Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sexy Sexy Science

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

Great football this weekend!!! Seriously, the Saints – 49ers game was definitely one for the ages. The home team is now one win away from the Super Bowl… with the bastard NY Giants standing in the way. GO NINERS!!! The Tebow magic has died down momentarily with a humbling loss to the Patriots… but they’ve already announced that he’s pegged as the starter for next year so that’s a good start. Hopefully over the offseason he can become a more pure quarterback… but with undeniable heart & athleticism. Remember, Tom Brady wasn’t always Tom Brady… but he worked hard and it came to be. If there’s one thing I’ve learned the past few years… it’s to never doubt Tebow!!! Thank you & God bless…

Saturday, I searched for a suitable laptop as my current laptop is about a decade old & on its last leg… or whatever the equivalent would be for a laptop. It’s been frustrating me… and so I ordered a new one (costs $200 less online as opposed to directly with my local Best Buy so… yeah, I can wait a week). While I was at Best Buy though, they had a special on pre-owned PS3 games… so basically I walked out of there with four “old” games (Duke Nukkem Forever, Infamous, Dead Rising 2 & NHL 2011) for about $30, which is awesome. I’ll let you know if they’re any good. Oh, I also upgraded my PS3 from a 60GB hard drive to a 500GB drive, so I can start using its full capabilities (music, video, etc) instead of just a few demos downloaded of the Playstation Store. So yeah, Saturday was upgrading my technology… until football started.

Sunday was the start of another basketball season & we played a pretty good game. I wasn’t my best at all… missed a lot of easy shots & free throws… but that kind of happens when I’m matched up against a guy better suited for left tackle & loved taking good, firm cheap shots whenever he could. Seriously, guy had a hundred pounds on me… but I still destroyed him game-wise. I can’t guard everybody though… and like I said I was missing shots when/if they were getting me the ball, but I still had about a dozen points which wasn’t too bad considering the rib shots, getting my knee whacked good & a chop to the throat that all still kind of ache a day or so later. We ended up losing by four points… but we really should’ve dominated. I’m a little disappointed in myself… but hey, next game. Can’t change the last one. We’re still not really playing as a team much… but the only time we see each other is at the games so, no real plan of attack other than whatever comes to mind during the game… and everybody wants to take shots but not do the dirty work.

Monday, I found out that I could do a chat with my brother on his PS3… using my webcam for my laptop & a Bluetooth from a game that he bought me last year called “Warhawk” so that’s okay. Got to see him & C-Rock in a grainy ass way. Why do I mention this? Because my mom has a PS3 as well… and so now once in a while, she can probably do the same thing… and when the niece & nephew visit on weekends, they get to see their Uncle $teve on the TV when they talk to him (and the connection will actually be quite a bit better than my cell phone). That’s awesome to me, so I thought I’d share it with you. You’re welcome! Anybody else who wants to get in on this PS3 chat tip, drop me a friend request at SJK69. That’s right, that’s my ID, deal with it. You know you love it.

Tuesday morning, I did my taxes bright & early because… well, they’re really simple… you know, finally having one job in one state for an entire year will do that… and basically, my return was nearly double what it was last year living in Tahoe. Why? Well obviously I was getting paid a lot more as well as I didn’t go on unemployment for 3 weeks. There were also a few moving expenses deductions in there so yeah, good times. Moving out here to San Francisco has been a fairly good financial situation for me thus far. On top of the taxes, I’ve been ballin’ out of control with several vacations & road trips, but with all the money I’m saving on stuff like gas, I’m able to save a few hundred bucks a month. It would be even better if I could avoid parking tickets, ordering $30 pizzas, extravagant mixology experiments when I’m already buzzed, and other stuff like that… but it’s all part of the experience. I’m really happy here… but yeah, it does get a little lonely… but hey, only one way to change that… and I’m working on it. I’m a charming & good looking guy, I just need to get out there & do something with it. That’s all. Anyway, enough about that, here’s the news…

