Monday, 17 October 2016

sietch

Working in conjunction with UC Berkeley and the Peace Corps, a San Francisco-based laboratory has produced a prototype atmospheric well that, powered by wind alone, can harvest litres of clean water. The Water Seer’s turbine push air into a buried condensation chamber (cache) to be collected as needed and is a completely closed system, requiring no extra plumbing or purification-process—very similar to the techniques that Frank Herbert described for the Fremen of the desert world of Arrakis.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

soda derby

A new front has opened in the Cola Wars, as Boing Boing reports, in the form of rewarding dieticians to endorse the benefits of drinking sugary concoctions—or at least disparage the notion of taxing soda as sort of a gateway sin-tax for controlling all sorts of behaviour and choice. While this practise is undoubtedly revolting and ought to be brought to light (for shame, disreputable nutritionists), I think being subversive on social media pales in comparison to the way that soft-drinks are marketed almost as sacramental wine in Central and South America. What do you think? Most peddlers of patent-medicines were run out of town long ago, yet the biggest ones remain.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

dog & butterfly

While I like to pretend that I usually find these cross-species animal friendship stories a little dopey, sometimes they just resonate with me. Like with the story of this duck that appeared out of nowhere for counseling and companionship for this depressed and anxious dog—there was just something to the narrative and storyboard that struck me as genuine and heart-warming.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

shoo fly or hectoring vectors

Business Insider has a pretty comprehensive primer on the facts and fictions on the ablutions and rituals that we perform to nudge away mosquitos.
Unfortunately, the majority of myths that we hold close are shown to be demonstrably wrong-headed and either a waste of time and effort or counter-productive. I would add one item to the list, which probably could be similarly debunked, but I think it works: mosquitos are not the most aerodynamically robust insects—that’s why they have their preferred hunting schedule and range, habitats and haunts themselves, and having a small oscillating fan blowing a breeze seems to knock them off course fairly tidily.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

circadian rhythm

Writing for ร†on magazine, Jessa Gamble posits that chronotherapies may be the next leap in healthcare and offer more focused and less intrusive (in terms of spill over and mission-creep) options for healing and preventative medicine. Clearly, judged by personal experience, our biologies resist synchronising with the pace and step of modern worlds and time pressures that mean little to our bodies and psyches but nonetheless exact a great toll on both.
Better coordination can ensure that our bodies and our schedules are not at cross-purposes. The thoroughgoing and lucid essay, with the primary prescription being to know thyself and that we fortunately are not usually able to outsmart our bodies, ought to be appreciated in its entirety, but the idea of internal (and internalised) versus external chronologies is made immediately apparent by Gamble’s opening parable of her mutant hamsters: engineered to have their bodies’ clocks set to days foreshortened by four hours or so, they were dealt a mortal blow by the terminal jet-lag of living in a twenty-four hour a day environment. If the days of these not of this world hamsters—truly aliens whose diurnal journey around some hypothetical star at some middling orbit is different from ours, are set to their altered state, then the experimental hamsters happily thrive.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

foilage

Perhaps we could take a leaf, in rather desperate times, from the pages of the industrious leafcutter ants (Acromyrmex) of the Americas to hopefully rehabilitate some of our notions about health and hygiene. These colonies have been in the business of agriculture, to include biocide and population health for รฆons, and have yet to find themselves in a pinch whereas humans just harnessed antibiotics and pesticides a few generations hence, and through abuse are seriously at risk of returning to pestilential times, plagued by crop-failures and untreatable infections to the exclusion of modern medical procedures.
Not that we weren’t warned from the onset, but adding an antibacterial sheen to everything and using it as a panacea of first resort has made the strongest thrive and is making the incurable more and more dominant. Returning to our friends, the leafcutter ants—whom drink the sap of the leaves for energy but actually take back the leaves to their nests to grow a specific fungus that’s the chief food staple, scientists are finding that having evolved symbiotically with the resources and threats if their environment, the ants are able to cultivate only what they’ve intended and keep weeds and other pests at bay (despite the inviting hot-house of a nursery they build for their favoured fungi). The blight of invaders is avoided, researchers believe, by a cocktail of novel antibiotics administered, which the ants gather (naturally occurring in the soil) and possibly produce through their own chemistry, confounding the ability to acquire resistance. Hopefully, we can learn something from these ancient farmers, and if we are granted a reprieve from returning to the medical dark age, hopefully we will not repeat the same mistakes.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

