"One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am- a reluctant enthusiast... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards."
“Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is truly a majestic island universe some 200,000 light-years across. Located a mere 60 million light-years away toward the chemical constellation Fornax, NGC 1365 is a dominant member of the well-studied Fornax galaxy cluster. This sharp color image shows intense star forming regions at the ends of the bar and along the spiral arms, and details of dust lanes cutting across the galaxy's bright core. At the core lies a supermassive black hole.
Click image for larger size.
Astronomers think NGC 1365's prominent bar plays a crucial role in the galaxy's evolution, drawing gas and dust into a star-forming maelstrom and ultimately feeding material into the central black hole. Discovered on October 27, the position of a bright supernova is indicated in NGC 1365. Cataloged as SN2012fr, the type Ia supernova is the explosion of a white dwarf star.”
"It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.
I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig. Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me. When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic. No rhetoric, no tremolos, no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell. And of course, no theology, no metaphysics. Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light.
So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling, on tiptoes and no luggage, not even a sponge bag, completely unencumbered."
"The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" by Fyodor Dostoevsky
"For I have seen the truth; I have seen and I know that people can be beautiful and happy without losing the power of living on earth. I will not and cannot believe that evil is the normal condition of mankind. And it is just this faith of mine that they laugh at. But how can I help believing it? I have seen the truth- it is not as though I had invented it with my mind, I have seen it, seen it, and the living image of it has filled my soul for ever. I have seen it in such full perfection that I cannot believe that it is impossible for people to have it. And so how can I go wrong? I shall make some slips no doubt, and shall perhaps talk in second-hand language, but not for long: the living image of what I saw will always be with me and will always correct and guide me.
Oh, I am full of courage and freshness, and I will go on and on if it were for a thousand years! Do you know, at first I meant to conceal the fact that I corrupted them, but that was a mistake- that was my first mistake! But truth whispered to me that I was lying, and preserved me and corrected me. But how establish paradise- I don't know, because I do not know how to put it into words. After my dream I lost command of words. All the chief words, anyway, the most necessary ones. But never mind, I shall go and I shall keep talking, I won't leave off, for anyway I have seen it with my own eyes, though I cannot describe what I saw. But the scoffers do not understand that. It was a dream, they say, delirium, hallucination. Oh! As though that meant so much! And they are so proud! A dream! What is a dream? And is not our life a dream? I will say more. Suppose that this paradise will never come to pass (that I understand), yet I shall go on preaching it. And yet how simple it is: in one day, in one hour everything could be arranged at once!
The chief thing is to love others like yourself, that's the chief thing, and that's everything; nothing else is wanted- you will find out at once how to arrange it all. And yet it's an old truth which has been told and retold a billion times- but it has not formed part of our lives! The consciousness of life is higher than life, the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness- that is what one must contend against. And I shall. If only everyone wants it, it can be arranged at once."
"Is time something that is defined by the ticking of a cosmic clock, God's wristwatch say? Time doesn't exist except for the current tick. The past is irretrievably gone. The future does not yet exist. Consciousness is awareness of a moment. Or is time a dimension like space? We move through time as we move through space. The past is still there; we're just not there anymore. The future exists; we'll get there. We experience time as we experience space, say, by looking out the window of a moving train. Or is time…
Physicists and philosophers have been debating these questions since the pre-Socratics. Plato. Newton. Einstein. Most recently, Lee Smolin. Without resolution. What makes the question so difficult, it seems to me, is that time is inextricably tied up with consciousness. We won't understand time until we understand consciousness, and vice versa. So far, consciousness is a mystery, in spite of books with titles like "Consciousness Explained". Will consciousness be explained? Can consciousness be explained? If so, will it require a conceptual breakthrough of revolutionary proportions? Or is the Darwinian/material paradigm enough? Are we in for an insight, or for a surprise?
As I sit here at my desk under the hill, looking out at a vast panorama of earth, sea and sky, filled, it would seem, infinitely full of detail, so full that my awareness can only skim the surface, I have that uneasy sense that it's going to be damnably difficult to extract consciousness, as a thing, from the universe in its totality. I think of that word "entanglement," from quantum theory, and I wonder to what extent consciousness is entangled, perhaps even with past and future.
