dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism (The Good Men Project, April 2015). If you're white, like me, this spells out some of the assumptions you've absorbed from the surrounding culture. It's US-based, but much of it applies to Australia. Come to think of it, a lot of it applies to feminism as well, with the important difference that racism is taboo and sexism isn't.

The bacterial flagellar motor: brilliant evolution or intelligent design? (ABC Science, July 2015). "A central tenet of this theory [intelligent design] is the notion of 'irreducible complexity'. This asserts that some biological machines — like the flagellar motor — must be the product of design, because if you were to remove one or two components from the motor it would not function properly, or at all. The logic being, this motor was designed as a whole construction — it didn't evolve through a series of steps, so the individual parts of the motor would serve no purpose on their own. So the creationist argument relies on us finding no evidence of individual parts of the motor having a role outside of bacterial flagella. Luckily, individual components of the bacterial flagellar motor have indeed been found elsewhere. And they work. So the motor is 'reducible', and certainly not 'irreducibly complex'." This is one of my favourite things about evolution - the kludgy use of whatever's in the toolbox at the time. It's why some antidepressants give you tummy trouble; the same receptors are present in the brain and gut, being used for different purposes. (Well, I say "favourite"...)

The Evil Has No Name (The Daemons): Phil Sandifer's review of the story, from five years ago, which I've just enjoyed re-reading and bookmarked because of the observation that Doctor Who is about putting things together which shouldn't go together. That's missing from the SF I'm trying to write at the moment, I think.

Is Nature Unnatural? (Quanta Magazine, April 2013). That is, is there some explanation for the constants in physics, or are they the result of a multiversal roll of the dice?

I'm only two decades late in discovering the Planescapes setting for D&D - somehow I stumbled across this page on the Quasi-Elemental Plane of Salt and it's captured my imagination. Takes me back even further to reading Heinlein's "Number of the Breast" in the eighties.

Rare, lonely 'lefty' snail seeks mate for love—and genetic study (phys.org, October 2016) Not only does the sinistral brown snail have a "left-handed anti-clockwise spiralling shell", but its genitals are on the "wrong" side.

Physics

Jul. 18th, 2016 02:24 pm
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
The supermarket is flogging "Finish Quantum Lemon Dishwashing Tablets". I assume if you suck a quantum lemon, half the time it tastes like a lime.
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Reading an Analog magazine from a few years ago and was reminded of the dangers of being scientific, superior, and smug. The editorial: "many, if not most, people neither understand nor care about evidence or logic." Why? Because they believe "faith" is a "virtue".

Maybe Analog doesn't publish a lot of SF based on neuropsychology and its insights into the irrational mechanisms of the brain - mechanisms which mislead rational, intelligent, educated people just as much as the unwashed masses. Unless I am very much mistaken, people who hold irrational beliefs haven't rejected evidence or logic - as far as they're concerned, they're putting them to good use.

It's dangerous to think of ourselves as superior thinkers, for many reasons. In the same issue's letcol, a contributor speculates that Americans "nuke" their food because they think "nuclear radiation" and "microwave radiation" are the same, and the editor bemoans how "poorly educated" Americans are and "how sloppy their thinking [is]". Both of them miss the obvious possibility: it's a joke.

Hard

Nov. 8th, 2015 10:27 am
dreamer_easy: (*writing 2)
Hard SF is primarily about rocks in space. I need to find out more about rocks in space. This sort of thing.

Language

Sep. 27th, 2015 11:24 am
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Why have I bookmarked all this stuff about language? Oh well, now it's your problem!

People of secrets: The slave sanctuary anti-language

Languages are dying, but is the internet to blame?

How societies learn to count to 10

Want to influence the world? Map reveals the best languages to speak

New signs of language surface in mystery Voynich text - this darn thing is a riot. Statistics and entropy and such suggest it's not just a hoax, but contains a coded message.

Real Talk - "For decades, the idea of a language instinct has dominated linguistics. It is simple, powerful and completely wrong."

