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    Monkeys Know If They’re Right Or Wrong

    A study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B has found that monkeys may possess metacognition, the ability to know if they know or don’t know something.

    The research was carried out by the University of Rochester. They were investigating the human ability to decline to answer a question if they know they don’t know the answer. It was based around the idea of fluency, how easy something is to see, hear, or perceive.

    In the study, monkeys were shown a symbol on a screen. They were then asked to pick out that symbol from an array of others and bet on how confident they were it was the same image.

    They could bet up to three tokens, but if they bet the top amount and were wrong, they lost their betting total. If they bet just one token, they received the token whether they were right or wrong. Totting up tokens earned the monkeys a treat.

    It was found that the monkeys were more likely to place a high bet when they were certain the symbol was the same. This happened most often when the repeated symbol had a high contrast. If the contrast was reduced, and the symbol was less clear, then the monkeys made a lower bet, indicating they were less sure of their answer.

    “Metacognition is a quick way of making a judgment about whether or not you know an answer,” said Stephen Ferrigno, the study’s lead author, in a statement.

    “This is the same with the monkeys. If they saw the sample picture well and it was easier for them to encode, they will be more confident in their answer and will bet high.”

    It’s thought that the research may help us understand how metacognition develops in young children. This can ultimately lead to good or poor learning, by predicting which circumstances will enable the most metacognition.

    “Humans have a variety of these metacognitive illusions – false beliefs about how they learn or remember best,” said Jessica Cantlon, co-author of the study, in the statement.

    “Studying metacognition in non-human primates could give us a foothold for how to study metacognition in young children.”

     

    More Iflscience.com

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    What Can Rats Wearing Jackets Tell Us About Men Who Love Lingerie?

    Female rats wearing jackets are not unlike women in lingerie. Across all animal species, sexual behavior is directed by an intricate interplay between the actions of hormones in our brains. In a new quirky study, researchers adorned female rats with special jackets to better understand what turns male rats on. These findings, presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting last month, could help answer the burning question: Why do men like lingerie?

    A Concordia University team led by James Pfaus and Gonzalo Quintana Zunino has previously shown that that male rats can be conditioned to prefer ejaculating around females who bear a particular odor (almond, if you’re wondering). These males were rewarded during their post-ejaculatory state. The team also found that virgin male rats wearing a special rodent-tethering jacket during their first sexual experience lose sexual arousal and motivation if the jacket was removed before another act of copulation.

    Together, those studies demonstrate how an odor becomes a partner-related cue and how the jacket acts as a contextual cue for sexual arousal. Now, the same team wanted to know if the rodent jacket could act as a cue to establish “conditioned ejaculatory preference” (CEP). That is, is the jacket a turn on?

    In one experiment, 12 sexually-naïve male rats underwent 14 multi-ejaculation trials with females wearing the rodent jacket. During the final trial, the males were placed into an open field with two sexually receptive females: One donned the jacket, the other was in her birthday suit. More males ejaculated first with females wearing the jacket. They would also feel the jacket with their whiskers while mating.

    In the second experiment, another dozen males were exposed sequentially to sexually receptive jacket-clad females and then to unjacketed, non-sexually receptive females. In the final open field test, the males ejaculated more, and more quickly, with the jacketed females. The team then examined the brains of these males, comparing them with brains of males who weren’t trained to associate a jacket with sex. Males who mated with jacket-wearing females, Live Science explains, showed more activity in the brain’s pleasure center.

    Males, they find, can learn to associate somatosensory cues — the feel and sight of particular outfits, in this case — with sexual arousal. In other words, as Quintana Zunino tells Live Science, males learn that “each time my partner wears lingerie, I’m going to have sex.”

    From: Iflscience.com

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    What’s the best way to crack an egg? Physics has the answer.

    Learning to crack an egg is a culinary rite of passage. Do it correctly, and the shell swiftly breaks, spilling the liquid contents out in one fell swoop. Do it wrong, and you end up with yolk on your hands and shell in your bowl. Luckily, science has hatched a formula that is nearly infallible. All it requires is knowledge of a few basic physics principles.

    To complete the perfect crack, you need to know where and with what force. “You want to initiate a crack at the flattest part of the egg, which is the middle,” says Volker Blum, a materials scientist at Duke University.

    Like all objects, eggshells have breaking points, or limits beyond which they cannot absorb more force. That limit is lowest where the egg is weakest—its center. That’s precisely because the center area is the flattest, says Sinan Keten, a mechanical engineer at Northwestern University. Contrastingly, the top and bottom of an egg are the strongest—and therefore hardest to crack—because they have the most curvature. Think of a structure that is rounded as opposed to flat, like an arched doorway or an arched bridge. The arch is able to hold a heavier load without breaking because it distributes that weight more evenly. This is true for an egg, too. In fact, if you hold an egg between two fingers at each pole and squeeze as hard as you can, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll be able to apply enough force to crack it. That’s because the shell’s curves evenly distribute the pressure you’re applying.

    Now that you’ve found the cracking sweet spot, you need to make a swift initial crack that results in a fracture that’s just large enough for your thumbs to fit through. The rest is all about effort.

    According to fracture mechanics, once you’ve created a crack in an object, that fissure will expand only slightly until you’ve applied the amount of force needed for the break to reach something called its critical crack length. Once achieved, the rift will grow rapidly as long as that force remains steady. If you’ve ever walked across a frozen pond of thin ice and watched a crack form beneath your feet, it’s the same basic idea. Soon after the critical crack length is reached, you fall through the ice. To successfully open an egg after cracking it, you have to apply the force necessary to the cracked edges for them to start and continue expanding. Be careful not to overdo it, though. Pulling the shell edges away from each other too harshly can result in shell destruction.

    Ultimately, a clean, fast break across the egg-quator and some even-handed prying will save you a scrambled mess.

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    When Will The Planet Be Too Hot For Humans? Much, Much Sooner Than You Imagine.

    I. ‘Doomsday’

    Peering beyond scientific reticence.

    It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

    Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

    Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built.

    The Doomsday vault is fine, for now: The structure has been secured and the seeds are safe. But treating the episode as a parable of impending flooding missed the more important news. Until recently, permafrost was not a major concern of climate scientists, because, as the name suggests, it was soil that stayed permanently frozen. But Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws and is released, that carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide when judged on the timescale of a century; when judged on the timescale of two decades, it is 86 times as powerful. In other words, we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere of the planet, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas that multiplies its warming power 86 times over.

    Maybe you know that already — there are alarming stories every day, like last month’s satellite data showing the globe warming, since 1998, more than twice as fast as scientists had thought. Or the news from Antarctica this past May, when a crack in an ice shelf grew 11 miles in six days, then kept going; the break now has just three miles to go — by the time you read this, it may already have met the open water, where it will drop into the sea one of the biggest icebergs ever, a process known poetically as “calving.”

    But no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough. Over the past decades, our culture has gone apocalyptic with zombie movies and Mad Max dystopias, perhaps the collective result of displaced climate anxiety, and yet when it comes to contemplating real-world warming dangers, we suffer from an incredible failure of imagination. The reasons for that are many: the timid language of scientific probabilities, which the climatologist James Hansen once called “scientific reticence” in a paper chastising scientists for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat really was; the fact that the country is dominated by a group of technocrats who believe any problem can be solved and an opposing culture that doesn’t even see warming as a problem worth addressing; the way that climate denialism has made scientists even more cautious in offering speculative warnings; the simple speed of change and, also, its slowness, such that we are only seeing effects now of warming from decades past; our uncertainty about uncertainty, which the climate writer Naomi Oreskes in particular has suggested stops us from preparing as though anything worse than a median outcome were even possible; the way we assume climate change will hit hardest elsewhere, not everywhere; the smallness (two degrees) and largeness (1.8 trillion tons) and abstractness (400 parts per million) of the numbers; the discomfort of considering a problem that is very difficult, if not impossible, to solve; the altogether incomprehensible scale of that problem, which amounts to the prospect of our own annihilation; simple fear. But aversion arising from fear is a form of denial, too.

    In between scientific reticence and science fiction is science itself. This article is the result of dozens of interviews and exchanges with climatologists and researchers in related fields and reflects hundreds of scientific papers on the subject of climate change. What follows is not a series of predictions of what will happen — that will be determined in large part by the much-less-certain science of human response. Instead, it is a portrait of our best understanding of where the planet is heading absent aggressive action. It is unlikely that all of these warming scenarios will be fully realized, largely because the devastation along the way will shake our complacency. But those scenarios, and not the present climate, are the baseline. In fact, they are our schedule.

    The present tense of climate change — the destruction we’ve already baked into our future — is horrifying enough. Most people talk as if Miami and Bangladesh still have a chance of surviving; most of the scientists I spoke with assume we’ll lose them within the century, even if we stop burning fossil fuel in the next decade. Two degrees of warming used to be considered the threshold of catastrophe: hundreds of millions of climate refugees unleashed upon an unprepared world. Now two degrees is our goal, per the Paris climate accords, and experts give us only slim odds of hitting it. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues serial reports, often called the “gold standard” of climate research; the most recent one projects us to hit four degrees of warming by the beginning of the next century, should we stay the present course. But that’s just a median projection. The upper end of the probability curve runs as high as eight degrees — and the authors still haven’t figured out how to deal with that permafrost melt. The IPCC reports also don’t fully account for the albedo effect (less ice means less reflected and more absorbed sunlight, hence more warming); more cloud cover (which traps heat); or the dieback of forests and other flora (which extract carbon from the atmosphere). Each of these promises to accelerate warming, and the geological record shows that temperature can shift as much as ten degrees or more in a single decade. The last time the planet was even four degrees warmer, Peter Brannen points out in The Ends of the World, his new history of the planet’s major extinction events, the oceans were 260 feet higher, and the warming wiped out all but one species of European primates.

    The Earth has experienced five mass extinctions before the one we are living through now, each so complete a slate-wiping of the evolutionary record it functioned as a resetting of the planetary clock, and many climate scientists will tell you they are the best analog for the ecological future we are diving headlong into. Unless you are a teenager, you probably read in your high-school textbooks that these extinctions were the result of asteroids. In fact, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs were caused by climate change produced by greenhouse gas. The most notorious was 252 million years ago; it began when carbon warmed the planet by five degrees, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane in the Arctic, and ended with 97 percent of all life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a considerably faster rate; by most estimates, at least ten times faster. The rate is accelerating. This is what Stephen Hawking had in mind when he said, this spring, that the species needs to colonize other planets in the next century to survive, and what drove Elon Musk, last month, to unveil his plans to build a Mars habitat in 40 to 100 years. These are nonspecialists, of course, and probably as inclined to irrational panic as you or I. But the many sober-minded scientists I interviewed over the past several months — the most credentialed and tenured in the field, few of them inclined to alarmism and many advisers to the IPCC who nevertheless criticize its conservatism — have quietly reached an apocalyptic conclusion, too: No plausible program of emissions reductions alone can prevent climate disaster.

    Over the past few decades, the term “Anthropocene” has climbed out of academic discourse and into the popular imagination — a name given to the geologic era we live in now, and a way to signal that it is a new era, defined on the wall chart of deep history by human intervention. One problem with the term is that it implies a conquest of nature (and even echoes the biblical “dominion”). And however sanguine you might be about the proposition that we have already ravaged the natural world, which we surely have, it is another thing entirely to consider the possibility that we have only provoked it, engineering first in ignorance and then in denial a climate system that will now go to war with us for many centuries, perhaps until it destroys us. That is what Wallace Smith Broecker, the avuncular oceanographer who coined the term “global warming,” means when he calls the planet an “angry beast.” You could also go with “war machine.” Each day we arm it more.

    II. Heat Death

    The bahraining of New York.

    Humans, like all mammals, are heat engines; surviving means having to continually cool off, like panting dogs. For that, the temperature needs to be low enough for the air to act as a kind of refrigerant, drawing heat off the skin so the engine can keep pumping. At seven degrees of warming, that would become impossible for large portions of the planet’s equatorial band, and especially the tropics, where humidity adds to the problem; in the jungles of Costa Rica, for instance, where humidity routinely tops 90 percent, simply moving around outside when it’s over 105 degrees Fahrenheit would be lethal. And the effect would be fast: Within a few hours, a human body would be cooked to death from both inside and out.

    Climate-change skeptics point out that the planet has warmed and cooled many times before, but the climate window that has allowed for human life is very narrow, even by the standards of planetary history. At 11 or 12 degrees of warming, more than half the world’s population, as distributed today, would die of direct heat. Things almost certainly won’t get that hot this century, though models of unabated emissions do bring us that far eventually. This century, and especially in the tropics, the pain points will pinch much more quickly even than an increase of seven degrees. The key factor is something called wet-bulb temperature, which is a term of measurement as home-laboratory-kit as it sounds: the heat registered on a thermometer wrapped in a damp sock as it’s swung around in the air (since the moisture evaporates from a sock more quickly in dry air, this single number reflects both heat and humidity). At present, most regions reach a wet-bulb maximum of 26 or 27 degrees Celsius; the true red line for habitability is 35 degrees. What is called heat stress comes much sooner.

    Actually, we’re about there already. Since 1980, the planet has experienced a 50-fold increase in the number of places experiencing dangerous or extreme heat; a bigger increase is to come. The five warmest summers in Europe since 1500 have all occurred since 2002, and soon, the IPCC warns, simply being outdoors that time of year will be unhealthy for much of the globe. Even if we meet the Paris goals of two degrees warming, cities like Karachi and Kolkata will become close to uninhabitable, annually encountering deadly heat waves like those that crippled them in 2015. At four degrees, the deadly European heat wave of 2003, which killed as many as 2,000 people a day, will be a normal summer. At six, according to an assessment focused only on effects within the U.S. from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, summer labor of any kind would become impossible in the lower Mississippi Valley, and everybody in the country east of the Rockies would be under more heat stress than anyone, anywhere, in the world today. As Joseph Romm has put it in his authoritative primer Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know, heat stress in New York City would exceed that of present-day Bahrain, one of the planet’s hottest spots, and the temperature in Bahrain “would induce hyperthermia in even sleeping humans.” The high-end IPCC estimate, remember, is two degrees warmer still. By the end of the century, the World Bank has estimated, the coolest months in tropical South America, Africa, and the Pacific are likely to be warmer than the warmest months at the end of the 20th century. Air-conditioning can help but will ultimately only add to the carbon problem; plus, the climate-controlled malls of the Arab emirates aside, it is not remotely plausible to wholesale air-condition all the hottest parts of the world, many of them also the poorest. And indeed, the crisis will be most dramatic across the Middle East and Persian Gulf, where in 2015 the heat index registered temperatures as high as 163 degrees Fahrenheit. As soon as several decades from now, the hajj will become physically impossible for the 2 million Muslims who make the pilgrimage each year.

