Personhood Week: Why We’re So Obsessed with Persons, by Virginia Hughes (@virginiahughes), National Geographic:
"People have been trying to define personhood for a long time, maybe since the beginning of people. The first recorded attempt came from Boethius, a philosopher from 6th-Century Rome, who said a person was 'an individual substance of rational nature.' Fast-forward a thousand years and Locke says it's about rationality, self-awareness, and memory. Kant adds that humans have 'dignity,' an intrinsic ability to freely choose. In 1978, Daniel Dennett says it's intelligence, self-awareness, language, and being 'conscious in some special way' that other animals aren't. The next year Joseph Fletcher lays out 15 criteria (!), including a sense of futurity, concern for others, curiosity, and even IQ."[more inside]
"Recently Jonathan has become consumed with the creation of realistic yet abstract human body hybrids known as FLESHLETTES."
Consider an arthouse, darker, noir version of Men in Black with secretive alien refugees trapped in Manhattan, tentacle sex and concept art by H. R. Giger. Clair Noto's The Tourist could have been transformed into a great movie in the right hands. Instead, it has languished in permanent development hell since the 1980's. Some call it "the greatest scifi screenplay never produced" (Article, part 1 and 2.) Decide for yourself and read Noto's original screenplay. [more inside]
The more we learn about the emotions shared by all mammals, the more we must rethink our own human intelligence [more inside]
Doing his best Orson Welles impression, Ze Frank administers a Voight-Kampff Test to a Vancouver TED audience.
Norbert Wiener: The Eccentric Genius Whose Time May Have Finally Come (Again) - "The most direct reason for Wiener's fall to relative obscurity was the breakthrough of a young mathematician and engineer named Claude Shannon." [more inside]
Élisabeth Daynès and John Gurche (not connected in any way, AFAIK) are among a few paleoartists who specialize in sculpting models of ancient hominin species, such as Sahelanthropus tchadensis (Daynes), Australopithecus boisei (Gurche), Australopithecus africanus (Daynes), Homo floresiensis (Gurche), and charismatic favorite Homo neanderthalensis (Daynes, Gurche). [more inside]
A book about human reaction to insects I have trouble in the summer because I am usually suppressing the urge to scream and freak out due to the imaginary bugs that are crawling on me.
Animals aren’t tools for thinking. Animals are some of the basic building blocks of thought itself
When he’s teaching, my friend the writer William Fiennes sometimes asks students to write about an encounter they have had with an animal at some time in their lives. What they soon discover is that the animal is always some unspoken aspect of themselves. The rat in the compost bin. The teenage girls escaping from a predatory geography teacher who stumble on a sheep giving birth. The deer shot by two boys who’ve stolen a gun. Put an animal in a story and it is never just an animal.[more inside]
The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution - "[Charles Percy Snow] was pleading for a more adequately educated ruling class so that the suffering of the poor might be ameliorated... Snow wanted to believe something like this: political decisions in the modern world often concern how to deploy science and technology, so people well-trained in science and technology will be better prepared to make those decisions. But that's a syllogism without a minor premise." (previously) [more inside]
"The only way to end Haiti’s cholera epidemic is to keep infected waste out of food and water. A subterranean network of pipes, pumping stations, and waste-treatment plants would be the ideal solution, but Haiti’s successive governments have had too little money, power, or will to build massive public works on their own.... International donors have been little help: in one case, the U.S. government, to protest the way an election was conducted, withheld funds to build water and sanitation infrastructure in northern Haiti for more than ten years. From 1990 to 2008, the proportion of Haitians with access to basic sanitation decreased from 26% to 17%. Cholera broke out in 2010. Four years into the epidemic, a trip to the bathroom for most Haitians still means looking for an open field or wading into a public canal at dawn. Those who can afford to, dig cesspools under outhouses. When the cesspools get full, it’s time to call a man like Leon." [more inside]
There is much talk today of a financial and economic crisis comparable to the 1930s. With the threat of a currency war and the euro’s collapse looming, the specter of the Great Depression’s bloody aftermath has returned with a vengeance. Several versions of how to make human beings and build society co-existed during the Cold War, when much of the world won independence from colonial empire. Yet, discussion of humanity’s growing interdependence is today limited to a one-world capitalism driven by finance. What have anthropologists to say about that? It would seem very little. But a positive case can be made for the discipline’s contribution to public debate. We make such a case here. We review recent developments in the anthropology of money and finance, listing its achievements, shortcomings and prospects, while referring back to the discipline’s founders a century ago. Economic anthropologists have tended to restrict themselves to niche fields and marginal debates since the 1960s. We hope to reverse this trend by focusing on money’s role in shaping global society and bringing world history into a more active dialogue with ethnography.Money and finance: For an anthropology of globalization by Keith Hart and Horacio Ortiz
Is there any reason to think dolphins and humans have a special relationship? Sure, but it might not be a friendly one
Digitised Diseases is an open access resource featuring human bones which have been digitised using 3D laser scanning, CT and radiography. The resource focuses on a wide range of pathological type specimens from archaeological and historical medical collections, specifically examples of chronic diseases which affect the human skeleton for which many of the physical changes are often not directly observable within clinical practice. Of major interest to many will be high fidelity photo-realistic digital representations of 3D bones that can be viewed, downloaded and manipulated on their computer, tablet or smartphone. [more inside]
The Nazi Anatomists. "How the corpses of Hitler's victims are still haunting modern science—and American abortion politics."
