Links and Thoughts (Spooky Season '22)
+ Seeds of Science updates
Happy Halloween y’all! I have 11 vaguely spooky links/thoughts and an update on some important new initiatives at Seeds of Science.
1. Moloch of War (1966). Photo of a Soviet war veteran near the Eternal Flame on the anniversary of Victory Day.
2. From my 3rd-place entry in the ACX book review contest “Morning of the Mutants (The Castrato by Martha Feldman)”.
Here’s a wild speculation: future ecological collapse will propel the rise of militant eco-cults that use elaborate schemes of genetic modification, plastic surgery, and hormone therapy (and whatever else is needed) to create animal-human hybrids (think Thundercats or Stalking Cat) as a part of some master plan to bring about radical environmental restoration (steal this premise).
Stalking Cat (born Dennis Avner; August 27, 1958 – November 5, 2012) was an American man known for his extensive body modifications, which were intended to increase his resemblance to a tiger. For his 14 surgical procedures towards that goal, he held a world record for "most permanent transformations to look like an animal.
In the early 1980s, guided by his personal vision and feelings of affinity for the tigress, Stalking Cat began tattooing and surgically modifying his face. In interviews, he repeatedly stated that he chose to alter his physical appearance in accordance with what he believed was an ancient Wyandot tradition; however, this was his personal belief, not traditional practice. He also told people he grew up in a tribe and had been told to change his form to that of a tiger by a medicine man.
3. From Scott Alexander in “Contra Dynomight On Sexy In-Laws”:
A simple example of this is Ondine’s Curse, a rare disease (usually caused by a tumor) where the breathing-related parts of someone’s brain stop working. A patient may notice that they no longer have any desire to breathe. They may think “Well, that’s weird, but seems like I probably still need oxygen to live, I’m going to breathe anyway.” Lacking any natural sense of when to inhale/exhale/stop, they hopefully calculate out what the right amount of breathing to do is for each breath manually.
4. I’ve been tutoring a 7th-grade student in writing and we have been writing some short experimental vignettes. Here is one of mine:
Look at your body—
A painted puppet, a poor toy
Of jointed parts ready to collapse,
A diseased and suffering thing
With a head full of false imaginings
When from you wake up from a deep sleep and for that briefest moment you don't know who you are or where you are and you are a wraith, you are wild reality in all its rawness and terror, and who will pull the strings of the marionette—and what if mom and dad never came back home and you are no one forever, not a non-entity but prior to that duality and beyond it, an empty presence dancing in the void—and the limits have been forgotten because there is no one to remember them and a hummingbird screams in a windswept prairie as a thunder rumbles and a fire burns and a fire burns—and we who breathe are all that is but tonight we can die in the disco and oh sweet vanity can the days forget me.
This world is ever ablaze, why this laughter, why this jubilation?
Shrouded in darkness, will you not see the light?
Behold this body — a painted image, a mass of heaped up sores, infirm, full of hankering — of which nothing is lasting or stable!
Through many a birth in samsara have I wandered in vain, seeking the builder of this house of life. Repeated birth is indeed suffering!
O house-builder, you are seen! You will not build this house again. For your rafters are broken and your ridgepole shattered.
My mind has reached the unconditioned:
5. From The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021):
6. More on Seeds of Science and our recent updates below:
7. Absolutely loving the writing of L. M. Sacasas on The Convivial Society (Thinking about technology, society, and the good life).
“Two things,” Kant famously observed, “fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” Is there a relationship between the two? Is there any sense in which we get not only our spatial bearings but also our psychological and emotional bearings from observing the beauty and rhythms of the star-filled sky? Are we bearing an unacknowledged burden of mental and physical exhaustion because the night no longer brings most of our labors to a close and bids us rest. Is there anything to be said for the inspiration the night sky has given to the human imagination?”
9. The Two-Headed Calf
Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.
But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.
10. “I remember my grandfather telling me how each of us must live with a full measure of loneliness that is inescapable, and we must not destroy ourselves with our passion to escape the aloneness.” — Jim Harrison
11. The vampire in medical perspective: myth or malady?
The vampire is a fascinating creature that has captured man’s imagination ever since its first descriptions. Throughout the years and all over the world it has been portrayed in various—sometimes conflicting, but more often relatively similar—ways in folklore, books and movies. Some well-known examples are the Transylvanian count Dracula, the sasabonsam from West African folklore and the manananggal from the Philippines. The aversion to garlic and sunlight and a victim’s similar fate after a bite seem to be recurring elements.1,2 On closer inspection the physical and behavioral features of the vampire show striking and intriguing similarities with three relatively rare medical conditions discussed in this article: porphyria, rabies and pellagra.
12. I try not to promote Seeds of Science too much on here, but it’s been awhile since I’ve done so and we recently made some important updates that might be of interest to my audience (and it’s my damn blog and you can’t stop me).
First, some background information:
Seeds of Science (ISSN: 2768-1254) is a journal dedicated to nurturing promising ideas and helping them blossom into scientific innovation. Peer review is conducted through voting and commenting by our diverse network of reviewers, or “gardeners” as we call them. Visit the about page or read our manifesto to learn more about our mission and philosophy.
What is a “Seed of Science”?
It is a speculation, an idea for an experiment, a novel observation, a thought-provoking question and discussion, the highlighting of an under-appreciated problem, or an unorthodox research study. Like a real seed, a “Seed of Science” is small and carefully crafted. A good Seed includes some kind of justification for how the ideas could advance science (e.g. an argument, proposed experiment, or preliminary data analysis) and provides as much evidence and rationale as possible. Besides that, there are virtually no requirements on content or style — Seeds can be from any scientific discipline (including metascience and science ethics) and can be written in non-traditional formats (e.g. narratives, dialogues, etc.). Although our seeds may be different than a typical scientific paper, all articles receive DOIs and are searchable in major academic databases.
From the Gardener page on our website:
Why should I become a Gardener?
1) I believe that we need to disrupt scientific publishing and create new platforms that encourage creativity and diversity of thought.
2) I would like to participate in a scientific review process by voting and commenting on submitted manuscripts (manuscripts are distributed through email along with a simple review form). Voting/commenting is 100% voluntary — “gardening” requires no upfront commitment as you may abstain from participating in any review without notification.
3) I would like to have my review comments published in articles, thereby providing a permanent record of my contributions to the scientific community.
How do I become a Gardener?
Fill out this form (name, email, and information for your listing).