    It is not just the hajj, and it is not just Mecca; heat is already killing us. In the sugarcane region of El Salvador, as much as one-fifth of the population has chronic kidney disease, including over a quarter of the men, the presumed result of dehydration from working the fields they were able to comfortably harvest as recently as two decades ago. With dialysis, which is expensive, those with kidney failure can expect to live five years; without it, life expectancy is in the weeks. Of course, heat stress promises to pummel us in places other than our kidneys, too. As I type that sentence, in the California desert in mid-June, it is 121 degrees outside my door. It is not a record high.

    III. The End of Food

    Praying for cornfields in the tundra.

    Climates differ and plants vary, but the basic rule for staple cereal crops grown at optimal temperature is that for every degree of warming, yields decline by 10 percent. Some estimates run as high as 15 or even 17 percent. Which means that if the planet is five degrees warmer at the end of the century, we may have as many as 50 percent more people to feed and 50 percent less grain to give them. And proteins are worse: It takes 16 calories of grain to produce just a single calorie of hamburger meat, butchered from a cow that spent its life polluting the climate with methane farts.

    Pollyannaish plant physiologists will point out that the cereal-crop math applies only to those regions already at peak growing temperature, and they are right — theoretically, a warmer climate will make it easier to grow corn in Greenland. But as the pathbreaking work by Rosamond Naylor and David Battisti has shown, the tropics are already too hot to efficiently grow grain, and those places where grain is produced today are already at optimal growing temperature — which means even a small warming will push them down the slope of declining productivity. And you can’t easily move croplands north a few hundred miles, because yields in places like remote Canada and Russia are limited by the quality of soil there; it takes many centuries for the planet to produce optimally fertile dirt.

    Drought might be an even bigger problem than heat, with some of the world’s most arable land turning quickly to desert. Precipitation is notoriously hard to model, yet predictions for later this century are basically unanimous: unprecedented droughts nearly everywhere food is today produced. By 2080, without dramatic reductions in emissions, southern Europe will be in permanent extreme drought, much worse than the American dust bowl ever was. The same will be true in Iraq and Syria and much of the rest of the Middle East; some of the most densely populated parts of Australia, Africa, and South America; and the breadbasket regions of China. None of these places, which today supply much of the world’s food, will be reliable sources of any. As for the original dust bowl: The droughts in the American plains and Southwest would not just be worse than in the 1930s, a 2015 NASA study predicted, but worse than any droughts in a thousand years — and that includes those that struck between 1100 and 1300, which “dried up all the rivers East of the Sierra Nevada mountains” and may have been responsible for the death of the Anasazi civilization.

    Remember, we do not live in a world without hunger as it is. Far from it: Most estimates put the number of undernourished at 800 million globally. In case you haven’t heard, this spring has already brought an unprecedented quadruple famine to Africa and the Middle East; the U.N. has warned that separate starvation events in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen could kill 20 million this year alone.

    IV. Climate Plagues

    What happens when the bubonic ice melts?

    Rock, in the right spot, is a record of planetary history, eras as long as millions of years flattened by the forces of geological time into strata with amplitudes of just inches, or just an inch, or even less. Ice works that way, too, as a climate ledger, but it is also frozen history, some of which can be reanimated when unfrozen. There are now, trapped in Arctic ice, diseases that have not circulated in the air for millions of years — in some cases, since before humans were around to encounter them. Which means our immune systems would have no idea how to fight back when those prehistoric plagues emerge from the ice.

    The Arctic also stores terrifying bugs from more recent times. In Alaska, already, researchers have discovered remnants of the 1918 flu that infected as many as 500 million and killed as many as 100 million — about 5 percent of the world’s population and almost six times as many as had died in the world war for which the pandemic served as a kind of gruesome capstone. As the BBC reported in May, scientists suspect smallpox and the bubonic plague are trapped in Siberian ice, too — an abridged history of devastating human sickness, left out like egg salad in the Arctic sun.

    Experts caution that many of these organisms won’t actually survive the thaw and point to the fastidious lab conditions under which they have already reanimated several of them — the 32,000-year-old “extremophile” bacteria revived in 2005, an 8 million-year-old bug brought back to life in 2007, the 3.5 million–year–old one a Russian scientist self-injected just out of curiosity — to suggest that those are necessary conditions for the return of such ancient plagues. But already last year, a boy was killed and 20 others infected by anthrax released when retreating permafrost exposed the frozen carcass of a reindeer killed by the bacteria at least 75 years earlier; 2,000 present-day reindeer were infected, too, carrying and spreading the disease beyond the tundra.

    What concerns epidemiologists more than ancient diseases are existing scourges relocated, rewired, or even re-evolved by warming. The first effect is geographical. Before the early-modern period, when adventuring sailboats accelerated the mixing of peoples and their bugs, human provinciality was a guard against pandemic. Today, even with globalization and the enormous intermingling of human populations, our ecosystems are mostly stable, and this functions as another limit, but global warming will scramble those ecosystems and help disease trespass those limits as surely as Cortés did. You don’t worry much about dengue or malaria if you are living in Maine or France. But as the tropics creep northward and mosquitoes migrate with them, you will. You didn’t much worry about Zika a couple of years ago, either.

    As it happens, Zika may also be a good model of the second worrying effect — disease mutation. One reason you hadn’t heard about Zika until recently is that it had been trapped in Uganda; another is that it did not, until recently, appear to cause birth defects. Scientists still don’t entirely understand what happened, or what they missed. But there are things we do know for sure about how climate affects some diseases: Malaria, for instance, thrives in hotter regions not just because the mosquitoes that carry it do, too, but because for every degree increase in temperature, the parasite reproduces ten times faster. Which is one reason that the World Bank estimates that by 2050, 5.2 billion people will be reckoning with it.

    V. Unbreathable Air

    A rolling death smog that suffocates millions.

    Our lungs need oxygen, but that is only a fraction of what we breathe. The fraction of carbon dioxide is growing: It just crossed 400 parts per million, and high-end estimates extrapolating from current trends suggest it will hit 1,000 ppm by 2100. At that concentration, compared to the air we breathe now, human cognitive ability declines by 21 percent.

    Other stuff in the hotter air is even scarier, with small increases in pollution capable of shortening life spans by ten years. The warmer the planet gets, the more ozone forms, and by mid-century, Americans will likely suffer a 70 percent increase in unhealthy ozone smog, the National Center for Atmospheric Research has projected. By 2090, as many as 2 billion people globally will be breathing air above the WHO “safe” level; one paper last month showed that, among other effects, a pregnant mother’s exposure to ozone raises the child’s risk of autism (as much as tenfold, combined with other environmental factors). Which does make you think again about the autism epidemic in West Hollywood.

    Already, more than 10,000 people die each day from the small particles emitted from fossil-fuel burning; each year, 339,000 people die from wildfire smoke, in part because climate change has extended forest-fire season (in the U.S., it’s increased by 78 days since 1970). By 2050, according to the U.S. Forest Service, wildfires will be twice as destructive as they are today; in some places, the area burned could grow fivefold. What worries people even more is the effect that would have on emissions, especially when the fires ravage forests arising out of peat. Peatland fires in Indonesia in 1997, for instance, added to the global CO2 release by up to 40 percent, and more burning only means more warming only means more burning. There is also the terrifying possibility that rain forests like the Amazon, which in 2010 suffered its second “hundred-year drought” in the space of five years, could dry out enough to become vulnerable to these kinds of devastating, rolling forest fires — which would not only expel enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere but also shrink the size of the forest. That is especially bad because the Amazon alone provides 20 percent of our oxygen.

    Then there are the more familiar forms of pollution. In 2013, melting Arctic ice remodeled Asian weather patterns, depriving industrial China of the natural ventilation systems it had come to depend on, which blanketed much of the country’s north in an unbreathable smog. Literally unbreathable. A metric called the Air Quality Index categorizes the risks and tops out at the 301-to-500 range, warning of “serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly” and, for all others, “serious risk of respiratory effects”; at that level, “everyone should avoid all outdoor exertion.” The Chinese “airpocalypse” of 2013 peaked at what would have been an Air Quality Index of over 800. That year, smog was responsible for a third of all deaths in the country.

    VI. Perpetual War

    The violence baked into heat.

    Climatologists are very careful when talking about Syria. They want you to know that while climate change did produce a drought that contributed to civil war, it is not exactly fair to saythat the conflict is the result of warming; next door, for instance, Lebanon suffered the same crop failures. But researchers like Marshall Burke and Solomon Hsiang have managed to quantify some of the non-obvious relationships between temperature and violence: For every half-degree of warming, they say, societies will see between a 10 and 20 percent increase in the likelihood of armed conflict. In climate science, nothing is simple, but the arithmetic is harrowing: A planet five degrees warmer would have at least half again as many wars as we do today. Overall, social conflict could more than double this century.

    This is one reason that, as nearly every climate scientist I spoke to pointed out, the U.S. military is obsessed with climate change: The drowning of all American Navy bases by sea-level rise is trouble enough, but being the world’s policeman is quite a bit harder when the crime rate doubles. Of course, it’s not just Syria where climate has contributed to conflict. Some speculate that the elevated level of strife across the Middle East over the past generation reflects the pressures of global warming — a hypothesis all the more cruel considering that warming began accelerating when the industrialized world extracted and then burned the region’s oil.

    What accounts for the relationship between climate and conflict? Some of it comes down to agriculture and economics; a lot has to do with forced migration, already at a record high, with at least 65 million displaced people wandering the planet right now. But there is also the simple fact of individual irritability. Heat increases municipal crime rates, and swearing on social media, and the likelihood that a major-league pitcher, coming to the mound after his teammate has been hit by a pitch, will hit an opposing batter in retaliation. And the arrival of air-conditioning in the developed world, in the middle of the past century, did little to solve the problem of the summer crime wave.

    VII. Permanent Economic Collapse

    Dismal capitalism in a half-poorer world.

    The murmuring mantra of global neoliberalism, which prevailed between the end of the Cold War and the onset of the Great Recession, is that economic growth would save us from anything and everything.

    But in the aftermath of the 2008 crash, a growing number of historians studying what they call “fossil capitalism” have begun to suggest that the entire history of swift economic growth, which began somewhat suddenly in the 18th century, is not the result of innovation or trade or the dynamics of global capitalism but simply our discovery of fossil fuels and all their raw power — a onetime injection of new “value” into a system that had previously been characterized by global subsistence living. Before fossil fuels, nobody lived better than their parents or grandparents or ancestors from 500 years before, except in the immediate aftermath of a great plague like the Black Death, which allowed the lucky survivors to gobble up the resources liberated by mass graves. After we’ve burned all the fossil fuels, these scholars suggest, perhaps we will return to a “steady state” global economy. Of course, that onetime injection has a devastating long-term cost: climate change.

    The most exciting research on the economics of warming has also come from Hsiang and his colleagues, who are not historians of fossil capitalism but who offer some very bleak analysis of their own: Every degree Celsius of warming costs, on average, 1.2 percent of GDP (an enormous number, considering we count growth in the low single digits as “strong”). This is the sterling work in the field, and their median projection is for a 23 percent loss in per capita earning globally by the end of this century (resulting from changes in agriculture, crime, storms, energy, mortality, and labor).

    Tracing the shape of the probability curve is even scarier: There is a 12 percent chance that climate change will reduce global output by more than 50 percent by 2100, they say, and a 51 percent chance that it lowers per capita GDP by 20 percent or more by then, unless emissions decline. By comparison, the Great Recession lowered global GDP by about 6 percent, in a onetime shock; Hsiang and his colleagues estimate a one-in-eight chance of an ongoing and irreversible effect by the end of the century that is eight times worse.

    The scale of that economic devastation is hard to comprehend, but you can start by imagining what the world would look like today with an economy half as big, which would produce only half as much value, generating only half as much to offer the workers of the world. It makes the grounding of flights out of heat-stricken Phoenix last month seem like pathetically small economic potatoes. And, among other things, it makes the idea of postponing government action on reducing emissions and relying solely on growth and technology to solve the problem an absurd business calculation.

    Every round-trip ticket on flights from New York to London, keep in mind, costs the Arctic three more square meters of ice.

    VIII. Poisoned Oceans

    Sulfide burps off the skeleton coast.

    That the sea will become a killer is a given. Barring a radical reduction of emissions, we will see at least four feet of sea-level rise and possibly ten by the end of the century. A third of the world’s major cities are on the coast, not to mention its power plants, ports, navy bases, farmlands, fisheries, river deltas, marshlands, and rice-paddy empires, and even those above ten feet will flood much more easily, and much more regularly, if the water gets that high. At least 600 million people live within ten meters of sea level today.

    But the drowning of those homelands is just the start. At present, more than a third of the world’s carbon is sucked up by the oceans — thank God, or else we’d have that much more warming already. But the result is what’s called “ocean acidification,” which, on its own, may add a half a degree to warming this century. It is also already burning through the planet’s water basins — you may remember these as the place where life arose in the first place. You have probably heard of “coral bleaching” — that is, coral dying — which is very bad news, because reefs support as much as a quarter of all marine life and supply food for half a billion people. Ocean acidification will fry fish populations directly, too, though scientists aren’t yet sure how to predict the effects on the stuff we haul out of the ocean to eat; they do know that in acid waters, oysters and mussels will struggle to grow their shells, and that when the pH of human blood drops as much as the oceans’ pH has over the past generation, it induces seizures, comas, and sudden death.

