Saturday, May 23

Obama's Hypocrisy

Obama attacks Bush administration policy, describing it as ad hoc, then describes how he will create a system that allows for the "prolonged detention" of terrorists without trial. I have to say I'm a little surprised.

Friday, May 22

Thomas Friedman on how to sell a carbon tax (from his NYT Op-Ed column, "Moore's Law and the Law of More"):

Have no doubt: From right-wing tea parties to coal states to manufacturers, there is going to be a no-holds-barred campaign to kill any carbon price signal, including cap and trade. A vast army of lobbyists is already working against it. Only President Obama can blunt this. Only he has the platform for framing and elevating the issue properly and taking it to the American people with the passion and clarity needed to move the country. It will take more than one speech.

Here’s one way to start: “My fellow Americans, I want to speak to you about a new economic law. You’ve heard of Moore’s Law in information technology. I’d like to speak to you about the ‘Law of More’ in energy technology. Americans, Indians, Chinese, Africans, we all want more — more comfort in our homes, more mobility in our lives, more technologies with which to innovate. But there is only one way all 6.3 billion of us can have more and not make this an unlivable planet, and that is by living our lives and running our businesses in more sustainable ways and properly accounting for it.

“Right now we’re paying a huge price — a tax — for everyone trying to achieve more in an unsustainable way. But the ‘More Tax’ is not imposed by the U.S. government. It is a tax imposed by the market and will continue rising indefinitely as more and more people want more and more stuff. It will steadily drive up gasoline prices, home heating prices and factory electricity prices. But because this ‘More Tax’ is set by the market and not the government, many opponents contend that there’s nothing to be done: ‘Oh, $4.50 a gallon gasoline — that’s just the market at work. We can’t do anything about that.’ And then all that tax money out of your pocket goes to enrich oil companies and petro-dictators.

“My proposal is that today we fix a durable price on carbon-based fossil fuels, but set it to begin only in 2011, after we’re out of this recession. Every home builder, air-conditioning manufacturer, gasoline refiner, carmaker will know that it’s coming and will, I believe, immediately look for ways to profit from and invest in more energy efficient systems. Yes, the cost of gasoline or kilowatt hours will rise in the short term. But in the long term, your actual bills and expenses will go down because your car, appliances and factory will become steadily more productive and give you more power for less energy.

“I call it the ‘Carbon Tax Cut.’ You won’t receive the dividend in the first week or month, but you will get it soon, and it will be a permanent tax cut, a gift that will keep on giving.

“So those are our choices, folks — an escalating ‘More Tax’ forever, premised on immediate gratification and short-term thinking, or a ‘Carbon Tax Cut’ forever, which is exactly what you’ll get from establishing a carbon price signal that shapes the market in favor of American interests and not those of our adversaries and competitors. If you’re with me, write your member of Congress and senator today.”


Here's a tidbit from John Tierney's NYT Findings column, "Ear Plugs to Lasers - The Science of Concentration":
When something bright or novel flashes, it tends to automatically win the competition for the brain’s attention, but that involuntary bottom-up impulse can be voluntarily overridden through a top-down process that Dr. Desimone calls “biased competition.” He and colleagues have found that neurons in the prefrontal cortex — the brain’s planning center — start oscillating in unison and send signals directing the visual cortex to heed something else.
“It takes a lot of your prefrontal brain power to force yourself not to process a strong input like a television commercial,” said Dr. Desimone, the director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at M.I.T. “If you’re trying to read a book at the same time, you may not have the resources left to focus on the words.”
Here are some tips from the author of "Rapt,” a guide to the science of paying attention, Winifred Gallagher.

Ms. Gallagher advocates meditation to increase your focus, but she says there are also simpler ways to put the lessons of attention researchers to use. Once she learned how hard it was for the brain to avoid paying attention to sounds, particularly other people’s voices, she began carrying ear plugs with her. When you’re trapped in a noisy subway car or a taxi with a TV that won’t turn off, she says you have to build your own “stimulus shelter.”

She recommends starting your work day concentrating on your most important task for 90 minutes. At that point your prefrontal cortex probably needs a rest, and you can answer e-mail, return phone calls and sip caffeine (which does help attention) before focusing again. But until that first break, don’t get distracted by anything else, because it can take the brain 20 minutes to do the equivalent of rebooting after an interruption. (For more advice, go to

Why is the FBI So Stubborn???

Thursday, May 21

Happyhour Gene Determines Sensitivity to Alcohol

From NewScientist:

A newly identified gene called happyhour makes fruit flies sensitive to booze. Drugs that mimic the effects of the gene may offer a new treatment against alcohol abuse, researchers say. Read more...

Goals Are More Important Than Help

From ScienceDaily:
Helping middle school students with their homework may not be the best way to get them on the honor roll. But telling them how important academic performance is to their future job prospects and providing specific strategies to study and learn might clinch the grades, according to a research review. Read more...
This was certainly true for me, and I think it applies for all ages.

Mockingbirds Can Remember Threatening People

From NewScientist:

Top Ten Tornado Videos

Here are my favorites:

check them all here

Friday, May 8

Terreform: Growing Houses

The solution to our environmental problems is going to require some out of the box thinking. This is one of the most interesting ideas I have seen in quite a while (check out the website at

Wednesday, April 29

Unedited Torture and Ethics Interview

Take 20 minutes out of your day to watch as John Stewart ever so eloquently explains why torture is wrong and why America should be/is better than defending the use of it.

It is a series of three clips, after one you should be directed to the next.

Thursday, April 23

Earth Day Photos

I know it was yesterday, but here are some of my favorites from 40 photos posted by the Boston Globe in honor of 40 years of Earth Day.

Could We Have Prevented HIV/AIDS

And can we prevent the next epidemic?