Race is a Social Concept, Not a Scientific One

"silent diversity" by DryHundredFear via Flickr.

“silent diversity” by DryHundredFear via Flickr.

via Live Science:

Beyond the Ferguson, Mo., media reports on the “racial divide,” the facts require some correction: Despite notions to the contrary, there is only one human race. Our single race is independent of geographic origin, ethnicity, culture, color of skin or shape of eyes — we all share a single phenotype, the same or similar observable anatomical features and behavior.

Science highlights these similarities in our embryonic development, physiology (our organ-based systems), biochemistry (our metabolites and reactions), and more recently, genomics (our genetic makeup). As a molecular biologist, this last one is indeed the most important to me — data show that the DNA of any two human beings is 99.9 percent identical, and we all share the same set of genes, scientifically validating the existence of a single biological human race and one origin for all human beings. In short, we are all brothers and sisters.

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Are we heading for technological unemployment? An Argument

Altar of technology by zeitfaenger.at via Flickr.

Altar of technology by zeitfaenger.at via Flickr.

This piece was first published on Philosophical Disquisitions We’re all familiar with the headlines by now: “Robots are going to steal our jobs”, “Automation will lead to joblessness”, and “AI will replace human labour”. It seems like more and more people are concerned about the possible impact of advanced technology on employment patterns. Last month, Lawrence Summers worried about it in the Wall Street Journal but thought maybe the government could solve the problem. Soon after, Vivek Wadhwa worried about it in the Washington Post, arguing that there was nothing the government could do. Over on the New York TimesPaul Krugman has been worrying about it for years.

But is this really something we should worry about? To answer that, we need to distinguish two related questions:

The Factual Question: Will advances in technology actually lead to technological unemployment?

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What If Everything We Know About Treating Depression Is Wrong?

"How to Overcome Depression" by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

“How to Overcome Depression” by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

Could it be that we’re treating the wrong part of the brain?

via AlterNet:

A new study is challenging the relationship between depression and an imbalance of serotonin levels in the brain, and brings into doubt how depression has been treated in the U.S. over the past 20 years.

Researchers at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit have bred mice that cannot produce serotonin in their brains, which should theoretically make them always depressed. But researchers instead found that the mice showed no signs of depression, but instead acted aggressively and exhibited compulsive personality traits.

This study backs recent research that indicates that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, may not be effective in lifting people out of depression. These commonly used antidepressants, such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Zoloft, and Lexapro, are taken by some 10% of the U.S.

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Inequality and the USA: A Nation in Denial?

Homeless female holding up sign (7617876912).jpg

Photo: Alex Proimos (CC)

Sam Pizzigati of Inequality.org writes at PressTV that “the United States… doesn’t just have the world’s most unequal major developed economy… [it] has the most people in denial about the inequality they live amid”:

Every August, for most of the last four decades, top central bankers from around the world have been making their way to the Wyoming mountain resort of Jackson Hole for an invitation-only blue-ribbon economic symposium.

This year’s Jackson Hole hobnob, once again hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, last week attracted the usual assortment of central bankers, finance ministers, and influential business journalists. But this year’s gathering also attracted something else: protesters.

For the first time ever, activists converged on Jackson Hole — to let the Fed’s central bankers know, as protest organizers put it, that “it’s not just the rich who are watching them.”

Over 70 groups and unions backed the protest and signed onto an open letter that calls on America’s central bankers to start nurturing an economy that works for workers.

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We’re self-obsessed – but do we understand the nature of the self?

Narcissism by Kevin Simpson via Flickr.

Narcissism by Kevin Simpson via Flickr.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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By Michael Allen Fox, University of New England

We live in an age of self-obsession. Everywhere we look, we encounter a preoccupation with self-interest, self-development, self-image, self-satisfaction, self-love, self-expression, self-confidence, self-help, self-acceptance … the list goes on.

An internet headline sounds a warning: Facebook and Twitter are creating a vain generation of self-obsessed people with childlike need for feedback, warns top scientist. In 2013 no less august an organ than the Oxford English Dictionary chose “selfie” as its “Word of the Year”.

Ask yourself whether any other time but the present could boast of successful print magazines called i or Me or Self?

“The self” is actually quite a problematic notion. Given the destiny of the self concerns us so much we could all benefit from a little insight into its nature.… Read the rest

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It’s personal: why leaders don’t turn climate knowledge into action

By Nicola Jones via Flickr

By Nicola Jones via Flickr

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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By Simon Divecha

There is an abundance of profitable business opportunity to be found in addressing sustainability issues. These stand out against the difficulties we face implementing effective change. Globally, the World Bank recently found that tackling climate change would help to grow the world’s economy by US$1.8 to 2.6 trillion a year.

Private sector investors argue for action as well. One prominent example is the Carbon Disclosure Project which represents 767 institutional investors holding US$92 trillion in assets worldwide. Its programs reward and promote companies acting on climate change.

There is detailed analysis, alongside successfully implemented examples, across nearly every industry sector showing an 80% reduction in environmental impact for each dollar of economic output. This is not, necessarily, even a case of implementing new technology. Planning and design help to deliver similar outcomes – for example, in residential developments.… Read the rest

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“Crossfaded”: What happens when you’re drunk and stoned at the same time?

By Elvert Barnes via Flickr.

By Elvert Barnes via Flickr.

Luckily, Popular Science has the answer.

via Popsci:

The intoxicating effects of alcohol and of marijuana have been widely studied, but their combined effect—getting “cross-faded“—is woefully underexplored scientific territory. Here’s a look at what we know about how pot and booze together affect the brain.

First, the basics: Marijuana contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which acts on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. Trying to compare the two isn’t even like comparing apples and oranges, says Gary Wenk, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Ohio State University. “It’s apples and vegetables. They’re very different drugs.” An extremely simplified explanation would be to say that THC largely has cognitive effects, like paranoia and a distorted sense of time, while alcohol mainly affects motor skills, making it hard to walk in a straight line and causing slurred speech.

So does combining weed and alcohol just add their respective effects together?

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A short documentary on Cryonics: We Will Live Again

h/t The Daily Grail

We Will Live Again from Brooklyn Underground Films on Vimeo.

via the Vimeo page:

WE WILL LIVE AGAIN looks inside the unusual and extraordinary operations of the Cryonics Institute. The film follows Ben Best and Andy Zawacki, the caretakers of 99 deceased human bodies stored at below freezing temperatures in cryopreservation. The Institute and Cryonics Movement were founded by Robert Ettinger who, in his nineties and long retired from running the facility, still self-publishes books on cryonics, awaiting the end of his life and eagerly anticipating the next.

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Why I believe we’ll find aliens – leading expert on search for intelligent extra-terrestrial life

By plaits via Flickr

By plaits via Flickr

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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By Seth Shostak, SETI Institute

The Conversation organised a public question-and-answer session on Reddit in which Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, explained why searching for intelligent life is so important and why we may soon find it.


Why are we continuing the search? For instance, isn’t it true that radio waves become almost indistinguishable from background noise just a few light years from their origin?

We can detect radio waves from billions of light-years away, and without a whole lot of trouble, either. The idea that they become indistinguishable from noise at some small distance is incorrect. With a big enough antenna, you can always find the signal.

But the broader point is that we now know two things that we didn’t know 20 years ago. First that planets, including ones that might be like Earth, are incredibly plentiful in the visible universe.… Read the rest

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