    That isn’t all that ocean acidification can do. Carbon absorption can initiate a feedback loop in which underoxygenated waters breed different kinds of microbes that turn the water still more “anoxic,” first in deep ocean “dead zones,” then gradually up toward the surface. There, the small fish die out, unable to breathe, which means oxygen-eating bacteria thrive, and the feedback loop doubles back. This process, in which dead zones grow like cancers, choking off marine life and wiping out fisheries, is already quite advanced in parts of the Gulf of Mexico and just off Namibia, where hydrogen sulfide is bubbling out of the sea along a thousand-mile stretch of land known as the “Skeleton Coast.” The name originally referred to the detritus of the whaling industry, but today it’s more apt than ever. Hydrogen sulfide is so toxic that evolution has trained us to recognize the tiniest, safest traces of it, which is why our noses are so exquisitely skilled at registering flatulence. Hydrogen sulfide is also the thing that finally did us in that time 97 percent of all life on Earth died, once all the feedback loops had been triggered and the circulating jet streams of a warmed ocean ground to a halt — it’s the planet’s preferred gas for a natural holocaust. Gradually, the ocean’s dead zones spread, killing off marine species that had dominated the oceans for hundreds of millions of years, and the gas the inert waters gave off into the atmosphere poisoned everything on land. Plants, too. It was millions of years before the oceans recovered.

    IX. The Great Filter

    Our present eeriness cannot last.

    So why can’t we see it? In his recent book-length essay The Great Derangement, the Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh wonders why global warming and natural disaster haven’t become major subjects of contemporary fiction — why we don’t seem able to imagine climate catastrophe, and why we haven’t yet had a spate of novels in the genre he basically imagines into half-existence and names “the environmental uncanny.” “Consider, for example, the stories that congeal around questions like, ‘Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell?’ or ‘Where were you on 9/11?’ ” he writes. “Will it ever be possible to ask, in the same vein, ‘Where were you at 400 ppm?’ or ‘Where were you when the Larsen B ice shelf broke up?’ ” His answer: Probably not, because the dilemmas and dramas of climate change are simply incompatible with the kinds of stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, especially in novels, which tend to emphasize the journey of an individual conscience rather than the poisonous miasma of social fate.

    Surely this blindness will not last — the world we are about to inhabit will not permit it. In a six-degree-warmer world, the Earth’s ecosystem will boil with so many natural disasters that we will just start calling them “weather”: a constant swarm of out-of-control typhoons and tornadoes and floods and droughts, the planet assaulted regularly with climate events that not so long ago destroyed whole civilizations. The strongest hurricanes will come more often, and we’ll have to invent new categories with which to describe them; tornadoes will grow longer and wider and strike much more frequently, and hail rocks will quadruple in size. Humans used to watch the weather to prophesy the future; going forward, we will see in its wrath the vengeance of the past. Early naturalists talked often about “deep time” — the perception they had, contemplating the grandeur of this valley or that rock basin, of the profound slowness of nature. What lies in store for us is more like what the Victorian anthropologists identified as “dreamtime,” or “everywhen”: the semi-mythical experience, described by Aboriginal Australians, of encountering, in the present moment, an out-of-time past, when ancestors, heroes, and demigods crowded an epic stage. You can find it already watching footage of an iceberg collapsing into the sea — a feeling of history happening all at once.

    It is. Many people perceive climate change as a sort of moral and economic debt, accumulated since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and now come due after several centuries — a helpful perspective, in a way, since it is the carbon-burning processes that began in 18th-century England that lit the fuse of everything that followed. But more than half of the carbon humanity has exhaled into the atmosphere in its entire history has been emitted in just the past three decades; since the end of World War II, the figure is 85 percent. Which means that, in the length of a single generation, global warming has brought us to the brink of planetary catastrophe, and that the story of the industrial world’s kamikaze mission is also the story of a single lifetime. My father’s, for instance: born in 1938, among his first memories the news of Pearl Harbor and the mythic Air Force of the propaganda films that followed, films that doubled as advertisements for imperial-American industrial might; and among his last memories the coverage of the desperate signing of the Paris climate accords on cable news, ten weeks before he died of lung cancer last July. Or my mother’s: born in 1945, to German Jews fleeing the smokestacks through which their relatives were incinerated, now enjoying her 72nd year in an American commodity paradise, a paradise supported by the supply chains of an industrialized developing world. She has been smoking for 57 of those years, unfiltered.

    Or the scientists’. Some of the men who first identified a changing climate (and given the generation, those who became famous were men) are still alive; a few are even still working. Wally Broecker is 84 years old and drives to work at the Lamont-Doherty observatory across the Hudson every day from the Upper West Side. Like most of those who first raised the alarm, he believes that no amount of emissions reduction alone can meaningfully help avoid disaster. Instead, he puts his faith in carbon capture — untested technology to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which Broecker estimates will cost at least several trillion dollars — and various forms of “geoengineering,” the catchall name for a variety of moon-shot technologies far-fetched enough that many climate scientists prefer to regard them as dreams, or nightmares, from science fiction. He is especially focused on what’s called the aerosol approach — dispersing so much sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere that when it converts to sulfuric acid, it will cloud a fifth of the horizon and reflect back 2 percent of the sun’s rays, buying the planet at least a little wiggle room, heat-wise. “Of course, that would make our sunsets very red, would bleach the sky, would make more acid rain,” he says. “But you have to look at the magnitude of the problem. You got to watch that you don’t say the giant problem shouldn’t be solved because the solution causes some smaller problems.” He won’t be around to see that, he told me. “But in your lifetime …”

    Jim Hansen is another member of this godfather generation. Born in 1941, he became a climatologist at the University of Iowa, developed the groundbreaking “Zero Model” for projecting climate change, and later became the head of climate research at NASA, only to leave under pressure when, while still a federal employee, he filed a lawsuit against the federal government charging inaction on warming (along the way he got arrested a few times for protesting, too). The lawsuit, which is brought by a collective called Our Children’s Trust and is often described as “kids versus climate change,” is built on an appeal to the equal-protection clause, namely, that in failing to take action on warming, the government is violating it by imposing massive costs on future generations; it is scheduled to be heard this winter in Oregon district court. Hansen has recently given up on solving the climate problem with a carbon tax, which had been his preferred approach, and has set about calculating the total cost of extracting carbon from the atmosphere instead.

    Hansen began his career studying Venus, which was once a very Earth-like planet with plenty of life-supporting water before runaway climate change rapidly transformed it into an arid and uninhabitable sphere enveloped in an unbreathable gas; he switched to studying our planet by 30, wondering why he should be squinting across the solar system to explore rapid environmental change when he could see it all around him on the planet he was standing on. “When we wrote our first paper on this, in 1981,” he told me, “I remember saying to one of my co-authors, ‘This is going to be very interesting. Sometime during our careers, we’re going to see these things beginning to happen.’ ”

    Several of the scientists I spoke with proposed global warming as the solution to Fermi’s famous paradox, which asks, If the universe is so big, then why haven’t we encountered any other intelligent life in it? The answer, they suggested, is that the natural life span of a civilization may be only several thousand years, and the life span of an industrial civilization perhaps only several hundred. In a universe that is many billions of years old, with star systems separated as much by time as by space, civilizations might emerge and develop and burn themselves up simply too fast to ever find one another. Peter Ward, a charismatic paleontologist among those responsible for discovering that the planet’s mass extinctions were caused by greenhouse gas, calls this the “Great Filter”: “Civilizations rise, but there’s an environmental filter that causes them to die off again and disappear fairly quickly,” he told me. “If you look at planet Earth, the filtering we’ve had in the past has been in these mass extinctions.” The mass extinction we are now living through has only just begun; so much more dying is coming.

    And yet, improbably, Ward is an optimist. So are Broecker and Hansen and many of the other scientists I spoke to. We have not developed much of a religion of meaning around climate change that might comfort us, or give us purpose, in the face of possible annihilation. But climate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must.

    It is not easy to know how much to be reassured by that bleak certainty, and how much to wonder whether it is another form of delusion; for global warming to work as parable, of course, someone needs to survive to tell the story. The scientists know that to even meet the Paris goals, by 2050, carbon emissions from energy and industry, which are still rising, will have to fall by half each decade; emissions from land use (deforestation, cow farts, etc.) will have to zero out; and we will need to have invented technologies to extract, annually, twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as the entire planet’s plants now do. Nevertheless, by and large, the scientists have an enormous confidence in the ingenuity of humans — a confidence perhaps bolstered by their appreciation for climate change, which is, after all, a human invention, too. They point to the Apollo project, the hole in the ozone we patched in the 1980s, the passing of the fear of mutually assured destruction. Now we’ve found a way to engineer our own doomsday, and surely we will find a way to engineer our way out of it, one way or another. The planet is not used to being provoked like this, and climate systems designed to give feedback over centuries or millennia prevent us — even those who may be watching closely — from fully imagining the damage done already to the planet. But when we do truly see the world we’ve made, they say, we will also find a way to make it livable. For them, the alternative is simply unimaginable.

    *This article appears in the July 10, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.

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    Why we love (and fear) mummies

    Somewhere in Iraq, the tomb raider Nick Morton (a never-ageing Tom Cruise) flies over the desert. This is where Egyptian queen Ahmanet lies in her tomb for eternity. Or so we thought.

    The plot of Alex Kurtzman’s latest Hollywood blockbuster, The Mummy, which cost US$125 million to make and was released on June 14, brings back a classic cinematographic and literary theme: mummies unleashed.

    In Kurtzman’s film, the desiccated queen, played by French-Algerian actress Sofia Boutella, is exotic, sensual and, in turn, monstrous. Enraged at her unearthing, she chases Morton and his cohort to the other side of the world with a millennium’s worth of pent-up resentment.

    Trailer for The Mummy, 2017.

    Kurtzman’s flick revives a long-standing franchise dating back to the 1930s, this time with the novel twist of a woman playing the role of desiccated protagonist. Generally telling tales of forbidden love, terrible curses, eroticism and death, mummy flicks have entertained generations of spectators.

    Why this fascination for Egyptian corpses?

    Enter Egyptomania

    It all started in the 19th century.

    In 1822, the French scholar Jean-François Champollion, who’d been awed by Egypt since Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1798 military campaign there, cracked the mystery of Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the whole world became fascinated with this ancient north African civilisation.

    Ramses II, photographed in 1889.
    Wikimedia

    A few decades later, the Romance of the Mummy, by French novelist Théophile Gautier, associated for the first time eroticism and death in the form of the mummy.

    The 1857 book, in which archaeologists discover the body of Queen Tahoser (inspired by a real queen from the 12th century BC) – a magnificent young woman who also happens to be perfectly preserved – became an instant bestseller.

    By the 1880s, European archaeologists had discovered the mummies of pharaohs Ramses II, Ahmose and Thutmose III and their research had a huge following in Europe and North America, nourishing the West’s growing Egyptomania.

    The public was particularly fascinated by the sophisticated techniques used to preserve the ancient bodies. When the 3,000-year-old mummy of Pharaoh Seti I was discovered in 1881, it looked like he’d only just fallen asleep.

    Tutankhamun has inspired many legends and cursed more than a few on-screen archaeologists.
    Sriom/Pixabay

    In 1892, best-selling author Sir Conan Doyle published Lot No. 249, in which a mummy bought at auction is revived by an Oxford student who then uses the creature as a weapon. This theme would go on to inspire horror films into the 20th century.

    Egyptomania reached its peak with the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, in 1922, in the Valley of the Kings. When Lord Carnarvon, the wealthy British amateur Egyptologist who had funded the excavation of the tomb, died the following year, the Western press was quick to spread the rumour of a fatal curse that would kill all European archaeologists associated with the expedition.

    Meet with the kings at the Mummy Room in Cairo Museum in Egypt.
    TravellerGroup

    Thus a legend was born.

    Mummy fever

    Films clearly engender and play on a fear of mummies and their ancient curses. But mummies also fascinate us, making us feel we can vanquish time by preserving the most perishable part of our bodies: the flesh.

    Ancient Egyptians developed the art of embalming cadavers to ensure eternal life, emptying the body of its viscera, removing the brain via the nostrils using bronze hooks, and placing the body in a bath of natron, a sodium carbonate mix, for approximately 40 days, which desiccated it completely.

    Only the heart, necessary for the deceased to be resurrected in the afterlife, was kept in its place. Is it any surprise, then, that other leaders with dreams of reigning eternal should want their bodies to be embalmed, too?

    When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his mummy was placed in a mausoleum at the centre of Alexandria, the city he founded, and worshipped. Luminaries such as Julius Caesar and Augustus visited to his tomb.

    The communist era also saw its share of mummifications too. Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao were both embalmed, and Lenin’s mummy, on display in Moscow’s Red Square, is considered a sacred relic. A team of scientists maintains and retouches it so frequently that the 147-year-old leader actually seems to be getting younger.

    Lenin’s mummy, which has been kept in Red Square since 1924, is ‘freshened up’.

    When cinema takes over

    All of this has proven irresistible for filmmakers.

    Unfortunately, the last copy of an 1899 French mummy film, Cleopatra’s Tomb, directed by Georges Méliès, disappeared in the 1930s.

    In 1932, Universal Pictures made the first major mummy film in cinematic history. Directed by Karl Freund, The Mummy features the inimitable Boris Karloff, who had played Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein the year before. As the undead Im-Ho-Tep, Karloff’s make-up was inspired by the head of Pharaoh Seti I.

    Boris Karloff, 1932 in The Mummy.
    Wikimedia
    Head of pharaoh Seti I’s mummy, Cairo Museum.
    Wikimedia

    Universal would go on to produce another five mummy films between 1940 and 1955, including the slapstick Abbott and Costello meet the Mummy.

    In 1999, the studio produced a remake of their 1932 blockbuster, The Mummy, directed by Stephen Sommers, and released its sequel The Mummy Returns in 2001. Both were major hits.

    This, despite the fact that the plots rarely diverge from the obvious: illicit love between an Egyptian queen and a layman; an embalmed victim buried alive in a tomb for eternity, sometimes with beetles inside; a long awaited revenge.

    These horror films are often not B but Z movies, and apart for a few exceptions – Kurtzman’s latest attempt not among them – they generally receive bad press. Still, audience interest in macabre fantasies and thrillingly dark stories has not faded.

    Egyptomania remains very much alive on the big screen.

    The ConversationChristian-Georges Schwentzel is the author of Cléopâtre, la déesse reine ( Payot).

    Christian-Georges Schwentzel, Professeur d’histoire ancienne, Université de Lorraine

    This article was originally published on The Conversation and is republished here with permission. Read the original article.

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    Wonder Woman: feminist icon or symbol of oppression?

    It’s been a busy – and controversial – year for Wonder Woman.

    In October 2016, the United Nations made a curious appointment: Wonder Woman would be the global organisation’s new Ambassador for Women’s Empowerment, aligned with the launch of a new campaign to fuel Sustainable Development Goal number five, which aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.