The Course of Their Lives. While much in medicine has changed over the last century, the defining course of a first year medical student's education is still 'Gross Anatomy.' This is their hands-on tour of a donated cadaver -- an actual human body -- and is an experience which cannot be replicated by computer models. When Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Mark Johnson came up with the idea of following a med school gross anatomy class for a feature story, his editor challenged him to make it different. So he chose to intertwine the students' stories with that of Geraldine 'Nana' Fotsch, a living future donor, as sort of a stand-in for the cadaver. (Via. This four-part series contains descriptions of a human dissection. Some may find it disturbing.) [more inside]
A REDTAIL'S DREAM Two years ago, Minna Sundberg was an art student who aspired to write and draw graphic novels so she decided to create a 'practice comic' while still in school. It was a fantasy adventure based upon Finnish mythology - not like Norse Gods, the omnipotent entities here were spirit animals, including an irresponsible young fox spirit who messed up the Northern Lights (also known as 'Fox Fire') and pulled the population of a rural village into a Limbo-like 'dream bubble' between Life and the Afterlife. [more inside]
How the Conservative Party in Canada got in bed with Gay Rights in two decades or less: The move allowed the Conservative government to poke a stick in Iran’s eye, and help a genuinely in-need refugee constituency, all at one blow. As a bonus, such steps help create a bulwark against radicalism in our immigrant population. “When you’re dealing with a country like Iran, gay asylum seekers are exactly the ones you want,” says Mr. Raphael. “In general, these are precisely the people who you can guarantee don’t support the Iranian regime back home. They’re going to bring in a more secular, moderate perspective.”
Consumption of lungworm snails can transmit the lungworm parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis, which can cause meningitis in humans and respiratory problems in dogs, which can eat afflicted slugs while running through open fields. Researchers at the University of Exeter hooked up LEDs to these snails to study their nighttime movements through gardens and how those movements might help them act as a vector for the parasites.
Is Psychometric g a Myth? - "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g." [more inside]
Real-time MRI study of human beatboxing, with lots of videos. See what snares, kick drum effects, cymbals and more look and sound like as they happen inside the head. Here's a BBC radio segment on the project.
A (presumably) wild dolphin entangled by fishing line approaches divers for assistance. [more inside]
The Delights Of Disgust
I confess I am disgusted by a great many things about people (and about myself, but let's put that aside). I do not believe it is particularly urgent for me to overcome my disgust, even if I recognize that this emotion must remain entirely separate from my thinking about which laws would be most just. I am disgusted by other people's dandruff, facial moles, food stuck in their beards, yet I do not accept that in feeling this way I am judging those people to be subhuman. I take it rather that humanity, while endearing, is also capable of appearing disgusting.[more inside]
The Economics of Caring There's something deeply flawed about an economic system that measures utility but not the attachments we feel to another person, or to one's homeland.
What we currently call breast cancer should be thought of as 10 completely separate diseases, according to an international study which has been described as a "landmark". The categories could improve treatment by tailoring drugs for a patient's exact type of breast cancer and help predict survival more accurately. The study in Nature analysed breast cancers from 2,000 women [Abstract] . It will take at least three years for the findings to be used in hospitals. [more inside]
Icky face-pooping flesh mites are only the tip of the iceberg. You've heard that your gut bacteria are necessary to help you digest, meaning not all germs are bad. Without them, we couldn't digest healthily. But stop and look at how far our interconnectedness with other forms of life goes: 1. Human DNA itself is at least 8.3% ancient viruses; without one of these viruses you could never have been born. 2. Mitochondria in human cells originated when the same type of bacteria that causes typhus disease raided one of our cellular ancestors and instead of hijacking it was pressed into service. (The same origin as chloroplasts in plants from cyanobacteria). 3. Far more of the cells in your body are non-human microorganisms than actual human cells. This relationship is not just interconnectedness. This is integration. [more inside]
"As a climber goes up even higher in altitude, into the so-called death zone, the dangerously thin air above 26,000 feet, there is so little oxygen available that the body makes a desperate decision: it cuts off the digestive system. The body can no longer afford to direct oxygen to the stomach to help digest food because that would divert what precious little oxygen is available away from the brain. The body will retch back up anything the climber tries to eat, even if it’s as small as an M&M." -Excerpt from To the Last Breath: A Journey of Going to Extremes
Software engineer Erden Eruç left in a rowboat from Bodega Bay, California on July 11, 2007, after riding his bicycle from Seattle. The goal? Human-powered circumnavigation of the globe., including climbing the highest peak on each continent, in order to educate, inspire (and raise some money for) children's organizations. On the evening of July 21, 2012, he completed his trip, mostly successfully. [more inside]
"The business of recycling dead humans into medical implants is a little-known yet lucrative trade. But its practices have roused concerns about how tissues are obtained and how well grieving families and transplant patients are informed about the realities and the risks." After an eight month international investigation, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has published an extensive four-part exposé into the black market for cadavers and human tissue: Skin and Bone: The Shadowy Trade in Human Body Parts (Via) [more inside]
Rather than trying to tame wild stallions, fearless Costa Rican fisherman Chito preferred a playful wrestle in the water with his best pal Pocho - a deadly 17ft crocodile. For several years, the 52-year-old daredevil drew gasps of amazement from onlookers by wading chest-deep into the water, then whistling for his 980lb buddy - and giving him an affectionate hug. Crazy Chito said: "Poncho is my best friend. This is a very dangerous routine but we have a good relationship. He will look me in the eye and not attack me. It is too dangerous for anyone else to come in the water. It is only ever the two of us. Sadly Pocho died last October, at the age of 50. But his fame lives on.
