Friday, January 30, 2015

An Interesting Movie, Available on YouTube

While perusing YouTube during incubation periods, as I do on occasion, I discovered that a movie I bought several years ago is now available on YouTube.

I have refrained from reviewing movies on this blog in the past, because I can get very touchy about the movies that I adore and so usually keep those opinions to myself. I will make an exception in this case however, because although this movie is not in the category of you're-not-allowed-to-criticize-this-in-my-presence, I found it an incredibly interesting movie. 

It consists of a fictitious documentary, conducted by the BBC about the (relatively) modern-day United States, as history would have been had the South won the Civil War. It is aired on fake-American T.V. and thus complete with fake commercials in between segments of the documentary. Some of them are jarring, and when I first watched this movie I thought it was a little over the top. Until I got to the facts in the closing credits, and then it blew my mind.

It blew my mind so much that I have since recommended it to everyone I came across. Although you have to be in the mood for a movie consisting of a classically slow-paced history documentary, if you are in the right frame of mind and have an hour and a half to kill, this is well worth watching.

Boss of the Day

The Boss of today comes from... of all places... Mississippi! But seriously, how can you not love this guy? I'll let TYT explain

Unfortunately I tend to agree with Cenk and Ben, this guy is probably going to get fired. I hope he makes an ever-loving stink out of it, bringing the legality of this ridiculous Mississippi law into question.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I've Always Said It.... And Now This Study Proves It!

Let's keep with the science theme shall we? Because I just love this study. Turns out, as I've been telling people that I am particularly self-aware, science backs me up! New evidence out: Lucid dreamers are more self-aware. Woop!

Now everyone calm down, I know this doesn't prove that every single lucid dreamer is an awesome self-awareness machine and everyone else sucks, take a breath, and allow me to take the tiniest victory lap for every time I've heard "Yeah, well, everyone thinks they're self-aware, but nobody actually knows they are, if you weren't you'd still think you were!"

OK, I'm done now, and a little back story for those who are interested (If you're not, skip ahead to the end).

It is very common for people to find it hard to escape their own context. For me, this was lucid dreaming and self-awareness. For a long time I thought that people who were not self-aware were simply being intellectually lazy, they were just not thinking about their own behaviors the way I would endlessly ponder my own, but if they just tried (perhaps with a little outside guidance) they could do it. I also didn't know until I went to college that most people could not, at the very least, notice they were dreaming and wake themselves up, if not change the landscape of the dream entirely.

The more I looked into it though, the more I discovered that I am actually particularly awesome at lucid dreaming.

One of my first memories of controlling my dreams was when I was no older than five, since I had not yet changed primary school at the time. I was often plagued by recurring nightmares, many of which I still remember in vivid detail. As they were recurring however I recognized them as dreams, though that didn't make them any less scary at the time. I then realized that I could wake myself up from them quite easily. It took me a couple of tries at first, squeezing my eyes shut and opening them again, until I managed to pop my real eyes open. 

This, however, did not solve the problem of falling back asleep into the same nightmare, so as I got older my skills developed. I started confronting the monsters in my nightmare and telling them to piss off when I finally understood that they were not real, just in my head (though I also found out the hard way that lucid dreamers can feel pain in their dreams). When I was having one of those "oh no I'm late I have to get to this place now and I can't manage it" dreams and I recognized it I would stop trying to get to wherever it was and start opening up random doors along the street, knowing my brain had just put them there as backdrop, just for the amusement of seeing what my brain would put behind them when given such short notice to come up with something. I then realized that I could put whatever I wanted behind those doors and just step into a whole new dream if the one that I was in got boring. I also perfected my ability to fly, which I have been able to do for as long as I could remember and was astonished when I discovered I was in the minority. I can now flit through different dreams at will, fly like superman and even erase entire characters from my dreams by simply snapping my fingers at them.

OK, after that little window into the depths of my psyche, how about the actual science?

Recently, the Max Plank Institute published a study which correlated Metacognition, or "thinking about thinking", with lucid dreaming abilities. 

Well, this makes sense, to an extent. Usually people are not aware they are dreaming when they are doing so, but if you are capable of lucid dreaming perhaps the part of the brain responsible for self-awareness is more developed, as it has had "more practice". This study simply gives evidence to that effect.

If you find the original article a little difficult to digest, IFLS sums it up very nicely

Ahh science, always interesting and, once in a while, hits particularly close to home. I do love it :)

I Love A Little Vindication....

Since I have not been active on this blog in quite some time, I have been scrolling through some of my old posts and comments. While the overall reaction to my posts has been relatively positive, the post which caused the most dissension was, strangely enough, the one in which I bemoaned the fact that I was sick, probably in part due to my having slept in a very cold room that night. 

WHAT?! OMG what bullshit cold temperatures don't contribute to your cold development NO WAY.

Now granted, the explanation that I put forth as to why cold temperatures could contribute to the development of your infection was a hypothesis, unproven, and one of the many that was floating around. But why are there so many hypotheses around to begin with?

Because the correlation between cold temperatures and cold/flu infection has progressed further than confirmation bias. There are studies which show this correlation, and although this does not demonstrate the cause, it is still something that warrants further investigation. If the numerous studies showed no correlation between the two we could dismiss this as a case of confirmation bias, end of story.