    The announcement, which coincided with Wonder Woman’s 75th birthday and a new Hollywood super-production about the comic book character, was met with a great deal of criticism.

    While the fictional feminist icon has long been a representative of strong, liberated women, her Western appearance, sexualised image and unrealistic beauty don’t resonate with millions of young women around the world. They’re actually alienating.

    Gal Gadot, the Israeli actress who plays Wonder Woman.
    Haaretz

    Feminists skewered the decision. Was the UN implying that no flesh-and-blood woman was up to the task?

    Over 44,000 people signed a petition resulting in “one less woman in politics”. Just as quickly as she’d got it, Wonder Woman lost her job.

    What’s a feminist?

    She’s still winning at the box office though. The film, released on June 2, has already brought in US$571 million worldwide.

    Director Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman is being hailed as a “masterpiece of subversive feminism”. It is the first time since 1984’s Supergirl that a female superhero has anchored a film.

    This woman-directed, woman-led film tells a story of justice, of a character who fights evil forces for the greater good. As Wonder Woman, Gal Godot overcomes the trite “damsel in distress” narrative and rescues her own damn self. But are we being overly generous with the feminist label here?

    In a recent article, the Hollywood Reporter said that Warner Bros had created “what one might describe as a postfeminist Wonder Woman”, with Jenkins “temper[ing] the character’s traditional strength with vulnerability.”

    Even Gadot, the film’s Israeli star, is quoted as saying, “Credit Patty for not turning [Wonder Woman] into a ballbuster” – not the most feminist of concepts.

    Rather than represent real women, Wonder Woman satisfies the societal image of the ideal woman. Inhumanly strong, super sexy and bolstered by her exceptionalism, Wonder Woman is a “walking contradiction of the competing demands placed on women’s shoulders today”.

    How many actual women or girls around the world can live up to Wonder Woman as a role model? Would we even want them to?

    Also lacking in laudatory reviews of Wonder Woman is the idea of intersectionality – the acknowledgement that women’s multiple identities (not just sex but also gender identity, race, class, sexual orientation, religion and others) expose them to numerous forms of oppression.

    Why haven’t feminists noted that the film is, quite simply, too Western and too white?

    Meanwhile in Lebanon

    In Lebanon, where I currently live and work, Wonder Woman was banned nationwide, upsetting fans, shocking civil liberties groups and raising concerns about government censorship.

    The decision is based on the Israel Boycott Law of 1955, which prohibits economic relations with Israel, “an enemy state”, including with any “institutions or persons having residence in Israel”. Actress Gal Godot is clearly among them.

    Lebanon and Israel have a long history of conflict (the most recent flare-up occurred in 2006), and Lebanon forbids its citizens from travelling to Israel. It also prohibits entry to anyone with an Israeli passport stamp and forbids the purchase of Israeli products.

    More than a political disagreement, the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon explains, this is “resistance against occupation”, which is to say that the ban isn’t about Israelis or Judaism but rather about the government-supported Zionist project that has resulted in human rights violations against Palestine and the Palestinian people.

    But enforcement of the law is uneven. Hewlett-Packard and Coca-Cola, supposedly banned, are actively operating here, and Lebanon has previously screened films featuring Israeli actors, including Star Wars (with Natalie Portman) and the Fast and Furious series (with Gal Gadot).

    Nor is the Lebanese government consistent in supporting the Palestinian people. Palestinians here are routinely denied access to jobs, healthcare and citizenship. In Lebanon, popular sentiment on Palestine ranges from indifference and resentment to outright discrimination.

    As the Lebanese researcher Halim Shebaya noted in a June 2 opinion piece, it would have been a much more powerful statement if the Lebanese people had refused to see Wonder Woman because it symbolised oppression than for politicians to make that decision for them.

    If this ban was an act of solidarity, it’s unlikely that Palestinians here or elsewhere saw it that way. Letting the film run and then donating the proceeds to support Palestinians living in Lebanon – perhaps to Palestinian women’s organisations – would have been read more clearly as solidarity.

    Remembering intersectionality

    Lebanon’s dubious ban and Wonder Woman’s dubious feminism may seem poles apart but the two are, in fact, related – because of intersectionality, of course.

    In both the Arab region and the United States, there is a growing debate about whether feminism and Zionism are compatible.

    One camp claims that they are, a position that the Sarah Lawrence College student Andrea Cantor laid out for the Huffington Post earlier this year.

    “Israel is more than a government” she wrote. “It is a country that allows trans people into the army,” and has “progressive stances on women’s and LGBTQIA’s rights”.

    The other side questions that notion. Linda Sarsour, a prominent Palestian-American activist, has been an outspoken proponent of the view that you can’t be a Zionist feminist.

    As an Arab woman raised in America, I don’t so much question the choice of Gal Gadot to play Wonder Woman – because, in point of fact, Hollywood rarely denies actors roles because of their beliefs and moviegoers hardly care – but her elevation as a global feminist icon. Is it appropriate that an outspoken Zionist – a woman who supports the idea of a national identity rooted in another’s national erasure – should become the emblem of powerful Western womanhood?

    The ConversationIn the end, despite its efforts, Wonder Woman merely exposes the dominant narrative of white women’s feminism and the global indifference to Palestine’s plight. Its failures to challenge the status quo are too important to ignore, because a feminism rooted in oppression is no feminism at all.

    Lina Abirafeh, Director, Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, Lebanese American University

    This article was originally published on The Conversation and is republished here with permission. Read the original article.

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    ATM’s dispense more than money: The dirt and dope that’s on your cash

    We live in a dirty world. Wherever we go, we are among microbes. Bacteria, fungi and viruses live on our phones, bus seats, door handles and park benches. We pass these tiny organisms to each other when we share a handshake or a seat on the plane.

    Now, researchers are finding we also share our microbes through our money. From tip jars to vending machines to the meter maid – each dollar, passed person to person, samples a bit of the environment it comes from, and passes those bits to the next person, the next place it goes.

    The list of things found on our dollars includes DNA from our pets, traces of drugs, and bacteria and viruses that cause disease.

    The findings demonstrate how money can silently record human activities, leaving behind so-called “molecular echoes.”

    What’s on a dollar bill?

    In April, a new study identified over a hundred different strains of bacteria on dollar bills circulating in New York City. Some of the most common bugs on our bills included Propionibacterium acnes, a bacteria known to cause acne, and Streptococcus oralis, a common bacteria found in our mouths.

    The research team, led by biologist Jane Carlton at New York University, also discovered traces of DNA from domestic animals and from specific bacteria that are associated only with certain foods.

    A similar study recovered traces of DNA on ATM keypads, reflecting the foods people ate in different neighborhoods. People in central Harlem ate more domestic chicken than those in Flushing and Chinatown, who ate more species of bony fish and mollusks. The foods people ate transferred from fingers to touchscreens, where scientists could recover a bit of their most recent meals.

    We don’t leave only food behind. Traces of cocaine can be found on almost 80 percent of dollar bills. Other drugs, including morphine, heroin, methamphetamine and amphetamine, can also be found on bills, though less commonly than cocaine.

    Identifying foods people eat or the drugs people use based on interactions with money might not seem all that useful, but scientists are also using these types of data to understand patterns of disease. Most of the microbes the researchers in New York identified do not cause disease. But other studies have suggested that disease-causing strains of bacteria or virus could be passed along with our currency.

    Not shown: DNA, drugs, bacteria.
    401kcalculator.org, CC BY-SA

    Bacteria that cause food-borne illness – including Salmonella and a pathogenic strain of E.coli – have been shown to survive on pennies, nickels and dimes and can hide out on ATM machines. Other bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which causes skin infections, are found on bank notes in the U.S. and Canada, but the extent to which they could spread infections is unknown.

    Try as we may to avoid exposure to germs, they travel with us and on us. Even if disease-causing microbes can survive in places like ATMs, the good news is that most exposures don’t make us sick.

    Money laundering

    Disease transmission linked to money is rare, and no major disease outbreaks have started from our ATMs. Although it doesn’t seem common for diseases to transmit through money, there are ways we could make our money cleaner.

    Researchers are working on ways to clean money between transactions. Putting older bills through a machine that exposes them to carbon dioxide at a specific temperature and pressure can strip dollar bills of oils and dirt left behind by human fingers, while the heat kills microbes that would otherwise linger.

    U.S. money is still made from a blend of cotton and linen, which has been shown to have higher bacterial growth than plastic polymers. Several countries are transitioning from money made of natural fibers to plastic, which may be less friendly to bacteria. Canada has had plastic money since 2013, and the U.K. transitioned to a plastic-based bank note last year.

    Even if our money is not directly responsible for spreading disease, we can still use the dollar’s travel history to track how we spread disease in other ways. The website WheresGeorge.com, created in 1998, lets users track dollar bills by recording their serial numbers. In the almost 20 years since the site’s creation, WheresGeorge has tracked the geographic locations of bills totaling over a billion dollars.

    Now, physicists at the Max Planck Institute and University of California, Santa Barbara are using data from the WheresGeorge site to track epidemics. Information on human movement and contact rates from WheresGeorge was even used to predict the spread of the 2009 swine flu.

    The ConversationAlthough we don’t know the extent to which money allows diseases to spread, mom’s advice is probably best when handling cash: Wash your hands and don’t stick it in your mouth.

    Johanna Ohm, Graduate Student in Biology, Pennsylvania State University

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. and is republished here with permission. Read the original article.

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    ‘I wanna be white!’ Can we change race?

    Few academics expect to find their work hotly debated in the New York Times. Those who publish in feminist philosophy journals can reasonably expect a certain degree of obscurity. How then did philosophy professor Rebecca Tuvel’s article, “In Defense of Transracialism,” become the target of an angry petition, vociferous debate and international media commentary?

    Published this spring in Hypatia, the article, which argues that changing one’s racial identity should be as acceptable as changing one’s gender identity, quickly elicited an “open letter” signed by hundreds of academics who demanded the journal retract the article. And in an unprecedented turn of events, the associate editors of the journal issued a long apology saying that the article should never have been published. (The Editorial Board responded with its own statement in support of the author.)

    The case of Rachel Dolezal

    Then NAACP President Rachel Dolezal speaking at a rally in downtown Spokane, Washington.
    (Aaron Robert Kathman), CC BY-NC

    The outcry is not surprising, given that Tuvel’s article begins with the highly publicized case of Rachel Dolezal, the former head of a local NAACP who was born to white parents but has lived for many years as a black woman. Dolezal’s outright deception angered many. But Tuvel is right to ask: What does the case of Rachel Dolezal teach us about how we think about race?

    Tuvel argues that if we can celebrate the practice of gender transition, we should also accept racial transition. She wonders if society might “shift away from an emphasis on ancestral ties or skin colour of origin toward an emphasis on racial self-identification.” Simply put, Tuvel says that we should accept someone’s genuine desire to identify differently than their assigned race or gender.

    It’s not that anyone talking about the Dolezal case condones her deception. But as Jelani Cobb wrote in the New Yorker, while Rachel Dolezal was lying, “she was lying about a lie.” Drawing on the story of his own ancestors, which included light-skinned African Americans who looked not unlike Dolezal, Cobb explains it was her knowledge of that history that allowed Dolezal to violate the trust of her community.

    Nevertheless, as Cobb argues, it is the historical policing of racial categories that represents an even greater harm.

    Glib discussion ignores brutal facts

    Rebecca Tuvel, originally from Toronto and currently teaching philosophy of race and gender at Rhodes College, has a history of challenging injustice through philosophical and abstract thought. But in the “open letter” her critics say that she fails to engage with scholars of colour. Elsewhere, philosophy professor Nora Berenstain charges that Tuvel harms the transgendered community by objectifying transgendered bodies.

    It is clear that Tuvel’s dispassionate stance, common to philosophers, may be interpreted as a kind of glibness. She glides over the political context of transgender communities and skips over the violent facts of racism that make racial boundaries inflexible in the lives of so many people of colour.

    By comparing racial and gender transition in abstract ways, we are in danger of forgetting that much racial transition has had its origin in the brutal facts of slavery.

    This is about race

    However, neither her critics nor her supporters have engaged with Tuvel’s argument on transracialism. Tuvel’s detractors outright condemn her work and demand that it be stripped from the academic record; her supporters focus on rhetorical claims about academic freedom, “callout culture” or “witch hunts.”

    But no one is actually talking about race. And not dealing with race is precisely the problem we’ve had for decades.

    My own research into community organizations shows that hyper-emotional resistance to discussing racism inevitably sidetracks work on “diversity.” Instead of having productive conversations, people get angry, defensive, or focus on their own guilt, rather than on organizational practices.

    So shutting down any attempts, however inelegant, to grapple with the politics of race today only perpetuates that silence. Tuvel deliberately takes race outside of its deeply historical categories in order to unravel its meanings.

    It has been well established by genetic analysis that there is no real or biological basis to what we used to think of as “races.” And yet the political, social, economic, psychic and physical impact of racial categories has been and continues to be brutal.

    We need creative and radical thought

    This is the central conundrum. We must recognize the everyday oppression that is based on rigid categories of race and gender — but at the same time, we must absolutely assert that those categories do not define us.

    Not surprisingly, Rachel Dolezal’s story has become a carnivalesque side-show. Let’s not also make a circus of Rebecca Tuvel’s work. In treating both of these cases as spectacle, we only cultivate the notion that we would be better off not straying outside racial and theoretical lines, and that to stray is worthy of ridicule and censure.

    On the contrary, wide-ranging and radical thought and practice is precisely what we need to not only take us outside deeply entrenched categories of race and gender, but also to explode them.

    If we want to imagine race differently, if we want to challenge both racial hierarchies and categories, we will need radical creativity and imagination.

    We might take inspiration from the most creative efforts of popular culture today. Some comedic writers, for example, have taken on our absurd notions about race, gender and sexuality.

    An episode of The Mindy Project entitled “If I Were a White Man,” aired this spring. After being passed over for a job as the head of obstetrics in favour of a less qualified white male colleague, Mindy wishes she were one. In this magic realist farce, Mindy wakes up the next morning in the body of a white man (played by Ryan Hansen), who effortlessly earns the respect of his colleagues and is offered the job as head of obstetrics. “But, don’t I need to tell you why I would be an effective leader?” he asks the hiring committee. They chuckle jovially, “We don’t need to ask you. We can tell you’re a good leader just by looking at you.”

