Monday, April 25, 2011

split brains prove sperry prove jaynes prove gurdjieff...,- Redux

Video - Karen Byrne's split brains have independent minds of their own.

BBCNews | Karen's problem was caused by a power struggle going on inside her head. A normal brain consists of two hemispheres which communicate with each other via the corpus callosum.

The left hemisphere, which controls the right arm and leg, tends to be where language skills reside. The right hemisphere, which controls the left arm and leg, is largely responsible for spatial awareness and recognising patterns.

Usually the more analytical left hemisphere dominates, having the final say in the actions we perform.

The discovery of hemispherical dominance has its roots in the 1940s, when surgeons first decided to treat epilepsy by cutting the corpus callosum. After they had recovered, the patients appeared normal. But in psychology circles they became legends.

That is because these patients would, in time, reveal something that to me is truly astonishing - the two halves of our brains each contain a kind of separate consciousness. Each hemisphere is capable of its own independent will.

Brain experiments
The man who did many of the experiments that first proved this was neurobiologist, Roger Sperry.

In a particularly striking experiment, which he filmed, we can watch one of the split brain patients trying to solve a puzzle. The puzzle required rearranging blocks so they matched the pattern on a picture.

First the man tried solving it with his left hand (controlled by the right hemisphere), and that hand was pretty good at it.

Then Sperry asked the patient to use his right hand (controlled by the left hemisphere). And this hand clearly did not have a clue what to do. So the left hand tried to help, but the right hand did not want help, so they ended up fighting like two young children.

Experiments like this led Sperry to conclude that "each hemisphere is a conscious system in its own right, perceiving, thinking, remembering, reasoning, willing, and emoting".

In 1981 Sperry received a Nobel prize for his work.

self comes to mind; constructing the conscious brain - Redux

Guardian | Brains are by no means the only game in town; bacteria and plants of course flourish quite well without, and will probably outlive humans. But our ancestors took a different route, building bigger and more complex brains. Within such brains neurons communicate with each other by myriad connections. These fluctuating patterns can form representations of both the external world and the body state of the organism that owns them. Such brains enable their possessors to learn and remember, to recognise the present in the context of the immediate past and the imminent future. To Damasio this means that they are, or possess, selves. In animals with big brains, emotions – mere bodily responses – become translated into feelings, and with feelings, a mind – "a subtle flowing combination of actual images and recalled images in ever-changing proportions" – emerges from the brain. Many large-brained creatures thus have minds, however alien they may be to our own. But consciousness emerges only when – to quote the book's title – self comes to mind, so that in key brain regions, the representational maps of sensory experience intersect with the encoded experiences of past that self provides. This, enabled by the evolution of language, makes possible autobiographical memory – the narrative of our lives that we humans all possess and which is the basis for consciousness.

This, briefly summarised, is the latest version of Damasio's theory. The story is told in prose of intermittently easygoing lucidity, but his primary training as a neurologist compels him into passages of detailed neuro-anatomy, locating brain regions functionally responsible for enabling particular aspects of consciousness. But which bits of the brain might be involved, though of passionate concern to neuroscientists, isn't the crucial issue – which is whether Damasio has thereby solved what has been called the "hard problem" of consciousness studies by relating third-person "objective" accounts to first-person subjectivity. I fear that however convincing his evolutionary story may be, simply to state that these brain processes translate into mental experience leaves us, despite some very elegant hand-waving, exactly where we were before. And herein lies the paradox of the book's subtitle. Brains are not conscious; people are. Our brains enable our consciousness, just as our legs enable our walking, as the anthropologist Tim Ingold has pointed out. But to attribute the property of a whole to that of a part is to commit what philosophers refer to as the mereological fallacy (one that I confess I have not been entirely innocent of in my own writings).

In everyday thought and speech we have reasons, intentions, feelings. In brainspeak we have synapses, firing patterns, neurotransmitters. For the mechanical materialist, the latter causes the former – and in his routine use of causal language Damasio reveals himself as just that. This is why the weakest part of the book is the concluding chapters, where he extends his central principle of homeostasis to embrace human history, society and culture. But it is possible to be a non-reductionist materialist. The language of mind and consciousness relates to the language of brains and synapses as English does to Italian; one may translate into the other, though always with some loss of cultural resonance. But we do not have to assign primacy to either. Long may pluralism reign, and we conscious beings continue to employ our minds and brains to enhance our understanding of both.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

small town insurgency: the struggle for information dominance

Monterrey Herald | A Naval Postgraduate School study applying counterinsurgency theories to Salinas gang violence has come up with some startling conclusions: Street gangs control and exploit information better than law enforcement, giving them an "information advantage" that city officials must work to overcome.

After lengthy surveys of Salinas police, residents and city employees, three insurgency experts studying at NPS argue that superior control of the flow of intelligence — whether by the gangs or the authorities — will determine who comes out ahead.

For the city to win, the report concludes, a lot will have to change in the relationship between police and residents.

The masters' thesis, "Small Town Insurgency: The Struggle For Information Dominance to Reduce Gang Violence," was written by NPS researchers Laurence H. Arnold and Christopher W. O'Gwin — both U.S. Army majors — and Jeremy S. Vickers, a major in the U. S. Air Force.

The 272-page document was published in December but not distributed to the public until this month. The public version had to be slightly redacted to remove sensitive police information, said Rebecca Lorentz of NPS, who last month presented highlights of the authors' findings to the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace in Salinas.

Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue said he's thrilled to have the help of staff and students at the naval school in tackling the city's youth violence.

