Lifes Worth Knowing

Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Weekender

In Current events, Economics, Fascinating, Interesting, Obama, Politics, Science on February 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm

The Weekender is a weekly column devoted to the ideas/articles/videos that I find fascinating and wish I had more time to explore.

My wife’s Valentine roses only lasted one week. Russian scientists recovered seeds that had been locked in the siberian permafrost for 30,000 years and managed to make them grow, although it was a little bit more complex than placing the seeds under a grow lamp. The scientists extracted the plant placenta from inside the seeds, bathed them in a mash of nutrients until they sprouted roots and stems and then potted the plants two years later. The result was a leafy plant with unique white flowers, which are fully viable and capable of producing their own seeds, thus continuing an evolutionary branch after a 30,000 year hiatus.

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Meet Ted: Redefining Natural Resources

In Interesting, Jon, Nature, Science, Ted Talk on February 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Meet Ted is a weekly post dedicated to discovering and sharing the best of the TED Talks. TED is a multidisciplinary series of conferences designed to bring together inspired thinkers and innovative minds. The talks are posted for free online at www.ted.com.

Since my last Meet Ted post about mushrooms and the amazing potential for practical application and symbiosis, I have been dominated by the idea of harmony and the potential for people to learn from and work within, not against, the rest of natural world. Much of the Western mindset is rooted in a belief that man is somehow separate from the natural world and even has dominion over nature. Our social values and problem solving techniques reflect this belief structure, and as a result we find ourselves approaching the environment as a commodity at our disposal, even an inconvenience, rather than a delicate life-giving and sustaining system of which we are an important piece. If mushrooms are capable of naturally producing more effective insecticides than we can chemically create, what else are we trying to do or learn that nature can already do better? What potential benefit can we gain from working with and learning from the natural world?

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Contraception Contradiction

In Birth Control, Catholic, Current events, Health Insurance, Obama, Politics on February 19, 2012 at 9:49 am

The outrage has been palpable. The lines have been drawn, and the war is quickly escalating. No, we aren’t talking about the atrocities happening in Syria, or even the quagmire of Afghanistan, we are talking about the pill.

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The Weekender

In Economics, Fascinating, General, Interesting, Science on February 17, 2012 at 9:36 pm

The Weekender is a weekly column devoted to the ideas/articles/videos that I find fascinating and wish I had more time to explore.

The “human peacock tail” isn’t what you think it is.  This write up comes from the minds over at Freakonomics, where they look at a new paper that found that male kindness is our “human peacock tail.” To summarize the study, the researchers had their subjects participate in a cooperation game that allowed the subjects to donate money to other people altruistically. They used either an attractive male researcher that monitored the game, or an attractive female researcher. They found that men being observed by an attractive female researcher made significantly more altruistic donations, while women had no statistical difference regardless of who was monitoring the game.  The conclusion then was that male “niceness” is something that we turn on in order to impress a potential mate. At least evolutionarily speaking, nice guys might not finish last.

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Iron Sharpens Iron: Absolute Truth

In Philosophy, Religion, Thoughtful, Truth on February 14, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Iron Sharpens Iron is a new feature for lifesworthknowing, taking a broad topic and allowing the authors to discuss different viewpoints utilizing the Socratic method – edited and uploaded for more discussion on the blog. The idea is to get ideas circulating and promote discussion in the forum.

The first up is a broad topic with far ranging implications. You can follow the discussion below. Justin in bold. Jon in plain text.

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The Weekender

In Current events, Economics, Fascinating, Interesting, Justin, Maps, Politics, Thoughtful on February 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm

The Weekender is a weekly column devoted to the ideas/articles/videos that I find fascinating and wish I had more time to explore.

Where childhood dreams (nightmares?) come true. Atlas Obscura is one of the coolest/creepiest sites on the internet. It highlights the world’s curiosities, like abandoned theme parks, natural wonders, ghost towns, that sort of thing. While this page for “The Enchanted Forest” theme park doesn’t have a wealth of pictures, it is pretty creepy to see the emblems of childhood fantasies rotting into disrepair. Also check out the Argentinian town drowned by a salt water lake and the Romanian Stonehead to name two of the thousands of locations.

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Meet Ted: Mushrooms Can Do What?

In Fascinating, General, Jon, Science, Ted Talk on February 10, 2012 at 11:32 am

Meet Ted is a weekly post dedicated to discovering and sharing the best of the TED Talks. TED is a multidisciplinary series of conferences designed to bring together inspired thinkers and innovative minds. The talks are posted for free online at www.ted.com.

I spend a lot of time worrying. It really is an unfortunate behavior; it offers no tangible benefit or solution to whatever the source issue may be, and additionally, it is depressing as hell. Frequently, the source of my mildly suppressed panic is the widespread environmental degradation and general indifference of the human population. I know, I know – I’m just another goddamn tree-hugging hippie liberal who wants to save the earth. But seriously, this stuff matters. I could sit here and write another blog about how awful people are, how we are losing biodiversity at a shocking rate, how governments just don’t care about anything except oil and money, and how if you aren’t outraged you aren’t paying attention. But that column has been written before, probably 1,000,000 times. So rather than spending time worrying about the problem, let’s find a solution. To that end, let’s take a look at fungus for a little inspiration.

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Lake Vostok: Updated

In Uncategorized on February 9, 2012 at 10:14 am

This was discussed in last week’s edition of the Weekender, but now there is an update on Lake Vostok. The Russian team successfully breached the ice barrier…or as the eloquent Russian news service put it, “penetrated the prehistoric waters of Lake Vostok under the ice through a deep ice borehole.”

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Grading Gregory: Newt Gingrich

In Current events, David Gregory, Energy, Justin, Meet the Press, Newt Gingrich, Politics, Welfare on February 8, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Grading Gregory is a (sometimes) weekly column highlighting one of Meet the Press’s headline interviews with the best journalist in the business, David Gregory.

This week, we turn (back) to one of the Republican candidates for the Presidency, Newt Gingrich. It feels like Gregory has had Newt on every week for the past two months – ever since he all but declared that he would be the nominee shortly after Thanksgiving.

The Gingrich interview is really becoming Gregory’s speciality. What makes him such a good journalist is that unlike  most opinion oriented journalists, he actually points out when politicians are being less than truthful, and points out the lies. What makes the Gingrich interviews so compelling is that Newt’s egotistical and arrogant manner of discussion makes it seem that he might actually believe his own lies. Sometimes it is obvious when a politician is just reciting a line and pandering (see Romney, Mitt). When Newt says outrageous things (like guaranteeing that we will have a colony on the moon by the end of his second term…WHAT?) he actually seems to believe them. It’s like he lives in an alternate universe where shame doesn’t exist. How else do you explain his attempt to impeach President Clinton for his extra-marital affair while simultaneously conducting his own extra-marital affair?

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The Weekender

In Fascinating, Interesting, Justin, Science, Thoughtful on February 3, 2012 at 11:05 am

The Weekender is a weekly column devoted to the ideas/articles/videos that I find fascinating and wish I had more time to explore.

You know how people always made fun of communication majors? Now there’s a scientific reason. This article took the average math and verbal scores on the GRE for various disciplines of study, and found some surprising results. Some make sense, like the low math/low verbal quadrant being populated by phys ed and communication majors…but also by special ed and psychology. The real surprising fact for me was taking a look at what the highest tier looks like – a group that includes physics, history of science, and classical language.

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