Technolotics #26 – Supernatural Selection


Listen: Episode 26
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Bullying Causes Brain Damage

An experiment where mice were repeatly placed in cages with larger dominant aggressors

found that levels of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) were decreased
‘bullied’ mice went on to behave in a socially avoidant manner
which could be ameliorated with anti-depressents

Using viral transfection – researchers temporarily turned of BDNF production in the mesolimbic dopamine system and repeated the experiment with a new set of mice

These mice failed to be negatively conditioned – as with BDNF production blocked a whole series of genes failed to express in reaction to repeated social defeat

The results indicate BDNF may play a role not just in depression – but addiction, social phobia, and post traumatic stress disorder
Implications: New drugs to treat anxiety, more rational approach than ‘chemical imbalance’

repeated incidences of social stress may lead to long term social anxiety and emotional withdrawal


Science Daily Coverage
Science Magazine Coverage
Original Paper – Essential Role of BDNF in the Mesolimbic Dopamine Pathway in Social Defeat Stress

Drive by Night

Luxury car manufacturers BMW and Mercedes release competing night vision systems
Dashboard monitors expose what the naked eye is unable to see lurking in the dark.
< 20 percent of fatal accidents occurred between midnight and 6:00 a.m.
Mercedes uses near-infrared sensors
BMW uses far-infrared technology

BMW system.

BMW system has longer range 984 feet – see bends earlier
but compromises on the sharpness of the displayed image
People appear as “very bright, ghostlike images”.
Future versions of BMW system will sound an audible alarm when an obstacle such as a person or animal is detected on the road ahead. Algorithms will be used to avoid too many false positives which would annoy and distract users.

Mercedes system.

Mercedes system has shorter range but better resolution and displayed objects brightness does not depend on it’s temperature.
Display is also better placed on the dash behind the steering wheel where other dials and gauges are usually placed.

Our thoughts

No head up display so it can be argued you’re taking your eyes off the road to look at the monitor.
Can’t replace the human eye or common sense.
Are accidents really caused by not seeing what’s ahead or by the fact that at that hour people are most likely to be DUI, exhausted and driving recklessly because there is less traffic around.
Can any algorithm be accurate enough to sound an alarm without falsies?


Wired Article

Short Stories

Vatican Rejects ID

The January 17 edition of L’Osservatore Romano contains an article that dismisses Intelligent Design on scientific grounds.
Views expressed in L’Osservatore are thought to reflect Vatican thinking because its content is published with official approval.
An editorial by Fiorenzo Facchini said proponents of ID improperly blur the lines between science and faith.

The Christian Century Coverage

CD Ripping isn’t fair use

The RIAA and other copyright pigopolists have decided that ripping your CD’s to your iPod should be illegal
In a submission to the US copyright offices – the RIAA stated

that format shifting (e.g.: ripping), and time shifting (e.g.: TIVO) – do not count an non-infringing uses

In complete contrast to their statements in the Groxster case etc
Remember this is already illegal in Ireland

EFF Coverage

UN calls for Guantanamo Close

A UN report has called for the immediate closure of Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay
The report calls for either the immediate trial or release of the inmates – and described certain practises as ‘amounting to torture’

namely – force feeding of inmates
interrogation techniques such as – the use of dogs, exposure to extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation for several consecutive days and prolonged isolation
solitary confinement
beating, kicking, punching and excessive force
interrogations designed to cause religious offence – might seem ridiculous – but how would americans feel if iraqi fighters showed their prisoners videos of jesus and mary ‘having a go’
arbitrary detention without limit

The Liaison to the UN, Human Rights Commission responded as follows

report ignored certain pertinant facts
inspectors refused to visit camp – inspectors stated they would not have been able meet prisoners independently

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – stated she could see little alternative to camp closure
In a study released last week, two lawyers acting on behalf on guantanamo prisoners – stated

only 45% of Guantanamo detainees had committed a hostile act against US
only 8% were Al Qaeda fighters


International Herald Tribune Coverage
New Abu Ghraib Photos

Supernatural Selection – Daniel Dennet on Religion

Daniel Dennett in his new book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon” (Viking) argues religion is human behaviour and as such should be studied as a human behaviour.
The idea is not new Marx and Freud had their own explanations. “Religion is the opium of the people” anyone?
Book opens by comparing religion to a parasite, causing irrational and/or inexplicable actions to be taken by people.
The question is who or what is benefitting from these actions.

Research including brain scanning has been carried out to trace the origins of faith.

Old assumption that religion was the product of ignorance. Natural disasters, diseases etc. product of the Gods.
This would mean that as people are more educated, religion dies.
However: by most measures the United States is a more religious country than it was 40 years ago

Several new theories enlist Darwin and evolution.
Religion evolved because it conferred benefits on believers, human groups that formed religions tended to outcompete those that didn’t, surviving longer and propagating more.

Boston Globe Article

Media Pimp


How to download quicktime movies [1]
Infiltration – The Urban Exploration Webzine [2]
Classic Commodore 64 Games online! [3]


Freedom Downtime – Kevin Mitnik Documentary [4]
Mod your LCD monitor [5]
Pageflakes [6] – Better than netvibes? is a votable list of web 2.0 applications – with every hot (and many not) Web 2.0 Apps linked to play with [7]
A great list of tools for Win 2000 / XP’s CMD programme [8]


Girlfriend X – High Tech Dating Software for Men [9]


3 thoughts on “Technolotics #26 – Supernatural Selection

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