eepp, oopp, uurpp, exercise

Traditional wisdom prescribes taking at least half an hour of moderate exercise most days of the week.
An interesting clinical trial suggests that just one minute of explosively vigorous activity—and I am not sure if I can properly imagine what exactly those ninja acrobatic pugilistic bursts might look like, could return the same benefits of trudging through a forty-five minute routine. These turbo-charged calisthenics are not better than the slower and steady iteration, but the faster (much, much faster) route seems to be at least just as effective. With fewer opportunities for jousting, bezerking, sword-play or fisticuffs and shifting focus on endurance, I think that this now unfamiliar spasm of activity might be the right direction. I also wonder how many might be changing their daily agendas to carve out spare minutes for violent flagellation.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

pranayama, amygdala

Whilst researching another matter, I came across twelve brilliant tips to stave off anxiety and relax the clenched muscles that express stressed responses (the unhealthy sort) with immediate results that one could mostly do in the scant privacy of one’s official cubical without seeming too weird, plus a whole wealth of other related avenues of relaxation and mediation at this website by Carol Bourne.
Of course we all have an intuition for these things and no one willingly creates knots in one’s muscles where negative energy can dwell—even the internal organs can tense up—but unless one is dogmatic about it, we all forget and need reminding, especially if relying on the interactions of likeminded individuals for advise and guidance and not deigning to the serendipity of surprise. My favourite tactic, with indeed instant results, was Alternate Nostril Breathing—whose exercise is really not that different from what Marsellus Wallace’s wife demonstrates for us: first seal the right nostril with the right thumb and inhale, pause (unless pregnant or having a heart-condition), cover the left nostril with the ring-finger and pinky of the same hand and release the right nostril. Exhale (drawing it out longer than the inhale) and then inhale through the right nostril. Repeat a few times but don’t overdo it in the beginning, consult your general practitioner and/or your local guru. This breathing practise has many benefits aside from the initial and rather surprising sense of well-being and also synchronises both hemispheres of the brain, calming the nerves, improving focus and cleansing the lungs—which are responsible for eliminating the overwhelming bulk of the waste-products our bodies produce, expelling a lot more than carbon-dioxide in exchange for oxygen but the residue as well of countless other chemical reactions happening inside us. Be sure to visit the website and forum above for more mindfulness.

Friday, 22 April 2016

presomnia

Mind Hacks’ creator Vaughan Bell contributes a fascinating investigation to The Atlantic that explores that liminal state between slumber and wakefulness called hypnagogia. Though the experience may be universally familiar, the mental landscape of lucid dreams, poetic idylls and unhinged realities, it is not a well-mapped one. If the state only manifested itself during those brief periods when we drift off to sleep, it might be understandably difficult to gain a purchase and examine the cognitive mechanisms at work, but researchers believe that trance and meditation could also be hypnagogic in nature, greatly prolonging the window for observance and study. Perhaps learning how the conscious mind dismantles itself can show us more about cognitive models and filters of perception in our waking hours.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

vocoder or all your obnoxious traits are belong to us

The always interesting Mind Hacks informs that every quirk is well documented and studied—but not to the point, I think, of making it less engrossing and perhaps charming (or insufferable) in the ideation that goes by the name of palinacousis—that is, an auditory hallucination that is usually manifested by speaking in the manner of the last person that one has heard.
Do you mean now-now or later-now? Refudiate much? The study, however, that brought this phenomena to our attention was not a harmless case of unsolicited echolalia but rather a more extreme version, wherein a man experienced the voice of the current person he was in dialogue with as the sound and mannerisms of his previous interlocutor. He found this vocal-swapping debilitatingly funny and was not able to hold a proper conversion. This sounds like a very modern, memetic condition to me.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

le fromage, la lรฉgende

Via the ever-inspiring and inspired Nag on the Lake, we are treated to a very fine monograph on the limestone caverns of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the Aveyron region where the legitimate and right-honourable king of cheeses is cured, in accordance with age-old methods.

