Even in absurdity, sacrament.     Even in hardship, holiness.     Even in doubt, faith.     Even in chaos, realization.    Even in paradox, blessedness

 

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"Life expands or shrinks in proportion to one's courage."    ~Anain Nin

{ Thursday, 31 August, 2006 }

Viddy Thursday: Look Around You


Germs

jaybird found this for you @ 20:08 in Silly People, Satire & Strange Behaviors | | permalink



Viddy Thursday: Look Around You


Water

jaybird found this for you @ 14:07 in Silly People, Satire & Strange Behaviors | | permalink



Viddy Thursday: Look Around You


Maths

jaybird found this for you @ 08:06 in Silly People, Satire & Strange Behaviors | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 30 August, 2006 }

The Experiential Life: Sense of Time, Sense of Place

It is possible though, to work with any numinous experience that one has in nature and translate it or adapt it to ones daily life. When I returned from that trip to the British Isles, the new sense I had about the landscape continued; as I hiked my local trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, I looked at every tree, boulder, and chaparral bush with new eyes. I wanted to know, what was behind what I was seeing here? Was it possible to have a similar experience such as I had on Glastonbury Tor? I’ve not experienced anything like that time in Somerset twelve years ago, but I set out on a program to hike the same canyon every week for a year in order to observe the changes over time. And there are changes, even if the freeway-laden horizon doesn’t seem to change. I noted the flowering of different trees and wildflowers, when the streams held water and when they dried up, when the grasses reached their tallest, and when the coyote pups arrived and the rattlesnakes became active. I watched the continued natural repair from a large wildfire that had burned the area a year earlier and saw migratory birds traverse the area in their seasons. I even found a place near a seasonal spring that some people have designated as a special or even sacred spot. On a tree branch near the stream was a collection of colored ribbons and torn fabric strips, some attached to shells or pieces of carved wood. The spot was lovely to sit in during a hot dry day and the water sounds were soothing, the nature spirits of the area were welcoming. So I added offerings of my own after a time and I assume that people are still doing so.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:48 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



The Ecology of Magic

The traditional magician, I came to discern, commonly acts as an intermediary between the human collective and the larger ecological field, ensuring that there is an appropriate flow of nourishment, not just from the landscape to the human inhabitants but from the human community back to the local Earth. By their rituals, trances, ecstasies, and 'journeys," magicians ensure that the relation between human society and the larger society of beings is balanced and reciprocal, and that the village never takes more from the living land than it returns to it-not just materially, but with prayers, propitiations, and praise. The scale ofa harvest or the size of a hunt is always negotiated between the tribal community and the natural world it inhabits. To some extent every adult in the community is engaged in this process of listening and attuning to the other presences that surround and influence daily life. But the shaman or sorcerer is the exemplary voyager in the intermediate realm between the human and the more-than-human worlds, the primary strategist and negotiator in any dealings with the Others.

And it is only as a result of his ongoing engagement with the animate powers that dwell beyond the strictly human community that the traditional magician is able to alleviate many individual illnesses that arise within that community. Disease, in most such cultures, is conceptualized as a disequilibrium within the sick person, or as the intrusion of a demonic or malevolent presence into his body. There are, at times, malevolent influences within the village that disrupt the health and emotional well-being of susceptible individuals within the community. Yet such destructive influences within the human group are commonly traceable to an imbalance between the human collective and the larger field of forces in which it is embedded. Only those persons who, by their everyday practice, are involved in monitoring and modulating the relations between the human village and the larger animate environment, are able to appropriately diagnose, treat, and ultimately relieve personal ailments and illnesses arising within the village. Any healer who was not simultaneously attending to the complex relations between the human community and the larger more-than-human field will likely dispel an illness from one person only to have the same problem arise (perhaps in a new guise) somewhere else in the village. Hence, the traditional magician or "medicine person" functions primarily as an intermediary between human and nonhuman worlds, and only secondarily as a healer. Without a continually adjusted awareness of the relative balance or imbalance between the local culture and its nonhuman environment, along with the skills necessary to modulate that primary relation, any "healer" is worthless-indeed, not a healer at all. The medicine person's primary allegiance, then, is not to the human community, but to the earthly web of relations in which that community is embedded--it is from this that her or his power to alleviate human illness derives.

[via mefi]

jaybird found this for you @ 14:42 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Emotional devastation surfaces from Katrina

A year after Hurricane Katrina scoured the Gulf Coast, the storm still rages in the minds of survivors, who now suffer twice as much severe mental illness as existed in the region before landfall, researchers reported Monday.

Katrina forced 500,000 people to evacuate and carved its initials in a swath of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The first major attempt to probe survivors' mental status found that about 15% of residents of the counties and parishes struck by the storm, or 200,000 people, have depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of mental illness, twice as many as before.

About 11% now have severe mental illness, compared with 6% before the hurricane. Nearly 20% said they had mild to moderate mental illness, compared with under 10% before.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:38 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 29 August, 2006 }

Katrina: Lest We Forget


  • My coverage from last year. Has a lot changed?
  • Everything you think you know about Katrina flooding New Orleans is wrong
  • One year on
  • Bush out of touch while disaster strikes. Has anything changed?
  • The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans
  • The Unbreakable Spirit of New Orleans Up Close

    ***

  • I can't find it in me to post anything else today. Sure, life goes on, but for thousands, perhaps millions, it hasn't, and has changed for the worse. We will never forget.

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:12 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



    { Monday, 28 August, 2006 }

    War Widow To Bush: "You're Here To Serve The People. And The People Are Not Being Served With This War."

    Hats off...

    I just got off the phone with Hildi Halley, a woman from Maine whose husband is a fallen soldier. Yesterday President Bush met with her privately, and news of their meeting was reported in a local Maine paper, the Kennebec Journal. The paper shared few details of the meeting, saying simply that Halley objected to Bush's policies and that she said Bush responded that there was no point in them having a "philosophical discussion about the pros and cons of the war."

    But Halley has just given me a much more detailed account of her meeting with Bush. She told me that she went much farther in her criticism of the President, telling him directly that he was "responsible" for the deaths of American soldiers and that as a "Christian man," he should recognize that he's "made a mistake" and that it was his "responsibility to end this." She recounted to me that she was "very direct," telling Bush: "As President, you're here to serve the people. And the people are not being served with this war."

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:37 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



    Jesus, people! Mixed race 12yo boy voted out of church.

    Why the ban? Joe is biracial, and church members didn't want the black side of his family attending with him.

    They were "afraid Joe might come with his people and have blacks in the church," church pastor John Stevens told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

    Y'see, this is what happens when you ask Jesus to live in your heart. All kinds of trouble. Ask Cthulhu to live in your heart, they'd hand you the keys to the church and run back to the whiskey still. Think twice about which ascended being you're willing to share coronary space with! Seriously, this is very disturbing, what with the recent school bus incident in which African Americans were asked to sit at the back. I guess we're not done yet, and it is especially upsetting that people who claim to be religious and righteous can't see the hypocrisy swinging from the end of their pearly white gleaming noses.

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:28 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



    Enzymes use quantum tunneling to speed up reactions

    The bizarre, unpredictable world of quantum mechanics would appear unlikely to govern everyday biological processes. However, enzymes—protein catalysts that allow chemical reactions to take place millions of times faster than their normal rate—use a phenomenon called quantum tunneling to transfer protons or electrons to or from a reactant. Until now, nobody knew just how they did it.

