Arquivo da tag: Semiótica

¿Adiós al Servicio Meteorológico? Un biólogo argentino predice el clima estudiando hormigas (y acierta) (La Nación)

Jorge Finardi anticipa lluvias y tormentas a partir del comportamiento de insectos

LA NACION

JUEVES 26 DE ENERO DE 2017 • 17:44

¿Chau Servicio Meteorológico? El biólogo argentino que predice el clima estudiando hormigas

¿Chau Servicio Meteorológico? El biólogo argentino que predice el clima estudiando hormigas. Foto: Archivo 

Jorge Finardi predice el clima a través de las hormigas. Estudia sus movimientos, los registra, los compara y llega a la conclusión, por ejemplo, de que mañana a la tarde lloverá. Y acierta. Esta semana, Finardi anticipó con su método el calor sofocante del lunes, la tormenta del martes, y la caída de la temperatura del miércoles. Nada mal.

Finardi es químico, biólogo, y lleva adelante la cuenta de Twitter @GeorgeClimaPron. En ella, comunica sus pronósticos climatológicos. En una entrevista con LA NACION, explica su sistema.

-¿Cómo funciona tu método de análisis?

-En primer lugar, determino el grado de actividad de las hormigas en una escala del 1 al 10. Para armar la escala tengo en cuenta la cantidad de interacciones entre las hormigas, el número de hormigas involucradas, y el tipo y tamaño de carga que llevan, además, de la clase de hormiga que trabaja.

-¿Y de qué manera se relaciona con el clima? ¿Más actividad es indicativa de lluvia?

-En parte sí, pero depende de la carga que lleven. Por ejemplo, cuando las hormigas llevan palitos y barritas, es porque tienen que fortalecer el hormiguero, debido a que se aproxima lluvia o frío. Cuando hay movilización de tierra es porque se viene una lluvia fuerte. Cuando llevan cereal, viene frío, porque el cereal fermenta dentro del hormiguero y produce calor para que nazcan los hongos que ellas comen.

Para las altas temperaturas, por otro lado, se acondicionan los túneles: las hormigas empiezan a abrir “chimeneas”, que son como agujeritos esparcidos dentro del hormiguero, que puede llegar a tener metros de profundidad. Cuando pasa eso, se viene una ola de calor.

-¿Cómo te interesaste por el tema?

-Desde los tres años me paso horas mirando las hormigas y todo tipo de insectos. Por otro lado, mi profesión me ayudó a profundizar estos temas, y también a hablar con gente de edad avanzada que vive en el campo y no se fija en los pronósticos. No los necesita. Así avancé. Así y con un poco de prueba y error. Al principio introduje hormigas en un terrario para poder observarlas más cómodo. Pero ellas se comportaban de otra manera, por el aislamiento. Ahora las sigo con una cámara.

-¿Además de las hormigas, analizás otros insectos?

-Sí. Las arañas, por ejemplo, tienen la capacidad de detectar actividad eléctrica, cuando aparecen y están muy activas. Las libélulas pueden anticipar una tormenta o viento. Las cigarras anuncian calor. Los gallos, cuando cantan a media noche, anuncian neblinas. También hay que prestar atención a las hormigas cuando están desorientadas, porque pueden captar actividad sísmica a grandes distancias.

-¿Este tipo de análisis es científico?

-No. Hay que destacar que el método no es científico, no es positivista, pero sí es cualitativo, experimental y observacional. Y sirve. Los hombres estamos acá desde el período cuaternario, pero las hormigas, por ejemplo, están desde la época de los dinosaurios. Están muy adaptadas, son muy sensibles a los cambios de ambiente. Y la naturaleza, así, nos habla, nos presenta síntomas. Hay que saber leerlos.

Pangolim aparece em Nkobe: pode anunciar chuvas na província de Maputo (TVM)

Domingo, 17 Janeiro 2016 14:27
Escrito por  Redacção

pangolimpt.jpg

Um Pangolim foi encontrado na manhã deste sábado no bairro Nkobe na Cidade da Matola Província de Maputo.

Segundo as autoridades tradicionais, o animal anuncia muita chuva e produtividade nos próximos tempos neste ponto do país.

O mamífero foi encontrado no bairro Nkobe na Província de Maputo, o mesmo foi transportado para a residência da Rainha, onde os régulos realizaram uma cerimónia tradicional com vista interpretação da mensagem que o animal trazia para a população da Cidade da Matola.

Realizada a cerimónia tradicional, a Rainha disse tratar-se de um animal cujo aparecimento tem explicação entre as quais se destaca a queda da chuva e cultivo de comida em abundância.

Dirigentes da Cidade da Matola estiveram no local para testemunhar o acto e estes consideram que o cenário da seca que se vive na Província de Maputo poderá ser ultrapassado.

Segundo as autoridades tradicionais esta é a segunda vez que um Pangolim é encontrado na urbe, o primeiro apareceu em dois mil e catorze.

Alteração comportamental de animais sinaliza, dias antes, a ocorrência de terremotos (Pesquisa Fapesp)

27 de abril de 2015

Estudo realizado no Parque Nacional Yanachaga, no Peru, correlacionou mudanças de comportamento de aves e pequenos mamíferos com a ionização da atmosfera causada pelo atrito subterrâneo das rochas (roedor paca [Cuniculus paca] filmado por uma camera tipo ‘motion-triggered’ / foto TEAM Network; teamnetwork.org)

José Tadeu Arantes | Agência FAPESP – O dado de que alterações no comportamento dos animais sinalizam, com horas ou dias de antecedência, eventos como os terremotos já era conhecido. Especialmente noticiada foi a disparada dos elefantes asiáticos para terras altas por ocasião do terremoto seguido de tsunami de 26 de dezembro de 2004. Muitas vidas humanas foram salvas graças a isso. Mas tais eventos ainda não haviam sido documentados de maneira rigorosa e conclusiva. Nem fora estabelecida uma correlação de causa e efeito entre essa modificação do comportamento animal e fenômenos físicos mensuráveis.

Isso ocorreu agora em pesquisa realizada por Rachel Grant, da Anglia Ruskin University (Reino Unido), Friedemann Freund, da agência espacial Nasa (Estados Unidos), e Jean-Pierre Raulin, do Centro de Radioastronomia e Astrofísica Mackenzie (Brasil). Artigo relatando o estudo, “Changes in Animal Activity Prior to a Major (M=7) Earthquake in the Peruvian Andes”, foi publicado na revista Physics and Chemistry of the Earth.

O físico Jean-Pierre Raulin, professor da Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, participou do estudo no contexto do projeto de pesquisa “Monitoramento da atividade solar e da Anomalia Magnética do Atlântico Sul (AMAS) utilizando uma rede de receptores de ondas de muita baixa frequência (VLF) – SAVNET – South América VLF network”, apoiado pela FAPESP.

“Nosso estudo correlacionou alterações no comportamento de aves e pequenos mamíferos do Parque Nacional Yanachaga, no Peru, com distúrbios na ionosfera terrestre, ambos os fenômenos verificados vários dias antes do terremoto Contamana, de 7,0 graus de magnitude na escala Richter, que ocorreu nos Andes peruanos em 2011”, disse Raulin à Agência FAPESP.

Os animais foram monitorados por um conjunto de câmeras. “Para não interferir em seu comportamento, essas câmeras eram acionadas de forma automática no momento em que o animal passava na sua frente, registrando a passagem por meio de flash de luz infravermelha”, detalhou o pesquisador. Em um dia comum, cada animal era avistado de cinco a 15 vezes. Porém, no intervalo de 23 dias que antecedeu o terremoto, o número de avistamentos por animal caiu para cinco ou menos. E, em cinco dos sete dias imediatamente anteriores ao evento sísmico, nenhum movimento de animal foi registrado.

Nessa mesma época, por meio do monitoramento das propriedades de propagação de ondas de rádio de muito baixa frequência (VLF), os pesquisadores detectaram, duas semanas antes do terremoto, perturbações na ionosfera sobre a área ao redor do epicentro. Um distúrbio especialmente grande da ionosfera foi registrado oito dias antes do terremoto, coincidindo com o segundo decréscimo no avistamento dos animais.

Os pesquisadores propuseram uma explicação capaz de correlacionar os dois fenômenos. Segundo eles, a formação maciça de íons positivos, devido à fricção subterrânea das rochas durante o período anterior ao terremoto, teria provocado tanto as perturbações medidas na ionosfera quanto a alteração comportamental dos animais. A fricção é resultado da subducção ou deslizamento da placa tectônica de Nazca sob a placa tectônica continental.

É sabido que a maior concentração de íons positivos na atmosfera provoca, seja em animais, seja em humanos, um aumento dos níveis de serotonina na corrente sanguínea. Isso leva à chamada “síndrome da serotonina”, caracterizada por maior agitação, hiperatividade e confusão. O fenômeno é semelhante à inquietação, facilmente perceptível em humanos, que ocorre antes das tempestades, quando a concentração de elétrons nas bases das nuvens também provoca um acúmulo de íons positivos na camada da atmosfera próxima ao solo, gerando um intenso campo elétrico no espaço intermediário.

“No caso dos terremotos, cargas positivas formadas no subsolo devido ao estresse das rochas migram rapidamente para a superfície, resultando na ionização maciça de moléculas do ar. Em algumas horas, os íons positivos assim formados alcançam a base da ionosfera, localizada cerca de 70 quilômetros acima do solo. Esse aporte maciço de íons teria provocado as flutuações da densidade eletrônica na baixa ionosfera que detectamos. Por outro lado, durante o trânsito subterrâneo das cargas positivas, devido a uma espécie de ‘efeito de ponta’, a ionização tende a se acumular perto das elevações topográficas locais – exatamente onde estavam localizadas as câmeras. Nossa hipótese foi que, para se livrar dos sintomas indesejáveis da síndrome da serotonina, os animais fugiram para áreas mais baixas, onde a ionização não é tão expressiva”, explicou Raulin.

“Acreditamos que ambas as anomalias surgiram a partir de uma única causa: a atividade sísmica causando estresse na crosta terrestre e levando, entre outras coisas, à enorme ionização na interface solo-ar. Esperamos que nosso trabalho possa estimular ainda mais a investigação na área, que tem o potencial de auxiliar as previsões de curto prazo de riscos sísmicos”, declarou Rachel Grant, principal autora do artigo.

