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Science Finds Caual Link Between Brain Damage and Trupazoidism!

Now we know what Trumpazoids fly into firs of mouth lathering rage at the merest mention of truth!

At least Football Players come by their brain damage honestly.

Chumphism is a religion.

Image result for stupid trump followers

Study finds link between brain damage and religious fundamentalism

new study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has shown that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait which involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.

Religious fundamentalism refers to an ideology that emphasizes traditional religious texts and rituals and discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues. Fundamentalist groups generally oppose anything that questions or challenges their beliefs or way of life. For this reason, they are often aggressive towards anyone who does not share their specific set of supernatural beliefs, and towards science, as these things are seen as existential threats to their entire worldview.

Since religious beliefs play a massive role in driving and influencing human behavior throughout the world, it is important to understand the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism from a psychological and neurological perspective.

To investigate the cognitive and neural systems involved in religious fundamentalism, a team of researchers—led by Jordan Grafman of Northwestern University—conducted a study that utilized data from Vietnam War Veterans that had been gathered previously. The vets were specifically chosen because a large number of them had damage to brain areas suspected of playing a critical role in functions related to religious fundamentalism. CT scans were analyzed comparing 119 vets with brain trauma to 30 healthy vets with no damage, and a survey that assessed religious fundamentalism was administered. While the majority of participants were Christians of some kind, 32.5% did not specify a particular religion.

Based on previous research, the experimenters predicted that the prefrontal cortex would play a role in religious fundamentalism, since this region is known to be associated with something called ‘cognitive flexibility’. This term refers to the brain’s ability to easily switch from thinking about one concept to another, and to think about multiple things simultaneously. Cognitive flexibility allows organisms to update beliefs in light of new evidence, and this trait likely emerged because of the obvious survival advantage such a skill provides. It is a crucial mental characteristic for adapting to new environments because it allows individuals to make more accurate predictions about the world under new and changing conditions.

Brain imaging research has shown that a major neural region associated with cognitive flexibility is the prefrontal cortex—specifically two areas known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Additionally, the vmPFC was of interest to the researchers because past studies have revealed its connection to fundamentalist-type beliefs. For example, one study showed individuals with vmPFC lesions rated radical political statements as more moderate than people with normal brains, while another showed a direct connection between vmPFC damage and religious fundamentalism. For these reasons, in the present study, researchers looked at patients with lesions in both the vmPFC and the dlPFC, and searched for correlations between damage in these areas and responses to religious fundamentalism questionnaires.

According to Dr. Grafman and his team, since religious fundamentalism involves a strict adherence to a rigid set of beliefs, cognitive flexibility and open mindedness present a challenge for fundamentalists. As such, they predicted that participants with lesions to either the vmPFC or the dlPFC would score low on measures of cognitive flexibility and trait openness and high on measures of religious fundamentalism.

The results showed that, as expected, damage to the vmPFC and dlPFC was associated with religious fundamentalism. Further tests revealed that this increase in religious fundamentalism was caused by a reduction in cognitive flexibility and openness resulting from the prefrontal cortex impairment. Cognitive flexibility was assessed using a standard psychological card sorting test that involved categorizing cards with words and images according to rules. Openness was measured using a widely-used personality survey known as the NEO Personality Inventory. The data suggests that damage to the vmPFC indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by suppressing both cognitive flexibility and openness.

These findings are important because they suggest that impaired functioning in the prefrontal cortex—whether from brain trauma, a psychological disorder, a drug or alcohol addiction, or simply a particular genetic profile—can make an individual susceptible to religious fundamentalism. And perhaps in other cases, extreme religious indoctrination harms the development or proper functioning of the prefrontal regions in a way that hinders cognitive flexibility and openness.

The authors emphasize that cognitive flexibility and openness aren’t the only things that make brains vulnerable to religious fundamentalism. In fact, their analyses showed that these factors only accounted for a fifth of the variation in fundamentalism scores. Uncovering those additional causes, which could be anything from genetic predispositions to social influences, is a future research project that the researchers believe will occupy investigators for many decades to come, given how complex and widespread religious fundamentalism is and will likely continue to be for some time.

By investigating the cognitive and neural underpinnings of religious fundamentalism, we can better understand how the phenomenon is represented in the connectivity of the brain, which could allow us to someday inoculate against rigid or radical belief systems through various kinds of mental and cognitive exercises.