    An interdisciplinary group of UK researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Bristol examined a single step of a reaction where an enzyme, aromatic amine dehydrogenase, extracts a proton from a substrate called tryptamine, a natural compound related to the neurotransmitter serotonin. The researchers created a computer model of the enzyme and simulated the process. They found that, contrary to what was previously believed, it is not long-range motions of the enzyme, but rather motions close to the substrate, that promote tunneling.

    "Our present understanding of the physical basis of enzyme catalysis is still unable to explain the many orders of magnitude by which a reaction is 'speeded up' by enzymes, nor why attempts to create artificial enzymes have so far been disappointing," said study co-author David Leys of the University of Manchester via e-mail. "Our work reveals that not only active site structure, but also motions are an essential part of the enzyme's repertoire."

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:21 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



    { Saturday, 26 August, 2006 }

    Saturdays

    I've fallen into a bit of a routine on Saturdays. For one, as I write skirting near the 11th hours, I am about to leave the house for the first time. As sweet and tempting as the verdant August world was through the window, I was far more compelled to read books as raptors consume prey, to note the sounds of the the house when I'm the only one in it, to indulge the cats in play, and to rest, and heartily. I find it interesting that on this day of the week where I am unbound by schedule, I abide here as an anchorite and leave only under the complete hush of full-on night, where cicadas mark the passage of true time and long shadows are cast from the lamps we hope maintain civility in these hours of planetary wilderness that creep in after sunset, poke at the shutters, and rifle through the trash. It is stimulating enough to witness, from this my sanctuary, a day breeze by with its bird calls, car horns, and conversations carried by the wind from the other side of the water.

    I slept through one promised party, though Casey did come by and we shared wine and spoke of California, which is almost two weeks away from jarring me out of my contextual cradle.

    As I need to go into the city to attend to a weekly chore, I am going to attempt walking. The knee feels much more pliant today, and the rebuke of pain seems to have subsided into an annoyance of nerves. The swelling has decreased to almost give one the impression of leggy symmetricality, though I'm not certain this case can be made yet. I hope, perhaps audaciously, to mount Prospero (my trusty bicycle steed) and ride into the city's morning. We shall see. While having been a brute of a mechanism, the knee is really not a big deal, compared with the overly abundant exapmples of everyday suffering I've personally seen and held, so I'm disinclined to hobbling painfully through life when so many can barely even move forward in its muck.

    The cicadas are luring me, begging for an audience for their interplay between trees. I've got to get my shoes on, pack a bag, and survey the city while the final minutes of Saturday pass, and the planet edges ever closer to another arbitrary point in time, upon which we humans fixate and dote upon with such ferocity.

    jaybird found this for you @ 22:51 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



    { Thursday, 24 August, 2006 }

    Viddy Thursday: Sigur Ros


    Vidrar Vel Til Loftarasa

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:48 in Art, Music, Theater & Film | | permalink



    Viddy Thursday: Sigur Ros


    Hoppipola

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:46 in Art, Music, Theater & Film | | permalink



    Viddy Thursday: Sigur Ros


    Glósóli

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:45 in Art, Music, Theater & Film | | permalink



    { Wednesday, 23 August, 2006 }

    Indians rush to temples to feed "thirsty" idols

    Thousands of people flocked to temples across India on Monday following reports that idols of Hindu gods were drinking milk given by devotees as sacred offerings, witnesses said.

    Teenagers, adults and the aged stood in long lines with garlands and bowls of milk to feed the idols of Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna and the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, they said.

    Hundreds chanted hymns in the northern city of Lucknow and the eastern city of Kolkata and went into hysterics when the milk held against the idols disappeared.

    "It is amazing, Lord Ganesha drank milk from my hands. Now he will answer all my prayers," said Surama Dasgupta, a middle-aged woman in Kolkata.

    The frenzy began late on Sunday in some northern cities and soon spread across the country, including the capital New Delhi, even as rationalists and non-believers called it mass hysteria.

    A similar mania gripped the country in 1995 when thousands of Hindus fed milk in spoons to marble idols of Lord Ganesha.

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:32 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



    Buzz: Giant nests perplex experts

    To the bafflement of insect experts, gigantic yellow jacket nests have started turning up in old barns, unoccupied houses, cars and underground cavities across the southern two-thirds of Alabama.

    Specialists say it could be the result of a mild winter and drought conditions, or multiple queens forcing worker yellow jackets to enlarge their quarters so the queens will be in separate areas. But experts haven't determined exactly what's behind the surprisingly large nests.

    Auburn University entomologists, who say they've never seen the nests so large, have been fielding calls about the huge nests from property owners from Dothan up to Sylacauga and over into west-central Alabama's Black Belt.

    At one site in Barbour County, the nest was as large as a Volkswagen Beetle, said Andy McLean, an Orkin pesticide service manager in Dothan who helped remove it from an abandoned barn about a month ago.

    "It was one of the largest ones we've seen," McLean said.

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:27 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



    Confronting the New Misanthropy

    The big question today is not whether humans will survive the twenty-first century, but whether our faith in humanity will survive it.

    Discussions about the future increasingly tend to focus on whether humans will survive. According to green author and Gaia theorist James Lovelock, 'before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be kept in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable' (1).

    More and more books predict there will be an unavoidable global catastrophe; there is James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, and Eugene Linden's The Winds of Change: Weather and the Destruction of Civilisations. Kunstler's book warns that 'this is a much darker time than 1938, the eve of World War II' (2). In the media there are alarming stories about a mass 'die-off' in the near future and of cities engulfed by rising oceans as a consequence of climate change.

    Today we don't just have Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse but an entire cavalry regiment of doom-mongers. It is like a secular version of St John's Revelations, except it is even worse - apparently there is no future for humanity after this predicted apocalypse. Instead of being redeemed, human beings will, it seems, disappear without a trace.

    Anxieties about human survival are as old as human history itself. Through catastrophes such as the Deluge or Sodom and Gomorrah, the religious imagination fantasised about the end of the world. More recently, apocalyptic ideas once rooted in magic and theology have been recast as allegedly scientific statements about human destructiveness and irresponsibility. Elbowing aside the mystical St John, Lovelock poses as a prophet-scientist when he states: 'I take my profession seriously, and now I, too, have to bring bad news….' (3) Today, the future of the Earth is said to be jeopardised by human consumption, technological development or by 'man playing God'. And instead of original sin leading to the Fall of Man, we fear the degradation of Nature by an apparently malevolent human species.

    All of today's various doomsday scenarios - whether it's the millennium bug, oil depletion, global warming, avian flu or the destruction of biodiversity - emphasise human culpability. Their premise is that the human species is essentially destructive and morally bankrupt. 'With breathtaking insolence', warns Lovelock in his book The Revenge of Gaia, 'humans have taken the stores of carbon that Gaia buried to keep oxygen at its proper level and burnt them'.

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:08 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Tuesday, 22 August, 2006 }

    7 Facts Making Sense of Our Iraqi Disaster

    With this terror triumvirate at the center of Iraqi society, we now enter the horrible era of ethnic cleansing, the logical extension of multidimensional terror.

    When the U.S. toppled the Hussein regime, there was little sectarian sentiment outside of Kurdistan, which had longstanding nationalist ambitions. Even today, opinion polls show that more than two-thirds of Sunnis and Shia stand opposed to the idea of any further weakening of the central government and are not in favor of federation, no less dividing Iraq into three separate nations.

    Nevertheless, ethnic cleansing by both Shia and Sunni has become the order of the day in many of the neighborhoods of Baghdad, replete with house burnings, physical assaults, torture, and murder, all directed against those who resist leaving their homes. These acts are aimed at creating religiously homogeneous neighborhoods.

