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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 38,924

About Me

Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Oliver Sacks: My Periodic Table

I LOOK forward eagerly, almost greedily, to the weekly arrival of journals like Nature and Science, and turn at once to articles on the physical sciences — not, as perhaps I should, to articles on biology and medicine. It was the physical sciences that provided my first enchantment as a boy.

In a recent issue of Nature, there was a thrilling article by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek on a new way of calculating the slightly different masses of neutrons and protons. The new calculation confirms that neutrons are very slightly heavier than protons — the ratio of their masses being 939.56563 to 938.27231 — a trivial difference, one might think, but if it were otherwise the universe as we know it could never have developed. The ability to calculate this, Dr. Wilczek wrote, “encourages us to predict a future in which nuclear physics reaches the level of precision and versatility that atomic physics has already achieved” — a revolution that, alas, I will never see.

Francis Crick was convinced that “the hard problem” — understanding how the brain gives rise to consciousness — would be solved by 2030. “You will see it,” he often said to my neuroscientist friend Ralph, “and you may, too, Oliver, if you live to my age.” Crick lived to his late 80s, working and thinking about consciousness till the last. Ralph died prematurely, at age 52, and now I am terminally ill, at the age of 82. I have to say that I am not too exercised by “the hard problem” of consciousness — indeed, I do not see it as a problem at all; but I am sad that I will not see the new nuclear physics that Dr. Wilczek envisages, nor a thousand other breakthroughs in the physical and biological sciences.

A few weeks ago, in the country, far from the lights of the city, I saw the entire sky “powdered with stars” (in Milton’s words); such a sky, I imagined, could be seen only on high, dry plateaus like that of Atacama in Chile (where some of the world’s most powerful telescopes are). It was this celestial splendor that suddenly made me realize how little time, how little life, I had left. My sense of the heavens’ beauty, of eternity, was inseparably mixed for me with a sense of transience — and death.

I told my friends Kate and Allen, “I would like to see such a sky again when I am dying.”

“We’ll wheel you outside,” they said.



The most convincing argument for legalizing LSD, shrooms, and other psychedelics

by German Lopez

I have a profound fear of death. It's not bad enough to cause serious depression or anxiety. But it is bad enough to make me avoid thinking about the possibility of dying — to avoid a mini existential crisis in my mind.

But it turns out there may be a better cure for this fear than simply not thinking about it. It's not yoga, a new therapy program, or a medicine currently on the (legal) market. It's psychedelic drugs — LSD, ibogaine, and psilocybin, which is found in magic mushrooms.

This is the case for legalizing hallucinogens. Although the drugs have gotten some media attention in recent years for helping cancer patients deal with their fear of death and helping people quit smoking, there's also a similar potential boon for the nonmedical, even recreational psychedelic user. As hallucinogens get a renewed look by researchers, they're finding that the substances may improve almost anyone's mood and quality of life — as long as they're taken in the right setting, typically a controlled environment.

This isn't something that even drug policy reformers are comfortable calling for yet. "There's not any political momentum for that right now," Jag Davies, who focuses on hallucinogen research at the Drug Policy Alliance, said, citing the general public's views of psychedelics as extremely dangerous — close to drugs like crack cocaine, heroin, and meth.



Cool Colossal Squid Video


(edited for name)

Colin Cowherd is a racist ass

Major League Baseball on Friday said ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd owes Dominican players an apology for on-air remarks made a day earlier concerning Dominicans and their intelligence related to baseball.

In a statement, MLB said it "condemns the remarks made by Colin Cowherd, which were inappropriate, offensive and completely inconsistent with the values of our game" and that he "owes our players of Dominican origin, and Dominican people generally, an apology."

The flap stems from Cowherd's comments on Thursday, which were made while debating whether it was difficult for a front-office executive to take over managerial duties -- using current Miami Marlins general manager/manager Dan Jennings as an example.

"It's baseball," Cowherd said Thursday. "You don't think a general manager can manage? Like it's impossible? The game is too complex? I've never bought into that, 'Baseball's just too complex.' Really? A third of the sport is from the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic has not been known in my lifetime as having world-class academic abilities. A lot of those kids come from rough backgrounds and have not had opportunities academically that other kids from other countries have.



So he is both denigrating a whole nation and the game of baseball as well. Ass.

Get ready for a deluge of political ad spending

People who find political advertising annoying are going to have an increasingly difficult time escaping it as the 2016 presidential election draws near.

Total ad spending by political candidates running for anything from president to dog catcher is expected to top $12 billion in 2016, a gain of more than 22 percent from 2012, according to preliminary data from Borrell Associates due to be released later this week.

The majority of the spending -- 55.6 percent -- will go to broadcast TV, a gain of 19 percent over the past four years and equaling $6.5 billion. CBS Corp. (CBS), the parent of CBS MoneyWatch; Tengna (TGNA), the recently spun-off broadcast assets of Gannett; and Graham Holdings (GHC) are among the owners of local TV stations that will reap the benefits of this bonanza.

Cable networks will profit as well, pulling in $1.2 billion, an increase of 39 percent over 2012. Campaigns, though, are shifting some of their ad spending online, which will equal $955 million in 2016, a gain of nearly 500 percent since 2012, according to Borrell.

Signs of the unprecedented level of political advertising abound. Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential campaign surprised political observers recently when it recently decided to buy advertising on local TV stations in key states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina that won't be shown until February.


