" I don’t consider my ideas controversial. I consider them right."
Biologist Lynn Margulis died on November 22nd. She stood out from her colleagues in that she would have extended evolutionary studies nearly four billion years back in time. Her major work was in cell evolution, in which the great event was the appearance of the eukaryotic, or nucleated, cell — the cell upon which all larger life-forms are based. Nearly forty-five years ago, she argued for its symbiotic origin: that it arose by associations of different kinds of bacteria. Her ideas were generally either ignored or ridiculed when she first proposed them; symbiosis in cell evolution is now considered one of the great scientific breakthroughs.
Margulis was also a champion of the Gaia hypothesis, an idea developed in the 1970s by the free lance British atmospheric chemist James E. Lovelock. The Gaia hypothesis states that the atmosphere and surface sediments of the planet Earth form a self- regulating physiological system — Earth’s surface is alive. The strong version of the hypothesis, which has been widely criticized by the biological establishment, holds that the earth itself is a self-regulating organism; Margulis subscribed to a weaker version, seeing the planet as an integrated self- regulating ecosystem. She was criticized for succumbing to what George Williams called the “God-is good” syndrome, as evidenced by her adoption of metaphors of symbiosis in nature. She was, in turn, an outspoken critic of mainstream evolutionary biologists for what she saw as a failure to adequately consider the importance of chemistry and microbiology in evolution.
I first met her in the late 80’s and in 1994 interviewed her for my book The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution (1995). Below, in remembrance, please see her chapter, “Gaia is a Tough Bitch”. One of the compelling features of The Third Culture was that I invited each of the participants to comment about the others. In this regard, the end of the following chapter has comments on Margulis and her work by Daniel C. Dennett, the late George C. Williams, W. Daniel Hillis, Lee Smolin, Marvin Minsky, Richard Dawkins, and the late Francisco Varela. Interesting stuff.
As I wrote in the introduction to the first part of the book (Part I: The Evolutionary Idea): “The principal debates are concerned with the mechanism of speciation; whether natural selection operates at the level of the gene, the organism, or the species, or all three; and also with the relative importance of other factors, such as natural catastrophes.” These very public debates were concerned with ideas represented by George C. Williams and Richard Dawkins on one side and Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge on the other side. Not for Lynn Margulis. All the above scientists were wrong because evolutionary studies needed to begin four billion years back in time. And she was not shy about expressing her opinions. Her in-your-face, take-no-prisoners stance was pugnacious and tenacious. She was impossible. She was wonderful. — John Brockman
"Gaia is a tough bitch." L. Margulis
Déjà vu is the experience of being certain that you have experienced or seen a new situation previously – you feel as though the event has already happened or is repeating itself.
The experience is usually accompanied by a strong sense of familiarity and a sense of eeriness, strangeness, or weirdness. The “previous” experience is usually attributed to a dream, but sometimes there is a firm sense that it has truly occurred in the past.
Déjà vécu is what most people are experiencing when they think they are experiencing deja vu.
Déjà vu is the sense of having seen something before, whereas déjà vécu is the experience of having seen an event before, but in great detail – such as recognizing smells and sounds.
Déjà visité is a less common experience and it involves an uncanny knowledge of a new place. For example, you may know your way around a a new town or a landscape despite having never been there, and knowing that it is impossible for you to have this knowledge.
Déjà senti is the phenomenon of having “already felt” something. This is exclusively a mental phenomenon and seldom remains in your memory afterwards.
You could think of it as the feeling of having just spoken, but realizing that you, in fact, didn’t utter a word.
Jamais vu (never seen) describes a familiar situation which is not recognized. It is often considered to be the opposite of déjà vu and it involves a sense of eeriness. The observer does not recognize the situation despite knowing rationally that they have been there before.
Chris Moulin, of Leeds University, asked 92 volunteers to write out “door” 30 times in 60 seconds. He reported that 68% of the precipitants showed symptoms of jamais vu, such as beginning to doubt that “door” was a real word. This has lead him to believe that jamais vu may be a symptom of brain fatigue.
Presque vu is very similar to the “tip of the tongue” sensation – it is the strong feeling that you are about to experience an epiphany – though the epiphany seldom comes.
L’esprit de l’Escalier
L’esprit de l’escalier (stairway wit) is the sense of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late.
Capgras delusion is the phenomenon in which a person believes that a close friend or family member has been replaced by an identical looking impostor. This could be tied in to the old belief that babies were stolen and replaced by changelings in medieval folklore, as well as the modern idea of aliens taking over the bodies of people on earth to live amongst us for reasons unknown. This delusion is most common in people with schizophrenia but it can occur in other disorders.
Fregoli delusion is a rare brain phenomenon in which a person holds the belief that different people are, in fact, the same person in a variety of disguises. It is often associated with paranoia and the belief that the person in disguise is trying to persecute them.
It was first reported in 1927 in the case study of a 27-year-old woman who believed she was being persecuted by two actors whom she often went to see at the theatre. She believed that these people “pursued her closely, taking the form of people she knows or meets”.
