Disbelief in Belief

by Maarten Boudry


Maarten Boudry

A man walking in the forest at night arrives at a house with lights burning inside. Looking through the window, he sees people jumping frantically and flailing about. Poor fellows, thinks the man: they are having seizures, or they must be terribly ill, or they have become insane. What the man doesn't hear is the music playing inside. The people are dancing and singing for a wedding. Gershom Gorenberg recounts this Jewish-Chassidic parable in his splendid book The End of Days on the danger of apocalyptic belief systems. Its morale? If you don't hear the music of faith, you will conclude that the dancers are out of their mind.

In our secular age, many have grown estranged from religion and turned a deaf ear to faith. All we hear is its “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar”, in the words of Matthew Arnold. Religion seemed like a distant echo of times gone by.

Now, alas, we can no longer ignore the ear-shattering blasts of suicide belts, the rattle of machine rifles, and the shouting of “Allahu Akbar” invariably preceding it. Terrorist attacks dedicated to the greater glory of a Supreme Being are being carried out across the world almost on a daily basis. The religious motivation of ISIS and numerous kindred groups is blatantly obvious for anyone who cares to listen to their faith-imbued songs. The atrocities are justified on the basis of religious scripture and tradition. They are intended as punishment for our decadent and sinful ways, for our refusal to accept the final revelation of Islam, and for our resistance against the divinely sanctioned caliphate.

Godless westerners, however, for whom God's name mainly evokes sweet childhood memories, find it exceedingly difficult to understand the mental universe of religious fanatics. Religion, in the eyes of these people, cannot be more than a convenient pretext for violence, a façade disguising true motivations. Besides, does anyone reallybelieve in those juvenile fantasies about a heavenly brothel with 72 dark-eyed virgins and wine that doesn't give you hangovers?

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Persons all the way down: On viewing the scientific conception of the self from the inside out

by Yohan J. John

1280px-Infinite_regress_of_homunculusRidiculing the intellectual backwardness of our forebears is a popular pastime. How silly our ancestors were! They thought the earth was flat! They believed in dragons and fairies! And even when they started to emerge from humanity's childhood, they came up with ideas like phlogiston! And luminiferous aether! Among neuroscientists, one of the most well-known cautionary tales is that of phrenology: the 19th century “science” that claimed to be able to peer into your soul by measuring bumps and dents on your head. The idea was that these hills and valleys were signs of size differences in areas dedicated to mental faculties such as “amativeness”, “concentrativeness”, “aquisitiveness”, “wit” and “conscientiousness”. So a bump near your zone of “amativeness” would mean that your brain has allocated additional resources towards the pursuit of love and sex. It all sounds quaint and Victorian — I imagine steampunk authors have taken the idea and run with it.

But if we strip away the old-fashioned terminology, how different is the concept of a brain area for “wit” from the concept of a “cognitive area” in the brain? How different is the idea of a center of “amativeness” from the idea that oxytocin is a love molecule? And is the idea that conscientiousness is baked into the brain any different from the idea that morality or altruism is baked into the genome?

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Search a Little Longer

A version by Rafiq Kathwari
After Sir Mohammad Iqbal

Lift the veil from your face
The stars are witness

Stop teasing
Reveal yourself

Passion is in your heart
Become a healer

Stop begging on the mountain like Moses
The flame is within you

Create a new Mecca with every breath
Rid yourself of idolatry

Observe the limits of this garden
Even if you want to boast

First create the confidence of Alexander
To lust after the glory of Darius

Rafiq Kathwari’s debut collection of poems is available here.

Beyond Man and Woman: The Life of a Hijra

By Namit Arora

On being transgender in India and glimpses from The Truth About Me, a powerful memoir by A. Revathi. It aims to introduce readers ‘to the lives of hijras, their distinct culture, and their dreams and desires.’

RevathiMost Indians encounter hijras at some point in their lives. Hijras are the most visible subset of transgender people in South Asia, usually biological men who identify more closely as being female or feminine. They often appear in groups, and most Indians associate them with singing and dancing, flashy women’s attire and makeup, aggressive begging styles, acts and manners that are like burlesques of femininity, a distinctive hand-clap, and the blessing of newlyweds and newborn males in exchange for gifts.