    This is a terrifying development that derives from the rising tide of terrorism. Sunnis believe that they must expel their Shia neighbors to stop them from giving the Shiite death squads the names of resistance fighters and their supporters. Shia believe that they must expel their Sunni neighbors to stop them from providing information and cover for car-bombing attacks. And, as the situation matures, militants on both sides come to embrace removal -- period. As these actions escalate, feeding on each other, more and more individuals, caught in a vise of fear and bent on revenge, embrace the infernal logic of terrorism: that it is acceptable to punish everyone for the actions of a tiny minority.

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:48 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



    Iraq's Civil War: What Next?

    The debate is over: By any definition, Iraq is in a state of civil war. Indeed, the only thing standing between Iraq and a descent into total Bosnia-like devastation is 135,000 U.S. troops -- and even they are merely slowing the fall. The internecine conflict could easily spiral into one that threatens not only Iraq but also its neighbors throughout the oil-rich Persian Gulf region with instability, turmoil and war.

    The consequences of an all-out civil war in Iraq could be dire. Considering the experiences of recent such conflicts, hundreds of thousands of people may die. Refugees and displaced people could number in the millions. And with Iraqi insurgents, militias and organized crime rings wreaking havoc on Iraq's oil infrastructure, a full-scale civil war could send global oil prices soaring even higher.

    However, the greatest threat that the United States would face from civil war in Iraq is from the spillover -- the burdens, the instability, the copycat secession attempts and even the follow-on wars that could emerge in neighboring countries. Welcome to the new "new Middle East" -- a region where civil wars could follow one after another, like so many Cold War dominoes.

    And unlike communism, these dominoes may actually fall.

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:26 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



    "...[S]truggling to find a way to protect the president from public accountability."

    The far more difficult question is the implication of Taylor's ruling. If this court is upheld or other courts follow suit, it will leave us with a most unpleasant issue that Democrats and Republicans alike have sought to avoid. Here it is: If this program is unlawful, federal law expressly makes the ordering of surveillance under the program a federal felony. That would mean that the president could be guilty of no fewer than 30 felonies in office. Moreover, it is not only illegal for a president to order such surveillance, it is illegal for other government officials to carry out such an order.

    For people working in government, this opinion may lead to some collar tugging. If Taylor's decision is upheld or other courts reject the program, will the president promise to pardon those he ordered to carry out unlawful surveillance?

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:22 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



    { Monday, 21 August, 2006 }

    Satan a victim of bad PR, professor says

    Goodness, Christianity is certainly a confusing affair, and inventive. And utterly deranged.

    Professor Henry Ansgar Kelly, a medievalist, says the Devil has had unfair press and has been the victim of groundless aspersions. Satan is no more evil than the head of MI5 or the prime minister, he says.

    In his book Satan: A Biography, to be published by Cambridge University Press this month, the California university academic argues that interpretation of the Bible shows that the Devil suffered a "severe blackening of character" by the clergy, early church fathers, artists, philosophers and religious scholars. The "Devil is in the detail" - literally, he says.

    The reassessment of Satan comes hot on the heels of attempts to recast Judas in saintly form. Professor Kelly does not go as far as that, but he does call on theologians to consider whether the Devil is as bad as traditionally depicted.

    Instead of being the personification of evil, Satan is a "divine functionary" whose kingdom is the earth, he says.

    "My advice is, forget about evil and worry about evil deeds and the people who commit them," he said.

    His interpretation is accepted by many biblical scholars. The theory provides an explanation for the presence of evil and suffering, without denying the existence or omniscience of God.

    Professor Kelly refers to traditional texts, such as the Lord's Prayer, where the line "Deliver us from evil" is written in some prayer books as "Deliver us from the Evil One".

    Most Christians believe that Satan was an angel named Lucifer who rebelled against God at the beginning of Creation. After being thrown out of Heaven, he tempted Adam and Eve into sin, and since then has strived to win souls for his kingdom of Hell.

    But Professor Kelly argues that none of this is in the Bible, and that it represents conclusions drawn by the early church fathers and read back into the Bible.

    He argues from Revelation, at the end of the Christian Scriptures, that Satan remains in Heaven, as the "accuser of humankind", and will stay there until the Battle of Armageddon, when he will be imprisoned in the abyss. After a brief release, he will be imprisoned in the lake of fire for eternity.

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:51 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



    Bacteria Roll Out Carpet Of Goo That Converts Deadly Heavy Metal Into Less Threatening Nano-spheres

    Since the discovery a little more than a decade ago of bacteria that chemically modify and neutralize toxic metals without apparent harm to themselves, scientists have wondered how on earth these microbes do it.

    For Shewanella oneidensis, a microbe that modifies uranium chemistry, the pieces are coming together, and they resemble pearls that measure precisely 5 nanometers across enmeshed in a carpet of slime secreted by the bacteria.

    The pearl is uranium dioxide, or uraninite, which moves much less freely in soil than its soluble counterpart, a groundwater-contamination threat at nuclear waste sites.

    The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that uranium contaminates more than 2,500 billion liters of groundwater nationwide; over the past decade, the agency has support research into the ability of naturally-occurring microbes that can halt the uranium’s underground migration to prevent it from reaching streams used by plants, animals and people.

    Assembling a battery of evidence, scientists have for the first time placed the bacterial enzymes responsible for converting uranium to uraninite at the scene of the slime, or “extracellular polymeric substance” (EPS), according to a study led by the DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in today’s advance online edition of PLoS Biology.

    “Shewanella really puts a lot of stuff outside the cell,” said PNNL chief scientist Jim Fredrickson, the study’s senior author. “It’s very tactile compared with pathogens, which go into hiding to evade detection by the immune system.”

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:48 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



    Natural Resources are Fuelling a New Cold War

    ...[T]he natural resource that greases the wheels of the global economy is running out. All oil-producing states are working close to capacity and slacks or stoppages on the part of one of the major producers can't be compensated by the others. Former White House energy advisor Matthew Simmons evokes a genuinely horrific scenario: He calculates that the price of a petroleum barrel may rise as high as "$200 to $250" in the coming years -- a far cry from today's $73 and July's nominal record of $78.40. Such an extreme price increase would unhinge the entire world economy and spell ruin even for large corporations.

    Should the world be trembling in fear? Should everyone be afraid that gas and heating will soon no longer be affordable? Concern over such issues is certainly spreading in Germany, a country whose energy security is good compared to many others. Should we shiver with fear of anticipated bloodshed over resource allocation? The superpower China is hunting these resources especially aggressively. Should we fear the war that comes from the cold?

    The good news is that it's improbable, despite all the dangers and bottlenecks, that fossil fuels will become the much cited unaffordable "black gold" overnight, or that they will even no longer be available in sufficient quantities. Besides, human inventiveness has always been able to discover or invent new energy sources.

    The bad news is that the age of cheap oil and natural gas is definitely over. At the very latest, the next generation will be bitterly punished for our reckless overconsumption of fossil fuels. Renewable energies and energy efficiency together won't be enough to cover the shortfall, either. In the longterm, even if renewable resources like solar power, wind power and biomass -- which are urgently needed -- are added into the energy mix with oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy, they will still only be able to cover one-quarter of the energy needs of industrialized nations. That's the best-case scenario.

    Ideological trench fights over secure fuels aside, most reputable scientists agree that the historical "peak" of oil production will be reached in five to 10 years, despite improvements in drilling technology and the expansion of production to include oil shales and oil sands, which are difficult to process. From that point on, oil production will head downhill -- despite increasing worldwide demand.

    Earth's population consumed 83 million barrels of oil per day last year. According to calculations by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Paris-based club of oil-importing states, the number will have climbed to above 90 million by 2010, and it will have reached about 115 million in 2030. The more fiercely fossil fuels blaze in our ovens, burn in our engines and power our generators, the faster a country can develop. US energy analyst Daniel Yergin has written that "petroleum remains the motive force of industrial society."