Jay-Z / Beyonce Update - A newly discovered horse fly in Australia was so "bootylicious" with its golden-haired bum, there was only one name worthy of its beauty: Beyonce. Previously published results from Bryan Lessard, a 24-year-old researcher at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, were recently announced on the species that had been sitting in a fly collection since it was captured in 1981 — the same year pop diva Beyonce was born (and yours truly). He says he wanted to pay respect to the insect's beauty by naming it Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae. Lessard said Beyonce would be "in the nature history books forever" and that the fly now bearing her name is "pretty bootylicious" with its golden backside. "Bootylicious" was the title of a song by Beyonce's previous group, Destiny's Child. It's unknown if the rare species is a bloodsucker like many female horse flies (and other species, I said it!!!). Lessard says he was unable to find any live specimens when he went looking in 2010 in northeast Queensland's Atherton Tablelands, where it was captured three decades ago. However, at least one member of the public has alerted him that he was recently bitten by what's locally called the "gold bum fly." The description of the fly was earlier published in the Australian Journal of Entomology, but the results were announced last week. Lessard says he hasn't heard from Beyonce, who recently gave birth to her first child, but he is a fan and hopes she will take his scientific gesture as a compliment… and maybe say heeeeey? He also said the name was picked to help draw attention to the importance of his field and the need for more researchers to catalog and study insects. Horse flies are "vital pollinators of native plants, not just in Australia, but all over the world. It's extremely important to name all the undescribed species so we can measure our human impact on the environment and hopefully protect it for future generations to enjoy." See? Some nice marketing for scientists out there… even the ones that study bugs, which granted isn’t even the sexiest job in the scientist community (been a while since a sexbot update). However, it is vital important as they say. I know here in California its of major importance with regards to bee populations helping all our fruits, vegetables & nuts to grow so that we can feed the world. Keep up the good work… and I hope Beyonce hollas back… otherwise, I’d rename it to “Bug-a-boo”!!! (PS Also a Destiny’s Child song, just so you catch the joke)

Barbie Update - Iran's morality police are cracking down on the sale of Barbie dolls to protect the public from what they see as pernicious western culture eroding Islamic values, shopkeepers said on Monday. As the West imposes the toughest ever sanctions on Iran and tensions rise over its nuclear program, inside the country the Barbie ban is part of what the government calls a "soft war" against decadent cultural influences. "About three weeks ago they (the morality police) came to our shop, asking us to remove all the Barbies," said a shopkeeper in a toy shop in northern Tehran. Iran's religious rulers first declared Barbie, made by U.S. company Mattel Inc, un-Islamic in 1996, citing its "destructive cultural and social consequences." Despite the ban, the doll has until recently been openly on sale in Tehran shops. The new order, issued around three weeks ago, forced shopkeepers to hide the leggy, busty blonde behind other toys as a way of meeting popular demand for the dolls while avoiding being closed down by the police. Yes, this is the same Iran that’s trying to be a nuclear power. I’m thinking that it’ll eventually work itself into black market Barbie sells. A range of officially approved dolls launched in 2002 to counter demand for Barbie have not proven successful, merchants told Reuters. The dolls named Sara, a female, and Dara, a male (really?) arrived in shops wearing a variety of traditional dress, with Sara fully respecting the rule that all women in Iran must obey in public, of covering their hair and wearing loose-fitting clothes. How have the consumers spoken? "My daughter prefers Barbies. She says Sara and Dara are ugly and fat," said Farnaz, a 38-year-old mother, adding that she could not find Barbie cartoon DVDs as she was told they were also banned from public sale. Pointing to a doll covered in black long veil, a 40-year-old Tehran toy shop manager said: "We still sell Barbies but secretly and put these in the window to make the police think we are just selling these kinds of dolls." See? You have to go to bodegas to get your blonde fix… and sex sells, baby! Yes, even in the doll game. Iran has fought a running battle to purge pervasive western culture from the country since its Islamic revolution overthrew a western-backed king in 1979, enforcing Islamic dress codes, banning Western music and foreign satellite television. As another swipe at the West, Iranians will soon be able to buy toy versions of the U.S. spy drone that it captured in December, Iranian media reported. Models of the bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel - which Iran's military displayed on TV after it was downed near the Afghan border - will be mass produced in a variety of colors, reports said. Eh… we’ve got plenty of the real thing & are always improving on them. Enjoy your toys… and our Barbies.

