Tag Archives | Life

An Essay on Time From a Dying Neurosurgeon: “Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 11.27.31 AM

Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon, knew he was dying. His time was limited, and after being released from the hospital due to a relapse in lung cancer, his daughter was born. For him, the expectation of death warped time. Now, the hours in a day, the minutes in an hour, meant something different.

Here’s his moving adieu to the world.

He died on March 9, 2015 at the age of 37.

Paul Kalanithi writes at Stanford Medicine:

There are two strategies to cutting the time short, like the tortoise and the hare. The hare moves as fast as possible, hands a blur, instruments clattering, falling to the floor; the skin slips open like a curtain, the skull flap is on the tray before the bone dust settles. But the opening might need to be expanded a centimeter here or there because it’s not optimally placed. The tortoise proceeds deliberately, with no wasted movements, measuring twice, cutting once.

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The Asshole Factory

Surian Soosay (CC BY 2.0)

Surian Soosay (CC BY 2.0)

Umair Haque via Medium:

Our economy doesn’t make stuff anymore. So what does it make?

My good friend Mara has not one but two graduate degrees. From fine, storied universities. Surprise, surprise: the only “job” she was able to find was at a retail store.

Hey—it’s only minimum wage, but at least she’s working, right? And at a major-league, blue-chip company, An American icon; an institution; a name every man, woman, and child in this country knows; an historic company that rings of the American Dream the world over, besides. Surely, if nothing else, it’s a start.

Perhaps you’re right. Maybe it isn’t the start she always dreamed of…but at least it is one. If so…then awaits her at the finish?

What is Mara’s job like? Her sales figures are monitored…by the microsecond. By hidden cameras and mics. They listen to her every word; they capture her every movement; that track and stalk her as if she were an animal; or a prisoner; or both.

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New study hints at spontaneous appearance of primordial DNA

The image shows a droplet of condensed nano-DNA and within it smaller drops of its liquid crystal phase which show up in polarized light on the left. The liquid crystal droplets act as “micro-reactors" where short DNA can join together into long polymer chains without the aid of biological mechanisms. Credit: Noel Clark, University of Colorado

The image shows a droplet of condensed nano-DNA and within it smaller drops of its liquid crystal phase which show up in polarized light on the left. The liquid crystal droplets act as “micro-reactors” where short DNA can join together into long polymer chains without the aid of biological mechanisms.
Credit: Noel Clark, University of Colorado

Noel Clark Via Phys.org:

The self-organization properties of DNA-like molecular fragments four billion years ago may have guided their own growth into repeating chemical chains long enough to act as a basis for primitive life, says a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Milan.

While studies of ancient mineral formations contain evidence for the evolution of bacteria from 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago—just half a billion years after the stabilization of Earth’s crust—what might have preceded the formation of such unicellular organisms is still a mystery. The new findings suggest a novel scenario for the non-biological origins of nucleic acids, which are the building blocks of living organisms, said CU-Boulder physics Professor Noel Clark, a study co-author.

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Life Under ISIS

Patrick Cockburn writes at CounterPunch:

The Islamic State was declared in the weeks after the capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, by Isis on 10 June 2014. It was only then that countries around the world began to wake up to the fact that Isis posed a serious threat to them all. Reorganised under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2010 after the death of the previous leader, Isis took advantage of the Syrian uprising of 2011 to expand its forces and resume widespread guerrilla warfare. Sunni protests against mounting repression by the Baghdad government transmuted into armed resistance. In the first half of 2014 Isis defeated five Iraqi divisions, a third of the Iraqi army, to take over most of the giant Anbar province. A crucial success came when Isis-led forces seized the city of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, on 3 January 2014 and the Iraqi army failed to win it back.

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NASA Ames reproduces the building blocks of life in laboratory

Left to right: Ames scientists Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese and Scott Sandford reproduce uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. Credit: NASA/ Dominic Hart

Left to right: Ames scientists Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese and Scott Sandford reproduce uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory.