    Now, at a time when the oil age is irrevocably racing towards its conclusion, more and more people are trying to become a part of it. They are led by emerging nations like China and India -- two countries that know their growth engine will inevitably start to stutter without a constant supply of resources. Petroleum is their elixir for survival.

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:40 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



    { Saturday, 19 August, 2006 }

    selves within selves

    The light is long, as a sigh,
    The last throes of ecstasy before sleep
    Moves up the body.
    The air continues to chill, and yesterday the lake
    Was somehow cooler than last week-
    The swim to the dock beset with an awareness
    That soon, I will not transit in this way
    Across its smooth surface.
    Instead, my eyes will dart above it as a curious dragonfly
    Which, by fall, will be skelatal in the reeds.
    Change has been ongoing all summer,
    And in our orgasmic quest for sunshine,
    We don't dare to notice
    That the Earth, it spins,
    And in fact lives in night
    And our golden moments are at the convenience of her dance.
    The garden upstairs is still festive,
    Though the sunflowers are bowed as penitent monks,
    The vines of harvest have done their work and fruited
    And now relax from the strain pass'd,
    And I savor this, from the touch of it
    And the mystery which blows through the window,
    And the drone of cricket, which, for whatever reason,
    Overwhelms all else,
    Settles over every leaf in steady music,
    And turns it.
    Turns me.
    The air, though, so still
    Yet the little bell on a string
    Rocks with near imperceptible motion
    Stirred not by the ascent of breath
    But by the passage of memory itself
    Years within years, selves within selves
    Passing through a slight morning in August
    My bones themselves a season
    As I open the door
    And spill out, step by silent step, into timelessness.

    jaybird found this for you @ 11:09 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



    { Friday, 18 August, 2006 }

    Liveblogging Matthew Fox

    He spoke on Thursday Aug. 17th at Jubilee Community, Asheville, NC.

  • All nature is theology. There is much more theology in nature than in a book that is 4500 years old.
  • Wisdom is feminine and mystically transferred.
  • Christianity has nothing to offer without its mystical tradition.
  • The reptillian brain is a lover of solitude, which is what a lot of mystical tradition is about. The mammal brain is all about compassion. Meditation calms the reptillian brain.
  • One out of every ten mammals is going extinct while churches are arguing over whether to ordain gays.
  • We are the first species to choose not to go extinct... and we're not choosing yet. We're going about as if business is normal. None of it can be normal, as all of it is leading us into extinction. The moral question is whetherour species is sustainable or not.
  • If we do not make a major shity if our species self-care in nine years, we'vepassed a point of no return.
  • The gulf between religion and spirituality is so stark and dangerous because we are on the brink; we are not living our lives in depth.
  • Our creativity is what sets us aside as a species.
  • The anthropologist's definition of a human is a biped who makes things.
  • In 100,000 years, we have taken over the planet... yet we are lousy stewards. If religion is in the way of our ability to become better stewards, it needs to get out of the way.
  • The quest for Wisdom shouldn't be a competition.
  • We need a return to gender balance; our historical ideas about God indicate what a very small box we all live in.
  • The Goddess is back and She's pissed, as well she should be.
  • We've got to stand up to our culture's distorted view of masculinity.
  • The Green Man is the archetype of Sacred Masculinity. In Native American tradition, the plants are the most intelligent of the creatures. The Green Man synthesizes the wisdom of nature with the wisdom of the creative male self, of warriorhood.
  • Real warriorship is the defense of the weak. If we are not doing that, we are leaches.
  • The Slavemaster was deeply wounded by slavery, but he was the last to know it.
  • If every car got 40 MPG, we'd no longer need a drop of foreign oil.
  • The Bible is no more qualified to tell us about homosexuality than it is about the Earth and the Sun.
  • 464 species of creatures have been identified with homosexual populations.
  • Any church that is homophobic is killing off an incredible spiritual resource.
  • The over-focus on homosexuality is a silly lightening rod of the ultra-conservatives to suck the energy out of the real moral arguments of our time.
  • Passive aggressive behavior is a sickening virus- we are not in touch with our anger. There is such a thing as prophetic outrage.
  • We should be praising our ancestors for their lust for our being here.
  • We need to spend much more time understanding our anger.
  • Until we get in touch with our lower chakras, we will not get in touch with the Earth.
  • Another sign of hope is the youth, the first post-modern generation. They are creating amazing artforms which synthesize all of the wisdom which has trickled up to this point. They bring the seeds of the new renaissance.

    jaybird found this for you @ 00:22 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



    { Thursday, 17 August, 2006 }

    Viddy Thursday: Sir David Attenborough


    Dance of the Grebes

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:14 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



    Viddy Thursday: Sir David Attenborough


    Sounding The Alarm

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:09 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



    Viddy Thursday: Sir David Attenborough


    The Lyrebird

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:07 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



    { Wednesday, 16 August, 2006 }

    A funny thing happened on the way to lunch...

    So, I'm gaily sauntering (as I'm prone to do) to lunch, and noticed a Eastern Tiger Swallowtail playing amongst the petunias. Then, the doubletake occured, time stopped, metaphors flew out the window, and all previous known quanities of the natural world were summoned into every neuron and pore as I noticed something unusual:

    The butterfly had two different wing colorations. At first, I thought that a little insect piggy-backwas happening, or that some evil inventive child had superglued a different wing on to the poor critter. But no, this was one whole being supported through the air by two very different wings. A fantastic genetic anomaly, the audacious and upstart flutterby dazzled myself alone, as no one ventured out to investigate the little man eagerly taking pictures with a ubiquitous cellphone.

    I immediately emailed the pics to Flickr, and by way of the comments, the science behind the event was revealed. What we have here is a Gynandromorph, as discerning readers of the Pharyngula Scienceblog discerned... "So, if you have a non-disjunction in an X chromosome in an XX individual during the first division of the zygote, then you will end up with an individual that appears half male (on one side) and half female (on the other side). This is called a bilateral gynandromorph. The non-disjunction can occur during later divisions, however, giving you a smaller portion of the body/wings that looks like one sex and a larger portion that looks like another. It can even happen more than once during development, so that you end up with patches of female and male scattered around on the individual, resulting in what is called a mosaic..."

    Note this example of a gynandromorphic swallowtail. It's exactly what I saw, with a reversal of wing fortune. I'd love to write more, much more, on this, but I'm way late for the shower and the subsequent commute to the land of abberant animals: blue fireflies, white squirrels, wayward caymen, and now Papillon sent directly from the Divine Androgyne (or a whacked chromosome).

    jaybird found this for you @ 12:19 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



    { Tuesday, 15 August, 2006 }

    Study provides new insights into brain organization

    Scientists have provided new insights into how and why the brain is organised - knowledge which could eventually inform diagnosis of and treatments for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and autism.

    A study by Newcastle University, UK, and the International University Bremen, Germany, debunked a prevailing theory that the nervous system should have mainly very short nerve fibre connections between nerve cells, or neurons, to function at its most effective.

    Instead the study, which carried out a sophisticated computer analysis of public databases containing detailed information of worldwide anatomical studies on primate and worm brains, found that long nerve fibre connections were just as vital to overall brain function as short ones.

    Much of what we know about the human brain derives from neuroscience research on primates, which are used because they have have experienced similar evolutionary stages to humans.

    Brain scans of Alzheimer’s patients and people with autism have shown that they are lacking certain long-distance neural interactions, although experts have yet to discover their specific purpose.