Laser Clark Gable – Well, it’s been a while since THE Clark Gable has made some news… so now it’s up to his progeny… even if it’s a little on the crazy side. Clark Gable's 23-year-old grandson has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for pointing a green laser at a Los Angeles police helicopter as it flew 800 feet over Hollywood. City News Service says the judge, who gave Clark James Gable credit for one day already served in jail, also placed him on three years' probation. He was sentenced Thursday. Gable pleaded guilty last month to felony discharge of a laser. He flashed the laser three times at the helicopter while riding as a passenger in a car on July 28. Officers aboard the helicopter pinpointed the source of the 52-milliwatt laser and directed officers on the ground to make an arrest. That’s right. You can go to jail for some childish sh*t. Keep that in mind next time you play with those little lasers. I know they’re fun… but if Clark Gable can go to jail for it… you don’t stand a f**king chance.

Most Beautiful Scientific Theories – Okay, this is a warning… but I’m about to nerd up on ya… so prepare yourself. From Darwinian evolution to the idea that personality is largely shaped by chance, the favorite theories of the world's most eminent thinkers are as eclectic as science itself. Every January, John Brockman, the impresario and literary agent who presides over the online salon Edge.org, asks his circle of scientists, digerati and humanities scholars to tackle one question. In previous years, they have included "how is the Internet changing the way you think?" and "what is the most important invention in the last 2,000 years?" This year, he posed the open-ended question "what is your favorite deep, elegant or beautiful explanation?" The responses, released at midnight on Sunday, provide a crash course in science both well known and far out-of-the-box, as admired by the likes of Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, physicist Freeman Dyson and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Several of the nearly 200 scholars nominated what are arguably the two most powerful scientific theories ever developed. "Darwin's natural selection wins hands down," argues Dawkins, emeritus professor at Oxford University. "Never in the field of human comprehension were so many facts explained by assuming so few," he says of the theory that encompasses everything about life, based on the idea of natural selection operating on random genetic mutations (aka the Platypus). Einstein's theory of relativity, which explains gravity as the curvature of space, also gets a few nods. As theoretical physicist Steve Giddings of the University of California, Santa Barbara, writes, "This central idea has shaped our ideas of modern cosmology (and) given us the image of the expanding universe." General relativity explains black holes, the bending of light and "even offers a possible explanation of the origin of our Universe - as quantum tunneling from 'nothing,'" he writes.

Many of the nominated ideas, however, won't be found in science courses taught in high school or even college. Terrence Sejnowski, a computational neuroscientist at the Salk Institute, extols the discovery that the conscious, deliberative mind is not the author of important decisions such as what work people do and who they marry. Instead, he writes, "an ancient brain system called the basal ganglia, brain circuits that consciousness cannot access," pull the strings. Running on the neurochemical dopamine, they predict how rewarding a choice will be - if I pick this apartment, how happy will I be? - "evaluate the current state of the entire cortex and inform the brain about the best course of action," explains Sejnowski. Only later do people construct an explanation of their choices, he said in an interview, convincing themselves incorrectly that volition and logic were responsible. That’s a pretty interesting theory, in my humble opinion. A kind of scientific explanation for “going with your gut” even if it’s against logic… and then later basically convincing yourself that it seemed like the best decision at the time. Hmm… I don’t see how that could apply to my life at all (please disregard the last 3+ years of this blog). To neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University, the most beautiful idea is emergence, in which complex phenomena almost magically come into being from extremely simple components. For instance, a human being arises from a few thousand genes. The intelligence of an ant colony - labor specialization, intricate underground nests - emerges from the seemingly senseless behavior of thousands of individual ants. "Critically, there's no blueprint or central source of command," says Sapolsky. Each individual ant has a simple algorithm for interacting with the environment, "and out of this emerges a highly efficient colony." Among other tricks, the colony has solved the notorious Traveling Salesman problem, or the challenge of stopping at a long list of destinations by the shortest route possible. Also very interesting… here are a few others mentioned in the article…