Babbler birds use primitive language to communicate with meaning, study shows

Music a universal language? Not quite

How to learn thirty languages - ye gods! I'll settle for one. (Welll, maybe two.)
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
"To say that the world is entirely comprised of combinations of one hundred or so elements does not in any way deny the infinite multiplicity of all the things in the world, nor does it produce a set of bloodless generalizations. This is because the manifest, diverse phenomena of the world have been reduced to a lowest common denominator, which then becomes the basis for a set of lawful and regular rules of transformation that indeed are capable of generating everything in the world, and of actually producing new things."
— Paul Roberts, The Tibetan Symbolic World: Psychoanalytic Exploration (quoted in John C. Wood, When Men Are Women: Manhood among Gabra Nomads of East Africa)
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
"During Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s, [Fang Lizhi] was persecuted and confined in a reeducation camp at a coal mine in southern Anhui province. It was this treatment that led him to specialize in theoretical astrophysics, which he later told me was 'the only field of physics I could pursue without equipment.'"
— Perry Link, "On Fang Lizhi (1936 - 2012)", New York Review of Books 10 May 2012
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
First, some genuinely good news! Australia will release refugee families into the community on bridging visas while their claims are processed. It's being done for the right reasons - the toll on adults and children's mental health, and the enormous cost of detaining them.

Alas, this won't help families who are victims of the Pacific Solution, though at least Australia will be good enough to Australia to build them a new prison in Papua New Guinea to replace the current hell-hole on Manus Island. (We're not a bit racist or hysterical. Or in collusion with repressive regimes.)

Background Music Reduces Playground Bullying. Certainly cheaper and cleaner than my own suggested method of public executions during little lunch.

Treating gun violence as a disease. Taking guns away from people who are banned from owning them, such as those convicted of serious felonies, reduces the chance that they'll commit a gun crime by about a third.

The Geography of Hate is an analysis of tweets containing racist, homophobic, and ableist slurs in the US by where they occur.

After 9/11, reaction to Muslim Americans more nuanced - opinion piece in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. | Everything you know about burqas is probably wrong: once again, the difference between the hijab, burqa, niqab, and chador.

Science! Pig 26 holds out the promise of antibiotic-free, precision genetic engineering, with implications for influenza. Fingers crossed. | Global carbon dioxide levels hit landmark high | Measuring vaccine confidence online: new tool used to analyse public concerns

ETA: Missed one on financial stress, ie, not being able to pay your rent or bills. This is well worth reading, but briefly, the fixed costs of essentials such as power and food means that people on very low incomes can't put money aside for large or unexpected expenses. "Health reasons, including disability and mental illness, often prevented respondents from earning sufficient income." Once again, there but for the grace etc.
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
An Australian doctor has given a nightmarish account of the inadequate medical facilities at the prison for refugees* and their children on Manus Island. "From early on I was sending lists ... saying 'look, we desperately need this stuff.' Stuff being oxygen, antibiotics, bladder catheters, suckers, tracheostomy equipment, anaesthetic agents, sedatives, morphine, ketamine, and these things didn't arrive... The oxygen was terribly important and it didn't arrive. "Where was it? Where was it?" We kept asking, 'Could we have it? Send it up.' It never came.' At a cost so far of about $1 million per refugee, you'd think we could afford some fucking oxygen.

ETA: The parliamentary secretary for mental health has called for an independent inquiry into conditions on Manus Island and Nauru.

Seven months pregnant, a floor for a bed and $6 a day for meals. Welcome to Australia. They're not allowed to work. And it's still better than Manus or Nauru - or Iran. You poor devils.

The NRA has successfully killed government funding for gun violence research for close to two decades. ER Doctor Garen Wintemute is one of the few who have continued to study the problem. In Australia, research and laws are both being whittled away by the firearms industry.

Amongst other conservative clampdowns, Hamas is forcing schools to segregate boys and girls. Frankly that's more concerning than last week's nonsense... but it doesn't fit the "they're coming for our women" narrative which sells papers and buys votes. (Professor Bulbeck's essay on Australia's illusion of gender equality is worth reading.)

Medicine! Hundreds get jabs after UK measles death | Why fat-shaming doesn't work. Well if it did, we'd all be skinny as a stick of macaroni by now.

Science! 20th century 'hottest in 1400 years' | Greenhouse gas levels highest in 3m years | Is race perception automatic?

Witch hunts! Reddit apologises for Boston online witch hunts | Teen wrongly identified as person connected with Boston Marathon blasts

Literal witch hunts! In Papua New Guinea, women accused of sorcery are being tortured and burned alive.

... fucking hell, what a world.


* Technically, of course, they are still asylum seekers. However, since nine in ten of them will be found to be genuine refugees and thus will eventually become Australians, assuming they survive, it often seems pointless making the distinction.
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
The most crucial tactic in Australia's brutalisation of refugees is keeping them, and the conditions of their imprisonment, out of sight of the voters. So it's no surprise that the Australian Human Rights Commissioner has been told she cannot visit Nauru or Manus Island to assess and deal with the detainees' complaints.

Lance Parkin shares a hilarious global warming graph from the Daily MFail.