 

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Stupidty And Racism

One of my favorite saying is “Racism will make you stupid”…

Turns out it is the other way around.

Jeffrey Tindle defends his noose and Confederate flag (screen grab)

Does low intelligence make you prejudiced?

Humans may be prejudiced by nature, but a new study has found that who we choose to hate may depend on our overall intelligence. The finding reconfirms the idea that it may be human nature to dislike those who are different from us — including those who look and think differently.

According to the study, people of lower intelligence, as measured by cognitive ability, tend to be prejudiced against non-conventional or liberal groups, as well as groups that have little choice in their status, such as people defined by their race, gender, or sexual orientation. On the other hand, individuals of higher intelligence were likely to be prejudiced against groups considered conventional and groups perceived to have “high choice” in their associations, such as conservatives.

“People dislike people who are different from them,” study authors Mark Brandt and Jarret Crawford told Broadly. “Derogating people with different worldviews can help people maintain the validity of their own world view.”

The duo’s findings are based on the results of a questionnaire completed by 5,914 volunteers. Brandt and Jarrett measured the volunteers’ intelligence and then asked them whether or not they believed a specific stereotype about a group was justified.

The reason for these differences in stereotypes, however, is more complicated than simply not liking those who are different from you. For example, the researchers explained that less intelligent people often like to view other groups as being distinctly different from them as a way to help see them as distant and therefore less of a threat.

Sadly, people of both high and low intelligence showed the same amount of prejudice, just toward different groups. But all hope is not lost. Another recent study found that prejudice, particularly prejudice against transgender individuals, can be reduced with a simple 10-minute conversation with someone from the marginalized group.

 

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Light-Up Device Lets You ‘Talk’ to Fireflies

 

What every kid is going to want for summer vacation, or visiting out in the country!

Prepare your wallets, parents!

A handheld device lets users communicate with fireflies by producing light pulses in patterns that mimic actual firefly signals.

Source: Light-Up Device Lets You ‘Talk’ to Fireflies

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2016 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Afrofuturism

Fascinating…

The Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership, now on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC

 

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If You Lived on the Moon

This would be your view…

Gorgeous New NASA Image Shows Earth ‘Rising’ Over The Moon

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2015 in General, Uncategorized

 

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“Ya’ll All Look Alike To Me!”

That racial misidentification thing can get folks into trouble. I remember in Junior High School, in which there were 7 black students the first year (5 girls, 2 boys) of integration out of about 2,000, the Principal announcing over the PA System “BTx and/or Hobert report to the office.” Hobert being the other black male. Seems that Hobert had gotten into a tiff with one of his classmates, and the teacher claimed not to be able to tell which of us was which – so he called both of us down. That particular teacher was later fired when found to be failing every black student in her class, automatically giving them “Fs” on everything we submitted, including in my case a paper written by one of my white classmates, who had straight A’s when we did a paper swap to test her fairness. He got an A for submitting my paper.

She apparently knew “It was one of them black boys” in the scrap.

Not that I never did anything to get in trouble…So I, in truth, cannot plead total innocence to all Junior High Schooler stupidity.

I will admit to working hard to be able to tell the difference with some accuracy between Asian peoples.

Actress Lucy Liu (l), Journalist Lisa Ling(r)

Knowing a Southeast Asian from an East Asian visually, is automatic to many Asians I have met. But I have to admit, one of the things which made it harder was growing up in a community where there was exactly one Asian family. One of the things the Civil Rights Act did was to eliminate (or at least reduce some of the most egregious aspects) of discrimination against Asian peoples immigrating to America, resulting in very very small, homogenous populations concentrated primarily in various “Chinatowns” in major cities. That changed, and now Asians make up about 7% of the US population – meaning the opportunity to meet Asian people has increased, and hopefully our ability to recognize people. To be honest, I think I might still miss this one, if I had never met one of the women in question. Hairstyle, eyebrows, forehead, skin color (accounting for the different backgrounds), and nose are pretty close…

What do you think?

 

The Science Behind ‘They All Look Alike to Me’

The outcry was immediate and ferocious when a white New York City police officer tackled James Blake, the retired biracial tennis star, while arresting him this month in a case of mistaken identity. The officer mistook Mr. Blake for a black man suspected of credit card fraud, according to the police.

Racism, pure and simple, some said.

But was it?

RACHEL L. SWARNS

Does Condo look like Rachel?

