Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How magnets can influence morality..."Using a powerful magnetic field, scientists from MIT, Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are able to scramble the moral center of the brain, making it more difficult for people to separate innocent intentions from harmful outcomes. The research could have big implications for not only neuroscientists, but also for judges and juries."
"Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change" - says a scientist. Meanwhile, MOMA has an interesting exhibition titled Rising Currents that deals with ways by which NYC can prepare for sea-level rise resulting from global climate change in about 70 years from now.
A report on the gay porn capital of the world - Prague.
Martin Justel is 20, as old as the Czech democracy and, arguably, just as mature. He is scrawny and too tall for his body mass. He has a baby face, short auburn hair, long eyelashes and a vacant expression. He looks hardly 18 but his eyes, blinking slowly, convey the gloom and servitude of somebody much older. In the terminology of the American gay sexual marketplace, he is a classic “twink,” a thin, young, pretty boy. He whispers “hello” as he tiptoes into the Prague film studio of William Higgins, 67, an American producer and “dean of gay porn” who moved to Prague right after communism ended to corner the gay sex market, arriving around the same time two other bearded vanguards of capitalism — Santa Claus and Colonel Sanders — showed up to monopolize Christmas and fried chicken. (Via).
Fish farming pictures. Meanwhile, food fraud is rising... "The recent development of high-tech tools -- including DNA testing -- has made it easier to detect fraud that might have gone unnoticed a decade ago. DNA can be extracted from cells of fish and meat and from other foods, such as rice and even coffee. Technicians then identify the species by comparing the DNA to a database of samples. Another tool, isotope ratio analysis, can determine subtle differences between food -- whether a fish was farmed or wild, for example, or whether caviar came from Finland or a U.S. stream." On a related note, a study recently revealed that food portions in artistic depictions of the Last Supper have become larger and larger over the years.
Anatomy of a Chicken McNugget here (Great Colbert clip at the bottom titled "Thought for Food").
A nice diagram of the Large Hadron Collider... Related news. For music lovers, LHC rap here and "Everything you ever wanted to know about particle smashers (but were afraid to ask)". Part II here. Part III.

Submit to Mother India. (Full print version unavalaible, but definitely worth it if one gets their hands on the magazine). Related: The Ashram And The Madrassa: A Tale Of Two Indian Schools.
"Waiting", a new oil painting.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cosmic ray radiation as a plausible mechanism behind the sudden, unexplained acceleration of the Toyota...
A mathematician needs functions for the same reason that a builder needs hammers and drills. Tools transform things. So do functions.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The NYTimes carried a story this morning about Mr. Lawrence C. Murphy, (a US Catholic priest) who molested as many as 200 deaf boys and who managed to avoid any punishment by writing the following words to Mr. Joseph Ratzinger (the current Pope, a Cardinal in 1998) ...

I am appealing to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the following reason: ... The accusations against me were for actions alleged to have taken place over twenty-five years ago. This goes against the 1962 Norms which state that an action must be brought within one month of the alleged solicitation. ... I have repented of any of my past transgressions, and have been living peaceably in northern Wisconsin for twenty-four years. I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood. I ask your kind assistance in this matter.

A copy of the child molester Lawrence C. Murphy's letter scanned below.

From a "partly BS - partly true" link that I ran into today...

Perhaps the biggest difference between the male and female brain is that men have a sexual pursuit area that is 2.5 times larger than the one in the female brain. Not only that, but beginning in their teens, they produce 200 to 250 percent more testosterone than they did during pre-adolescence. If testosterone were beer, a 9-year-old boy would be getting the equivalent of a cup a day. But a 15-year-old would be getting the equivalent of nearly two gallons a day. This fuels their sexual engines and makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about female body parts and sex.
The following is not from the Onion:
Iraq is now considered a safer bet than Argentina, Venezuela, Pakistan, and Dubai — and is nearly on par with the State of California, according to Bloomberg statistics on credit default swaps, which are considered a raw indicator of default risk.
The Indian Supreme Court sanctions co-habitation.
India’s Supreme Court ruled yesterday that unmarried couples have the right to live together after hearing a case involving a Tamil actress accused of corrupting young minds by promoting premarital sex. The judges pointed out that even the Hindu gods, Lord Krishna and Radha, were co-habiting lovers rather than man and wife. “When two adult people want to live together, what is the offence?” they said. “Living together is not an offence. Living together is a right to life.”
The fate of favorite children...
The Google hypocrisy...
The Denisova Hominim.