A particular mould that thrives in the soil of these caves—Penicillium roqueforti—creates the blue veins and imbues the distinctive taste, and prior to the isolation and understanding of penicillin, the cheese was used as a salve by local shepherds to promote the healing of wounds and stave off infections. Although remarked upon by Roman naturalist and historian Pliny the Elder and prehistoric cheesemakers’ sieves have been found in the caves, local lore has it that a young shepherd enjoying a repast of bread and sheep cheese was beguiled by the sight of a beautiful maiden, and stashing his meal in a cave (and apparently abandoning his flock for the requisite months it takes to transform plain ewe-cheese into Roquefort) and pursued her. The shepherd returned empty-handed and retrieved his remembered lunch, eating it in spite of the mould. Reading the article reminded me how back in 1999, le Roi de Fromage was embroiled in a heated-tariff war when the US imposed an impossibly high “Roquefort tax,” duties on French exports in retaliation for the country’s stance against hormonally beefed-up beef and against malbouffe—fast-food culture, in general.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

we are a culture, not a costume

The discovery of a class of bacteria—which are everywhere, in the soil and among our beneficial gut population—which can only be described as vampiric took place several years ago and while I am not sure what direction the research has taken, this strain seems especially timely given that one local hospital was found to be harbouring Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA oder Multiresistante Krankenhauskeime) in some of its wards.
News like that incited a panic among some of the clientele, battle-weary from the likes of Ebola—even though it’s endemic to most treatment facilities already and all would forego the negative publicity. These Micavibrio aeruginosavorus and related specimen called Vampirovibrio chorellavorus are purely predatory and cannot live even in nutrient-rich environments, shunning them, unless there are some other hapless bacteria to feed on—making their study rather difficult since the sample is always a contaminated one, latching on to their victims with enzyme fangs and sucking the life out of them. Subsequent culturing made pathologists hopeful that a living, evolving antibiotic agent could be used to combat those familiars (coming from the word midge, a nigget is a small insect—perhaps like Jiminy Cricket or a flea-circus—that was used as a witch’s minion, and I bet that the same terminology could apply to tinier things like germs) of our own drug abuse and hygiene.

Friday, 8 January 2016

gestalting or pinky and the brain

Via the always engaging The Browser comes a fascinating investigation into the ethics of genetic experimentation and hybridisation. Such husbandry is just about marrying up the right DNA—which does present technical hurdles though brute technology is quick to obtain and accommodate pathways that are penitentially advantageous to humans as organ farms, a repository of spare-parts, but from some fronts bodes caution, lest these chimera achieve an animal-singularity.
Personally, I couldn’t say that there was some enduring uniqueness to modes of human consciousness that make us special or so horrifyingly privileged. Some ethically-minded individuals are expressing concern that a human mind trapped in a laboratory rat’s body (reading gestating as gestalting) would elicit outrage. I’d dare to submit that an unadulterated rat probably is thinking along those very lines without some imagined vital spark. What do you think? Perhaps humans ought to be spliced with some humanity.

Monday, 4 January 2016

5/5

The ever-intriguing Kottke shares an interesting look on how emoji data labels can be effective, subjective tools for prompting the formation of better sleep-hygiene. Immediate instructions such as the routine presented in the interview at the link can be habit-forming, it seems, and is reflective of the presence this iconography has as a complement to language.
Ages ago, I developed my own system of short-hand and employed this vocabulary (which struck me as a quite memorable hieroglyphics) for note-taking and felt my retention was better for it and still think in those symbols from time to time. Beyond personal rankings and pet-use, there’s also apparently a trend in critics’ circles that gravitating away from “stars” towards more expressive pictorial scale. We’ll see how long this approaches lasts and hopefully it will have run its course before a Rosetta Stone is needed to decipher what two moai and one Great Wave off Kanagawa means for a restaurant. What do you think? Do you defer to the experts in the first place? Maybe simpler is better.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

minstrel show or executive function

Via the always brilliant Mind Hacks’ Spike Activity that encapsulates weekly developments in neuroscience and psychology come an interesting study that the chemical signals that the blood delivers to the brain are not merely the well-travelled troubadours with reports of far-off happenings and fuel sources they they are generally taken to be but rather selective in their service.
I was always grateful that our bodies were smarter than us. Blood flowing into the folds of the brain does not just blindly acquiesce to the demands of the neurons, it seems, but rather can itself dictate what parts of the brain receive nourishment and assert a political influence after a fashion over the choices we make and priorities assigned. The circulatory system (which also pushes lymph) does not take orders from the brain from conception but like language and motor-skills, is also a learnt behaviour, which really is saying quite a lot about self-discipline. What do you think? What if it’s true that the blood can veto our will or lack of resolve?