Scientists, pointing to decades of research, believe something else was at work. They call it the “other-race effect,” a cognitive phenomenon that makes it harder for people of one race to readily recognize or identify individuals of another.

It is not bias or bigotry, the researchers say, that makes it difficult for people to distinguish between people of another race. It is the lack of early and meaningful exposure to other groups that often makes it easier for us to quickly identify and remember people of our own ethnicity or race while we often struggle to do the same for others.

That racially loaded phrase “they all look alike to me,” turns out to be largely scientifically accurate, according to Roy S. Malpass, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso who has studied the subject since the 1960s. “It has a lot of validity,” he said.

Looking for examples? There is no shortage — in the workplace, at schools and universities, and, of course, on the public stage.

Lucy Liu, the actress, has been mistaken for Lisa Ling, the journalist. “It’s like saying Hillary Clinton looks like Janet Reno,” Ms. Liu told USA Today.

Samuel L. Jackson, the actor, took umbrage last year when an entertainment reporter confused him with the actor Laurence Fishburne during a live television interview.

“Really? Really?” said Mr. Jackson, chiding the interviewer. “There’s more than one black guy doing a commercial. I’m the ‘What’s in your wallet?’ black guy. He’s the car black guy. Morgan Freeman is the other credit card black guy.”

Not even close!

And as a Washington correspondent, I managed a strained smile every time white officials and others remarked on my striking resemblance to Condoleezza Rice, then the secretary of state in the Bush administration. (No, we do not look alike.)

Psychologists say that starting when they are infants and young children, people become attuned to the key facial features and characteristics of the those around them. Whites often become accustomed to focusing on differences in hair color and eye color. African-Americans grow more familiar with subtle shadings of skin color.

“It’s a product of our perceptual experience,” said Christian A. Meissner, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University, “the extent to which we spend time with, the extent to which we have close friends of another race or ethnicity.”

(Minorities tend to be better at cross-race identification than whites, Professor Meissner said, in part because they have more extensive and meaningful exposure to whites than the other way around.)

“It’s embarrassing, really embarrassing,” Professor O’Toole, the director of the university’s Face Perception Research Lab, said. “I think almost everyone has experienced it.”

But as Mr. Blake’s case has demonstrated, the other-race effect can have serious consequences, particularly in policing and the criminal justice system. (None of the experts interviewed condoned the white officer’s rough handling of Mr. Blake. “He shouldn’t have been treated that way,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.)

Professor Malpass, who has trained police officers and border patrol agents, urges law enforcement agencies to make sure black or Hispanic officers are involved when creating lineups of black and Hispanic suspects. And he warns of the dangers of relying on cross-racial identifications from eyewitnesses, who can be fallible.

The good news is that we can improve our cross-racial perceptions, researchers say, particularly if there is a strong need to do so. A white woman relocating to Accra, Ghana, for instance, would heighten her ability to distinguish between black faces, just as a black man living in Shanghai would enhance his ability to recognize Asians. (Mr. Malpass believes that people who need to identify those of other races — in the workplace or elsewhere — are more likely to be successful than people who simply have meaningful experiences with members of other racial groups.)

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Concussions Likely Cause of Degenerative Brain Disease in Football Players

This one has been stewing for a while. The league began to take things more seriously a few years ago, banning certain types of hits, and upgrading helmets and rules.

What is terrifying about this though is that even people who played Pop Warner football as kids may suffer this level of brain damage.

New: 87 Deceased NFL Players Test Positive for Brain Disease

A total of 87 out of 91 former NFL players have tested positive for the brain disease at the center of the debate over concussions in football, according to new figures from the nation’s largest brain bank focused on the study of traumatic head injury.

Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University have now identified the degenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in 96 percent of NFL players that they’ve examined and in 79 percent of all football players. The disease is widely believed to stem from repetitive trauma to the head, and can lead to conditions such as memory loss, depression and dementia.

In total, the lab has found CTE in the brain tissue in 131 out of 165 individuals who, before their deaths, played football either professionally, semi-professionally, in college or in high school.

Forty percent of those who tested positive were the offensive and defensive linemen who come into contact with one another on every play of a game, according to numbers shared by the brain bank with FRONTLINE. That finding supports past research suggesting that it’s the repeat, more minor head trauma that occurs regularly in football that may pose the greatest risk to players, as opposed to just the sometimes violent collisions that cause concussions.

