Post has attachment
World War Zero

Did you know that WWI was not the first world war? The Seven Year's War was.

"The Seven Years' War was a global conflict fought between 1756 and 1763. It involved every European great power of the time and spanned five continents, affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by the Kingdom of Great Britain (including Prussia, Portugal, Hanover, and other small German states) on one side and the Kingdom of France (including the Austrian-led Holy Roman Empire, the Russian Empire, Bourbon Spain, and Sweden) on the other. Meanwhile, in India, some regional polities within the increasingly fragmented Mughal Empire, with the support of the French, tried to crush a British attempt to conquer Bengal. The war's extent has led some historians to describe it as "World War Zero", similar in scale to other world wars."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Years%27_War
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Opinions versus facts

You have probably seen this famous picture that has been making rounds on the internet: a number is written on the floor which looks like 6 to one person and like 9 to another. The morale, apparently, is that we need to be tolerant of each other's views; "just because you are right doesn't mean I'm wrong."

Well, it actually does. We can be tolerant of each other's opinions, but not of each other's facts. And this is either a 6 or a 9, it can't be both. Someone drew it on the floor and meant it one way or the other. Sorry.

So, the two people on the picture should not be defending their own view and agreeing to tolerate each other's opinion. What they should be doing is examining the picture closer. Perhaps it is drawn in front of a building and it's position vis-a-vis the building makes it clear whether it is a 6 or a 9. Perhaps there are a 5 and 7 somewhere near.

Looking for clues in the surrounding environment will surely help. It's more work than defending a first impression, of course, but finding out the truth is infinitely more gratifying than engaging in a nonsensical conversation about tolerance. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CvjLsHlWIAAKDuM.jpg

Add a comment...

Point of no return?

In a fascinating report released today, scientists are warning that a domino effect will kick in if global temperatures rise more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, leading to "hothouse" conditions and higher sea levels. This would make some areas on Earth uninhabitable.

The report, "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene," published Monday in the American Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said "hothouse" temperatures could stabilize 4°C to 5°C higher than pre-industrial levels.

"Human emissions of greenhouse gas are not the sole determinant of temperature on Earth. Our study suggests that human-induced global warming of 2°C may trigger other Earth system processes, often called 'feedbacks,' that can drive further warming -- even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases," one of the researchers involved said.

The full report is here: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/07/31/1810141115
Add a comment...

Post has attachment

Post has attachment
The wheels of history

The swing justice of the US Supreme Court, Anthony Kennedy, announced his retirement yesterday. He cared deeply about human freedom and personal dignity, and was therefore instrumental in upholding many social rights, which the conservatives abhor, like abortion, gay marriage, and health care. Now the Republican President and the Republican-controlled Senate will replace him with someone reliably right-wing, solidifying a conservative judicial majority for a generation to come. Not only will no new social rights will be upheld, but many of the hard battles of the past will have been in vain.

This is what 2016 was all about--the Supreme Court. Republican voters understood this, and even those who couldn't stand Trump held their nose, like good adults, and voted for him. At the same time, many Democrats stayed at home because they "wanted Bernie." Consequently, they fell 55,000 votes short in three states, and now will have to watch the social progress they so much care about being dismantled.

The next time the US Supreme Court gets such a radical do-over will be 30 years from now. Hopefully, by then, some lessons will have been learned.

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/27/anthony-kennedy-retirement-supreme-court-cases-680104
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Our diet and the environment

The argument is often made that eating less meat is good for the environment. Animals need a lot of food, land, and water to grow. Plus, they fart (cows in particular), and because methane is a more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, agriculture contributes more to global warming than industry. And this all assumes that we are treating animal humanely (which we are not), so growing them for meat does not create needless suffering (it does).

However, in principle it could also go the other way: a non-animal based diet is poorer in energy, hence we need to eat a lot of vegetables to get the same calories that we get from a veal steak. And, even though cucumbers don't fart, they take even more land to grow than animals. So, while eliminating animal cruelty is unambiguously good, the overall impact of eliminating dairy products from your diet on the environment, as most meat-eaters will tell you, is unclear.