Who knows? Perhaps consciousness, or what I think of as my consciousness, is just a slice of cosmic consciousness, in the same way that the present is a slice of cosmic time. As a good Ockhamist, I am loathe to needlessly multiply hypotheses. But time will tell. Or consciousness will tell. Or something.”
“Republicans Accuse Obama Of Treating Immigrants Like Humans”
by Andy Borowitz
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)— "In a sharp Republican rebuke to President Obama’s proposed actions on immigration, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the President, on Thursday night, of “flagrantly treating immigrants like human beings, in clear defiance of the wishes of Congress.”
McConnell was brutal in his assessment of the President’s speech on immigration, blasting him for “eliminating the fear of deportation, which is the great engine of the American economy.” “Fear is what keeps immigrants working so hard and so fast and so cheap,” McConnell said. “Remove the fear of deportation, and what will immigrants become? Lazy Americans.” In a dire warning to the President, McConnell said, “If Mr. Obama thinks that, with the stroke of a pen, he can destroy the work ethic of millions of terrified immigrants, he’s in for the fight of his life.” He added that Obama’s comments about deporting felons were “deeply offensive” to political donors.”
“It looks like a lunar landscape but this remarkable photograph actually shows our Milky Way and the planet Jupiter in all their glory - viewed from a cave in America's Utah desert. The spiral galaxy, which cannot be seen with the naked eye, was captured by photographer Wally Pacholka using a 35mm camera and 50mm lens on a tripod with a 30-second exposure - long enough to collect the light but not to see the stars moving.
Click image for larger size.
Pacholka, 59, an architect from Long Beach, California, relied on the light of a crescent moon to illuminate the subject and chose the area because of the near-absence of ambient light. He said: 'I had to drive 800 miles each way five times to get the shot right. And I had to hike two miles to the cave and back again at night, getting lost each time I came out.' His photo shows the Milky Way - estimated to be 100,000 light years in diameter and 1,000 light years deep - and Jupiter (to the top left), the biggest planet in the solar system with a diameter 11 times that of Earth's. After Venus, Jupiter is the second-brightest planet despite being about 390 million miles from Earth. The cave, which has been carved out of the desert's red sandstone rock, lies to the south-east of Salt Lake City and is estimated to be 300 million years old. The area is rich with Native American ruins.”
“In his autobiography, the brilliant physicist John Archibald Wheeler makes this confession of faith: "Whatever can be, is." He goes further: "Whatever can be, must be." Anything not prohibited by the laws of nature, exists, he says. Well, that's an extravagent claim, but it passed my mind the other day when my colleague Maura T. invited me up to the Science Building to see a strange creature she had just added to the aquarium.
Here's a pic, Chaetopterus, the parchment tube worm. In nature, it makes its own U-shaped "parchment" tube, which, except for the open ends, is buried in mud on the seafloor. And there it lives, sifting nourishment from the water it pumps through the tube. What a goofy critter! It looks like something snapped together from a K'Nex kit.
Some years ago, in a Globe column, I mentioned Dr. Seuss's Grickily Gractus, a bird "that lays eggs on a cactus," as an example of a wildly improbable creature. A reader then sent me a photograph of a bird on the island of Bonaire perched - where else? - in a nest on a cactus. Apparently not even Dr. Seuss can think up a creature too odd to exist.
A biologist friend who had returned from a field trip to the upper Rio Negro in Brazil told me about a school of Curimata fish, in their tens of thousands, that passed under his boat, filling the water and air with a "metallic buzz saw sound" (caused, my friend discovered, by the stridulation of the fish's air-filled swim bladder by a bone). Singing fish! Not even Seuss could think of that.
Cactus-laying birds and singing fish are fine lessons in the diversity of life on Earth. Every niche in every habitat is filled. And for every creature alive today, a thousand others, even more improbable because they are less familiar, have lived before and become extinct. All life on Earth is related by common descent, and there has not been enough time to exhaust the possibilities. Nor are terrestrial habitats infinite in number. Still, the astonishing diversity of life bears witness to the truth of Wheeler's conjecture, at least in broad outline.
The chemistry of carbon-based life presumably applies throughout the universe, and the universe presents us with the prospect of hundreds of billions of galaxies, chockablock with stars and planets. The number of worlds, and therefore habitats, is unimaginably large, perhaps infinite. Who is willing to bet against any possibility in all that vastness?"