Independentemente da observação do comportamento animal, os resultados obtidos mostram que a previsão de terremotos poderia ser feita também mediante a detecção da ionização do ar, com o monitoramento do campo elétrico atmosférico. “Já temos detectores instalados no Brasil, no Peru e na Argentina. E pretendemos, em breve, instalar sensores de campo elétrico atmosférico nos lugares propícios a atividades sísmicas importantes. Isso daria uma previsibilidade da ordem de duas semanas ou até mais. Por ocasião do terremoto do Haiti, em janeiro de 2010, a rede SAVNET já tinha detectado flutuações na ionosfera com 12 dias de antecedência, com resultados publicados na revista NHESS – Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences”, afirmou Raulin.

Carro “símbolo” da falta de água no Cantareira foi roubado há 20 anos em SP (UOL)

Fabiana Maranhão

Do UOL, em São Paulo

03/03/201509h26 Atualizada 03/03/201515h11 

Seca em SP revela carros, construções antigas e lixo

19.fev.2015 – As chuvas que têm atingido São Paulo em fevereiro estão recuperando o nível do sistema Cantareira, que fornece água para 6,5 milhões de pessoas na Grande São Paulo. Na montagem, a imagem onde aparece menos água foi feita em dezembro de 2014. Já a foto que mostra a represa mais cheia é deste mês. Com a elevação, carros que surgiram com a seca e não foram retirados voltam a ser encobertos pelas águas Leia mais Estadão Conteúdo

A carcaça de um carro que se tornou uma espécie de símbolo da falta de água no Cantareira, sistema que abastece um terço da população da Grande São Paulo(6,5 milhões de pessoas), foi furtado há 20 anos.

Segundo a SSP (Secretaria de Segurança Pública), após averiguar o número do chassi, a polícia descobriu que o veículo foi furtado em 1995 na cidade de São Paulo.

O caso é investigado pela delegacia de Nazaré Paulista (a 64 km de São Paulo). A polícia ainda não identificou os suspeitos pelo crime.

A carcaça passou a chamar a atenção de quem passava pela região da represa Atibainha, que faz parte do sistema Cantareira, depois que foi grafitada em 2014 pelo artista Mundano. No carro, foi escrito “Bem-vindo ao deserto da Cantareira”, um protesto contra a crise de falta de água.

O veículo foi removido da represa em 25 de fevereiro. Um dia depois, o desenho do carro com a mesma mensagem foi grafitado na pilastra perto de onde a carcaça ficava e que servia de referência para as subidas e quedas do nível do reservatório.

De acordo com a SSP, 31 carros foram retirados do Atibainha desde o ano passado. Levantamento feito pela reportagem do UOL revela que, desde o meio do ano passado, ao menos 83 veículos foram tirados do fundo de reservatórios em São Paulo.

Os primeiros começaram a aparecer em meados de agosto de 2014, à medida que foram caindo os níveis de água das represas de São Paulo por causa da falta de chuva.

Evelson de Freitas/Agência Estado

Grafite em pilastra na represa Atibainha reproduz carro que virou símbolo da seca

Noemi Jaffe: A semântica da seca (Folha de S.Paulo)

26/02/2015  02h00

Emmanuel Levinas disse que a “consciência é a urgência de uma destinação dirigida a outro, e não um eterno retorno sobre si mesmo”. Penso que, embora não pareça, a frase se relaciona intimamente à “crise hídrica” em São Paulo.

Temos sido obrigados a ouvir e a falar em “crise hídrica”, na “maior seca em 84 anos” e expressões afins, que culpam a natureza, e não em catástrofe, colapso, responsabilidade ou palavras de igual gravidade.

O cidadão comum vive, na gestão do governo paulista, sob um regime eufemístico de linguagem, em aparência elegante, mas, na verdade, retoricamente totalitário, com o qual somos obrigados a conviver e, ainda, forçados a mimetizar.

“Crise hídrica”, “plano de contingência”, “obras emergenciais”, “volume morto”, “reservatórios”, tal como vêm sendo usados, não são mais que desvios covardes da linguagem e da política para ocultar o enfrentamento do real.

Não há água, houve grande incompetência, haverá grandes dificuldades, é necessário um plano emergencial de orientação e a criação de redes de contenção e de solidariedade. É preciso construir e distribuir cisternas, caixas d’água para a população carente, ensinar medidas de economia, mobilizar as subprefeituras para ações localizadas e, sobretudo, expor pública e claramente medidas restritivas à grande indústria e à agricultura, que podem ser bem mais perdulárias do que o cidadão.

Mas nada disso se diz ou faz. E por quê? A impressão que tenho é a de que a maioria dos políticos não trabalha sob o regime da responsabilidade –a condição de “destinação ao outro”–, mas sim na forma do “eterno retorno sobre si mesmo”.

Vive-se, em São Paulo, uma situação de absurdo, em que, além das enormes dificuldades cotidianas –deslocamento, saúde, segurança, educação, enchentes, e agora, a de ter água–, ainda é preciso ouvir o presidente da Sabesp dizer que São Pedro “tem errado a pontaria”.

Meu impulso é o de partir para o vocativo: “Ei, presidenta Dilma, deputados federais, governador Alckmin, prefeito Haddad, vereadores! Ouçam! Nós os elegemos para que vocês batalhem por nós, e não por seus mandatos! Nós é que somos aquele, o outro, a quem vocês devem responsabilidade!”.

Ou não tem relação com a “crise hídrica” um deputado federal receber cerca de R$100.000,00 por mês em “verbas de gabinete”? Por que deputados têm direito a um benefício que, entre outros, lhes garante seguro de saúde e carro, se quem ganha muitíssimo menos não tem?

Desafio os deputados, um a um, a abrirem mão publicamente de seus seguros de saúde e a usarem o transporte público para irem ao trabalho –a entrarem no real.

Até quando a população, sobretudo a mais carente, que tem poucos instrumentos para amenizar o que já sofre, vai ser tutelada e oprimida sob o manto eufemístico da “maior seca em 84 anos”?

Queremos o real, a linguagem responsável, que explicita o olhar para o outro e dá sustentação e liberdade para que se possam superar as dificuldades com autonomia.

O eufemismo livra os políticos e aliena a população da chapa maciça do real. Ele representa um estado semelhante à burocracia ineficaz. Como ser responsável se, para cada ação, há infinitas mediações?

O resultado é que as mediações acabam por alimentar muito mais a si mesmas do que ao objetivo final e inicial de governar: ser para o outro –no caso, nós, impotentes diante do que nos obrigam e do que, há meses, nos forçam a presenciar.

NOEMI JAFFE, 52, é doutora em literatura brasileira pela USP e autora de “O que os Cegos Estão Sonhando?” (editora 34)

Can Big Data Tell Us What Clinical Trials Don’t? (New York Times)

CreditIllustration by Christopher Brand

When a helicopter rushed a 13-year-old girl showing symptoms suggestive of kidney failure to Stanford’s Packard Children’s Hospital, Jennifer Frankovich was the rheumatologist on call. She and a team of other doctors quickly diagnosed lupus, an autoimmune disease. But as they hurried to treat the girl, Frankovich thought that something about the patient’s particular combination of lupus symptoms — kidney problems, inflamed pancreas and blood vessels — rang a bell. In the past, she’d seen lupus patients with these symptoms develop life-threatening blood clots. Her colleagues in other specialties didn’t think there was cause to give the girl anti-clotting drugs, so Frankovich deferred to them. But she retained her suspicions. “I could not forget these cases,” she says.

Back in her office, she found that the scientific literature had no studies on patients like this to guide her. So she did something unusual: She searched a database of all the lupus patients the hospital had seen over the previous five years, singling out those whose symptoms matched her patient’s, and ran an analysis to see whether they had developed blood clots. “I did some very simple statistics and brought the data to everybody that I had met with that morning,” she says. The change in attitude was striking. “It was very clear, based on the database, that she could be at an increased risk for a clot.”

The girl was given the drug, and she did not develop a clot. “At the end of the day, we don’t know whether it was the right decision,” says Chris Longhurst, a pediatrician and the chief medical information officer at Stanford Children’s Health, who is a colleague of Frankovich’s. But they felt that it was the best they could do with the limited information they had.

A large, costly and time-consuming clinical trial with proper controls might someday prove Frankovich’s hypothesis correct. But large, costly and time-consuming clinical trials are rarely carried out for uncommon complications of this sort. In the absence of such focused research, doctors and scientists are increasingly dipping into enormous troves of data that already exist — namely the aggregated medical records of thousands or even millions of patients to uncover patterns that might help steer care.

The Tatonetti Laboratory at Columbia University is a nexus in this search for signal in the noise. There, Nicholas Tatonetti, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics — an interdisciplinary field that combines computer science and medicine — develops algorithms to trawl medical databases and turn up correlations. For his doctoral thesis, he mined the F.D.A.’s records of adverse drug reactions to identify pairs of medications that seemed to cause problems when taken together. He found an interaction between two very commonly prescribed drugs: The antidepressant paroxetine (marketed as Paxil) and the cholesterol-lowering medication pravastatin were connected to higher blood-sugar levels. Taken individually, the drugs didn’t affect glucose levels. But taken together, the side-effect was impossible to ignore. “Nobody had ever thought to look for it,” Tatonetti says, “and so nobody had ever found it.”

The potential for this practice extends far beyond drug interactions. In the past, researchers noticed that being born in certain months or seasons appears to be linked to a higher risk of some diseases. In the Northern Hemisphere, people with multiple sclerosis tend to be born in the spring, while in the Southern Hemisphere they tend to be born in November; people with schizophrenia tend to have been born during the winter. There are numerous correlations like this, and the reasons for them are still foggy — a problem Tatonetti and a graduate assistant, Mary Boland, hope to solve by parsing the data on a vast array of outside factors. Tatonetti describes it as a quest to figure out “how these diseases could be dependent on birth month in a way that’s not just astrology.” Other researchers think data-mining might also be particularly beneficial for cancer patients, because so few types of cancer are represented in clinical trials.

As with so much network-enabled data-tinkering, this research is freighted with serious privacy concerns. If these analyses are considered part of treatment, hospitals may allow them on the grounds of doing what is best for a patient. But if they are considered medical research, then everyone whose records are being used must give permission. In practice, the distinction can be fuzzy and often depends on the culture of the institution. After Frankovich wrote about her experience in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2011, her hospital warned her not to conduct such analyses again until a proper framework for using patient information was in place.

In the lab, ensuring that the data-mining conclusions hold water can also be tricky. By definition, a medical-records database contains information only on sick people who sought help, so it is inherently incomplete. Also, they lack the controls of a clinical study and are full of other confounding factors that might trip up unwary researchers. Daniel Rubin, a professor of bioinformatics at Stanford, also warns that there have been no studies of data-driven medicine to determine whether it leads to positive outcomes more often than not. Because historical evidence is of “inferior quality,” he says, it has the potential to lead care astray.