But the figures come with several important caveats, as testing for the disease can be an imperfect process. Brain scans have been used to identify signs of CTE in living players, but the disease can only be definitively identified posthumously. As such, many of the players who have donated their brains for testing suspected that they had the disease while still alive, leaving researchers with a skewed population to work with.

Even with those caveats, the latest numbers are “remarkably consistent” with pastresearch from the center suggesting a link between football and long-term brain disease, said Dr. Ann McKee, the facility’s director and chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System.

“People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion, that this is a very rare disease and that we’re sensationalizing it,” said McKee, who runs the lab as part of a collaboration between the VA and BU. “My response is that where I sit, this is a very real disease. We have had no problem identifying it in hundreds of players.”

In a statement, a spokesman for the NFL said, “We are dedicated to making football safer and continue to take steps to protect players, including rule changes, advanced sideline technology, and expanded medical resources. We continue to make significant investments in independent research through our gifts to Boston University, the [National Institutes of Health] and other efforts to accelerate the science and understanding of these issues.”

The latest update from the brain bank, which in 2010 received a $1 million research grant from the NFL, comes at a time when the league is able to boast measurable progress in reducing head injuries. In its 2015 Health & Safety Report, the NFL said that concussions in regular season games fell 35 percent over the past two seasons, from 173 in 2012 to 112 last season. A separate analysis by FRONTLINE that factors in concussions reported by teams during the preseason and the playoffs shows a smaller decrease of 28 percent.

Off the field, the league has revised safety rules to minimize head-to-head hits, and invested millions into research. In April, it also won final approval for a potential $1 billion settlement with roughly 5,000 former players who have sued it over past head injuries.

Still, at the start of a new season of play, the NFL once again finds itself grappling to turn the page on the central argument in the class-action lawsuit: that for years it sought to conceal a link between football and long-term brain disease.

The latest challenge to that effort came two weeks ago with the trailer for a forthcoming Hollywood film about the neuropathologist who first discovered CTE. When the trailer was released, it quickly went viral, leaving the NFL bracing for a new round of scrutiny over past efforts to deny any such connection.

The film, Concussion, starring Will Smith, traces the story of Bennet Omalu, who in 2005 shocked the football establishment with an article in the journal Neurosurgery detailing his discovery of CTE in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster. At the VA lab and elsewhere, CTE has since been found in players such as Hall of FamerJunior Seau, former NFL Man of the Year Dave Duerson, and Indianapolis Colts tight end John Mackey, a past head of the player’s union.

While the story is not a new one, for the NFL, it represents a high-profile and potentially embarrassing cinematic interpretation of a period in which the league sought to refute research suggesting football may contribute to brain disease.

From 2003 to 2009, for example, the NFL’s now disbanded Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee concluded in a series of scientific papers that “no NFL player” had experienced chronic brain damage from repeat concussions, and that “Professional football players do not sustain frequent repetitive blows to the brain on a regular basis.”

In the case of Omalu, league doctors publicly assailed his research, and in a rare move, demanded a retraction of his study. When Omalu spoke to FRONTLINE about the incident for the 2013 documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, he said, “You can’t go against the NFL. They’ll squash you.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyhJxVM8v10

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2015 in News

 

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Predicting Schizophrenia – And Implications for Gun Control

First off – not all (or even a majority) of people suffering from Schizophrenia will ever become violent. However in a country which suffers the highest level of violence in the Industrialized world, and over 10 times the number of Mass Murders of any other country…Which not coincidentally has the most pathetic mental health system…

Maybe it is time to look at another way to avert the violence. Can we identify and treat those with Mental Illness which are likely to become violent?

I haven’t taken time to calculate the numbers – but it also seems that a disproportionate number of people killed by the Police are in fact folks suffering from mental disease – specifically Schizophrenia who are 14 times more likely to suffer violence than non-sufferers of the disease.

The Virginia Tech Shooter had been diagnosed with severe psychotic breaks (Schizophrenia) but was still allowed to obtain the weapon with which he shot and killed several dozen of his classmates. Most research indicates he was an outlier in terms of violent behavior.

Should we, as a society examine ways to predict violent actions, and deny those folks access to guns? Admittedly, this is a thorny Constitutional and legal question.

Computers Can Predict Schizophrenia Based on How a Person Talks

A new study finds an algorithmic word analysis is flawless at determining whether a person will have a psychotic episode.