"When we wish for something our consciousness opens to receiving it like a flower unfolding its petals to receive a bee. From blowing dandelion seeds into the air to throwing a penny into a fountain, we have all felt inspired to make a wish, to whisper our secret desires into the ears of the universe and wait for signs that we have been heard. Some wishes come true while others remain ethereal visions that either stay with us or fade like a star in the light of morning. Whether they come true or not, wishes are important missives, expressing our heart's desire as well as our intention to create something new in our lives. When we wish for something, our consciousness opens to receiving it, like a flower unfolding its petals to receive a bee.
There is something innocent and magical about making a wish, something that recalls the energy of childhood. Wishing is not about formulating a plan and following it step by step to attain a goal, which is the realm of adulthood. Wishing is more like a playful volley across the universe, an invitation to play. Waiting for the response is an integral part of the process. Wishing inspires an innocent opening to the possibility of magic as we wait to see if the invisible realm will bring our wish to life. This opening is a beautiful gesture in and of itself, regardless of the outcome. We place ourselves in a magical mind, and this mind is arguably as wonderful as the fulfillment of our wish itself.
In our straightforward, action-oriented society, we may tend to dismiss the power of this seemingly passive process, yet the power of a wish is well known, hence the cautionary phrase, "Be careful what you wish for." If you have given up wishing in favor of more adult pursuits, you might want to bring its magic back into your life. The next time you see the first star of the evening, or find yourself in front of a birthday cake covered in flaming candles, give yourself the gift of the magical realm that you knew so well as a child—close your eyes, open your mind, and make your wish."
"In 1986, I went for the first and only time on the pilgrimage known as the Way to Santiago, an experience I described in my first book. We had just finished walking up a small hill, a village appeared on the horizon, and it was then that my guide, whom I shall call Petrus (although that was not his name), said to me: "We must never stop dreaming. Dreams provide nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body. Many times in our lives we see our dreams shattered and our desires frustrated, but we have to continue dreaming. If we don’t, our soul dies.
The Good Fight is the one we fight because our heart asks it of us. The Good Fight is the one that’s fought in the name of our dreams. When we are young our dreams first explode inside us with all of their force, we are very courageous, but we haven’t yet learned how to fight. With great effort, we learn how to fight, but by then we no longer have the courage to go into combat. So we turn against ourselves and do battle within. We become our own worst enemy. We say that our dreams were childish, or too difficult to realize, or the result or our not having known enough about life. We kill our dreams because we are afraid to Fight the Good Fight.
The first symptom of the process of killing our dreams is lack of time. The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to Fight the Good Fight…
The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are Fighting the Good Fight.
And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams- we have refused to Fight the Good Fight.
When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we go through a period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being. We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. What we sought to avoid in combat- disappointment and defeat- came upon us because of our cowardice. And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breath, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of Sunday afternoons."
“Namibia has some of the darkest nights visible from any continent. It is therefore home to some of the more spectacular skyscapes, a few of which have been captured in the below time-lapse video. We recommend watching this video at FULL SCREEN (1080p), with audio on. The night sky of Namibia is one of the best in the world, about the same quality of the deserts of Chile and Australia.
Visible at the movie start are unusual quiver trees perched before a deep starfield highlighted by the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. This bright band of stars and gas appears to pivot around the celestial south pole as our Earth rotates. The remains of camel thorn trees are then seen against a sky that includes a fuzzy patch on the far right that is the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy to the Milky Way. A bright sunlight-reflecting satellite passes quickly overhead. Quiver trees appear again, now showing their unusual trunks, while the Small Magellanic Cloud becomes clearly visible in the background. Artificial lights illuminate a mist that surround camel thorn trees in Deadvlei. In the final sequence, natural Namibian stone arches are captured against the advancing shadows of the setting moon. This video incorporates over 16,000 images shot over two years, and won top honors among the 2012 Travel Photographer of the Year awards.”
"We do not rest satisfied with the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if in order to hasten its course; or we recall the past, to stop its too rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander in the times which are not ours, and do not think of the only one which belongs to us; and so idle are we that we dream of those times which are no more, and thoughtlessly overlook that which alone exists. For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us; and if it be delightful to us, we regret to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future, and think of arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have no certainty of reaching. Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end. So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so."