Must "patriots and politicians abandon their faith that American power can play a positive role in the world"?
Why do so many Republicans think Obama is a socialist, a Muslim, or even the anti-Christ?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

One might have heard about vegans, but they are so passé. Now we have 'hegans'...
How America's evangelical Christian right wing is using sex to sell Republicanism and well, sex...
Open a recent evangelical advice book and you will read comments like this one: “Some people have the mistaken notion that God is anti-sex … in fact, he’s outspokenly pro-sex! He invented it. What an incredible thought! Passionate sex was God’s idea.” Or: “Orgasm is an integral part of God’s design for sex.” Evangelical writers even coined a catchy new term – “soulgasm” – to describe the almost indescribable joys (physically incredible orgasms plus intimate emotional connection with the husband plus the presence of God) that await the evangelical wife. How the husband can become a “Superman-lover” and make his wife come repeatedly, how breasts and penises can be most sensually caressed, how a man might do the “come-hither” move around his wife’s G-spot, and (yet more good news) how the Bible does not forbid either sexy lingerie or vibrators: all of that can be found in the evangelical guidebooks.
New approach to water desalination - I am excited about its potential...
Can Science answer moral questions - A TED talk... a topic I am very interested in... (via).
A Zoroastrian's walk through Wall Street. (via).
One is not too sure where Arizona plans to go with its latest law targeting illegal immigrants... The Arizona Legislature gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a proposal that would allow the police to arrest illegal immigrants on trespassing charges simply for being in the state.
Yesterday's health care law carries with it an additional advantage - it embodies a push against inequality and the fact that some of the principles enshrined in the bill would help reduce some of the extreme inequalities we face as a nation... The following thought by David Lloyd George comes to mind: “All down history nine-tenths of mankind have been grinding corn for the remaining tenth and have been paid with husks and bidden to thank god they had the husks.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Arundhati Roy takes a walk through India's Maoist 'insurgent' hotbed...
From a recent review of three books that aim to shed light on recent happiness research...

Over the past three and a half decades, real per-capita income in the United States has risen from just over seventeen thousand dollars to almost twenty-seven thousand dollars. During that same period, the average new home in the U.S. grew in size by almost fifty per cent; the number of cars in the country increased by more than a hundred and twenty million; the proportion of families owning personal computers rose from zero to seventy per cent; and so on. Yet, since the early seventies, the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as either “very happy” or “pretty happy” has remained virtually unchanged.
A new oil painting below...
Baby Fat May Not Be So Cute After All.
More and more evidence points to pivotal events very early in life — during the toddler years, infancy and even before birth, in the womb — that can set young children on an obesity trajectory that is hard to alter by the time they’re in kindergarten.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Intel Science Talent Search 2010 Winners.
One wishes Ted Kennedy were alive to see this day. Meanwhile, the 'Party of No' are calling it Happy Dependence Day. Even if this cannot be labelled healthcare reform (more of an healthcare expansion mandate), at least millions of people will be assured healthcare and Big Insurance cannot use pre-existing conditions as a pre-emptive rejection mechanism... To those who prattle on about the deficit, one might add that closing Diego Garcia and other (unnecessary) relics of the cold war can easily cover the recurring costs of this bill.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The real arithmetic of Health care reform.
From 'Who Needs Wall Street': Brokers recite, endlessly, that trading is vital because, without it, there wouldn’t be a way for shareholders to exit, thus investors would fear to commit capital in the first place. Within limits, this is true. Thus, at modest levels, the willingness of traders to buy and sell from the rest of us gooses confidence. But the value of such “liquidity” has been vastly oversold. The notion that ever more trading makes for successively better markets is one of Wall Street’s great myths. People think liquidity will keep markets stable, but the crisis of 2008 says otherwise. In a crisis, liquidity disappears. Modern markets are more likely afflicted with too much trading. Think of oil and its dizzying fluctuations. As the volume from speculators and momentum traders dwarfs that of long-term investors, prices gyrate further from fundamental value. Raising capital thus becomes, to paraphrase John Maynard Keynes, the byproduct of a casino.
Cascade-based attack vulnerability on the US power grid - The Chinese contemplate our demise in a newly published paper...(via).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