Yet despite the pitfalls, developing a “learning health system” — one that can incorporate lessons from its own activities in real time — remains tantalizing to researchers. Stefan Thurner, a professor of complexity studies at the Medical University of Vienna, and his researcher, Peter Klimek, are working with a database of millions of people’s health-insurance claims, building networks of relationships among diseases. As they fill in the network with known connections and new ones mined from the data, Thurner and Klimek hope to be able to predict the health of individuals or of a population over time. On the clinical side, Longhurst has been advocating for a button in electronic medical-record software that would allow doctors to run automated searches for patients like theirs when no other sources of information are available.

With time, and with some crucial refinements, this kind of medicine may eventually become mainstream. Frankovich recalls a conversation with an older colleague. “She told me, ‘Research this decade benefits the next decade,’ ” Frankovich says. “That was how it was. But I feel like it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.”

The Map Of Native American Tribes You’ve Never Seen Before (Code Switch/NPR)

June 24, 2014 4:03 PM ET
Aaron Carapella, a self-taught mapmaker in Warner, Okla., has designed a map of Native American tribes showing their locations before first contact with Europeans.

Aaron Carapella, a self-taught mapmaker in Warner, Okla., has designed a map of Native American tribes showing their locations before first contact with Europeans.

Hansi Lo Wang/NPR

Finding an address on a map can be taken for granted in the age of GPS and smartphones. But centuries of forced relocation, disease and genocide have made it difficult to find where many Native American tribes once lived.

Aaron Carapella, a self-taught mapmaker in Warner, Okla., has pinpointed the locations and original names of hundreds of American Indian nations before their first contact with Europeans.

As a teenager, Carapella says he could never get his hands on a continental U.S. map like this, depicting more than 600 tribes — many now forgotten and lost to history. Now, the 34-year-old designs and sells maps as large as 3 by 4 feet with the names of tribes hovering over land they once occupied.

Carapella has designed maps of Canada and the continental U.S. showing the original locations and names of Native American tribes. View the full map (PDF).

Carapella has designed maps of Canada and the continental U.S. showing the original locations and names of Native American tribes. View the full map (PDF).

Courtesy of Aaron Carapella

“I think a lot of people get blown away by, ‘Wow, there were a lot of tribes, and they covered the whole country!’ You know, this is Indian land,” says Carapella, who calls himself a “mixed-blood Cherokee” and lives in a ranch house within the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation.

For more than a decade, he consulted history books and library archives, called up tribal members and visited reservations as part of research for his map project, which began as pencil-marked poster boards on his bedroom wall. So far, he has designed maps of the continental U.S., Canada and Mexico. A map of Alaska is currently in the works.

What makes Carapella’s maps distinctive is their display of both the original and commonly known names of Native American tribes, according to Doug Herman, senior geographer at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

This map of Mexico features both the original and commonly known names of some indigenous nations. View the full map (PDF).

This map of Mexico features both the original and commonly known names of some indigenous nations. View the full map (PDF).

Courtesy of Aaron Carapella

“You can look at [Carapella’s] map, and you can sort of get it immediately,” Herman says. “This is Indian Country, and it’s not the Indian Country that I thought it was because all these names are different.”

He adds that some Native American groups got stuck with names chosen arbitrarily by European settlers. They were often derogatory names other tribes used to describe their rivals. For example, “Comanche” is derived from a word in Ute meaning “anyone who wants to fight me all the time,” according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

“It’s like having a map of North America where the United States is labeled ‘gringos’ and Mexico is labeled ‘wetbacks,’ ” Herman says. “Naming is an exercise in power. Whether you’re naming places or naming peoples, you are therefore asserting a power of sort of establishing what is reality and what is not.”

Look at a map of Native American territory today, and you’ll see tiny islands of reservation and trust land engulfed by acres upon acres ceded by treaty or taken by force. Carapella’s maps serve as a reminder that the population of the American countryside stretches back long before 1776 and 1492.

Carapella describes himself as a former “radical youngster” who used to lead protests against Columbus Day observances and supported other Native American causes. He says he now sees his mapmaking as another way to change perceptions in the U.S.

“This isn’t really a protest,” he explains. “But it’s a way to convey the truth in a different way.”

Take a closer look at Aaron Carapella’s map of the continental U.S. and Canada and his map of Mexico. He sells prints on his website.

Written all over your face: Humans express 4 basic emotions rather than 6 (University of Glasgow)

3-Feb-2014

 

By Stuart Forsyth

Human beings are emotional creatures whose state of mind can usually be observed through their facial expressions.

A commonly-held belief, first proposed by Dr Paul Ekman, posits there are six basic emotions which are universally recognised and easily interpreted through specific facial expressions, regardless of language or culture. These are: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.

New research published in the journal Current Biology by scientists at the University of Glasgow has challenged this view, and suggested that there are only four basic emotions.

Their conclusion was reached by studying the range of different muscles within the face – or Action Units as researchers refer to them – involved in signalling different emotions, as well as the time-frame over which each muscle was activated.

This is the first such study to objectively examine the ‘temporal dynamics’ of facial expressions, made possible by using a unique Generative Face Grammar platform developed at the University of Glasgow.

The team from the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology claim that while the facial expression signals of happiness and sadness are clearly distinct across time, fear and surprise share a common signal – the wide open eyes – early in the signalling dynamics.

Similarly, anger and disgust share the wrinkled nose. It is these early signals that could represent more basic danger signals. Later in the signalling dynamics, facial expressions transmit signals that distinguish all six ‘classic’ facial expressions of emotion.

Lead researcher Dr Rachael Jack said: “Our results are consistent with evolutionary predictions, where signals are designed by both biological and social evolutionary pressures to optimise their function.

“First, early danger signals confer the best advantages to others by enabling the fastest escape. Secondly, physiological advantages for the expresser – the wrinkled nose prevents inspiration of potentially harmful particles, whereas widened eyes increases intake of visual information useful for escape – are enhanced when the face movements are made early.

“What our research shows is that not all facial muscles appear simultaneously during facial expressions, but rather develop over time supporting a hierarchical biologically-basic to socially-specific information over time.”

In compiling their research the team used special techniques and software developed at the University of Glasgow to synthesise all facial expressions.

The Generative Face Grammar – developed by Professor Philippe Schyns, Dr Oliver Garrod and Dr Hui Yu – uses cameras to capture a three-dimensional image of faces of individuals specially trained to be able to activate all 42 individual facial muscles independently.

From this a computer can then generate specific or random facial expressions on a 3D model based on the activation of different Actions Units or groups of units to mimic all facial expressions.

By asking volunteers to observe the realistic model as it pulled various expressions – thereby providing a true four-dimensional experience – and state which emotion was being expressed the researchers are able to see which specific Action Units observers associate with particular emotions.

It was through this method they found that the signals for fear/surprise and anger/disgust were confused at the early stage of transmission and only became clearer later when other Action Units were activated.

Dr Jack said: “Our research questions the notion that human emotion communication comprises six basic, psychologically irreducible categories. Instead we suggest there are four basic expressions of emotion.

“We show that ‘basic’ facial expression signals are perceptually segmented across time and follow an evolving hierarchy of signals over time – from the biologically-rooted basic signals to more complex socially-specific signals.

“Over time, and as humans migrated across the globe, socioecological diversity probably further specialised once-common facial expressions, altering the number, variety and form of signals across cultures.”

The researchers intend to develop their study by looking at facial expressions of different cultures, including East Asian populations whom they have already ascertained interpret some of the six classical emotions differently – placing more emphasis on eye signals than mouth movements compared to Westerners.

http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(13)01519-4

Brazil to issue World Cup commemorative coins (AFP)

14 Dec 2013

Handhout picture released on December 13, 2013 by the Central Bank of Brazil showing a 10 Reals gold coin (4 US Dollars), reading “Copa do Mundo da FIFA – Brasil 2014” (FIFA World Cup – Brazil 2014) (Banco Central Do Brasil/AFP)

Brasília — Brazil’s Central Bank on Friday announced plans to issue a set of nine commemorative coins for the 2014 World Cup.

The set, to be released on January 24, will comprise one gold coin, two in silver and six in an alloy of copper and nickel.

The gold coin weighing 4.4. grams (0.155 ounce) will have a nominal value of 10 reais ($4.3) but will be sold for 1180 reais ($504).

It will represent the Cup trophy and a player scoring a goal. Some 5,000 will be minted, the bank said.

Those in silver will have a value of five reais ($2.2) and a weight of 27 grams.

One will represent Fuleco, the 2014 World Cup mascot, and the other the 12 host cities. They will be sold for 190 reais ($81) apiece and 20,000 of each will be sold.

The six cupronickel versions, each with a value of 2 reais ($0.86) and a weight of 10.17 grams, will cost 30 reais ($12.8).

They will represent a dribble, a header or a penalty kick and 20,000 copies of each will be minted.

Language can reveal the invisible, study shows (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Public release date: 26-Aug-2013

By Gary Lupyan, University of Wisconsin-Madison

MADISON, Wis. — It is natural to imagine that the sense of sight takes in the world as it is — simply passing on what the eyes collect from light reflected by the objects around us.

But the eyes do not work alone. What we see is a function not only of incoming visual information, but also how that information is interpreted in light of other visual experiences, and may even be influenced by language.

Words can play a powerful role in what we see, according to a study published this month by University of Wisconsin–Madison cognitive scientist and psychology professor Gary Lupyan, and Emily Ward, a Yale University graduate student, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Perceptual systems do the best they can with inherently ambiguous inputs by putting them in context of what we know, what we expect,” Lupyan says. “Studies like this are helping us show that language is a powerful tool for shaping perceptual systems, acting as a top-down signal to perceptual processes. In the case of vision, what we consciously perceive seems to be deeply shaped by our knowledge and expectations.”

And those expectations can be altered with a single word.

To show how deeply words can influence perception, Lupyan and Ward used a technique called continuous flash suppression to render a series of objects invisible for a group of volunteers.

Each person was shown a picture of a familiar object — such as a chair, a pumpkin or a kangaroo — in one eye. At the same time, their other eye saw a series of flashing, “squiggly” lines.

“Essentially, it’s visual noise,” Lupyan says. “Because the noise patterns are high-contrast and constantly moving, they dominate, and the input from the other eye is suppressed.”

Immediately before looking at the combination of the flashing lines and suppressed object, the study participants heard one of three things: the word for the suppressed object (“pumpkin,” when the object was a pumpkin), the word for a different object (“kangaroo,” when the object was actually a pumpkin), or just static.

Then researchers asked the participants to indicate whether they saw something or not. When the word they heard matched the object that was being wiped out by the visual noise, the subjects were more likely to report that they did indeed see something than in cases where the wrong word or no word at all was paired with the image.