"Some time when the river is ice ask me mistakes I have made. Ask me whether what I have done is my life. Others have come in their slow way into my thought, and some have tried to help or to hurt: ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made. I will listen to what you say. You and I can turn and look at the silent river and wait. We know the current is there, hidden, and there are comings and goings from miles away that hold the stillness exactly before us. What the river says, that is what I say."
"Experimental Philosophy and the Problem of Free Will" by Chet Raymo
“That was the title of an article in the March 18 issue of "Science." What, I wondered, is experimental philosophy? If it's experimental - that is, based on reproducible empirical data - then it's science. And what new, pray, might philosophy - experimental or otherwise - have to say about free will? I read eagerly.
The author begins by saying that most central philosophical problems concerning free will, morality and consciousness are notorious for their resilience, many of them stretching back to the earliest days of philosophy. In this he is certainly correct. In more than two thousand years, philosophy has contributed precisely nothing to the problem of free will, except to state the problem: Are our actions free or determined, and is freedom necessary for moral culpability?
So what might this new discipline - experimental philosophy - contribute? I quote at random: "According to one hypothesis, the internal motoric signals that cause behavior also generate a prediction about imminent bodily movement, and this prediction is compared to the actual sensory information of bodily motion. If the predicted movement conforms to the sensory information, then one gets the feeling of agency; otherwise the movement is likely to feel involuntary."
Or: If I feel like an action was free, then I think it was free. At least, I think that's what it means.
In general, this rather long article says virtually nothing about free will. Rather, it compiles data - using the methods of the social sciences - on what people think about freedom and moral responsibility. Whether you call this "experimental philosophy" or "experimental psychology" probably depends on which academic department you're employed by.
Anyway, back to the "problem". If I choose at this moment to kick the cat, is that action intrinsically free, or is it determined by some accumulative chain of cause and effect - including prior mental states - over which some hypothesized autonomous "self" has no control? And, if the latter, am I morally responsible for my action?
No one knows the answer to the first question. Whatever concantations of causality may determine my conscious actions is far too complex to be amenable - at this point in time - to experimental analysis. An outside observer cannot predict with certainty whether or not I will kick the cat, even if that action is in fact entirely determined. There are simply too many undetermined variables. Massively complex causal determination is not what philosophers traditionally meant by free will, but it is indistinguishable from what philosophers traditionally meant by free will. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then - for all practical purposes - it's a duck.
And the second question? Moral responsibility is a social construct, not a scientific hypothesis. Humans discovered long ago that living peaceably in groups required a notion of individual responsibility. Responsibility implies freedom, real or effective. Society negotiates responsibility.
If there is such a thing as "experimental philosophy," problems of free will, consciousness and morality are presently beyond its reach. Lots more groundwork will need to be done - in neurobiology, artificial intelligence, and so on - before these perennial problems are tractable to experimental solution."
“Nevada's Mysterious Cave of the Red-haired Giants” by Terrence Ayn
“Many Native American tribes from the Northeast and Southwest still relate the legends of the red-haired giants and how their ancestors fought terrible, protracted wars against the giants when they first encountered them in North America almost 15,000 years ago. Others, like the Aztecs and Mayans, recorded their encounters with a race of giants to the north when they ventured out on exploratory expeditions.
Who were these red-haired giants that history books have ignored? Their burial sites and remains have been discovered on almost every continent. In the United States they have been unearthed in Virginia and New York state, Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee, Arizona and Nevada. And it's the state of Nevada that the story of the native Paiute's wars against the giant red-haired men transformed from a local myth to a scientific reality during 1924 when the Lovelock Caves were excavated.
At one time the Lovelock Cave was known as Horseshoe cave because of its U-shaped interior. The cavern - located about 20 miles south of modern day Lovelock, Nevada, is approximately 40-feet deep and 60-feet wide. It's a very old cave that pre-dates humans on this continent. In prehistoric times it lay underneath a giant inland lake called Lahontan that covered much of western Nevada. Geologists have determined the cavern was formed by the lake's currents and wave action.