"Think about it," he said. Fist tap ProfGeo.

chernobyl: consequences of the catastrophe for people and the environment

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

the first principle is that you must not fool yourself

NewScientist | OUR closest cousins' mental agility has been cast into doubt. Chimps seem curiously unable to use their own initiative to gain the best possible reward if this means behaving in a different way to a dominant group member.

Lydia Hopper of Georgia State University in Atlanta trained a dominant female chimp to exchange one of two types of token for a chunk of carrot. This female was then housed with five subordinate chimps, and they quickly learned to ape her reward-receiving style. But the rules of the game had changed: now, alongside the carrot-giving first token, the second token was worth a better prize of grapes.

But despite four of the chimps exchanging the second token type for grapes while they were learning to get rewards, they all reverted to only exchanging the first token type for carrots- the method the dominant chimp used throughout the experiment (Animal Behaviour, DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.03.002).

Hopper is not convinced that this behaviour means that chimps are less clever than we thought. "Copying what a dominant group member does could help the chimps to maintain alliances," she says, much like the way humans follow fashion trends.

This research answers those of us who have wondered why some people who benefit from gov't health care also run around crying "Get Gov. Healthcare off my back". Both the chimps, and the people crying "Get Gov. Healthcare off my back," are driven by the phenomena we call "pecking order" "dominance" "social hierarchy" etc. I think we resist observing evidence of subservience because it casts a shadow over our foolish but irresistible notion that we are individuals with a free will. Hopper delicately suggests that the chimps changed their actions to "maintain alliances." Maintaining alliances sounds a bit like clever decision-making - evidence, I suggest, that Hopper is driven by an emotional preference for this less-likely but more comfortable explanation. A major reason Capitalism won and Socialism lost is that Socialism proposed that humans act in a kind and rational fashion. People who consider themselves rational often refuse to even acknowledge their own irrationality. Meanwhile, Capitalism funneled the whole gamut of human motivations into a mean spirited, but very successful social order.

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." ~ Feynman

Saturday, April 23, 2011

high resolution photographic proof that the reactor core exploded at Fukushima unit 3

LucasWhitfieldHixson | I was looking at the high resolution photos taken of the Fukushima complex a few weeks ago, and looking at the shots of unit 3 in particular (the 2nd and 5th photos show it best) - because it was the one using the MOX fuel and was also the one most severely damaged by the hydrogen explosions. I'm sure you guys at UCS have already seen these shots, the link is here:

A few days later I came across an article on the disaster over there that had a good cut away diagram of the reactor buildings (click on diagram to enlarge)

I was struck by the location of the spent fuel pool on the third floor. (The spent fuel pool in the diagram is in the upper right corner of the building to the right of the top of the reactor, below the yellow beam, which is below the large orange girders.Part of the pool is cut away in the diagram, it appears to extend most of the way across about half of the building on the third floor) I went back to the site with the aerial photos and confirmed that the third floor was pretty much entirely obliterated in the explosion. The spent fuel pool is gone... see for yourself.

Today I had another look at the diagram, and noticed something else quite significant that I had missed before. I realized that the top of the primary containment vessel was flush with the floor level of the 4th floor, and that the top of the reactor itself was in the space between the 3rd and 4th floors, partially surrounded by the spent fuel pool.

Look at those photos again, particularly the 5th shot. At the top of the photo you see the skeletal remnants of the wall of the 3rd and 4th floors. It is easy to see the floor level of the third floor - there are two massive steam pipes running behind and below the building...the lower edge of the lower pipe is almost perfectly aligned with the floor level of the 3rd floor. Follow the floor line of the third floor down down from that back wall along the right side of the building, then across the front side of the building near the bottom of the photo. That shows you the floor level of the 3rd floor very clearly, right? There is nothing but air remaining above that level, except for a bit of roof debris which you can see through. The top of the primary containment vessel, as well as the top of the reactor itself, is simply GONE.

Even to a layperson, it is obvious that this means that the huge hydrogen explosion at unit 3 must have occurred in the reactor itself, and that the entire top of the reactor containment vessel was obliterated, ejecting the contents of the core - as well as the spent fuel pool- into the atmosphere.

This means, obviously, that significant quantities of plutonium were released, and that the release of radiation from unit 3 alone must be many times higher than has been admitted for the entire complex - Chernobyl pales in comparison.

It is apparent that Tepco, the NRC, and the Japanese and American government officials, among others, are participating in a coverup of the extent and severity of this disaster. This almost certainly applies to the blandly misleading assurances about the harmlessness of the fallout on US soil. The whistle must be blown, loud and clear.

fukushima fallout - the hardline before reactor 3 exploded

Video - Dr Helen Caldicott, true to style, tells it like it is.

fukushima strontium and plutonium bombarding west coast since mid-March

Friday, April 22, 2011

the monolith for killer-ape dominated magical-thinking monkeys...,

Video - Paul Stamets advanced theories on mushrooms influence.

Video - Bear experiences mushroom and loves it.

Video - Monolith and the Dawn of Killer Apes

everything else is obfuscation and ignorant conversation...,

Video - Chariots of the Gods

Video - The Pharmacratic Inquisition.

japan, oil, and the fragility of globalization (urbanization)

The Tyee | The Catholic theologian Ivan Illich once noted (and yes, he is the inspiration for this eclectic column) that societies that consume large amounts of energy (and especially imported energy) ultimately lose their flexibility and robustness to a web of authoritarian complexity such as the Tokyo Electricity Corporation. It is, afterall, the world's fourth largest utility and a consortium of liars to boot.