Saturday, 29 August 2015

social studies or regression to the mean

The brilliant Mind Hacks covers the landmark project that explores the reproducibility of classical experiments in cognitive science and psychology. The credence of the discipline, especially for some of the more dogmatic factions of academics and the public, is now hanging—not without controversy, on whether some of the foundational trials can be replicated with the same assuring results.

 The outcome is looking mixed—and for better or worse, no one can say, it does not seem as if the hallmarks of psychology and behavioural health practises are based on robust principles and may be driven more by publication-bias or the environment of care, coddling and what’s normative as a whole. This sort of peer-review and consistency is of course what makes or breaks research in other fields, and fraud should be weeded-out. Interestingly, much of Sigmund Freud’s archived sessions are still secret and not accessible to anyone some two centuries on—which is pretty ironic, I think, since Freud chiefly argued that repression will always out—mostly in strange and destructive ways. What do you think? This project does not necessarily invalidate what we not about psychology by highlighting the weaker argument but rather points to those areas which we can investigate with greater assurance. I am just afraid that these results will be communicated to the public in a way that sews distrust and rejection.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

5x5

found footage: transform crisp, high-definition videos into 1980s camcorder quality

23 and me: ร†on magazine explores the ethics of genetic omniscience

used in a sentence: author composes stories taken from dictionary examples

huitzilopochtli, chutzpah: University of Connecticut fighting Hummingbirds

boondocks: a look at how language and culture define the Hinterland 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

5x5

turing compleat: two chat-bots chat each other up

field-shower: a wand for washing your dog from all angles at once

spoonerism and bowdlerize: unsung holidays and observances in July

sabbatic goat: Satanic Temple of Detroit to unveil its massive Baphomet (whom the Knights Templar, Masons and the Cathars were accused of worshipping incidentally) statue later this month and take it on the road

driving that train: the Pope will chew coca leaves on his visit to Bolivia to show his support for defusing the mission-spill of the war on drugs

Monday, 8 June 2015

libidinous or better living through chemistry

The magnanimous souls of the pharmaceutical industry have managed to create another product to fulfil a need that didn’t exist—sometimes I wonder how close marketing and rampant capitalism is to the ´pataphysical—this time, in pill-form, a drug whose litany of side-effects include stimulating a woman’s libido. It’s bad enough that we’re willing to cede our trust and confidence so lightly to institutions that deserve far more scrutiny, but what really galls me is that medical science considers the possibility of a woman not being a vamp at all times a greater “unmet need” than say a male version of the birth-control pill or something that might knock testosterone levels down a few notches.

Friday, 5 June 2015

reflex arc or virality

It has been demonstrated perennially that yawning is contagious, even across different species.

Studies have also shown that reflective yawning is a good gage for empathy—imitating someone, even unconsciously like crossing one’s legs in the same way or being synchronised in stride or even the more embarrassing slip or copying someone’s diction (where another might believe that he or she are being mocked instead), betrays interest—and yawns are more likely to spread around if there is some spared affinity. Recently someone has even shown that broods of parakeets pass around this reflex in a highly ritualised, choreographed manner. Further, there are theories that yawning helps to coordinate cycles of sleep and wakefulness among close associates (a zeitgeber) and might even be akin to wolfs howling together. Alternatively (but not exclusively), the ability to yawn, and mirror this behaviour, that allowed humans to expand their intellect, being a mechanism to cool overheated brains, aside from fatigue or boredom. There is no definitive consensus on either its social or physiological function, however. Although yawning itself is hardly a memorable act and I’d venture to say that I yawn in isolation when no one else is around, I can’t that’s not a false proposition and I wonder if there wasn’t one primal yawn that’s been passed around, jumping species, ever since.