    The new study, published in the academic journal PLoS Computational Biology, found that long fibres are important because they can send messages quickly over a longer distance compared with if the same message was sent over the same distance via lots of short fibres. It also found that long fibres are more reliable for transmission of messages over longer distances.

    “You can draw parallels with a train journey from Newcastle to London,” said lead researcher, Dr Marcus Kaiser, of Newcastle University’s School of Computing Science and the University’s Institute of Neuroscience.

    “For example, you would get to London much more quickly and easily if you took a direct train there. However, if you had to make the journey via Durham, Leeds and Stevenage, changing trains each time, then it will take you longer to get there, and there is the possibility you would miss a connection at some point. It’s the same in the human brain.”

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:53 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Spock and Roll: Emotions 'fuel irrational acts'

    People who make irrational decisions when faced with problems are at the mercy of their emotions, a study says.

    Researchers traced the origin of such decisions to the brain's emotion centre, the amygdala, in a study of 20 people using a gambling game.

    That brain region fires up in people faced with a difficult situation but reactions to its effects vary, the University College London team found...

    The researchers found some people kept a cool head and managed to keep their emotions in check, while others were led by their emotional response.

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:45 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Death and Rebirth in World Myth and Mythic Fiction

    To die is to sleep, the myth seems to be saying, to be entombed among flickering dreams until we wake again. Sleep and death, birth and awakening, are fused in tales from across the world, from throughout history. There's the Chinese legend of P'an–ku, for example, a primal deity who hatches from the cosmic egg only to die, his breath, his blood, his muscles and veins, all of him, becoming the substance of the world, the wind and the clouds, the strata of rock and earth, the rivers; his death is the birth of the world. There are the metamorphoses of Greek myths — Narcissus, Hyacinth, Daphne — where death is not an end but a transformation to a new life. There are folktales or fantasy stories which take the Hindu or Buddhist concept of reincarnation as a springboard. Anna Tambour's story "Strange Incidents in Foreign Parts," in Electric Velocipede #9 for instance, has a protagonist who dies and is reborn as an eggplant. Yes, an eggplant.

    There's an animistic theme which informs these tales, a suggestion that death is only a dissolution of the individual back into the collective soul from which they came, from which they'll re–emerge in a new form. We tend to think of the Phoenix as the archetypal symbol of death and resurrection, to talk of rising, Phoenix–like, from the ashes. But the Phoenix which hatches from an egg incubated in fire is not the same Phoenix which builds that pyre of a nest, which dies upon that fire. That Phoenix dies so a new Phoenix can be hatched. If there is a sense of reincarnation, it is not as a restoration of the individual but as what the Buddhists would call a rebecoming.

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:41 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



    { Monday, 14 August, 2006 }

    Weird Electromagnetic Things Tonight

    Um, yeah.

    A flashlight which happens to be sitting on the dining room table just flashed at me- a sustained flash of about 2 seconds. I checked it, and nothing's loose, and it wasn't on. It's got an LED bulb and I watched the beam of opaque light on my shirt.

    Earlier, I flicked a light switch and the flourescent bulb in there, brand new, was flickering. Not supposed to happen. Once it worked itself out it became insanely bright.

    And the Wifi network is a total wreck- flying one minute, toast the next.

    What's going on and am I a little kooky to be slightly unnerved by it?

    jaybird found this for you @ 22:03 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



    Tubes: Indian village uploads itself onto Internet

    An Indian village has uploaded itself onto the Internet, giving the outside world a glimpse of life in rural India.

    Visitors to Hansdehar village's Web site (www.smartvillages.org) can see the names, jobs and other details of its 1,753 residents, browse photographs of their shops and read detailed specifications about their drainage and electricity facilities.

    Most of the residents can't yet surf the Hansdehar Web site as the village is not yet connected to the Internet. But the villagers hope the site -- and their imminent first Internet connection -- will put them in touch with the world beyond the flooded rice fields surrounding Hansdehar, located in a rich agricultural belt in the northern state of Haryana.

    "It will be a revolution," said farmer Ajaib Singh.

    He and other villagers hope the connection with the outside world will help speed up improvements to Hansdehar's woeful infrastructure and services such as a lack of a dispensary and unreliable electricity. The village has long been neglected by the Indian government, locals complain.

    "Now we can put our problems on the Web site, and then the government can't say 'we didn't know'," he said.

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:29 in Blogosphere, Tech & Internet | | permalink



    Greenland ice cap may be melting at triple speed

    The world's second largest ice cap may be melting three times faster than indicated by previous measurements, according to newly released gravity data collected by satellites.

    The Greenland Ice Sheet shrank at a rate of about 239 cubic kilometres per year from April 2002 to November 2005, a team from the University of Texas at Austin, US, found. In the last 18 months of the measurements, ice melting has appeared to accelerate, particularly in southeastern Greenland.

    "This is a good study which confirms that indeed the Greenland ice sheet is losing a large amount of mass and that the mass loss is increasing with time," says Eric Rignot, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US, who led a separate study that reached a similar conclusion earlier in 2006. His team used satellites to measure the velocity of glacier movement and calculate net ice loss.

    Yet another technique, which uses a laser to measure the altitude of the surface, determined that the ice sheet was losing about 80 cubic kilometres of ice annually between 1997 and 2003. The newer measurements suggest the ice loss is three times that.

    "Acceleration of ice mass loss over Greenland, if confirmed, would be consistent with proposed increased global warming in recent years, and would indicate additional polar ice sheet contributions to global sea level rise," write the University of Texas researchers in the journal Science.

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:16 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



    Breaking from Hersh: Bush helped to plan Levantine War

    In the days after Hezbollah crossed from Lebanon into Israel, on July 12th, to kidnap two soldiers, triggering an Israeli air attack on Lebanon and a full-scale war, the Bush Administration seemed strangely passive. “It’s a moment of clarification,” President George W. Bush said at the G-8 summit, in St. Petersburg, on July 16th. “It’s now become clear why we don’t have peace in the Middle East.” He described the relationship between Hezbollah and its supporters in Iran and Syria as one of the “root causes of instability,” and subsequently said that it was up to those countries to end the crisis. Two days later, despite calls from several governments for the United States to take the lead in negotiations to end the fighting, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that a ceasefire should be put off until “the conditions are conducive.”

    The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

    Israeli military and intelligence experts I spoke to emphasized that the country’s immediate security issues were reason enough to confront Hezbollah, regardless of what the Bush Administration wanted. Shabtai Shavit, a national-security adviser to the Knesset who headed the Mossad, Israel’s foreign-intelligence service, from 1989 to 1996, told me, “We do what we think is best for us, and if it happens to meet America’s requirements, that’s just part of a relationship between two friends. Hezbollah is armed to the teeth and trained in the most advanced technology of guerrilla warfare. It was just a matter of time. We had to address it.”


    Sy laying it all out on the TeeVee screen.

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:03 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



    { Saturday, 12 August, 2006 }

    A brief dispatch before scrambling eggs

    It is raining, and more or less has been since I went to bed, which was at midnight. I awoke a few times with the thick night just musical in rain. Just a fewminutes ago, I left a book open at chapter 3, and waddled into my bedroom to find some shorts and that it was 11. That's late for me. I've been so consumed in reverie and the bucolic morning that my own annoyingly accurate penchant for knowing the time almost to the minute was thrown far off course, breezeless at sea. If there's anything big going on in the world right now, I don't know about it.

    The knee seems to be making a little less nerve noise, though I am aware of it, certainly. I've not made my Saturday eggs yet, and just a few minutes ago made my tea. I'm enjoying the rain, and I know that in a few weeks the taste in the air willbe crisper and the darkening skies will herald the contrast of cooler weather, and the closing up of the festive canopy that is summer. Bittersweetness.