Credit: NASA/ Dominic Hart

Via Science Daily:

NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces these essential ingredients of life.

Pyrimidine is a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen and is the central structure for uracil, cytosine, and thymine, which are all three part of a genetic code found in ribonucleic (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA). RNA and DNA are central to protein synthesis, but also have many other roles.

“We have demonstrated for the first time that we can make uracil, cytosine, and thymine, all three components of RNA and DNA, non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space,” said Michel Nuevo, research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California.

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Friends Know How Long You’ll Live, Study Finds

Gerry Everding writes at Washington University in St. Louis’ Newsroom:

Young lovers walking down the aisle may dream of long and healthy lives together, but close friends in the wedding party may have a better sense of whether those wishes will come true, suggests new research on personality and longevity from Washington University in St. Louis.

“You expect your friends to be inclined to see you in a positive manner, but they also are keen observers of the personality traits that could send you to an early grave,” said Joshua Jackson, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences.

Published Jan. 12 in an advance online issue of the journal Psychological Science, the study demonstrates that your personality at an early age (20s) can predict how long you will live across 75 years and that close friends are usually better than you at recognizing these traits.

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Anal Goblins, Randian Dweebs and Crude Middle-manager Types: Thinking about Nietzsche’s Ubermensch

Mitch Hell CC BY-ND 2.0)

Mitch Hell (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Occasionally–the first time being about 10 years ago, or so– I’ll attempt to read Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. It’s a book any self-respecting intellectual or radical thinker or simple-minded liberal or Un-American is supposed to read. If you don’t read it, your membership to any of the aforementioned labels/clubs gets revoked. Therefore, every couple of years,  I start to get antsy and I begin to feel nervous that if I don’t read the book, others will recognize that I’m just a “Poser,” a “Fake,” a “Sell Out,” or even an “American” and so I dig through a much-too-big pile of unread books that I have in a closet and pluck out Zinn’s opus, and the same thing happens every goddamned time.

I can’t make it past the first two chapters.

Each and every time I start from the beginning, as any worthwhile book should be read, and I make it through the first two chapters and… I just can’t do it.… Read the rest

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Immortality at the Click of a Mouse?

epSos .de (CC BY 2.0)

epSos .de (CC BY 2.0)

Via BrainBlogger:

Human beings have always longed for immortality. Magic potions, fountains of youth and time travelling are just some of the ideas found in fantasy and science fiction. However, the digital world is not lagging far behind. If we want to become immortal we now have another option: when we pass away we can leave our digital being behind.

That is what is being claimed by the start-up project Eterni.me. Developed as part of MIT’s Entrepreneurship Development Program, it already has thousands of registered users.

Eterni.me is a project that could integrate all the information we have produced online and use it to create a digital simulation of us as individuals. Our discourses, our possible answers to questions, and even characteristics such as our voice could become part of our digital avatar. If taken further, these kinds of digital technologies could one day even be used to develop videos or some kind of holograms of us once we are dead.

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Alien Life: Sea Animal ‘Mushroom’ Discovered

No one knows what this new animal that looks like a mushroom might be, reports BBC News:

A mushroom-shaped sea animal discovered off the Australian coast has defied classification in the tree of life.

Dendrogramma enigmatica sp. nov., holotype.png

“Dendrogramma enigmatica sp. nov., holotype” by Jean Just, Reinhardt Møbjerg Kristensen and Jørgen Olesen – Dendrogramma, New Genus, with Two New Non-Bilaterian Species from the Marine Bathyal of Southeastern Australia (Animalia, Metazoa incertae sedis) – with Similarities to Some Medusoids from the Precambrian Ediacara. PLOS ONE, September 03, 2014. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102976. Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

A team of scientists at the University of Copenhagen says the tiny organism does not fit into any of the known subdivisions of the animal kingdom.

Such a situation has occurred only a handful of times in the last 100 years.

The organisms, which were originally collected in 1986, are described in the academic journal Plos One.

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