March 27. Bunch o' links. Two engineering students have figured out how to put fires out with low frequency sound.Replace Soy with Mealworms as a Protein-Rich Animal Feed Supplement. I think humans are going to have to eat lots of insects to make it through this century without a global famine. Brand new subreddit, Psych Ward Chronicles. It was started just yesterday, inspired by this AskReddit thread, You have to say one sentence to prove you are insane, which someone answered with a jaw-dropping sentence said by an actual crazy person: "Stare into the sun and tell me if eternity is still there." Related: Psychonaut is a popular subreddit where people talk about psychedelic experiences and related philosophy. I've been looking for a weather site that has good information and loads quickly, and I've started using the one at timeanddate.com. Here's the Spokane extended forecast and if you like it you can find your local forecast with the search box.
How to generate an encryption passphrase that even the NSA can't guess. Using a resource called the Diceware word list, you roll dice to come up with seven random words and memorize them.
And an inspiring article about the human potential, The Impossible Physiology of the Free Diver.
March 25. Edited reader comment on Monday's genetic engineering link:
CRISPR is indeed revolutionary in that it enables rapid and efficient genetic manipulation in a wide range of species. However, the notion that CRISPR will result in escape of GMOs from labs is a completely separate question.
Their example, the fruit fly, can itself provide evidence to the contrary. Because of how easy genetic manipulation is in the fruit fly, nearly every gene has already been deleted, and all known markers and tools inserted, in labs for decades all over the globe. Yet despite their small size and wings to fly out of labs, the world is not yet overrun by GM fruit flies.
The reason is simple: evolution gives wild fruit flies the greatest advantage, with an elegant and robust unmodified genome selected over millions of years to function in the world. Nearly all genetic manipulations confer disadvantages that are out-competed by wild flies.
New subject: this excellent reddit comment explains why whole milk is better than lowfat milk, including a calorie to lactose ratio that enables most lactose intolerant people to consume whole milk in moderation.
March 23. Some technology links. Let's talk about designer wild critters, not designer babies.
In a paper published yesterday, Valentino Gantz and Ethan Bier, both at the University of California, San Diego, demonstrated the first successful implementation of a CRISPR-Cas9-based gene drive in the germ line of fruit flies. The CRISPR gene drive is a powerful piece of technology that all but guarantees an engineered trait is passed on to every single offspring. Within months or years, it has the ability to alter an entire population of a sexually reproducing species. ... Modified critters could easily escape, or carefully designed species released into the wild could have unintended consequences, sparking a cascade of ecological changes that may be all but impossible to reverse.
Next, Assembly line nuclear reactors are quietly building steam in the northwest. I actually think this is good. My big objection to nuclear power is political: where the energy flows from the center out, the political power flows from the center out, and the bigger the plant, the bigger the control system. But smaller reactors could be run by towns or neighborhoods in which you're more likely to have a voice, and they could stay autonomous and energy-rich as dysfunctional big systems break down. Back to scary: What cockroaches with backpacks can do. Mostly it's about surveillance, and I wonder if cockroach cyborgs are a better fit with democratic, distributed surveillance, where anyone can watch anyone, or centralized surveillance where powerful institutions can lock their power in place. And the other day on the subreddit, yiedyie made a post called The Point of No-Return, "the point at which all daredevils and tricksters instead of jumping over cliffs in squirrel flying suits, making cults, or make cyber-scams, etc, start instead messing with the system."
March 22. Personal update. Here's a six year old photo of me and my truck just after buying it. I paid $2600 and just sold it for $2500. Partly that's because Rangers hold their value, but I also put only 5000 miles per year on it, drove it gently, and sold it with nicer tires. Plus I just spent $300 on new shocks, front rotors, pads, and bearings, all of which were surprisingly easy to replace. I'm sad to see it go, but now that Leigh Ann has a car and I have a scooter, holding onto it wasn't worth the cost of insurance and registration. That means I'll almost never be visiting my land, and anyone who plans to do permaculture can have it for below market value.
March 20. I have nothing much to post for the weekend. Here's a minor good news link, LA City Council approves curbside planting of fruits and vegetables, and a good AskReddit thread, People who have grown up in poverty then managed to get out, what was the biggest culture shock for you?
In personal news, I'm trying to sell my truck, and I still haven't figured out what's causing my fatigue. If it's marijuana, then I'm probably the only person getting bad effects from a gram a month.
February 18. , a.k.a. ISIS. He makes three different arguments. First, when American leftists, in the context of ISIS, keep bringing the conversation back to the evils of American foreign policy, that's a form of narcissism. I would add that it's tactically pointless. If Noam Chomsky had spent the last 20 years writing about baseball, the world would not be any worse.
. That's not quite true - the article mentions that ancient Egyptians had a word for blue because they had blue dyes. But study of ancient texts suggests that our color vision is largely cultural, and that it has grown through history, with red appearing first and blue last. There's also a modern example of tribal forest people who can distinguish fine shades of green but not the difference between green and blue. I assume we're not finished, and there are potential colors that for now only crazy people can see.
March 18. Today, two woo-woo links from readers. No one could see the color blue until modern times. That's not quite true - the article mentions that ancient Egyptians had a word for blue because they had blue dyes. But study of ancient texts suggests that our color vision is largely cultural, and that it has grown through history, with red appearing first and blue last. There's also a modern example of tribal forest people who can distinguish fine shades of green but not the difference between green and blue. I assume we're not finished, and there are colors to be seen that for now only crazy people can see.
This also reminds me of Augustine of Hippo, who astonished Romans with his magical ability to read without speaking the words out loud. And it reminds me of some speculations from Oliver Sacks books: that we are all born with the potential for synesthesia and musical perfect pitch, but most of us don't develop them because our education goes in another direction.
Oneirosophy is a small subreddit for subjective idealist thinking. It's mostly about occult culture and dream practices, because subjective idealist philosophy is really hard. My everyday default philosophy is objective materialism, that "there is" a single physical reality "out there", because it's a necessary and powerful shortcut. But people who get into paranormal phenomena (or fringe science or conspiracy theory) and go a little crazy, could stay sane if they could let go of the idea that the universe is one way, and imagine it instead as a collective dream that has to be forced into consistency.
March 13. The previous post was for readers, and this post is for me. Last month my favorite band, Big Blood, posted a new double album to their free music archive page. This is how prolific they are: their previous album, Unlikely Mothers, was also double length and came out only last June. And this is how they avoid popularity: the best original songs on the new album (New Plan, Go See Boats, Magnetic Green, Time Stands Still) are discreetly lurking on Double Days II, all four finish with sounds that even I don't like, and Double Days I is entirely weird experiments and covers. My favorite on DDI is this cover of Black Sabbath's Planet Caravan My favorite on DDII has lyrics based on something their kid said at the ocean, and it occurs to me that this is a good metaphor for the creative process: it's like you have a kid inside you, and you have to 1) make her feel comfortable chattering, 2) listen, and 3) edit it into something good. (Which authors are good at one or two of those things but not all three?) Anyway, I often link to music that younger listeners will like better than older listeners, but if the vocals aren't too strange for you, this is a beautiful folk song that should sound better if you're over 50 than under 30: Big Blood - Go See Boats.