After the quake, Japan's big energy dilemma remains the same: how can a nation unsustainably fashioned by a flood of cheap oil (less than $20) 40 years ago, reboot or rebuild now that oil exceeds a $100 a barrel?

This arresting drama has a science fiction-like quality because Japan reflects both our petroleum pasts and our energy futures. It is the world's petroleum everyman. In many ways Japan's fate is our collective fate.

By any measure oil, probably the island's longest Kabuki performance, has transformed Japan more than any of Mother Nature's regular energizers including typhoons, fires, volcanoes and yes, rousing earthquakes.

Yet the magnitude of the Japanese quake was a reminder that the Green Gal not only bats last and hardest but whenever she damn well pleases.

In real terms the Sendai earthly adjustment generated about 476 megatons of energy. (The Russians exploded the world's biggest hydrogen bomb, "Big Ivan," in 1961 and it contained 50 megatons of power.) So the Sendai shake-up was equivalent to a man-made underwater nuclear storm created by 10 of the world's largest hydrogen bombs.

The megatons released by the quake, of course, impressed YouTube watchers. It shifted the entire island of Japan by 2.4 metres and lowered the coastline by a meter. It also moved the earth's axis several centimeters and shortened the length of the day.

The tectonic rattling created giant waves that swept more than 10,000 people and homes out to sea and destroyed most of the energy infrastructure of northeastern Japan including harbors, airports and refineries. Even Tokyo's iconic electronic blackboards have stopped flickering.

But this sudden devastation is almost modest compared to the slow-moving Godzilla of petroleum. For nearly 50 years Japan has gobbled oil in order to build a highly complex consumer culture where Mecha-toilets wash, dry and even perfume your privates like Roman slaves.

Japan, third biggest oil user
Even today the oil-less country remains the world's third largest importer of petroleum at 4 million barrels a day. (That's double Canada's tar sands production.) All in all it gets nearly 50 per cent of its primary energy needs from oil, which account for nearly a third of all exports in value. About 90 per cent of these barrels hail from the Mideast, where petro states are experiencing a series of democratic tremors.

Japan's extreme dependence on crude explains why an astute and clever nation built 55 nuclear facilities on the Ring of Fire during the oil shocks of the 1970s. This highly subsidized form of atomic gambling used to provide 30 per cent of the nation's power and dominated the politics of the nation's 10 regional electrical monopolies. The investment also explains why the country has the largest national debt of almost any major economic superpower other than the United States.

But Japan's oil addiction and nuclear woes has also shown the world what the energy status quo doesn't want ordinary people to see: the social limits of growing energy consumption.

A petro-fueled boom

Japan's oil story, which economists once dubbed "the Japanese miracle," reads a lot like the modern Chinese boom. Before the petroleum age, Japan ran on rice, peasants and human labor. The majority of the people lived in country villages. Most importantly, the island's population never climbed above 25 million.

But fossil fuels broke all previous chains and taboos. Although the population boom started in the 1900s with coal, it really accelerated with cheap oil in the 1950s. Just two decades later Japan became the 10th most populated place on earth with 125 million people. Rural migrants arrived in booming cities where they traded in their traditions, oxen and family ties for "the three C's": a car, a cooler and a colour television.

Incredibly, Japan's oil miracle concentrated 79 million Japanese or 70 per cent of the population in 209 complex urban centers. The world now knows what an earthquake and tsunami can make of such oil-drenched hubris.

But cheap oil did more than concentrate power and people. Oil allowed Japan, a nation with few resources, to import oodles of raw goods and turn them into electronic gadgets and cars for global export. The more oil that Japan consumed, the higher its GDP rose. At one point it boasted the second highest GDP in the world proving, once again, that economic growth is all about oil consumption.

Thanks to surplus profits generated by its oil miracle, Japan built speed trains, factories and bridges, and hosted the Olympics in the 1960s. Whenever the pollution got unbearable, people just wore gas masks to work.

The island also got addicted to "buy" recommendations and automobiles. The famous economist Hirofumi Uzawa outlined the social costs by noting that between 1966 and 1975 careless drivers killed more than 10,000 people a year.

Oil, too, changed the Japanese diet. Out went locally grown rice, vegetables and fish and in came imported meat, fat and grains. Today Japan is the least self-sufficient of any industrial nation. Without oil-drenched imports from China, Australia, Canada and the United States, the Japanese would starve. Or be forced to live like 19th century Irishmen on potatoes.

In 2008 the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries produced a lively animated feature about Japan's food insecurity. It portrays the corrosive power of oil with child-like clarity. The film noted that Japanese consumers, the world's largest net importers of food, still threw out more edible stuff each year than what "the entire world" contributed to food aide.

By the 1980s Japan Inc. looked like it was going to take over the world, empty the oceans of fish, and monopolize many of the world's resources. Tokyo even set itself up as world's third largest financial centre.

writing on the wall from 2001

NI Japan | The world annual extraction ("production") of conventional oil looks set to peak sometime between 2005 and 2010. This does not mean that oil will "run out," but that it will no longer be cheap. Why? After the peak, extraction volumes will fall by 3% to 6% per year, but in order to maintain or stimulate economic growth, world demand for oil will continue to rise.

Demand will therefore outstrip supply. We can expect not only price hikes, but also "oil shocks," supply disruptions, and resource wars for the control of the remaining oil reserves.