The legend: The Paiutes, a Native-American tribe indigenous to parts of Nevada, Utah and Arizona, told early white settlers about their ancestors' battles with a ferocious race of white, red-haired giants. According to the Paiutes, the giants were already living in the area. The Paiutes named the giants "Si-Te-Cah" that literally means "tule-eaters." The tule is a fibrous water plant the giants wove into rafts to escape the Paiutes continuous attacks. They used the rafts to navigate across what remained of Lake Lahontan. According to the Paiutes, the red-haired giants stood as tall as 12-feet and were a vicious, unapproachable people that killed and ate captured Paiutes as food.
The Paiutes told the early settlers that after many years of warfare, all the tribes in the area finally joined together to rid themselves of the giants. One day as they chased down the few remaining red-haired enemy, the fleeing giants took refuge in a cave. The tribal warriors demanded their enemy come out and fight, but the giants steadfastly refused to leave their sanctuary. Frustrated at not defeating their enemy with honor, the tribal chiefs had warriors fill the entrance to the cavern with brush and then set it on fire in a bid to force the giants out of the cave. The few that did emerge were instantly slain with volleys of arrows. The giants that remained inside the cavern were asphyxiated. Later, an earthquake rocked the region and the cave entrance collapsed leaving only enough room for bats to enter it and make it their home.
The excavation: Thousands of years later the cave was rediscovered and found to be loaded with bat guano almost 6-feet deep. Decaying bat guano becomes saltpeter, the chief ingredient of gunpowder, and was very valuable. Therefore, in 1911 a company was created specifically to mine the guano. As the mining operation progressed, skeletons and fossils were found. The guano was mined for almost 13 years before archaeologists were notified about the findings. Unfortunately, by then many of the artifacts had been accidentally destroyed or simply discarded.
Nevertheless, what the scientific researchers did recover was staggering: over 10,000 artifacts were unearthed including the mummified remains of two red-haired giants - one, a female 6.5-feet tall, the other male, over 8-feet tall. Many of the artifacts (but not the giants) can be viewed at the small natural history museum located in Winnemucca, Nevada.
Confirmation of the myth: As the excavation of the cave progressed, the archaeologists came to the inescapable conclusion that the Paiutes myth was no myth; it was true. What led them to this realization was the discovery of many broken arrows that had been shot into the cave and a dark layer of burned material under sections of the overlaying guano. Among the thousands of artifacts recovered from this site of an unknown people is what some scientists are convinced is a calendar: a donut-shaped stone with exactly 365 notches carved along its outside rim and 52 corresponding notches along the inside. But that was not to be the final chapter of red-haired giants in Nevada.
In February and June of 1931, two very large skeletons were found in the Humboldt dry lake bed near Lovelock, Nevada. One of the skeletons measured 8.5-feet tall and was later described as having been wrapped in a gum-covered fabric similar to Egyptian mummies. The other was nearly 10-feet long. [Nevada Review-Miner newspaper, June 19, 1931.]"
“The Origins of Human Language”
by the Huffington Post
“Human language arose in southern Africa, a study in "Science" magazine claims. Language then spread across the globe through human migration. The claim complements fossil findings that point to southern Africa as the birthplace of modern humans.
According to the Washington Post, researcher Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland in New Zealand conducted the study by breaking down 504 languages into their smallest components, called phonemes. As the Post explains, the words "rip" and "lip" are separated by one phoneme, "one corresponding to the letter 'r' and the other to the letter 'l.'" Atkinson then looked at the diversity of phonemes throughout the world and found that the farther a people would have travelled from Africa, the fewer phonemes in their language. This means that, as predicted by the study, languages in South America and the Pacific Islands had the fewest phonemes, while African languages had the most.
As groups left Africa, the number of phonemes in their language decrease. As the process was repeated, the total number of phonemes in all the languages created decreased, according to USA Today. This is the same pattern that applies to human genetics. Reports the Post: “The pattern matches that for human genetic diversity: As a general rule, the farther one gets from Africa - widely accepted as the ancestral home of our species - the smaller the differences between individuals within a particular population.”