Skewering media pity for the Steubenville rapists. Having compassion for them would be one thing; bewailing the fact that they met with justice, and erasing their victim, is another. (See also: Steubenville rape and India gang rape show India isn’t so 'backward'.)

The Crown Prosecution Service in the UK has released a study of false allegations of rape and domestic violence, and concludes that they are rare: over the 17-month period studied, there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape, but only 38 for false reports of rape. As the CPS points out, you can't just divide one figure by the other, but it does give you an idea of the comparative scale of the problems - by my back of the envelope calculations, over 400,000 rapes took place during the same period.

A proposal for women-only carriages on Sydney trains at night. An important point is that although a woman's chances of being assaulted are not high, the fear of assault keeps women from going out at night. (This is what Susan Brownmiller meant when she said rape keeps "all women in a state of fear".)

If you're going to New York City, be sure you don't bring condoms.

A photographer captures domestic violence, then is blamed for not intervening, not entirely fairly (she did more than the witnesses to the Steubenville rapes did). A blogger asks why "we're so willing to blame everyone but the abuser for the abuse". (I can't believe he didn't come after her and her camera - it took guts to stay and document the crime.)

Maryland, my home away from home, has repealed the death penalty.

Money money money: US chain CostCo's way of maximising profit per employee: pay them well and give them health insurance. "'Instead of minimizing wages, we know it's a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty.'... Costco makes more than $10,000 in profits per employee, while Walmart takes home about $7,400 per worker." A two-thirds cut to family planning services will cost Texas an estimated $273 million in 2014-2015 - that's cost, not save. Meanwhile in Australia, the "gender gap" in pay is apparently costing us $195 billion a year, or 13% of the GDP, IIUC.

Study debunks notion that men and women are psychologically distinct: "'Although gender differences on average are not under dispute, the idea of consistently and inflexibly gender-typed individuals is. That is, there are not two distinct genders, but instead there are linear gradations of variables associated with sex, such as masculinity or intimacy, all of which are continuous.' ... the differences between men and women should be viewed as a matter of degree rather than a sign of consistent differences between two distinct groups."

Thump

Mar. 16th, 2013 12:29 pm
dreamer_easy: (*gender)
Bit hypomanic this week, probably due to disrupted sleep. (I've borrowed my own weight in books from the uni library.)

Anyway, having just been perusing a few blogses and things, I just wanted to remark that for someone in 2013 to insist that transwomen are men (and vice versa) requires such a vast and thumping ignorance of medicine, psychiatry, science, genetics, anthropology, sociology, and the last three or four decades of feminist and queer thought, that I can only attribute it to either the awful certainty of extreme youth or people doggedly sticking their fingers in their ears and going la-la-la-la-la-la.

Quite possibly an essay to follow. In the meantime, you young idiots, crack a book.
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Jack held his breath, and then was gone: I'm pretty sure I had a narrow miss with hypoxic blackout as a young girl, after trying to swim underwater for as long as I could. In my case, I was lucky - I had a sudden, raging, lengthy episode of tachycardia, which I think must have saved my oxygen-starved brain from blacking out. Neither children nor adults should try to hold their breath underwater for long periods. It can kill.

Doctors in plea over cutbacks to hospital funding: "The Australian Medical Association's annual public hospitals report card showed nationally the number of hospital beds per capita had not grown, and the capacity of hospitals to move patients from emergency departments to wards or to perform elective surgeries had not improved." Can someone explain to me why Australia's hospitals aren't swimming in money? What are we spending it on that's more important? (Oh yeah, that's right.)

Women and children not first, as it turns out: Chivalry on Sinking Ships Only a Myth, Researchers Find. That's that old chestnut roasted, thank heavens.

Good news from the US: Teen Birth Rates Plunge To Record Low As Adolescents Now Have Better Access To Birth Control

Not so good news: Former sex trafficking victim shines light on dark underworld of Super Bowl

Tick male or female - where's the other box?: on accommodating intersex people on official forms.

The Meat Industry Now Consumes Four-Fifths of All Antibiotics (US) / Superbug threat on the rise through farm animals (Aus): one of a number of reasons dedicated carnivores may want to try organic meat, or having a weekly vegetarian meal.

[livejournal.com profile] outsdr's piece on Dating Myself is a riot. (And so is Mindhack's exasperated response to the Daily MFail. At least no mutant three-lobe killer rapists have answered your personals, Tim.)
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
In Australia, the Catholic Church argues that discrimination is its fundamental human right, characterising it as "freedom of religion". Their spokesperson remarked: "If a teacher in a church school publicly argues against church teachings or lives in such a way to challenge those teachings, the school should have the freedom to refuse to employ that person." This lends weight to Joumanah El Matrah's argument that discrimination represents the views only of a conservative minority, who can use it not just to exclude sinners but as a weapon to silence dissent amongst the faithful (particularly from whistleblowers).