    Things are good. Work is rewarding, the cats are entertaining, and the mystery which underlies everything throbs without hesitation... perhaps in muscle and bone, perhaps in the cadence of a stranger's voice, perhaps in the song that keeps rattling through the head like some coal-laden train through the steep valleys of thought and memory.

    And so it goes... happy Saturday.

    jaybird found this for you @ 11:10 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



    { Friday, 11 August, 2006 }

    U.S. Lags World in Grasp of Genetics and Acceptance of Evolution

    A comparison of peoples' views in 34 countries finds that the United States ranks near the bottom when it comes to public acceptance of evolution. Only Turkey ranked lower.

    Among the factors contributing to America's low score are poor understanding of biology, especially genetics, the politicization of science and the literal interpretation of the Bible by a small but vocal group of American Christians, the researchers say.

    “American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalist, which is why Turkey and we are so close,” said study co-author Jon Miller of Michigan State University.
    Evolving Issue

    The researchers combined data from public surveys on evolution collected from 32 European countries, the United States and Japan between 1985 and 2005. Adults in each country were asked whether they thought the statement “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals,” was true, false, or if they were unsure.

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:14 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



    Cheney and "Al-Qaeda Democrats"

    As the Mideast sits on the brink of regional war, Vice President Dick Cheney spent his time yesterday holding a teleconference to discuss the outcome of the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut.

    Cheney said that to “purge a man like Joe Lieberman” was “of concern, especially over the issue of Joe’s support with respect to national efforts in the global war on terror.” He explained:

    The thing that’s partly disturbing about it is the fact that, the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task.

    Cheney’s argument assumes that the war in Iraq is helping the United States defeat terrorists. He’s wrong. His own State Department found last April that Iraq had become a safe haven for terrorists and attracted a “foreign fighter pipeline” linked to terrorist plots, cells and attacks throughout the world. An overwhelming bipartisan majority (84%) of national security experts believe we are losing the war on terror, and 87 percent think Iraq has had a negative impact.

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:12 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



    Disgusting as usual: Bush and Cronies Seek Political Gains From Scaring the Bejeezus Out of You.

    Weighed down by the unpopular war in
    Iraq, Bush and his aides have tried to shift the national political debate from that conflict to the broader and more popular global war on terrorism ahead of November 7 congressional elections.

    The London conspiracy is "a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation," the president said on a day trip to Wisconsin.

    "It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America," he said. "We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously we still aren't completely safe."

    His remarks came a day after the White House orchestrated an exceptionally aggressive campaign to tar opposition Democrats as weak on terrorism, knowing what Democrats didn't: News of the plot could soon break.

    Vice President
    Dick Cheney and White House spokesman Tony Snow had argued that Democrats wanted to raise what Snow called "a white flag in the war on terror," citing as evidence the defeat of a three-term Democratic senator who backed the Iraq war in his effort to win renomination.

    But Bush aides on Thursday fought the notion that they had exploited their knowledge of the coming British raid to hit Democrats, saying the trigger had been the defeat of Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut by an anti-war political novice.

    "The comments were purely and simply a reaction" to Democratic voters who "removed a pro-defense Senator and sent the message that the party would not tolerate candidates with such views," said Snow.

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:08 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



    { Thursday, 10 August, 2006 }

    Viddy Thursday: Aldous Huxley

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:58 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Viddy Thursday: G.I. Gurdjieff

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:45 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Viddy Thursday: Carl Jung

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:56 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Wednesday, 09 August, 2006 }

    And then there's this: Taller mountains blamed on global warming

    The mountains in Europe are growing taller and melting glaciers are partly responsible, scientists say.

    Heavy glaciers cause the Earth's crust to flex inward slightly. When glaciers disappear, the crust springs back and the overlaying mountains are thrust skyward, albeit slowly.

    The European Alps have been growing since the end of the last little Ice Age in 1850 when glaciers began shrinking as temperatures warmed, but the rate of uplift has accelerated in recent decades because global warming has sped up the rate of glacier melt, the researchers say.

    The finding is detailed in the July Issue of Geophysical Research Letters. The conclusion is based on a new computer model that assumes that over timescales of a few years to thousands of years, the surface of the Earth behaves like a very thick fluid.

    "Imagine honey or molasses, only a billion, billion times more viscous," said study leader Valentino Barletta of the University of Milan in Italy. If a heavy object is placed on the surface of such a fluid, it sinks until a balance is reached between the forces of gravity pulling it down and the buoyancy keeping it afloat.

    "When you remove the weight, the viscous fluid takes some time to refill the depression that's left behind," Barletta told LiveScience.

    This is happening in the Alps. As the glaciers melt and the mountains are freed of their heavy burdens, the surface of the Earth springs back very slowly. This effect is well studied and it occurs in North America, too.

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:26 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



    Swiss mountain crumbles under hot climate

    Sometimes, global warming can help put money in your pocket.

    Hansruedi Burgener has welcomed up to 800 people a day -- twice the average number of visitors -- to his remote mountain hostel in the Alps this summer.

    They all hope to watch a rock the size of two Empire State Buildings collapse onto the canyon floor nearly 700 feet below, as retreating glacier ice robs a cliff face on the eastern edge of the Eiger Mountain of its main support.

    “We would also have made a living without the rock coming down. But it would have been a bit quieter,” Burgener said.

    Accessible only by a steep hike of more than an hour, Burgener’s place offers a safe view of the crumbling rock right opposite, and refreshments like a cold beer.

    Every few minutes or so, there is a surprisingly loud sound as a boulder comes thundering down, sending a cloud of dust into the air. The sharp crackle of smaller stones rolling down the cliff face is almost continuous.

    The spectacle is a dramatic reminder that the Alps have been hit hard by warming temperatures, and underscore warnings from scientists that thawing permafrost -- the frozen soil that can glue mountains together -- will cause more havoc in the future.

    Glaciers in the Alps may have lost up to a tenth of their volume in the hot 2003 summer alone, researchers at Zurich university have said, and the ice now only occupies between half and a third of its volume in 1850.

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:23 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



    A Primeval Tide of Toxins

    The fireweed began each spring as tufts of hairy growth and spread across the seafloor fast enough to cover a football field in an hour.

    When fishermen touched it, their skin broke out in searing welts. Their lips blistered and peeled. Their eyes burned and swelled shut. Water that splashed from their nets spread the inflammation to their legs and torsos.

    "It comes up like little boils," said Randolph Van Dyk, a fisherman whose powerful legs are pocked with scars. "At nighttime, you can feel them burning. I tried everything to get rid of them. Nothing worked."

    As the weed blanketed miles of the bay over the last decade, it stained fishing nets a dark purple and left them coated with a powdery residue. When fishermen tried to shake it off the webbing, their throats constricted and they gasped for air.

    After one man bit a fishing line in two, his mouth and tongue swelled so badly that he couldn't eat solid food for a week. Others made an even more painful mistake, neglecting to wash the residue from their hands before relieving themselves over the sides of their boats.

    For a time, embarrassment kept them from talking publicly about their condition. When they finally did speak up, authorities dismissed their complaints — until a bucket of the hairy weed made it to the University of Queensland's marine botany lab.

    Samples placed in a drying oven gave off fumes so strong that professors and students ran out of the building and into the street, choking and coughing.

    Scientist Judith O'Neil put a tiny sample under a microscope and peered at the long black filaments. Consulting a botanical reference, she identified the weed as a strain of cyanobacteria, an ancestor of modern-day bacteria and algae that flourished 2.7 billion years ago.

