March 23, 2009

From Michael R. (ma rz6 2 AT yah oo.c om):

Re: Brain lives at “edge of chaos” (March 18, 2009): It was surprising, but reassuring to my own theoretical speculations, to see the original work of Per Bak and Kan Chen (Self-Organized Criticality in Complex Systems), returning to the fore in this type of brain research. Their research, which I first read of in Scientific American back in the late 1980’s, has rich application possibilities.

Likewise, however, Stuart Kaufman’s work on Poised Systems (Anti-Chaos in Gene Networks; published not long after the Criticality article, also in Sci Am) would be, conceptually, just as useful in terms of description of behavior. Kaufman posited “poised systems” as existing on the “threshold of order and chaos”, and also posited an “anti-chaos” (opposing complete system breakdown/failure) function to this behavior.

Both owe a bit of gratitude to the late Ilya Prigogine’s work on higher order restructuring (which I predict will make a comeback in this field), and which describes the global behavior of numerous complex systems existing in a “far from equilibrium” state, and, how said systems transition from this state to “higher order” states. The researchers are no doubt familiar with this work (I assume), but might want to revisit it, perhaps to save them some time.

Regarding the article’s last paragraph: I submit that one approach would be using brain scans of people engaged in a learning process (and/or creative process; with control for non-learning/passive cognitive sates), and use statistical/visual comparisons to formulate the conceptual model. For a more artful/poetic description of this, view my short essay, The ‘Art of Learning’, on my chaosmosis (dot) net website... just follow the writing and essays links.

Michael R.

From Kay Walker:

Re: Language of music may really be universal (March 20): This is comes from some very intriguing research- it seems intuitively right, although the computing involved is a bit beyond me these days! The neurologist/physician, Oliver Sacks, has always noted the effect of music on humans, especially those with different brain configurations from the usual- the recent book “Musicophilia” provides a lot of qualitative “evidence” for the culture-free effects of music. As a naive student, I did a little experiment to see whether time was perceived to pass differentially according to the amount of dissonance (to Western ears) of music played during a set time interval. My reasoning was that more traditional Western classic scales might sound more harmonious and “relaxing” in mood, so time would seem to pass more quickly than with more “dissonant” and 12-tone scales as the bases for the pieces I chose.

Sure enough my student subjects estimated that more time had passed with the dissonant pieces. I’ll have to examine the literature to see if someone has had a go at this using the computational biology paradigm!

Kay Walker
Adelaide, S. Australia

From Alan Coady:

Re: Language of music may really be universal (March 20): While I have always felt music to be the universal language, I am alightly uneasy with the notion that the ability to identify happiness/sadness is a good way to go about proving this. The problem is that each of these emotions is more or a spectrum than a fixed state. For example, assuming it is agreed that both serenity and elation are happy states, it is unlikely that any musician would portray these moods using similar music. The same would be true when trying to convey a wistful mood as opposed to a tragic mood.

Alan Coady

From Steven C. Anderson:

Re: Warning: warning labels may enhance lure of raunchy video games (March 5): Clearly a study to confirm common sense and the obvious. Weren’t these researchers ever children? How large a grant did they receive for confirming this marvelous insight?

Steven C. Anderson
Professor Emeritus
Department of Biological Sciences
University of the Pacific
Stockton, California 95211, USA

From Miguel Melgar:

Re: Faith found to reduce errors on psychological test (March 6): As always, religious people twist statistics to their liking.

It is not god it is fellowship. Those that enjoy healthy fellowship are healthier and last longer. Most non-believers do not belong to any organization that supplies healthy fellowship, at least no in the USA.

Fellowship is the word, NOT god.

From Pieter Folkens:

Re: Rock-throwing zoo chimp stocked ammo in advance: study (March 10): It should be noted that similar behavior (that is, spontaneous plans for future events) has been documented in dolphins for a couple of decades now.

There was a dolphin at Marine World/Africa USA in the 70s and 80s who was trained to retrieve trash from the tank and received a food reward. On many occasions a trainer would come up on deck to a clean tank, completely devoid of trash, and a dolphin with a bit of trash in its mouth asking for the reward. Monthly food review showed that this dolphin was being feed more than the rest. An observer was put below at a viewing port to see if something unusual was going on.

It turned out that this dolphin had a stash of trash in a container lodged in a corner of the pool full of trash. Whenever a trainer came to the deck, the dolphin dutifully went to the stash and took a bit to present to the trainer. It was also noted that the dolphin would reduce large trash items into smaller bits for the stash to last longer.

This dolphin was the first unambiguous evidence that an animal other than primates can make spontaneous plans for future events.

