salivate: the “conditioned stimulus” of merely seeing the pill “triggers the pain-relieving processes invoked by the medicine itself,” explains Kosslyn.

Science theories that explain puzzling human behavior or the inner workings of the universe were also particular favourites of the Edge contributors:

* Psychologist Alison Gopnik of the University of California, Berkeley, is partial to one that accounts for why teenagers are so restless, reckless and emotional. Two brain systems, an emotional motivational system and a cognitive control system, have fallen out of sync, she explains.

The control system that inhibits impulses and allows you to delay gratification kicks in later than it did in past generations, but the motivational system is kicking in earlier and earlier.

The result: “A striking number of young adults who are enormously smart and knowledgeable but directionless, who are enthusiastic and exuberant but unable to commit to a particular work or a particular love until well into their twenties or thirties.”

BEAUTIFUL IDEAS

* Neurobiologist Sam Barondes of the University of California, San Francisco, nominates the idea that personality is largely shaped by chance. One serendipitous force is which parental genes happen to be in the egg and sperm that produced the child.

“But there is also chance in how neurodevelopmental processes unfold – a little virus here, an intrauterine event there, and you have chance all over the place,” he said in an interview. Another toss of the dice: how a parent will respond to a child’s genetic disposition to be outgoing, neurotic, open to new experience and the like, either reinforcing the innate tendencies or countering them.

The role of chance in creating differences between people has moral consequences, says Barondes, “promoting understanding and compassion for the wide range of people with whom we share our lives.”

* Timothy Wilson nominates the idea that “people become what they do.” While people’s behavior arises from their character – someone returns a lost wallet because she is honest – “the reverse also holds,” says the University of Virginia psychologist. If we return a lost wallet, our assessment of how honest we are rises through what he calls “self-inference.” One implication of this phenomenon: “We should all heed Kurt Vonnegut’s advice,” Wilson says: “’We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”’

* Psychologist David Myers of Hope College finds “group polarization” a beautiful idea, since it explains how interacting with others tends to amplify people’s initial views. In particular, discussing issues with like-minded peers -increasingly the norm in the United States, where red states attract conservatives and blue states attract liberals – push people toward extremes. “The surprising thing is that the group as a whole becomes more extreme than its pre-discussion average,” he said in an interview.

* Martin Rees, professor of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, nominates the “astonishing concept” that what we consider the universe “could be hugely more extensive” than what astronomers observe.

If true, the known cosmos may instead “be a tiny part of the aftermath of ’our’ big bang, which is itself just one bang among a perhaps-infinite ensemble,” Rees writes. Even more intriguing is that different physics might prevail in these different universes, so that “some of what we call ’laws of nature’ may … be local bylaws.”

By Sharon Begley


[VIDEO] DAVID ATTENBOROUGH’S ‘FIRST LIFE’–WHERE AND HOW LIFE ON EARTH BEGAN

In fifty years of broadcasting, Sir David Attenborough has travelled the globe to document the living world in all its wonder. Now, in the landmark series First Life, he goes back in time in search of the very first animals.

From the fog bound coastline of Newfoundland to the deserts of North Africa and the rain forests of Queensland, in First Life David Attenborough finds evidence in fossils and living animals of an extraordinary period in Earth’s history, half a billion years ago, when animals first appeared in the oceans. From the first eyes that saw, to the first predators that killed and the first legs that walked on land, these were creatures that evolved the traits and tools that allow all animals, including us, to survive to this day.

This is a story that can only be told now because in the last few years, stunning fossil finds at sites across the world have transformed our understanding of the First Life forms, and technology now allows us to recreate the first animals and their environments with photorealistic computer generated imagery

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WATCH EPISODE ONE: ARRIVAL

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WATCH EPISODE TWO: CONQUEST

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The Burgess Shale fossils, a Rocky Mountain treasure trove found in 1909 just west of the B.C.-Alberta border, represent the planet’s single most important snapshot of life as it existed during the so-called “Cambrian explosion” of organisms about 530 million years ago.