“Hearing the word for the object that was being suppressed boosted that object into their vision,” Lupyan says.

And hearing an unmatched word actually hurt study subjects’ chances of seeing an object.

“With the label, you’re expecting pumpkin-shaped things,” Lupyan says. “When you get a visual input consistent with that expectation, it boosts it into perception. When you get an incorrect label, it further suppresses that.”

Experiments have shown that continuous flash suppression interrupts sight so thoroughly that there are no signals in the brain to suggest the invisible objects are perceived, even implicitly.

“Unless they can tell us they saw it, there’s nothing to suggest the brain was taking it in at all,” Lupyan says. “If language affects performance on a test like this, it indicates that language is influencing vision at a pretty early stage. It’s getting really deep into the visual system.”

The study demonstrates a deeper connection between language and simple sensory perception than previously thought, and one that makes Lupyan wonder about the extent of language’s power. The influence of language may extend to other senses as well.

“A lot of previous work has focused on vision, and we have neglected to examine the role of knowledge and expectations on other modalities, especially smell and taste,” Lupyan says. “What I want to see is whether we can really alter threshold abilities,” he says. “Does expecting a particular taste for example, allow you to detect a substance at a lower concentration?”

If you’re drinking a glass of milk, but thinking about orange juice, he says, that may change the way you experience the milk.

“There’s no point in figuring out what some objective taste is,” Lupyan says. “What’s important is whether the milk is spoiled or not. If you expect it to be orange juice, and it tastes like orange juice, it’s fine. But if you expected it to be milk, you’d think something was wrong.”

Brazil’s Banknotes Still Praise God, for Now (N.Y.Times)

November 13, 2012, 6:03 PM

By ROBERT MACKEY and TAYLOR BARNES

A close view of the Portuguese words for A close view of the Portuguese words for “God Be Praised” on Brazil’s currency.

A federal prosecutor in Brazil is seeking a court order to force the central bank to replace the nation’s entire supply of paper currency with bills that do not display the phrase “God Be Praised,” the newspaper Folha de São Paulo reported on Monday.

The prosecutor, Jefferson Aparecido Dias, whose office defends the rights of citizens in the city of São Paulo, said he had received a complaint last year about the use of the phrase. He argued in a 17-page motion filed on Monday that the words “Deus Seja Louvado,” which have appeared on notes of the Brazilian real since 1986, violate the rights of non-Christians and nonbelievers.

Although he acknowledged that most Brazilians are Christian, the prosecutor wrote, “The Brazilian state is secular and, as such, should be completely detached from any religious manifestation.” To make his case that the phrase was inappropriate, he asked the court to consider the reaction of Christians if the nation’s currency included calls to worship figures revered by Muslims, Buddhists, observers of Candomblé or Hindus — or a statement endorsing atheism. “Let’s imagine if the real note had any of these phrases on it: ‘Praise Allah,’ ‘Praise Buddha,’ ‘Hail Oxossi,’ ‘Hail Lord Ganesh’ or ‘God does not exist,’ ” he said.

Writing on Twitter, the archbishop of São Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Scherer,wondered if anyone even noticed the phrase, which is rendered in tiny letters on the notes.

Você já percebeu que as notas Real tem uma rederência a Deus? Há alguém querendo tirar. Que v. Acha?

The cardinal also said in a statement: “The phrase should make no difference to those who do not believe in God. But it is meaningful for all those who do believe in God. And those who believe in God also pay taxes and are most of the population.”

Brazil’s central bank had previously replied to the complaint by arguing that the religious reference was valid because the preamble to the Brazilian constitution explicitly states that the democracy was formed “under the protection of God.” The bank’s response to the prosecutor added that the state, “not being atheist, anticlerical or antireligious, can legitimately make a reference to the existence of a higher being, a divinity, as long as, in doing so, it does not make an allusion to a specific religious doctrine.”

How animals predict earthquakes (BBC)

1 December 2011

By Victoria Gill – Science reporter, BBC Nature

Common toadCan pond-dwelling animals pick up pre-earthquake signals?

Animals may sense chemical changes in groundwater that occur when an earthquake is about to strike.

This, scientists say, could be the cause of bizarre earthquake-associated animal behaviour.

Researchers began to investigate these chemical effects after seeing a colony of toads abandon its pond in L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009 – days before a quake.

They suggest that animal behaviour could be incorporated into earthquake forecasting.

When you think of all of the many things that are happening to these rocks, it would be weird if the animals weren’t affected in some way” – Rachel GrantThe Open University

The team’s findings are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. In this paper, they describe a mechanism whereby stressed rocks in the Earth’s crust release charged particles that react with the groundwater.

Animals that live in or near groundwater are highly sensitive to any changes in its chemistry, so they might sense this days before the rocks finally “slip” and cause a quake.

The team, led by Friedemann Freund from Nasa and Rachel Grant from the UK’s Open University hope their hypothesis will inspire biologists and geologists to work together, to find out exactly how animals might help us recognise some of the elusive signs of an imminent earthquake.

Strange behaviour

The L’Aquila toads are not the first example of strange animal behaviour before a major seismic event. There have been reports throughout history of reptiles, amphibians and fish behaving in unusual ways just before an earthquake struck.

STRANGE OR NOT

  • In July 2009, just hours after a large earthquake in San Diego, local residents discovered dozens of Humboldt squid washed up on beaches. These deep sea squid are usually found at depths of between 200 and 600m
  • At 5.58am on 28 June 1992 the ground began to shake in the Mojave Desert, California, right in the middle of a scientific study on desert harvester ants. Measurements revealed the ants did not change their behaviour at all during the earthquake, the largest to strike the US in four decades.

In 1975, in Haicheng, China, for example, many people spotted snakes emerging from their burrows a month before the city was hit by a large earthquake.

This was particularly odd, because it occurred during the winter. The snakes were in the middle of their annual hibernation, and with temperatures well below freezing, venturing outside was suicide for the cold-blooded reptiles.

But each of these cases – of waking reptiles, fleeing amphibians or deep-sea fish rising to the surface – has been an individual anecdote. And major earthquakes are so rare that the events surrounding them are almost impossible to study in detail.

This is where the case of the L’Aquila toads was different.

Toad exodus

Ms Grant, a biologist from the Open University, was monitoring the toad colony as part of her PhD project.

“It was very dramatic,” she recalled. “It went from 96 toads to almost zero over three days.”

Ms Grant published her observations in the Journal of Zoology.

“After that, I was contacted by Nasa,” she told BBC Nature.

Scientists at the US space agency had been studying the chemical changes that occur when rocks are under extreme stress. They wondered if these changes were linked to the mass exodus of the toads.

Their laboratory-based tests have now revealed, not only that these changes could be connected, but that the Earth’s crust could directly affect the chemistry of the pond that the toads were living and breeding in at the time.

Toads mating (c) Rachel GrantAll of the toads left the breeding colony days before the 2009 earthquake

Nasa geophysicist Friedemann Freund showed that, when rocks were under very high levels of stress – for example by the “gargantuan tectonic forces” just before an earthquake, they release charged particles.

These charged particles can flow out into the surrounding rocks, explained Dr Freund. And when they arrive at the Earth’s surface they react with the air – converting air molecules into charged particles known as ions.

“Positive airborne ions are known in the medical community to cause headaches and nausea in humans and to increase the level of serotonin, a stress hormone, in the blood of animals,” said Dr Freund. They can also react with water, turning it into hydrogen peroxide.

This chemical chain of events could affect the organic material dissolved in the pond water – turning harmless organic material into substances that are toxic to aquatic animals.

It’s a complicated mechanism and the scientists stress that it needs to be tested thoroughly.

But, Dr Grant says this is the first convincing possible mechanism for a “pre-earthquake cue” that aquatic, semi-aquatic and burrowing animals might be able to sense and respond to.

“When you think of all of the many things that are happening to these rocks, it would be weird if the animals weren’t affected in some way,” she said.

Dr Freund said that the behaviour of animals could be one of a number of connected events that might forecast an earthquake.

“Once we understand how all of these signals are connected,” he told BBC Nature, “if we see four of five signals all pointing in [the same] direction, we can say, ‘ok, something is about to happen’.”

*   *   *

Toads can ‘predict earthquakes’ and seismic activity

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

By Matt Walker 
Editor, Earth News

Common toad (Bufo bufo)

Common toads sense danger

Common toads appear to be able to sense an impending earthquake and will flee their colony days before the seismic activity strikes.

The evidence comes from a population of toads which left their breeding colony three days before an earthquake that struck L’Aquila in Italy in 2009.

How toads sensed the quake is unclear, but most breeding pairs and males fled.

They reacted despite the colony being 74km from the quake’s epicentre, say biologists in the Journal of Zoology.

It is hard to objectively and quantifiably study how animals respond to seismic activity, in part because earthquakes are rare and unpredictable.

Some studies have been done on how domestic animals respond, but measuring the response of wild animals is more difficult.

Even those that have been shown to react, such as fish, rodents and snakes tend to do so shortly before an earthquakes strikes, rather than days ahead of the event.

However, biologist Dr Rachel Grant of the Open University, in Milton Keynes, UK, was routinely studying the behaviour of various colonies of common toads on a daily basis in Italy around the time a massive earthquake struck.

Her studies included a 29-day period gathering data before, during and after the earthquake that hit Italy on 6 April 2009.

The quake, a 6.3-magnitude event, struck close to L’Aquila city, about 95km (60 miles) north-east of Rome.

Dr Grant was studying toads 74km away in San Ruffino Lake in central Italy, when she recorded the toads behaving oddly.

Five days before the earthquake, the number of male common toads in the breeding colony fell by 96%.

Common frogs (Rana temporaria) mating

That is highly unusual for male toads: once they have bred, they normally remain active in large numbers at breeding sites until spawning has finished.

Yet spawning had barely begun at the San Ruffino Lake site before the earthquake struck.

Also, no weather event could be linked to the toads’ disappearance.

Three days before the earthquake, the number of breeding pairs also suddenly dropped to zero.

While spawn was found at the site up to six days before the earthquake, and again six days after it, no spawn was laid during the so-called earthquake period – the time from the first main shock to the last aftershock.

“Our study is one of the first to document animal behaviour before, during and after an earthquake,” says Dr Grant.

She believes the toads fled to higher ground, possibly where they would be at less risk from rock falls, landslides and flooding.

Sensing danger

Exactly how the toads sense impending seismic activity is unclear.

The shift in the toads’ behaviour coincided with disruptions in the ionosphere, the uppermost electromagnetic layer of the earth’s atmosphere, which researchers detected around the time of the L’Aquila quake using a technique known as very low frequency (VLF) radio sounding.

