Hive Mind
Sunday, November 28, 2004

Fractal patterns may reduce stress

From the article:

At their basic level, fractals are repeating patterns that reveal greater complexity the more they are enlarged. Some are geometric and easy to spot, like a snowflake or the popular example known as the Sierpinski Triangle, a triangle made of so many smaller triangles that the closer you look the more triangles you find.

Others are more subtle, their geometry so irregular it appears chaotic. A swirl of clouds or the complex interlacing of tree branches might seem random to the naked eye, but when examined in extremely close detail they reveal patterns built of patterns built of patterns.

Taylor has been studying these patterns for more than a half-dozen years, and most recently he found that people actually have a physical reaction to fractals that is strongest when the patterns have a certain "D value." The D value is a measure of fractal complexity; the least complex patterns have a value of 1.0 and the most complex 2.0.

People, it turns out, like fractals with a D value between 1.3 and 1.5. Taylor learned this by measuring skin conductivity during stress tests in which subjects were asked difficult questions, given a minute to relax, and then asked another question.

The questions produced a measurable level of stress. But when put through the same test while certain fractals were shown in the background, the stress level nose-dived, Taylor said.

"If you put the picture in the background while they're doing this - we didn't even tell them to look at it or draw attention to it - we find that a 1.3 D value actually reduces stress levels by 60 percent," he said.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Flu pandemic inevitable, plans needed urgently -WHO

BANGKOK, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Every country in the world must come up urgently with a plan to deal with an inevitable influenza pandemic likely to be triggered by the bird flu virus that hit Asia this year, a top global health expert said on Friday.

"I believe we are closer now to a pandemic than at any time in recent years," said Shigeru Omi, regional director for the Western Region of the World Health Organization (WHO).

"No country will be spared once it becomes a pandemic," he told a news conference.


The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919 killed upwards of 20 million people and WHO experts say the next could infect up to 30 percent of the world's more than 6 billion people and kill up to 7 million of them.

Omi said that to stave that off, the world would have to cooperate closely by sharing information promptly and openly on the virus -- such as how it spreads, why it hits children more easily than adults and how quickly it is mutating.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Open Source Currency

Here's a really interesting article by Douglas Rushkoff about how cell phones could be used to create local currencies. I've always thought that local currencies were a cool idea.

From the article:
Handheld wireless technology stands ready to enable what's known as the "complementary currency" movement in ways so powerful that the dominance of national currencies such as the dollar and the euro may soon be called into question.

This is not as preposterous a scenario as it sounds. After all, it's only been since the Renaissance that nation-states have been powerful enough to corner the money market. Before then, most municipalities developed their own currencies, often basing them on very different principles than the ones we use to justify our currencies today.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Google Launches 'Google Scholar'

This is really cool. And who knows, Giving the general populace quick and easy acess to scientific literature could lead to some interesting developments. I played around with it a little bit, and so far I would definitely recommend it to anyone doing research, either inside or outside the confines of academia. Check it out here.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Go fuck yourself

Ok, so here's some potentially silly questions:

If technology made it possible to replicate yourself completely (not just copy your genes, but also somehow download the contents of your brain into your cloned body), and then you had sex with the clone, would this be considered something akin to incest? Perhaps masturbation? Do you think a future legislative body would ban such behavior? If it were perfectly legal and socially acceptable, do you think such behavior would be common? I really want to know what people think about this, so please leave comments. Also tell me if you think you would have sex with yourself given the opportunity.

By the way, as stupid as it sounds, what made me think of this was that godawful movie The Sixth Day with Arnold Schwarzenegger, where there's two of him running around fighting evil biotechnicians or whatever. I couldn't help but think that if there could be two Arnolds, then there could be thousands of them, all locked into some kind of Lovecraftian fleshy orgy. Creepy, huh?

Monday, November 08, 2004

Pot-smoking physicist hermit found squatting in a nuclear weapons facility!