Most modern societies embrace a binary idea of gender. To the biologically salient binary division of humans into male/female, they attach binary social-behavioral norms. They presume two discrete ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ identities to which all biological males and females are expected to conform. These two gender identities are imbued with ideal, essential, and distinct social roles and traits. In other words, the binary schema assumes a default alignment between sex, gender, and sexuality. In reality, however, gender identities and sexual orientations are not binary and exist on a spectrum, including for people who identify as transgender—an umbrella term for those whose inner sense of their gender conflicts with the presumed norms for their assigned sex (unlike for cisgender people). Transgender people often feel they’re neither ‘men’ nor ‘women’.

According to biologist Robert Sapolsky, ‘Gender in humans is on a continuum, coming in scads of variants, where genes, organs, hormones, external appearance, and psychosexual identification can vary independently, and where many people have categories of gender identification going on in their heads (and brains) that bear no resemblance to yours’. Many cultures have granted a distinct identity to various types of transgender people, including South Asian, Native American, Indonesian, Polynesian, and Omanese cultures. A landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2014 legalized a third gender in India, including hijras and other transgender people.

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Happiness In Flow

by Max Sirak

3qd pic

“Twenty-three hundred years ago Aristotle concluded that, more than anything else, men and women seek happiness. While happiness itself is sought for its own sake, every other goal—health, beauty, money, or power—is valued only because we expect that it will make us happy.”

Mihaly Csikszentmilayi wrote that in Flow.

Both Csikszentmilayi and Aristotle are right.

We want the things we want because we think they will make us happy.

We want money because we think it gives us the freedom to live the way we want and fulfilling our whims makes us happy.

We want to be beautiful because being treated that way feels good – and feeling good makes us happy.

We want health because the alternative, being sick, sucks and makes us not happy.

We want power because with it, we think we will be able to do whatever it is we want and that will make us happy.

Money, power, beauty, and health – think about how much of our lives are spent chasing these things.

Pretty much all of it.

(And for those out there who are shaking their heads about the innocence of children – I'd like to point out that I was literally chasing beauty (girls) around the playground at recess in first grade…so…yeah.)

But while we may while our lives away in pursuit of those four things, how many of us actually get them?

More importantly – do we even enjoy the process of trying to get them? Because, if we don't and yet we spend most of the hours of our days in pursuit – then are we even enjoying our lives?

And if we aren't enjoying what little time we do have on this planet – then aren't we missing the point?

Do you see what I'm getting at here?

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A spoonful of inequality helps the medicine go down

by Saurabh Jha

ON-BN562_RichFa_G_20151028112638The conventional wisdom in the circles I hang out in – pro-Hillary, morally conscious, happy bunnies who pretend to specially enjoy French wine, and opera – is that the greatest scourge visited upon humanity after the plague is inequality of wealth. These people worship Pope St. John Paul Piketty and canonize Bishop Paul Krugman. Not only is inequality bad for its own sake, they say, it actually makes people ill, like medically ill.

Their premise always struck me as being specious. I once took them through a thought experiment. Imagine, I said, you travel in time to the Bengal famine. There was a lot of equality then – people were equally malnourished. The muscle wasting from marasmus made sure that everyone’s ribs protruded equally. The loss of protein from kwashiorkor made sure everyone’s belly popped out without prejudice. Starvation because of poverty is a great leveler. It cares not about gender, caste or religion. It is non-judgmental.

You say to a starving Bengali: “I have a solution. It’ll give you food, occasional shelter, internet and a mobile phone. But here’s the catch. An ostentatious man called Mukesh Ambani will own the most expensive house in the world, and because you’ll always be reminded of his house, you might feel like crap. You’ll live longer, be well fed, but will feel like crap when you see someone driving a Mercedes. Want it? It’s called capitalism.” I suspect the starving Bengali might say “hell yes, please bring on this inequality. I want food. I don’t give a damn about this Ambani fellow.”

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The Haunted House

by Elise Hempel

Hemple-houseIt took about a week to sell my house. The real estate agent came in and took a look around, we arrived at a price, there were a handful of showings, a few offers were made, and counter-offers, and it was done. If you list at a low enough price and use a few euphemisms (my house had “good bones,” for example, and my spider-webbed back porch with no door – ripped from its hinges in a storm – was a “sunroom”), it's a piece of cake.