Although the language of thinking is deliberate—let me think, I have to do some thinking—the actual experience of having thoughts is often passive. Ideas pop up like dandelions; thoughts occur suddenly and escape without warning. People swim in and out of pools of thought in a way that can feel, paradoxically, mindless.

Most of the time, people don’t actively track the way one thought flows into the next. But in psychiatry, much attention is paid to such intricacies of thinking. For instance, disorganized thought, evidenced by disjointed patterns in speech, is considered a hallmark characteristic of schizophrenia. Several studies of at-risk youths have found that doctors are able to guess with impressive accuracy—the best predictive models hover around 79 percent—whether a person will develop psychosis based on tracking that person’s speech patterns in interviews.

A computer, it seems, can do better.

 That’s according to a study published Wednesday by researchers at Columbia University, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center in the Nature Publishing Group journal Schizophrenia. They used an automated speech-analysis program to correctly differentiate—with 100-percent accuracy—between at-risk young people who developed psychosis over a two-and-a-half year period and those who did not. The computer model also outperformed other advanced screening technologies, like biomarkers from neuroimaging and EEG recordings of brain activity.
“In our study, we found that minimal semantic coherence—the flow of meaning from one sentence to the next—was characteristic of those young people at risk who later developed psychosis,” said Guillermo Cecchi, a biometaphorical-computing researcher for IBM Research, in an email. “It was not the average. What this means is that over 45 minutes of interviewing, these young people had at least one occasion of a jarring disruption in meaning from one sentence to the next. As an interviewer, if my mind wandered briefly, I might miss it. But a computer would pick it up.”

Researchers used an algorithm to root out such “jarring disruptions” in otherwise ordinary speech. Their semantic analysis measured coherence and two syntactic markers of speech complexity—including the length of a sentence and how many clauses it entailed. “When people speak, they can speak in short, simple sentences. Or they can speak in longer, more complex sentences, that have clauses added that further elaborate and describe the main idea,” Cecchi said. “The measures of complexity and coherence are separate and are not correlated with one another. However, simple syntax and semantic incoherence do tend to aggregate together in schizophrenia.”

 Here’s an example of a sentence, provided by Cecchi and revised for patient confidentiality, from one of the study’s participants who later developed psychosis:

I was always into video games. I mean, I don’t feel the urge to do that with this, but it would be fun. You know, so the one block thing is okay. I kind of lied though and I’m nervous about going back.

While the researchers conclude that language processing appears to reveal “subtle, clinically relevant mental-state changes in emergent psychosis,” their work poses several outstanding questions. For one thing, their sample size of 34 patients was tiny. Researchers are planning to attempt to replicate their findings using transcripts from a larger cohort of at-risk youths.

They’re also working to contextualize what their findings might mean more broadly. “We know that thought disorder is an early core feature of schizophrenia evident before psychosis onset,” said Cheryl Corcoran, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University. “The main question then is: What are the brain mechanisms underlying this abnormality in language? And how might we intervene to address it and possibly improve prognosis? Could we improve the concurrent language problems and function of children and teenagers at risk, and either prevent psychosis or at least modify its course?”

Intervention has long been the goal. And so far it has been an elusive one. Clinicians are already quite good at identifying people who are at increased risk of developing schizophrenia, but taking that one step farther and determining which of those people will actually end up having the illness remains a huge challenge…More…

Victims of Schizophrenia are about 3-4 times more likely to commit violence than the non-affected population, but less likely to commit violence than alcoholics or drug users with mental illness. They however are 14 times more likely to be the victims of violence.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in General, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Genetically Inherited Trauma

This one is fascinating. While the basis of the first study is the descendants of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust – I can’t see any reason it wouldn’t apply to black folks experience in America with first, slavery, then Jim Crow Terrorism. It also appears to hold with other groups, such as Native American, and Cambodians who survived Pol Pot’s massacres. Some of the research indicates that the damage is multi-generational. 

Study Suggests Trauma’s Effects Can Register Across Generations

This could be the stuff of a scientific breakthrough: A research team out of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City has published a study that points to the possibility that trauma sustained by one generation can actually be passed down, in a sense, to children and maybe even farther down the genetic chain.

The Guardian posted details of this startling finding on Friday:

The conclusion from a research team at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital led by Rachel Yehuda stems from the genetic study of 32 Jewish men and women who had either been interned in a Nazi concentration camp, witnessed or experienced torture or who had had to hide during the second world war.

