Archive for: October, 2007

A Dr. Seuss Thanksgiving special, Scibling Style

Oct 26 2007 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Steve at Omnibrain has been discussing a deep-fried turkey and turducken event in the back channels, and that has led some of us to ponder the ramifications of deep-frying a turducken itself. In the spirit of that discussion, I wrote a really dumb poem. I also apologize that it is rife with inside jokes. Any sciblings I left out, sorry, but there are just too damn many of us.

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Like primates? Tough. Kiss 'em goodbye.

Oct 26 2007 Published by under Activism, Natural Sciences

It's not a good millenium to be a monkey.

GENEVA (AFP) - Nearly a third of all non-human primates could be wiped out, threatened by illegal wildlife trade, climate change and destruction of their habitat, a new report warned on Friday.
Twenty-nine percent of all monkeys, apes and gorilla species are now in danger of going extinct, according to the report by the Swiss-based World Conservation Union (IUCN).

A complete shame because we have so many close relatives on our family bush that can teach us about evolution, how our brains work, and generally what it means to be human.

It highlighted 25 species it said were most endangered, including the Greater bamboo and white-collared lemurs in Madagascar, and the exotically-named Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey in West Africa.
"You could fit all the surviving members of these 25 species in a single football stadium; that's how few of them remain on Earth today," warned Russell Mittermeier, chairman of the IUCN's Primate Specialist Group.

I suppose a single football stadium seats about 40,000 people. That means there's 1600 of each species left alive, on average. One seriously has to consider now whether there is enough genetic diversity left in those small cohorts to repopulate each species.
The primary cause? Loss of habitats. Animals don't just die off in a vacuum; deforestation especially is going to take its toll because most of these species live in wooded areas. Climate change is only going to exacerbate things more than it already has.
Let's not make this the century of dead primates. Get involved.

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A dose of woo: Martial Idiocy

Oct 01 2007 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Recently Orac took apart the findings of another acupuncture study. Those who administer acupuncture typically insinuate that a mysterious vital energy known as "chi" travels along meridians in the body, and that normal flow of chi is necessary for good health. Orac pointed out that this recent study effectively disproved the notion of meridians in traditional Chinese medicine.
Similar woo also permeates the martial arts. If one's chi is properly aligned, supposedly the practitioner can make their body do amazing things such as selectively exploding an opponent's internal organs when struck, or sometimes inducing a time-delayed killing sickness. My old kung fu instructor even tried to demonstrate that chi existed by having us hold our hands right up next to a mirror after a workout, supposedly when our chi is flowing maximally. He claimed you could see the visible effects of chi which manifested as a mist traveling up the mirror away from our hands. He was right: the mirror did fog over. I imagine it had more to do with the mirror being at a significantly lower temperature than our hands, which were sweaty and radiating heat, which caused condensation to appear on the mirror and radiate upward away from our hands with our body heat. Oh well.
So in the Philippines, which is home to one of the arts I currently train in, they don't necessarily believe in the Chinese concept of Chi but they do subscribe to just as much martial woo. From oraciĆ³n to anting anting, by aligning one's energy and going through ritualized moves, objects, chants, and breathing, one can prepare his or her mind and body to ward off blows. From swords. It works. Right.
Incidentally, if you don't like blood, don't watch. However, you'll also get a brief dose of Filipino martial history and one of its main figures, Lapu Lapu.

I think we can consider Chi and the like one more debunked philosophical construct. Just because you believe something, that doesn't make it so. Any nice sharp sword will demonstrate that concept. Interestingly, Tara at Aetiology finds that HIV denialists have the same mentality. Hopefully they'll learn a thing or two from this video; HIV can be every bit as dangerous.

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