Then came afterward. My daughter had already started clearing out her things back in July, as she prepared to join her boyfriend in Texas, and I'd begun my own, more severe clearing out in November (dining-room table, a bed? – who needs those?). But now I had to do the “deep cleaning,” the hands-and-knees phase where you discover that your house had all along been merely a roofed dumpster. Now I had to scrape from the kitchen junk drawer an amazing number of somehow-glued-down pennies. And figure out what to do with a thousand Aeropostle and Abercrombie bags my daughter had accumulated over the years and I'd stuffed into the closet, removing them in a compact “closet shape” like can-shaped cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. I had to sift through boxes of tossed photographs, and all of my daughter's artwork I'd saved since her birth, some of it bearing her crayoned command SAVE, KEEP, like an official government stamp, which I'd obviously obeyed. Most of it I'd meticulously dated and labeled myself (“first drawing of a smile,” “first drawing of a smile with cheek marks,” etc., etc.). It took a long time. But I savored my tunneling journey into the time-capsule, the little “treasures” I kept finding, like my daughter's black and shriveled pacifier at the back of a kitchen cupboard, or a dusty dog-chew that had rolled under my dresser out of a snout's reach.

I should have done it as my brother had with his own house several years ago – toss it all into a pod, some storage lockers, and call it a day. But I had time, at least a month, until closing. Each day, I'd leave my boyfriend's house around 10 a.m. and linger at my own house until 4 p.m. I'd eat lunch at my house, take my dog, Groucho, for a walk on our usual routes, wander through the widening rooms and gaze out the windows, sit and write my melancholy poems.

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Open Your Mouth, Stick Out Your Tongue, and Say “Five”

by Carol A. Westbrook

6a00d8341c562c53ef01b8d1c5ba95970c“What should I do with this?” my husband asked, as he handed me the letter. It was a Press Ganey survey asking him to evaluate a recent visit to his doctor.

In case you have never seen one, a Press Ganey survey is a multi-page questionnaire in which you asked to rate your experiences during a hospital or outpatient clinic visit, from 0 (bad) to 5 (best). The completed questionnaire is mailed to Press Ganey, which compiles and analyzes the data, and reports the results to the hospital or health care system that ordered the survey.

The survey asks questions like, “Did you have to wait long to see your doctor? Was the staff pleasant? Was the waiting room clean? Did your doctor take enough time to explain things to you? Did your doctor smile and shake your hand? Did the valet parker return your car promptly?” It also does not ask questions that the health care organization does not want to hear, for example, “Was your doctor given enough time with you? Did you actually get to see the doctor instead of the nurse practitioner? “Press Ganey has been called an Angels' List for clinics and hospitals.

That is why administrators love Press Ganey surveys–because they know that good scores will bring in more business. They also have the side benefit of providing an outlet for unsatisfied or angry patients who otherwise would be pounding on their door. Giving a doctor a “0” makes a disgruntled customer feel that he is addressing a problem, without the manager ever having to do anything about it!

Most importantly, though, patient satisfaction scores provide “objective” data that can be used to manipulate physicians by lowering their salaries or even firing them if they do not maintain a high score.

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An Open Letter to Karen Armstrong

by Aasem Bakhshi

This letter was written in 2013 as a self-reflection exercise in response to Karen Armstrong's letter which she wrote in 2011 to the people of Pakistan to discover compassion in their daily lives 1.

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

9780199063307Earlier this week, I was visiting a small roadside bookstall when I discovered your letter. I picked it up, almost offhand, as if it was dropped in my mailbox. It proved to be a page-turner and unable to resist, I skimmed it standing right there in next half an hour. Needless to say that your earnest and sincere demand to rediscover compassion was not only compelling but also based on universal values of reason and harmony.

While driving back, I kept reflecting on some finer nuances of your discourse from various angles, as well as your 'charter of compassion' and found it necessary to engage with you at a more intimate level.

I should perhaps mention, right from the start, that I am cognizant of all your work. I do not claim to have read each word of it, but I have at least read each and every word you wrote about Muslim tradition and of course, about God. I mention this so you must not misconstrue me for a biased and misplaced prattler; rather, contrary to that, I am so overwhelmed by your desire to see a harmonious world that I thought it necessary to convey to you that you must know a little more about it.

Should I tell you about my favorite work of yours? No, it's not about histories of God or fundamentalism, or genesis of faith-based traditions; rather, it's the one about your own climb out of so-called darkness through that proverbial spiral staircase 2. On a lighter note, I do understand that you love to tell the world about yourself, since it's your third autobiography. However, I found it amazing to find in you a person who has opted for religious truth, found it uncongenial, learnt ways to handle that uncongeniality and finally ended up being empathetic to it; that too, despite your ultimate disregard of its metaphysical truth value.

