The Flatiron and such.


Good Vibrations

We are reluctant, and we mean that, to report that researchers have stumbled upon what they are calling a potentially effective, inexpensive and (mostly) harmless method of male birth control, really a holy grail of sorts for contraception.

  • Of course, by “stumbled upon” what they really mean is that researchers have known about this simple treatment for four decades and, presumably because it is so much easier to let women worry about birth control, are only getting around to it now.
  • Of course, by “inexpensive,” what they really mean is that now they think they can finally make some money off the idea.
  • And, of course, by “(mostly) harmless” what they really mean is that it certainly seems that way when you are doing it to laboratory rats.

But it is science, so let us give them a break. It turns out that if you apply 1 to 3 megahertz of ultrasound — that is on the low end of what would be experienced by a pregnant woman — to a man’s saline-soaked jubblies, you end up seriously discombobulating the “boys.” In clinical terms, this is referred to as depleting the “spermatocytes and spermatids” and reducing the “epididymal sperm reserves.” In real life, we’re guessing, you would just feel silly having your squirrel food snug in someone’s laboratory equipment.

But kinectically activating the kanakas is no sophomoric joke. It thins the duck butter to just 3 million fighting men per load. That might seem like a lot, but researchers refer to it as a “Sperm Index Count of zero,” which you have to admit sounds pretty good for birth control you could (not really) rig up from a dollar-an-hour motel bed. Judgy doctors usually tell you that you have a low sperm count if it drops under 20 million per milliliter, which obviously is a case of swollen apples to distended oranges.

Anyway, the optimal magic-finger treatment for the love apples, in turns out, is two 15-minute sessions of “3 MHz ultrasound at 2.2 Watt per square cm” with a two-day breather in between. In other words, not much different from what doctors tell old men before they go to Vegas.

Researchers are not totally convinced, of course. A few things have to be checked out first, including, not surprisingly, the potential long-term effects of vibrating your clangers, and whether this whole thing can be turned around so women have to do it instead.

via RB&E | Abstract | Therapeutic ultrasound as a potential male contraceptive: power, frequency and temperature required to deplete rat testes of meiotic cells and epididymides of sperm determined using a commercially available system and Sonicating sperm — the future of male contraception.

Navy Is Smaller; Prisons Are Bigger

Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States. The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that.

via Mass Incarceration and Criminal Justice in America : The New Yorker.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

TDCS uses electrodes placed on the outside of the head to pass tiny currents across regions of the brain for 20 minutes or so. The currents of 1–2 mA make it easier for neurons in these brain regions to fire. It is thought that this enhances the making and strengthening of connections involved in learning and memory. The technique is painless, all indications at the moment are that it is safe, and the effects can last over the long term.

via The ethics of brain boosting – University of Oxford.

New York City Still Uses Typewriters

The last city contract for typewriters, issued five years ago, cost the city $320,000 and is set to expire soon. Eighteen agencies use the machines, city officials said.

via New York City offices still use typewriters for filling out official forms and plan to buy more –

‘Relaxing to Death’

Lavigne died in a hospital after she and eight others in a personal-development seminar called Dying in Consciousness were covered with mud, wrapped in plastic, put under blankets and immobilized with their heads in card-board boxes for about nine hours, under instructions to hyperventilate.Lavigne was removed, un-conscious and with a body temperature of 40.5 degrees Celsius

via Quebec woman was cooked to death at spa, coroner says.

10:12 p.m. , John
Where does this [see above excerpt] rate on your list of Ways You Do Not Want to Die? Some people really need to relax, Sam.

10:17 p.m., Samantha
Relaxing to death. Listen the seminar had the word Death in it. I think that’s your own bad if, well, you actually die.

10:17 p.m. , John
I think it said, Dying.

10:18 p.m., Samantha
Really, you’re going to split that hair: death, die, dying, none of it ends well.

10:18 p.m. , John
Just let it be an End!

10:19 p.m., Samantha
That could be a seminar on its own: Just Let It Be an End. ..… At any rate, I’m not ranking this because one should know that this sounds ridiculous, and certainly more harmful than helpful. Ha!

10:19 p.m. , John
You ranked, Death by sea snail!

10:19 p.m., Samantha
On the off (off, off) chance it could happen. Not a shot in hell I would agree to this.

10:20 p.m. , John
So, it is No. 1? Or 6? Or what?

10:21 p.m., Samantha
Don’t push me. I’ll tell you what it is, though. It’s the most expensive thing on the list: “Lavigne apparently completed 85 sessions and paid more than $18,900.”

10:21 p.m. , John
This isn’t pushing; it’s science.

10:22 p.m., Samantha
You know how I feel about science, anything I can do to help.

11:11 p.m., Samantha
Let’s say you read all that other stuff, and yet, somehow, you’re still interested. How does this not make you think, you know what, maybe this could end badly: “under instructions to hyperventilate.”

11:11 p.m., John
You make a good point. A solid point. This is not advisable. But maybe you go to the spa for the wine cleanse, and then end up in the wrong line. Before you can say, Chardonnay, you are wrapped up to your whatsis in heavy blankets and Glad bags.

11:15 p.m., Samantha
See, that would be two different waiver claims, and then that is on the spa. But it would seem to me a wine cleanse would never be at the same spa as the death march. Never.

11:16 p.m., John
Perhaps. But it was worth asking.


Yet influential people on both sides of the Atlantic heaped praise on the prophets of austerity, Mr. Cameron in particular, because the doctrine of expansionary austerity dovetailed with their ideological agendas.

via The Austerity Debacle. –

…merely spending more money that the government doesn’t have is hardly a solution in the absence of a broader plan, an inspiring vision, and a bigger narrative that explains how not only more spending but a rejiggering of budget priorities will help.

via Stimulus vs. Austerity: An Unsettled Debate.

You Aren’t Who You Think You Are

…each hemisphere of the brain exercises free will independently when surgeons cut the corpus callosum. Gazzaniga discovered this with a simple experiment. When he flashed the word “WALK” in the right hemisphere of split-brain patients they walked out of the room. But when he asked them why they walked out all responded with a trivial remark such as, “To go to the bathroom” or “To get a Coke.” Here’s where things got weird. When he flashed a chicken in patients’ left hemisphere in the right visual field and a wintry scene in their right hemisphere in the left visual field, and asked them to select a picture that goes with what they saw, he found that their left hand correctly pointed to a snow shovel and their right hand correctly pointed to a chicken. However, when the patients were asked to explain why they pointed at the pictures they responded with something like, “That’s easy. The shovel is for cleaning up the chicken.”

via “Who’s There?” Is The Self A Convenient Fiction? | Why We Reason.

Here Is Another Theory

Three decades on, scholars and fans are still trying to decipher this puzzle of a film directed by Stanley Kubrick. To them it’s only ostensibly about an alcoholic father, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) going more than stir crazy while his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and son, Danny, try to cope in an isolated hotel, the Overlook. Mr. Kubrick was famously averse to offering explanations of his films — “I have found it always the best policy to allow the film to speak for itself,” he once wrote — which has led to a mind-boggling array of theories about just what he was up to.

via ‘Room 237,’ Documentary With Theories About ‘The Shining’ –

Here is another theory: Maybe Kubrick did not know what the hell he was doing.

Update (Feb. 6, 2011):

[Q:] Why did you change the end and dispense with the destruction of the hotel? [A:] To be honest, the end of the book seemed a bit hackneyed to me and not very interesting.

via The Kubrick Site: Kubrick speaks in regard to The Shining.