Prosopagnosia is a phenomenon in which a person is unable to recognize faces of people or objects that they should know. People experiencing this disorder are usually able to use their other senses to recognize people – such as a person’s perfume, the shape or style of their hair, the sound of their voice, or even their gait. A classic case of this disorder was presented in the 1998 book (and later Opera by Michael Nyman) called “The man who mistook his wife for a hat”.
"Is it political if I tell you that if we burn coal, you’re going to warm the atmosphere? Or is that a statement of fact that you’ve made political? It’s a scientific statement. The fact that there are elements of society that have made it political, that’s a whole other thing."
Neil deGrasse Tyson (via socio-logic)
I am absolutely, completely, utterly obsessed with John Edmond’s work and I think you should be too. Edmonds says that his work is currently concerned with examining the “the external and internal violence that is implicated through the bodies of men on the margins of society.”
Hurrah for images that portray the black male body in a manner that isn’t either threatening or hypersexual.
this is beautiful
I AM SO IN LOVE WITH YOU
Abolish the oppressive class system by using this WEIRD TRICK discovered by an ordinary German philosopher.
Across the United States, many local governments are responding to skyrocketing levels of inequality and the now decades-long crisis of homelessness among the very poor … by passing laws making it a crime to sleep in a parked car.
This happened most recently in Palo Alto, in California’s Silicon Valley, where new billionaires are seemingly minted every month – and where 92% of homeless people lack shelter of any kind. Dozens of cities have passed similar anti-homeless laws. The largest of them is Los Angeles, the longtime unofficial “homeless capital of America”, where lawyers are currently defending a similar vehicle-sleeping law before a skeptical federal appellate court. Laws against sleeping on sidewalks or in cars are called “quality of life” laws. But they certainly don’t protect the quality of life of the poor.
To be sure, people living in cars cannot be the best neighbors. Some people are able to acquire old and ugly – but still functioning – recreational vehicles with bathrooms; others do the best they can. These same cities have resisted efforts to provide more public toilet facilities, often on the grounds that this will make their city a “magnet” for homeless people from other cities. As a result, anti-homeless ordinances often spread to adjacent cities, leaving entire regions without public facilities of any kind.
Their hope, of course, is that homeless people will go elsewhere, despite the fact that the great majority of homeless people are trying to survive in the same communities in which they were last housed – and where they still maintain connections. Americans sleeping in their own cars literally have nowhere to go.
Indeed, nearly all homelessness in the US begins with a loss of income and an eviction for nonpayment of rent – a rent set entirely by market forces. The waiting lists are years long for the tiny fraction of housing with government subsidies. And rents have risen dramatically in the past two years, in part because long-time tenants must now compete with the millions of former homeowners who lost their homes in the Great Recession.
The paths from eviction to homelessness follow familiar patterns. For the completely destitute without family or friends able to help, that path leads more or less directly to the streets. For those slightly better off, unemployment and the exhaustion of meager savings – along with the good graces of family and friends – eventually leaves people with only two alternatives: a shelter cot or their old automobile.
However, in places like Los Angeles, the shelters are pretty much always full. Between 2011 and 2013, the number of unsheltered homeless people increased by 67%. In Palo Alto last year, there were 12 shelter beds for 157 homeless individuals. Homeless people in these cities do have choices: they can choose to sleep in a doorway, on a sidewalk, in a park, under a bridge or overpass, or – if they are relatively lucky – in a car. But these cities have ordinances that make all of those choices a criminal offense. The car is the best of bad options, now common enough that local bureaucrats have devised a new, if oxymoronic, term – the “vehicularly housed”.
People sleeping in cars try to find legal, nighttime parking places, where they will be less apparent and arouse the least hostility. But cities like Palo Alto and Los Angeles often forbid parking between 2am and 5am in commercial areas, where police write expensive tickets and arrest and impound the vehicles of repeat offenders. That leaves residential areas, where overnight street parking cannot, as a practical matter, be prohibited.
One finds the “vehicularly housed” in virtually every neighborhood, including my own. But the animus that drives anti-homeless laws seems to be greatest in the wealthiest cities, like Palo Alto, which has probably spawned more per-capita fortunes than any city on Earth, and in the more recently gentrified areas like Los Angeles’ Venice. These places are ruled by majorities of “liberals” who decry, with increasing fervor, the rapid rise in economic inequality. Nationally, 90% of Democrats (and 45% of Republicans) believe the government should act to reduce the rich-poor gap.
It is easy to be opposed to inequality in the abstract. So why are Los Angeles and Palo Alto spending virtually none of their budgets on efforts to provide housing for the very poor and homeless? When the most obvious evidence of inequality parks on their street, it appears, even liberals would rather just call the police. The word from the car: if you’re not going to do anything to help, please don’t make things worse.
"The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap."
This prominent Republican thinks women need to be paid less so they can find good husbands. (via think-progress)