    O'Neil, a biological oceanographer, was familiar with these ancient life forms, but had never seen this particular kind before. What was it doing in Moreton Bay? Why was it so toxic? Why was it growing so fast?

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:18 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



    { Tuesday, 08 August, 2006 }

    I wanted to post substantial things...

    ...but I'm really busy this mornng. Hopefully I'll have afternoon and evening goodness for everyone.

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:09 in Misc. Babble | | permalink



    { Monday, 07 August, 2006 }

    Researchers solve a 200-year-old Moon mystery

    In 1994, Maria Zuber, then a geophysicist at Johns Hopkins, was working on a research paper when her 4-year-old son walked into her office and asked what she was up to.

    "I'm writing a paper on the shape of the Moon,'" Zuber told him.

    "Mom," he said, "it's round."

    Scientists have known for centuries that the Moon isn't round. Rather, the Moon is a flattened sphere—like a football—and is elongated on the side that faces the Earth.
    Advertisement

    Despite this knowledge, scientists have been mystified that the Moon's distorted dimensions don't match their predictions, given its current orbit and distance from Earth. The Moon, mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace noted in 1799, is too deformed and too flat.

    Scientists tried to develop models of the Moon's early orbit that could explain how the distortions formed, but they always failed—no matter how close they moved the Moon's orbit to the Earth, or how fast they made it spin. No solution matched the Moon's exact dimensions.

    Now, in the Aug. 4th issue of Science, Zuber, now at MIT, teams up with two colleagues to provide the first defensible answer to the 200-year-old puzzle of how the Moon got its figure.

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:28 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



    Oddballs abound when you're a freak magnet

    “A freak magnet is basically someone who attracts bizarre, unwanted attention,” says Ginger, who asked that her real name not be used due to the number of times she’s been stalked. “You’re minding your own business and then you suddenly have some encounter that you didn’t invite in any way. It just happens to some people more than others.”

    But the burning question is why? Why do some people walk through a public garden and see beautiful flowers and other people, like Ginger, see a naked guy standing in his picture window masturbating?

    Do freak magnets emit some kind of special scent? Use different body language? Are they more open and approachable than other people? Or do they just like all the crazy attention or perhaps attract it because they’re a little freaky themselves?

    "Being a freak magnet sounds to me like half-complaint and half-boast,” says Dr. Doe Lang, psychotherapist and author of "The New Secrets of Charisma." “There is a sort of suggestive glamour about it. Even if you’re magnetizing freaks, you’re still magnetizing somebody. You’ve got the power to attract.”

    But it’s what some folks attract that’s the problem.

    Beth Duddy, 46, a restaurant server/artist from San Francisco tends to pull from the paranoid schizophrenic end of the spectrum, i.e., “intense people who like to talk,” often, as it turns out, about their “enemy lists”.

    Duddy, whose mother suffered from mental illness, calls herself freak tolerant and admits to being a bit outside the norm, herself.

    “I’m college-educated and can put on a business suit and pumps and all that,” she says. “But I’m not afraid to talk to strangers on the street. And it seems that I attract these amusing oddballs and losers. It feels like once I make eye contact with them, it’s all over. They pick up on whatever it is that tells them they can open up their freaky baggage.”

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:23 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Transforming the Alchemists

    There was no place in the annals of empirical science, beginning mainly in the 18th century, for the occult practices of obsessed dreamers who sought most famously and impossibly to transform base metals into pure gold. So alchemy fell into disrepute.

    But in the revival of scholarship on the field, historians are finding reasons to give at least some alchemists their due. Even though they were secretive and self-deluded and their practices closer to magic than modern scientific methods, historians say, alchemists contributed to the emergence of modern chemistry as a science and an agent of commerce.

    “Experimentalism was one of alchemy’s hallmarks,” said Lawrence M. Principe, a historian of science at Johns Hopkins University and a trained chemist. “You have to get your hands dirty, and in this way alchemists forged some early ideas about matter.”

    Bent over boiling crucibles in their shadowy laboratories, squeezing bellows before transformative flames and poring over obscure formulas, some alchemists stumbled on techniques and reactions of great value to later chemists. It was experimentation by trial and error, historians say, but it led to new chemicals and healing elixirs and laid the foundations of procedures like separating and refining, distilling and fermenting.

    “What do chemists do? They like to make stuff,” Dr. Principe said. “Most chemists are interested not so much in theory as in making substances with particular properties. The emphasis on products was the same with some alchemists in the 17th century.”

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:09 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



    { Friday, 04 August, 2006 }

    Begging off for Friday

    I've got some serious schoolwork to do- meanwhile, several travelers are en route to Asheville for the first annual Metachat/Metafilter Bunnystock... so I've got to balance all this hooey.

    I may pop in to say hello over the weekend...

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:05 in Misc. Babble | | permalink



    { Thursday, 03 August, 2006 }

    Viddy Thursday: Robert Anton Wilson

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:11 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Viddy Thursday: Ken Wilber

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:08 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Viddy Thursday: Terrence McKenna

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:05 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Wednesday, 02 August, 2006 }

    Drug Triggers Body's Mechanism To Reverse Aging Effect On Memory Process

    A drug made to enhance memory appears to trigger a natural mechanism in the brain that fully reverses age-related memory loss, even after the drug itself has left the body, according to researchers at UC Irvine.

    Professors Christine Gall and Gary Lynch, along with Associate Researcher Julie Lauterborn, were among a group of scientists who conducted studies on rats with a class of drugs known as ampakines. Ampakines were developed in the early 1990s by UC researchers, including Lynch, to treat age-related memory impairment and may be useful for treating a number of central nervous system disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. In this study, the researchers showed that ampakine drugs continue to reverse the effects of aging on a brain mechanism thought to underlie learning and memory even after they are no longer in the body. They do so by boosting the production of a naturally occurring protein in the brain necessary for long-term memory formation.

    The study appears in the August issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology.

    “This is a significant discovery,” said Gall, professor of anatomy and neurobiology. “Our results indicate the exciting possibility that ampakines could be used to treat learning and memory loss associated with normal aging.”

    The researchers treated two groups of middle-aged rats twice a day for four days with either a solution that contained ampakines or one that did not. They then studied the hippocampus region of the rats’ brains, an area critical for memory and learning. They found that in the ampakine-treated rats, there was a significant increase in the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein known to play a key role in memory formation. They also found an increase in long-term potentiation (LTP), the process by which the connection between the brain cells is enhanced and memory is encoded. This enhancement is responsible for long-term cognitive function, higher learning and the ability to reason. With age, deficits in LTP emerge, and learning and memory loss occurs.

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:04 in Health, Medicine & Bio-Happiness | | permalink



    A Nation of Wimps?

    Maybe it's the cyclist in the park, trim under his sleek metallic blue helmet, cruising along the dirt path... at three miles an hour. On his tricycle.

    Or perhaps it's today's playground, all-rubber-cushioned surface where kids used to skin their knees. And... wait a minute... those aren't little kids playing. Their mommies—and especially their daddies—are in there with them, coplaying or play-by-play coaching. Few take it half-easy on the perimeter benches, as parents used to do, letting the kids figure things out for themselves.

    Then there are the sanitizing gels, with which over a third of parents now send their kids to school, according to a recent survey. Presumably, parents now worry that school bathrooms are not good enough for their children.

