Wednesday, November 28, 2007

mmmm Fractals

Because I work around a bunch of living systems people, I keep bumping into fractals. I've always liked the concept of fractals. The way they were explained to me was very simple: in nature, a fractal is a pattern that you can find underlying chaos. Nature follows the simplest and most efficient path. Therefore, you have the same pattern over and over, expressed in iterations and sort of nested within one another. For example, a piece of broccoli or cauliflower is these tiny florets within florets within florets, all of which were shaped by the same material flows and thus have the same pattern. Here's a broccoli-cauliflower hybrid, which is a nice example:

So anyway, that's how I understand fractals, which is sort of a simplistic natural systems view. There is this whole fractal geometry thing that I don't get, though, because I'm bad at math. But basically, fractal geometry corresponds to actual stuff in the real world, whereas euclidian geometry is all about abstract shapes like triangles and squares. This is cool: someone was recently telling me about this law of fractal geometry which is basically when you're measuring the perimeter of something, that as your instruments become more and more calibrated your measurement will grow closer and closer to infinity. The example that was used was measuring a coastline--imagine walking along the coast with a measuring tape, which would give you one measurement. Then, imagine walking around with a string and measuring around each individual grain of sand. Your measurement would be much higher even though it was the same coastline.

So anyway, that got me thinking and googling. I was reading this thing on Mandelbrot, which was interesting, and kind of lifts up some stuff about fractal geometry vs. euclidian geometry, so I thought I'd pass it along. What frustrates me is that when they're teaching younger people math, they teach them euclidian geometry, which seems much more abstract and boring. I mean, I'm not saying you shouldn't teach euclidian geometry, because obviously it's very very difficult to get through life if you don't know how to calculate the area of an isosceles triangle. But if they were teaching kids in high school fractal geometry then I'd think that they would be much more interested, right? Because you can just run outside and find some shit to play with. Plus, it would help prepare these kids to make the most of their first acid trip. Goddammit our education system is failing us.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Missing Links. HYPER-Links! Ah ha ha, um, (cough) hee . . . mmmm . . .

Really though, we've added a new feature to Human on Human: our suggested links listing!

There is so much good news out there, and I feel there's so much I should be posting, but feel like a hack writing posts that just regurgitate what someone has already written better. So right over there on the left, above our post history, is now a list of what Shannon and I have found online.

Want some teasers to the links that are there now?

Rock of Ages, Ages of Rock : Forget Intelligent Design. Let's bring this shit back old school with Creationism, and not only Creationism that attacks Biology, but Geology as well. Meet the real scientists who believe the Earth is only like 6 thousand years old. "Granite deposit: Where were you the night of Novemeber 27th, 10 billion years B.C.?"

My Genome, Myself: People want freedom, and yet they keep finding smart new ways to talk about how unfree they are! I think my genes wrote this sentence.

Who's Afraid Of "Soulless Scientism?": George Bush created a bioethics committee in 2001, and its first president thinks that science should be a humble science that doesn't ask questions. A really interesting read. This topic will be back. I promise you, yes, YOU!

Judgment Day: The 2-hour Nova special all about the Dover School case several years ago all about teaching ID along side Evolution in science class. Really, I got emotional at the end. You can watch the whole thing for free online. Also, I feel this single Nova episode preemptively debunks anything that the Ben Stein diatribe coming out soon can say about Evolution.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

...which is why I'm such a slut.

Scientists have done a study on pigs (whose reproductive systems are very similar to that of humans) that provides:

possible biochemical proof that the reproductive system of female mammals can "sense" the presence of sperm and react to it by changing the uterine environment.

And evidence for:

a detection and selection system that alerts females to the presence of different kinds of sperm and then triggers mechanisms in the oviducts that control sperm transport, binding and activation for fertilization.

So what does that translate to, in the natural world?

"We know sperm selection exists in nature, especially in promiscuous species, when females mate with several males," Fazeli said. "Baboons are a good example. During one reproductive cycle, if the female mates with several males, most of the time the offspring belong to one of the males -- not a spread between all of them... We are now seeing what can be the molecular basis for this effect."