Natural gas will help keep the economies running for a little longer. The world peak of natural gas extraction is expected to occur somewhere around 2020 to 2025. That means that the peak for all hydrocarbons (all fossil fuels except coal) will occur sometime around 2010 to 2015. However, the extraction peak of conventional oil will be a major event, firstly because of its huge share in world primary energy consumption (about 40%) and secondly because of its versatility as a fuel. On this second point, as a fairly clean-burning, liquid fuel, oil provides an easy-to-handle, cheap, and efficient fuel for transportation, heating, electricity generation and so on. It is also the basis of the petrochemical industry, where it is the raw material for over 500,000 everyday chemicals such as paints, glues, plastics, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals and so on. Although natural gas (perhaps with less CO2 emissions and pollution) and coal (with more CO2 emissions and pollution) can take over some of the roles of oil, these are very limited in their usefulness in the chemical industry. Oil is the basis of our advanced consumerist lifestyle, and was the driving force behind the economic engine of prosperity in the 20th century. Increasing difficulty in obtaining cheap and abundant supplies of oil spell the beginning of the end of the consumerist party.

Japan's Precarious Energy Lifeline
What does this mean for Japan? Japan's oil lifeline extends over 12,000 km from the Middle East. Japan is over 85% dependent on the Middle East for oil. 67% of Japan's natural gas supplies come from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. (Japan's primary energy consumption is about 53% oil and 11% natural gas.) When oil prices leap following the peak of world extraction, prices of all energy forms will rise sharply as demand shifts in order meet requirements. For a time, Japan will have financial resources to buy oil, natural gas, and coal, but as the economy slumps (lack of energy means less production, fewer exports) this will become increasingly difficult. Supply disruptions will be inevitable, or perhaps regional wars will make shipping impossible, resulting in a once-and-for-all termination of oil and natural gas supplies to Japan.

Japanese newspapers have carried articles recently about natural gas supplies from Sakhalin via pipeline to Hokkaido and Honshu. The plan calls for deliveries of gas to begin in 2008 and for 7.5 million tons to be delivered each year for 30 years. Fine until you know that Japan's current imports of natural gas are over 50 million tons per year. 7.5 million tons of natural gas amounts to about 1.5% of Japan's current primary energy supply. Perhaps nuclear power can help Japan maintain her economy. The problem here is that nuclear power probably could not exist without cheap energy inputs from oil or natural gas. Uranium mining and refining, nuclear fuel manufacture, nuclear power plant construction, treatment and/or storage of nuclear waste all require energy, and most of these things are more easily carried out using oil than any other energy source. I would estimate that nuclear power could not operate in Japan for much more than a year following termination of oil supplies to this country. Effectively, this could mean the collapse of society as we know it now.

You are surely not thinking that the current Japanese economy can be run on wind turbines, solar panels, and hydroelectricity?! If we were now "banking" currently cheap oil into the manufacture of turbines, panels, hydroelectric generators and so on, these might then be used to provide some very basic services (lighting, pumps for water systems) but not very much more. But we're not, and after the end of cheap fossil energy, it will become very difficult to manufacture these items.

An idea originally proposed by Buckminster Fuller in the 1930s, a Global Energy Grid, may make a bit more sense. Large areas of solar panel arrays, wind turbines, and so on, could be located in deserts, coasts or mountainous areas, and the electricity generated there transmitted by international grid to populated areas. If there were a cheap and easy way of making a superconductive grid (at present there isn't), transmission losses could be held to a minimum, but the plan would still be feasible with an ordinary electrical grid. There are of course the usual problems of international cooperation to be solved, and you would be justified in being skeptical about whether this would work in an energy-short world. Presumably, Japan would receive electricity from the Chinese deserts via the grid across the Tsushima Strait, again placing Japan at the terminus of a long and precarious energy lifeline.

Another problem: Manufacturing and Food also Depend on Oil
Electricity is a wonderfully versatile energy carrier. But you have to make the equipment to generate it, construct the grid to distribute it, and then when you have it coming into your house or factory you have to have the machinery or appliances to run on it. That means these machines and appliances (including electric cars or the facilities for producing hydrogen for fuel cells) also have to be manufactured. All of this requires energy for extraction of the raw materials and their transformation into final products. How much electricity will remain for actually running the machines? Precious little, perhaps. In practice this will mean that the machines and appliances will have to be limited in number and performance. Hopefully, they would be more efficient, but it does not look like household appliances will be anywhere near as universal as they are today. I do not mean by this that renewable energy (either on a large or a small, local scale) is a waste of time. What I am saying is that there will be major adjustments in lifestyle.

Readers in Japan will by now have noticed another problem. A severe energy crunch will not only make life hard by affecting transport, lighting, heating, water supplies, and electricity supplies, it will make it hard to eat. Japan is the world's largest importer of food. Only about 40% of food calories consumed here are produced in this country. This can probably be raised quite quickly to 50% or 60% by elimination of luxuries (cultivation of flowers and some fruits and vegetables) and by bringing abandoned farmland or other suitable land (golf courses?) under cultivation. However, in the event of disruption or termination of international food trade (quite possible as the result of a world energy shortage) it will be very hard indeed to feed Japan's 120-something million people on domestic resources alone.

big brothers tell their employees how to vote

The Nation | On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them on whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.

The Nation obtained the Koch Industries election packet for Washington State—which included a cover letter from its president and COO, David Robertson; a list of Koch-endorsed state and federal candidates; and an issue of the company newsletter, Discovery, full of alarmist right-wing propaganda.

Legal experts interviewed for this story called the blatant corporate politicking highly unusual, although no longer skirting the edge of legality, thanks to last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which granted free speech rights to corporations.

