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Joshua Davidson
A catalyst for change, promoting a positive future
A catalyst for change, promoting a positive future

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There are two important errors that people often make when thinking about what can be known. The first bias is to mistake unknown as unknowable and the second is mistake beyond my conception as beyond everyone’s conception. Knowledge is built up from primary understanding to speculative understanding through a series of steps going from very certain to fuzzy in an outward circle. Many people mistake their value of the certainty of each step of the ever expanding circle as the value of certainty an expert in the field has.

Each year we humans add to our pool of knowledge things that were unknown before, or “unproven”. Unproven needs the quotes because proof in a scientific sense means tested very well and yet to fail. If a “proven truth” were confronted with suitable counter evidence, that “proven truth” would be either discarded (if completely wrong) or updated if slightly wrong based on that counter evidence. Of course that counter evidence would need to be very good. Basically, just because we don’t know how something works today, doesn’t mean we won’t know how it works next year. Like a child learning to talk, our human knowledge increases as our species ages.

Our pool of knowledge is now so vast that no single person can possibly understand it all in any level of depth. Think about a thing you know very well and recall talking to someone who has very little idea about that thing. It is very frustrating as they try to grasp the concepts and keep making seemingly simple errors of understanding. That is what you sound like in any area outside of your expertise when talking to someone inside of theirs. Some people are lucky and have a good general understanding in many fields of knowledge. This still pales in comparison to someone who is an expert.

When we think that we can’t understand a thing, it is tempting to think that no one can understand that thing. This fallacious concept is supported by the lack of comprehension we have in all the steps that lead from fundamental knowns to the idea that we don’t understand. It just seems so distant and uncertain, or impossible to comprehend. Yet there are people who specialise in that area that do understand. For example, how can we know what the atmosphere is on a planet in another solar system? That planet is so far away, way beyond the range of a visual telescope. How can we even know that a planet exists orbiting around another star? Again, the stars are so far away, we can’t see them. Yet astrophysicists look at the light from a star over a span of years, measuring the changes in brightness with instruments that are so sensitive that they can measure greater than a change in brightness of 1 in 10,000. That is, if we lined up 10,000 light globes in a valley over the horizon and looked at the glow, the instrument looking at the stars could tell if one of those light globes was switched off. This is hard to conceive, yet we have the tool. This means that the decrease in light from the star as the planet crosses the star is measurable. If this happens 3 times, and the space between the 3 is the same, we have an orbit. Another tool is used to measure the spectrum of light coming from that star. The changes in the spectrum as the planet crosses (transits) the star tells us what dominant elements are in the atmosphere of that planet.

When I was a child it seemed impossible that we could truly know that there were planets around other stars. It was a sure bet theory, but how could we prove it? Now we can. It seemed impossible to know what the atmosphere was of a planet at that range without going to it, yet we now can know that. It seems improbable that astrophysicists can know these things with any certainty, yet the science is sound even if I don’t know the mathematics and formulae involved in getting from what I do comprehend to what the astrophysicist comprehends.