There's an obvious parallel between the "flexible" attitude to celibacy taken by some priests and the "flexible" attitude to virginity encouraged by abstinence-only sex education. Time to change an unsustainable, damaging rule.

From the BBC, US gun debate: Guns in numbers gives a useful summary of existing laws and Obama's proposals, as well as a hair-raising graph of the rate of gun homicides in developed countries.

CIA officer is jailed for leaking details on torture. The alleged torturers will not be prosecuted.

The popularity of quinoa in the West is having mixed results in Bolivia and Peru, benefitting farmers, but pricing the nutritious grain out of the reach of some. (The shift towards a Western-style diet isn't going to do them any good, either.)

Science! I've called this the "mathematics of grace" - how cooperation can be a more effective strategy in life's struggles than competition. (If it wasn't, your body wouldn't stick together.) In game theory computer simulations, there's a strategy called Tit for Tat, where you match other players' behaviour, returning good for good and bad for bad, encouraging them to play fair. But even more effective is one called Generous Tit for Tat, in which you sometimes "forgive" bad behaviour. Scientist Martin Nowak said: "What we were seeing [in the simulations] was the evolution of forgiveness. Generous Tit for Tat suggests that we never forget a good turn, but we occasionally forgive a bad one. It makes a lot of sense. Tit for Tat can create a vendetta, but Generous Tit for Tat allows you to move on." (ETA: In an article for Scientific American, Nowak argues that the need to keep track of "who does what to whom and why" drove the rapid "cultural evolution" of human beings.)
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Obama announces widest gun control measures in 18 years. Oh yes, it's on for young and old. The plan includes fixing the holes in the background checks system and reinstating the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines - and also, incredibly, permitting research on gun violence by agencies like the Centers for Disease Control. I am a little wary of the mental health component of the plan, since sane people are also spree killers; but if it really does provide sorely lacking mental health services, what the hell.

Religious organisations, which include some of Australia's largest employers will be able to continue discriminating against gays, transgender and intersex people, and other sinners. (This guy, however, is just fine. ETA: He has subsequently been removed.) Although these organisations rely on government funding, the discriminatees will still have to pay the same tax as everyone else. Here's a cracking response from Joumanah El Matrah, who points out that the "right" to discriminate just shores up the power of an increasingly irrelevant conservative minority and their obsessions, ultimate reducing religion to "a collection of petty bigotries". "I believe in Australia's commitment to diversity and human dignity," she writes, "and I do not want any tear in that fabric in my name as a person of faith." (Both the Uniting Church and the charity Anglicare reject religious discrimination.)

Mum punches student, threatens staff over 'bullied' daughter. I'm keen to know whether the daughter was in fact the target of racist bullying - and why the school suspended her after she complained about it. Alas, none of these details are present in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal judgment.

The slashed single parent payment has some Australian mothers turning to sex work.

Cats in the news: Orlando beats professional wealth managers with his stock picks. | Brazilian prison inmates trained a stray cat to smuggle in escape tools. The cat, which was caught with small saws, drills, a cell phone, etc, taped to its body, was placed into the care of vets. Authorities wittily remarked that they didn't know which prisoners were responsible as the cat wasn't talking.* | In a not entirely dissimilar story, a Japanese hacker taunted police with clues attached to a cat's collar. (I found footage: the collar was removed, and the feral cat, unimpressed with the entire business, ran away.)

Science! Fisher-Price Synesthesia: as well as the magic brain wiring which makes us colour-grapheme synaesthetes superior to you mere humans, there's evidence for a learned component. (My own colours don't match the Fisher-Price letters, nor the Gattengo chart which was present in my primary school.)

* No, I can't read Portuguese! But Google Translate will give you the gist. "The cat, considered by management of the prison as the most innocent of history, was referred to the Center for Zoonoses the city, where it will be held, not in prison, but to receive the veterinary care."
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Food for thought: Raymond Chandler's Private Dick: "Masculinity's central tenet is control — and perhaps most importantly, control of the body. Nothing contradicts that edict like erections. It unmans you, it compels you through sensations you scarcely understand. And it threatens to expose you, to humiliates you, in front of everyone... [hence] rappers who, within the first bar, assure us of their pimp status and thus reconstitute themselves not as mortal hetero men who slave before women, but as street gods who are enslavers of women." | Asking For It: "Women have infringed on [the perpetrator's] right to exist without being turned on."