“Before Citizens United, federal election law allowed a company like Koch Industries to talk to officers and shareholders about whom to vote for, but not to talk with employees about whom to vote for,” explains Paul M. Secunda, associate professor of law at Marquette University. But according to Secunda, who recently wrote in The Yale Law Journal Online about the effects of Citizens United on political coercion in the workplace, the decision knocked down those regulations. “Now, companies like Koch Industries are free to send out newsletters persuading their employees how to vote. They can even intimidate their employees into voting for their candidates.” Secunda adds, “It’s a very troubling situation.”

The Kochs were major supporters of the Citizens United case; they were also chief sponsors of the Tea Party and major backers of the anti-“Obamacare” campaign. Through their network of libertarian think tanks and policy institutes, they have been major drivers of unionbusting campaigns in Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere.

“This sort of election propaganda seems like a new development,” says UCLA law professor Katherine Stone, who specializes in labor law and who reviewed the Koch Industries election packet for The Nation. “Until Citizens United, this sort of political propaganda was probably not permitted. But after the Citizens United decision, I can imagine it’ll be a lot more common, with restrictions on corporations now lifted.”

Thursday, April 21, 2011

the blurred reality of humanity

The Independent | If you can be sure of one thing, then surely it is that you exist. Even if the world were a dream or a hallucination, it would still need you to be dreaming or hallucinating it. And if you know nothing else about yourself, surely you know that you have a mind, one perspective on the world, one unified consciousness?

Yet throughout history, there has been no shortage of people claiming that the self doesn't exist after all, and that the individual ego is an illusion. And such claims are no longer the preserve of meditators and mystics. The only disagreement many scientists would have with philosopher Thomas Metzinger's claim that "modern philosophy of mind and cognitive neuroscience together are about to shatter the myth of the self" is that the destruction has already occurred.

There is a wide range of scientific evidence that is used to deny "I think, therefore I am". In René Descartes' famous deduction, a coherent, structured experience of the world is inextricably linked with a sense of a self at the heart of it. But as the clinical neuropsychologist Paul Broks explained to me, we now know the two can in fact be separated.

People with Cotard's syndrome, for instance, can think that they don't exist, an impossibility for Descartes. Broks describes it as a kind of "nihilistic delusion" in which they "have no sense of being alive in the moment, but they'll give you their life history". They think, but they do not have sense that therefore they are.

Then there is temporal lobe epilepsy, which can give sufferers an experience called transient epileptic amnesia. "The world around them stays just as real and vivid – in fact, even more vivid sometimes – but they have no sense of who they are," Broks explains. This reminds me of Georg Lichtenberg's correction of Descartes, who he claims was entitled to deduce from "I think" only the conclusion that "there is thought". This is precisely how it can seem to people with temporal lobe epilepsy: there is thought, but they have no idea whose thought it is.

You don't need to have a serious neural pathology to experience the separation of sense of self and conscious experience. Millions of people have claimed to get this feeling from meditation, and many thousands more from ingesting certain drugs.

While some people experience lack of self, some seem to have more than one. Most obviously there are sufferers of dissociative identity disorder, the preferred term these days for multiple personality disorder. Perhaps even more interesting are the "split-brain" patients of Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga. As a last resort in an experimental procedure to treat severe epilepsy, Sperry and Gazzaniga severed the connection (the corpus callosum) between the two hemispheres of the brain. The results of this operation, called a commissurotomy, was that the epilepsy was indeed much reduced. But then Sperry and Gazzaniga conducted some experiments that revealed a remarkable, unforeseen side effect.

Patients were asked to focus on a dot in the centre of a screen. Words and images were then flashed up for a few seconds on either the right or left side of the screen. When these appeared on the right side of the screen, the patients were easily able to say what they were. But when they appeared on the left of the screen, they claimed to have seen nothing. However, if asked to draw an object with their left hand, they would draw what they had just seen, all the time denying they had seen any such thing. They could also manipulate or use the object normally with their left hands. So what was going on?

The way in which vision works is that information from the right visual field is processed by the left brain hemisphere, while information from the left visual field is processed by the right hemisphere. But it is the left hemisphere that (in most people) controls speech. Because normally the corpus callosum allows the two hemispheres to communicate, this presents no practical difficulty for most people. But after a commissurotomy, this information exchange cannot occur. That means that if you control carefully which side of the brain receives information from the environment, you can effectively make one hemisphere aware of something that the other is not. What is astonishing about this is that for this to be possible, there would have to be two centres of awareness in the individual concerned. Commissurotomy therefore seems to show that selves can be divided – at least temporarily – or that they needn't have just one centre of consciousness after all.

Intriguingly, however, in normal life, such patients experience the world in the normal, unified way. Gazzaniga's explanation of this is that "we don't miss what we no longer have access to". Consciousness of self emerges from a network of thousands or millions of conscious moments. This means that when we lose bits, the way a split-brain patient does, we don't sense anything as lost at all. Gazzaniga explains this thought with a metaphor of a pipe organ. "The thousands or millions of conscious moments that we each have reflect one of our networks being 'up for duty'. These networks are all over the place, not in one specific location. When one finishes, the next one pops up. The pipe organ-like device plays its tune all day long. What makes emergent human consciousness so vibrant is that our pipe organ has lots of tunes to play."

neuroscience of the gut

Scientific American | People may advise you to listen to your gut instincts: now research suggests that your gut may have more impact on your thoughts than you ever realized. Scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the Genome Institute of Singapore led by Sven Pettersson recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that normal gut flora, the bacteria that inhabit our intestines, have a significant impact on brain development and subsequent adult behavior.