But I tend to digress, since this missive is not about you, but me and the world I live in. I am neither a critic nor a scholar, and not even a formal student of any religion or tradition. I do not claim to have any solutions, neither short-term nor long-term. My motivation is merely to open up and reveal more of my true self and underlying societal being, that in my humble opinion, you do not seem to know too well.

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Golimar and Golibaz: Robber Barons Having a Blast

by Maniza Naqvi

FullSizeRenderThere is a part of Karachi called Golimar—‘Shooter'. This used to be the place where lame horses were brought by the military to be shot, back in the days of the British Empire. And the word Golibaz—means liar—or a fraud. Nowadays Golimar and Golibaz seem to pretty much sum up things. The horses have been replaced by people, especially those that are seen as a threat or as no longer worthwhile and the lies well they've never been replaced. I wonder what a historian would make of it.

Because that's a twitter-worthy bit of history right there: a place called Golimar and a condition called Golibaz. And what ties them together? Defense. The word Defense in Pakistan mean posh real estate developments. These are the places where the concept of equity and transparency and integrity go to die. These are the acres and acres of lands the Pakistan Military establishment awarded itself for its service to the country. The word military, in Pakistan, means absolute power, like the feudals of yesteryears–only more so, it is therefore the largest land owner in Pakistan. And the leasing off of these awarded lands from the military to civilians at fabulous prices for housing developments has been a profitable business. And that there is a bit of political economy—well the whole thing actually.

Professor Ayesha Jalal, the most excellent historian says ‘Pakistan's domestic dilemmas were inextricably linked to international conflicts (here). Besides the bullets and the blasts and the lies or because of them—business is booming for a few in Pakistan. Real estate–never better. Golf courses, fancy mosques, Yacht clubs, swimming pools, high rise apartments for the wealthy and shopping malls are expanding and flourishing. Residential developments for the rich are big business. Exports are off the charts for our textiles. Look at our IT sector. Could be even better if the fuel and electricity issues could be resolved. There are air-conditioned shopping malls and women work there as sales girls and even as security guards. Many of the sales girls and the security women working there wear hijabs. There's piped in music and azaan in the Malls along with the cheesy French fries and pizza. There are fast food courts. All classes of people mingle together in a clean air conditioned safe environment. Just like Dubai.

So what's the problem? Perween Rahman got shot and killed–murdered–for documenting land grabbing and trying to get legal rights documented for villagers who were in danger of being forcibly removed by land developers. The Supreme Court has ordered that her murderers be found by April 20, 2016. And there's Sabeen Mahmud shot and killed–murderd– for most probably talking about land grabbing too. In her murder case, a key witness and a key investigator in the case have both been killed since.

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by Chris Bacas

ImageZ was a generous and kind man. Still, in a diner, he could embarrass me to death. Last off the bus, joining us at a crowded table, he rubbed bleary eyes, grabbed utensils in his fists and banged them loudly. We lowered our heads while sugar packets and jelly cups scattered. Sometimes, we scattered. “Hungry bear….hung-gree bear…. HUNGRY BEAR!”
An already harried waitress summoned a weary smile and attended to him first. He was the boss and my grandfather's age. No disrespect came out of my mouth. Sometimes we were repaid our patience with a free meal. Well acquainted with the good life, Z survived addiction to pharmaceutical speed and heavy alcohol consumption in the heady era of 'round the clock New York studio work. He related the tale of a rock and roll session with a superstar power couple. Arriving at the studio, the players, all veterans, were greeted by tables overflowing with every possible substance; a smorgasbord of drugs. In those days, it was just another studio expense. Some folks overdid it, of course, and had to be replaced as the day wore on. The offer of a steady paycheck to cover prodigious debts brought him back on the road. Z's wife had power of attorney. It said so right on the checks. He now led a name band whose violent, alcoholic leader, forty years ago, repeatedly cursed, punched, fired and re-hired him.
6a00d8341c562c53ef01b8d1c00960970c-800wiOn a Mississippi river boat cruise, the widow of our namesake showed up. It was her right to join us, gratis, anytime. She treated her “employee” like an incompetent peon. Z bit his tongue, hard. On the last night, drunk and thoroughly addled, the widow felt emboldened to make a speech. Taking the microphone, she rambled about the greatness of her late husband (an undisputed fact) and his kindness (pure fantasy). Teary-eyed, she ended with: “..and…wherever he is, I know ALL the Angels are playing trombones” A devilish grin on his face, Z looked straight down, toward the River Lethe, and stomped his foot twice, saying loudly “you hear that,_______, you hear that?” Despite his indentured servitude, our leader was a colleague more than a boss. For that alone, I grew to love him.