Pieter Folkens
Alaska Whale Foundation/Society for Marine Mammalogy

From Arnold Broese:

Re: Rock-throwing zoo chimp stocked ammo in advance: study (March 10): The conclusion that this monkey “planned” ahead, is too hastily jumped at. As humans we tend to view the thought processes of other species as similar to our own. A squirrel collecting nuts for the winter is not employing a conceptual (abstract) idea of the future, but is rather responding to inner drives which interact with the environment.

In the case of the monkey, the association of stones with safety and self protection, is enough to inspire collecting a pile. Animals live on the perceptual level, not the abstract level. They can see two stones, but cannot grasp the concept “two”. In the same way, the monkey associates stones with protection on the perceptual level. However, to jump to the conclusion that the monkey has applied an abstract thought such as “future”, is not warranted when the simple explanation of association will suffice.

The day that another species is able to count in the abstract, such as consistently being able to fetch the required number of items, is the day it will have been proved that animals can think in concepts.

From Ken Converse:

Re: Faith found to reduce errors on psychological test (March 6): To my mind this explains a lot about how we see those on the “religious right” able to ignore science and even ignore all kinds of social and human rights abuses. They are certain about their beliefs and cannot be bothered by the details of “reality”. I see this as another nail in the coffin of religion and all the damage that it does.

From Gary:

Re: Faith found to reduce errors on psychological test (March 6): the only part of this story that I can say is true is... “re­li­gious peo­ple or even peo­ple who simply be­lieve in the ex­ist­ence of God show sig­nif­i­cantly less brain ac­ti­vity....”

the truth hurts.

From Deborah Hall:

Re: Doodling gets its due: tiny artworks may help recall (March 2): used to doodle in all my classes at a terrible 2nd rate boarding school in South West England In the 1950’s, and was regularly punished with lines for doing so. It would seem that children do a lot of things instinctively. I still always do it when telephoning. Now I know why.

Deborah Hall
Little Paradise
Self-catering Accommodation

From Charles Guare:

Re: Collective rituals spur support for suicide attacks: researchers (Feb. 19): The article on suicide bombers-church/mosque/synagogue attendance frequency was interesting. It may be that what is being preached at the religious ceremony influences the thinking of those who are overly “devout” so that the frequency of attendance is a strong factor but private prayer is not. The Catholic Church has been using a similar technique for centuries, not for suicide bombers or such, but to convince the overly devout that they should make the sacrifice of their lives to God via service to the priesthood or sisterhood. That kind of thing probably also came into play at the time of the Inquisition to get the Dominicans to engage in vicious and un-Christian behavior. Cultic brainwashing has been around for millennia.

March 02, 2009

From Zena Princess:

Re: Collective rituals spur support for suicide attacks: researchers (Feb. 19): Stop blaming religion for what corporations and ‘globalism’ is doing. When you can’t feed your babies and the foreign corporations are poisoning your family, it’s only natural to do the only thing left to do. You better hope Americans don’t get to that point or they will be doing the same things. You’re simply changing the subject and diverting attention to blaming religion to hide the corrupt and muderous acts of our own people. Stop it.

From Rick Tavan:

Re: Collective rituals spur support for suicide attacks: researchers (Feb. 19): That seems like pretty naive science with a tinge of irresponsibility. I understand that your articles are brief and may not cover all aspects of a study but there was no evidence of a control group of people who attended other kinds of institutions than houses of worship. Of course people who are regularly exposed to praise for some kind of personally difficult action will come to see that action as acceptable, worthy, even desirable. This happened in American schools in the 50s and 60s where we effectively created a new era of positive race relations. It happened in Nazi Germany where the press, schools and other public forums fanned the flames of anti-Semitism, creating a generation of Germans who were capable of genocide. Prayer has nothing to do with socially unacceptable behavior. Mosques are common venues for sermons and other exhortations encouraging behavior that we in the West consider anti-social. So the research is a big yawn, wrapping some data around an obvious conclusion.

What I find irresponsible is the inclusion of a group of Jews in the study, asking them whether they would consider suicide attacks on Muslims acceptable. I am not aware of a single instance of a Jew committing a suicide bombing and I am insulted that these “scientists” have coerced the concept of scientific neutrality so far as to imply that there might be a relationship between Islamic public incitement and Jewish communal discourse. So even if the response “data” correlate with those gathered from Muslims, there is no evidence that the synagogue plays any kind of parallel role to the mosque with respect to encouraging anti-social behavior. To the contrary, although the occasional synagogue discourse on Islam might include elements of despair or even disrespect, it is almost entirely pro-social and defensive. The researchers should have attended some mosques and synagogues and compared the sermons. It wouldn’t take long to discern the difference.

