"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Change and Brain Damage 

Evolutionary change is something we don't usually get to see in action, except in fruit flies and bacteria. Research in the Bahamas (whose ethics I wouldn't touch with someone else's 10-foot-pole) seems to have stimulated an amazingly rapid series of developments in lizards. After introduction (by researchers) of predator lizards to six islands, the native populations of smaller lizards quickly began to adapt to have longer legs - better for running away. The small lizards behavior changed soon though, as they discovered that hiding in trees was better protection from the predators. Thus, six months after long legs were in fashion, small legs - good for climbing - became the dominant trait. This is so cool I can't stand it!

While the most recent global conference on climate change ended more or less in shambles, at least one really scary idea got serious airtime. Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen spoke about his proposal, first published last summer, of using smog to combat global warming. The idea is that, as when a volcanic eruption sends tonnes of sulfuric soot into the atmosphere and cools the planet for a while, humans could fly blimps full of sulfates up for release, and they would similarly act as a solar shield.

There are so many reasons why I don't like this idea. First of all, it is at best just a way of delaying actually dealing with global warming. Secondly, what happens when all that soot falls to the Earth? Do we really want to be covered in ash all the time? Thirdly, what will blocking all that UV do to plant life? I'd imagine it'd offset the carbon balance even more, by lowering photosynthesis rates. Not to mention depriving people of vitamin D.

But people often forget these details. Is it because they smoke pot? Rutgers researchers have found that THC screws up the synchronized firing necessary in hippocampal neurons for memory formation. The study did not address long-term changes, but they are, of course, a possibility if these results are real (I am perpetually dubious of any US-based marijuana research, as it is so often tainted by the political agendas of funders and regulators).

Speaking of "stupid days," apparently some short guy called "Tom Cruise" married some scrawny chick called "Katie Holmes" this weekend. Apparently this was bigger and more important news than kidnappings in Iraq or school shootings in Germany or Ruth Brown's death. (That last one should be more important because (a) she was a true revolutionary, and also (b) her death is permanent, whereas I'd not give this marriage more than 11 months) What also bothers me is the Scientologist wedding vows that were apparently to be used. He promised her "a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat," and she essentially promised to not mind his indiscretions. Hardly seems like something any modern woman in her right mind would accept.

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