Biology

Jim Downey's picture

Hand me that electric drill, will you?

It never ceases to amaze me the things that people will do to themselves in the quest for kicks or 'enlightenment'. Like this:

Diary Entry: 03-22-00

This weekend I had a hole drilled through my skull. I read that this increased one's consciousness permanently. I read about the supposed de-conditioning properties. I read about more parts of the brain working simultaneously as there would be more blood up there to help this happen. The arguments for it all seemed to be quite lengthy, quite detailed, thought out and researched, and very intelligent. The arguments against it were based solely on the opinion that it is 'crazy' and talk like, "What's more conscious than conscious?". I heard from an acquaintance on telephone that she was glad she had done it, felt more mental energy, and had days of brilliance. I came to believe that the key to a permanent consciousness increase was a hole in the skull, to restore the full brain pulsation of infancy.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Magnitudes And Perspectives

Back in 2005, Stephen Darksyde published a fantastic article here at UTI called "Ancestral Magnitudes". It used the metaphor of the "generation", and colorfully described human evolution in terms of our ancestors.

[DarkSyde] If the idea of a flat-earth or the Sun-god is a part of that faith then you either ignore the science and live in willful ignorance-at least in regard to that conflict-and trust to faith, or you adjust your theology. Those really are your only two choices as far as I can see.

What your objection more than likely reveals is that you don't like the idea of being the product of 'random' physics and biochemistry, that you feel there is no room for a Creator in such a scenario. I cannot imagine greater natural evidence for the Brilliance of a Creator than complex process unfolding over billions of years through countless steps in exquisite order spanning the entire Cosmos. The technical skill and artistic vision of such is to be admired in awe, and in that context evolution should be worthy of your devotion, not your disdain.

I encourage you to read the whole thing if you haven't already. It'll blow your mind.

A few days ago, Xavier Onassis from the blog "Doubting Faith" published the same sort of mind-blowingly cool article about our universe, and it puts our place in that universe into stark, unflinching perspective.

[Xavier Onassis] Just for the sake of argument, let's assume that a universe this vast, and this spectacular could not be a random occurrence. Personally, I don't have a problem with it being one big coincidence. But, let's just say it's not.

Do you really think that a hypothetical all-powerful, all-knowing God, responsible for the creation of EVERYTHING in this incredibly vast universe would really give a flying fuck how you voted in the last election? Whether or not a couple of gay guys get married? Whether or not you keep Kosher or go on The Hajj?

Get over yourselves. You're not that fucking important. You need to look at the Big Picture and put things in perspective.

Just excellent. Highly recommended. Great job, Xavier.

Jim Downey's picture

Stellar Evolution

I wrote this personal item for my blog this morning, but then realized that it was in many ways a perfect summation of how I see the world. Feel free to ignore.

Jim D.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I commented via email to a close friend yesterday about the persistent fever my MIL has been running, 2 to 2.5 degrees above her normal. We'd seen fevers come and go for the last several months, but this one seems to have settled in for a while. I got back this:

Any particular reason for it, or is she just being like a star that's going into its final flameout?

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jim Downey's picture

Careful what claims you make.

Am I a bad person because I laughed and laughed and laughed at this item from the BBC, via ectoplasmosis?

Thieves cut off man's 'holy leg'

Police in southern India are hunting for two men who attacked a Hindu holy man, cut off his right leg and then made off with it.

The 80-year-old holy man, Yanadi Kondaiah, claimed to have healing powers in the leg.

* * *

Police say the reason for the attack could be because Mr Kondaiah told too many people of the alleged magical powers of his right leg.

"This might have motivated some people to take away his leg hoping to benefit from it," a police spokesman said.

Yes, I am a bad person. Because I find it funnier than hell. Remember, all you Woo-merchants, be careful what you claim.

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Just in case . . .

. . . you have, you know, any doubts that waterboarding is torture, I direct you to this fairly amazing first-hand account of it. From the account:

Here's what happened:

The water fills the hole in the saran wrap so that there is either water or vaccum in your mouth. The water pours into your sinuses and throat. You struggle to expel water periodically by building enough pressure in your lungs. With the saran wrap though each time I expelled water, I was able to draw in less air. Finally the lungs can no longer expel water and you begin to draw it up into your respiratory tract.

It seems that there is a point that is hardwired in us. When we draw water into our respiratory tract to this point we are no longer in control. All hell breaks loose. Instinct tells us we are dying.

I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You [b]know[b] you are dead and it's too late. Involuntary and total panic.

Jim Downey's picture

Busted!: Kinky goat sex.

Some years back Dave Barry did a very funny riff on 'rule 34' and goat sex.

This is better. Even Dave mentioned it in passing on his blog yesterday.

DIBBLE, Okla. -- Some "goats gone wild" are the talk of a small Oklahoma town.