They also analysed the genes of their children, who are known to have increased likelihood of stress disorders, and compared the results with Jewish families who were living outside of Europe during the war. “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents,” said Yehuda.

Her team’s work is the clearest example in humans of the transmission of trauma to a child via what is called “epigenetic inheritance” – the idea that environmental influences such as smoking, diet and stress can affect the genes of your children and possibly even grandchildren.

The idea is controversial, as scientific convention states that genes contained in DNA are the only way to transmit biological information between generations. However, our genes are modified by the environment all the time, through chemical tags that attach themselves to our DNA, switching genes on and off. Recent studies suggest that some of these tags might somehow be passed through generations, meaning our environment could have and impact on our children’s health.

More information to massive trauma affecting genetics through multiple generations

The case of Cambodian immigrants…

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in American Genocide, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Another Slow Motion Disaster for Haiti?

This one is scientifically weird. Unlike most of the Islands in the Caribbean, the Island of Hispaniola was formed by the Tectonic Plats pushing it up from the bottom of the ocean. As such, the Island is principally made up of Basalt and Granite. That is very very good from an agricultural standpoint, as the soil is very rich. As the collapse of thousands of buildings in Haiti during the earthquake demonstrates – that is not so good in terms of making concrete as it winds up weak and falls apart easily. The Northern and Southern “arms” of Haiti are mountain ridges. The center of their part of the Island is a valley, not much above sea level. The city of Port au Prince sits in this valley where it meets the sea and forms a deep water port. At one time this valley was some of the richest agricultural land in the world, and it still produces an excess of fruits and vegetables for the country’s people. At the western edge of this valley, on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, are two conjoined lakes, with, in days past – good fisheries. The lakes are filled with brackish water, and were formed by being cut off from the ocean millions of years ago when the Island rose from the bottom of the sea. To my knowledge, these lakes are no longer connected to the sea, and historically have been maintained by the plentiful tropical rains.

If these lakes are indeed rising, or the Island is sinking – then the City of Port au Prince could conceivably wind up underwater.

 

Fishermen in Lake Enriquillo among a sea of dead trees where farmers formerly reaped bountiful harvests.

 

Rising Tide Is a Mystery That Sinks Island Hopes

LAGO ENRIQUILLO, Dominican Republic — Steadily, mysteriously, like in an especially slow science fiction movie, the largest lake in the Caribbean has been rising and rising, devouring tens of thousands of acres of farmland, ranches and whatever else stands in its way.

Lago Enriquillo swallowed Juan Malmolejos’s banana grove. It swamped Teodoro Peña’s yucas and mango trees. In the low-lying city of Boca de Cachon, the lake so threatens to subsume the entire town that the government has sent the army to rebuild it from scratch on a dusty plain several miles away.

Harvesting the Banana crop, a common site in Haiti and the DR

Jose Joaquin Diaz believes that the lake took the life of his brother, Victor. Victor committed suicide, he said, shortly after returning from a life abroad to see the family cattle farm, the one begun by his grandfather, underwater.

“He could not believe it was all gone, and the sadness was too much,” Mr. Diaz said, as a couple of men rowed a fishing boat over what had been a pasture.

Theories abound, but a conclusive answer remains elusive as to why the lake — as well as its nearby sibling in Haiti, Lac Azuei, which now spills over the border between the two on the island of Hispaniola — has risen so much. Researchers say the surge may have few if any precedents worldwide.

“There are no records, to the best of our knowledge, of such sudden growth of lakes of similar size,” said Jorge E. Gonzalez, a City College of New York engineering professor who is helping to lead a consortium of scientists from the United States and the Dominican Republic studying the phenomenon.

Other lakes have grown, from melting glaciers and other factors, Mr. Gonzalez said, but “the growth rates of these two lakes in Hispaniola has no precedent.”

The lakes, salty vestiges of an ancient oceanic channel known for their crocodiles and iguanas, have always had high and low periods, but researchers believe they have never before gotten this large. The waters began rising a decade ago, and now Enriquillo has nearly doubled in size to about 135 square miles, Mr. Gonzalez said, roughly the size of Atlanta, though relatively light rains in the past year have slowed its expansion. Azuei has grown nearly 40 percent in that time, to about 52 square miles, according to the consortium.