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THE MAKING OF:


[VIDEO] “Does science ruin the magic of life? Robin Ince argues no. The more we learn about the astonishing behavior of the universe — the more we stand in awe.” The unfortunate thing is, the majority of humanity continues following conceptualizations from a time before science aided every humans understanding of reality YET not living outside of science. I think they should not be able to do both. Those who any follow primitive thought should be obliged to live in a world as primitive as well. There were no cars, electricity, computers, modern medicine, nor higher learning mentioned in ‘holy books’–as those who wrote them were limited in their understanding of reality. You should not have it both ways.

Live life as though your reality matches your perceptions. One donkey, one cave…and a bucket full of ignorance of what is going on. -rudhro


[VIDEO] ‎”The topographical shape and the material constitution of the upper surface of the island of Manhattan, as it exists today, is much less a matter of geology than it is of economics and politics and human psychology. The effects of geological forces were trumped (you might say) by other forces — forces that proved themselves, in the fullness of time, physically stronger. Deutsch thinks the same thing must in the long run be true of the universe as a whole. Stuff like gravitation and dark energy are the sorts of things that determine the shape of the cosmos only in its earliest, and most parochial, and least interesting stages. The rest is going to be a matter of our own intentional doing..”

By @jason_silva and @notthisbody 

“The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.” – Steven Johnson

INSPIRATION:

This video is inspired, in part, by the ideas explored in David Deutsch’s new book, THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY. We hope it moves you.  (more…)


[AUDIO] CBC RADIO’S QUIRKS AND QUARKS DISCUSSES THE HUMAN POPULATION REACHING 7 BILLION, HOW IT HAPPENED, WHAT IT MEANS, AND WHY WE SHOULD CARE

CBC RADIO QUIRKS & QUARKS

The United Nations estimates that on October 31st, the world’s population will reach 7 billion.  Although the actual number is not certain, it does underlie the fact that our population is growing at an alarming rate.  It took until the early 1800’s to reach the 1 billion mark, but the last 50 years alone have seen the births of 4 of the total 7 billion  This rapid increase raises the question, how many more people can the earth sustain?  Or have we already surpassed the earth’s capacity?  Among the many people asking questions like this are Dr. Madeline Weld, President of the Ottawa-based Population Institute of Canada, and Robert Engelman, President of The Worldwatch Institute in Washington.  They discuss how various factors – including access to contraception, the empowerment of women, poverty, consumerism, and the environment – apply to our population growth, now and in the future.

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 _________RUDHROISM

“Be afraid, be very afraid…”  I love this–I have thought about so much of what they discuss in this two person interview.  Oil, a non-renewable resource has allowed us to “over-shoot” where we as humanity really oughtta be today.  The ‘stlen’ or ‘free’ energy boost since the 1850s. The unsustainable industrialized production of foods such as corn. The inefficient production of meat.  The fact that cultures have not changed, yet babies no longer die.  Cultures dictated that a “real man” or a “real woman” reproduce at a rate much higher than necessary for population replacement.  But this was so when if you had 8 children, 5 perhaps were not expected to reach reproductive age.  Today all 8 will make it, and in turn produce 8 of their own children due to cultural memes such as religion which dictate that this is the ONLY WAY.  

So many have disagreed with me.  So many have called me simplistic to point to the growth of population as the REAL problem and climate change as merely a symptom.  But it is in no way ‘Malthusian’ to ask, what is the POINT of ‘conservation’, ‘kyoto protocols’, ‘environmental awareness campaigns’ etc etc etc, if EVEN IF we maintain 1990 levels of pollution, carbon consumption, garbage, the number of showers a human takes, and how many times a toilet is flushed per day–thus water use…the food one eats and from whence it originates, IF?

There are 10 Billion, 20 Billion, or 100 Billion humans?

