New Theory May Explain the Symptoms of Autism

By hepingting via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

By hepingting via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

via Psyblog:

People with autism often display a complex and confusing range of symptoms, including hypersensitivity to sound, problems interacting with others and repetitive behaviours.

Scientist have long wondered what all these — and other, seemingly unrelated symptoms — have in common.

Now MIT researchers are testing a brand new theory: that autistic children have difficulties predicting what is going to happen next, and it’s this problem that is at the root of autism (Sinha et al., 2014).

Without the ability to predict simple events, to an autistic child, life seems to happen randomly and almost magically, with no rhyme or reason.

Professor Pawan Sinha, the lead author of the new paper, explains:

“If we were unable to habituate to stimuli, then the world would become overwhelming very quickly.

It’s like you can’t escape this cacophony that’s falling on your ears or that you’re observing.”

From this point of view, the repetitive behaviours, the preference for highly structured and predictable environments may be coping strategies.

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Tornado Clusters are on the Rise

By Jmos® via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Jmos® via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

via Live Science:

Tornadoes are touching down in clusters more often than 50 years ago, a new study reports. On some days, more than 30 twisters strike the United States.

Even as storms spawn more tornadoes, there are fewer days on which tornadoes occur, according to the study, published today (Oct. 15) in the journal Science. Since the 1970s, the number of days with at least one EF-1 tornado has dropped from a mean (or average) of 150 to 100.

“When people ask, ‘Are we getting more tornadoes, are we getting fewer tornadoes, are they later, are they earlier?’ — the answer to everything is yes,” said lead study author Harold Brooks, senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma.

While it’s clear that something about tornados in the United States is changing, there is no strong evidence that climate change is to blame.

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“Broken Windows” Policing in the Classroom

“Women’s School Jail.” Library of Congress

“Women’s School Jail.” Library of Congress

via Jacobin:

When police grappled Eric Garner into a chokehold and left him to die in the street on July 17, it wasn’t just one Staten Island cop that incited protest. The entire ”broken windows” system of policing was again thrown into question – particularly because its architect, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, had been reappointed to a second term just seven months earlier by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Perhaps less known is the fact that the “broken windows” theory has crept into classrooms in New York City and across the nation.

As the policing theory goes, minor instances of supposed disorder — spraying graffiti, panhandling, selling single cigarettes – creates an environment of lawlessness, leading to acts of theft and murder. Busting jaywalkers and homeless people for misdemeanors, it follows, will decrease the homicide rate. Some of the fastest-growing charter school networks explicitly draw on Bratton’s law enforcement methods to run their schools, which typically enroll mostly black and brown students.

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Panic over Ebola echoes the 19th-century fear of cholera

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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By Sally Sheard, University of Liverpool

On October 19 an inspector sent north from London to Sunderland reported a long-awaited arrival: the first British case of cholera. It was 1831 and as part of a second pandemic cholera had again progressed from its Bengal heartland through Europe, before reaching the Baltic ports. It was only a matter of time.

Broadsheet warning in 1831. Wellcome Library, London, CC BY-NC-SA

The British public, informed by newspaper reports, were acquainted with the symptoms: profuse watery diarrhoea, severe abdominal pain and often death within a matter of hours. In advance of its arrival in Russia thousands fled from the cities. In Poland it was killing one in two victims. And unlike today, where oral rehydration solution can prevent dehydration and shock, there was no effective treatment.

Cholera was (and is) caused by vibrio cholerae bacteria and spread by poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water.… Read the rest

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How Billionaire Oligarchs Are Becoming Their Own Political Parties

Anthony Kennedy official SCOTUS portrait crop.jpg

Justice Kennedy, the author of the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ opinion.

Pay 2 Play politics has been the name of the electoral game in America since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Jim Rutenberg has a great essay in the New York Times Magazine showing just how bad things have become:

…Before 2002, parties could accept unlimited donations from individuals or groups (corporations, labor unions, etc.) so long as they devoted the funds — so-called “soft money” — to the amorphous act of “party building.” The McCain-Feingold law, as it came to be known, banned soft-money contributions, and it also prohibited political groups that operate outside the regulated system and its donation limits — like the Wylys and their Republicans for Clean Air — from running “issue ads” that appear to help or hurt a candidate close to an election. It implemented tough fines and even prison terms for those who illegally coordinated with the official campaigns.

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Giant Sphinx from ‘Ten Commandments’ Film Unearthed 91 Years Later

Archaeologists unearth one of the giant sphinxes from the film, "The Ten Commandments." Credit: Applied EarthWorks, Inc.

Archaeologists unearth one of the giant sphinxes from the film, “The Ten Commandments.”
Credit: Applied EarthWorks, Inc.

via Live Science:

Hidden for more than 90 years beneath the rolling sand dunes of Guadalupe, California, an enormous, plaster sphinx from the 1923 blockbuster movie “The Ten Commandments” has been rediscovered and is now above ground.

The public will be able to see the sphinx on display as early as next year, once it has been reconstructed — a necessity since it became weather-beaten during its stint beneath the sand, said Doug Jenzen, the executive director of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, who oversaw the recent excavation.

The roughly 15-foot-tall (4.6 meters) sphinx is one of 21 that lined the path to Pharaoh’s City in the 1923 silent hit, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. He later remade the film, with Charlton Heston as Moses, in 1956. [See Photos of the Film's Giant Spinxes & Excavation]

“[The 1923 film] was one of the largest movie sets ever made, because they didn’t have special effects,” Jenzen told Live Science.

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Butt Plug or Christmas Tree?


The age-old question: is it a butt plug or Christmas tree?

via The Mirror:

An arty Christmas tree in the centre of Paris that appears to resemble a giant SEX TOY is leaving locals red-faced.

The festive blow-up art was pumped up into life to take pride of place in the capital city’s Place Vendôme.

City chiefs hope it sparks interest ahead of the International Contemporary Art Fair to kick off next week.

But bemused locals claim the big green monster looks more like a butt plug – a gadget for bedroom fun freely sold in Paris’ notoriously seedy Pigalle district.

The 80ft object – simply called ‘Tree’ is the brainchild of American artist Paul McCarthy.

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h/t Boing Boing.

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