The Gut Brain

February 15, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Posted in Health, Nature, Science | 2 Comments

Scientists have come to view the Enteric nervous system (ENS) of the gastrointestinal tract as something of a second brain, the “gut brain”. Unlike other arms of the nervous system, it is capable of local autonomous function, and thus it’s own decision-making ability. It is however much more limited in scope than our actual brain.

However, it can have a profound effect on our cognitive functions – something we have all experienced if we get over-hungry or indigestion.

More fascinating still though is that the gut system is not a simple chemical digestion factory but “more like a super-complex ecosystem containing trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms.” “such microbiota, specifically within the gut, can greatly influence many physiological parameters, including cognitive functions, such as learning, memory and decision making processes.

Here we review evidence on the ability of the gut microbiota to communicate with the brain and thus modulate behavior, and also elaborate on the ethological and cultural strategies of human and non-human primates to select, transfer and eliminate microorganisms…

While some bacteria we work to control, there are a number of kinds we live with which are vital to our well-being and ability to digest some foods. We have trillions of cells in the body but actually carry a lot more bacteria. Though invisible to the eye, there are so many that it’s suggested they add between 2 and 9 lb to our body weight.

On the cellular level, we are not “a person”, we are a vast community. Add in the microbes and we are an entire ecosystem of life, broadly working for mutual enrichment. Take a city the size of London. Now add in 500,000 more of them. The population under your skin is much larger.
David

The Fermi Paradox

December 20, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Posted in Science, Space, Strange | Leave a comment

The question of intelligent life in the universe has fascinated us for a long time. In an article on the subject, WaitbutWhy starts with exploring something of the scale of the universe. Then they go into the odds of life “out there”. “there are 100 Earth-like planets for every grain of sand in the world” so there should be about “10 million billion intelligent civilizations in the observable universe.” They also describe a proposed scale of civilizations (level of development). Carl Sagan suggested we were at about 0.7 of the first stage. A more advanced level would have potentially spread far from it’s home planet.

The question then becomes “where is everybody?” – the Fermi Paradox. The article goes into exploring a number of scenarios proposed or discussed by various people to address the issue.

Personally, the use of technology like radio waves is pretty useless for any distance – even to the moon there is major lags. We’re pretty likely to adopt something better fairly quickly, leaving it as a technological blip that we’ve been radiating. Looking for others radio waves may be a useful exercise but rather like finding a needle in a haystack.

Secondly, the article assumes a materialist paradigm and that human development will be primarily technological. However, there is quite a bit more subtle development possible that is non-physical.

I’d suggest several of the possibilities in Group 2 are valid. What would be the point of physically colonizing a bunch of other places unless they’re very similar to what we’re evolved for? Other civilizations are likely to be unrecognizable to us, just as some forms of life have been on our own planet. And we’ve already gone through several major changes in our understanding of reality – a large work that’s still in progress. The ant hill example in possibility 9 is a decent analogy.

I’d also suggest there is still a great deal for us to yet learn about the world and our place in it. Still, the article is an interesting read.
David

Laniakea: Our Home Supercluster

September 10, 2014 at 9:32 am | Posted in Media, Science, Space | Leave a comment

The understanding of the place our galaxy holds in the universe has been evolving.
Laniakea means “immeasurable heaven” in Hawaiian.

Earth’s new address: ‘Solar System, Milky Way, Laniakea’ discusses this
also
New Galaxy Map Relocates The Milky Way

Dolphin’s are Non-Human Persons

June 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Posted in Economoney, Media, Movies, Nature, Science | Leave a comment

An interesting article on news that India has declared dolphin’s to be non-human persons. They’re banning the “import, capture of cetacean species… for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever.

Whereas cetaceans [marine mammals] in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose…

This does not mean human rights but rather “Unlike… positive rights, such as the ‘right’ to education or health care, the animal right is, at bottom, a right to be left alone… It only requires us to stop killing them and making them suffer.

This comes out of a 2011 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science gathering support for the 2010 Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans:

1. Every individual cetacean has the right to life.
2. No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
3. All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
4. No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.
5. Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.
6. Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.
8. Cetaceans are entitled to an international order in which these rights, freedoms and norms can be fully realized.
9. No State, corporation, human group or individual should engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.
10. Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights.

(the linked article is missing the last 3)

In my local community, Orcas have been removed from the local aquarium but they still have dolphins and belugas, so there is a move to ban all cetaceans from display for entertainment purposes. What makes it messy is they present as a “research aquarium” and consider that work critical. While I certainly agree marine research is very important, tying it to funding by using research subjects for public entertainment is highly questionable and an inherent conflict of interest.

Waterproof IMAX cameras are far less expensive and invasive to use in exposing us to marine life.

The article closes with this question: “Once we give rights to some animals how do we justify our continued exploitation of others?” Another recent local controversy is violent abuse of dairy cows. But as one article commented, the entire treatment of animals as a commodity on factory farms is abuse. Films like Food Inc. have spoken to this.
David

Hardware Commons

June 10, 2014 at 10:30 am | Posted in Design, Economoney, Hardware, History, Internet, Media, Science, Technology | Leave a comment

Just as software has it’s open source and licensing has Creative Commons, open knowledge of hardware is crucial for us to grow as a society in healthy ways. I recently wrote a similar article on network infrastructure – an open Internet.

Why is this even an issue? Current laws concentrate knowledge into property rights for economic control rather than the common good. Corporate structures, treated legally as a person and thus given the same rights, are concentrating economic activity into monopolies. The result is the concentration of knowledge and wealth in a progressively smaller group, the so-called 1%. (although that’s overstating it now) This has historically destabilized and destroyed civilizations.

If we’re going to learn the lessons of history, we need more balance and a more diversified economy. We need opportunity in the commons and that is best served by accessible knowledge.

This increased access to knowledge is hugely important…it acts as the foundational infrastructure on which we can start to build a whole new economy.”
— Alastair Parvin of WikiHouse

This video outlines how it can be applied to hardware:

And this page lists 10 open hardware projects. If you’ve been around long enough you’ll recognize the Access to Tools theme that was common in the old Whole Earth Catalogue. It was also a theme of R. Buckminster Fuller.
David

Solar Roadways

May 5, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Posted in Design, Economoney, Hardware, Media, Science, Technology | 1 Comment

What if your new driveway powered your house? And ran your car. And connected you to the Internet, telephone and TV. And kept itself clear of snow. And paid for itself.

It’s a real product.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNMFKKyFU60

And they’re doing an IndieGoGo funding round to take it to the next level. It’s already had real-world testing.

It will also optionally process polluted stormwater…

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.

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

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 | 2 Comments

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 change.org 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.
David

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.

David

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?
David

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com. | The Pool Theme.
Entries and comments feeds.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 69 other followers