So let me just re-capture the awesomeness for you, in case you missed it. This study suggests that after sex, my vagina observes what kind of sperm she got, and then she decides whether she wants to make it easier or harder for that sperm to fertilize her eggs by altering the uterine environment. We are well-aware that women select mates based on their fitness, by evaluating things like strength, status, facial symmetry and pheremone content. What this study suggests is that after a woman has sex with a potential mate, her body goes through another evaluation process based upon sperm quality. And that, pure and simple, means that it is biologically advantageous for women to be promiscuous. BAM.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The pressure to be thin (sad!)

I hope you find the time to read this article about how models keep dropping dead from not eating enough.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

And don't forget that teenage girls see this warped image of how women are "supposed to look" and they get really really confused about their bodies! They get eating disorders! They get low self esteem! The fashion industry is totally evil, and all I can say is that I'm really really glad that I am secure enough in my femininity to keep a healthy perspective on this as I shop for this season's skinny jeans and scoop-neck tunics. If it weren't for women like me staying grounded, we'd never have a shot at overcoming the patriarchy.


I feel like, in Life, I have graduated past being upset by this. Sure when I was fifteen and chubby and getting oriented to feminism I was outraged by the fashion industry and its many transgressions against Womankind. But I am over it. You know why? Because if you as a human being are willing to let the fashion industry affect your judgment so much that you stop ingesting the nutrients necessary for your survival, then fucking good. Now you're fucking dead, and your weird, neurotic, insecure, self-absorbed children will never be born. Jesus Christ I love natural selection.

Anyway, while the Feminist Lite view is that the fashion industry is evil or bad or wrong, I think it's worth noting that this is an industry full of people that have evolved the ability to kill themselves with clothes. I think the problem is not any kind of genuine malevolence but just the natural output of a system being run by a bunch of shallow idiots. I mean, look at the fashion photographer (in the article) speaking out against the industry. Go ahead, sweetheart, fight the good fight. Those models are dying, goddammit! Let me know when we start losing rocket scientists and I'll start caring. K?

Oh, by the way, this video is still funny after approximately 700 viewings.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


When I was little I used to have nightmares about The Bomb. They were pure figments of my imagination...I'm really glad I never saw these photos (French nuclear test, August 24, 1970).

(via my friend Shane Amaya)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Political Science, or, Amateur Human Nature Theorists and Practitioners (Politicians)

“It’s interesting that that question would even be asked of someone running for president. I’m not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth grade science book. I’m asking for the opportunity to be President of the United States.”

This was the beginning of Senator Mike Huckabee’s response to the question, “You’re on record saying you don’t believe in Evolution, but if not, then what? Is it the story of creation as described in Genesis?” Huckabee goes on to state that yes, he does believe the story of Genesis, and that the particulars of the method and duration of this creation he doesn’t know.

Yes, Huckabee isn’t planning on writing the curriculum to a science class, but he is volunteering to be a primary decision-maker in a scientific experiment with irreversible consequences.

I was thinking about what the essence of politics was the other day, and when you strip away all the jargon politics (and government) is just the practice and theory of how to manage and control human beings. Every time a politician opens his or her mouth, he/she is stating their preferences in government, but digging deeper, they are saying what they think motivates and influences the actions of human beings, and how government can harness, inhibit, encourage, or snuff this behavior.

What makes human beings tick?

Are we creatures that were created to love and serve our creator, creatures that each house a struggle between spiritual godliness, and ‘animalistic,’ desires of the flesh that include greed and lust? Or are we animals that, like every other animal, operate under an evolved nature that promotes behavior resulting in the largest amount of children? Somewhere in between?

Mike isn’t writing a science class book, but he is aspiring to manage and control a vast community of these creatures about whom he has theories (scientific we could say) on how they operate. What if Mike is wrong about his science? What if his theories about what makes humans tick isn’t correct? What’s at stake?