This is not an irrational observation, though I have been told it is.  This is not a simple minded, non-intellectual, comment.

This is about the Tragedy of the Commons.  This is about witnessing the growth of certain cities, such as Calcutta, Shanghai, Lagos, Mexico City, Tokyo etc and seeing that for a given level of infrastructure, from trains, buses, roads, all the way to the farming lands that feed and the water basins that provide potable water to these megalopoli–only a certain number of people can enjoy them before it all becomes a hellish experience of the scarcity of resources writ large, on a daily basis.  No room for your child in school, no electricity, no water, no fresh fruits and vegetables, no room on the road for your car, no sufficient public services of any kind.

I have been told that life and economics is not like this, as eventually all people reduce their fertility rates when they reach a standard level of income. I actually have a minor in Economics and have studied a variety of theories on developmental economics.  So I am not speaking from ignorance or ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing’.  Listen to what is stated as ‘the scientifically sustainable human population’ in the audio link above.

I’d also recommend listening to Robert Wright’s Massey lectures on his book (or reading the book itself) called ‘The Short History of Progress’–where he shows that human history is filled with groups of humans not paying heed to the natural feedback loops of nature.  We are a part of nature.  And it frustrates me to no end, when humans in 2011 deny the unity that is humanity.  There are no more ‘groups’–we are all one group, and are aware of this, in some respects yet not others.


We are all one.  It doesn’t MATTER if you live in Edmonton, Mexico City or Calcutta.  It doesn’t MATTER what your last name is, what religion you’ve been handed down or converted into and what this meme teaches you.  There are basic facts about the sustainability of the human earthling population.

If you add to the population, it affects the whole world.  But I don’t think humanity is yet ready to understand that we are indeed one.

(more…)


[VIDEO] The Bottom of the Ocean is the ‘Holiest’ Place on Earth

Some of these things just look like DNA swimming around…disco ball? Huh?

I used to think what they uncovered in 1909 in the Burgess Shale was out there, but they’re all just super old fossils.  These beings are so similar structurally but actually living.

We can actually see life living down there..like pure unadulterated, LIFE. In forms we could only dream of, or contemplate aliens as.

‘Aliens’ already share our space, we just never bothered to look.  And they’re not aliens, they’re Earthlings.

I agree with the concept of LIFE.

MUSIC: Dark Angel by Katie Jane Garside


“Squid Males “Bisexual”—Evolved Shot-in-the-Dark Mating Strategy Mating with anything with eight arms pays off in dim depths, study says.”

A female O. deletron squid carrying sperm packets—seen as white dots—in 2007. Photograph courtesy MBARI

Traci Watson

for National Geographic News

Published September 20, 2011

When it comes to mating, some male squid aren’t very picky: They copulate just as often with other males as with females, a new study says.

That’s because would-be suitors of the hand-size species Octopoteuthis deletron, which live in the murky depths of the eastern Pacific Ocean, can’t easily tell the males from the females, the research shows.

“They can see each other, but they are not able very well to distinguish between the sexes at the distance at which they decide, ‘I’m going to mate’ or ‘I’m not going to mate,'” said study leader Hendrik Hoving, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California.

So “males mate with basically any member of the same species. … They just take a chance.”

It’s also hard to tell he from she: A female squid’s defining feature is a patch of wrinkled skin.

The result is a strategy that the study authors call “a shot in the dark”—it’s just not worth it to males to make sure their partner is the right gender. (more…)


[VIDEO] EVOLVED IMMORTALITY — TURRITOPSIS NUTRICULA — THE IMMORTAL JELLYFISH

The species turritopsis nutricula is able to transform itself from its mature state back into a polyp (immature jellyfish) and then back again – picture a gelatinous ‘Benjamin Button’ on repeat.

The species, which is only 4-5 mm in diameter, performs this miraculous feat using a process known as transdifferentiation, in which one type of cell transforms into another. While this sounds a lot like what happens in stem cells, the process is distinct.