Ozy Frantz criticises "callout culture" in the online progressive community. Or, as I call it, cyberbullying. And they are not the only one.

Australia's buybacks halved gun suicide and homicide rates. Since then, gun ownership has risen. However, the increase is matched by Australia's population growth, and "military-style semi-automatics" remain banned. But as researcher Philip Alpers remarks: "It only takes one bullet, and the great majority of gun deaths are domestics and suicides." | GunPolicy.org

Africa's fair-dinkum feminism - an opinion piece unfavourably comparing Australia's PM with women leaders in Malawi and Liberia. | See Africa Differently reports on economic and social progress in the continent.

Why You're Never Failing as a Mother: "Keep in mind child rearing was viewed pretty differently not that long ago and you could stick a toddler on the front lawn with just the dog watching and nobody would bat an eye at it."

Science! Via [livejournal.com profile] drhoz, Things I Won't Work With: Azidoazide Azides, More Or Less - extreme chemistry, involving hopelessly explosive molecules which "the whole thing is trembling on the verge of not existing at all. And if you are minded to make some yourself, then you are on the verge of not existing at all, either." See also FOOF (no, really - "Satan's kimchi", free shipping via Amazon!) and Chlorine trifluoride (which bursts into flames when it touches asbestos, sand, "cloth, wood, and test engineers". | First image of insulin 'docking' could lead to better diabetes treatments - a good, clear explanation of the discovery.
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Aceh drafts law to ban women from straddling motorbikes. Oh those wacky Indonesians! In not quite so headline-worthy news, apparently: they also plan to flog gays and stone adulterers.

Cut payments put 80,000 Australian single parents below the poverty line. Plus we have a serious homelessness problem which federal and state governments seem less than enthusiastic about addressing. We're one of the twenty richest countries in the world - what the heck are we spending the money on?!

... oh yeah, that's right. Protecting our borders by sending children to wooden huts in fifty-degree heat with no air-conditioning and rampant malaria and, at one point, no clean water. (No wonder the government are, as always, doing everything possible to prevent the media reporting on conditions.)

From 2004, the remarkable story of the rapist who terrorised an Indian slum, and how his victims finally obtained justice with their own hands: The Day of the Furies | In India, One Woman's Stand Says 'Enough' | 'Arrest us all'. (The resulting murder trial has only recently begun.)

Science! Planet's oldest fossils found in Pilbara | Woman's missing digits grow back in phantom form: evidence suggests we're born with a brain-map of our body - and sometimes it doesn't match our actual physical form. There are obvious implications for transgender folks.

A review of Chicks Dig Time Lords which is most kind about my contribution therein.

Via [livejournal.com profile] bodlon: Amanda Palmer talks about Internet hatred - by which she basically means cyberbullying. She's asking people to share their coping strategies.

dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
This is my links dump. And here is a selection of links from it.

ETA: And here's the very last link of 2012. :)

http://www.smh.com.au/national/public-service/motel-sex-was-work-court-goes-for-compo-20121216-2bhx5.html - "If the applicant had been injured while playing a game of cards in her motel room she would be entitled to compensation... the fact that the applicant was engaged in sexual activity rather than some other lawful recreational activity while in her motel room does not lead to any different result." Put that into the context of so many other news stories this year and it's remarkable: women are allowed to have sex and shouldn't be punished for doing so. Who knew? XD
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
"If there were anything out there like a planet headed for Earth," said NASA astrobiologist David Morrison, "it would already be [one of the] brightest objects in the sky. Everybody on Earth could see it. You don't need to ask the government, just go out and look. It's not there."
- Why the World Didn't End Yesterday - NASA news item dated 22 December. :)
dreamer_easy: (Default)
"... one of the most popular subjects for 'participant observer' studies has been strip clubs... Visiting strip clubs, visiting strip clubs for women, visiting gay strip clubs, working as a stripper, and probably the finest example of its genre – a study on going to strip clubs while on holiday.

Drs, I would take my hat off to you, but it's covering my data."
- http://mindhacks.com/2012/10/01/im-just-here-for-the-research/
dreamer_easy: (Default)
Quoth Heinlein character Jubal Harshaw: "the only real cure for hemophilia is to let all hemophiliacs bleed to death.... before they breed more hemophiliacs." This could not possibly work, for at least two reasons. What are they? Go!

(The quote and the character are detestable for other reasons, of course, but the crap genetics has bothered me forever.)

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