We human beings may think of ourselves as a highly evolved species of conscious individuals, but we are all far less human than most of us appreciate. Scientists have long recognized that the bacterial cells inhabiting our skin and gut outnumber human cells by ten-to-one. Indeed, Princeton University scientist Bonnie Bassler compared the approximately 30,000 human genes found in the average human to the more than 3 million bacterial genes inhabiting us, concluding that we are at most one percent human. We are only beginning to understand the sort of impact our bacterial passengers have on our daily lives.

Moreover, these bacteria have been implicated in the development of neurological and behavioral disorders. For example, gut bacteria may have an influence on the body’s use of vitamin B6, which in turn has profound effects on the health of nerve and muscle cells. They modulate immune tolerance and, because of this, they may have an influence on autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. They have been shown to influence anxiety-related behavior, although there is controversy regarding whether gut bacteria exacerbate or ameliorate stress related anxiety responses. In autism and other pervasive developmental disorders, there are reports that the specific bacterial species present in the gut are altered and that gastrointestinal problems exacerbate behavioral symptoms. A newly developed biochemical test for autism is based, in part, upon the end products of bacterial metabolism.

But this new study is the first to extensively evaluate the influence of gut bacteria on the biochemistry and development of the brain. The scientists raised mice lacking normal gut microflora, then compared their behavior, brain chemistry and brain development to mice having normal gut bacteria. The microbe-free animals were more active and, in specific behavioral tests, were less anxious than microbe-colonized mice. In one test of anxiety, animals were given the choice of staying in the relative safety of a dark box, or of venturing into a lighted box. Bacteria-free animals spent significantly more time in the light box than their bacterially colonized littermates. Similarly, in another test of anxiety, animals were given the choice of venturing out on an elevated and unprotected bar to explore their environment, or remain in the relative safety of a similar bar protected by enclosing walls. Once again, the microbe-free animals proved themselves bolder than their colonized kin.

Pettersson’s team next asked whether the influence of gut microbes on the brain was reversible and, since the gut is colonized by microbes soon after birth, whether there was evidence that gut microbes influenced the development of the brain. They found that colonizing an adult germ-free animal with normal gut bacteria had no effect on their behavior. However, if germ free animals were colonized early in life, these effects could be reversed. This suggests that there is a critical period in the development of the brain when the bacteria are influential. Fist tap Dorcas Daddy.

bacteria divide people into types

NYTimes | In the early 1900s, scientists discovered that each person belonged to one of four blood types. Now they have discovered a new way to classify humanity: by bacteria. Each human being is host to thousands of different species of microbes. Yet a group of scientists now report just three distinct ecosystems in the guts of people they have studied.

Blood type, meet bug type.

“It’s an important advance,” said Rob Knight, a biologist at the University of Colorado, who was not involved in the research. “It’s the first indication that human gut ecosystems may fall into distinct types.”

The researchers, led by Peer Bork of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, found no link between what they called enterotypes and the ethnic background of the European, American and Japanese subjects they studied.

Nor could they find a connection to sex, weight, health or age. They are now exploring other explanations. One possibility is that the guts, or intestines, of infants are randomly colonized by different pioneering species of microbes.

The microbes alter the gut so that only certain species can follow them.

Whatever the cause of the different enterotypes, they may end up having discrete effects on people’s health. Gut microbes aid in food digestion and synthesize vitamins, using enzymes our own cells cannot make.

Dr. Bork and his colleagues have found that each of the types makes a unique balance of these enzymes. Enterotype 1 produces more enzymes for making vitamin B7 (also known as biotin), for example, and Enterotype 2 more enzymes for vitamin B1 (thiamine).

The discovery of the blood types A, B, AB and O had a major effect on how doctors practice medicine. They could limit the chances that a patient’s body would reject a blood transfusion by making sure the donated blood was of a matching type. The discovery of enterotypes could someday lead to medical applications of its own, but they would be far down the road.

“Some things are pretty obvious already,” Dr. Bork said. Doctors might be able to tailor diets or drug prescriptions to suit people’s enterotypes, for example.

Or, he speculated, doctors might be able to use enterotypes to find alternatives to antibiotics, which are becoming increasingly ineffective. Instead of trying to wipe out disease-causing bacteria that have disrupted the ecological balance of the gut, they could try to provide reinforcements for the good bacteria. “You’d try to restore the type you had before,” he said.

Dr. Bork notes that more testing is necessary. Researchers will need to search for enterotypes in people from African, Chinese and other ethnic origins. He also notes that so far, all the subjects come from industrial nations, and thus eat similar foods. “This is a shortcoming,” he said. “We don’t have remote villages.”

The discovery of enterotypes follows on years of work mapping the diversity of microbes in the human body — the human microbiome, as it is known. The difficulty of the task has been staggering. Each person shelters about 100 trillion microbes.

(For comparison, the human body is made up of only around 10 trillion cells.) But scientists cannot rear a vast majority of these bacteria in their labs to identify them and learn their characteristics.

perspective of mind, julian jaynes

Bizcharts | Back in 1976 when he was a professor of psychology at Princeton, Julian Jaynes published a very controversial theory about the emergence of the human mind. Indeed, even today his theory of the "bicameral mind" remains a controversy.

Rather than just harkening to behavioral psychology or brain biology, Jaynes presents his theory from the perspective of psycho-cultural history.

Going back to the the earliest writings and studying particularly the many early civilizations of the Near East, Jaynes came to the conclusion that most of the people in these archaic cultures were *not* subjectively conscious as we understand it today.

Jaynes provides extensive illustrations--ranging from Sumer, Ur, Babylon, Egyptian, Early Mycenean, Hebrew, and even Mayan and Asian cultures--that support his theory of the bicameral mind. But he mainly focuses on Mycenean (Greek) material--and it is this material which we will examine mostly in this post.