The scientists, partly financed by the National Science Foundation, are focusing on changing climate patterns as the main culprit, with a noted rise in rainfall in the area attributed to warming in the Caribbean Sea.

In reports, they have noted a series of particularly heavy storms in 2007 and 2008 that swamped the lakes and the watersheds that feed them, though other possible contributing factors are also being studied, including whether new underground springs have emerged.

“People talk about climate change adaptation, well, this is what’s coming, if it’s coming,” said Yolanda Leon, a Dominican scientist working on the lake research.

A Satellite Topographic view of  Lake Azuei (bottommost), Largo Enriquillo, and the location of Port au Prince. The arrow points to the major fault line which caused the recent earthquake.

The rise has taken a toll, particularly around Enriquillo, an area more populated than that around Azuei.

The government estimates that 40,000 acres of agricultural land have been lost, affecting several thousand families who have lost all or part of their only livelihood of yuca, banana and cattle farming. The town of Boca de Cachon at the lake’s edge is in particular peril, with some houses already lost, and the government is bulldozing acres of land for new farms.

A main highway to the Haitian border was flooded and had to be diverted, while another road around the perimeter of the lake now ends abruptly in the water.

Local residents are skeptical that the government will follow through, and they question whether the soil will be as good as the parcels near the lake that drew generations of farmers in the first place.

Some of the Island’s rich produce at a Veggie stand in Haiti

Olgo Fernandez, the director of the country’s hydraulic resources institute, waved off the criticism and said the government had carefully planned the new community and plots to ensure the area remains an agriculture hotbed. It will be completed this year, officials said, though on a recent afternoon there was much work left to be done.

“These will be lands that will produce as well as, if not better than, the lands they previously had,” Mr. Fernandez said.

Row upon row of cookie-cutter, three-bedroom, cinder-block houses — 537 in all — are being built in the new town, which will include a baseball field, church, schools, community center, parks, even a helicopter landing pad (“for visiting dignitaries,” an official explained). Environmental controls will make it “the greenest town in the Dominican Republic,” said Maj. Gen. Rafael Emilio de Luna, who is overseeing the work.

For now, though, at the ever-creeping edge of the lake, the ghostly trunks of dead palm trees mark submerged farms.

Junior Moral Medina, 27, who lives in Boca, plans to move to the new community. He looked out on a recent day on an area where his 10-acre farm had been, now a pool of lake water studded with dead palms.

“We have been worried the whole town would disappear,” said Mr. Medina, who now works on the construction site for the new town. “Some people at first did not want to leave this area, but the water kept rising and made everybody scared.”

Residents in other communities are growing impatient and worry they will not be compensated for their losses.

Enrique Diaz Mendez has run a small grocery stand in Jaragua since losing half of his six acres of yuca and plantain crops to Enriquillo. “We are down to almost nothing,” he said.

Jose Joaquin Diaz and his brother, Victor, grew up tending to the sheep, goats and cows of the family farm, but both left the Dominican Republic for the United States for better opportunity. Jose returned first, and three years ago Victor arrived, looking forward to the slower pace of life after working an array of jobs over 18 years in Brooklyn.

“We told him about the lake, but he was shocked when he saw it,” Jose recalled, tears welling with the memory.

Later that night, Victor called his mother to express his dismay. The next morning he was found hanging in a relative’s apartment in Santo Domingo where he was staying. “It is strange to see people fishing where we had the cows,” Mr. Diaz said. “Victor could not bear it.”

 

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Haiti

 

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The Computer Goes Round…

Some of my supercomputer buddies out there from back in the day would correctly identify the massive machine below as a Cray 2. The mega azz-kicking rocket propelled computer of it’s generation. The difference between it and the Cray 1 is they got rid of the “window seats” and upped the computational horsepower on the order of megaflops… Got to “play” with one of these once…actually about 12 CPU seconds…which is all it took to process a computation that took a small campus of building size IBM General Processing Machines (AKA Mainframes) a year to do.

The other pic? The new Apple Mac-Pro.

What goes round comes round.

Now don’t get me wrong here, the Apple is no Cray…And the Cray certainly “ain’t” no Apple, as it’s sole function in life was to move massive numbers from Bucket “A” to Bucket “B” after performing whatever mathematical gyrations questing scientists and mathematicians far above this poor boy’s head could come up with…

Back in the day I belonged to a group of rather nondescript guys “of limited notoriety” who usually got the call shortly after the customer plugged one of those things in, taking down the power or a small city…

“Oh, you actually wanted that to work?”