Stephen Kosslyn, director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, is most impressed by Pavlovian conditioning, in which a neutral stimulus such as a sound comes to be associated with a reward, such as food, producing a response, such as salivation. That much is familiar. Less well known is that Pavlovian conditioning might account for placebo effects. After people have used analgesics such as ibuprofen or aspirin many times, the drugs begin to have effects before their active ingredients kick in. From previous experience, the mere act of taking the pill has become like Pavlov's bell was for his dogs, causing them to salivate: the "conditioned stimulus" of merely seeing the pill "triggers the pain-relieving processes invoked by the medicine itself," explains Kosslyn. Science theories that explain puzzling human behavior or the inner workings of the universe were also particular favorites of the Edge contributors:

* Psychologist Alison Gopnik of the University of California, Berkeley, is partial to one that accounts for why teenagers are so restless, reckless and emotional. Two brain systems, an emotional motivational system and a cognitive control system, have fallen out of sync, she explains. The control system that inhibits impulses and allows you to delay gratification kicks in later than it did in past generations, but the motivational system is kicking in earlier and earlier. The result: "A striking number of young adults who are enormously smart and knowledgeable but directionless, who are enthusiastic and exuberant but unable to commit to a particular work or a particular love until well into their twenties or thirties." Wait… they KNEW about this & did nothing to help my enormously smart ass? DAMN YOU SCIENTISTS!!!

* Neurobiologist Sam Barondes of the University of California, San Francisco, nominates the idea that personality is largely shaped by chance. One serendipitous force is which parental genes happen to be in the egg and sperm that produced the child. "But there is also chance in how neurodevelopmental processes unfold - a little virus here, an intrauterine event there, and you have chance all over the place," he said in an interview. Another toss of the dice: how a parent will respond to a child's genetic disposition to be outgoing, neurotic, open to new experience and the like, either reinforcing the innate tendencies or countering them. The role of chance in creating differences between people has moral consequences, says Barondes, "promoting understanding and compassion for the wide range of people with whom we share our lives."

* Timothy Wilson nominates the idea that "people become what they do." While people's behavior arises from their character - someone returns a lost wallet because she is honest - "the reverse also holds," says the University of Virginia psychologist. If we return a lost wallet, our assessment of how honest we are rises through what he calls "self-inference." One implication of this phenomenon: "We should all heed Kurt Vonnegut's advice," Wilson says: "'We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.'" True dat…

* Psychologist David Myers of Hope College finds "group polarization" a beautiful idea, since it explains how interacting with others tends to amplify people's initial views. In particular, discussing issues with like-minded peers -increasingly the norm in the United States, where red states attract conservatives and blue states attract liberals - push people toward extremes. "The surprising thing is that the group as a whole becomes more extreme than its pre-discussion average," he said in an interview. So in other words, putting crazy people in the same room make them crazier than the sum of their parts? Don’t worry, the opposite works too like Tony Robbins said, where if you surround yourself with people that you want to be like, then you’re more likely to become like those people.

* Martin Rees, professor of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, nominates the "astonishing concept" that what we consider the universe "could be hugely more extensive" than what astronomers observe. If true, the known cosmos may instead "be a tiny part of the aftermath of 'our' big bang, which is itself just one bang among a perhaps-infinite ensemble," Rees writes. Even more intriguing is that different physics might prevail in these different universes, so that "some of what we call 'laws of nature' may ... be local bylaws." I assume that whoever came up with that idea was probably smoking a joint with some buddies, as I’ve heard stuff like that growing up all the time. Good work, scientists! I dig your ways of thinking.

Anyway, that should do it for today. Gonna be a busy couple of weeks coming up but hey, that’s why I get paid the big bucks… and leads to big tax returns. BOO-YAH!!! Maybe I’ll finally get that chalice to complete my ensemble. It’s been so long since this pimp has had a proper drinking receptacle. This weekend should also be some good times with the 49ers playing in the NFC Championship for the first time since I could drive a car legally. GO NINERS!!! Have a great day everybody!!!

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