    Similarly, the comedic team of Key and Peele have made their mark by using transracial theatre to challenge racism. In one tragicomic sketch, Key takes on the guise of a white police officer in a biting satire of recent police shootings.

    The point of these comedic interventions is not to change one’s race, but to change how we think about racism and sexism. More cultural and intellectual creativity like this might help us to genuinely change how we think about race itself.

    We should keep asking difficult questions

    One might be tempted to imagine that the production of knowledge happens in isolated ivory towers with little impact on the average person. Explosive academic debates remind us not only that ideas have real and harmful impacts, but also that ideas are, thankfully, continually challenged, fought over and evolving.

    We should be brave enough to keep asking difficult questions about race, gender and injustice; we must also be strong enough to weather the pain of getting it wrong. Retracting “In Defense of Transracialism” only narrows the opportunities we have to extend our ways of thinking about gender and race.

    Let’s instead have conversations about how we might both recognize the daily violence of racism and also craft a different future — one that loosens the suffocating strictures of race and gender. Let’s have those conversations with strength, creativity and even some subversive humour.

    Sarita Srivastava, Associate Professor of Sociology, Gender Studies and Cultural Studies, Queen’s University, Ontario

    This article was originally published on The Conversation and is republished here with permission. Read the original article.

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    Are we limited to parallel universes?

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    Scientist May Have Had First Ever Glimpse of a Parallel Universe. The theory of parallel universes is not a new concept — the term multiverse has been used as early as 1895.  But what exactly is a parallel universe? The theory of parallel universes states that many universes exist parallel to each other within a large multiverse. Not all scientists believe in these separate universes, but one cosmologist, Ranga-Ram Chany from the California Institute of Technology, believes he may have captured the first ever glimpse of a parallel universe.

    Chany used data from the Planck telescope found at the European Space Agency, and subtracted cosmic microwave background models from Planck’s picture of the universe.  What he found were regions that were much brighter than they should be, almost 4,500 times brighter. This finding is consistent with the idea that bumping parallel universes leave behind a so-called “bruise” in the form of a ring of hot photons during a collision.

     Cosmic microwave background research, analyses, and interpretation are extremely difficult, and Chany admits that there is a 30 percent chance his findings are just background noise or space dust.  He hopes to have more results in the next few years, but he likely won’t have proof of his hypothesis until the next generation of space scanning technology is complete in 15–20 years.

    The advancement of space scanning technology could also help prove the existence of not only parallel universes, but other hypothesized forms of multiverses.  How many other theories of multiverses could there be?

    1. Infinite Universe

    An infinite universe is one that is flat and stretches infinitely in space and time.  Since there is a finite number of ways particles can be arranged in an infinite universe, eventually these arrangements will repeat.  This means that if you were to venture out far enough, you would run into infinite versions of yourself, some living the exact same life as you right now and others that are completely different.

    2. Bubble Universe

    A bubble universe is based on the idea that after the Big Bang, the universe expanded by inflating like a balloon.  The theory suggests that some parts of the universe stop inflating while others continue, resulting in bubble universes that may have completely different laws of physics.  According to the theory, our universe has stopped inflating which is why we have stars and galaxies.

    3. Daughter Universe

    Daughter universes are hypothesized to be a product of outcomes or choices, meaning each choice we make spawns a new universe.  For example, say you get acceptance letters for two different universities A and B, our universe would then create daughter universes: one where you go to university A, one where you go to university B, and one where you do not go to either.

    4. Mathematical Universe

    Mathematical universes are ones where mathematics is a physical reality, and the mathematical structure that makes up our universe is not the only structure that exists.  Separate universes are formed by different initial conditions, physical constants, and mathematical equations.

    Will the proof of other universes continue to remain just beyond our grasp, or will we one day find the key to unlock the door separating us from the secrets of the cosmos?

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    Why Don’t Plants Get Sunburn?

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    The one fact about plants that most people probably remember from school is that they use sunlight to make their own food. That process, photosynthesis, means that plants are dependent on sunlight. But as anyone who’s forgotten to put suncream on during their day at the beach knows, the sun can also be damaging.

    So how do plants absorb the light they need while avoiding damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays? The short answer is by making their own sunscreen. And new research is helping us to understand exactly how that process works.

     We know too much UV can be damaging to human health. In the short-term, excess UV – especially the shortest wavelengths in sunlight, known as UVB – causes sunburn. Repeated skin damage due to UVB exposure over decades can lead to an increased risk of skin cancers. Of course, different people can tolerate different amounts of UV. People with deeply pigmented (darker) skin are well protected all the time, whether they are out in the sun or not. Others need some exposure to sun to induce protective skin pigments by developing a sun tan. And some people barely tan at all, leaving them highly vulnerable to sunburn and other UV damage.

    Of course we can all also choose to avoid the sun, wear a hat or use suncream. But what about plants? They have to stay in the sun. Is there a plant equivalent to sunburn or to the protective pigments we have in our skin?

    Plant scientists really began to think about those questions when depletion of stratospheric ozone – the hole in the ozone layer – threatened to allow much more UVB to reach the Earth’s surface. Research back in the 1980s and 1990s showed that the high levels of UVB that would result from ozone depletion could directly damage photosynthesis. Other effects of high UV can also reduce growth and crop yields.

    But the same body of research showed that plants are well-protected from the worse effects of the UVB levels we experience now. This protection comes from a suite of natural plant chemicals, mostly phenolics. These phenolic compounds act as natural sunscreens, strongly absorbing UV but not the wavelengths needed for photosynthesis.

    Just as with human skin pigments, the amount of these natural sunscreens varies between plants. Some plants, typically those that come from the tropics or from high-altitude mountains, have high levels of protection all the time. Others only produce sunscreens when exposed to higher levels of UVB, equivalent to tanning in humans.

    That leads to another question. If plants produce their sunscreens based on their exposure to UV, how do they detect that exposure? And how do plants detect UVB?

    It has only been in the last decade or so that plant scientists have shown that plants detect UVB very specifically using a protein known as UVR8 (short for UV resistance locus 8). Plants that lack UVR8 cannot induce protective sunscreens and are severely damaged by the UV present in summer sunlight.

    Researchers are still actively investigating the fundamental mechanisms by which UVR8 controls plant response to UVB. We’ve known for some time that UVR8 absorbs UVB, causing changes that ultimately allow the UVR8 protein to accumulate in the nuclei of the plant’s cells. This is a necessary step in the chain of responses that allow plants to protect themselves against UVB damage.

    New research from the University of Geneva showed that UVB responses depend on interactions between UVR8 and another protein called COP1 (constitutively photomorphogenic 1). This protein interacts with other various molecules (HY5, SPA and RUP) in a plant’s cells to send a signal controlling the build up of sunscreen phenolics in response to UVB.

    More sustainable crops

    This might seem like an alphabet soup of abbreviations but the signalling system it represents affects us all through its role in the plants produced by farms as crops. We now know that plants use UVB as a signal to change their chemistry in ways that affects much more than just their UV protection.

    UV exposure produces biochemical changes that can increase resistance to pest and disease attack. The UVB in sunlight improves the colour, taste and scent of fruits, vegetables and flowers. UVB exposure also increases levels of plant chemicals that are thought to be valuable in the human diet.

    The new research adds to our increasing understanding that the UVB in sunlight shouldn’t be seen just in terms of damage. So long as we keep protecting the ozone layer, the effects of UVB will be just one part of plants’ normal responses to their environment. And the more we understand these responses, the more we can use that knowledge to produce more sustainable crops, improving their quality and reducing the use of pesticides.

     

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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    Why Isn’t Our Hair Naturally Blue?

    Human hair comes in a variety of colors; including brown, blonde, and black. Why doesn’t it grow blue or green?

    Which came first: color, or the ability to see them? Eyes evolved on Earth around 600 million years ago. Before that, things may have been a bit less colorful. Different colors in animals come from a variety of evolutionary tools. Yellows, oranges, and reds come from carotenoids in our diet. Cardinals’ red comes from insects and berries, and flamingos absorb carotenoids from algae and tiny animals to become pink (without it, they’re just white). And when we eat red, yellow and orange foods, animals can use those pigments to create color, but not for blue.

    The color blue isn’t as easily absorbed and secreted like other color pigments in nature. Instead, animals evolved physical structures to reflect light in just the right way. By studying hundreds of different species of birds, scientists from the Argonne National Laboratory found that keratin molecules inside feather cells actually change the way light is refracted so that only blue wavelengths of light are reflected. This is known as “Structural Color” as opposed to “Pigmented Color”. Human skin can manipulate pigmentation to create different hues of browns, reds, and yellows, but not blue or green shades. Snakes and frogs can create blue pigments but not green ones. They appear green by adding a yellow pigment to a blue structural color.

    Learn More:

    Why does the ocean appear blue? Is it because it reflects the color of the sky? (Scientific American)
    “‘The ocean looks blue because red, orange and yellow (long wavelength light) are absorbed more strongly by water than is blue (short wavelength light). So when white light from the sun enters the ocean, it is mostly the blue that gets returned. Same reason the sky is blue.’”

    True Blue Stands Out in an Earthy Crowd (NY Times)
    “For the French Fauvist painter and color gourmand Raoul Dufy, blue was the only color with enough strength of character to remain blue ‘in all its tones.’”

    Evolution of the Eye (Scientific American)
    “The human eye is an exquisitely complicated organ. It acts like a camera to collect and focus light and convert it into an electrical signal that the brain translates into images.”

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    The First Thing You Should Do When You Wake Up

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    Mornings are rough, but Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy says they can be better if you stay mindful of one behavior.

    Before you even put one foot on the floor, stretch your body as wide as possible. 

    Cuddy is the author of “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges,“a book on the subtle yet powerful ways our posture can influence our thoughts and emotions.

    Her TED talk on power posing — how standing like Wonder Woman can build confidence — is the second-most-viewed of all-time!

    The thinking behind Cuddy’s research is pretty radical.

    Typically, we think that our behavior follows our emotions, like when we stand tall and proud because we’re feeling confident. Cuddy’s research suggests the opposite is also true. We can become more confident simply by striking a power pose — or stretching out in the morning.

    At a recent talk at New York’s 92Y, Cuddy explained how that wisdom can carry over to your daily routine. Specifically, she mentioned the early-morning power of making yourself huge the moment you open your eyes.

    “It’s obviously bi-directional,” she points out. (In other words, the action might genuinely follow a good feeling.) “But the people who wake up like this” — here Cuddy throws her arms up in a V — “are super happy, like annoyingly happy.”

    Likewise, you could be doing your emotions a disservice if you wake up curled like a cat.

    “If you sleep in a fetal ball,” she says, “we have some preliminary evidence that people who wake up like that wake up much more stressed out.”

    Approximately 40% of people sleep in the fetal position, Cuddy says. And it could be making them less confident throughout their day. Now multiply those individual mornings across entire weeks, months, years, and suddenly one annoying morning turns into a lot of unnecessary misery.

    Based on Cuddy’s research, avoiding that grim reality could be as easy as starting the day on the right foot. Even if you have to fake it at the beginning, chances are it won’t be fake for long.

    Originally taken from Tech Insider

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    Can We Mathematically Prove Aliens Exist?

    What is our probability of finding aliens and how close are we to encountering them?? The answer lies somewhere in these 2 equations.

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    When searching for extraterrestrial life, you want your radio antennae and space probes, naturally. Maybe some eager young scientists. But mostly, what you want is math.

    In this special edition of DNews, intrepid explorer Trace Dominguez is joined by our resident space guru Ian O’Neill to investigate the methods by which mathematical equations could help us find life on other planets.

    Two mathematical equations in particular are critical in this line of inquiry. The Drake Equation is the more famous of the two. Created by astronomer Frank Drake, the equation breaks down the entire Milky Way galaxy into numbers to estimate how many alien civilizations could be out there in our neighborhood galaxy.

    Drake’s equation was developed in the early 1960s, just after we realized that our newfangled radio antennae might be able to pick up alien communications. The equation takes into account a long list of variables: average rate of star formation; the fraction of those stars with planets; the fraction of those planets which could support life….

    RELATED: Could Life On Earth Have Come From A Comet?

    Drake added still more qualifiers, since we’re looking for communicative alien civilizations — those that have been around long enough to develop the necessary technology. Clearly, we’re dealing with a lot of unknowns, but the idea is to provide a range on the number of planets that could have life.

    Very recently, scientists have come up with another equation that comes at the problem from another direction. The Scharf-Cronin equation uses planetary chemistry to calculate the odds of life forming in a particular plot of cosmic real estate in the first place.

    The math gets complicated indeed, but the upshot is that Scharf-Cronin equation can give a rough estimate of the likelihood that an origin-of-life event will occur on any given planet. The process of turning non-living chemicals into a functioning biology is called abiogenesis, and we’re learning more about this phenomenon every day.

    That’s the real beauty of science’s two-equation approach to the alien life conundrum. With every new space mission and terrestrial experiment, we gather more data to plug into the these two equations. The new data, in turn, help us figure out where to point our radio dishes and aim our space probes.

    With a little luck, we’ll be meeting extraterrestrial neighbors soon. Let’s just hope we don’t obstruct their view of Venus.

    Glenn McDonald

    Read More:

    SETI Institute: The Drake Equation

    Space: New Equation Tallies Odds Of Life Beginning

    Space: Father of SETI honored 50 Years After First Search For Alien Life

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    Could Life On Earth Have Come From A Comet?

    What if alien DNA led to human existence? This amino acid recently found in comets gives us insight on our potential alien-relatives.

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    If you saw the 2012 sci-fi film “Prometheus” … you have our sympathies. That movie — a kinda-sorta prequel to the “Alien” franchise from director Ridley Scott — is truly impenetrable. On the upside, “Prometheus” did introduce the concept of panspermia to the general movie-going audience, and that’s a useful thing.

    As it happens, it’s also what our intrepid space producer Ian O’Neill is digging into with today’s DNews dispatch.

    Panspermia refers to the theory that life on Earth actually originated in outer space, and was brought here by way of microorganisms, chemicals, germs or spores distributed by asteroids or comets.

    It’s a wild idea, but not as crazy as you might think. As Ian explains in the video, there’s actually quite a bit of debate as to precisely where life’s building blocks came from. We have a pretty good notion that life started popping up on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago. But were the ingredients for life — the prebiotic chemicals required for living organisms — already here? Or were they dropped here by interplanetary delivery?