Little round machines…Indeed.

About the only thing that hasn’t changed is the price.

Cray 2 Towers

Apple Mac Pro

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in General, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Selective Attention – Bet You Didn’t See That!

This is a test…

OK – So most of you old timers, and young Television junkies probably remember that. It was a fun, groundbreaking show.

But scientists have – in the real world, come up with something startling – it is called “Selective Attention”. This is why two people watching the same event can “see” two totally different things. Watch the video below then  follow the break under the video for an explanation ….

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Great Teachers – Presidio, Tx Rocket Club

Been through this little town once – on my way to somewhere else…probably Chihuahua, Mexico or Big Bend Park. It’s about the only settlement bigger than a gas station between El Paso, Texas and Nueveo Laredo about 600 miles away (Texas is BIG, Y’all!). The only reason it sticks in my mind at all is the name similarity to the Presidio in San Francisco.

People are scarce out there!

This one also caught my eye because I, as a kid was also into building rockets…

And what, at least to my viewpoint is one cool teacher!

File this one under – “Save America – Deport a Republican!”

For Texas rocketry club and their inspirational teacher, the sky is just the beginning

Where the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos meet in west Texas is believed to be the oldest continuously-cultivated land in America. But the most precious crop you’ll find there today is dreams.

CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman went “On the Road” — and met a woman who cultivates them.

In the middle of the Texas desert, on the border with Mexico, there’s a brief break in the cactus called Presidio.

If you’re a kid looking to escape the poverty and isolation of Presidio, there’s really no greater vehicle than the Presidio Rocket Club. In fact, even though it is in one of the poorest school districts in Texas, Presidio probably has more aspiring aeronautical engineers than any other town in America.

And what’s even more amazing than their location is their inspiration — a little firecracker of a science teacher named Shella Condino.

“I wanted to teach the kids: You want something so bad, you put your heart into it,” she said.

Shella started the club five years ago. Never mind that she didn’t speak Spanish and the kids barely spoke English. Never mind that rocket science is rocket science. The fact that it’s hard is part of the reason she thought these kids absolutely had to learn it. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2012 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Best Educated Janitors…

Fresh on news that there are 21 million Americans out of work – there is the question of the undremployed–

Why Did 17 Million Students Go to College?

Two sets of information were presented to me in the last 24 hours that have dramatically reinforced my feeling that diminishing returns have set in to investments in higher education, with increasing evidence suggesting that we are in one respect “overinvesting” in the field. First, following up on information provided by former student Douglas Himes at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), my sidekick Chris Matgouranis showed me the table reproduced below (And for more see this).

Over 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees (over 8,000 of them have doctoral or professional degrees), along with over 80,000 bartenders, and over 18,000parking lot attendants. All told, some 17,000,000 Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree.

Now I’ve said for a while that one the the great myths of the new depression is the existence of high tech jobs needing high education. At this point there are millions of college educated out of work or substantially underemployed. You cannot fix the roots of the current economic malaise by by generating more job seekers – no matter how well educated or qualified. The brutal fact is, very little of our current economy is actually dependent on new technology. Think of it this way – the leading cell phone platform is dependent on thinking and aa technology concept first developed in Xerox Labs in the 70’s. Very little of the development today of “new technology” is actually “development’ = it is actually execution against old technology. So if you trin them – what would this new legion of scientists and engineers do?

And there is the crux of the problem.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Great American Rip-Off, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Inter-Species Dating…

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Indeed!

Scientists Find New Proof of the Neanderthal Within Us

It turns out there really is a little caveman in a lot of us.

An international team of scientists has for the first time decoded the complete Neanderthal genome, and the results, to be reported in the May 7 issue of Science, offer new insights into our closest evolutionary relatives and an exciting new way to explore the genetic basis of what makes humans unique. But the big news? The scientists also found evidence that humans and Neanderthals interbred. And the results of that prehistoric coupling can be found in most people’s DNA.

By comparing the Neanderthal genome with those of five present-day humans from different regions across the world, the scientists found that roughly 1 to 4 percent of the genomes of non-African people derive from our extinct relatives. “It’s a small but very real proportion,” says Harvard geneticist David Reich, one of the paper’s co-authors. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2010 in News, The Post-Racial Life

 

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