The Latest: Wife filed 2008 protective order onLA Theater gunman


LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — The latest on the shooting at a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater (times are local):
10 a.m.

The wife and other family members of the Louisiana theater gunman asked for a temporary protective order in 2008 against the man.

Court documents seeking the order said John Houser, “exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements.”

The documents said even though he lived in Phenix City, Alabama, he had come to Carroll County, Georgia, where they lived and “perpetrated various acts of family violence.”

Houser “has a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder” the filing said.



McConnell sets up vote to repeal ObamaCare

By Alexander Bolton - 07/24/15 09:37 AM EDT

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has set up a vote to repeal ObamaCare in a bit do appease conservatives upset over a second planned vote to revive the Export-Import Bank.

McConnell on Friday announced he would file cloture — a motion to end a filibuster — on amendments to fully repeal ObamaCare and to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank. Both votes likely will take place Sunday.

McConnell argued that taking votes on both amendments offered a "balanced" way forward.

"Ex-Im shouldn't be the only vote we take on this bill, and under the compromise I just filed, it won't be. That's a much fairer way forward," he said, adding that Republicans will "continue to fight for" a repeal of ObamaCare.

The Export-Import Bank is staunchly opposed by conservatives, including presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who shortly after McConnell spoke denounced the decision.



Pollution isn't colorblind: environmental hazards kill more black Americans

by Keith Ellison and Van Jones

Thanks to people’s movements like Black Lives Matter and the Fight For 15, the call for racial and economic justice is getting louder and stronger. But while we are out on the streets fighting for equality, our kids are being poisoned by the air they breathe. Environmental injustices are taking black lives – that’s why our fight for equality has to include climate and environmental justice too.

African-Americans are more likely to live near environmental hazards like power plants and be exposed to hazardous air pollution, including higher levels of nitrogen oxides, ozone, particulate matter and carbon dioxide than their white counterparts. The presence of these pollutants increases rates of asthma, respiratory illness and cardiovascular disease. It puts newborn babies at risk. It causes missed days of work and school. We can’t afford this. Black kids already have the highest rate of asthma in the nation, and our infant mortality rate is nearly double the national rate.

Increased health problems hit people financially. African-Americans typically spend a higher share of their income on health care than their white counterparts (16.5% v 12.2%), and roughly one in five African-Americans don’t have health insurance.

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is a desperately needed response to this problem. The Clean Power Plan would cut carbon pollution from power plants and put our country on a path towards cleaner energy solutions. It could stop up to 6,600 premature deaths and prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children over the next 15 years – especially in African-American communities.


Scott Walker, first Alec president? Long ties to controversial lobby raise concern

When Scott Walker strides to the podium to deliver the keynote speech at the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) in San Diego on Thursday morning, it will not be just another campaign stop. It will also be tacit recognition of the Republican presidential candidate’s relationship with one of the nation’s most controversial and powerful lobbying networks.

It is a relationship that spans two decades. Since he first took public office in 1993 as a Wisconsin legislator, through to his current position as that state’s governor, Walker has maintained close ties to Alec, with policies to match. Many of Walker’s most contentious actions – a tough-on-crime bill that sent incarceration rates soaring, stand-your-ground gun laws, protection of corporate vested interests, attacks on union rights and many more – have borne the Alec seal of approval.

Should Walker win the Republican nomination in 2016 (a plausible outcome) and then defeat the Democratic candidate to take the presidency (a harder, though not unthinkable, challenge) he would become the first Alec alum to enter the Oval Office. In short, it is now possible to conceive of the first Alec president of the United States.

A poll on Wednesday by Quinnipiac University that tests hypothetical candidate scenarios in the general election next November has Walker beating Hillary Clinton in three key states – Colorado, Iowa and Virginia – by between three and nine percentage points.

To Alec’s critics, the prospect is chilling.


Leaving the US for a German degree

Edgar Martinez knew that he wanted to study in Germany ever since he was in high school. The German language has inspired the 20-year-old American so much that he left Chicago, his home town, to study Business Administration in the rather small town of Marburg in central Germany. "This language stimulates me intellectually, and I want to make it part of my life," says Martinez. "Studying here has just been a perfect fit".

Allan Liversidge, on the other hand, was not very happy with his decision. After completing his Bachelor's degree in history, he left Wisconsin for Bonn to pursue a Master's degree. Though filled with hope at the start, studying Germany upset him. He was very disappointed at how little support he received from teachers outside of lectures and seminars."I felt left in the lurch, and I had to leave," Liversidge says. In 2014, the 23-year-old dropped out of Bonn University and is still finding a way out.

Martinez and Liversidge are two of a growing number of Americans who decide to study in Germany. The number of students coming from the US has hit a record high, increasing from 2,817 in the academic year 2003/04 to 4,359 a decade later, with a significant increase of 54.7 percent. The fact that American students come all the way to Germany despite the high-ranked universities in their own country speaks to the growing popularity of German institutions of higher education.

According to the new publication "Wissenschaft Weltoffen 2015," released by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Centre for Research on Higher Education and Science Studies (DZHW) on July 22 this year, Germany has become the third most popular host country for students to pursue their studies after the US and the UK. Why would the US students choose Germany when they can enjoy high-quality education at home, without going through the trouble of learning a new language and adapting to cultural differences?


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