Jaynes bluntly declares "There is in general no consciousness in the ILIAD." Analyzing Homer's great epic, Jaynes came to the conclusion that the characters of the Trojan siege did not have conscious minds, no introspection, as we know it in the modern human. [Julian Jaynes, THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976, p. 69]

Whether Achilles or Agamemnon, there was no sense of subjectivity. Rather they were men whom the gods pushed about like robots. The gods sang epics through their lips. Jayne declares that these Iliadic heroes heard "voices," real speech and directions from the gods--as clearly as those diagnosed epileptic or schizophrenic today.

Jaynes stresses that the Iliadic man did not possess subjectivity as we do--rather "he had no awareness of his awareness of the world, no internal mind-space to introspect upon." This mentality of the Myceneans, Jaynes calls the bicameral mind. [Ibid, p. 75]

Now what was this bicameral mind? Jaynes briefly discusses brain biology--in that there are three speech areas, for most located in the left hemisphere. They are: (1) the supplemental motor cortex; (2) Broca's area; and (3) Wernicke's area. Jaynes focuses on Wernicke's area, which is chiefly the posterior part of the left temporal lobe. It is Wernicke's area that is crucial for human speech.

Pursuing the bicameral mind, Jaynes focuses on the corpus callosum, the major inter-connector between the brain's hemispheres. In human brains the corpus callosum can be likened to a small bridge, a band of transverse fibers, only slightly more than one-eighth of an inch in diameter. This bridge "collects from most of the temporal lobe cortex but particularly the middle gyrus of the temporal lobe in Wernicke's area." And it was this bridge that served as the means by which the "gods" who dwelled in one hemisphere of the human brain were able to give "directions" to the other hemisphere. It is like thinking of the "two hemispheres of the brain almost as two individuals." Hence the bicameral mind! [Ibid, p. 117]

Archaic humans were ordered and moved by the gods through both auditory hallucinations and visual hallucinations. The gods mainly "talked" to them--but sometimes "appeared," such as Athene appeared to Achilles. And "when visual hallucinations occur with voices, they are merely shining light or cloudy fog, as Thetis came to Achilles or Yahwey to Moses." [Ibid, p. 93]

Jaynes believes in the mentality of the early Mycenean that volition, planning and initiative were literally organized with no consciousness whatsoever. Rather such volition was "told" to the individual--"sometimes with the visual aura of a familiar friend or authority figure or 'god,' or sometimes as a voice alone." [Ibid, p. 75]

Now Jaynes thinks the great agricultural civilizations that spread over much of the Near East by 5000 b.c.e. reflected the bicameral mind. These civilizations were rigid theocracies! They were reminiscent of the Queen Bee and the bee-hive. These bicameral societies reflected "hierarchies of officials, soldiers, or works, inventory of goods, statements of goods owed to the ruler, and particular to gods." [Ibid, p. 80]

Jaynes contests that such theocracies were the only means for a bicameral civilization to survive. Circumventing chaos, these rigid hierarchies allowed for "lesser men hallucinating the voices of authorities over them, and those authorities hallucinating yet higher ones, and so" to kings and gods. [Ibid, p. 79]

According to Julian Jaynes, "the idols of a bicameral world are the carefully tended centers of social control, with auditory hallucinations instead of pheromones."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

finland resists EU bailouts by recent vote

Video - Finnish voters are going to the polls in a general election that could have a direct effect on Portugal's request for an economic bailout from the EU.

TheComingDepression | “We won’t allow Finnish cows to be milked by other hands,” European Affairs quoted Timo Soini, the leader of True Finns, himself a veteran member of both the European and Finnish parliaments — but who runs as an anti-establishment candidate.

Tea Party-like politics may be arriving in Europe.

That is how some European political analysts and commentators are interpreting the results of Sunday’s parliamentary elections in the Scandinavian nation of Finland, where a right-wing populist party made big gains by running against more European Union bailouts for the mostly Mediterranean countries swallowed up by debt.

One veteran analyst, Joseph Fitchett, the editor of the European Affairs blog, called the results “a political tsunami” for the European Union.

While politics across Europe have been drifting rightward since the 2008-09 economic crash, the Finnish elections were the first where a populist party got its boost not just from fighting rising levels of immigration, but from saying “enough” to EU bailouts for Greece, Ireland, and now Portugal.

A party called True Finns vaulted from relative obscurity to gain 19 percent of the vote and boost its representation in the 200-seat parliament from five to 39 seats. That outcome is likely to put the True Finns into a new government coalition, which is expected to take a harder line against Euro bailouts. Source: PBS Newshour (1)

Why are the Finns so resistant to bailing out Europe?

Somebody HAS to say ‘when’; even if the pillars of heaven totter, because the way things are going the ship is going down anyway if we continue like the over-educated clown now running things in Washington wants to do, and simply pretend that everything is fine and let’s just go on borrowing money FOREVER. All we have left now is bubbles of one sort or another. Most of them now deliberately propped up by the ‘leadership’ we are supposed to trust to protect our interests.

The EU won’t survive in its current form and the PIIGS WILL default at some point. Hopefully the Finns and then the Germans later will simply say “No, let the banks and their shareholders bite the bullets.” Let the ‘people’ decide before more assets are pissed down the bottomless well.

what's behind rising crude oil and food prices

Video - Go to 32.5 minutes into this video to see commentary on the cartel, on the record.