“There are no images and no representations in our minds,” he insisted. “Our visual experience of the world is a continuum between see-er and seen united in a shared process of seeing.”
I was curious, if only because, as a novelist I’d always supposed I was dealing in images, imagery. This stuff might have implications. So we had a beer together.
I was curious, if only because, as a novelist I’d always supposed I was dealing in images, imagery. This stuff might have implications. So we had a beer together.
The human form in chains. Bicycle chains.
Artist and film-maker, Hito Steyerl, asks us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our digital equivalents. Digital images are Things (like you and me) - a plethora of compressed, corrupted representations pushed and pulled through increasingly policed and capitalised information networks. If 80% of all internet traffic* is SPAM - a liberated excess withdrawn** from accepted channels of communication - perhaps it is in The Poor Image we find our closest kin? [more inside]
Anatomical quilling: paper cross sections of the body - a showcase of artist Lisa Nilsson's tissue series
How can we better understand the interplay of nature and nurture in determining our personalities, behavior, and vulnerability to disease? Perhaps we should be looking at identical twins. (National Geographic January 2012 cover story) [more inside]
This is THE original human slingshot developed by the Pope family in Hobble Creek Canyon, UT. Just a couple posts and some bungee cords. Filmed with Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 7D.
NASA is designing a spiffy new rocket, the Space Launch System, which will lob people and cargo to the moon, an asteroid and eventually Mars. [more inside]
A new BBC Documentary titled This World: Spain's Stolen Babies alleges that up to three hundred thousand Spanish infants were stolen from their mothers at birth over a fifty year period, and then sold by the Catholic Church through illicit adoption services.
Is human history every bit as important and worth saving as natural history? William Cronon explained that the 1964 Wilderness Act and National Park Service policy separates "nature" and "culture" as two very distinct things. This attitude means that, in lots of places, the Park Service has actually torn down historic buildings and removed traces of past human habitation in order to make National Parks more "natural." The Apostle Islands, the northernmost part of Wisconsin, appears to be totally wild. But less than 100 years ago, it was thriving stone quarry that supplied building materials to NY, Chicago and other major metropolitan cities.
Le Figaro has a great article with photographs of the journey of human hair obtained as offerings to the gods by pilgrims in Tirupati to the beauty salons of New York and the heads of such as Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Since its in French, here's Mother Jones covering the same in English. A Spaniard in London does a photo essay while exporters show you a flowchart of the entire process. Highly valued and in short supply, remy hair, as it is known, is very different from the stuff you find being used in pesticides, pizza base and deer repellent (warning: Fox News link).
In 2002 a Mrs. Soile Tuulikki Lautsi, a Finnish/Italian woman and member of the Italian Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists objected to the crucifixes on the wall of her child’s public school. [more inside]
"The mind knows not what the tongue wants." We all take variability and niche markets for granted these days, but back in the 70's and 80's, the American food industry was obsessed with the so-called platonic dish - a perfect and universal way to serve a food. Howard Moskowitz, of prego fame, helped explode the idea in the food industry and beyond. In this TED talk, Malcom Gladwell, tells you all about it and why variability matters a lot. [more inside]
Henning Lederer's Machinatorium features art and animation of pictograms and other abstractions of the human form. Lederer is also known for animating Fritz Kahn's classic poster Der Mensch als Industriepalast.
Kevin Kelly describes how a clock designed to run for 10,000 years will function and the efforts behind its creation and building.
I’d always dismissed the idea of human trafficking in the United States. I’m Indian, and when I went to Mumbai and saw children sold openly, I wondered, Why isn’t anything being done about it? But now I know—it’s no different here. I never would have believed it, but I’ve seen it.
BBC Human Planet: The Douche For a few weeks, the BBC film crew had the opportunity to follow a unique specimen, they were able to observe and record its mannerisms, rituals and way of life. The result of this is BBC Human Planet: The Douche.