Thomas Jefferson saw three main threats to democracy — governing elites, organized religion and commercial monopolists (whom he referred to as “pseudo-aristocrats”). With the above precedent in mind, it is hardly surprising that he was keen to include freedom from monopoly in the Bill of Rights. But, mainly thanks to his Federalist opponents, that particular clause slipped through the cracks of the constitution. From then on it was a consistent goal of corporations to win the constitutional rights of individual citizens for their businesses. This aim was largely thwarted, but it built up momentum in the aftermath of the Civil War, when the railroads acquired wealth and power that they were anxious to convert into legal privilege. The Fourteenth Amendment of 1868 sought to guarantee former slaves the equal protection of the laws, by making illegal discriminatory provision of education, for example. This provision was then used by the railroads to sue states and local authorities for regulations enacted specifically to control them, on the grounds that this created “different classes of persons.” The issue of corporate personhood was widely debated in the newspapers of the day. With their wealth and longevity, the corporations could keep coming back to the courts until they won. And eventually they did, through the Supreme Court judgment of 1886 in the case of Santa Clara County vs. the Southern Pacific Railroad.
It’s hard to describe what a clusterfuck John Kerry has been as Secretary of State. The Bush administration was terrible and sucked at nearly everything, but they knew how to roll out a war. Kerry has been a bumbling moron at PR, at intelligence, at diplomacy, and at Congressional relations. It seems like every time he opens his mouth he makes the case that the US doesn’t know what it is doing and it should stay out of Syria. And that’s not all – he’s also been publicly overruled by his boss. Most people in DC, after watching these past two weeks, are saying “thank God he was never President”. You can survive a lot in DC, but you can’t survive becoming a laughingstock. Obama doesn’t really have a lot of loyalty to Kerry, so he could be gone after the Syria situation settles down.
It’s the foundation of myriad personality assessment tests, self-motivation books and team-building exercises – and it’s all bunk.
Popular culture would have you believe that logical, methodical and analytical people are left-brain dominant, while the creative and artistic types are right-brain dominant. Trouble is, science never really supported this notion.
Now, scientists at the University of Utah have debunked the myth with an analysis of more than 1,000 brains. They found no evidence that people preferentially use their left or right brain. All of the study participants — and no doubt the scientists — were using their entire brain equally, throughout the course of the experiment.
A paper describing this study appeared in August in the journal PLOS ONE.
The preference to use one brain region more than others for certain functions, which scientists call lateralization, is indeed real, said lead author Dr. Jeff Anderson, director of the fMRI Neurosurgical Mapping Service at the University of Utah. For example, speech emanates from the left side of the brain for most right-handed people. This does not imply, though, that great writers or speakers use their left side of the brain more than the right, or that one side is richer in neurons.
There is a misconception that everything to do with being analytical is confined to one side of the brain, and everything to do with being creative is confined to the opposite side, Anderson said. In fact, it is the connections among all brain regions that enable humans to engage in both creativity and analytical thinking.
"It is not the case that the left hemisphere is associated with logic or reasoning more than the right," Anderson told LiveScience. "Also, creativity is no more processed in the right hemisphere than the left."
Anderson’s team examined brain scans of participants ages 7 to 29 while they were resting. They looked at activity in 7,000 brain regions, and examined neural connections within and between these regions. Although they saw pockets of heavy neural traffic in certain key regions, on average, both sides of the brain were essentially equal in their neural networks and connectivity.
"We just don’t see patterns where the whole left-brain network is more connected, or the whole right-brain network is more connected in some people," said Jared Nielsen, a graduate student and first author on the new study.
The myth of people being either “left-brained” or “right-brained” might have arisen from the Nobel Prize-winning research of Roger Sperry, which was done in the 1960s. Sperry studied patients with epilepsy, who were treated with a surgical procedure that cut the brain along a structure called the corpus callosum. Because the corpus callosum connects the two hemispheres of the brain, the left and right sides of these patients’ brains could no longer communicate.
Sperry and other researchers, through a series of clever studies, determined which parts, or sides, of the brain were involved in language, math, drawing and other functions in these patients. But then popular-level psychology enthusiasts ran with this idea, creating the notion that personalities and other human attributes are determined by having one side of the brain dominate the other.
The neuroscience community never bought into this notion, Anderson said, and now we have evidence from more than 1,000 brain scans showing absolutely no signs of left or right dominance.
Anderson said he wasn’t out to do some myth busting. His team’s goal is to better understand brain lateralization to treat conditions such as Down syndrome, autism or schizophrenia, where the left and right hemispheres have atypical roles.
So, should you trash your app that tries to determine if you are a left-brain or right-brain thinker? Both sides of your brain, as well as neuroscientists, say yes.
And in other news, fire burns.
Our Home Galaxy
This stunning view of the Milky Way is captured from the top of La palma, Canary Islands.
A town at the shores of the island has illuminated the clouds that covered La Palma. Here at altitude of 2400 meters Roque de los Muchachos observatory is above the clouds.
Some of the world-leading large telescopes are located at this mountain top. — Nik Szymanek
In building drones that kill people, the U.S. has a couple-decade head start on China. But when it comes to domestic uses, U.S. businesses are hamstrung because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) isn’t required to issue commercial drone rules until 2015. In the meantime, one of China’s biggest delivery companies is tinkering with using drones—with Chinese government permission.
SF Express is testing a drone it has built for delivering packages to remote areas, according to Chinese media reports. The drone can hit an maximum altitude of 328 feet and deliver parcels within two meters of its target. It’s not clear what sort of weight these puppies can handle, but Beijing journalists calculated that it probably can’t carry more than 6.6 pounds.
Read more. [Image: Weibo]
We Must Protect This House
It’s like a maypole erected within a barbed wire fence! Not only does the central pole have several “guy-wire” support strands keeping it up, but the outer poles have horizontal strands strung between them, just like our fences. It’s almost certainly a defense mechanism against ants or other predators for whatever is incubating inside. What an amazing evolutionary feat!
Several commenters at Why Evolution Is True believe it is either the egg sac of a mystery spider or a very elaborate moth cocoon. While some moths have been known to erect Stonehenge-like fences around their cocoons, I lean more toward the spider theory.
Moth cocoons (like this incredible lace-like cage observed by Destin from Smarter Every Day) are spun by the caterpillar that is cooking inside, and I just can’t see a way that this silk was spun by the resident. It’s just too elaborate. More likely that a spider built her babies this safe little home and then sailed away. Ideas?
Other theories: Tiny Area 51, Insect Isengard, air traffic control station for jungle birds.
Ahh, I could kiss you, evolution.
" .. we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes" ~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower
A massive industry profits off the government-induced fear of terrorism.
Speaker John A. Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the House’s two most senior Republicans, were invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington — but declined.