Such changes to the atmosphere have in turn been linked by some scientists to the release of radon gas, or gravity waves, prior to an earthquake.

In the case of the L’Aquila quake, Dr Grant could not determine what caused the disruptions in the ionosphere.

However, her findings do suggest that the toads can detect something.

“Our findings suggest that toads are able to detect pre-seismic cues such as the release of gases and charged particles, and use these as a form of earthquake early warning system,” she says.

Ants ignore quakes

One other study has quantified an animal’s response to a major earthquake.

Researchers had the serendipitous opportunity to measure how the behaviour of the desert harvester ant (Messor pergandei) changed as the ground began to tremble in the Mojave Desert, California, on 28 June 1992.

The largest quake to hit the US in four decades struck during the middle of an ongoing study, which measured how many ants walked the trails to and from the colony, the distributions of worker ants and even how much carbon dioxide the ants produced.

However, in response to that 7.4 magnitude quake, the ants did not appear to alter their behaviour at all.

ITALIAN EARTHQUAKE

 

How Language Change Sneaks in (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Sep. 4, 2012) — Languages are continually changing, not just words but also grammar. A recent study examines how such changes happen and what the changes can tell us about how speakers’ grammars work.

The study, “The course of actualization,” to be published in the September 2012 issue of the scholarly journal Language, is authored by Hendrik De Smet of the University of Leuven /Research Foundation Flanders.

Historical linguists, who document and study language change, have long noticed that language changes have a sneaky quality, starting small and unobtrusive and then gradually conquering more ground, a process termed ‘actualization’. De Smet’s study investigates how actualization proceeds by tracking and comparing different language changes, using large collections of digitized historical texts. This way, it is shown that any actualization process consists of a series of smaller changes with each new change building on and following from the previous ones, each time making only a minimal adjustment. A crucial role in this is played by similarity.

Consider the development of so-called downtoners — grammatical elements that minimize the force of the word they accompany. Nineteenth-century English saw the emergence of a new downtoner, all but, meaning ‘almost’. All but started out being used only with adjectives, as in her escape was all but miraculous. But later it also began to turn up with verbs, as in until his clothes all but dropped from him. In grammatical terms, that is a fairly big leap, but when looked at closely the leap is found to go in smaller steps. Before all but spread to verbs, it appeared with past participles, which very much resemble both adjectives and verbs, as in her breath was all but gone. So, changes can sneak into a language and spread from context to context by exploiting the similarities between contexts.

The role of similarity in language change makes a number of predictions. For one thing, actualization processes will differ from item to item because in each case there will be different similarities to exploit. English is currently seeing some nouns developing into adjectives, such as fun or key. This again goes by small adjustments, but along different pathways. For fun, speakers started from expressions like that was really fun, which they would adjust to that was very fun, and from there they would go on to a very fun time and by now some have even gone on to expressions like the funnest time ever. For key, change started from expressions like a key player, which could be adjusted to an absolutely key player, and from there to a player who is absolutely key. When the changes are over, the eventual outcome will be the same — fun and key will have all the characteristics of any other English adjective — but the way that is coming about is different.

Another prediction is that actualization processes will differ from language to language, because grammatical contexts that are similar in one language may not be in another. Comparing the development of another English downtoner, far from (as in far from perfect), to its Dutch equivalent, verre van, it is found that, even though they started out quite similar, the two downtoners went on to develop differently due to differences in the overall structure of English and Dutch. Importantly, this is one way in which even small changes may reinforce and gradually increase existing differences between languages.

Finally, this research can say something about how language works in general. Similarity is so important to how changes unfold precisely because it is important to how speakers subconsciously use language all the time. Presumably, whenever a speaker thinks up a new sentence and decides it is acceptable, they do so by evaluating its resemblance to previous sentences. In this respect, actualization processes are giving us a unique window on how similarity works in organizing and reorganizing speakers’ internal grammars, showing just how sensitive speakers are to all sorts of similarities. Strikingly, then, the same similarity judgments that speakers make to form acceptable and intelligible sentences allow their grammars to gradually change over time.

Journal Reference:

  1. Hendrik De Smet. The Course of Actualization.Language, 2012 (in press)

People Merge Supernatural and Scientific Beliefs When Reasoning With the Unknown, Study Shows (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 30, 2012) — Reliance on supernatural explanations for major life events, such as death and illness, often increases rather than declines with age, according to a new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin.

Reliance on supernatural explanations for major life events, such as death and illness, often increases rather than declines with age, according to a new psychology study. (Credit: © Nikki Zalewski / Fotolia)

The study, published in the June issue of Child Development, offers new insight into developmental learning.

“As children assimilate cultural concepts into their intuitive belief systems — from God to atoms to evolution — they engage in coexistence thinking,” said Cristine Legare, assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “When they merge supernatural and scientific explanations, they integrate them in a variety of predictable and universal ways.”

Legare and her colleagues reviewed more than 30 studies on how people (ages 5-75) from various countries reason with three major existential questions: the origin of life, illness and death. They also conducted a study with 366 respondents in South Africa, where biomedical and traditional healing practices are both widely available.

As part of the study, Legare presented the respondents with a variety of stories about people who had AIDS. They were then asked to endorse or reject several biological and supernatural explanations for why the characters in the stories contracted the virus.

According to the findings, participants of all age groups agreed with biological explanations for at least one event. Yet supernatural explanations such as witchcraft were also frequently supported among children (ages 5 and up) and universally among adults.

Among the adult participants, only 26 percent believed the illness could be caused by either biology or witchcraft. And 38 percent split biological and scientific explanations into one theory. For example: “Witchcraft, which is mixed with evil spirits, and unprotected sex caused AIDS.” However, 57 percent combined both witchcraft and biological explanations. For example: “A witch can put an HIV-infected person in your path.”

Legare said the findings contradict the common assumption that supernatural beliefs dissipate with age and knowledge.

“The findings show supernatural explanations for topics of core concern to humans are pervasive across cultures,” Legare said. “If anything, in both industrialized and developing countries, supernatural explanations are frequently endorsed more often among adults than younger children.”

The results provide evidence that reasoning about supernatural phenomena is a fundamental and enduring aspect of human thinking, Legare said.

“The standard assumption that scientific and religious explanations compete should be re-evaluated in light of substantial psychological evidence,” Legare said. “The data, which spans diverse cultural contexts across the lifespan, shows supernatural reasoning is not necessarily replaced with scientific explanations following gains in knowledge, education or technology.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Cristine H. Legare, E. Margaret Evans, Karl S. Rosengren, Paul L. Harris. The Coexistence of Natural and Supernatural Explanations Across Cultures and DevelopmentChild Development, 2012; 83 (3): 779 DOI:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01743.x

Earthquake Hazards Map Study Finds Deadly Flaws (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 31, 2012) — Three of the largest and deadliest earthquakes in recent history occurred where earthquake hazard maps didn’t predict massive quakes. A University of Missouri scientist and his colleagues recently studied the reasons for the maps’ failure to forecast these quakes. They also explored ways to improve the maps. Developing better hazard maps and alerting people to their limitations could potentially save lives and money in areas such as the New Madrid, Missouri fault zone.

“Forecasting earthquakes involves many uncertainties, so we should inform the public of these uncertainties,” said Mian Liu, of MU’s department of geological sciences. “The public is accustomed to the uncertainties of weather forecasting, but foreseeing where and when earthquakes may strike is far more difficult. Too much reliance on earthquake hazard maps can have serious consequences. Two suggestions may improve this situation. First, we recommend a better communication of the uncertainties, which would allow citizens to make more informed decisions about how to best use their resources. Second, seismic hazard maps must be empirically tested to find out how reliable they are and thus improve them.”

Liu and his colleagues suggest testing maps against what is called a null hypothesis, the possibility that the likelihood of an earthquake in a given area — like Japan — is uniform. Testing would show which mapping approaches were better at forecasting earthquakes and subsequently improve the maps.

Liu and his colleagues at Northwestern University and the University of Tokyo detailed how hazard maps had failed in three major quakes that struck within a decade of each other. The researchers interpreted the shortcomings of hazard maps as the result of bad assumptions, bad data, bad physics and bad luck.

Wenchuan, China — In 2008, a quake struck China’s Sichuan Province and cost more than 69,000 lives. Locals blamed the government and contractors for not making buildings in the area earthquake-proof, according to Liu, who says that hazard maps bear some of the blame as well since the maps, based on bad assumptions, had designated the zone as an area of relatively low earthquake hazard.

Léogâne, Haiti — The 2010 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and killed an estimated 316,000 people occurred along a fault that had not caused a major quake in hundreds of years. Using only the short history of earthquakes since seismometers were invented approximately one hundred years ago yielded hazard maps that were didn’t indicate the danger there.

Tōhoku, Japan — Scientists previously thought the faults off the northeast coast of Japan weren’t capable of causing massive quakes and thus giant tsunamis like the one that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear reactor. This bad understanding of particular faults’ capabilities led to a lack of adequate preparation. The area had been prepared for smaller quakes and the resulting tsunamis, but the Tōhoku quake overwhelmed the defenses.

“If we limit our attention to the earthquake records in the past, we will be unprepared for the future,” Liu said. “Hazard maps tend to underestimate the likelihood of quakes in areas where they haven’t occurred previously. In most places, including the central and eastern U.S., seismologists don’t have a long enough record of earthquake history to make predictions based on historical patterns. Although bad luck can mean that quakes occur in places with a genuinely low probability, what we see are too many ‘black swans,’ or too many exceptions to the presumed patterns.”

“We’re playing a complicated game against nature,” said the study’s first author, Seth Stein of Northwestern University. “It’s a very high stakes game. We don’t really understand all the rules very well. As a result, our ability to assess earthquake hazards often isn’t very good, and the policies that we make to mitigate earthquake hazards sometimes aren’t well thought out. For example, the billions of dollars the Japanese spent on tsunami defenses were largely wasted.

“We need to very carefully try to formulate the best strategies we can, given the limits of our knowledge,” Stein said. “Understanding the uncertainties in earthquake hazard maps, testing them, and improving them is important if we want to do better than we’ve done so far.”

The study, “Why earthquake hazard maps often fail and what to do about it,” was published by the journal Tectonophysics. First author of the study was Seth Stein of Northwestern University. Robert Geller of the University of Tokyo was co-author. Mian Liu is William H. Byler Distinguished Chair in Geological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri.

Fear and Driving Opportunity Motivated Changes in Driving Behavior After 9/11 (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 31, 2012) — A catastrophic event — such as a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or market collapse — often strikes twice. There is the damage caused by the event itself, as lives are lost or left in ruin. But there is also the second act, catalyzed by our response to the catastrophic event. This second act has the potential to cause just as much damage as the first.

