Archive | October, 2012

Federal Judge Rules Cops Can Set Up Cameras On Private Property Without Warrants

Ars Technica’s Timothy B. Lee reports on a case that will have wide-ranging implications in today’s omnipresent surveillance state:

A federal judge has ruled that police officers in Wisconsin did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they secretly installed cameras on private property without judicial approval.

The officers installed the cameras in an open field where they suspected the defendants, Manuel Mendoza and Marco Magana, were growing marijuana. The police eventually obtained a search warrant, but not until after some potentially incriminating images were captured by the cameras. The defendants have asked the judge to suppress all images collected prior to the issuance of the search warrant.

But in a Monday decision first reported by CNET, Judge William Griesbach rejected the request. Instead, he approved the ruling of a magistrate judge that the Fourth Amendment only protected the home and land directly outside of it (known as “curtilage”), not open fields far from any residence.

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Brain Stimulation Gives Tics to Those Without Tourette’s

Picture: Eric Wasserman (PD)Important research into the nature of Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological syndrome that plagues sufferers with tics and compulsions: turns out that you can inflict similar tics upon neurotypical individuals via magnetic pulse:

Jennifer Finis of Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany, and her colleagues suspected that a type of Tourette’s tic called echophenomena, which involves mimicking other’s movements, may be caused by over-excitation of the supplementary motor area (SMA) – a brain region involved in the initiation of movement.

To investigate further, her team used a non-invasive technique called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which involves delivering brief but strong magnetic pulses to the scalp. By changing the frequency of rTMS, the stimulation could either inhibit or excite the SMA.

Thirty seconds after rTMS, 30 volunteers were shown video clips of someone making a spontaneous movement. Those who’d had their SMA excited were three times as likely to imitate the kind of behaviour they saw in the clips than those who’d had it suppressed.

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Elon Musk’s Mission To Mars

Picture: Steve Jurvetson (CC)

Commentary from Media Underground

How exactly is it that SpaceX can do everything so cheaply? Well, it would seem from this recent interview with Elon Musk that there are a couple of reasons in particular. The first being that there’s a tendency for big aerospace companies to outsource everything to subcontractors who then, bizarrely, outsource work to other subcontractors who subsequently – in what seems to be little more than an utter bureaucratic shambles by this point – outsource to other subcontractors and so on and so forth… ad nauseum. As one commenter aptly points out at the foot of this Wired article: “One reason for all that expensively administered subcontracting is that it pleases exactly those committees [who control NASA's funding]. The large projects they favor can subcontract in many different districts, whose congressmen then have a good reason to vote for NASA’s budget. This means the committee members need not trade away any more of their political capital to get the projects that support contractors in their districts.”

In short, SpaceX don’t engage in this subcontracting farce but do it all themselves from the bottom up.… Read the rest

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How Global Warming May Cause the Next Ice Age

Picture: George Grie (CC) "Ice Age Premonition or Infinite Iceberg Synthesizer" www.neosurrealismart.com

Thom Hartmann wrote at Common Dreams back in 2004:

While global warming is being officially ignored by the political arm of the Bush administration, and Al Gore’s recent conference on the topic during one of the coldest days of recent years provided joke fodder for conservative talk show hosts, the citizens of Europe and the Pentagon are taking a new look at the greatest danger such climate change could produce for the northern hemisphere – a sudden shift into a new ice age. What they’re finding is not at all comforting.

In quick summary, if enough cold, fresh water coming from the melting polar ice caps and the melting glaciers of Greenland flows into the northern Atlantic, it will shut down the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe and northeastern North America warm. The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown return of the last ice age – in a period as short as 2 to 3 years from its onset – and the mid-case scenario would be a period like the “little ice age” of a few centuries ago that disrupted worldwide weather patterns leading to extremely harsh winters, droughts, worldwide desertification, crop failures, and wars around the world.

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Racism May Not Be “Natural” (But Being an Asshole Is)

From "2001: A Space Odyssey"

Brain scans have shown that when people see faces of other races, their amygdalas light up like home security systems.  Some tout this as evidence of hardwired racial bias, evolved to keep the oddly colored “other” out of home territory.  But as Robert Wright points out in this recent article, there would be few opportunities for interracial conflict in our geographically dispersed evolutionary past.  The “other” would primarily be distinguished by different visual cues such as tribal emblems, because hostile neighboring tribes would generally be of the same race.

More recent brain scan experiments done on children show that, like menstrual cramps and unstoppable boners, neurological race rage doesn’t kick in until after puberty.  While the question of “nature vs. nurture” is still open, this suggests that cultural forces are at work.

Wright’s line of reasoning is pretty solid when he says, “[T]hough we’re not naturally racist, we’re naturally ‘groupist.’”

Via The Atlantic:

There’s never been good reason to believe that human beings are naturally racist.… Read the rest

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David Icke Just Gave A Ten-Hour Lecture At Wembley Stadium

The conspiracy theorist, famed for his assertion that world leaders are in fact blood-feeding lizard people cloaked in human form, has become a genuine superstar. Here’s a taste of his epic PowerPoint-style presentation, which stretched for more than ten hours, for an audience of 5,000 at London’s Wembley Stadium this past Saturday. Say what you will, but it’s impressive that he has developed such a bizarre, vivid, and detailed alternate explanation of reality, which so many people find compelling. Below, how “the fake reality” on Earth is being created by alien technology on Saturn and the moon:

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