‘…And Dreamed Her Little Dreamy Dreams…’

The Mystery of Consciousness Continues — The New York Review of Books
“I do not just have a sequence of unrelated neutral qualitative states that could belong to anybody, but I have them as part of a coherent unity that is constitutive of and experienced as myself. So if consciousness is somehow always related to the self, then it seems natural to think that maybe the key to understanding the neurobiology of consciousness is by way of the neurobiology of the self.”
The Final Word On Life After Death — N.P.R.
“There simply is no controlled, experimental verifiable information to support either the “you rot” vs. “you go on” positions. In the absence of said information we are all free to believe as we like but, I would argue, it behooves us to remember that truly “public” knowledge on the subject – the kind science exemplifies – remains in short supply.”
Prizefighting And The Limits Of Agnosticism — N.P.R.
“It is like asking for the boxer to prove his credentials as a champion before the fight, forgetting that only the fight’s outcome can legitimize the title. And so with truth. It is the theory’s explanatory power — its ability to deal with the evidence, its being supported by the evidence — that gives us reason to support it, that gives us reason to believe it.”
Physics and the Immortality of the Soul — Cosmic Variance
“Claims that some form of consciousness persists after our bodies die and decay into their constituent atoms face one huge, insuperable obstacle: the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood, and there’s no way within those laws to allow for the information stored in our brains to persist after we die. If you claim that some form of soul persists beyond death, what particles is that soul made of? What forces are holding it together? How does it interact with ordinary matter?”

This Was My* Idea, I Swear!

The Case For Performance-Enhancing Drugs In Sports – Matthew Herper — The Medicine Show – Forbes: “To me, the most obvious solution has always been to legalize those drugs that work, and to experimentally monitor new entrants, including dietary supplements, for both efficacy and safety. Biological improvement would be treated much as athletic equipment like baseball bats and running shoes.”

PROPOSED: An unlimited class for selected sports distinct from traditional leagues or divisions, wherein participants are free to use drugs, surgery or any other legal** means to gain a competitive advantage.

  1. All participants of said unlimited class would have to register their performance-enhancing techniques with a central administration.
  2. Participants would further have to submit to a regular suite of medical testing, designed in part to monitor their well-being but also to measure the efficacy of their methods.
  3. No other limits would be placed on their behavior.

From a practical standpoint, the unlimited class would be employed like an additional division within a competition, e.g. another weight class in weight lifting. Because unlimited-class athletes would be competing only against others in their unlimited class, events would technically have two winners: one in the unlimited class and one in the traditional class of competition. This might be the source of confusion at first, but over time, as unlimited-class performances diverge from traditional ones, it would likely become the subject of intense interest.


This system answers many of the typical objections to the legalization of drugs in sports, namely concerns about fairness and the mistrust of the public. By labeling athletes as, for instance, drug users from the beginning, you encode performances before they happen. Fans won’t have to wonder who is taking steroids because television announcers will be able to tell them — and which drugs they take.


It falls short, admittedly, of answering others. For one thing, it would potentially encourage athletes, especially young ones, to take avoidable health risks. For another, creating a flight of drug-using athletes obviously does nothing to prevent others from cheating. But what a medically-supervised unlimited class would do is build a growing, comprehensive database of performance-enhancing techniques, which arguably would lead not only to better antidoping protocols in traditional competitions, but also to a clearer view of which techniques are helpful and which are harmful. It would, in effect, be a continuous field trial for the myriad methods in use. And some of these could be developed for use in traditional competitions, to improve performance, speed up healing and ameliorate the deleterious health effects of a long-term sports career.


The idea of an unlimited class regrettably is a bold step away from the perceived principled foundations of sport that some say are corroded by the influence of, among other things, performance-enhancing drugs. But this is not a perception that should be encouraged. Indeed, very little done today by world sports governing bodies appears to be moving in a different direction. There are allegations of corruption, on and off the field, in every sport; the news media tends to emphasize the bad behaviors of athletes, but such antics are clearly not improving over time; and antidoping efforts seem at best to merely keep pace with the maneuvers of illegal users.


The concept of an unlimited class may seem like a cynical stroke, but what is more cynical than sports in the first place? If it’s possible, why not leverage that cynicism — and the deliciously ghoulish possibility of three-legged sprinters — to improve sports science. Test the depths of what is safe while clearing the way for what can be achieved.


* It isn’t “my” idea, but I did, in fact, have this as an “idea.” Though, not really even this idea.
** Legal for ordinary people in everyday circumstances. Human growth hormone, for instance, is legal in the United States with a prescription, but its use is proscribed by various sports governing bodies.

‘But Let’s Define the Term…’

7:41 PM Samantha
Nice job on the Costco size pack of gum.

7:42 PM John
My life is a prayer, in devotion to you.

7:42 PM Samantha
That is so sweet. That should be a banner on the blog, no?

7:43 PM John
Well, the blog is not a prayer to you. Just my life.

7:43 PM Samantha
Sigh. OK, I guess it would seem out of place then.

7:43 PM John
Don’t be sad.
Don’t be sad, because this seems bloggable. This just now. All that. From where you made the gum comment. To right about here.

7:45 PM Samantha
Can I yell, “Cut!” to signify that we’re done?

7:45 PM John
It doesn’t work like that. It’s my blog, you see. Your yelling is what we in the blogging business call “content.”