In the year following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there were approximately 1,600 more traffic fatalities in the United States than expected. This figure suggests the possibility that fear may have been a strong motivator for many people, leading them to choose driving over flying. This change in behavior, motivated by fear, may have ultimately led to additional deaths through traffic fatalities.

But fear does not tell the whole story. As Wolfgang Gaissmaier and Gerd Gigerenzer of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany, observe, the changes in driving behavior observed after 9/11 varied widely across different regions of the United States and did not just occur in those states closest to the attacks where fear was presumably strongest.

Gaissmaier and Gigerenzer hypothesized that another factor might have played a central role: driving opportunity. While fear provides a motivational explanation, in order for people to substitute driving for flying there had to be an environmental structure that allowed fear to manifest in a behavior change.

The researchers explore this hypothesis in a new research article to be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

They collected data on the number of miles driven and the number of traffic fatalities per month from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. They also gathered data on fear and driving opportunity. They used proximity to New York City to get an approximate measure of post-9/11 fear, as previous research had shown that proximity was linked with substantial stress reactions after the attacks. To measure driving opportunity, they assessed the length of nationally significant highways in each state in the National Highway System, divided by the number of state inhabitants and they also looked at the number of car registrations per inhabitant.

The results of the analyses show that people did in fact drive more following 9/11: Across all states, the average monthly increase in miles driven per inhabitant was 27.2 miles in the three months following the attacks. This increase was significantly greater than that observed in the same three-month period in the five years leading up to 2001.

Interestingly, people who were closer to New York City showed only a slight increase in driving. Increase in miles driven was strongly associated, however, with greater driving opportunity. Most importantly, increased driving was associated with an increase in traffic fatalities. These findings suggest that fear can lead people to engage in potentially dangerous behaviors, such as increased driving, but that understanding fear is not enough.

“To be able to foresee where the secondary effects of catastrophic events could have fatal consequences, we need to look at the environmental structures that allow fear to actually manifest in dangerous behaviors.”

According to Gaissmaier, understanding citizens’ behavior as a function of both the mind and the environment ultimately allows for two routes toward behavior change: altering people’s minds (through education or awareness campaigns) or altering people’s environments.

Language and China’s ‘Practical Creativity’ (N.Y.Times)

 

AUGUST 22, 2012

By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW

Every language presents challenges — English pronunciation can be idiosyncratic and Russian grammar is fairly complex, for example — but non-alphabetic writing systems like Chinese pose special challenges.

There is the well-known issue that Chinese characters don’t systematically map to sounds, making both learning and remembering difficult, a point I examine in my latest column. If you don’t know a character, you can’t even say it.

Nor does Chinese group individual characters into bigger “words,” even when a character is part of a compound, or multi-character, word. That makes meanings ambiguous, a rich source of humor for Chinese people.

Consider this example from Wu Wenchao, a former interpreter for the United Nations based in Hong Kong. On his blog he has a picture of mobile phones’ being held under a hand dryer. Huh?

The joke is that the Chinese word for hand dryer is composed of three characters, “hong shou ji” (I am using pinyin, a system of Romanization used in China, to “write” the characters in the English alphabet.)

Group them as “hongshou ji” and it means “hand dryer.” Group them as “hong shouji” and it means “dry the mobile phone.” (A shouji is a mobile phone.)

Good fodder for serious linguists and amateur language lovers alike. But does a character script also exert deeper effects on the mind?

William C. Hannas is one of the most provocative writers on this today. He believes character writing systems inhibit a type of deep creativity — but that its effects are not irreversible.

He is at pains to point out that his analysis is not race-based, that people raised in a character-based writing system have a different type of creativity, and that they may flourish when they enter a culture that supports deep creativity, like Western science laboratories.

Still, “The rote learning needed to master Chinese writing breeds a conformist attitude and a focus on means instead of ends. Process rules substance. You spend more time fidgeting with the script than thinking about content,” Mr. Hannas wrote to me in an e-mail.

But Mr. Hannas’s argument is indeed controversial — that learning Chinese lessens deep creativity by furthering practical, but not abstract, thinking, as he wrote in “The Writing on the Wall: How Asian Orthography Curbs Creativity,” published in 2003 and reviewed by The New York Times.

It’s a touchy topic that some academics reject outright and others acknowledge, but are reluctant to discuss, as Emily Eakin wrote in the review.

How does it work?

“Alphabets used in the West foster early skills in analysis and abstract thinking,” wrote Mr. Hannas, emphasizing the views were personal and not those of his employer, the U.S. government.

They do this by making readers do two things: breaking syllables into sound segments and clustering these segments into bigger, abstract, flexible sound units.

Chinese characters don’t do that. “The symbols map to syllables — natural concrete units. No analysis is needed and not much abstraction is involved,” Mr. Hannas wrote.

But radical, “type 2” creativity — deep creativity — depends on being able to match abstract patterns from one domain to another, essentially mapping the skills that alphabets nurture, he continued. “There is nothing comparable in the Sinitic tradition,” he wrote.

Will this inhibit China’s long-term development? Does it mean China won’t “take over the world,” as some are wondering? Not necessarily, Mr. Hannas said.

“You don’t need to be creative to succeed. Success goes to the early adapter and this is where China excels, for two reasons,” he wrote. First, Chinese are good at improving existing models, a different, more practical type of creativity, he wrote, adding that this practicality was noted by the British historian of Chinese science, Joseph Needham.

Yet there is a further step to this argument, and this is where Mr. Hannas’s ideas become explosive.

Partly as a result of these cultural constraints, China has built an “absolutely mind-boggling infrastructure” to get hold of cutting-edge foreign technology — by any means necessary, including large-scale, apparently government-backed, computer hacking, he wrote.

For more on that, see a hard-hitting Bloomberg report, “Hackers Linked to China’s Army seen from E.U to D.C.”

Non-Chinese R.&D. gets “outsourced” from its place of origin, “while China reaps the gain,” Mr. Hannas wrote, adding that many people believed this was “normal business practice.”

“In fact, it’s far from normal. The director of a U.S. intelligence agency has described China’s informal technology acquisition as ‘the greatest transfer of wealth in history,’ which I regard as a polite understatement,” he said.

Mr. Hannas has co-authored a book on this, to appear in the spring. It promises to shake things up. Watch this space.

Argentine Invasion (Radiolab)

Monday, July 30, 2012 – 10:00 PM

From a suburban sidewalk in southern California, Jad and Robert witness the carnage of a gruesome turf war. Though the tiny warriors doing battle clock in at just a fraction of an inch, they have evolved a surprising, successful, and rather unsettling strategy of ironclad loyalty, absolute intolerance, and brutal violence.

Drawing of an Argentinte Ant

(Adam Cole/WNYC)

David Holway, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist from UC San Diego, takes us to a driveway in Escondido, California where a grisly battle rages. In this quiet suburban spot, two groups of ants are putting on a chilling display of dismemberment and death. According to David, this battle line marks the edge of an enormous super-colony of Argentine ants. Think of that anthill in your backyard, and stretch it out across five continents.

Argentine ants are not good neighbors. When they meet ants from another colony, any other colony, they fight to the death, and tear the other ants to pieces. While other kinds of ants sometimes take slaves or even have sex with ants from different colonies, the Argentine ants don’t fool around. If you’re not part of the colony, you’re dead.

According to evolutionary biologist Neil Tsutsui and ecologist Mark Moffett, the flood plains of northern Argentina offer a clue as to how these ants came to dominate the planet. Because of the frequent flooding, the homeland of Linepithema humile is basically a bootcamp for badass ants. One day, a couple ants from one of these families of Argentine ants made their way onto a boat and landed in New Orleans in the late 1800s. Over the last century, these Argentine ants wreaked havoc across the southern U.S. and a significant chunk of coastal California.

In fact, Melissa Thomas, an Australian entomologist, reveals that these Argentine ants are even more well-heeled than we expected – they’ve made to every continent except Antarctica. No matter how many thousands of miles separate individual ants, when researchers place two of them together – whether they’re plucked from Australia, Japan, Hawaii … even Easter Island – they recognize each other as belonging to the same super-colony.

But the really mind-blowing thing about these little guys is the surprising success of their us-versus-them death-dealing. Jad and Robert wrestle with what to make of this ant regime, whether it will last, and what, if anything, it might mean for other warlike organisms with global ambitions.

Violência no futebol brasileiro – fim de semana de 18 e 19 de agosto de 2012

19/08/2012 18h00 – Atualizado em 19/08/2012 23h33

Homem é morto durante confronto entre torcedores de Vasco e Flamengo (G1)

Confusão aconteceu em rua de Tomás Coelho, no subúrbio do Rio.
Segundo a Polícia Militar, um torcedor rubro-negro ficou ferido.

Do G1 RJ

Diego Martins Leal, de 29 anos, foi baleado e morto durante uma briga entre torcedores do Vasco e do Flamengo na tarde deste domingo (19), em Tomás Coelho, subúrbio do Rio de Janeiro.

De acordo com as primeiras informações da Polícia Militar, a confusão começou quando um ônibus com flamenguistas vindo de Resende, no Sul Fluminense, passou por um grupo de torcedores do Vasco concentrados num porto de gasolina localizado na Rua Silva Vale. Diego foi morto no interior de um bar, na Rua Itaquati. Um torcedor do Flamengo ficou ferido.

O primo de Diego presenciou o crime. “Deram cinco disparos, e ainda deram facada nele. É uma violência que não acaba, briga de torcida organizada. Tinham marcado pelo Fracebook”, destacou.

Cerca de 60 suspeitos de participarem da briga foram detidos e levados para a 44ª DP (Inhaúma). Ainda segundo a PM, o autor do disparo foi reconhecido por testemunhas e identificado. Também foram apreendidos fogos de artifício.

Flamengo e Vasco jogaram no Estádio do Engenhão, na Zona Norte, pela 18ª rodada do Campeonato Brasileiro. O time rubro-negro venceu por um a zero, com gol de Wágner Love.

 

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19/08/2012 21h03 – Atualizado em 19/08/2012 21h13

Homem é baleado durante briga entre torcedores na Zona Oeste (G1)

Segundo hospital, ele foi atingido no abdômen e passa por cirurgia.
Outras seis pessoas ficaram feridas durante confronto em Jacarepaguá.

Do G1 RJ

Um homem foi baleado no abdômen durante uma briga entre torcedores de Vasco e Flamengo na ytarde deste domingo (19), próximo ao Largo da Tanque, na Estrada do Cafundá, Zona Oeste do Rio de Janeiro. Outros seis torcedores ficaram feridos na confusão.

