Years of Living Dangerously

April 13, 2014 at 7:34 pm | Posted in Economoney, Media, Science | Leave a comment

What does the Syrian war, destruction of Indonesian parks and Texas have in common?
The premiere of a new Showtime series, Years of Living Dangerously, unexpectedly on global warming.

Its 1 hour. And it’s a surprise.

The TED Controversy Continues

April 12, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Posted in Events, Internet, Media, Science | Leave a comment

A year ago, I summarised some of the events that had occurred as a result of 2 controversial talks at a TEDx event in England.

As the site Science Set Free illustrates, the controversy didn’t die off. (scroll down their page for the background) 251 PhDs and MDs have signed a petition that was recently delivered to TED, expanding on the original 16. There is also a petition still underway. They held a public rebuttal, though it looks  more like a press conference for the petition.

This article also came out, with more details about the West Hollywood event they pulled the plug on, 2 weeks before it was due to go. As the event was largely intact, they decided to go ahead anyway but Livestream inexplicably pulled the plug on them too. TED seems the only explanation. That created a rather large price tag for the shows producer. Reimbursement or support seems dubious at this stage of the game but it’s disturbing the apparent lack of integrity on TED’s part. As Science Set Free notes, TED “has become the central hub of cutting edge social and scientific thought internationally“. That’s disturbing if they’re being driven by radical atheists. Ironically their behaviour reinforces Sheldrake’s points.

The other TEDx event I’m aware of that lost TED support also went ahead, with a little more warning. Hosted by a small university, their original line-up had only one speaker mentioning the word “consciousness” in their talk title but there was a human potential theme. Ironically, that speaker was Kilby-award winning physicist John Hagelin who had spoken at TEDxWomen a few months prior. That talk is still present in the TED channel. The theme of that event? Fact & Faith.

Amusingly, the university conference is now being presented on-line under the banner “Consciousness Talks“. They set up a web site for it and have been gradually posting videos from that event this year. I posted an article on one of them by Dr. Pam Peeke: Hacked by a Cupcake, on Food and Addiction. One that should be on TED. I look forward to others.

Heartbleed – what is it?

April 11, 2014 at 11:16 am | Posted in Economoney, Internet, Media, Online services, Security, Software, Web Apps | 6 Comments

When you log into a secure web site and get “https” and a lock symbol, what you transmit is secure, right? Maybe. About 2/3′s of the web uses OpenSSL and its recently been discovered it’s had a bug for about 2 years.

“Heartbleed has the potential to be one of the biggest, most widespread vulnerabilities in the history of the modern web.”

Security expert Bruce Schneier says “‘catastrophic’ is the right word. On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11.

While there is a fix and it’s unlikely this was discovered and exploited in the past, the issue now is with sites that don’t have decent maintenance and don’t get updated. Now that the bug is known, some old site you used once long ago may now be insecure. If you have the habit of using the same password all over or using your social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) logins on other sites, you may have unwittingly shared your access all over. Including to sites that are now secure.

Changing your password on such old sites won’t help in the slightest, contrary to some of the advice floating around. It’s only a useful exercise if you know the site has updated. But you can on sites that are fixed. All the major ones apparently have but there are millions of servers out there.

And the trick is, even server admins may never know they’ve been hacked with this one.

This article explains: Heartbleed Nightmare

You can check a site you use here

This is a great reason not to use the same password on multiple sites and may be a great time to implement a password manager like LastPass, if you have not already.

Not only did Monday bring Heartbleed but there was a security update for WordPress on Tuesday and another for Jetpack on Wednesday. The second 2 are things bloggers should update now. The first you want to be sure your web host has. You really don’t want your ecommerce offerings to go nasty on you.

UPDATE – see comments for more links

Gravity Waves?

March 20, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Media, Science, Space | 1 Comment

Not sure what all the fuss is about in science circles these days? It’s the first direct proof of the inflationary model of the big bang. Here’s the idea explained – light evidence of gravity waves in a predicted pattern – and stronger than they expected.

The NY Times takes a crack at explaining it here. More detail, and how they kept it a secret, on Wired.


World History

March 17, 2014 at 9:16 pm | Posted in Economoney, History, Media, Software | Leave a comment

We’ve all learned something of world history in school, of the empires built up and fallen. But the degree of change over the years, largely though conflict and war, is far greater than the larger conquests. Many an area became organized then collapsed as an entity or was absorbed by a neighbour. Names changed many times. The World Wars brought distant governments dividing communities in non-historical ways, leading to many of the conflicts of more recent years, like Iraq, Eastern Europe and the Crimea.

“The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance.”
- Paul Johnson

Here’s a site with world maps, showing Europe and area around 1 CE (AD). Click up the list on the left to see it evolve. The Historical Maps link up top also has links to Middle East and World History.

If you’d prefer to see this animated, this video shows the evolving map from 1000 BC  – 1000 AD.

