In his latest Common Sense episode, Dan Carlin spent some time discussing a New York Times article that linked together many of the protests and unrest that are currently infecting nations around the world.  A couple of passages in the article stood out as particularly interesting to me, especially since I spoiled my ballot in the last Canadian federal election out of disgust with the main stream parties and the system in general. Speaking about the global protests, the Times writes: [F]rom South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: [... read the rest ...]

The human mind is a strange and wonderful thing.  Not only can we learn to consciously perform complex tasks, but we can teach ourselves to perform seemingly impossible tasks without ever knowing the steps to do so.  Take the example of chicken sexers, as examined in the September 2011 edition of Discover Magazine: When chicken hatchlings are born, large commercial hatcheries usually set about dividing them into males and females, and the practice of distinguishing gender is known as chick sexing. Sexing is necessary because the two genders receive different feeding programs: one for the females, which will eventually produce [... read the rest ...]

Ever wondered why some people rabidly defend the bands that they love, while attacking products that compete against their favorites?  Ars Technica has an article up that helps explain the phenomenon: You may think you’re defending your favorite platform because it’s just that good. But, according to a recently published study out of the University of Illinois, you may instead be defending yourself because you view criticisms of your favorite brand as a threat to your self image. The study, which will be published in the next issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology, examines the strength of consumer-brand relationships, [... read the rest ...]

I’m a terrible snack-o-holic, and some recent research might help to explain why: Scientists are now saying that these sober binges are actually quite similar to pot smokers’ notorious bouts of the munchies: fatty foods cause your body to release marijuana-like chemicals called endocannabinoids, and this likely compels you to continue stuffing your face. [...] The researchers learned that the high-fat drinks sparked the release of endocannabinoids, but the sugar and protein beverages did not. When a rat tasted a fatty drink, signals traveled from the rat’s tongue to its brain. The vagus nerve bundle in the brain then routed [... read the rest ...]

Pro-evolution “neo-Darwinists” are used to attacks from religious groups who claim that natural selection is a load of bunk and intelligent design is the only way to explain the state of life on the planet today.  Adept at defending against the junk science or gospel-based nonsense spouted by creationists, many evolution buffs make a sport of dismantling their opponents and ridiculing their attempts to prop up their beliefs. Unfortunately for neo-Darwinists, there is a new villain on the block, and she comes equipped with a hefty resume to back her up, as well as cold hard science.  The April 2011 [... read the rest ...]

When laws are reinterpreted by a government, and those interpretations are kept secret, democracy is undermined.  How can a democracy remain a democracy if laws are kept secret?  How is justice maintained when the public is unaware of the laws of the state? Consider the American Patriot Act.  It’s bad enough in its written form; so how bad could it be in its secret form? Here is Ron Wyden, a US senator and longtime member of the Intelligence Committee, proposing an amendment to the Patriot Act allowing the secret reinterpretations of the document to be declassified so that the American [... read the rest ...]

International Facepalm Day

Tomorrow seems to be International Facepalm Day.  Lunatics around the world are looking forward to a holy smiting for most of us at 6pm sharp (local time!) as the Rapture rolls around the globe. The 89-year-old doomsday prophet [Harold Camping], a former engineer who perhaps inevitably comes from California, has prompted a tide of expectation, elation and derision after persuading listeners to his Family Radio Worldwide across the US and as far away as the Philippines to sell up everything and prepare for the beginning of the end of the world with the second coming of Jesus. If all goes [... read the rest ...]

The search for extrasolar planets has been heating up lately, and astronomers have been locating hundreds of new worlds at an amazing rate, including a nearby beauty that may not be that different from Earth (as well as many that are unbelievably different).  Until now all of the planets that we have eyeballed have one thing in common – they orbit a star – however a recent study has found ten roaming giants that do not appear to be gravitationally bound to anything. A new result from astronomers who have spent years peering toward the center of the Milky Way [... read the rest ...]

The trend over the past few years has been to “gamify” real life activities in order to incentivize people to behave in desirable manners or work towards things that are perceived as valuable but difficult to commit to.  Entire companies have sprung up around the concept -  for example, MeYou Health, as discussed on a recent Gamers With Jobs conference call. Usually gamification takes the form of rewarding fake “points” for performing a task (or abstaining from a bad behaviour), which then bestow fake “achievements” upon the player after an arbitrary number of points have been collected.  This entire trend [... read the rest ...]

Originally posted: October 24, 2005.  6:45am The following article was written before our current Conservative government came to power.  Six years later, and my gloomy predictions came true worse than I could have ever imagined.  There’s a reason that I don’t trust any Canadian political party; they’re all the same in the end. I came across a quote written by George Jonas in 1990. The following excerpt is from an article in which Jonas was attempting to explain the mindset of the Eastern Europeans who were emerging from the ashes of the old USSR. The quote seems to describe the [... read the rest ...]

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