MarketOracle | “Approximately 60 to 70 percent of the oil contracts in the futures markets are now held by speculative entities. Not by companies that need oil, not by the airlines, not by the oil companies. But by investors who profit money from their speculative positions.”

“It’s a scam folks, it’s nothing but a huge scam and it’s destroying the US economy as well as the entire global economy but no one complains because they are ‘only’ stealing about $1.50 per gallon from each individual person in the industrialized world.”

“It’s the top 0.01% robbing the next 39.99% – the bottom 60% can’t afford cars anyway (they just starve quietly to death, as food prices climb on fuel costs). If someone breaks into your car and steals a $500 stereo, you go to the police, but if someone charges you an extra $30 every time you fill up your tank 50 times a year ($1,500) you shut up and pay your bill. Great system, right?”

“The great thing about the NYMEX is that the traders don’t have to take delivery on their contracts, they can simply pay to roll them over to the next settlement price, even if no one is actually buying the barrels. That’s how we have developed a massive glut of 677 Million barrels worth of contracts in the front four months on the NYMEX and, come rollover day – that will be the amount of barrels "on order" for the front 3 months, unless a lot barrels get dumped at market prices fast.”

“Keep in mind that the entire United States uses ‘just’ 18M barrels of oil a day, so 677M barrels is a 37-day supply of oil. But, we also make 9M barrels of our own oil and import ‘just’ 9M barrels per day, and 5M barrels of that is from Canada and Mexico who, last I heard, aren’t even having revolutions. So, ignoring North Sea oil Brazil and Venezuela and lumping Africa in with OPEC, we are importing 3Mbd from unreliable sources and there is a 225-day supply under contract for delivery at the current price or cheaper plus we have a Strategic Petroleum Reserve that holds another 727 Million barrels (full) plus 370M barrels of commercial storage in the US (also full) which is another 365.6 days of marginal oil already here in storage in addition to the 225 days under contract for delivery. “

These contracts for oil outnumber their actual delivery, a sign of speculation and market manipulation, as oil companies win government authorizations for wells but then don’t open them for exploration or exploitation. It’s all a game of manipulating oil supply to keep prices up. And no one seems to be regulating it.

What Phil sees is a giant but intricate game of market manipulation and rigging by a cartel—not just an industry—that actually has loaded tankers criss-crossing the oceans but only landing when the price is right.

“There is nothing that the conga-line of tankers between here and OPEC would like to do more than unload an extra 277 Million barrels of crude at $112.79 per barrel (Friday’s close on open contracts and price) but, unfortunately, as I mentioned last week, Cushing, Oklahoma (Where oil is stored) is already packed to the gills with oil and can only handle 45M barrels if it started out empty so it is, very simply, physically impossible for those barrels to be delivered. This did not, however, stop 287M barrels worth of May contracts from trading on Friday and GAINING $2.49 on the day. “

He asks, “Who is buying 287,494 contracts (1,000 barrels per contract) for May delivery that can’t possibly be delivered for $2.49 more than they were priced the day before? These are the kind of questions that you would think regulators would be asking – if we had any.”

what's your gameplan as corn prices skyrocket?

TheContraryFarmer | Forgive me for returning to this topic again, but history is being made in the corn market and the mainstream press isn’t paying attention. Corn prices hit an all time high last week. As you pull on your boots and head for the garden or fields for spring planting, what are your plans? Are you ready for some seismic changes in food prices? Do you feel too helpless to do anything much but keep on hoeing? Am I overreacting?

Corn recently made it well into the $7.00 plus per bushel range, to an historic high, and a rise of about a dollar a bushel from the week before, indicating how eradicate the market has become. As I write this, the market is bobbing up and down around $7.50 like a basketball during March Madness. The USDA just came out with a report in which it said, much to the surprise of nearly everyone, that corn stocks remain unchanged. But then the experts came on with a litany of “it depends” about how one should interpret the meaning of “unchanged.”

We’ve heard for months now that corn was in short supply. There are a number of reasons, supposedly. The demand for ethanol was going up, supposedly. The ethanol plants were buying more corn, supposedly. Other countries were importing more corn, supposedly. Weather outlooks are iffy, supposedly. I can write more sentences ending with the word ‘supposedly’, but what’s the use. Even the grain traders are saying they don’t know what’s happening.

You can read all this stuff in the farm news yourself. I don’t really care to hear any more ‘supposedlies’. I just want to know the what of it, not the how or why. At the livestock auctions in eastern Ohio last week, buyers and sellers were talking glibly of ten dollar corn by this summer, lamb prices over four dollars, and heaven help the cattle market. If you happen to be raising your own calves for meat right now, you could not have a better investment IF you aren’t feeding them seven dollar corn.

Others at the auctions were convinced there is going to be crash. Even farmers who still have last year’s corn to sell (not many), looked at me and said: “this is not good.”

The National Corn Growers Association and food wholesalers and retailers are at each other’s throats over the way ethanol appears to be driving up the price of food. The chairman of Nestle’s has been particularly strident in his criticism, really ripping the corn growers and the ethanol suppliers and especially the government’s generous subsidies to the ethanol plants, insisting that the world needs all its tillable land for human food, not car fuel. I think he’s right, but the corn growers are lashing right back, declaring that the food industry’s attacks are inaccurate, unwarranted, etc. etc.

This much I know from history. During the Irish famine, the landlord farmers of Ireland continued to sell their oats to England where they could get a better price for it than from the starving Irish, until the government stopped them. I am way too pessimistic to think that could not happen again. There are plenty of people who would choose to use corn to feed their cars, boats and airplanes rather than starving people. Fist tap Dale.