From Toby Katz:

Re: Collective rituals spur support for suicide attacks: researchers (Feb. 19): Judaism does not call for and does not believe in “suicide attacks” or “suicide bombs” so I don’t know how you managed to find even one Jew who claimed to support such a thing, regardless of how often he attends synagogue services. There have never been any Jewish suicide bombers. Your finding that devout Muslims frequently become or support terrorists is of no relevance to any other religion.

From Stephen Mooney:

Re: Black hole “baldness” reflected in more everyday o (Feb. 24): As a consequence of my work in questioning many of the assumptions and theories of physics, I’ve discovered that the idea that blackholes could emit a low level of radiation, put forward by Stephen Hawking, is in fact the case. But in a rather surprising manner.

“As gravity is the product of the absorption of emission and not some magical attribute of matter, curved space, or the exchange of particles called gravitons, a star cannot collapse under its own gravity and form a blackhole, if physics really believed that gravity is caused by the exchange of gravitons, it would have given up on the idea of stars collapsing into blackholes by now. Mind you, if they have detected first stage stars they would have detected blackholes and assume that they’re the result of a collapsing star. How would you detect a first stage (blackhole) star? By the absence of light? As the emission passing near a first stage (blackhole) star would be bent through interacting with its emission field, could this be detected? Or, what about the emission field around the first stage star itself emitting a low level of detectable emission (radiation). Yes, Stephen Hawking was right after all.” From the essay, “Debunking Physics and Inventing the Paradigm of Science”, located here.

From Vern Lefever:

Re: From oral to moral? Dirty deeds may prompt “bad taste” reaction (Feb. 27): Interesting that the wrinkled nose is singled out, over the years I have found that very young babies will respond to nose wrinkling with smiling eyes and mouth with laughter. The same response comes from kids up three four if they are open an unconditioned at the moment.

Seems like the closing eyes and scowling mouth are needed for the negative response.

From Cathryn Todd:

Re: Report: cells “from space” have unusual makeup (Sept. 8): The articles concerning the theories and test upon the red rains of Kerala are very interesting.

And from what I understand, the cells from the red rain have a unique molecular composition. And when stimulated with extreme heat, produced daughter cells. I also read the articles concerning the perplexing controversy concerning that the red cells do not contain DNA, and so, many scientist theorize it cannot be of any life form? However, they agree it is of an unknown or unfamiliar type ever known to us. And so, my question is this; could it possibly be related to unknown virus type? Because from what I understand, there are some Viruses that lack DNA, but are of RNA origin. Viruses can spread genes among bacteria and humans and other cells, as they always have. And again, some viruses do not have DNA. Below, is a possible theorized examples that I read about: Conjugation is the bacterial version of sex. In conjugation, bacterial cells actually connect, and the “male” donates a piece of DNA to the “female.” The piece of DNA in this case was excised earlier from the bacterial chromosome. Such excised pieces of DNA are called plasmids. (Plasmids, being able to pass out of one cell and into another, are similar to viruses. But they have no protein coat and no “life cycle” different from that of their host cell; in this respect they resemble small chromosomes. ) If the transferred genetic material is a passenger on a ship, in the transfer of plasmids by conjugation the ships come alongside each other and the passenger walks across a gangplank to the new ship.

Transduction is yet another way for bacteria to exchange genetic material. In transduction, a virus takes up a piece of DNA from its bacterial host and incorporates it into its own viral genome. After the virus has multiplied, many copies of the virus erupt from the infected cell. Depending on the kind of transduction, some or all of the daughter viruses take copies of parts of the bacterial DNA with them. When one of them infects a new cell, it inserts the stolen DNA into the new cell, where the stolen piece becomes integrated into the new cell’s DNA. (The stolen piece may be a whole gene with which the cell acquires a new function, as was reported in June, 1996, by two scientists at Harvard Medical School (5). ) In transduction, the passenger resorts to hiding inside some freight, hoping to get aboard a different ship that way.

Transduction by viruses works in eukaryotic organisms as well. The discovery that large blocks of genetic instructions can be swapped and transferred among creatures is a clue that the insertion of new genes could be the mechanism behind evolutionary advances. If viruses can transfer eukaryotic genes across species boundaries, and can install their own genes into their hosts, the case for the new mechanism is even stronger. As we will see, viruses do just that.

With this expressed, I am thinking maybe it could be a plausible reason for why the red rain cells have not tested to have DNA, due to they are much like a virus of a RNA type. A virus, which has either not been impregnated, or no transduction has taken place. It can multiple, but the daughter cells have not stolen nor fused with a cell that contains DNA, to become intergrated. So instead, it is simply a passenger hiding inside some freight, such as possibly the meteor theory, hoping to get aboard a different ship, per say, one that has DNA. Don’t know, just a thought. But maybe you could do some other test related to this.