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The Tripodi Hoax

IMG_0309by Philippe Huneman and Anouk Barberousse

Under the pseudonym 'Benedetta Tripodi', Anouk Barberousse, Professor of Philosophy at the Université Paris Sorbonne, and Philippe Huneman, Research Director at the Institut d’Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques (CNRS), submitted to the on-line journal Badiou Studies a paper entitled “Ontology, Neutrality and the Strive for (non)Being-Queer”[1]. It was in answer to a call for papers on the topic “Towards a Badiousian Queer Feminism.” The paper was accepted after a process of peer-review, and published in the December 2015 issue of the journal. Yet the paper was written with the specific the aim of absolute meaninglessness. Neither of the true authors could begin to explain what it meant. In a text published on April 1 on the Carnet Zilsel, the authors of the hoax told their story, and explained their project and the goal of the exercise. After this revelation, Badiou Studies withdrew the paper from its website. However, the website Retraction Watch recorded this episode, with comments by both the journal as well as the authors of the fake paper. Here, we provide the context and the meaning of this hoax according to their authors.

The Benedetta Tripodi hoax aims at unravelling the legitimating strategy that consists in presenting Alain Badiou’s philosophy as the central current in metaphysics and political theory in France. Our analysis does not intend to refute Badiou’s theory once and for all, though it does aim, by unravelling some of its weaknesses, to call into question the consistency of the overall construction. By casting a doubt on the philosophical seriousness of Badiou's writings and of the commentaries of his admirers all over the world, it defeats the argument that would establish the eminency of its metaphysical value simply from its current intellectual fame.

If indeed the journal devoted to Badiou allows for the publication of a wholly meaningless paper –for whatever reasons: obliviousness, lack of critical sense, etc.– this reveals a genuine problem within the club of Badiou’s readers. On these grounds, it is clear that Badiou’s international reputation cannot justify his objective supremacy as a philosopher. On the contrary one has to question the nature of this reputation as well as its sociological grounds.

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Brilliant, Troubled Dorothy Parker

Robert Gottlieb in the New York Review of Books:

ScreenHunter_1865 Apr. 18 09.05What are we to make today of this famous woman who, beginning almost a century ago, has fascinated generations with her wit, flair, talent, and near genius for self-destruction? For some, what registers most strongly is her central role in the legend of the Algonquin Round Table, with its campiness of wisecracks, quips, and put-downs—a part of her life she would come to repudiate. For others, it’s the descent into alcoholism, and the sad final years holed up in Manhattan’s Volney Hotel. Pick your myth.

As for her writing, it has evoked ridiculous exaggeration from her votaries, both her contemporaries and her biographers. Vincent Sheean: “Among contemporary artists, I would put her next to Hemingway and Bill Faulkner. She wasn’t Shakespeare, but what she was, was true.” John Keats in his biography of her, You Might as Well Live (1970): “She wrote poetry that was at least as good as the best of Millay and Housman. She wrote some stories that are easily as good as some of O’Hara and Hemingway.” This is praise that manages to be inflated and qualified at the same time.

And here is Regina Barreca, a professor of English literature and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut, in her introduction to the Penguin edition of the Complete Stories: “If Parker’s work can be dismissed as narrow and easy, then so can the work of Austen, Eliot, and Woolf.” Well, no. Exaggerated claims don’t strengthen the case for Parker’s literary accomplishments. As is inevitably the case with criticism grounded in agenda, they diminish it. But this doesn’t mean that her work is without value or interest.

More here.

No, You Can’t Feel Sorry for Everyone

Adam Waytz in Nautilus:

DownloadThe world seems to be getting more empathetic. Americans donate to charity at record rates. People feel the pain of suffering in geographically distant countries brought to our attention by advances in communications and transportation. Violence, seen on historical timescales, is decreasing. The great modern humanitarian project of expanding the scope of our empathy to include the entire human race seems to be working. Our in-group (those we choose to include in our inner circle and to spend our energies on) is growing, and our out-group (everybody else) shrinking. But there’s a wrinkle in this perfect picture: Our instinctive tendency to categorize the world into “us” and “them” is difficult to overcome. It is in our nature to favor helping in-group members like friends, family, or fellow citizens, and to neglect or even punish out-group members. Even as some moral circles expand, others remain stubbornly fixed, or even contract: Just think of Democrats and Republicans, Sunnis and Shiites, Duke and North Carolina basketball fans. The endpoint of the liberal humanitarian project, which is universal empathy, would mean no boundary between in-group and out-group. In aiming for this goal, we must fight our instincts. That is possible, to a degree. Research confirms that people can strengthen their moral muscles and blur the divide between in-group and out-group. Practicing meditation, for example, can increase empathy, improving people’s ability to decode emotions from people’s facial expressions1 and making them more likely to offer a chair2 to someone with crutches. Simply increasing people’s beliefs in the malleability of empathy increases the empathy they express toward ideologically and racially dissimilar others.3 And when all else fails, people respond to financial gain. My co-authors and I have shown that introducing monetary incentives for accurate perspective-taking increased Democrats’ and Republicans’ ability to understand each other and to believe that political resolutions were possible.4