7:46 PM Samantha

Angry, Fat and Unhappy

Southern Mouths Too Busy to Smile | Site unseen: “It is, it seems, scientific proof that being fat and happy are not necessarily the same thing.”

Noticed, now, in three publications over the past two months: a (still) unrealized opportunity to construct an index measuring what appear to be correlated criterion. Call it the Miserable Obese Bastard (MOB) index, and observe the patterns visible in the succeeding maps:


From Flowing Data, linking to an article in The Atlantic.


From Scientific American on March 8, 2011, linking to research by the Centers for Disease Control.


And this whimsical number from the March 5, 2011, editions of The New York Times.

For starters, the estimated MOB* numbers for the Southeast are off the charts, with the axis of slack-jawed yokelism rooted firmly in the soft ground of Mississippi (a MOB of 24, the highest possible) and spreading like a Cheeto across the Deep South. The bland beige of malaise seems to match perfectly with the deep, fatty maroons of overeating and the bruised purples of hate.

Before a bright mind is able to expound on this, dissonance intervenes. In the north-central plains, the angry stain of Montana corresponds, as in the South, with dark, spotty clots of fatties. But, curiously, Montana’s well-being is still a lusty shade of sweet potato, leaving it with a comparatively mild MOB of about 5 (i.e. angry and fat, but not as miserable). And consider Montana’s neighbor North Dakota. Its MOB of minus-10 or so indicates a healthy balance to its pockets of seething and slurping.

* (hate-group rate) + (percent of adults with diabetes) – (2 x an adjusted well-being index).

‘A Senseless Slaughter of Sea Snails’

The Rights of the Living Dead | Site unseen: “I understand we’re dealing in unrealities, and many things can be explained by twists of mutant biology.”

Vanity allows me to refer to myself, above, and I observe, on a related note, that many movie monsters are not monstrous at all. The giant, radioactive sea snails in the 1957 motion picture “The Monster That Challenged the World,” which was broadcast by TCM on May 21, are a case in point. These molluskan marvels are spawned by an underwater earthquake that jolts them out of a prehistoric cryptobiosis — a little like a packet of Sea Monkeysarriving in a mailbox.


Who can blame a lonely sea snail?

The ungainly plot of this film, directed by Arnold Laven, introduces our oozing antagonists lolling in California’s singular Salton Sea, where they are discovered after one of their number ill-advisedly makes a meal out of an unsuspecting sailor. The Navy reacts, perhaps predictably, with equal measures of curiosity and severity, snitching a sea snail egg for further study before apparently caving in the snail lair with depth charges. The snails, perhaps just as predictably, find a way out and are poised, we are led to believe, to turn all of Southern California into a sun-soaked, slime-dripping rock aquarium of doom.


A modern viewer is compelled to ask, can these creatures actually “challenge the world”? The snails themselves are slow-moving and massive, with pincers, caterpillerlike limbs and a grating habit of squirting foam everywhere they go. They appear less of a practical hazard to able, ambulatory humans and more a zoological curiosity, if not merely an unusual environmental pest. They are not even dangerously radioactive. In sum, they appear to be no more dangerous to a landbound spectator than a pod of killer whales, and these are regularly exhibited to tourists. Killer whales are known to attack their trainers, of course. But the snails in the film do most of their marauding only after harsh provocations, e.g. the kidnapping of the (impossibly large) egg, the depth-charge attack, etc. Most of the horror evinced by their appearance and actions would be ameliorated by familiarity or distance.


I could get behind the sea snail hysteria fostered in the movie by the Navy and the local sheriff’s office if I was truly afraid. But this is a case of snails being snails, protecting their young and trying to defend their homes with the same sense of community that the human protagonists appeal to in (spoiler!) snuffing them out. In the absence of some amplification of the overall threat (e.g. poisonous foam, bulletproof shells, superquick reflexes, etc.), I confess that my sympathies lie with the snails. And I am compelled to wonder, as a senseless slaughter of sea snails unfolds throughout the movie, what scientific advances would have been forthcoming from a careful and humane examination of their habits.


Others said:

“ ‘A giant snail’s attacking! Run!’ I mean…‘A giant snail’s attacking… WALK BRISKLY!’ ”
Cool Ass Cinema
“One of the best ever titles for a monster movie is also wholly deceptive. [stuff deleted] A shame none of that happens over the course of the movies 84 minute running time.”
1,000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“Now if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all the monster movies I’ve watched over the years, it’s that atomic power and earthquakes are a bad mix.”
“Members of the Navy should wear a fishing bobber tied to a hundred feet of line. That way, after a ship sinks, you could find the spot.”

A Blog Is Born

6:59 PM John
I learned something today.

7:00 PM Samantha
What’s that?

7:00 PM John
If you take a handful of nuts, eat a banana and then have a shot of Reddi-Wip for dessert, your burps taste like banana-nut muffins all day.

7:01 PM Samantha
You know, I could have made it through my day without knowing that. Also, that sounds like a horrible combination.

7:01 PM John

7:15 PM Samantha
Wonderful …

11:25 PM John
I will have to let you know how that sandwich comes out.

11:29 PM Samantha
seriously, what is wrong with you …

11:30 PM John
Nothing. What is wrong with you?

11:30 PM Samantha

12:23 AM John
It’s too bad this chat setup doesn’t save all the words in a file someplace.

12:23 AM Samantha
It really, really is. What a shame.