Turritopsis nutricula isn’t the only species to use the technique; salamanders use the process to regrow limbs, while chickens utilize it to repair damaged eyes. Turritopsis nutricula, however, is the only species able to regenerate its entire body.

The entire transformation from adult to polyp takes place very rapidly, helping to explain why it has never been observed in the wild. The process, however, has been observed in the lab, and so far 100 per cent of specimens have been capable of the transformation.

Theoretically, the process can go on indefinitely, which may help to explain why scientists have noticed a spike in the number of these jellyfish in the oceans. “We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion,” said Dr Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute.

The jellyfish are believed to have originated in the Caribbean, but, due to the common shipping practice of emptying ballast water in foreign ports, is now found all over the globe.

While the jellyfish can potentially live forever, it’s unlikely that one ever will.

That’s because like other jellyfish, Turritopsis nutricula is often eaten by other animals and readily succumbs to disease.

Other larger long-lived species have a better chance at reaching impressive ages. Bowhead whales, tortoises and koi fish can all live to be more than 200 years old. Plant species can live even longer. The oldest known bristlecone pine is nearly 5,000 years old.

That isn’t stopping scientists around the globe from searching for the secret that allows this unique jellyfish from reversing the aging process. Mastering transdifferentiation could be the key to discovering a real fountain of youth.

–Michael Bolen, Yahoo! Canada News, June 17, 2010

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Turritopsis nutricula, the potentially immortal jellyfish, is a hydrozoan whose medusa, or jellyfish, form can revert to the polyp stage after becoming sexually mature. It is the only known case of a metazoan capable of reverting completely to a sexually immature, colonial stage after having reached sexual maturity as a solitary stage.[2][3] It does this through the cell development process of transdifferentiation. Cell transdifferentiation is when the jellyfish “alters the differentiated state of the cell and transforms it into a new cell”. In this process the medusa of the immortal jellyfish is transformed into the polyps of a new polyp colony. First, the umbrella reverts itself and then the tentacles and mesoglea get resorbed. The reverted medusa then attaches itself to the substrate by the end that had been at the opposite end of the umbrella and starts giving rise to new polyps to form the new colony. Theoretically, this process can go on indefinitely, effectively rendering the jellyfish biologically immortal,[3][4] although in nature, mostTurritopsis, like other medusae, are likely to succumb to predation or disease in the plankton stage, without reverting to the polyp form.[5] No single specimen has been observed for any extended period, so it is not currently possible to estimate the age of an individual, and so even if this species has the potential for immortality, there is no laboratory evidence of many generations surviving from any individual.

–wikipedia

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[VIDEO] LEPTOCEPHALUS LARVAE: THE TRANSPARENT EEL –MAYBE WE OUGHTTA STOP LOOKING FOR ‘ALIENS’ AND LOOK IN OUR OCEANS

WIKIPEDIA:

leptocephalus (meaning “slim head”) is the flat and transparent larva of the eel, marine eels, and other members of the Superorder Elopomorpha. These fishes with a leptocephalus larva stage include the most familiar eels such as the conger, moray eel, and garden eel, and the freshwater eels of the family Anguillidae, plus more than 10 other families of lesser-known types of marine eels. These are all true eels of the order Anguilliformes. The fishes of the other four traditional orders of elopomorph fishes that have this type of larva are more diverse in their body forms and include the tarpon, bonefish, spiny eel, and pelican eel.

Leptocephali (more than one leptocephalus) all have laterally compressed bodies that contain transparent jelly-like substances on the inside of the body and a thin layer of muscle on the outside. Their body organs are small, and this combination of features results in them being very transparent when they are alive. They also lack red blood cells until they begin to metamorphose into the juvenile glass eel stage when they start to look like eels.

