A remote control that controls humans

MSNBC – A remote control that controls humans

this is some freaky, yet neat technology.  It could be really useful for people with damage to their semicircular canals (the part of your inner ear that acts as a level sensor) or the attendant nerves.  People with impaired vestibular sense have a terrible time adjusting to either a lack of sensation, or a constant sensation of vertigo.  so this could really be a big help.

It could also have applications in simulators–it may be easier to stimulate a pilot or driver’s brain to make them feel off balance rather than build a motion platform or have them ride the vomit comet.  Although it could be a pretty freaky experience, if it is proven to be safe and effective, it could have good applications.



Dire forecast for bird flu – Bird Flu – MSNBC.com


"this is going to get out of control … this is going to get out of control, and we’ll be lucky to live through it" (name the movie, win a prize)


As I was waiting in the Orlando airport waiting for my flight, I read the National Geographic issue on the upcoming avian influenza pandemic.  Their high estimate was 300 million dead.  Even the more realistic estimates of 100-150 million are staggering numbers, but there is another dimension of the pandemic: the disruption of economies and travel.  Riots would break out over stocks of Tamiflu and Relenza, economies would collapse when foreign trade shuts down–no goods would move from infected areas (i.e. china). Even if the spread of disease is arrested quickly, the disruption in shipping may prove to have enormous consequences.  Hospitals will be overloaded, unable to supply medications and beds for the afflicted, morgues will overflow.  Fresh foods will be unavailable, mail and freight services will be interrupted (mail, UPS/FedEx), the movement of products will stop.  To avoid this, we need to prepare for disaster–it’s not an issue of If, it’s a question of When.

But this dark cloud could have a silver lining.  If the pandemic comes, maybe we will learn that nationalism and ethnocentrism need to go, as borders really mean nothing.  The framework of intellectual property rights will have to change, as it stands now Roche will protect their patents on Tamiflu, to the detriment of the people of the world.  Cultures will have to change–living in such close quarters with animals is a quick way to have diseases jump species.  300 million may be a small price to pay for these changes, if they come to pass.

watch your step: UNICEF land mines commercial

 Hair-raising TV spot shunned by broadcasters – World News – MSNBC.com

-you should watch the spot, it’s really not graphic enough to show the truth (i.e. missing limbs, heads, etc.)


The US is one of the few countries opposed to the 1997 Mine Ban treaty, and is using land mines in Iraq (in a limited role).

Mines left over from wars in Africa and Asia injure thousands every year, often children who do not know of minefields, or cannot read warning signs.  The Soviet made ‘butterfly mine‘ is like a toy, triggered by pressure on the wings… such as would occur while playing with it. 


The TV spot itself is rather sanitized-it doesn’t show any real blood (one small leg injury and one ‘fatality’) and concentrates more on the screaming parents.  But people still object to it, saying it is too graphic.  Why are you so worried about fake violence, when in Afghanistan and Vietnam, it’s real mines blowing off real legs and spilling real blood?

The west is for the most part insensitive to the plight of mined countries, as the US and Canada have no mines, and europe was de-mined after WWII and the dismantling of the iron curtain (there were mines buried in no-man’s land of the borders).

Maybe if americans saw this kind of thing on the NBC evening news, there would be more momentum to ban the use of mines, and expand clearing efforts… but as long as it’s afghani children and not suburbanites, it’s not really part of the american consciousness.

Than’s too many!

“The single best thing you can do to save the world is to have one child.”  That’s how Jack opened DEA 422, environmental design class.  The amount of resources an american consumes is just enormous–10x or more compared to someone in the third world.  With 6.5 billion people on the planet, we’re going to run out of resources, and we’re going to run out of environmental buffering capacity–and soon.  To willingly increase the population, especially in a hyperdeveloped nation, is ethically wrong.  The argument “we’re rich, we can afford it” is completely false–it’s backward.
Recently France and South Korea have instituted policies to encourage families to have more children.  This is a stupid idea mired in nationalism and ethnocentrism.  For the biosphere to last, there need to be fewer people overall.  If the population increases at the rate we’re going, humanity will be lucky to last another 100 years.  So if the population of France is declining, welcome the immigrants, don’t have more children!
This advice applies to you too.  If you’re thinking about reproducing, one is enough.  Plenty of scientific studies have demonstrated that only children are as well developed as children with siblings, the old wives’ tale about only children growing up spoiled is just that.
Global NPG is really the only solution.

Talking about MSNBC – Dutch to set guidelines for euthanasia of babies

People have this belief that life is sacred in and of itself, but may have the wrong definition of what life is.  Birth is pretty arbitrary a choice of when a human life begins–we humans define ourselves as being self-aware in contrast to most of the rest of earth’s life which is not.  It may be difficult to determine when a human becomes self aware (18 months?) and that age as a cutoff would raise even more issues.  But the point is that if a baby will not become self aware, or cannot become a functional member of society, doctors should be compelled to euthanise the infant.  Parents are understandably attached to their offspring, but if they must consent to giving up their child, they may not.  No matter how rich they may be, society cannot afford to pay for unproductive uses of resources, when those resources can be used to help those who can advance humanity.  And they may suffer more–a lifetime of caring for a child who cannot be independent, or watching their baby die in days or weeks or months, rather than having it over quickly.

Terry Schiavo was not self aware, and as far as I am concerned, it was criminal to not euthanise her after she suffered irrecoverable brain damage.  And it was unnecessarily cruel to remove her feeding tube and let her die of dehydration, rather than quickly ending her life.  She tied up resources that could have been gainfully employed to help those who can serve the greater society, making keeping her alive ethically wrong.  I went on a field trip to the Mary Cariola Center, a care center for the severely handicapped.  It was the most gut-wrenching place I have ever been, seeing people with no ability to care for themselves, and who cannot benefit society being propped up at the cost of up to $100 000 per year.  To see a boy with little brain function being fed through a tube, depriving 3 people of full rides to Cornell, made me so angry, and despondent for the future of humanity.  These children, because their parents are rich and motivated, and our society would rather help these children who cannot possibly give back, deprive others of their tickets out of poverty and despondence.  How can it be right for someone who cannot advance society or even take care of himself or herself to deprive 3 others of education and the possibility of a decent life?  None of those children could become much of anything, but a person from the slums could become a great aid to society–if given the opportunity.


Utilitarian principles would tell us to do what would bring about the greatest good for the greatest number.  Keeping people who are terminally ill, and possibly in pain, or worse, children who are nothing but a burden on society, is wrong.  Help those who can function in society, and don’t spend enormous resources on battles that cannot be won–and are only fought for the sake of assuaging guilty consciences.


The Dutch are moving in the right direction, bringing this discussion out into the open, rather than keeping it behind closed doors, where there is no oversight, no debate, and no consideration of what is the best for everyone.


MSNBC – Dutch to set guidelines for euthanasia of babies