So, thanks to this correlation science has gone one step further, and looked for that causation factor. While the "stress reduces immune system efficacy" hypothesis which I spoke about in the previous post was touched on in the 1990s, new studies float a very different yet still excellent explanation of why this correlation exists.

There is now new evidence which suggests that the rhinovirus replicates better in your nasal passages when they are at lower temperatures - which happens when you are breathing in cold air for an extended period of time.

Yes, this study was conducted in mice, and more research is needed on this topic, but the evidence now is mounting that there is at least something that cold temperatures contribute to the progression of the illness. To dismiss the entire idea as bullshit is to ignore evidence.

I love me a little bit of vindication!

Sorry Guys, I Need a Moment...

This is going to sound a little gushy, but can I just take a moment to say how awesome my colleagues are?

Well, it's my blog, so I can take any moment I like anyway....

But seriously, I love love love my colleagues. They're fun, outgoing, and most certainly do not take themselves seriously, all of them, without exception. They're the first to jump at the idea of making a parody video in the halls of our fancy institute, or playing on the kids playset in the park. What better place could I possibly have ended up in?

It's not like any of them are reading this blog.... in fact to date only one of them even knows of the existence of this blog and I'm pretty sure she's forgotten all about it by now, so this is not a suck-up post. It just needed to be said.

It needed to be said because, while popular stereotypes tell us that scientists are intellectual Asperger-y antisocial awkward conceited geeks, we can actually be loads of fun, and not afraid to make complete asses of ourselves. 

I love it. I love them. Enough said for now.

Rand Paul??!! How Did You Get My Email Address??

As I have alluded to in my earlier post, I have been out of the blogosphere loop for quite some time. I haven't been reading articles, signing petitions, filling out surveys or doing anything that would require me to give my email address and thus opening my inbox up to the possibility of politically-oriented spam mail.

So imagine my surprise upon opening my inbox to find an email from Rand Paul, entitled "Sign the petition that Barack fears".

Rand Paul? RAND PAUL??!! How in the holy sweet Jesus on a sandwich did you get my IRISH email address?! This is very weird. This is too much. So, of course, I opened it, and it became immediately clear as to how this happened.

The email, down to the weird font, text size and language style, was identical to the emails I was receiving from our old friend, Eugene Delgaudio.

Remember this guy? Who just wouldn't stop emailing me? Over and over again with his vehement blithering anti-gay hate which was so absurd one might think it was over-the-top parody? Well, it looks like these two are in cahoots, as Rand Paul is using Delgaudio's mailing list to spread his own brand of propaganda, this time anti-unionist in flavor, and even using his same wording in asking for money.

Does anyone else find it ironic that Rand Paul, the self-proclaimed "let the states decide on what to do with gay marriage" libertarian thinks that Eugene Delgaudio's audience, people who subscribe to watch him foam at the mouth over the evil gay villains (if you think that's an exaggeration, just read those previous posts on him), would be the ideal targets for his message?

Just a thought...

Turns Out, I Was Too Easy On That Awful Book

Remember the book reviews I used to do? Well, when I fell into the trap of reading that god-awful book Fifty Shades of Grey, I reviewed that too, and it was certainly not a very favorable one.

However, after reading a far more thorough review on The Pervocracy, I realized I was being far, far too nice, mostly in my hesitation of speaking for the BDSM community, of which I am not a part and was fairly ignorant about.

OK gushing time: I looove The Pervocracy. It opened my eyes to a community which I now find incredibly fascinating, although not something that I am personally interested in partaking in. She SLAMMED this book, and reading her chapter-by-chapter evisceration of the novel had me in stitches. She is so much funnier than I could ever be, and I only wish I could have read the book with her commentary in my ear, it would have made the whole experience far more enjoyable. 

If you have some time to kill read through her take on the chapters, it's awesome. 

Um.... Hello? Is... Is This Thing On?

Well, Hello again!

It has been wow.... forever since I have accessed this blog. In fact it's been so long it took me a good 15 minutes to do so....

Anyone miss me? Forgotten about me most like!

I suppose I should give a good explanation for this departure. It turns out that the final year of your PhD is all consuming, who knew! As I started falling ever deeper into the rabbit hole of my work I would think of this blog and all of the things I wanted to write about. There were elections left un-commented upon, holidays and books left un-reviewed, job opportunities and milestones left un-discussed. Time slipped by me, as it so often does, until I realized just how long it had been since I have been part of any kind blogosphere. I have also neglected my dearest Pharyngula, Why Evolution is True and Manboobz, now renamed as We Hunted the Mammoth. 

But now, as the waters have settled and I have found a new equilibrium in my life with a new job in a new country (Germany! Who would have thought?), I think I am finally ready to jump back in with both feet. I cannot promise to find a new topic every single day, I am certainly a little rusty from my long absence, but I do hope to be able to integrate this space into my life once again.

I'm also going to have to update my profile significantly....

So! Any old readers out there who still get these notifications in your inbox? Forgotten all about me haven't you? If not, I'll just have to start again from the beginning, but if any of you are still out there, I'm alive! Drop by and give us a wave ;)