Leptocephali differ from most fish larvae because they grow to much larger sizes (about 60–300 mm and sometimes larger) and have long larval periods of about 3 months to more than a year. They move with typical anguilliform swimming motions and can swim both forwards and backwards. Their food source was difficult to determine because no zooplankton, which are the typical food of fish larvae, were ever seen in their guts. It was recently found though, that they appear to feed on tiny particles floating free in the ocean, which are often referred to as marine snow. Leptocephalus larvae live primarily in the upper 100 meters of the ocean at night, and often a little deeper during the day. Leptocephali are present worldwide in the ocean from southern temperate to tropical latitudes, where adult eels and their close relatives live.

This particular type of fish larva is poorly understood, partly because they are very fragile and eat particulate material instead of zooplankton, plus their good swimming ability enables them to avoid most standard sized plankton nets used by marine biologists. A video recording of a naturally swimming leptocephalus filmed at night off the Island of Hawaii shows an example of their swimming behavior:[1]

Some progress has been made in recent years to grow the leptocephali of the Japanese eel in the laboratory however. The goal of that effort is to produce glass eels through artificial spawning and larval rearing, to be used for aquaculture to produce unagi for food. Unagi is a popular food in Japan and East Asia.

Leptocephali themselves are rarely used as food, except in some parts of Japan. The leptocephali of the common Japanese conger, Conger myriaster, are called Noresore·のれそれ in Kochi Prefecture, Japan, and are often served un-cooked to the table, and are eaten after dipping in Tosazu mixed vinegar. It is a spring seasonal specialty.


IAN LESLIE – “Born Liars: Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit”

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Ian Leslie’s interview with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC’s Q: [skip to  19:36]

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Lying is an intrinsic part of our social fabric, but it is also a deeply problematic and misunderstood aspect of what makes us human. Author and journalist Ian Leslie takes us on a fascinating journey that makes us question not only our own relationship to the truth, but also virtually every daily encounter we have. On the way he dissects the history of the lie detector, how parents affect their children’s attitude to lying (and vice versa), Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the philosophical ambiguity of telling the truth, Bill Clinton’s presentational prowess, Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth, and why we should be wary of anyone with more than 150 Facebook friends.

Born Liars is thought-provoking, anecdotally driven narrative nonfiction at its best. Ian Leslie’s intoxicating blend of anthropology, biology, cultural history, philosophy, and popular psychology belies a serious central message: that humans have evolved and thrived in large part because of their ability to deceive.



[VIDEO] PAT CONDELL ROCKS! — “AGGRESSIVE ATHEISM” a unapologetic apologia on the thinking mind


[VIDEO] They never taught me about Tree Kangaroos in school. This just made life that much more worth experiencing. How cute.

The hard to reach “plush toys” on Papua New Guineau have been outfitted with “Crittercams” for the first time. The breathtaking treetop footage is already solving tree kangaroo mysteries, researchers say.


From ‘End of History’ Author, Francis Fukuyama, a Look at the Beginning and Middle

By NICHOLAS WADE

March 7, 2011

Human social behavior has an evolutionary basis. This was the thesis in Edward O. Wilson’s book “Sociobiology” that caused such a stir, even though most evolutionary biologists accept that at least some social behaviors, like altruism, could be favored by natural selection

In a book to be published in April, “The Origins of Political Order,”Francis Fukuyama of Stanford University presents a sweeping new overview of human social structures throughout history, taking over from where Dr. Wilson’s ambitious synthesis left off.

Dr. Fukuyama, a political scientist, is concerned mostly with the cultural, not biological, aspects of human society. But he explicitly assumes that human social nature is universal and is built around certain evolved behaviors like favoring relatives, reciprocal altruism, creating and following rules, and a propensity for warfare.

Because of this shared human nature, with its biological foundation, “human politics is subject to certain recurring patterns of behavior across time and across cultures,” he writes. It is these worldwide patterns he seeks to describe in an analysis that stretches from prehistoric times to the French Revolution. (more…)


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