There is one big reason why Huckabee, or any other brave amateur ‘human nature theorist’ (politician) should be concerned about science today: the continuation of our species on this planet. Paul MacCready puts it perfectly in this quote: “Over billions of years on a unique sphere chance has painted a thin layer of life, complex, improbable, wonderful and fragile. Suddenly we humans, a recently arrived species, no longer subject to the inherent check and balances present in nature, have grown in population, technology, and intelligence to a position of terrible power. We now wield the paint brush.” Science informs us of our world, and if we don’t understand how our world works how are we to make informed decisions on how to interact with it? (See Dan Dennett's speech as it relates to MacCready's quote here.)

Global warming and nuclear war at the hands of terrorists (or nations led by men who don’t understand the ramifications of their actions); these are the two big political questions in America today that have everything to do with science. On the most powerful country in the world, in an unprecedented period of population and technology, having the proper information about how our planet, and how we as an animal work and relate to one another is important. This president doesn’t have to be a scientist to properly rule this country, but this president should at least have the respect and understanding of science to realize that in this age, science is synonymous with power, and whoever wields this power will be able to do or undo everything our species, and life in general, has worked so hard to achieve.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Millennial fury

Shannon: i am both flattered and offended by this
Derekh: millennials?
Derekh: is that us?
Shannon: apparently
Derekh: huh
Derekh: what is the purpose of this article?
Shannon: it makes me feel stereotyped
Shannon: but also, feared
Shannon: so it's kind of a wash
Derekh: i just don't understand what the point of categorizing this group is
Derekh: so you know how to interact with us?
Derekh: so you know what to talk about?
Derekh: i mean, i don't get it
Shannon: i dont' get it either
Derekh: oh well
Shannon: i hate America
Shannon: oh shit
Shannon: watch this 60 minutes thing
Shannon: "Come now as our reporter walks a mile in their flip-flops"
Shannon: ok that's it
Shannon: fuck these people
Derekh: wait what?
Derekh: it says that?
Derekh: i love 60 minutes
Derekh: so much
Shannon: they're making us look like a bunch of snotty idiots
Shannon: who only understand the internet
Shannon: or like
Shannon: we're a bunch of slackers that are going to take over the world through no other virtue than that we are internet savvy
Shannon: or something
Shannon: i don't know
Shannon: also, note the link to that mr. rogers thing
Derekh: well
Derekh: that is true
Derekh: oh my god, is that the thing that blames mr. rogers?
Shannon: yes.
Shannon: fucking yes.
Shannon: these fucking people better watch it, because in 20 years we'll all be holding public office and we can implement policy measures for euthanizing old people
Derekh: nice
Derekh: ok, watching this millenial vid
Derekh: i hate this woman
Derekh: who is judging us
Shannon: lol
Derekh: 'rolling in with their ipods and flip flops around noon'
Shannon: omg
Derekh: fuck these people
Derekh: fuck these dinosaurs who feel that by labeling us they are somehow controlling us, something they know in their heart of hearts, they can't fucking do, ever
Derekh: because when they die, we inherit the earth
Shannon: there it is!
Shannon: i was trying to unlock your anger
Shannon: finally
Derekh: i feel labeled
Derekh: i don't like it
Shannon: yes!
Shannon: me too!
Derekh: this woman is a bitch
Shannon: it's infuriating!
Derekh: who doesn't know shit
Shannon: these people are totally threatened by us
Derekh: like we're that different from her
Shannon: it's so retarded
Derekh: they should be
Derekh: our WPM typing skills are unbridled
Shannon: lol
Derekh: you know what i'm going to do?
Shannon: what
Derekh: throw away my flip-flops and give my ipod to a baby boomer
Derekh: i'll show them
Shannon: lol
Derekh: i'm going to start writing checks
Shannon: hahaha
Derekh: never use my check card again
Derekh: i'm also going to not use tivo or cable, but just use reception from an antennae
Shannon: and then slowly entering the purchase into your check register with a shaky, arthritic hand while people impatiently tap their feet behind you in line
Shannon: use radio
Derekh: tape my favorite shows using a timer on a VCR
Derekh: exactly
Shannon: vhs? or BETA.
Derekh: beta
Derekh: man
Derekh: i don't know
Shannon: lol
Derekh: i've never used consumer betamax
Shannon: that's like the going vegan of acting old
Derekh: nice
Derekh: oh well
Derekh: i do hate the internet
Derekh: (i don't)
Shannon: i do too (me neither)

Monday, November 12, 2007


I was cleaning out my spam folder and realized that some of these lines are perfectly suited for the haiku form.

the ladies will say
gosh! your penis is unique!
with megadik pills

at last your new life
your sexual dreams come true
real man, real penis!

