Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 19th, 2010

Viewing life through a military lens

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Extremely interesting letter in New Scientist by Ben Haller, Montreal, Canada:

You report that researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered how the structure of a snail’s shell absorbs and dissipates impacts (23 January, p 17). They are then quoted as saying this could allow us to improve body armour – a comment I find particularly sad.

I can think of lots of ways this discovery could be used to help make life better: improved car bodies that protect us from accidents, damage-absorbing cases for laptops and other electronic devices, or better bicycle helmets.

Their paper indicates that funding for the research came from the US army, the Department of Defense and US defence supplier Raytheon, among others.

It is high time there was a real discussion in the scientific community of the ways that defence funding of research can distort science. Not only does it change the questions that we ask, directing us towards problems that are applicable to warfare, it also changes how we perceive the utility of our most general and useful discoveries.

Is finding new and improved ways to kill each other the best use we can think of for science?

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2010 at 5:44 pm

Recommend torture in your official capacity, no punishment

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So official recommendations to break the law are just flaws, eh? What about ordering torture in your official capacity? That also seems to be something for which people are not punished. Actually doing torture gets punished, but only if those doing it are enlisted personnel in the military (and not CIA).

Something is deeply wrong  in this country.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2010 at 4:57 pm

Jack Taylor of Beverly Hills

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A strangely fascinating documentary, available as Watch Instantly.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2010 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Bok Choy with Shiitakes and Oyster Sauce

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I just made this recipe for lunch. I screwed up and didn’t notice in time that stems and leaves are cooked separately: stems first, then leaves added later. Still, very tasty.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2010 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

The oceans are now rapidly acidifying

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The news just gets worse and worse. Denialism will eventually collide with reality, but by then it will probably be too late. Here’s the post at Climate Progress:

If you’re looking for summaries of “the best scientific papers on every aspect of climate change” that Tom Friedman’s promised in his column yesterday, you’ve come to right place.  If you want a review of the best papers in the past year (with links), click here.  If you want a broader overview of the literature in the past few years, focusing specifically on how unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gas emissions are projected to impact the nation and the world, try “Intro to global warming impacts.”

Marine life face some of the worst impacts.  We now know that global warming is “capable of wrecking the marine ecosystem and depriving future generations of the harvest of the seas” (see2009 Nature Geoscience study concludes ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years”).

The acidification of the ocean in particular is a grave threat  — for links to primary sources and recent studies, see “Imagine a World without Fish: Deadly ocean acidification — hard to deny, harder to geo-engineer, but not hard to stop” (and below).

A new Nature Geoscience study, “Past constraints on the vulnerability of marine calcifiers to massive carbon dioxide release” (subs. req’d) provides a truly ominous warning.  The release from the researchers at the University of Bristol is “Rate of ocean acidification the fastest in 65 million years.”

I am reprinting below a piece by award-winning science journalist Carl Zimmer published this week by Yale environment360, which explains ocean acidification and what this important study says:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2010 at 11:37 am

More on whether the Austin pilot was a terrorist

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Big Man says:

I’m watching the coverage of this plane crash in Austin. The one where a dude flew a plane into the IRS building after burning his house.
And everybody is falling all over themselves not to call this cat a "terrorist."

It’s "possible terrorist-related activity" but it’s not terrorism and he’s not a terrorist. What the hell?

How can you fly a plane into a building out of spite, and have folks call it "suicide by plane?" That’s like calling it "suicide by portable chest bomb."

Why are media folks wondering if the FBI needs to be involved since it’s a local crime? Really son? Trying to kill federal employees on federal property is just a "local problem" now?

I bet if he had a Muslim surname it would be terrorism. Yep, wouldn’t be no question, just like the first thing you heard after the Fort Hood shooting was about how dude should be called a terrorist. But this white dude is heated at the federal government and attacks that same government by targeting innocents and he’s not a terrorist?

Oh, hell naw. Just no. Stop it you hypocritical bastards. Just stop.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2010 at 11:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Terrorism

The High Price of Religious Defection

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Ulrike Putz wrote the article for Der Spiegel and Salon has a translation:

TEL AVIV — When she left, she left everything behind — even her name. She no longer wanted to be known as Sarah, the name her parents had given her. She’d felt imprisoned by that name for too long; it made her feel different and subject to laws that others imposed upon her. So, she started her new life with a new name, Mayan, the Hebrew word for "source."

It’s been seven years since Mayan "landed on planet Earth," as she puts it. But the 27-year-old doesn’t feel completely at home here yet. She’s a young, modern Israeli woman. Still, despite the dragon tattoo on her shoulder and the loose top offering occasional glimpses of her bra, there are always some moments that betray her past. For example, when her friends talk about old TV series, classic pop music or their first schoolyard crushes, Mayan can’t join in. Until she was 17 years old, Mayan lived in another world, a world where those things simply didn’t exist.

A life completely focused on religion

The "parallel universe" Mayan used to live in has around 550,000 inhabitants. It is the world of the Orthodox Jews in Israel, whose adherents live in tight-knit communities where everything revolves around religion. They radically shield themselves from modern life. Television is frowned upon, as is non-religious music, telephones and the Internet. News that is important to the community is disseminated via notices posted on walls. Boys and girls go to school, but their education is primarily focused on religion.

"Everyone can read and write, but math was over after simple multiplication," Mayan says. "When I left school, I didn’t even know what New York was, and I had never even seen a dog because nobody kept any pets."

According to Irit Paneth, it is this lack of education, in particular, that makes it almost impossible for doubters in these communities to break out of the inflexible corset of their belief. Paneth is a member of Hillel – The Right To Choose, an organization that helps those leaving the Orthodox faith start a normal life. "We are not against the religion," Paneth explains. "But Ultra-Orthodoxy is more like a cult that intellectually cripples children in the name of religion." For most young people who break away from the Orthodox life, she explains, it’s like leaping off a cliff into the unknown. "They come without money, without education in the classical sense, without any chance of employment," Paneth says…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2010 at 11:03 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

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