Archive for the 'Science' Category


while we were “sleeping”

These things are happening:

First, we preach the moral high ground, but only apply our civil rights to ourselves. Isn’t part of the argument that civil rights are human rights, and should be applied to everyone?

And then we have a lot of people making a lot of money running our military “business” — and actually contributing to the people who are trying (and often succeeding) to kill our members of the military.

Meanwhile, politicians candidates the children representing the Republican party debate the relative sizes of their peni (?) while the world melts.

I could go on, but it’s too depressing.

Wake up!


Stem-Cell Research and Flawed Logic

Apparently the decision not to allow federal money to be spent on the destruction of embryonic stem cells has been upheld. While the author of the above quoted article is happy about this because it shows “proper judicial restraint,” I find the news troubling and disappointing.

Valuable research has been thwarted, research that could possibly lead to cures for many debilitating, if not fatal, diseases, all in the name of not spending federal money in the course of the destruction of embryos. If you want to throw them in the trash, that’s fine. Just don’t spend any federal money on them.

That makes sense.

Then there are the people who believe that the embryos can’t be destroyed because they are life.

If that’s the case, every single embryo that is created needs to be implanted into the mother and brought to term. It’s not going to happen. That means you need to ban in-vitro fertilization; which probably means you should ban birth control. I mean, isn’t every egg and sperm potentially life? What right do I have to prevent God’s work from being done in my life? Does this mean that God’s plan is for us to continue overpopulating this planet until we bleed it dry sooner rather than later?

I seem to hear a Monty Python clip playing in the background:

Or is it Cher singing “If I Could Turn Back Time?”


Mind Over . . . Body?

Just read a very interesting article in the New Yorker about Dr. Kataria and the laughter yoga movement.

Depending on how you look at it, there is now belief in or evidence on the healing power of laughter. Not only that it can lift your spirits, but alleviate pain, exercise your internal organs, boost your immune system, and help you sleep; it may even alter the progress of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons.

What’s really shocking to me is a study cited, performed by Robert Ader in 1975 at the University of Rochester. The purpose of his experiment was to see if rats could be conditioned to associate nausea with saccharin. The drug administered along with saccharin caused nausea. When the rats started to die, Ader stopped administering the drug alongside the sweetener; the rats still died. It was discovered that not only did the rats learn to associate saccharine with the drug, a drug which was discovered to suppress the immune system, but the rat’s memory of this immune suppression continued whenever they tasted the sweetener. “In other words, their minds were killing them.”

This led to the realization that positive physical, mental, and emotional “feelings” have the power to rehabilitate the body’s chemistry.

You can watch the video of Dr. Kataria and some of his laugh-yoga sessions here.

To contribute, I just spent half an hour trying to find the clip from the first 5 minutes of a West Wing episode which discusses a sex-education report and a regrettable use of the term “sticky wicket.” No luck. Please post if you can find it. THAT will make you laugh.


Another Reason to Read

Studies are being conducted which demonstrate that people who read advanced, complicated works of fiction are doing good things for their brains.

Being able to keep track of several lines of narrative and the various levels of mental and emotional states of the characters in the book develop our social skills, can satisfy our desire for poetic justice, and is believed to have played a part in our evolution into the altruistic species we supposedly are.

Now if I could just figure out how being able to read all of these books on an iPad increased this beneficent effect, I could justify paying $500 for it.


I, Robot

So I’m reading a back issue of the New Yorker (I’m a busy girl, I get behind), and am in the middle of an article about the dramatic steps being taken in biotechnology. This article begins by discussing the manufacture, in a laboratory, of a microbial mechanism that is capable of producing a compound useful against malaria. This compound can be grown in nature, and is being produced by subsistence farmers in Africa and Asia, but is needed in much greater quantities than can be acquired through natural means.

All well and good as malaria grows more resistant to the other drugs, except perhaps for the farmers.

But in the process of this “discovery” it has been realized that, even better than introducing the genes of cold-water fish into strawberries to make them more resistant to cold weather (ew!), the component parts of any living thing can be produced on a cellular level, and then reassembled.

Obviously these scientists don’t read Mary Shelley. It’s been done. It didn’t turn out well.

Another one of the pursuits is a microbe that can digest the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. While this sounds like a good idea for many reasons, I can’t help but wonder about the waste product.

We “humans” seem to differentiate ourselves best from the rest of the planet’s animals in our quests to manipulate the world to our benefit. The belief is that, if done successfully, we can continue to live the self-centered lives we’ve grown to know and love. The results of our attempts to use biology to improve our surroundings  can be seen everywhere, from the introduction of broom to Vancouver Island by the Scots or the release of Asian ladybugs in the south to control other pests to the collapse of bee colonies. Seems like we’d learn.

The problem that I see with these manipulations is that we are all part of a larger ecosystem, one that is constantly seeking balance. No species has impacted this planet as we have, (humanity has been referred to as “weeds” — invasive, not particularly beneficial, hard to eradicate; not that far off, really) and the results can be seen everywhere. Rather than devising yet another artificial alteration of the world around us, one which we can 1. congratulate ourselves for, for the intellectual ingenuity it demonstrates and 2. use to justify continuing on the path we’ve been on for the last 100 years, why don’t we try to live harmoniously in the world we find ourselves in?

Too much to ask?

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