Segundo informações da Secretaria municipal de Saúde, o torcedor, que ainda não foi identificado, deu entrada no Hospital Lourenço Jorge, também na Zona Oeste, onde foi submetido a uma cirurgia. Até as 20h40, ele permanceia no centro cirúrgico.

Ainda de acordo com a secretaria, outros dois feridos também deram entrada na mesma unidade: um levou um tiro de raspão na perna; o outro teve um trauma na face. Ambos passavam por avaliação médica até as 20h40.

Os outros quatro feridos foram atendidos no Hospital Cardoso Fontes, em Jacarepaguá. Um deles sofreu uma fratura no crânio, está em estado grave e foi transferido para o Hospital do Andaraí, na Zona Norte. Os outros três tiveram cortes e escoriações pelo corpo, e estão em observação.

Uma viatura do 18° BPM (Jacarepaguá) foi ao local da briga e prendeu sete torcedores, sendo três da torcida do Flamengo e quatro torcedores do Vasco, todos encaminhados para a 41ª DP (Tanque).

Também na tarde deste domingo, um vascaíno ainda não identificado foi baleado e morto durante uma briga entre torcedores dos mesmos times em Tomás Coelho, subúrbio do Rio de Janeiro.

Flamengo e Vasco se enfrentaram no Estádio do Engenhão, na Zona Norte, pela 18ª rodada do Campeonato Brasileiro. O time rubro-negro venceu por um a zero, com gol de Wágner Love.

 

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Corpo de torcedor do Vasco morto na zona norte é liberado, mas permanece no IML (R7)

Dois suspeitos foram presos logo após crime; DH investiga caso

Isabele Rangel, do R7 | 20/08/2012 às 09h35 | Atualizado em: 20/08/2012 às 10h51

O corpo do torcedor do Vasco Diego Martins Leal, de 30 anos, morto em uma briga de torcida em Thomaz Coelho, na zona norte, já foi liberado do IML (Instituto Médico Legal).No entanto, segundo a Polícia Civil, a vítima ainda não foi removida para enterro.

Diego foi morto em uma confusão envolvendo 50 pessoas em um posto de gasolina entre as ruas Itaquati e Silva Vale, nas proximidades da avenida Pastor Martin Luter King Júnior, às margens da linha dois do metrô. Segundo a Polícia Civil, ele teria sido morto a tiros por dois homens identificados logo após o crime. O caso está sendo investigado pela DH (Divisão de Homicídios).

A confusão ocorreu por volta das 16h, quando três vascaínos, que estavam em um veículo Zafira, pararam para abastecer. Dentro do carro estavam Darlan Pereira da Silva e dois primos dele, que moram em Brasília, mas estavam na capital fluminense para ir ao clássico carioca no Estádio Olímpico João Havelange, no Engenho de Dentro.

Segundo a Polícia Militar, ao avistar o motorista com a camisa do Vasco, ocupantes do ônibus, que vinham de Resende, no sul do Estado, pararam o coletivo e seguiram em direção ao veículo com paus, pedras e bolas de sinuca.  Darlan ainda tentou tirar a camisa, mas ele os primos foram perseguidos e tiveram que se abrigar no interior do posto para fugir das agressões. De acordo com a PM, o carro dele foi totalmente depredado.

Em meio ao tumulto, dois homens, que não faziam parte do grupo de Resende, iniciaram uma perseguição a um torcedor do Vasco, que estava em um bar da região. A vítima, identificada como Diego Martins Leal, ainda tentou fugir, mas acabou sendo baleado. Em meio ao tumulto, um torcedor do Flamengo também ficou ferido e precisou ser atendido pelo SAMU (Serviço de Atendimento Médico de Urgência).

A confusão só terminou com a chegada de policiais do Batalhão de Méier (3º BPM), que foram acionados pelo policial que ocupava uma cabine de observação no viaduto de Thomaz Coelho, que dá acesso à estrada Adhemar Bebiano.

Dois homens foram apontados por moradores como suspeitos de terem matado o vascaíno. Eles foram presos pela PM, levados para a Delegacia de Inhaúma (44º DP), mas transferidos para a DH (Divisão de Homicídios do Rio de Janeiro), na Barra da Tijuca, zona oeste do Rio. De acordo com a polícia, os dois podem ser indiciados por homicídio doloso (com intenção de matar).

Todos os ocupantes do ônibus, que é da empresa Transtaxi, foram detidos e levados para a 44º DP, para checagem de documentos e verificação de ficha criminal. No ônibus, foram encontrados cabos de enxada, pedras, bolas de sinuca, bandeiras e camisas do Flamengo.Outros sete presos em Jacarepaguá

Em Jacarepaguá, na zona oeste, outros sete torcedores foram presos próximo ao Largo da Tanque, na Estrada do Cafundá. Uma viatura do Batalhão de Jacarepaguá (18° BPM)  foi ao local após receber denúncias de moradores por telefone.

Entre os presos, três eram torcedores do Flamengo e quatro eram vascaínos. Todos os presos foram encaminhados para a Delegacia do Tanque (41ª DP).

Assista ao vídeo

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20/08/2012 16h35 – Atualizado em 20/08/2012 17h20

Corpo de torcedor do Vasco morto em briga é enterrado no Rio (G1)

O publicitário Diego Martins Leal, de 30 anos, foi sepultado em Inhaúma.
Dois suspeitos do crime, torcedores do Flamengo, foram presos nesta manhã.

Tássia Thum – Do G1 RJ

O corpo do torcedor do Vasco Diego Martins Leal, de 30 anos, morto durante uma briga de torcidas, foi enterrado por volta das 16h20 desta segunda-feira (20) no Cemitério de Inhaúma, no subúrbio do Rio de Janeiro. O crime aconteceu no domingo (19), antes do clássico entre Flamengo e Vasco, no estádio do Engenhão.

Cerca de 200 pessoas acompanharam a cerimônia de sepultamento do torcedor vascaíno, que era publicitário. Segundo amigos e parentes, Diego fazia parte de uma torcida organizada do Vasco, mas não utilizava a camisa do time na rua para evitar confusões com torcedores de times rivais.

Segundo o tio de Diego e professor de matemática Luiz Fernando Leal, Diego foi enterrado com a camisa do Vasco. Cerca de 20 integrantes da Torcida Força Jovem Vasco, todos descaracterizados, estiveram no enterro, mas preferiram não falar com a imprensa. “Ele era um cara que gostava do samba, namorava havia oito anos e pensava em casar. Mas, infelizmente, ele foi vítima de vândalos que saíram dispostos a matar. Ele era um cara da paz, nunca brigou ou sofreu ameaças”, disse o amigo de infância do jovem, Hugo Rodrigues, que é torcedor do Flamengo.

Cerca de 200 pessoas acompanharam o sepultamento do torcedor Diego Leal, no Cemitério de Inhaúma, no subúrbio do Rio, nesta segunda-feira (20) (Foto: Tássia Thum/G1)

Cerca de 200 pessoas acompanharam o sepultamento do torcedor Diego Leal, no Cemitério de Inhaúma, no subúrbio do Rio, nesta segunda-feira (20) (Foto: Tássia Thum/G1)

O tio disse que o rapaz não usava a camisa do time na rua e nem em fotos de redes sociais a pedido dos pais, que temiam a violência nos estádios. O primo da vítima, o farmacêutico Felipe Leal, disse que Diego não ia aos jogos do Vasco havia cerca de um ano. No domingo, segundo o primo, Diego estava em um churrasco com amigos próximo de casa, no bairro de Tomás Coelho, quando houve o conflito. Felipe Leal afirma que Diego não ia ao Engenhão, já que havia combinado de ver a partida em um bar próximo de sua residência.

Nesta manhã, a Polícia Civil apresentou dois suspeitos de assassinar o torcedor do Vasco.  Alessanderson Piedade Motta, de 28 anos, e Daniel Monteiro Abreu, 27, estão presos da Divisão de Homicídios (DH), na Barra da Tijuca, Zona Oeste do Rio, e vão responder por homicídio qualificado por motivo fútil. Segundo o delegado Rivaldo Barbosa, se condenados, eles podem pegar de 20 a 30 anos de prisão.

De acordo com o delegado, das cinco testemunhas ouvidas, duas reconheceram os suspeitos como responsáveis pela morte de Diego. O delegado informou que as investigações apontam Alessanderson, que já tinha passagem pela polícia por lesão corporal, como autor dos quatro tiros que atingiram a vítima e Daniel como o autor das facadas.

A confusão começou quando um ônibus com flamenguistas vindo de Resende, no Sul Fluminense, passou por um grupo de torcedores do Vasco concentrados num bar localizado na Rua Silva Vale.

Ao tentar se esconder, Diego entrou em um outro bar, na Rua Itaquati. No interior do estabelecimento, ele foi morto pela dupla.

Na delegacia, Daniel confirmou que é comum o enfrentamento de torcidas rivais. “Torcida organizada funciona desta forma. É eles contra a gente e a gente contra eles. Uma vez mataram um amigo nosso e ninguém foi preso”, afirmou Daniel.

Outras testemunhas serão ouvidas

Daniel tem tatuagem do Flamengo nas costas (Foto: Renata Soares/G1)

Daniel tem escudo do Flamengo tatuado nas costas (Foto: Renata Soares/G1)

Ainda segundo o delegado, outros torcedores serão chamados para prestar depoimento novamente. “Isso é lamentável, é algo inaceitável. Vamos continuar a investigação e tentar identificar outras pessoas que tenham participado do crime”, afirmou Rivaldo, que acrescentou também que não há indícios de que a torcida tenha marcado este encontro pela internet:

“Não temos essa informação sobre o encontro marcado. Mas vamos continuar investigando”, concluiu o delegado Rivaldo Barbosa.

Flamengo e Vasco jogaram no Estádio do Engenhão, na Zona Norte, pela 18ª rodada do Campeonato Brasileiro 2012. O time rubro-negro venceu por um a zero, com gol de Vagner Love.

Anunciado no Facebook, tênis da Adidas é considerado “racista” (Revista Cult)

Com correntes de borracha, calçado teve a venda suspensa

Junho 2012

No mês de junho, a fabricante de materiais esportivos Adidas anunciou em sua página do Facebook o lançamento de um novo tênis na linha outono-inverno 2012, segundo informou o jornal “Le Monde”. Desenhado pelo estilista Jeremy Scott Roundhouse, o calçado traz pulseiras de borracha simulando correntes, que muitos internautas viram como uma referência à escravidão.

Segundo a CNN, a empresa rapidamente removeu a postagem na página do Facebook, mas o assunto já havia rodado o globo gerando revolta entre internautas.

