Links and Thoughts (April '22)
1. The new running joke in my classes (high school biology) is to randomly insert this picture into my powerpoint slides and then swear up and down that I did not put it there and that I deleted this picture off my computer a few weeks ago. I then accuse my students of hacking into my computer and putting the picture in the slides in order to mess with me, which they vehemently deny of course. I then act really freaked out and tell them how Big Red Ball Man™ was in my dream last night and how I suspect that he is some kind of interdimensional spirit entity that is now haunting my life. I’ve done this three times so far…
2. Meet Graham—he’s what a human would look like who evolved to survive car crashes.
“Graham, the crash test man, was created as part of a new Australian road safety campaign by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC). He was designed by sculptor Patricia Piccinini, a leading trauma surgeon, and a road safety engineer, who modified him based on their knowledge of car accidents. The result isn’t a pretty sight, but it’s certainly a sobering one. As you can see, Graham doesn’t have a neck because these snap easily in car accidents. He also has a flat, fleshy face to protect his ears and nose. Also, if you’re wondering about all those extra nipples, they’re to protect his ribs like a natural set of airbags. All these modifications are needed for a human body to survive a car crash.”
3. Why is the teeth falling out dream so common in native english speaking countries like US, UK, and Australia? Very fascinated by this (zoomable picture here).
4. Sooooo it seems like China is executing prisoners by stealing their hearts (in order to use them for transplantation). Can’t say I’m surprised…
The dead donor rule is fundamental to transplant ethics. The rule states that organ procurement must not commence until the donor is both dead and formally pronounced so, and by the same token, that procurement of organs must not cause the death of the donor. In a separate area of medical practice, there has been intense controversy around the participation of physicians in the execution of capital prisoners. These two apparently disparate topics converge in a unique case: the intimate involvement of transplant surgeons in China in the execution of prisoners via the procurement of organs. We use computational text analysis to conduct a forensic review of 2838 papers drawn from a dataset of 124 770 Chinese-language transplant publications. Our algorithm searched for evidence of problematic declarations of brain death during organ procurement. We find evidence in 71 of these reports, spread nationwide, that brain death could not have properly been declared. In these cases, the removal of the heart during organ procurement must have been the proximate cause of the donor's death. Because these organ donors could only have been prisoners, our findings strongly suggest that physicians in the People's Republic of China have participated in executions by organ removal.
6. Warnock's dilemma is the problem of interpreting a lack of response to a posting in a virtual community. The problem with no response is that there are five possible interpretations:
The post is correct, well-written information that needs no follow-up commentary. There's nothing more to say except "Yeah, what he said."
The post is complete and utter nonsense, and no one wants to waste the energy or bandwidth to even point this out.
No one read the post, for whatever reason.
No one understood the post, but won't ask for clarification, for whatever reason.
No one cares about the post, for whatever reason.
7. I’ve been listening to and enjoying the Fall of Civilizations podcast. They had a quote in the fall of the Inca empire episode that was both stunning and hilarious. Here is Titu Cusi, nephew of the the last emperor Atahualpa, recalling his father’s reaction when he first heard word of the Spaniards arrival in Peru.
When my father heard this, he was beside himself and said, "How dare those people intrude into my country without my authorisation and permission? Who are these people and what are their ways?" The messengers answered, "Lord, these people cannot but be gods, for they claim to have come by the wind. They are bearded people, very beautiful and white. They eat out of silver plates. Even their sheep, who carry them, are large and wear silver shoes. They throw thunder like the sky... Moreover, we have witnessed with our own eyes that they talk to white cloths by themselves and that they call some of us by our names without having been informed by anyone and only looking into the sheets, which they hold in front of them... Who could people of this manner and fortune be but gods?"
— Titu Cusi Yapanqui (1570), 'An Inca Account of the Conquest of Peru'
8. Your new favorite god:
Erik Hoel also writes about Bes in his essay “Now that scientists can manipulate dream content, advertisers want in”.
“If you can prompt someone during this mind-wandering hypnagogic period, in that liminal stage between wake and sleep, you can trigger specific dream content. This is called Targeted Dream Incubation (TDI). It’s surprisingly easy to do: during the early stages of sleep just have an audio message repeat to “think of [x]” wherein x is some theme (like “Santa Claus sunbathing”). This leads to early dream content about this theme, although each person will of course dream it in their own. The fact that TDI works can be confirmed by asking subjects to report on what they’re dreaming during a brief waking not too long after the prompt. This opens a possibility that one could play an audio message telling the dreamer to, say, think of having sex with a celebrity (an exercise I will leave to the reader).
TDI, by the way, is incredibly old, and was practiced across many ancient cultures. So the recent interest is really a rediscovery of well-known ancient dream technology that was used for all sorts of purposes. For example, many cultures such as the Ancient Egyptians used TDI in order to have personal meetings with their gods, like Bes (also called “Besa”), a dwarf deity with a lion head who helped women during childbirth, who protected against snakes, and was the god of things like music, art, dance, and general revelry. Here’s some instructions from ~1350 BC describing Egyptian rituals to for TDI:
". . . Make a drawing of Besa on your left hand and enveloping your hand in a strip of black cloth that has been consecrated to Isis (and) lie down to sleep without speaking a word, even in answer to a question. Wind the remainder of the cloth around your neck. . . come in this very night." (Budge, 1901, British Museum Papyrus, No. 122, lines 64 ff and 359 ff, Catalogue of Greek Papyri, vol. I, p.118).
In other words, think of them and they will come. And here’s Bes the dwarf/lion god who you were to meet.
I mean, why wouldn’t you want to dream of Bes? Looks like a pretty fun guy / hermaphroditic deity possessing (according to descriptions) “flabby man-boobs.”
9. Twitter doesn’t provide an easy way to search through your past tweets— allmytweets.net solves that problem by allowing you to view all your tweets, retweets, and liked tweets on one page.
10. Assorted tweets section:
11. Shameless self-promotion of Seeds of Science
12. Some April Fool’s Day science:
We give conditions for an exoplanetary system to function as an ideal amusement park/vacation resort (with its separate parking lot, of course); in case of massive human interplanetary colonization. Our considerations stem from the fact that an amusement park needs a parking lot of roughly the same surface area, thus the best option for its construction would be a system with at least 2 planets close to each other for easy tourist transportation. We also discuss the likelihood of finding such a system out there to cut down on construction costs.
The statistical physics of phase transitions has been hugely successful at describing numerous natural, physical, and technological phenomena, and now a rigorous examination of the phase space of the culinary regime is likewise ripe for the picking. Despite great demand for the resolution of many scientific debates over the taxonomy of food, past attempts have failed to account for complex phase behavior and co-existence, and have thus left the public hungry for a more substantial theory. By applying the principles of statistical physics and thermodynamics, we here map out the complete phase space of all culinary dishes and find three distinct phase regimes: Soup, Salad, and Sandwich. We consider the effect of different state variables on these phase boundaries, as well as regions of co-existence and triple points. With this complete 3-dimensional phase diagram of all foods, we can conclusively answer many bitter debates, including the imperishable question "is a hotdog a sandwich?" The answer: yes.