Torture – An Exposé

Torture is used by humans on humans to achieve two main outcomes. Dominance and manipulation. These are frequently related to each other.
Dominance is about the perpetrator demonstrating that they are in charge, that the perpetrator has choice and that the victim is not in charge and does not have choice. The perpetrator needs to do this because they do not feel that the victim is powerless or lesser and therefore must prove it on them by the application of various torture techniques. This torture repositions the power dynamic between the two to demonstrate the perpetrators power over the victim.
Manipulation is where the perpetrator wants the victim to change. That is, the perpetrator wants the victim to do something different to what they were going to do, behave in a way that is different to how they were going to behave and think in a different way to how they were going to think.
Both of these tell us a great deal about the perpetrator. A perpetrator doesn’t need to dominate a person that they already overpower or manipulate a person into doing what they were already going to do. All it proves is that the perpetrator feels inadequate or out of control, whether they are or not is irrelevant.
There are some fairly common techniques used in torture. The fundamental underlying aspect of torture is to change the core value of the victim from strength to compliance. If you are a victim, always remember you had to be seen as strong by the perpetrator for them to want to torture you. Mainly because they feel weak.
Physical punishment has two key elements, using pain to illicit fear as motivators. The first element is to weaken the will. This pain and fear fills part of our attention making it harder to think clearly. Consider when you have stubbed your toe, hit your thumb with a hammer, or slammed your hand in the door. I am pretty sure that most of your attention was on the pain and choice of swear words rather than considering the implications of astrophysics or any of your fields of interest. Your attention is on the pain, or fear of pain. It is not on thinking logically.
The second key element is fear avoidance. Ivan Pavlov is considered the first published scientists to discuss classical conditioning. His thought experiment regarding dogs, food and bells created an association in the dog’s reflexes between the ringing of the bell and the expectation of food via reward. Punishment is another form of conditioning. We don’t want to get hurt, so we do the thing (or don’t do the thing), in order to avoid the predicted pain. The torturer will ensure that you know what it is you are avoiding. The torturer will also use rewards as relief from the pain and fear to increase certain behaviours.
The perpetrator can inflict pain on the victim at will, thus demonstrating their physical dominance. The more sadistic perpetrator will want to leave marks to prove their power and ongoing dominance in a more permanent way. However it is rarely physical dominance that the perpetrator is after, they are just using it as a tool for what they really want. Psychological dominance.
Psychological manipulation uses similar techniques to the above. Overloading the mind and conditioning reflexes. This can be done via a host of techniques such as sleep deprivation, food deprivation, deprivation of liberty, creating an environment of fear, bombarding the victim with information, social isolation, financial deprivation and manipulating their emotions.
There is another aspect that is really important to all of these techniques. Convincing the victim that what they thought they were doing, thinking or feeling was wrong. This can be done via gas lighting (undermining core beliefs), emotional manipulation, invalidating the person’s integrity, changing goal posts (you can never be right) and making it not worth arguing. There are many more techniques than these, of course. The common underlying principle is to make the victim doubt the fact or value they knew and trusted, and replace it with the fact or value the perpetrator wants the victim to take on board.
Overloading the victims mind means that the victim can’t evaluate the information before storing it. Think of it like putting groceries away. When you realise you are about to put some rotten food in the cupboard, you stop, put it aside and throw it out. If I give you several tons of food to store in big boxes with a tight time limit, you won’t check all the food, you’ll just put it in the cupboard. By overloading the thinking mind, the victim can’t analyse and judge the information coming in and will just store the rotten idea without critical analysis.
Isolating the victim from safety, other trusted people and time is all about giving the person no good reference point to compare the new information to. If you are in a boat on the ocean on a cloudy night, you don’t know which way you are going. If you have a compass, you might have a clue, but if the perpetrator discredits the compass then you are lost again. The perpetrator needs to make the victim distrust all their means of finding themselves. This means discrediting friends, authorities and repositories of knowledge. By undermining the idea of right and wrong, the victim finds it hard to judge the idea for whether it is good or rotten.
When we feel stressed we pull back from life a little to help manage the important situations better. This is prioritising and on a short term basis makes sense. We deal with what we can and shrug off what we can’t. When the problem isn’t solved, we pull back more, and then more and so on as the problem persists. We isolate ourselves from friends because we just can’t deal with that distraction, from going out because it seems too hard and frequently find ourselves under resourced in many ways. We begin to doubt ourselves and avoid those who can help us. We frequently find our sleep pattern and food pattern become broken, messing with our bodies sense of rhythm. Sometimes we subconsciously do this to push us into crisis, where we are willing to take on new solutions to problems that aren’t being solved using our usual methods. Sometimes these are great solutions, sometimes they are bad. Sometimes we don’t find a solution and just crash and burn.
In effect, we torture ourselves when we are stressed. Those who perpetrate torture on others have hijacked this normal self-change process in humans for their own purposes. Torturers come in three major categories. Professionals are rare, hobbyists are also rare (that is, they know what they are doing and have tried to get good at it, also quite rare) and then there is the unwitting torturer who is just automatically compensating for their low self-image by harming others (very common). This last category have evolved their techniques out of a need to survive their own mind.
Once we know the process of torture and the reasons why people do it, we can recognise it in the wild. This gives victims the ability to interfere with the process, either by defending themselves from the tools used against them, avoiding the perpetrator or getting help from counsellors, police etc. It also gives the unwitting perpetrator the ability to recognise what they are doing and look go through a similar method to undo their methods. I highly recommend that unwitting perpetrators to get some good counselling to help change their behaviours and, very importantly, address the underlying reason why they are doing this.

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Today's cute

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What: Complete mapping of the epi genetics of human DNA
What that means: Epi genetics are the methyl groups that get added and removed to the DNA that switches bits on and off in response to the quickly changing world. Epi genetics can be passed down through several generations, or can change within 6 months.
Why: Epi genetics allows us to alter responses to diseases. Once the map is understood, solutions can be found to all sorts of genetic disorders

This article describes the discoveries to do with a few specific blood disorders, such as leukaemia.
Beyond the DNA: Comprehensive map of the human epigenome completed

Scientists have established comprehensive maps of the human epigenome, shedding light on how the body regulates which genes are active in which cells. Over the last five years, a worldwide consortium of scientists has established epigenetic maps of 2,100 cell types. Within this coordinated effort, the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine contributed detailed DNA methylation maps of the developing blood, opening up new perspectives for the understanding and treatment of leukemia and immune diseases. One of the great mysteries in biology is how the many different cell types that make up our bodies are derived from a single cell and from one DNA sequence, or genome. We have learned a lot from studying the human genome, but have only partially unveiled the processes underlying cell determination. The identity of each cell type is largely defined by an instructive layer of molecular annotations on top of the genome - the epigenome - which acts as a blueprint unique to each cell type and developmental stage. Unlike the genome the epigenome changes as cells develop and in response to changes in the environment. Defects in the factors that read, write, and erase the epigenetic blueprint are involved in many diseases. The comprehensive analysis of the epigenomes of healthy and abnormal cells will facilitate new ways to diagnose and treat various diseases, and ultimately lead to improved health outcomes.

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Pronunciation people!

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+Shaeolaura Davidson - couldn't help but think of you for this one.


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