This guy is my hero. Apparantly he built himself a fairly nice home (with solar panels, a wood stove, a glass door, and a bed) in a cave on the property of Los Alamos National Labs. During his time there he grew marijuana and worked on problems in physics and philosophy. It's too bad that he got caught. Here's his website, where you can purchase t-shirts! (Via BoingBoing)

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Biotechnology Rant

I just came across an excellent article which fairly acurately mirrors my feelings on both the biotech industry and its opponents. It's written by a trained geneticist, and it's really funny in that it pokes fun at the ignorence of the anti-biotech crowd while simultaniously pointing out the very real dangers of agricultural biotechnology.

My feelings on biotech have always been rather complicated. On the one hand, I think that agricultural biotechnology, or at least the Monsanto style implementation of agricultural biotechnology, is a really really really bad idea. I mean, it doesn't take a PhD in ecology to figure out that flooding an ecosystem with alien, previously nonexistant organisms can potentially result in disaster, or that eating previously nonexistant organisms could provoke allergic reactions or other unpleasant side effects. I'm also agqainst the idea of patenting genomes, and think that all genetic data and technology should be open-source.

On the other hand, I've consistantly found that the people I talk to who so militantly oppose biotechnological research, some of whom I consider to be fairly intelligent people, have a four year old's grasp of genetic technologies. Often they have absolutely no knowlege whatsoever regarding how these technologies work, how research is conducted, or most importantly, how to accurately assess the potential risks or benefits of any given example of biotechnology. Their lack of basic scientific knowlege on the whole is generally appalling.

So it seems that opinions surrounding biotechnology are divided into three groups. The first would be the biotech industry itself, which casts all social, political, ethical and environmental concerns aside in the blind pursuit of pure profit. A second group would be the green, no-GMO crowd. As I said, these people typically don't understand what they oppose, so they react out of blind fear, categorizing all things biotech as being intrinsically evil, no questions asked. And then a third group would be the general public, who are usually completely ignorant of the issue and exist in a state of blissful ignorance, happily munching away on their Monsanto corn and soybean products. It's plain to see that none of these groups posess an intelligent analysis of the situation.

I do think that there are other options. I think it is possible to be critical of biotechnology without issuing blanket condemnations, and while recognizing that siome of it could prove useful in the end. I think that many of the problems we face regarding biotech comes from the profit-driven corporate control of biotech, not the technology itself, and that something akin to the open source movement in biotechnology could be of great use. I also think there needs to be a source of information about biotech that doesn't come from lying corporations or hysterical technophobes. I dont exactly know where I'm going with this, it's a bit of a rant, so here's a list of links to people and organizations that I feel have a comparatively intelligent view of the situation:

Critical Art Ensemble

Biotech Hobbyist Magazine


Open Source Biotechnology

Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering explained by someone who's done it

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Whoever wins, we lose.



Redbeard Gets Down
Reuters Alertnet
New World Disorder
A Graboid Ate My Mommy
Science Daily
Boing Boing
Infoshop News
Posthuman Blues
Vortex Egg
Cult of the Dead Cow
Mechanical Spirit
MySociety Blog


Open Source, D.I.Y. Media/Tech:

Blackout Media Project
Biological Innovation for Open Society
Open Source Biotechnology
Downhill Battle
Bureau of Inverse Technology
Carbon Defense League
Critical Art Ensemble
Biotech Hobbyist Magazine
Ubuntu Linux


CIA World Factbook
Spunk Library
Hyperhistory Online
Noborder Network
People's Global Action
Critical Resistance


Public Library of Science
Quantum Consciousness
MIT Biology Hypertextbook


Art Crimes
Guns and Dope Party
Temple of the Screaming Electron

Brain Tools:

SMI2LE Nootropics
Bouncing Bear Botanicals

Online Books and Booksellers:

AK Press
Project Gutenberg
Feral House


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