The study is unique because it attempts to look at language in the distant past. According to the New York Times, language is at least 50,000 years old, which corresponds with the diaspora of modern humans from Africa. However, because words evolve so quickly, linguists are skeptical of claims of language traces over 10,000 years old. Atkinson used "sophisticated statistical methods developed for constructing genetic trees based on DNA sequences" in order to draw his conclusions, according to the Times. While viewed with suspicion by some, these new methods are leading to new insights into human language. Linguist Brian D. Joseph of the University of Ohio told the Times, "I think we ought to take this seriously, although there are some who will dismiss it out of hand."
"Almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
"There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin," laments Linus van Pelt in a 1961 Peanuts comic strip. Yet in today's hyperpartisan political climate, religion and politics are obsessively debated, while the "American people" that politicians and reporters constantly refer to seem hopelessly divided. Meanwhile, psychologists are increasingly exploring the political arena, examining not just the ideological differences, but also the numerous factors - temperamental, developmental, biological, and situational - that contribute to the formation and maintenance of partisan political beliefs.
Personality differences are a leading candidate in the race toward understanding the rift between political liberals and conservatives. Using data compiled from nearly 20,000 respondents, Columbia University researcher Dana Carney and colleagues found that two common personality traits reliably differentiated individuals with liberal or conservative identifications. Liberals reported greater openness, whereas conservatives reported higher conscientiousness. This means that liberals (at least in their own estimation) saw themselves as more creative, flexible, tolerant of ambiguity, and open to new ideas and experiences. Across the political personality divide, conservatives self-identified as more persistent, orderly, moralistic, and methodical. These personality differences were even reflected in the bedroom belongings and offices or workspaces of ideological undergrads, with liberal students collecting more CDs, books, movie tickets, and travel paraphernalia, as opposed to their conservative peers, who showed more sports décor, U.S. flags, cleaning supplies, calendars, and uncomfortable furniture. Lest you think that the partisan personality is a uniquely American phenomenon, similar findings on personality and political ideology have emerged in samples across the globe, from North America, Europe, and Australia.
Evidence suggests that these personality differences between liberals and conservatives begin to emerge at an early age. A 20-year longitudinal study by Jack and Jeanne Block showed that those who grew up to be liberals were originally assessed by their preschool teachers as more emotionally expressive, gregarious, and impulsive when compared to those who became conservatives, who were considered more inhibited, uncertain, and controlled. Liberals may show greater tolerance for diversity and creativity, but they may also be more impulsive, indecisive, and irresponsible. On the flip side, conservatives may be organized, stable, and thrifty, but also have stronger just-world beliefs (leading to a greater tolerance for inequality), and stronger fears of mortality and ambiguity. Even recent neuroscience work published in Current Biology from University College London identifies fundamental differences in the partisan brain. Brain scans revealed a larger amygdala in self-identified conservatives and a larger anterior cingulate cortex in liberals, leading the researchers to conclude that conservatives may be more acute at detecting threats around them, whereas liberals may be more adept at handling conflicting information and uncertainty.
Some evidence suggests, however, that we aren't always so divided. In situations that remind people of death and mortality (such as terrorist attacks or implicitly primed images of funeral hearses and chalk body outlines) conservatives and liberals alike gravitate toward more conservative leaders and beliefs. By contrast, greater acceptance of liberal values occurs during events in which people feel disillusioned by government authorities and the politically powerful (such as the Vietnam War or after the 2008 housing crisis).
Of course, the field of psychology isn't immune to political biases and partisanship. Liberal psychology professors vastly outnumber their conservative counterparts by as much as 10 to 1 (perhaps conservatives have some justification for a general distrust of science and academia). A similar imbalance was found by Dyer Bilgrave and Robert Deluty in their 2002 survey of more than 200 clinical and counseling psychologists, published in the journal Psychotherapy. They also found that cognitive-behavioral therapists tended to hold more conservative religious and political beliefs than their more liberally oriented psychodynamic and humanistic-oriented colleagues. Other findings implicative for psychotherapy suggest that liberals and conservatives conceptualize different values in their family narratives, and that individuals fail to empathize completely with the nonpolitical concerns and problems of others if they're perceived as belonging to an opposing political party.