    Scientists rooted out an important clue recently, when the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft detected the amino acid glycene in atmosphere around Comet 67P. That’s the second time we’ve found glycene in the vicinity of a comet, and it’s a Pretty Big Deal.

    That’s because glycene is one of the essential building blocks for life — as we know it, anyway — and finding it on two different comets suggests that finding it on the first comet wasn’t a fluke. Further exciting astrobiologists is the fact that Rosetta’s comet contains other compounds that form the essential structure of organic life, including phosphorous, the chemical backbone of DNA and RNA.

    These discoveries indicate that the ingredients for life can potentially be found all over the universe, catapulted from planet to planet by comets. The panspermia hypothesis takes things a step further and posits that life itself can survive interstellar jaunts. What if Earth’s first little wriggling things came from space?

    Well, it opens up a whole new universe of possibilities, really. Consider the reverse scenario: What if, after life developed on Earth, a chunk our planet flew off into space with bacteria hitching a ride? If those little wrigglies dropped onto another planet, they could possibly take root. That’s a theory called lithopanspermia.

    The additional syllables just keep coming: Necropanspermia suggests that life could hop from planet to planet even if it dies en route. Fossilized DNA in such a scenario could still create a template for organic chemicals to grab onto, mimic, and generate life.

    Then there’s the concept of directed panspermia — the “Prometheus” scenario — which involves advanced alien civilizations deliberately seeding life around the cosmos. In this case, aliens might just sprinkle a few custom amino acids around young, developing stars. Wait a few billion years and, kapow! You have seven billion homo sapiens running around, wondering how they got there.

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    We Might Live in a Virtual Universe — But It Doesn’t Really Matter

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    You might have heard the news: Our world could be a clever computer simulation that creates the impression of living in a real world. Elon Musk brought up this topic a few weeks ago. Truth be told — he is probably right. However, there is a very important point missing in this whole “real vs. fake” discussion: It actually makes no difference. But first…why might our world be a simulation?

    Musk is nowhere near the first one to suggest our world might be fake. The idea reaches back to the ancient Greeks, though what we call a computer simulation, the ancient Greeks called a dream.

    The first thing to realize is this: Our perception of reality is already separate from reality itself.

    To paraphrase Morpheus from the movie The Matrix, reality is simply an electrical impulse being interpreted by your brain. We experience the world indirectly and imperfectly. If we could see the world as it is, there would be no optical illusions, no color blindness and no mind tricks.

    Further, we only experience a simplified version of all this mediated sensory information. The reason? Seeing the world as it is requires too much processing power — so our brain breaks it into heuristics (or simplified but still useful representations). Our mind is constantly looking for patterns in our world and will match them with our perception.

    From this we can conclude the following:

    Our perception of reality is already different from reality itself. What we call reality is our brains’ attempt to process the incoming flood of sensory data.

    If our perception of reality is dependent on a simplified flow of information, it doesn’t matter what the source of this information is — whether it’s the physical world or a computer simulation feeding us the same information. But is it really possible to create such a powerful simulation?

    Let’s see by taking a look at the universe from a physical point of view.

    From a physical point of view, four basic forces underlie everything: the strong force, electromagnetic force, weak force and gravitational force. These forces govern every interaction of every particle in the known universe. Their combination and equilibrium make up all there is.

    Calculating these forces and simulating simple interactions is fairly easy, and we are already doing it — at least to some extent. It gets complicated once you add more and more particles interacting with each other — this, however, is just a question of computational power and not feasibility.

    Right now, we lack the computational power to simulate the whole universe. Physicists would even argue that simulating the universe in a computer is impossible — not because of the complexity, but because a computer that simulates the universe would be bigger than the universe itself. Why? You would need to simulate every particle and would thus need multiple bits and bytes to store the position, spin and type of each particle and then do the calculations with those.

    You don’t need a physics PhD to recognize the impossibility of this endeavor. However, there is a flaw in this type of thinking that results from the mathematical mindset most physicists employ.

    There is a big difference between simulating the whole universe and creating the virtual feeling of living in a whole universe.

    Welcome the heuristics — again. Many computational scenarios would be impossible to solve if our human mind could not easily be tricked. From real-time computing to moving pictures and video streams (which include quite heavy audio/video delays) to ping delays and many other things. They make us feel as if everything is continuous and normal when there is quite a lot of trickery involved.

    The basic pattern is always the same: Reduce the details to a level with the best compromise between quality and complexity where our mind won’t notice the difference.

    There are many tricks we can use to reduce the computational power needed to simulate a universe to a degree we can handle. The most obvious being: Don’t render anything no-one is looking at. If you feel a slight tingling sensation in your body, this might be because you are familiar with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and the observer effect. Modern physics tells us reality is such that the state of the smallest particles is dependent on whether they are being observed.

    Next trick you could use: Make the universe seem vast and limitless even though it isn’t. This one is actually used quite a lot in video games. By reducing the details on far away objects you can save huge amounts of computational power and generate objects only when they are discovered. If this sounds hard to grasp, please take a look at the game No Man’s Sky — a video game in which a whole virtual universe is being procedurally generated while you discover it.

    Last but not least: Add basic physical principles that make it amazingly hard or impossible to reach any other planet and keep the simulated beings stranded in their own world (speed of light and exponentially expanding universe — cough, cough).

    If you combine these “cheats” with some mathematical trickery like reusable patterns and basic fractal geometry, you end up with a fairly good heuristic-based simulation of our universe — a universe that seems almost endless and infinite but is little more than a reality hack. This, however, still does not explain why Musk (and others) say there’s a high probability we are part of a virtual universe.

    Let’s have a look.

    The simulation argument is a logical deduction proposed by Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom. It is based on some prerequisites that, depending on your view of each, can lead to the conclusion that our universe is most likely simulated. This is straightforward:

    1. It is possible to simulate a universe (we covered this point above).

    2. Every civilization either goes extinct (the pessimistic view) before it is technologically able to simulate a universe; loses interest in the development of simulation technology; or continues to advance and eventually reaches the technological level that is capable of simulating a universe and will do it. It’s just a matter of time. (Would we do it? Of course we would…)

    3. Once achieved, this society will create many different simulations resulting in uncountable numbers of simulations. (Everyone wants to have a universe of their own.)

    4. Once a simulation reaches a certain level, it too will create simulations of its own (and so forth).

    If you do the math, you will soon get to the point where you have to recognize the probability of living in a real world is very slim because it is simply dwarfed by the number of existing simulations.

    From this point of view, it is more likely that our world is 20 levels deep in a vicious simulation cycle than it being the original world.

    The first time I heard this argument I got scared because the thought of living in a virtual universe is kinda…scary. However, here is the good thing: It doesn’t matter, and I’ll tell you why.

    “Real” Is Just a Word and Information Is the Currency

    We already covered how our perception of reality is very different from reality itself. Let’s assume for a minute, that our universe is a computer simulation. This assumption calls for another logical deduction chain:

    1. If the universe is simulated it is basically a combination of bits and bytes (or qBits or Snags or whatever…) — essentially information.

    2. If the universe is information or data, then so are you. Every one of us is.

    3. If we are all information, then our bodies are simply a representation of this information — like an avatar.The best thing about information is: It is not bound to a certain object. You can copy, transform and change it any way you like (all you need are the proper coding techniques).

    4. Any society that is capable of simulating a virtual world is also capable of giving your “personal” information a new avatar (because this requires less knowledge than simulating a universe).

    Altogether, this means you are basically information, and the information that defines you is not bound to a certain object like your body. Philosophy and theology have long debated the concept of duality between our body and soul (mind, uniqueness — whatever you name it). So, the concept should sound familiar to you — this is just a more rational explanation for the phenomenon.

    Let’s conclude.

    Reality is information, and so are we. A simulation is part of the reality that simulates it — and everything we further simulate is reality from the perspective of those being simulated.

    Reality is, therefore, what we experience: From a physical point of view, there is no objectivity in the quantum space — only a very subjective perspective on things. There are even some widely accepted theories claiming that every object we see could be the projection of information at the other side of the universe — or any other universe.

    So, in essence: Everything is “real” if you experience it. And a simulated universe is as real as the universe that simulates it because reality is defined by the information it represents — no matter where it’s physically stored.

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    Confirmed: The Human Eye Emits Light (Biophotons)

    HumanEyeBiophotons-696x364
    “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” ~ Matthew (ch. VI, v. 22)

    By Sayer Ji – Look deeply into the human eye, and you are bound to get lost in its abysmal beauty. Much like mirrors facing one another in the dizzying cascade of visual infinitude, the seer gets lost in the spectacle, of which s(he) forms a part, i.e, you are an eye seeing at the same moment that you are seeing an eye; percipient and perceptible; seeing and visible.

    Biophotons

    That exquisite aperture – the mammalian eye – through which the light of the Universe passes into the darkest recesses of the human brain, is actually an extension of the nervous system – that like a plant – grows towards the light which nourishes it. Nourishes it how? With both energy and information, which is the very dual nature of Light.
    The eyes do not age like the rest of our organs, due to the exaggerated expression of the chromosome-healing enzyme telomerase. As cells divide, important code at the end of the chromosomes can be damaged when the telomeres are sliced apart during mitosis (cell division). Like the ends of shoe strings, these telomeres are tended to and healed by the enzyme telomerase. The better shape the telomeres and the enzyme telomerase are in, the healthier will be the daughter cells following cell division, and the more long-lived and youthful these organs will be.  Since the eyes have a unique level of chromosome-healing activity at their disposal, this explains so well how an aged individual’s eyes can relume brilliantly the youthful qualities of their soul.

    Look closely at the image above, or at your own eyes in a reflective surface, and tell me whether or not you see that they are not simply receptacles of light and perception, but that they project their own light (i.e. their soul)?

    Indeed, new research published in the Journal of Brain Research in Jan. 19 2011 show that the mammalian eye exhibits a “spontaneous and visible light-induced ultraweak photon emission.” More details:

    Here, we present the first experimental in vitro evidence of the existence of spontaneous and visible light-induced ultraweak photon emission from freshly isolated whole eye, lens, vitreous humor, and retina samples from rats. These results suggest that the photochemical source of retinal discrete noise, as well as retinal phosphenes, may originate from natural bioluminescent photons within the eyes. During normal vision, the eyes are continuously exposed to ambient powerful photons that pass through various parts of the eyes, which can produce ultraweak delayed bioluminescent photons that arise from diverse parts of the eyes. Although the importance and possible role of ambient light-induced permanent delayed photons (within different parts of the eyes) during vision requires further investigation, our study may provide evidence of an origin of discrete dark noise and retinal phosphenes. View Source

    In another study published in May 2011 in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, on the bioluminescence of the mammalian eye, an explanation of “negative afterimages” is provided. A common example of a negative aftermage is the bright glow that seems to float before one’s eyes after looking into a light source for a few seconds. More details here:

    The delayed luminescence of biological tissues is an ultraweak reemission of absorbed photons after exposure to external monochromatic or white light illumination. Recently, Wang, Bókkon, Dai and Antal (2011) [10] presented the first experimental proof of the existence of spontaneous ultraweak biophoton emission and visible light induced delayed ultraweak photon emission from in vitro freshly isolated rat’s whole eye, lens, vitreous humor and retina. Here, we suggest that thephotobiophysical source of negative afterimage can also occur within the eye by delayed bioluminescent photons. In other words, when we stare at a colored (or white) image for few seconds, external photons can induce excited electronic states within different parts of the eye that is followed by adelayed reemission of absorbed photons for several seconds. Finally, these reemitted photons can be absorbed by non-bleached photoreceptors that produce a negative afterimage. Although this suggests the photobiophysical source of negative afterimages is related retinal mechanisms, cortical neurons have also essential contribution in the interpretation and modulation of negative afterimages.  View Source

    The light that emanates through the “window of the soul,” the human eye, is not “imagined,” but real and these biophotons contain energy and information (wave-particle complementarity of Light), capable of transforming our understanding of one another, and ourselves.

    Article Source: GreenMedInfo

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    Private company gets government approval to fly to the moon

    An artistic rendering of the MX-1 lander on the surface of the Moon. (Moon Express)
    An artistic rendering of the MX-1 lander on the surface of the Moon. (Moon Express)

    A Cape Canaveral, Florida-based company has won U.S. government approval to send a robotic lander to the moon on a two-week mission in 2017, company representatives announced on Wednesday.

    It’s time to meet the new boys on the block, an up-and-coming private company called Moon Express (MoonEx). Formed in 2010 by a group of Silicon Valley and space entrepreneurs, the company’s goal is to eventually mine the moon for natural resources of economic value.

    Gaining approval from the U.S. government was an interesting hurdle to overcome because there is no framework for commercial space missions to another world. Lawmakers are working on some sort of regulatory framework, but it won’t be ready in time for MoonEx’s launch in 2017, according to the Verge.

    MoonEx had to come up with a “regulatory patch” that allowed the government to oversee the mission. It also took meetings with the Federal Aviation Administration, the White House and the State Department, but MoonEx received its approval. This is the first time the federal government has granted approval for a space mission beyond Earth orbit.

    Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards told Space.com. that the reason the approval process took so long was not because anyone was against the mission, but, he said, “It’s just that we asked questions that had never been asked before, and that had to be addressed and worked out.”

    The company’s robotic machines, about the size of a suitcase, are designed to look for materials that are scarce on Earth, but can be found in everything from technologically advanced vehicle batteries to guidance systems on cruise missiles. Naveen Jain, chairman and company co-founder, said, “We think it (the moon) could hold resources that benefit Earth and all humanity.”

    Now that MoonEx has received clearance to travel to the moon, they can focus on the financial and technical challenges of the 2017 launch. Moon Express signed a multi-launch deal with Rocket Lab, a New Zealand-based company last year. MoonEx will launch their MX-1 lander atop a Rocket Lab Electron booster.

    Rocket Lab’s flagship engine, the 4,900lbf Rutherford, is a turbo-pumped LOX/RP-1 engine specifically designed for the Electron Launch Vehicle, according to the company. The engine has an entirely new propulsion cycle and uses electric motors to drive its turbopumps.

    The main goal of this first launch is to test the MX-1’s capabilities and performance on the moon’s surface. They also hope to win the Google Lunar X-Prize, a $30 million purse that goes to the first group to land a privately funded rover on the moon by the end of 2017.