    Consider the teacher new to an upscale suburban town. Shuffling through the sheaf of reports certifying the educational "accommodations" he was required to make for many of his history students, he was struck by the exhaustive, well-written—and obviously costly—one on behalf of a girl who was already proving among the most competent of his ninth-graders. "She's somewhat neurotic," he confides, "but she is bright, organized and conscientious—the type who'd get to school to turn in a paper on time, even if she were dying of stomach flu." He finally found the disability he was to make allowances for: difficulty with Gestalt thinking. The 13-year-old "couldn't see the big picture." That cleverly devised defect (what 13-year-old can construct the big picture?) would allow her to take all her tests untimed, especially the big one at the end of the rainbow, the college-worthy SAT.

    Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. "Kids need to feel badly sometimes," says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. "We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope."

    Messing up, however, even in the playground, is wildly out of style. Although error and experimentation are the true mothers of success, parents are taking pains to remove failure from the equation.

    "Life is planned out for us," says Elise Kramer, a Cornell University junior. "But we don't know what to want." As Elkind puts it, "Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they're geared to academic achievement."

    No one doubts that there are significant economic forces pushing parents to invest so heavily in their children's outcome from an early age. But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the process they're robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life skill. These turn out to be the spreading psychic fault lines of 21st-century youth. Whether we want to or not, we're on our way to creating a nation of wimps.

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:00 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Oceans a complex, diverse bug soup

    The oceans are teeming with 10 to 100 more types of bacteria than previously believed, many of them unknown to science, according to a new study.

    Using a new genetic mapping technique, US, Dutch and Spanish scientists say they found more than 20,000 different types of microbe in a single litre of water from deep sites in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

    "These observations blow away all previous estimates of bacterial diversity in the ocean," says lead author Dr Mitchell Sogin of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

    He says past studies have suggested that one litre of water would contain 1000 to 3000 types of microbe, the oldest form of life on the planet.

    Microbes make up more than 90% of the total mass of life in the seas, from bacteria to whales.

    "We've found 10 or maybe 100 times more diversity in sea water than anyone imagined was present," he says...

    Sogin says the findings suggest there might be more than 10 million types of bacteria in the seas alone.

    "If you're interested in new frontiers, things to discover, all you have to do is go to the ocean," Sogin says.

    Until recent years, estimates of the total number of species on Earth were below a million.

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:57 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



    { Tuesday, 01 August, 2006 }

    Finding the Higgs-Boson: Take one small black hole

    They must be eternal optimists. How else would you explain the plan by physicists to look for a hypothetical particle, the Higgs boson, by sifting through the remnants of an evaporating mini black hole, which itself may or may not exist?

    The Higgs boson, which is thought to give all other particles their mass, was first proposed in the 1960s, but has so far escaped detection. One of the primary goals of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the particle accelerator being built at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, will be to search for the Higgs in the shower of particles generated when two high-energy proton beams collide. It wont be easy. Physicists predict that the Higgs will be created just once in every 10 trillion collisions. With an estimated 800 million collisions a second when the LHC is running, thats still just a handful of Higgs a day, so seeing one is a really remote possibility.

    This prompted Gouranda Nayak and Jack Smith of Stony Brook University in New York to look for alternatives. Could the Higgs be found, they wondered, in debris left behind by mini black holes, which physicists think could be created in the LHC if the universe has extra dimensions? Although the chances of making mini black holes are slim, preparations for detecting them are already under way (New Scientist, 23 April 2005, p 38). Black hole production has long odds, but high stakes, says Ben Allanach, a physicist at the University of Cambridge.

    Theory predicts that, once created, a mini black hole would immediately evaporate in a blaze of Hawking radiation, releasing all manner of particles in the process, including the Higgs. It sounds crazy, but if mini black holes can be created then the Higgs must be produced, says Smith.

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:14 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



    Neural bases for language existed already 25-30 million years ago

    The origin of the brain mechanisms involved in human language is a much debated subject, especially whether these mechanisms appeared independently in humans or were already present in a common ancestor of human and non-human primates. But now, research just published in the advanced online issue of Nature Neuroscience, found that Rhesus macaques when listening to other monkeys’ calls activate brain areas equivalent to the ones used for language in humans supporting the hypothesis that the neural basis for language existed already in a common ancestral. The discovery is a major step in understanding better language origins and evolution.

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:12 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    AN INTEGRAL THEORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS

    Ken Wilber, blowing your mind again:


    An extensive data search among various types of developmental and evolutionary sequences yielded a `four quadrant' model of consciousness and its development (the four quadrants being intentional, behavioural, cultural, and social). Each of these dimensions was found to unfold in a sequence of at least a dozen major stages or levels. Combining the four quadrants with the dozen or so major levels in each quadrant yields an integral theory of consciousness that is quite comprehensive in its nature and scope. This model is used to indicate how a general synthesis and integration of twelve of the most influential schools of consciousness studies can be effected, and to highlight some of the most significant areas of future research. The conclusion is that an `all-quadrant, all-level' approach is the minimum degree of sophistication that we need into order to secure anything resembling a genuinely integral theory of consciousness.

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:07 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink




     
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    Ten Considerations for Being Well n this Goofy Universe

     

    0. If you find yourself wonderstruck, don’t forget to return the favor.

    1. Always be of service to the whole and the Holy. You’ll find that the Holy will reciprocate by being of service to your becoming Whole.

    2. You will be called upon to use your mind and your vision in ways I cannot possibly glimpse. Never turn down an offer to shine that light so uniquely yours to help others in their darkness, and you’ll find that when it’s your turn to be in the night that there’ll be someone along the way who happens to have a little glow to share .

    3. The rewards of being true to yourself  are infinite, even when outwardly your efforts are met with nothing.

    4. You’ll also see that  knowledge and wisdom will come from within yourself through your own struggle and curiosity... your loved ones may guide you to insight, but yours is the power to choose it.

    5. You’ll find that some of your choices could’ve been better, or at times were downright stupid. That’s okay... I have a closet full of reckless decisions, but without making them I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what a good one might feel like if I tried it on.

    6. Your growth will be a mysterious, comic, ecstatic and sometimes scary ride, and I pray that you strive to savor each minute of it, even the most difficult or embarrassing minutes. Don’t count on second chances.

    7. In those times when everything collapses around you, and what’s left won’t go right, don’t forget your chances of being alive in this solar system, in this galaxy, are a little on the slim side. So slim in fact that it could be called a miracle to breathe this air, drink this water, and have whet ever predicament you’re having no matter how you shake, rattle and roll it. So go with the cosmic flow and always choose something over nothing, while remembering that there’s a little of each one hidden in both.

    8. Respond as best as you can with love to adversity rather than reacting with fear... Love, in any situation and  being the primordial source and essence of ALL THIS STUFF, leaves / enters us with the most possible ways out / in.

    9. Whatever you’re doing, celebrate the process of doing as much, if not more, than what you’ve got when you’re done. Magic lives in the action.

    9 ½ . All matter is energy. All energy is infinite. We are but raindrops falling to the ocean, a short time in this shape until we’re reunited with the expanse from which we came. Your delicate yet sturdy, resilient body is a temporary shelter of energy that has swam the universe eternally and will continue eternally. You are a sudden crystallization of the infinite. One must ask themself, therefore, why be bored?

    9 3/4 . Choosing to live in the moment is courageous but becomes effortless once you begin...feeling obligated to survive in the past or future is dangerous and is difficult to continue. It’s one of the few risks I’d recommend not taking, right up there with trusting icons and shrugging off coincidences.

    10. The Universe itself it not confusing, we humans just like it that way. Do frogs seem bewildered , butterflies befuddled and amoebas addled? Nope, just us, my child. So, whenever things just don’t make sense, just take a deep breath and laugh as best you can, because that’s what you get for choosing this goofy, unpredictable place called Earth to embody yourself upon.