No matter which side of the couch they sit on, therapists are inevitably bound to confront political and moral issues in treatment. In research, practice, and training, therapists are expected to achieve the kind of bipartisan collaboration that politicians seem to only talk about. According to Bilgrave and Deluty, "therapists should ask themselves regularly how their religious and political beliefs, values, and attitudes may be influencing their practice of therapy-how they see clients and their problems, how they help clients frame and understand their concerns, and how and in which direction they encourage clients to act." But if our partisan personalities are deeply rooted in our early development and wired in our brains, is honest and thoughtful consideration of our own biases and predeterminations enough, or even possible? And when even your furniture choices betray your political persuasions, then what does your office tell patients about you?"
"I told you last week there would be no charges for the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, and no charges were brought. Of course, there was rioting and violence, and that seems to be what was wanted. The Governor of Missouri did not deploy the National Guard, and things got out of control. Was it done on purpose? One thing is for sure, this is NOT about race. The Obama Administration wants it to be; otherwise, he would not have sent Al Sharpton to Ferguson. This is about a very bad economy and an economy that is going to get much worse. Ferguson and all the protests around the country are a distraction. The undertone of the protesters’ narrative is that white people and white police are hunting down black men and killing them. This is outrageous and totally unsupported by fact. Statistically speaking, America does not have a white on black crime problem. Only 7.6% of blacks are killed by whites. Only 14% of whites are killed by blacks. Former NYC Mayor Rudolf Giuliani said on Meet the Press that 93% of black people are killed by other black people. Likewise, about 83% of whites are killed by white people. Nowhere in the country is the black on black murder problem more obvious than in Chicago. Hundreds of young black men every year are killed in Chicago by blacks. Since Michael Brown died in August, more than 100 black men have been shot and killed in Chicago.
What is Ferguson really about? Again, it’s cover for a bad economy and an economy that is going to get much worse. Sure, the third quarter GDP was just revised up to a 3.9% growth rate. I called economist John Williams about this, and he told me that is simply spin and not true. We also just got bad consumer confidence numbers, a spike in unemployment claims and a big drop in PMI numbers.
You want more proof the economy is headed down? Look no further than Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. He just said the Democrats made a “mistake” in voting for Obama Care. He said, “We blew it,” and said Democrats should have focused on the economy. Does that sound like the economy is going to be getting better? Also, didn’t I say right after the midterm elections that Democrats would run against Obama and his policies? You know who is up for re-election in 2016? Chuck Schumer. And doesn’t he sound like he is throwing President Obama and his policies under the bus? Just as I predicted.
If you need more proof the economy is going to get worse, then look no further than Obama Care and rising insurance premiums. And, just wait until the employer mandate kicks in next year. It is the job killer everyone has warned you about. Speaking of jobs, the youth unemployment rate in the black community is nearly 25%. Blacks in general are unemployed at twice the rate of whites. John Williams says the sub 6% unemployment rate is a big fat lie. The real rate is hovering around 23% for years. A buck an hour raise at a fast food restaurant and a 29 hour work week with zero overtime is not going to really help anyone, especially the minority communities like Ferguson. Ask yourself this, if the economy was really growing at a 3.9% rate, would we have nearly 93 million people not in the work force? Would we have 47 million on food stamps? Would we have 14 million on disability? The economy is not in a so-called recovery and the Democrats know it–and so does the Obama Administration. This is what Ferguson and the protests around the country are about. This is all about “look over here” and not at the real problem, a stinking and sinking economy for Main Street.
They have extended the negotiations, once again, for Iran and the nuclear deal the west has been working on for years. It will be another seven months before the next expiration date. Iran has said repeatedly it will not curtail its program. Here are some really the big questions: Will Saudi Arabia and all the other Sunni nations sit and wait? Is Israel going to sit and wait? Those are two very big Middle East wild cards, and I think we get an answer sometime next year.
Finally, there is gold and news that more countries want theirs back. The Dutch just repatriated 122 tons. The leading French candidate in upcoming elections says France should get its gold back. The Swiss are voting this weekend to get their gold back inside its borders. Why all the attention to getting control of physical gold? Could it be central banks don’t trust each other’s paper? If paper assets devalue or default, would having gold in your possession be a good idea? Countries wanting physical is not a good indication that the global economy is good; and, in fact, it is signaling that it might be getting ready to tank.
Join Greg Hunter as he analyzes these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up.”