    The rover will need to travel at least 1,640 feet (500 meters) on the lunar surface, and beam high-definition video and photos back to Earth to claim the prize. Believe it or not, but 16 teams are in the running for the prize.

    Jain said in a statement today. “In the immediate future, we envision bringing precious resources, metals and moon rocks back to Earth. In 15 years, the moon will be an important part of Earth’s economy, and potentially our second home.”

     

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    Mercedes pulls ad for self-driving car because it’s misleading

    Mercedes-Benz has pulled an advertisement for their 2017 redesigned E-Class sedan after criticism from a number of consumer groups who claim the ads are misleading.

    The advertising campaign allegedly compared the new 2017 E-Class with a future self-driving vehicle, and the consumer groups called the company to task on the ad.

    2017-Mercedes-Benz-E-Class-GW-03-1024x768U.S.-based Consumer Reports even went so far earlier this week as to urge the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look into the company’s “The Future” advertising campaign which apparently touts the self-driving features available in the new E-Class, reports Reuters.

    AutoBlog described the ad, saying the driver is shown taking his hands off the steering wheel and not putting them back on, despite the fact that the E-Class’s Drive Pilot system requiring the driver to take control of the steering wheel every 30 seconds

    AutoBlog also mentions there was a company disclaimer at the bottom of the ad which states the car cannot drive itself. For this reason, Consumer Reports claims the ad could be misrepresenting the car’s features and misleading buyers into thinking the car can drive itself without any input from the driver.

    Donna Boland, a spokeswoman for Mercedes told Automotive News the ad for the 017 E-Class was pulled because of the “potential for confusion.”

    Mercedes’ Drive Pilot is part of Mercedes’ Driver Assistance package and has automated steering and some advancements in its cruise control system, which Mercedes claims gives it some autonomous capabilities but does not make it a self-driving car.Actually, in a Press test drive in Lisbon, Portugal recently, it was noted that as far as the Pilot Drive system’s information being given to the driver, Tesla’s AutoPilot system gave even more information. But the big selling point with the Mercedes E-Class was the fact that a driver could not keep his hands off the steering wheel indefinitely.

    This is where Mercedes has jumped ahead of Tesla. The car warns the driver after 30 seconds of no driver contact with the steering wheel, and after repeated warnings and no driver-contact, the car will slow down and come to an automatic stop. But Mercedes, like Tesla, warns prospective buyers they need to be in control of the car and the technology that’s been added is to assist the driver.

    “While the new E-Class has a host of technology that will serve as the building blocks for increasing levels of autonomy, it is not an autonomous vehicle and we are not positioning it as such,” Mercedes-Benz said, according to Fortune.

    Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com

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    Spiritual Guidance for Surviving the Coming Earth Changes

    Eart-Changes

     

    (Waking Times) Teacher to student… As in Ancient times, we are again in the beginning of a period of radical changes for the Earth and its inhabitants, physically, mentally, and spiritually (the entire threefold nature). Humanity’s selfishness has taken its toll and is starting to come back in full fury. With the damage that has been done already, there is no preventing the great Earth changes within the next decade. Given a sufficient rise in Consciousness, those things that are not past the ‘karmic point of no return’ could be altered by free will, however, many are past the point of no return. Ask yourself if the first drops of rain from this great storm of purification, have not already begun to fall.

    There are many things today that are similar to conditions in the old world before the great Earth changes that destroyed it – including the political powers. The forces of darkness – best described as the Sons of Belial, have grown very powerful, and seek to enslave the world, at any cost. Many people who are not directly Sons of Belial, are pawns by virtue of their own selfishness they ‘unconsciously’ follow the conscious evil ones. This is no excuse however, because they chosen their unconsciousness’. They are but selfish cowards who have willingly participated in the evil that will bring their own destruction. The brave people of this world open their eyes to what is happening, and refuse to be pawns.

    Even many of the brave ones are not aligned with the light yet, but at least they have resisted the darkness. These people can save themselves. After they suffer the horrors of what is about to befall the people of the Earth, they will have been purified enough – involuntarily as it may be – and this purification will awaken them to the Spirit within, and return them to serving Universal Will.

    The coming Earth changes are not ‘bad’ things, in and of themselves. They are necessary now. Necessary for a clean up of both the Earth and of humans.

    As all of these changes come to pass, we are given the opportunity to transcend into a new world of Unselfish Love and harmony. Some will approach the sufferings of this purification with patience, understanding, and Unselfish Love. Others will react with selfishness, negativity, and resistance. Universal Law dictates that each individual, through their attitudes and resultant actions, create, and modify, their own experiences. Those who Love Unselfishly, will ultimately experience the ‘heaven’ of that attitude, while those who are negative, will ultimately experience the ‘hell’ brought by that.

    So it will be like the old world all over again?

    More Final Than the old Ancient World?

    There are some distinct differences between the Earth changes of Atlantis’ day, and what is going to take place now. First, we cannot escape them as some of the Children did when they fled Atlantis. But also, there are various possibilities for intervention during these great Earth changes. It may be that we will even have some outside help. Many things are not determined fully. Free will choices are still dominant, particularly in whether or not there will be nuclear annihilation, which would create a much bigger mess if it is more than a very limited warring or act of violence.

    So is there anything we can do about any of it?

    Yes and no. We can’t stop the purification – it is badly needed anyway and we shouldn’t want to stop it. We shouldn’t see it as a ‘bad’ thing.

    But can we do anything about it for ourselves, to survive it?

    What for? That is the most important question. Do you want to survive to save your selfish separate self, or to help be here to truly free others and point them to the way back to Oneness, and free them from their selfish separate selves? But to answer your question directly, yes, and know – know to make Inner preparations. There are some physical preparations one could make, and perhaps that will be done by you or others.

    I will not be involved because I will be gone by then. But think! Think! What good are physical preparations if you don’t make the spiritual ones – what’s the point? Raise your consciousness first, then help others do the same if you wish to. There is nothing more to say!

    I have heard people discuss possible ‘safe’ areas – places of refuge during the coming changes. I know of many areas that will be more or less free from earthquakes, etc., more or less safe – barring nuclear war and the like. But I tell them what my teacher told me, and his told him, and the ancient teachings told us all.

    Make your spiritual changes your priority first. Raise your consciousness first. After you have done that, if you still want to pursue safer physical areas, then look for areas where people who have higher consciousness are living. That doesn’t mean where the people with the greatest knowledge are, but rather, where those with the greatest kindness and harmlessness are. The greater the consciousness concentrated in a certain area, the greater the chance of being safe. Even on a one to-one basis, the ground could be falling out from under your neighbors’ feet, while under your feet, the ground is lifting you above a flood or tidal wave.

    Raise your consciousness first, and then it won’t even matter what happens to you! And like he said, we’re all going to die someday anyway. And regardless of how, do you want to be prepared to go on, or be stuck with karma that forces you back to a life on the Earth, over and over again – a life of pain and pleasure, or possibly just pain, on an Earth that is very different from what you know now?

    For one thing, at this time, because of free will factors, we still don’t know if the Earth of the immediate future will even be inhabitable. But regardless of whether it is or not, the main thing you can do is to become a truly good person, an Unselfishly Loving person.

    If there is to be any intervention (the flow, God/hierarchical help, extra-terrestrial or whatever), the humans who have changed to a new vibration, a harmless, caring, Unselfishly Loving vibration, are the people who will be ‘safe’ – one way or another. If the Earth becomes uninhabitable, or there is not intervention, those who have transcended this plane by becoming Unselfishly Loving, can just go on to a higher plane. And if you were a “higher being” from outside this plane, intervening and saving people, who would you choose to save? The selfish who live out of harmony with the Universe and Nature? Or the Unselfishly Loving, who live in harmony with the rest of the Universe?

    But many people think they will be saved from the tribulations.

    Indeed. What a surprise they have in store if they don’t change. There are many people out there who are under the delusion that they are going to be saved from facing the trials that are coming up for us all. And they think that they don’t need to do anything – except perhaps, talk about it, or ‘believe’ in this or that.

    Some think Jesus will save them, without them becoming really good people, just because they believe in Jesus. Some think aliens will save them, some think they’ll go to ‘the 4th dimension’. The biggest “hole” I see with these hopeful, ‘wishful thinking” scenarios, is the lack of personal responsibility that they allow for. Some believe that ONLY whatever they think, or believe, or ‘accept’, will totally create their reality. So they think that if they don’t ‘give energy’ to Earth changes or the coming chaos and destructions, they will not be subject to them, because they did not create them for themselves – so they won’t have to experience them. But they take this precept to the extreme – and this precept is only half of a paradox – only partially true.

    We are talking about reality here. And Universal Reality. Our species has been running the red lights of nature. They have run the big red lights and broken Universal Law. You personally have probably done so also, unless you are already enlightened. Most of the people of the world have run the big red lights. And there simply is NO way of escaping the consequences of breaking Universal Law. Unlike on Earth, with man-made laws, there is ultimate justice in this Universe. That is Karma.

    Teacher, why do so many people believe they will be saved from all these things at the last minute?

    Despite a lack of logic regarding there being any substance to the various fantastic theories of unearned salvation, and a preponderance of evidence that we are facing REAL ecological and socio-political disaster, the illogical salvation theories are what many people desperately want to hear and believe – so they believe. They buy into this mental/emotional panacea, this religious ‘fire insurance’.

    Why? Why do they close their eyes when opening them is their best chance to get through whatever happens?

    Simple. Fear and laziness. The selfish separate self doesn’t want to die and let the Inner Being take its place on the throne, nor does it want to face its Karma, or the reality of the Karma created by what has been done to the entire Earth. So they exhibit the ‘Ostrich Syndrome’ – they hide their heads and think they’re safe.

    They do this because they’re so full of fear that they don’t think objectively or logically, thus they are more than happy to accept these unfounded theories of ‘Salvation without need for personal purification, enlightenment, or responsibility’. Just think for a moment, why would we deserve such unjustified salvation? Do you really believe the Universe works that way?

    Do you not think there are Universal Laws that govern the functioning of all things? Do you think you can break those laws and nothing will happen? What alien or higher being, who really is a higher being, is going to save parasites that are so destructive, so disharmonious to nature and Universal flow?

    That’s what ALL unenlightened humans are – destructive, inharmonious parasites. Or like a virus, or bacterial infection in the body of the Earth. So what if the destructive parasites are ordinary, relatively nice people with ‘good’ beliefs, even the metaphysical beliefs or religious beliefs such as many religions have?

    Do you know what the Universe’s response to that is? ‘SO WHAT.’ If there is going to be any outside help, from the predicted return of the Christ, to the space brothers, to whatever, the logic is that they are only going to save those who are truly different from the rest – truly worthy of saving. Meditation is not going to do it for you. And just having a lot of metaphysical knowledge, or religious beliefs, certainly doesn’t make you worth saving. Neither does being a relatively good person. If that’s what you think, you’ll have a big and unnecessary shock when the changes come to your door, and you stare death in the face, only to realize you aren’t ready, when you could’ve been!

    How many of you can say you are truly giving, that you care about others more than yourself, that you love Unselfishly all the time, and that you have truly and completely transcended your selfish separate self and your physical body and mind? Not many. And if you haven’t changed in that way, you’d better get busy, and you’d better make it your top priority. Drop everything else you are doing in your life and get busy with what is really important and eternal – before it’s too late. Be brave, and take a completely honest look within yourself.

    Are you truly good enough to live in a perfect paradisiacal world? Look for, and see the things about you that still need perfecting. Be glad when you find the imperfections! It means you’ve seen them early enough to do something about them! Face the things you have been avoiding. Do the things that inside you know you must do. Change for the better, so that you can save yourself, so you can be saved, so you can go on to a wonderful place – whether it be on a physical plane or a spiritual one.

    And if you think you have truly changed and transcended yourself, consider this: those who achieve the death of the selfish separate self, and thusly attain enlightenment/Universal Consciousness, either leave this plane, or stay to be a true teacher, and help others achieve the same. When you meet those who only have knowledge, and only tell of wisdoms and truths by moving their lips, and talking about it, or worse, telling people they don’t need to do anything but ‘think positive’ or ‘believe in Jesus’, or just believe in anyone or anything, you tell them this: You will not be saved, nor can you be helping other people be saved – i.e., helping them become truly loving and enlightened, while just disseminating theories of ‘Don’t worry; Just go with the flow and don’t bust your buns changing to be an Unselfishly Loving person; Just have positive thoughts and faith and you’ll be taken to paradise in the ‘rapture’, or the ‘4th dimension’, or to a ‘wonderful new planet you can trash again’; or, ‘Don’t worry, the space brothers will fix all the toxic waste and neutralize the bombs.’

    Surprise, surprise! You must act. You must change. You must live as the grand master taught us through his examples on earth!

    All of us were so moved, and stunned, that we were silent for at least five minutes. Along the same subject, one day I had asked my teacher about all the references I’d read about God’s “chosen people”. This is what he had to say: “The ancient teachings say the ‘chosen ones’ are not ‘chosen’ because of genetics, their heritage, beliefs, being God’s favorite brats, or through knowledge – they are the ones who have made themselves ‘chosen’ – vibrationally changed by their own hard work and self-sacrifice.

    Thus, if there is intervention in the hard times, or last days of life as we know it now on Earth, the true ‘chosen’ will be recognized by their enlightened, selflessly loving vibrational signature. And if there is no intervention, the “chosen” (those who chose to change for real), will still have vibrationally mandated their rise to a higher plane of existence, when the time comes to leave here – because they are the ones who have gone through the fires of purification in order to become totally harmless and giving. You had better get real. You had better wake up. You had better dispel your self-centeredness.”

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    Pour Water Upwards at the Hoover Dam

    She Leans Over The Edge Of Hoover Dam To Pour Water, You'll Never Guess What Happens Next
    She Leans Over The Edge Of Hoover Dam To Pour Water, You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next

    While you may recognize the Hoover Dam for its magnificent engineering, there is probably one thing you haven’t considered: water pours up.

    While you may know it from as an engineering marvel renowned for its massive structure, here is one thing about the hoover dam you may not have considered.

    The dam is a massive 726 ft tall supported by a monstrous base that is as thick as two football fields laid end-to-end. Every second, 90,000 gallons of water power through the 30 ft. wide pen stocks. The massive slanted wall, fast cold running water, and intense heat all contribute to an incredibly powerful updraft.

