February 25, 2005

Links for Feb 25/05

Psychedelic Medicine: Mind Bending, Health Giving (New Scientist)
Clinical trials of psychedelic drugs are planned or under way at numerous centres around the world for conditions ranging from anxiety to alcoholism. It may not be long before doctors are legally prescribing hallucinogens for the first time in decades.

Happiness is Back (Prospect Magazine)
Growing incomes in western societies no longer make us happier, and more individualistic, competitive societies make some of us positively unhappy. Public policy should take its cue once more from Bentham's utilitarianism, unfashionable for many decades but now vindicated by modern neuroscience.

How Time Flies (Guardian)
For the Aymara people living in the Andes, the past lies ahead and the future lies behind. Laura Spinney looks at how different languages reflect, and shape, our conception of time

Director of PR (Popular Science)
Titanic honcho James Cameron has some advice for NASA on how to both seduce and educate a jaded public. [I predict that Mr. Cameron will do some pretty interesting things in regards to space exploration before all is said and done.]

Life Sciences in the 21st Century (The Scientist, registration)
Collaboration, complexity are on the rise, and standardization of tools will speed progress:
In many ways the laboratory tools we use today may remind us of computers in the late 1970s. In those days, systems were mostly incompatible and were dedicated to specific tasks. When the first personal computers emerged, these systems were integrated: "Cut and paste" became ubiquitous, and it became possible to share and compare data over multiple and geographically dispersed platforms. A main driver for development was the standardization of the interfaces and communication protocols were standardized. The more complex and interrelated the applications, the more important it becomes that as much analytical risk as possible is removed, allowing various data contents to be compared and exchanged.
Robotics In War: Technology v. morality (Seattle PI)
As in medicine, our skill at creating technology is outpacing our ability to grasp its ethical application. This time, the gap between ingenuity and morality is on the battlefield. We are all but ready to build robots to fight our wars but far from prepared to resolve the cadre of attendant ethical questions. Science fiction has a way of becoming more science than fiction. Decades ago, Isaac Asimov wrote "I, Robot." Today, the Pentagon's Future Combat Systems project is spending $127 billon to create artificial-intelligence warriors. According to a recent New York Times story, these silicon soldiers will at first be remote-controlled. But over time they will be endowed with increasing autonomy.

UN sees 40% rise in world population by 2050 (Globe & Mail)
The world's population will increase by 40 per cent to 9.1 billion in 2050, but virtually all the growth will be in the developing world, especially in the 50 poorest countries, the UN Population Division said. In a report Thursday, the division said the population in less developed countries is expected to swell from 5.3 billion today to 7.8 billion in 2050. By contrast, the population of richer developed countries will remain mostly unchanged, at 1.2 billion.

Our Godless Constitution
(The Nation)
The United States was built not on Christian principles but rather on Enlightenment ones. God was a minor player to the Founding Fathers, Jesus was conspicuously absent.


  1. The happiness article from Prospect Magazine....OMG. What drivel! This guy goes on for page after page about this how happiness is so much more important than (say) health, or income. What a crock! He is as much as saying..."Here...lets just give everybody a nice "soma" holiday, and keep everybody nice and happy and productive". What a D**khead! How much did he get paid for that ejaculation? It was too much!

  2. Robotics in war...."It's perfectly logical to put machines at risk before humans, clearing minefields and performing guard duty in hostile locales. But if war can be fought virtually without loss of human soldiers' lives, it could jumble the entire strategic and political calculus of war.

    After all, the cataclysms at Hiroshima and Nagasaki long ago established the acceptable cost in enemy lives -- even enemy civilians -- to be paid for sparing the lives of American troops. Won't wars without casualties -- at least on our side -- be more alluring? Or will the chilling prospects of automated legions of fearless, bloodless, soulless killing machines have the same sobering effect that the devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki had, driving us to pursue peace in the face of the unacceptable new kind of war?" Hmmm....one is reminded of the Pope making crossbows illegal because it can kill Christians as easily as it can kill Muslims...or as some cynics would say...can kill noble knights as easily as peasants. Also the horrors Alfred Nobel went through as he perfected his explosives, and Henry Maxim, who was convinced that his machine gun would make war too terrible for mankind to engage in! Riiiiiight.

  3. And on the principle that I try not to comment on more than one issue per day.....here is the cut and paste from the US article. Tell me children, can you see the Eurocentric Politically Incorrect bias in this story? (more comments after the cut and paste....)
    Mr. Zlotnik said India's population will surpass China's in the coming decades because its fertility, currently at three children per woman, is higher than China's, estimated at 1.7 children per woman.

    In 2000-2005, fertility levels remained above 5 children per woman in 35 of the 148 developing countries, including 30 of the poorest nations. The pace of decline in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia was slower than anticipated.

    In southern Africa, the region with the highest AIDS prevalence, life expectancy has fallen from 62 years in 1995 to 48 years in 2000-2005, and is projected to decrease further to 43 years over the next decade before a slow recovery starts, it said.

    Thoraya Obaid, executive director of the UN Population Fund, said the new projections should spur more action to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and help couples freely determine the size of their families.

    “We must take more urgent action to promote access to reproductive health, including family planning, and fight HIV/AIDS to save millions of lives from AIDS and maternal death, as well as to reduce poverty in developing countries,” she said in a statement.

    In 2002 the Population Division had estimated global population in 2050 of 8.9 billion.

    What a remarkable statement. Must be running for office! The answer of course is to bring the developing world up to par with the developed world so that their fecundity too will fall naturally, instead, this silly woman trots out the theory that we (in the west) can somehow force birth control and other things to "fix the problem". Right.

  4. Anonymous7:10 PM

    What a great site
    » »


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