A woman received two tickets after her goats were caught mating and relieving themselves on her own yard.

City law said it is illegal for any two animals to have sex in public within Dibble city limits.

It's also against law for them to relieve themselves in public even if the animal is fenced in on private land.

Jim Downey's picture

It's all in your head.

Now and again I wonder whether I am just simply missing some critical little bit of biology, if there was a small glitch in my development that left out the ability to "sense God". You know, somewhat like how someone with color blindness suffers from a slight defect in their physiology, and is able to see most of the things that the rest of us see, but just can't make out some crucial differences that allow us to make subtle distinctions. I wonder about that.

So, it seems, does Sam Harris. From a Time article dated last Friday titled "What Your Brain Looks Like on Faith", reporting on a recent scientific paper by Harris (and others):

Brent Rasmussen's picture

I Hope They Call Me Bright Eyes

I, for one, welcome our new super-intelligent Chimpanzee masters.

[link] Young Chimp Outscores College Students in Memory Test

Malcolm Ritter in New York
Associated Press
December 3, 2007

Japanese researchers pitted young chimpanzees against human adults in two tests of short-term memory, and overall, the chimps won.

That challenges the belief of many people, including a number of scientists, that "humans are superior to chimpanzees in all cognitive functions," said researcher Tetsuro Matsuzawa of Kyoto University.

"No one can imagine that chimpanzees—young chimpanzees at the age of five—have a better performance in a memory task than humans," he said in a statement.

Matsuzawa, a pioneer in studying the mental abilities of chimps, said even he was surprised. He and colleague Sana Inoue report the results in Tuesday's issue of the journal Current Biology.

Damn dirty apes!

Jim Downey's picture

And I thought *I* was insane . . .

I like hot stuff. As noted in this post, I grew a bunch of extra-hot Habanero varietals this year, and have made several batches of super-hot sauce. But even I have my limits, and know them. Unlike this twit:


Man, you gotta love dumb jocks.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to my blog. Via MeFi.)

Jim Downey's picture

Project Pterosaur

Brilliant:

About Project Pterosaur
Mission Statement

The goal of Project Pterosaur is to mount an expedition to locate and bring back to the United States living specimens of pterosaurs or their fertile eggs, which will be displayed in a Pterosaur Rookery that will be the center piece of the planned Fellowship Creation Science Museum and Research Institute (FCSMRI). Furthermore, the rookery facility will establish a breeding colony of pterosaurs in order to produce specimens that could then be put on display by other regional institutions or church groups.

By doing all this, we hope to accomplish three goals:

1. Support Creation Theory by showing the incorrectness of the philosophy of Evolutionism.
2. Educate the population about Creation Science.
3. Create excitement about Creation and the Bible in the public.

Absolutely brilliant satire. Here's another taste:

Jim Downey's picture

I am not a saint.

I just lost my temper. I just had a full-fledged screaming fit, eyes bulging, veins throbbing, face beet red. At a 90 year old woman who knows no better, who is confused by the world around her due to Alzheimer's, who is likely dying.

Why did I just do this reprehensible thing, and why on earth am I admitting to it in a public forum?

The first part of that question is the more difficult one to answer. I did it out of frustration, exhaustion, and fear. Frustration because she (my MIL) has been exhibiting compulsive behaviours all morning which drive me nuts (tearing things out of magazines, wanting to write on the back of photos in the little album she has, 'cleaning' up some lunch mess with a kleenex and in the process smearing stuff all over the table top and making more work for me.) This sort of thing rapidly gets under my skin - it's like some small kid pestering you with a behaviour that they know will drive you nuts. Except, of course, that in this case she doesn't really know what the hell she is doing.

Jim Downey's picture

Hmm. Maybe the Mormons had the right idea, after all.

Ol' Joe Smith may have had the right idea about polygamy, after all. Well, at least the evolutionary historical idea, anyway.

Men age faster 'because of Stone Age sex'

The reason that women outlive men by an average of around five years is due to sex, harems and violence in the Stone Age, according to a study published today.

Scientists have struggled to understand why men only tend to live to an average age of 75 while women live to an average of 80.

Now it seems that the reason is that our prehistoric male ancestors kept female harems and fought over them to procreate: because male life was nasty, brutish and short, evolutionary forces focused on making males big and strong, rather than long lived.

See? He really was just trying to get back to the way our ancestors lived. Man, talk about your "old time religion"...

Jim Downey

Scott Mange's picture

The Bible spreading hospital Super-Bug??

I was surprised to hear that Bibles may be partly responsible for helping spread the hospital "superbug" methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

But the only information I could find on-line concerning a link between MRSA and the Bible was from a 2005 series of articles in the UK. Please see:

Superbug threatens Bible's place in hospitals

However, this might be an item of concern. According to WikiPedia:

The major issue is that there are a number of factors that can lead to someone's death, and it is believed that patients with MRSA bacteraemia are sicker and will consequently have a higher mortality because of their underlying illness. However, several studies including one by Blot and colleagues that have adjusted for underlying disease still found MRSA bacteraemia to have a higher attributable mortality than MSSA bacteraemia.