"In 2003, the Hubble Space Telescope took the image of a millenium, an image that shows our place in the universe. Anyone who understands what this image represents, is forever changed by it."- YouTube/NASA
"It helps to put things in perspective here on our frenetic little planet with a look at this extraordinarily powerful and moving video of the Hubble Space Telescope mapping of the Universe, whose known size is 78 billion light years across. The video of the images is the equivalent of using a "time machine" to look into the past to witness the early formation of galaxies, perhaps less than one billion years after the universe's birth in the Big Bang.
The video includes mankind's deepest, most detailed optical view of the universe called the Hubble Deep Field (HDF). One of the stunning images was assembled from 342 separate exposures taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) for ten consecutive days. Representing a narrow "keyhole" view stretching to the visible horizon of the universe, the HDF image covers a speck of the sky only about the width of a dime located 75 feet away. Though the field is a very small sample of the heavens, it is considered representative of the typical distribution of galaxies in space because the universe, statistically, looks largely the same in all directions. Gazing into this small field, Hubble uncovered a bewildering assortment of at least 1,500 galaxies at various stages of evolution.
Most of the galaxies are so faint (nearly 30th magnitude or about four-billion times fainter than can be seen by the human eye) they have never before been seen by even the largest telescopes. Some fraction of the galaxies in this menagerie probably date back to nearly the beginning of the universe. "The variety of galaxies we see is amazing. In time these Hubble data could turn out to be the double helix of galaxy formation. We are clearly seeing some of the galaxies as they were more than ten billion years ago, in the process of formation," said Robert Williams, Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute Baltimore, Maryland. "As the images have come up on our screens, we have not been able to keep from wondering if we might somehow be seeing our own origins in all of this."
"The Human Touch- 5 Seconds Equals a Thousand Words" by Nicholas Bakalar
"Researchers have found experimental evidence that a touch can be worth a thousand words, that fleeting physical contact can express specific emotions — silently, subtly and unmistakably. Scientists led by Matthew J. Hertenstein, an associate professor of psychology at DePauw University, recruited 248 students, each to touch or be touched by a partner previously unknown to them to try to communicate a specific emotion: anger, fear, happiness, sadness, disgust, love, gratitude or sympathy. The person touched was blindfolded and ignorant of the sex of the toucher, who was instructed to try to convey one of the eight emotions, and both participants remained silent. Forty-four women and 31 men touched a female partner, while 25 men and 24 women touched a male partner.
Afterward, each person touched was given the list of eight emotions and told to pick the one conveyed. There was also a ninth choice, “none of these terms are correct,” to eliminate the possibility of forcing a choice of emotion when none were truly felt. The touchers were instructed to touch any appropriate part of the body, and they chose variously to touch the head, face, arms, hands, shoulders, trunk and back.
Accurate understanding ranged from 50 percent to 78 percent, much higher than the 11 percent expected by chance and comparable to rates seen in studies of verbal and facial emotion. The researchers also recorded a complex vocabulary of touch — a shake, a rub, a pat or a squeeze, small changes in the amount of pressure applied, variations in the abruptness of the stroke, changing rates at which the fingers moved across the skin, and differences in the location and duration of the contact.
Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, was impressed with the work. “This information is very interesting, and does add to the science of emotion and communication.” But, she continued: “It’s unlikely we’d use touching as a means of expression with strangers. It’s reserved to intimate kinds of interactions.”Dr. Field was not involved in the study, which will appear in the August issue of the journal "Emotion."
Participants consistently chose certain kinds of touch to convey specific emotions. They often expressed fear, for example, by holding and squeezing with no movement, while sympathy required holding, patting and rubbing. Men and women were equally adept at interpreting touch but used different actions to communicate emotions. Men rarely touched anyone’s face, and then only to express anger or disgust at women, and sympathy for other men. Women, on the other hand, touched faces frequently to express anger, sadness and disgust to both sexes, and to convey fear and happiness to men.
The evolutionary reasons for such a communication system are unknown, but the authors suggest that they may have the same origin as the social grooming rituals of other primates. The authors acknowledge that their data were limited to a sample of young Americans, and that cultural differences may play an important role. Still, Dr. Hertenstein said: “These findings have strong implications for the power of touch. Most touches were only about five seconds, but in these fleeting moments, we’re capable of communicating distinct emotions, just as we are with the face. This is a sophisticated differential signaling system that we haven’t previously known about.”