"oh it's so tiny!"
did it make you feel so sad?
feel the action, man!

disappointing babes?
new special medication
now, attract sweet chicks!

girls giggle at you?
real sexual formula
bigger than "average"!

give her real pleasure!
be proud in public toilets!
make order today!

momma nature

25 weird animals for you to love

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Does your name start with an R? Because you are Retarded!

I would like to please draw your attention to a new study that sheds light on that wacky, wacky human nature by applying two well-known statistical principles for rigorous study: 1. Blowing Your Results Out of Proportion, and 2. Ignoring Obvious and Simple Explanations for Your Data. Yay, science! (Note: italics denote extreme sarcasm).

The authors of the study have found that people tend to express preferences for things that begin with the same letter as their name--i.e., Tom likes Toyotas. I would like to first point out that it is in fact highly likely that this obviously definitely is the case within a certain sub-population of homo sapiens that science refers to as Losers. So obviously these Losers are skewing your results. But okay.

But wait! The researchers say. We have found that statistically, people express this preference for things that are NOT desirable--which means that it is an unconscoius preference. One of their examples of these undesirables is a strikeout in baseball (which is recorded on the scorecard with the letter K). Behold:

Based on data from 1913 through 2006, for the 6,397 players with at least 100 plate appearances, “batters whose names began with K struck out at a higher rate (in 18.8% of their plate appearances) than the remaining batters (17.2%),” the researchers find...Granted, 18.8% vs. 17.2% is not a huge difference, but it was statistically significant—that is, not likely to be due to chance."

Oh my god, there were 1.6% more strikeouts by people whose names began with K. You're right, that is not likely due to chance. But with 6,397 players and 26 letters in the alphabet, about 500 of them will have K as one of their initials (K is probably one of those averagely common letters, yeah?). So basically it could have been like one fucking guy who is accounting for this entire "statistically significant" difference. Like maybe in Little League mean kids called him Kenny Strikeout or something. Or whatever, maybe I'm exaggerating and it's more like five guys--either way, a 1.6-percent difference manifesting within a sample size of five hundred people seems pretty tenuous to me. I'm not even going to get into how the word "strikeout" actually begins with a fucking S--whatever. So that's Blowing Your Results Out of Proportion. Moving on.

The other shocking trend they found: People whose names begin with A and B get higher grades than people whose names begin with C and D--in fact, the Cs and Ds on average get lower grades than people with neutral initials (M, W, etc.). Again, this could be a sub-population of weirdos skewing the results, but just for fun let's pretend it isn't. Let's pretend it's actually true across the entire population. How do the researchers explain this?

The [students with initials of either C or D] had such “an unconscious fondness for these letters, [they] were slightly less successful at achieving their conscious academic goals than were students with other initials,” write the researchers.

I would just like to point out that half of these people are qualified here by their last initial, and that teachers often alphabetize their students by their last names. People with the initials A and B are probably frequently the first to get called in attendance, sit at the front of the class, and get graded on a test by a teacher. People with the initials C or D are probably frequently near the top but never first. This might very well have a psychological impact on both students and teachers. An analogy would be a race, say a marathon--The guy who finishes first is the happiest, the guys who finished second and third are the least happy (so close!), and everyone else is just happy to have finished at all. So that's Ignoring Obvious and Simple Explanations For Your Data.

So thanks Leif Nelson of the Univ. of California and Joseph Simmons of Yale. Oh that's funny. Your initials have nothing in common with what school you went to. Oh what's that? Leif? You own a Lawnmower?! Oh my god that's so amazing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Dude, dude!

I was reading this article, which is about how cigarettes are bad (groundbreaking) and marijuana is good. At least, if you believe the Swiss. They are neutral. We can trust them.