But these exercises can take us only so far. In fact, there is a terrible irony in the assumption that we can ever transcend our parochial tendencies entirely. Social scientists have found that in-group love and out-group hate originate from the same neurobiological basis, are mutually reinforcing, and co-evolved—because loyalty to the in-group provided a survival advantage by helping our ancestors to combat a threatening out-group. That means that, in principle, if we eliminate out-group hate completely, we may also undermine in-group love. Empathy is a zero-sum game.

More here.

Why it’s time to dispel the myths about nuclear power

David Robert Grimes in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_1863 Apr. 18 08.48This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, and the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl incident. Together, these constitute the two greatest nuclear accidents the world has ever seen.

Even now, widespread confusion over these disasters still blights rational discussion on energy production; too often the debate becomes needlessly acrimonious, reliant on rhetoric in lieu of facts. Yet as climate change becomes an ever-encroaching factor, we need more than ever to have a reasoned discussion on nuclear power. To this end, it’s worth dispelling some persistent myths.

The events in the Ukrainian town of Pripyat on the morning of 26 April 1986 have permanently etched the name Chernobyl, and all its connotations, into the public mind. With a dark irony, it was a poorly conducted safety experiment that was the catalyst for the worst nuclear disaster in history. The full odious sequence of events that led to the accident would constitute an entire article. In essence, however, the mixture of flawed design, disabled redundancies and a tragic disregard for experimental protocol all feature heavily in the blueprint of the disaster. The net result of this errant test was a massive steam explosion, replete with enough kick to blow the 2,000 ton reactor casting clean through the roof of the reactor building.

Despite the sheer explosive force of the eruption, what ensued was not a nuclear blast.

More here.

The Promise and Peril of Bernie Sanders

Ali Minai in Barbarikon:

ScreenHunter_1862 Apr. 18 08.43I had originally intended to write a long article on the Bernie Sanders phenomenon unfolding before our eyes in the US elections, but an absolutely brilliant piece by Jamelle Bouie in Slate says almost everything I wanted to say. It is an absolute must read! for anyone interested in the near-future of American politics.

Sanders supporters should not be put off by the headline, “There is No Bernie Sanders Movement“. The article is much more about what the Sanders movementcan be than about what it is not. As Bouie notes, the most significant fact about the movement is the disproportionate youth of its supporters. As such, it has the potential to go from an insurgency against the Democratic establishment to becoming the future of the Democratic Party. I think that young Democratic leaders with ambition are realizing that, which explains why some of them have chosen to come out in support of Sanders. However, Sanders is less a savior than a harbinger – more John than Jesus. If the potential of his movement is to be realized fully, it will be at the hands of others – perhaps an Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker – who will put in the blood, toil, sweat and tears to take it from vision to reality.

More here.

LSD Makes Your Brain More ‘Flexible,’ Less Anxious

Carrie Arnold in The Daily Beast:

LsdLast week, a pair of new studies revealed some of the first images of neural activity in people who had taken LSD. A far cry from the “This is your brain on drugs” ads of the 1980s, this new research shows that your brain on LSD actually involves a breakdown of the factors that normally keep neural circuits separate. The result? That stereotypical feeling of feeling “at one” with the world and part of something larger than yourself.

…Other research on psychedelic drugs given to dying cancer patients struggling with anxiety over their impending deaths has shown that this type of experience can be very helpful in relieving the sense of over-arching doom. Building on evidence from more than half a century ago, other studies are showing that these drugs may be helpful in relieving anxiety more broadly. For neuroscientists like Tagliazucchi, however, these drugs provide a novel way to simply understand how the brain goes about its everyday duties. “We think that what we experience normally is reality, but the truth is our brains are just constructing reality for us,” Tagliazucchi said.

More here.