Precisely those people most sick, and I assume most likely to be interested in after-life issues, are most likely to pick up a Bible and potentially infect it. Because it can't be cleaned with traditional methods without destroying the book, the "bug" can sit on a Bible and await its next victim.

Again, according to Wikipedia:

As MRSA has the capability to survive on surfaces and fabrics including privacy curtains or garments worn by care providers, the need for complete surface sanitation is necessary to eliminate MRSA in areas where patients are recovering from invasive procedures.

So, should hospitals and the Gideons stop providing Bible at patient bedsides? I'm assuming the patient's could bring their own from home or the hospital chaplancy could provide them on an as-requested basis.

Your thoughts??

RickU's picture

God doesn't guide their paths

There's a neat article on msnbc.com today having to do with migratory birds. From the article, "Magnetic sensing molecules in the eye, known as cryptochromes, appear to stimulate photoreceptors depending on the orientation of the magnetic field."

I see this as another clear example that God is not necessary to explain the world around us. We are capable, as a species, of figuring out life's mysteries.

Jim Downey's picture

A thought experiment...

So, here's a little thought experiment, in two parts. I would appreciate your comments on each part, as you see fit. And whatever you say in response, also consider your initial reaction (which you don't have to disclose).

Here's the scenario: You need to have a brain tumor removed. It's a tricky operation, but there's generally a 90% success rate across the medical field with it. There is also the usual 3 - 4% chance of developing a post-operative infection, and something like 1% chance of complications due to anesthesia. Your insurance will cover the entire cost of the procedure and hospitalization regardless of which choices you make to the questions below, so expense is not a factor (hey, I didn't say this was realistic).

Jim Downey's picture

Excuses, excuses.

Time magazine has an extensive piece about a new book titled Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, subtitled "The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta". The Time article is itself titled: Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith and is a lengthy examination of just that, as seen in the 50 years worth of correspondence contained in the book. Specifically, this was correspondence she had with various church officials, including her confessors and superiors. It should be noted that this is correspondence Teresa did not wish to be kept or published, so presumably is more honest and revealing than material intended for a general audience.

What is revealed is that Teresa suffered from a complete loss of any sense of God in her life and work for almost the entirety of the fifty years which she maintained her Calcutta mission. From the article:

Jim Downey's picture

The ultimate data back-up plan.

Pretty much everyone has had the experience of having your computer crash and take out data you hadn't backed-up properly. Whether it is some kind of hardware failure, or a virus, or a lighting strike, or even a malicious employee/spouse/whomever, at some point we have all lost stuff on a computer we thought was secure. If you're *really* lucky, you don't lose much, and you learn the painful lesson about keeping important information properly backed-up on recoverable media. If you're not really lucky, you learn the hard way that you can lose years of hard work in just an instant, with no recovery possible.

And that's the basic idea behind building a secure storage facility for the bulk of human knowledge, and perhaps even humanity itself, off-planet. The people behind the newly formed Alliance to Rescue Civilization want to do just that:

'Lunar Ark' Proposed in Case of Deadly Impact on Earth

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Dowsing And The Woo Factor

"Uncle" Leonard has lived on my mother in law's street for more than 40 years. My mother and father-in-law have known him for 30 of those years, and my wife, Mrs. Inscrutable, has known him since she was a little girl. She always called him "Uncle Leonard" or "Uncle Len". I met Len when I married into the family and immediately liked the old coot.

Len is 80 years old and strong as an ox. His eyes are clear, his brain works great, and he's deeply intelligent with a childlike sense of humor that infuses all that he says and does. He knows everything that is to know about big and small game hunting here in Arizona. He's our "hunting buddy", and we go hunting with him 3 or 4 times a year at least - more if we can get the time off. Working for 40 years of his early life as an electrical engineer erecting power poles and stringing high-power electrical lines through some of the most desolate desert and high-country wilderness in the state of Arizona means that he also knows every trail, track, and road. In many cases he created the trail or road when he and his crew were wiring-up the state in the 40's and 50's.

He is a crack shot. I have seen him take down two javelina from more than 400 yards, one right after the other, with perfect behind-the-ear shots. This is in the desert, and a javelina is about the size of a medium-sized dog - and they are sand-colored. It wasn't luck - he shoots like this *every time*.

My point is that Uncle Leonard isn't a wild-eyed, deluded fruit-loop new agey weirdo. He's one of the most down-to-earth, hard-nosed materialists I've ever met.

However, he dowses for water. Successfully.

More after the fold...

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