Instead of reading the whole article, because obviously you're at work and supposed to be working, allow me to supply the pertinent quote:

"In contrast to those who shunned both substances, the pot-only crowd was more likely to be male (71.6 to 47.7 percent); have a good relationship with friends (87 versus 83.2 percent); and play sports (85.5 versus 76.6 percent)...they do not seem to have great personal, family or academic problems."

The study also pointed out that potsmokers were less likely to have good relationships with their parents, but I think that we can pretty safely attribute that to the taboo.

I don't really partake in pot any more, but it's more because I'm too lazy to go find some than due to any real aversion. In fact, side note, I don't know if you know this, but marijuana binds to the receptor for a naturally occurring ligand called anandamide. That's the chemical that's thought to be released during runner's high, and also interestingly enough has a whole lot to do with pregnancy: it plays a role in getting the egg into the womb and is a key chemical communicator between a mother and her embryo.

So to recap: smoking pot will make you more likely to have good friendships, and the high is like your very first experience of your mother's love. Good thing that shit's illegal!

Is the existence of suffering in the world the reason why you don't believe in God?

That's a good reason, as discussed in this New York Times article, but I like this commenter's reason too!

'” I came to the point where I simply could not believe that there is a good and kindly disposed Ruler who is in charge.” “The problem of suffering,” he recalls, “became for me the problem of faith.””

I’m a much more simple man. My problem of faith was talking snakes.

— Posted by jambo'

Snakes get a really bad rap, n'est pas? It's species-profiling. Do you know how many snakes are wrongfully accused each year of eating babies, hypnotizing children, and offering forbidden produce to women who don't see the big problem with grazing between meals? My grandma was a snake, dude.

Can you identify all these 'bad' snakes from popular culture?

What's that? You don't recognize the third snake down on the left? Oh, that's because HE DOESN'T EXIST. I just drew him up to prove a point; no where in media are snakes represented as benevolent, friendly creatures. As far as Hollywood is concerned (and let's be honest, global consciousness) snakes are lower than the dirt they slide on.

I still think the best writing on how you reconcile a suffering world with the existence of loving god comes from C.S. Lewis's 'The Problem of Pain.' It's short, it's smart, super-duper smart, and it does an excellently intelligent job of addressing the issue. I just found some quotes online from it.

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

"We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it's there for emergencies but he hopes he'll never have to use it."

Monday, November 5, 2007

And me without my colander helmet and spatula sword...

NASA has a bunch of recordings up of sounds on Saturn. So what does Saturn sound like? Well, first of all, it sounds awesome. That aside, Saturn sounds exactly like we expected it to sound like: like Outer Space.

No seriously. We all watched enough MST3K to know what Outer Space sounds like. Every cheesy sci-fi movie ever made makes Outer Space sound the same way. It goes something like weeoo weeoo weeoo glub glub wzzzle wzzzle weeoo blzzle bvwooOOooOOooOOoot! Which, it turns out, is 100 percent scientifically accurate. Did we already have Outer Space recorded and I just didn't hear about it? Or should I start piecing together a major conspiracy theory involving Area 51, mutants, the inventor of the synthesizer, and the Directors Guild of America....

Sunday, November 4, 2007

"The Golden Compass" Debated on Fox News

The priest gets the last word, out of respect, because anyone who doesn't believe in Judeo-Christian concepts deserves less respect obviously.

So much to say . . .

Bored online? Have you checked your email five times while reading this headline? Find religious debates online!

Who loves reading the comments posted on movie reviews, opinion articles, or YouTube videos online? Do you love reading pedantic arguments that try to find that perfect balance of intelligent argumentation and 'Yo Moma's SO FAT-style' disses? Are your friends tired of you going on lengthy drunken diatribes about what the real purpose of life is, and what's wrong with religion, and what you REALLY think about God?

What's that? You answer 'Yes' to all three of those?

WELP, this New York Times Article "God and Man on YouTube" points out several religious video superhits that have elicited mountains of debate in the form of comments. There is also is apparently a website called GodTube (broadcast him).

OMG, I just very briefly glanced at the GodTube page for the first time, and the first video on there is talking about the "Golden Compass" movie and is asking if it promotes atheist to kids!

Ok, I gotta go join the fun!!!!!

See you on the message boards!