And this from 1000 AD to the present time. Evidently its the output from Centennia software but the dates are not properly synced to the maps. Comments also complain about some details in the maps. However, the point is the larger flow of territory and rulership. History is written by the conquerors.

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
- George Santayana

I can also note that territory naming often does not represent what that country called itself. Japan, for example, does not call itself that. That’s not even an Anglicized version. Rude, or what?

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”
- Aldous Huxley

It certainly gives perspective on claims of “historical lands” too. The new trend in searching ancestry via personal genetic testing reveals it’s not your land and my land but our land.

Decentralized Internet

March 15, 2014 at 11:15 pm | Posted in Computers, Economoney, Internet, Media, Software, Technology, Web Apps | Leave a comment

The technology landscape has been changing rapidly. Companies like Microsoft have already lost over half their market share. Meanwhile, the open Internet has devolved into a giant marketing opportunity. Dominant technology players are gathering everything they can about our movements, shopping, and social lives. Just look at what you have to approve on a typical smart phone app. Or how you’re invited to use one service to log into another. Government agencies have been doing the same and more, quite illegally.

Meanwhile, a variety of technologies have been developing to change the way we connect and interact – mainly to take out the intermediaries. The behaviour of business and government above and the revelations of security breaches and spying are simply pushing those technologies to the fore so we can take back control of our lives and devices.
Here is a talk by Fred Wilson in Paris, on 3 macro trends in society:

3 macro trends:
- from bureaucratic hierarchies to technology-driven networks (eg: newspaper to Twitter)
- unbundling – how products and services are delivered, specialization (eg: finance moving away from banks, a la carte entertainment on demand)
- becoming a network node (w/ smart phones, shifting from desktop), always on and connected

4 Sectors to watch:
- money – distributed and decentralized payments on the Internet, without the banks
- health & wellness – staying out of the health care system, wearable monitors
- data leakage – data pollution, spying
- identity – cryto-currency applied to online and secure identity

This article lists 21 technologies that may decentralize networks, including mesh networks, alternative domain registration, and decentralized farming. We live in remarkable times.

Promotion via Fakery

March 6, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Posted in Events, Hardware, Humor, Internet, Media, Science, Strange, Technology, Transportation | Leave a comment

A weird episode in Internet “marketing” this week. A real company, HUVr Tech, seeking funding  sought buzz. First, they faked up a Promo video for Hoverboards, complete with the famous and Back to the Future references. Note the 0 noise and that the video is named “belief” (on their web site). They apparently used the Back to the Future wire harness.

Second, an “apology” by Christopher Lloyd. He was tricked??   Then, one from Tony Hawk, the famed skateboarder. Wired comments.

Fake promotions and fake apologies? Lame. Pranks are funny only if you include the punchline. Has their home page been updated to reflect this? Nope. This is what they think of their possible customers?

First Nations and Vancouver

March 6, 2014 at 5:28 pm | Posted in History, Media | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

The City of Vancouver has produced a Guide for newcomers to aid in establishing roots here. Along with that is an overview of local First Nations (PDF) as it’s often something an immigrant is interested in but not always readily accessible. It’s also a useful general summary of local First Nations for everyone.

As may be obvious from the maps, there is a great deal of overlap in traditional territories. Lands were not owned and thus not formerly defined by fixed boundaries. Rather, they were working territories that included seasonal uses. When finally the provincial government agreed to treaty negotiations, they began by working with individual nations. But until the overlaps had been negotiated and defined, it created an unfair process and problems with individual treaties. Not every nation was as far along in establishing self-government expertise to handle such an important representation. Instead, the nations needed to negotiate amongst themselves and bring that agreement to the provincial government to negotiate their own settlement. This required a common meeting ground as this Chiefs document (PDF) reviews.

We have a rich history, far beyond a one hundred year-old building or a European sailing ship.

Wolves Change Geography

February 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Media, Nature, Science | Leave a comment

A short film about “trophic cascade“- the cascading consequences of changes in individual species populations – especially of top-of-the-pyramid predators.

After 70 years absence, wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in the United States. They restored balance to grazing populations. This created a cascading effect that allowed the natural restoration of plant life, improvements in bear and rodent populations, and better river flows. Wolves changed the geography.

Food and Addiction

January 24, 2014 at 11:46 am | Posted in Health, Media, Psychology, Science | 2 Comments

Although Food and Science are technically more applicable to a science blog, due to the psychological nature of our food relationships, I’ve tended to discuss the subject more over on my other blog. But in this case, I wanted to share it on both.

I’ve occasionally explored subjects like craving and food. Several articles have come up recently on the topic I thought interesting.

Firstly, in North America, research lead to an anti-fat movement in the 1960′s. We shifted to margarine and low-fat foods. Unfortunately, low fat meant low taste, so food producers replaced fat with sugar and salt and foods became increasingly processed. (we won’t go into artificial sweeteners)

After millions spent on research, they discovered the “bliss point” – the optimum level of sugar that triggered peoples pleasure centre. Sugar became the #2 ingredient in many foods.