LaDiDa, an iPhone App at SXSW. Finally, bad wannabe singers like me can rejoice...
Dr. Perelman, an eccentric math genius gets one more prize. In 2006, he did not accept what was purportedly mathematics greatest medal...
‘Moving Parts’, a series of videos from the irregular landscape of Indian working life on Granta.
Many of us have referred to a group of men and women with the catch-all 'Hey, guys". Here is an article analyzing that...
Ran into this bit at the Daily Dish about respect for religious leaders (read: Pope) and paedophilia...
Imagine I discovered there was a paedophile ring running our crèche, and the Editor issued a stern order that it should be investigated internally with "the strictest secrecy". Imagine he merely shuffled the paedophiles to work in another crèche at another newspaper, and I agreed, and made the kids sign a pledge of secrecy. We would both – rightly – go to prison. Yet because the word "religion" is whispered, the rules change. Suddenly, otherwise good people who wouldn't dream of covering up a paedophile ring in their workplace think it would be an insult to them to follow one wherever it leads in their Church. They would find this behaviour unthinkable without the irrational barrier of faith standing between them and reality.
Yes, I understand some people feel sad when they see a figure they were taught as a child to revere – whether Prophet or Pope – being subjected to rational examination, or mockery, or criminal investigation. But everyone has ideas they hold precious. Only you, the religious, demand to be protected from debate or scrutiny that might discomfort you. The fact you believe an invisible supernatural being approves of – or even commands – your behaviour doesn't mean it deserves more respect, or sensitive handling. It means it deserves less. If you base your behaviour on such a preposterous fantasy, you should expect to be checked by criticism and mockery. You need it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A TED talk on teaching children about eating healthy... A tad patronizing, but the message is an important one - we do not cook enough at home for our children and the inherent flaws of the school-lunch system...
More about “Repo 105,” a name for a set of accounting tactics originated by Lehman.

We learn through a 2,200-page report from Lehman’s bankruptcy examiner, Anton R. Valukas, that the firm was taking a creative approach with its valuations and accounting. One crucial move was to shift assets off its books at the end of each quarter in exchange for cash through a clever accounting maneuver, called Repo 105, to make its leverage levels look lower than they were. Then they would bring the assets back onto its balance sheet days after issuing its earnings report. (via).

I prefer the recent North Korean punishment for some of our Wall Street stalwarts who came up with ideas like these...
Obesity trends in the United States. We are slowly getting fatter and fatter...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jon Stewart talks about what it is like to be a Wall Street corporation in America. Watch till the end and weep.

Infographic of the distribution of advertising dollars. The web is growing...
A Mathematicians Lament.
"Sadly, our present system of mathematics education is precisely this kind of nightmare. In fact, if I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural curiosity and love of pattern-making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being done— I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with the kind of senseless, soulcrushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education. ... The first thing to understand is that mathematics is an art. The difference between math and the other arts, such as music and painting, is that our culture does not recognize it as such. Everyone understands that poets, painters, and musicians create works of art, and are expressing themselves in word, image, and sound. In fact, our society is rather generous when it comes to creative expression; architects, chefs, and even television directors are considered to be working artists. So why not mathematicians?" (via).

Monday, March 15, 2010

The German finance minister opines that the Euro is in deep doo-doo...
Pope knew priest was paedophile but allowed him to continue with ministry.
Michael Lewis, author of “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine”, talks about the Wall Street casino on 60 Minutes. The Times reviewed his book this morning. Meanwhile, it is clear that the financial reform package that Sen. Dodd is planning to unveil this afternoon is far from being a humdinger. Also these United States risks losing our triple A rating...  The downgrade really should mean zilch given the fact that rating companies like Moody's are part of the casino...
Shanghai Expo 2010 pictures.
Why Do We Tickle?
Spezify, a search engine presenting results in a visual form.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Today, the Texas Board of Education approved 11-4 a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the role of Christianity in American history and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light."
Statistical tests and research claims that may be untrue... (via). This claim of the iPad selling out may be true, though...
A look at the David Foster Wallace archives. On a related note, I finished a quarter of Gravity's Rainbow over the last two weeks.
Wanted: People to pee on Goldman Sachs - a Craigslist ad whose time has come...
The Museum of Modern Tweets. (via).

Friday, March 12, 2010

When Will Emergency Rooms Go Back to Being Emergency Rooms?
Papaya battery.
A chatroulette map...
Toyota sudden acceleration fact: In the 24 cases where driver age was reported or readily inferred, the drivers included those of the ages 60, 61, 63, 66, 68, 71, 72, 72, 77, 79, 83, 85, 89...
The Next Al Qaeda? Terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba is now focusing on foreigners and the West.
High divorce rates and teen pregnancy are worse in conservative states than liberal states...
Is Voice-Based Bubbly the New Twitter?
I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church web site,” Beck urged his audience. “If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”
I no longer work with busy people. I work with people who have a lot on their plates, a lot to do, are inundated with opportunities and projects, and who find it useful to have an extra brain and an extra set of hands to help them accomplish all of it. I love working with those folks. But I don’t work with “busy” people anymore.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