Unless, of course, it isn't.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
The man with the golden arm

The rhesus factor (RH) is an antigen found on the red blood cells of 85% of humans that has some peculiar properties. One of them is that if a mother whose red blood cells do not possess it (RH-negative) is pregnant with a baby whose red blood cells do (RH-positive), her immune system develops antibodies during birth which treat the next pregnancy as a disease. That is, if she again become pregnant with an RH-positive child, her immune system attacks the fetus, resulting in a miscarriage. And so, for thousands of years, RH-negative mothers typically had at most one child.

Nowadays, medical science has solved this problem. Within 72 hours of delivery, an RH-negative mother who just gave birth to an RH-positive baby receives an injection (anti-D injection) with antibodies that suppress the immune system's reaction. The next RH-positive baby is not treated by her body as a foreign object that needs to be destroyed, and she can have as many healthy babies as she wants.

My wife's maternal grandmother was RH-negative, and so after a number of miscarriages, my wife's mother grew up as a single child. My wife is RH-negative, too. But after our first child, the RH-positive Andrej was born, she was given the anti-D injection. And now we have two beautiful daughters to make the house full.

It turns out, however, that these injections can only be made from antigens found in very few people's blood, so we need them to donate their blood for the miracle of life to keep happening. One of these people, the Australian James Harrison, recently made news when he "retired" due to his old age, after donating blood every week for more than 60 years. The Australian Red Cross Blood Service estimates that he alone has helped save the lives of more than 2.4 million babies. And maybe, just maybe, my daughters are among them.

One way or another, thank you Mr. Harrison!

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/11/health/james-harrison-blood-donor-retires-trnd/
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Coming close

This year marks the thirty-second anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. 32 years is a very long time. I was a 10-year-old boy when it happened, now my first-born is about to enter adolescence. New countries have emerged, old ones have disappeared. At any rate, you expect that by know, we know the full history of the event, with all the facts and implications. And as usual, whenever I think that I know it all, I discover something new.

On the morning of 26 April 1986, due to a combination of flawed design and human error, reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded, deploying in the surrounding area almost 100 times more nuclear material than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The contaminated clouds flew above Belarus, Ukraine, Scandinavia, and much of Central and Eastern Europe, but we only found out later. In fact, we all joined the traditional Labor Day celebrations on May 1st, unaware that we were marching under contaminated rain.

In the months and years to come, thanks to pressure from the West and to Gorbachev's policy of glasnost, we learned most of the details: the severity of the nuclear meltdown, the total evacuation of the nearby city of Pripyat, the human cost of containing the disaster, a whole wide area rendered life-free. We read about the firefighters who died of radiation poisoning in the immediate aftermath, about the malformed children born to affected parents. Both experts and the public at large know enough to call it "the worst nuclear accident in history."

For more than two weeks after the initial explosion, the firefighters could not extinguish the radioactive fire burning around what used to be reactor 4. Worse still, the concrete floor under almost 200 tons of nuclear material was cracking, and the basement under it was flooded with water. If the floor gave out, the radioactive material would come in contact with the water, resulting in a second explosion. To avoid this, around 10,000 miners were called in and tasked with building a refrigeration-device that would cool the burning radioactive material. They succeeded, and the radioactive fire was extinguished. (NB. There appear to be no official records, but it is estimated that 1/4 of them died before the age of 40, and those of them still alive have serious health issues.)

And here is what I didn't know until recently. The second explosion, which these brave miners managed to avert, would have been far worse than the first one. I will now simply copy and paste from the source, and let you ponder the meaning of it.

"It wasn’t revealed until 1991 that there had been serious danger of a second explosion, which, if it had taken place, would have wiped out half of Europe and made Europe, Ukraine, and parts of Russia uninhabitable for approximately 500,000 years."

http://geohistory.today/chernobyl-short-history-human-impact/
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Stay woke, bitches

A thought-provoking video on the dangers of technology in the arena of the endless political battle for hearts and minds. Kudos to Jordan Peele.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=72&v=cQ54GDm1eL0
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
The joy of parenthood

I think I should start one of these. For now, I will just enjoy reading this one.

"Me: Did you have a good day at school?

6-year-old: That's not how school works."

https://www.boredpanda.com/funny-parenting-tweets-james-breakwell-xploding-unicorn/?media_id=1249622
Add a comment...
Wait while more posts are being loaded