    The draft is largely caused by a stack effect due to the extreme temperature differences from the top and bottom of the dam. Hot air blows through the canyon where it reaches the wall and quickly begins to rise towards the much cooler reservoir above. The result is an updraft so strong, water can be poured upward from the top.

    Other Interesting Facts About Hoover Dam

    Originally, the dam was proposed to take 7 years to build. However, after just 5 years of non-stop construction, the project was completed well ahead of time and well under budget (perhaps an engineering first?).

    To clear the area for construction, more than 8.5 million pounds of dynamite was required to blast the foundation and create over 8 miles of tunnels that reach through the canyon walls.

    Hundreds of trucks and thousands of workers worked tirelessly 24/7 to pour the incredible 4,360,000 cubic yards of concrete (about 4 million cubic meters).

    During its construction, however, 96 people lost their lives.

    Despite the tragedies, the project continued and currently provides power to 1.7 million people. The lines that carry the power stretch over 2700 miles from Hoover Dam to LA.

    Perhaps next time you visit the dam, while you can also appreciate the magnificent engineering and dedication that went into completing the project, now you can also have fun with this little trick and show-off your upwards pouring skills.

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    Everything you need to know about the ice creams of the world

    IT’S HOT OUTSIDE. There’s only one thing that can save me from this hell: ice cream.

    Fairmont, a luxury hotel site, has created this guide to the world’s great ice creams. Some of it looks great (yes please to gelato and Mochi). Some of it looks… interesting (come on, Germany). But honestly, I’d eat any of it right now to get some relief from this heat.

    Ice_creams_1

    Ice_creams_2

    Ice_creams_3

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    What Makes Ouija Boards Move?

    More goes into making Ouija Boards move than you might think. Scientists are now saying this fabled link to the “other side” is really just driven by the players’ subconscious.

    “The mystery isn’t a connection to the spirit world, but why we can make movements and yet not realise that we’re making them.”

    Ouija board cups and dowsing wands – just two examples of mystical items that seem to move of their own accord, when they are really being moved by the people holding them. The only mystery is not one of a connection to the spirit world, but of why we can make movements and yet not realise that we’re making them.

    OuijaBoard

    The phenomenon is called the ideomotor effect and you can witness it yourself if you hang a small weight like a button or a ring from a string (ideally more than a foot long). Hold the end of the string with your arm out in front of you, so the weight hangs down freely. Try to hold your arm completely still. The weight will start to swing clockwise or anticlockwise in small circles. Do not start this motion yourself. Instead, just ask yourself a question – any question – and say that the weight will swing clockwise to answer “Yes” and anticlockwise for “No”. Hold this thought in mind, and soon, even though you are trying not to make any motion, the weight will start to swing in answer to your question.

    Magic? Only the ordinary everyday magic of consciousness. There’s no supernatural force at work, just tiny movements you are making without realising. The string allows these movements to be exaggerated, the inertia of the weight allows them to be conserved and built on until they form a regular swinging motion. The effect is known as Chevreul’s Pendulum, after the 19th Century French scientist who investigated it.

    What is happening with Chevreul’s Pendulum is that you are witnessing a movement (of the weight) without “owning” that movement as being caused by you. The same basic phenomenon underlies dowsing – where small movements of the hands cause the dowsing wand to swing wildly – or the Ouija board, where multiple people hold a cup and it seems to move of its own accord to answer questions by spelling out letters.

    This effect also underlies the sad case of “facilitated communication“, a fad whereby carers believed they could help severely disabled children communicate by guiding their fingers around a keyboard. Research showed that the carers – completely innocently – were typing the messages themselves, rather than interpreting movements from their charges.

    The interesting thing about the phenomenon is what it says about the mind. That we can make movements that we don’t realise we’re making suggests that we shouldn’t be so confident in our other judgements about what movements we think are ours. Sure enough, in the right circumstances, you can get people to believe they have caused things that actually come from a completely independent source (something which shouldn’t surprise anyone who has reflected on the madness of people who claim that it only started raining because they forget an umbrella).

    You can read what this means for the nature of our minds in The Illusion of Conscious Will by psychologist Daniel Wegner, who sadly died last month. Wegner argued that our normal sense of owning an action is an illusion, or – if you will – a construction. The mental processes which directly control our movements are not connected to the same processes which figure out what caused what, he claimed.

    The situation is not that of a mental command-and-control structure like a disciplined army; whereby a general issues orders to the troops, they carry out the order and the general gets back a report saying “Sir! We did it. The right hand is moving into action!”. The situation is more akin to an organised collective, claims Wegner: the general can issue orders, and watch what happens, but he’s never sure exactly what caused what. Instead, just like with other people, our consciousness (the general in this metaphor) has to apply some principles to figure out when a movement is one we’ve made.

    One of these principles is that cause has to be consistent with effect. If you think “I’ll move my hand” and your hand moves, you’re likely to automatically get the feeling that the movement was one you made. The principle is broken when the thought is different from the effect, such as with Chevreul’s Pendulum. If you think “I’m not moving my hand”, you are less inclined to connect any small movements you make with such large visual effects.

    This maybe explains why kids can shout “It wasn’t me!” after breaking something in plain sight. They thought to themselves “I’ll just give this a little push”, and when it falls off the table and breaks it doesn’t feel like something they did.

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    Discovering the ‘final frontier’ of our universe

    This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy cluster MACS J0416.1–2403. This is one of six being studied by the Hubble Frontier Fields programme, which together have produced the deepest images of gravitational lensing ever made. Due to the huge mass of the cluster it is bending the light of background objects, acting as a magnifying lens. Astronomers used this and two other clusters to find galaxies which existed only 600 to 900 million years after the Big Bang.
    This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy cluster MACS J0416.1–2403. This is one of six being studied by the Hubble Frontier Fields programme, which together have produced the deepest images of gravitational lensing ever made. Due to the huge mass of the cluster it is bending the light of background objects, acting as a magnifying lens. Astronomers used this and two other clusters to find galaxies which existed only 600 to 900 million years after the Big Bang.

    (CNN) Over the last week, new images have granted us exquisite views of the final frontier that is our old, vast and mysterious universe.

    While we may be exploring strange new worlds, like exoplanets beyond our solar system, and seeking out the potential for life on them, these aren’t the voyages of the starship Enterprise.

    Rather than the manned spaceships we’ve always associated with space exploration in science fiction, our new understanding of galaxies and the universe are being pushed forward by telescopes, in space and on the ground. Researchers comb the immense data the telescopes provide and their findings are giving us new insight comparable to the incredible views we’ve only ever seen in movies like “Star Trek Beyond.”

    This week, an image captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope provided our latest, deepest view of the universe, according to Dr. Anton Koekemoer, an astronomer who leads the team that produces all the Hubble image mosaics for the Frontier Fields project.

    Last week, a research team comprised of hundreds of scientists from Japan, France, Germany, England and the United States released the largest 3-D map of the universe so far that included 1.2 million galaxies in an effort to understand how it is expanding.

    cr7-bright-galaxy

    Years in the future, researchers admit that both of these exciting announcements might be regarded as mere stepping stones. But right now, these are the snapshots paving our way to a greater understanding of our 13.8-billion-year-old universe.

    ‘Pushing Hubble to its limits’

    At first, the image looks like a sparkly cluster of stars — until you realize that each bright and faint spot in the image represents a galaxy of billions of stars.

    “We basically use a cluster of galaxies as a natural gravitational lens, using effectively a natural telescope to amplify these distant galaxies much more than we’ve ever been able to do before,” Koekemoer said.

    “The bright objects are massive objects, maybe 100 times more massive than our Milky Way and they form a cluster of galaxies,” he explained. “Their combined mass is so massive that they actually act as a gravitational lens so they can bend the light from much more distant galaxies behind them.”

    In this “very long slice of the universe,” the faint galaxies are the most interesting to researchers. They would be invisible without the massive cluster of galaxies to amplify them and pull the light around and focus it toward us, Koekemoer said.

    Frontier Fields is a joint project combining the respective research powers of Hubble with the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The goal for this project, started in 2013 and ending later this year, is to learn more about the early universe by studying distant, small and faint galaxies in addition to large galaxy clusters.

    Dr. Jennifer Lotz is the overall lead for the Frontier Fields project, which is based at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

    Frontier Fields also aims to study dark matter, which comprises much of the universe. They can do this by watching how the light from distant supernovae bends through the gravity of these galaxy clusters, because the dark matter inside them causes the light to travel different paths at different rates as they travel toward us. That could tell us how dark matter is distributed in the clusters.

    Although Hubble was launched in 1990, the addition of new instruments has given the aging space telescope more chances to do new science over at least the next decade before it reaches the end of its lifespan. This latest image of very young and distant galaxies is “pushing Hubble to its limits” of what it can actually capture, he said.

    “I would say many of the key scientific results to come out of Hubble probably weren’t even envisioned when it was being designed,” Koekemoer said. “There are always new areas that can be explored as we continue using it. I don’t think anyone could imagine in the ’80s and ’90s that we would actually be getting spectra of exoplanets with a telescope like Hubble.”

    Hubble will also have the unique opportunity to work in conjunction with the James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018. The James Webb Space Telescope is capable of observing large exoplanets and detecting starlight filtered through their atmosphere, which will enable scientists to determine the atmospheric composition and analyze them for gases that can create a biological ecosystem.

    “And James Webb can see much redder wavelengths than Hubble can,” he explained. “As these galaxies become more distant, their light gets redshifted completely out of anything Hubble can see.”

    Hubble’s contributions to our understanding of astronomy over the years are too vast to tally, but one stands out: the 1998 discovery of dark energy, the mysterious key ingredient that makes up most of the universe, and to discover that the universe is actually accelerating. And that’s exactly what a new map of the universe aims to show.

    How big is the universe?

    Although dark energy drives the expansion of the universe, we know almost nothing about it. But a map of this incredibly accurate “cosmic web” showing 1.2 million galaxies showcases the structure of the universe over seven billion years, and the rate at which it is expanding.

    After the Big Bang happened 13.8 billion years ago, the universe began to expand and was full of mass, which created gravity. Because gravity only moves in one direction, it was working against the expansion of the universe and slowing it down — for about seven billion years. But then it began to expand again, this time at an accelerated rate.

    Enter dark energy, a repulsive force that competed against gravity by pushing everything in the universe farther apart, study authors Jeremy Tinker and David Schlegel summarized.

    Over the course of 10 years, researchers used the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) to measure galaxies over a volume of 650 cubic billion light years. They were able to use BOSS to look at sound waves that froze in place when the universe was 400,000 years, where galaxies formed around them. They measured the “bumps” between pairs of galaxies at different distances — essentially looking back in time.

    They found that the universe expands by 1% in three cardinal directions every 145 million years, Schlegel said.

    A hundred years ago, Albert Einstein had a theory about the universe called the cosmological constant. He thought the universe was static. Edwin Hubble believed that it was expanding and was able to prove it. Einstein later called his “fix” to the general relativity theory — which predicts that the universe must expand or contract — his greatest blunder.

    When researchers put the cosmological constant theory within the idea of an expanding universe caused by the Big Bang, it suggests an accelerating universe — which is exactly what we live in.

    Exploring ‘for humanity’

    Both studies are like puzzle pieces, offering different perspectives on various parts of the universe.
    The Sloan Telescope in New Mexico was used to collect the data for the map. “The Sloan Telescope can see 10,000 times more sky at once than Hubble, so it’s much better for making these big maps,” Schlegel said.

    Conversely, Hubble is looking back to an earlier time in the universe.

    “The Sloan Survey gives us our most detailed picture of what we call the intermediate distance universe, so these galaxies are distant but they aren’t nearly as distant or early in the universe as what we see in these deep fields of Hubble,” Koekemoer said. “Their light has been traveling across about 95% of the age of the universe, so we are seeing the universe through these very distant galaxies.”

    Hubble and Sloan will both continue to push the limits of what we know about dark energy, dark matter, galaxies and other oddities in the universe as they shift to new projects. And with a succession of new space telescopes launching in the coming years, a wealth of new discoveries surely awaits — not unlike the Enterprise seeing new celestial objects and planets for the first time.

    “Every time when you launch a new telescope and open a new piece of observation in space, you open the door to completely unexpected discoveries,” Koekemoer said.”And every time when we’ve done one of these deep fields of Hubble, in a sense we’re looking further back in time and distance. You’re really pushing back further into the early universe. It’s very much like a final frontier quest in a sense.

    “We’re always happy to share these discoveries with the world. That’s why we do it. It’s not just for science, but for all of humanity really.”

  • in

    Why Did We Stop Going To The Moon?

    Aldrin-1Check the numbers and you’ll find that it’s been more than 40 years now since humans walked on the moon. Why have we never gone back? Jules Suzdaltsev roots around in space agency history for today’s Seeker Daily report.

    Don’t bother telling the conspiracy theorists this, but the last moon landing took place on December 14, 1972 — almost 45 years ago. Since then, neither the U.S. nor any other nation has even come close to mounting another lunar expedition. The reasons why boil down to money, essentially, and lack of political will.

    The first moon landing in 1969 held enormous political significance for the United States. It was the finishing move in the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union. As such, the Apollo program enjoyed broad public support and a virtually unlimited budget. In fact, NASA ate up nearly 4.5 percent of the national budget in 1966 — more than $40 billion in today’s dollars.

    But while the moon landing changed the world forever, support for the insanely expensive program fizzled out once the goal line was crossed. We put 12 men on the moon all told, but eventually scrapped the Apollo program to divert resources over to the Skylab, NASA’s first orbital space station. The Saturn V rocket — the only rocket powerful enough to get to the moon — was retired in 1973. In fact, no human has even left low Earth orbit since then.

    Enthusiasm for returning to the moon spiked again in the mid-2000s with the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. This time around, the plan was to establish a permanent lunar base for ongoing research, and development began on a new generation of rockets.

    Alas, the global economic crisis quickly put the kibosh on such ambitions. Project Constellation was soon defunded, along with a significant portion of NASA’s operating budget. By 2011, NASA’s share of the federal budget had dropped below half of one percent.

    Forward facing optimists still expect a return to the moon eventually, however. Russia, China, Japan and the European Space Agency have all expressed interest in lunar missions. The ESA has even said it plans to establish a moon base within 25 years. Humans will surely return to the moon at some point, they just might not be American.

    — Glenn McDonald

    From Seeker.com

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