'Tandava - No. 2', a new oil painting.
How to die well.
As if eating a host of other animals were not enough, the New York Times has a field day with a how-to section in their Dining pages on cutting up rabbits and serving them.
Rabbits are supposed to be easy to kill. The French dispatch them with a sharp knife to the throat. A farmer in upstate New York swears that a swift smack with the side of the hand works. Others prefer a quick twist of the neck. ... The idea was to place the rabbit on its belly on straw-covered asphalt, press a broomstick across the back of its neck and swiftly yank up the rear legs. Done right, it’s a quiet and quick end...
Interesting quote: “They have the same muscle structure as a pig, For someone who hasn’t broken down a large animal, a rabbit is a great place to start.”

Thoughts on the philosophical cow here.
All of Life’s Ingredients Found in Orion Nebula.
Former Regensburg Choirboys Talk of 'Naked Beatings'. "He said the headmaster at the time "would choose two or three of us boys in the dormitories in the evenings and take them to his flat." He said there had been red wine, and that the priest had masturbated with the pupils. "Everyone knew about it," said Wittenbrink. "I find it inexplicable that the Pope's brother Georg Ratzinger, who had been cathedral bandmaster since 1964, apparently knew nothing about it."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A new painting.

'They Need to Be Liberated From Their God'. The 'Son of Hamas' author on his conversion to Christianity, spying for Israel, and shaming his family.
A new book persuasively argues that extraordinary intelligence and talent are not genetic gifts...
How Chase Manhattan Convinced Me to Finally Move My Money.
Images of war here and Super Cool Jesus art here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Africa’s greatest success story is a country that one may not have heard of (according to the VQR).
Women's Day Posters.
The moral aspects of looting in the aftermath of natural disasters...

Legally, the starving may not filch even bread. But academics who study looting parse it into three separate rungs on a ladder of moral ambiguity.
Stealing food to survive is accepted by most.
A column on complex numbers where I least expected to find it - the New York Times website...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Locating Ourselves Historically: Why We Are Not Living in Western Civilization. (via).
The future of advertising can be glimpsed in neuroscientific scans of our brains to sense and elicit responses that we are barely conscious of... Say hello to Neuromarketing... (via)
I must say I was very happy to note that UGallery decided to compare one of my paintings to one of Chuck Close's. I was informed of this by UGallery this afternoon. Chuck Close remains one of my role models.
Offbeat: The efficiency of the Apollo reflector arrays drops by a factor of ten during a full moon. Just in case you were wondering, here is why.
A Republican from North Carolina wants to erase Ulysses S. Grant's face from the fifty-dollar bill and replace him with Ronald Reagan. The New Yorker has a better idea.
The largest bill in circulation now is the C-note, but, for a couple of weeks at the height of the Great Depression (December 18, 1934-January 9, 1935), the Treasury printed up a bunch of hundred-thousand dollar bills, featuring a portrait of Woodrow Wilson. They were used for transfers between branches of the Federal Reserve Bank. Now, seventy-five years later, why not have the Treasury print a $1,300,000,000,000 bill with the Great Communicator’s face on it? It could be used to pay off the portion of the national debt run up during the Reagan Administration. Not only that, but if we printed four more Ronalds, we could cover George W. Bush’s share of the debt.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

I think the New York Times could have done better than to paint their article on Chinese dwarfs performing for paying public with a entrepreneurial brush...
A fascinating (and definitely hilarious) answer to the question "Is there afterlife?" (via).
The Indian answer to EV's...
Obama finally grows a spine.
Sworn Virgin - a short story by Hungarian-Armenian writer-anthropologist Kinga Kali (translated by Judith Sollosy). The related real life experience of a 10 year old Yemeni girl forced to marry a 30 year old man titled "I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced" by Nujood Ali excerpted here. Full book for purchase here.
An argument for gender-neutral Oscars:
"Suppose, however, that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented separate honors for best white actor and best non-white actor, and that Mr. Freeman was prohibited from competing against the likes of Mr. Clooney and Mr. Bridges. Surely, the academy would be derided as intolerant and out of touch; public outcry would swiftly ensure that Oscar nominations never again fell along racial lines. Why, then, is it considered acceptable to segregate nominations by sex, offering different Oscars for best actor and best actress?"
Granta online interview with Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals... The Times Online calls his argument for vegetarianism "meticulous, unsparing and unusually powerful in its literary expression". I think so too after reading a part of the book at Strand yesterday...
Marxist Socialist jokes. (via).
Holi pictures.