Unfortunately, the high sugar content had several consequences. For one, people became habituated to it and expected it, even in baby food. For another, the body stores excess sugar as fat. High sugar levels lead to a much larger weight problem than the original fat content did. Further, the liver got overloaded and plugged up, leading to a lot of middle fat and a number of heath consequences.

As it turns out, the early research was faulty. Only certain types of fat are an issue. Healthy fats in a natural form are part of a balanced diet. But independent sugar research was not healthy for a food scientists career so there was a major lack of research for some years. The government food guides remain much the same.

A further issue that is less discussed is that sugar is addictive. Once we become habituated, the body craves it and our natural signals for “enough” or for specific nutrients are suppressed. Craving overwrites healthy eating habits. This becomes very clear if you’ve ever gone on a low carb diet or a fast. The first 3-4 days are often accompanied by craving and withdrawal symptoms. And once off a diet, most people easily re-engage their old habits again and step back into their addictions.

Don’t believe foods can be addictive? Scientists now have a scale called the “Yale Food Addiction Scale” from the Yale Rudd Centre for Food Policy and Obesity.

Further complicating the issue is that some people use sugar and carbs as “comfort” foods to soothe stress. Rather than finding healthy release such as in meditation or exercise, we reach for the candy drawer or ice cream.

For many, changing such behaviour becomes a contest of will which increases stress and drives up the craving. Personal failure doesn’t help. Or you play denial mind games with yourself much like an alcoholic.

(and yes, I did a juice fast last month and supported some others in a forum having struggles)

Here’s a Harvard Medical School article “Why stress causes people to overeat

I also noticed mention in the tech rags that Microsoft is experimenting with a bra to monitor stress levels so you can be notified when you may eat badly. But isn’t that like a new Pavlov’s signal? Get ready to eat!

The most immediate thing you can do is find a new outlet for stress. Maybe having a tennis ball in the drawer you can squeeze when a craving hits? Or a bit of fresh air? Change of scene? Just watch the feelings. They’re your flags for triggers.

The idea here is not to get into a fight with it or yourself but to deflect it. This is all about energy. Getting into resistance or a will battle will make it stronger and can add layers to the issue for you.

Also, this is not a long term solution – the motivators are still present. This is to get you started. And make healthy choices here – you don’t want to replace one bad behaviour with another. Shopping can also be addictive, for example.

In the talk below, they recommend introducing meditation. This introduces several benefits. For one, it is a great way to release stress. Secondly, it makes us more settled and peaceful. And thirdly, it makes us more conscious and self-aware. Another term for this is mindful. Then we can make better choices.

I talk here about types of meditation.

As you become a little more conscious, you become more aware of the process that’s taking place within you and you begin to catch your triggers. When the urge comes up, see if you’re settled enough to allow the feeling to arise and feel what it’s coming from.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna talks of the impulse to act. When we’re trying to change behaviour, at first we realize after the fact that we’ve done it again. We have a Doh! moment. When we’re less caught, we begin to recognize what we’re doing during the act. We begin to be a bit more conscious about it, maybe enough to make a new choice or to stop. But often then we get into internal battles over it. Finally, we can notice the impulse to act, the feeling, as it is arising. Then we have real choice – do we act or not? Do we let it go or fight?

That is also the point where we can find out what this driver is that’s arising. Instead of getting into a battle over choice, we can investigate the urge itself. What is the feeling or energy behind this urge? Big stuff like food can have layers. Early associations of food with mother, reinforced by sweets as rewards, adapted as a stress coping tool, and so forth. So similarly, we may have to resolve each layer to end it, most recent backwards.

If you can see your own dynamic, you can recognize it no longer serves and let it go. But that takes a little skill and practice. It’s usually easier to start on simpler things than chronic lifetime drivers. Food associations can be the deepest as they’re often programmed in early childhood.

But this is much more effective than deflecting (distracting ourselves) I mentioned above. We want to resolve the energy behind it to heal.

Finally, this 2 part talk by Dr. Pam Peeke: Hacked by a Cupcake. She talks about current science on the subject and solutions.

Part 1: The Science

It’s not just food addiction – it’s toxic lifestyle.
She talks about reward, food as a “science fair project”, and a lot of current research. The dopamine reward cycle and why it’s addictive. It’s not the consumption – it’s the cues. Decreased impulse control. Why the will doesn’t work.

Part 2: The Solutions

“Stress is the Achilles heel of addiction”.
Every choice changes gene expression which changes your destiny. We pass those epigenetic markers on to our children. By our lifestyle, we gift or condemn them.

Mind, Mouth & Muscle:
- eat whole foods
- move your body. Walking dampens the obesity gene.
- meditation, with initial research results.

Part 3: Q&A

Start with the mind, otherwise you fall off.
The importance of sleep. Coffee.

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