“Aparentemente não havia pessoas de cor no departamento de marketing que o aprovou”, brinca Rodwell em comentário no site “Nice Kicks”, portal destinado aos lançamentos de tênis.

A empresa, inicialmente, defendeu o designer, descrevendo seu estilo como “original” e alegre, mas o fabricante alemão emitiu um comunicado onde pede desculpas aos ofendidos com o caso e afirma que o modelo não será comercializado.

Festival interativo leva visitantes a experimentar situações de desastre ambiental (Agência Brasil)

01/6/2012 – 10h42

por Thais Leitão, da Agência Brasil

Chamada53 Festival interativo leva visitantes a experimentar situações de desastre ambientalRio de Janeiro – Uma floresta que entra em chamas colocando em risco a vida de animais e da vegetação existente; uma geleira intacta que de repente começa a derreter ou uma casa que sofre inundação. Todas essas situações, provocadas pelo desequilíbrio ambiental, podem ser experimentadas pelo público durante o Green Nation Fest, festival interativo e sensorial que começou hoje (31) na Quinta da Boa Vista, zona norte do Rio de Janeiro, e vai até 7 de junho.

De acordo com o diretor da organização não governamental (ONG) Centro de Cultura, Informação e Meio Ambiente (Cima), que organiza do evento, Marcos Didonet, o objetivo é levar experiências práticas aos visitantes e estimular o público a agir de forma mais sustentável. A Cima desenvolve há mais de 20 anos ações em parceria com instituições privadas, governamentais e multilaterais.

“O objetivo é alcançar o grande público que não está acostumado a vivenciar a questão ambiental, trazendo o assunto de forma mais interessante, agradável e prática. Para isso, nossos artistas e cientistas bolaram essas instalações capazes de promover sensações que serão ainda mais frequentes se não mudarmos nossos padrões de consumo e comportamentos cotidianos”, afirmou.

No local, também há tendas onde ocorrem oficinas lúdicas e educativas. Em uma delas, montada pelo Instituto Estadual do Ambiente (Inea), um grupo de 30 alunos da rede municipal do Rio aprendeu, hoje, a produzir carteiras usando caixas de leite e recortes de tecido.

Para a estudante Ana Beatriz Leão, 14 anos, a ideia é criativa e pode servir para presentear amigos. “É legal porque a gente geralmente joga no lixo e agora sabe que dá para fazer outras coisas com a caixa. A que eu fiz, vou dar para uma amiga que tenho certeza que vai gostar”, contou a adolescente.

Na mesma tenda, os visitantes podem conferir outros produtos feitos com material reutilizado, como uma pequena bateria produzida com latinhas de refrigerante, livros infantis com retalhos de tecidos e bonecos com caixa de sapato.

Entre os meninos, uma das atividades preferidas é o Gol de Bicicleta na qual os participantes pedalam e geram energia para seu time. A cada watt gerado, um gol é marcado para o time de preferência. Além disso, uma bateria é abastecida e leva energia para ser utilizada em outra instalação do festival.

Os amigos Gustavo Fonseca e Roberto Damião, ambos de 11 anos, também alunos da rede municipal do Rio, disseram que a experiência é “muito intensa”.

“Foi muito legal porque a gente aprendeu outra maneira de gerar energia e ainda fez gol pro Mengão”, disse Roberto, que torce pelo Flamengo.

O evento, com entrada gratuita, também oferece uma a Mostra Internacional de Cinema, com 12 longas-metragens, e seminários com convidados brasileiros e internacionais sobre economia verde e criativa, que serão abertos para debates. A programação completa pode ser conferida no site www.greennationfest.com.br.

* Publicado originalmente no site da Agência Brasil.

 

How Bad Is It? (The New Inquiry)

By GEORGE SCIALABBA

Jasper Johns, Green Flag, 1956 (Graphite pencil, crayon and collage on paper)

Pretty bad. Here is a sample of factlets from surveys and studies conducted in the past twenty years. Seventy percent of Americans believe in the existence of angels. Fifty percent believe that the earth has been visited by UFOs; in another poll, 70 percent believed that the U.S. government is covering up the presence of space aliens on earth. Forty percent did not know whom the U.S. fought in World War II. Forty percent could not locate Japan on a world map. Fifteen percent could not locate the United States on a world map. Sixty percent of Americans have not read a book since leaving school. Only 6 percent now read even one book a year. According to a very familiar statistic that nonetheless cannot be repeated too often, the average American’s day includes six minutes playing sports, five minutes reading books, one minute making music, 30 seconds attending a play or concert, 25 seconds making or viewing art, and four hours watching television.

Among high-school seniors surveyed in the late 1990s, 50 percent had not heard of the Cold War. Sixty percent could not say how the United States came into existence. Fifty percent did not know in which century the Civil War occurred. Sixty percent could name each of the Three Stooges but not the three branches of the U.S. government. Sixty percent could not comprehend an editorial in a national or local newspaper.

Intellectual distinction isn’t everything, it’s true. But things are amiss in other areas as well: sociability and trust, for example. “During the last third of the twentieth century,” according to Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone, “all forms of social capital fell off precipitously.” Tens of thousands of community groups – church social and charitable groups, union halls, civic clubs, bridge clubs, and yes, bowling leagues — disappeared; by Putnam’s estimate, one-third of our social infrastructure vanished in these years. Frequency of having friends to dinner dropped by 45 percent; card parties declined 50 percent; Americans’ declared readiness to make new friends declined by 30 percent. Belief that most other people could be trusted dropped from 77 percent to 37 percent. Over a five-year period in the 1990s, reported incidents of aggressive driving rose by 50 percent — admittedly an odd, but probably not an insignificant, indicator of declining social capital.

Still, even if American education is spotty and the social fabric is fraying, the fact that the U.S. is the world’s richest nation must surely make a great difference to our quality of life? Alas, no. As every literate person knows, economic inequality in the United States is off the charts – at third-world levels. The results were recently summarized by James Speth in Orion magazine. Of the 20 advanced democracies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. has the highest poverty rate, for both adults and children; the lowest rate of social mobility; the lowest score on UN indexes of child welfare and gender inequality; the highest ratio of health care expenditure to GDP, combined with the lowest life expectancy and the highest rates of infant mortality, mental illness, obesity, inability to afford health care, and personal bankruptcy resulting from medical expenses; the highest homicide rate; and the highest incarceration rate. Nor are the baneful effects of America’s social and economic order confined within our borders; among OECD nations the U.S. also has the highest carbon dioxide emissions, the highest per capita water consumption, the next-to-largest ecological footprint, the next-to-lowest score on the Yale Environmental Performance Index, the highest (by a colossal margin) per capita rate of military spending and arms sales, and the next-to-lowest rate of per capita spending on international development and humanitarian assistance.

Contemplating these dreary statistics, one might well conclude that the United States is — to a distressing extent — a nation of violent, intolerant, ignorant, superstitious, passive, shallow, boorish, selfish, unhealthy, unhappy people, addicted to flickering screens, incurious about other societies and cultures, unwilling or unable to assert or even comprehend their nominal political sovereignty. Or, more simply, that America is a failure.

That is indeed what Morris Berman concludes in his three-volume survey of America’s decline: The Twilight of American Culture (2000), Dark Ages America (2006), andWhy America Failed (2011), from which much of the preceding information is taken. Berman is a cultural and intellectual historian, not a social scientist, so his portrait of American civilization, or barbarism, is anecdotal and atmospheric as well as statistical. He is eloquent about harder-to-quantify trends: the transformation of higher (even primary/secondary) education into marketing arenas for predatory corporations; the new form of educational merchandising known as “distance learning”; the colonization of civic and cultural spaces by corporate logos; the centrality of malls and shopping to our social life; the “systematic suppression of silence” and the fact that “there is barely an empty space in our culture not already carrying commercial messages.” Idiot deans, rancid rappers, endlessly chattering sports commentators, an avalanche of half-inch-deep self-help manuals; a plague of gadgets, a deluge of stimuli, an epidemic of rudeness, a desert of mutual indifference: the upshot is our daily immersion in a suffocating stream of kitsch, blather, stress, and sentimental banality. Berman colorfully and convincingly renders the relentless coarsening and dumbing down of everyday life in late (dare we hope?) American capitalism.

In Spenglerian fashion, Berman seeks the source of our civilization’s decline in its innermost principle, its animatingGeist. What he finds at the bottom of our culture’s soul is … hustling; or, to use its respectable academic sobriquet, possessive individualism. Expansion, accumulation, economic growth: this is the ground bass of American history, like the hum of a dynamo in the basement beneath the polite twitterings on the upper stories about “liberty” and “a light unto the nations.” Berman scarcely mentions Marx or historical materialism; instead he offers a nonspecialist and accessible but deeply informed and amply documented review of American history, period by period, war by war, arguing persuasively that whatever the ideological superstructure, the driving energy behind policy and popular aspiration has been a ceaseless, soulless acquisitiveness.

The colonial period, the seedbed of American democracy, certainly featured a good deal of God-talk and virtue-talk, but Mammon more than held its own. Berman sides emphatically with Louis Hartz, who famously argued in The Liberal Tradition in America that American society was essentially Lockean from the beginning: individualistic, ambitious, protocapitalist, with a weak and subordinate communitarian ethic. He finds plenty of support elsewhere as well; for example in Perry Miller, the foremost historian of Puritanism, according to whom the American mind has always “positively lusted for the chance to yield itself to the gratification of technology.” Even Tocqueville, who made many similar observations, “could not comprehend,” wrote Miller, “the passion with which [early Americans] flung themselves into the technological torrent, how they … cried to each other as they went headlong down the chute that here was their destiny, here was the tide that would sweep them toward the unending vistas of prosperity.” Even Emerson and Whitman went through a phase of infatuation with industrial progress, though Hawthorne and Thoreau apparently always looked on the juggernaut with clearer (or more jaundiced) eyes.

Berman also sides, for the most part, with Charles Beard, who drew attention to the economic conflicts underlying the American Revolution and the Civil War. Beard may have undervalued the genuine intellectual ferment that accompanied the Revolution, but he was not wrong in perceiving the motivating force of the pervasive commercial ethic of the age. Joyce Appleby, another eminent historian, poses this question to those who idealize America’s founding: “If the Revolution was fought in a frenzy over corruption, out of fear of tyranny, and with hopes for redemption through civic virtue, where and when are scholars to find the sources for the aggressive individualism, the optimistic materialism, and the pragmatic interest-group politics that became so salient so early in the life of the nation?”

By the mid-nineteenth century, the predominance of commercial interests in American politics was unmistakable. Berman’s lengthy discussion of the Civil War as the pivot of American history takes for granted the inadequacy of triumphalist views of the Civil War. It was not a “battle cry of freedom.” Slavery was central, but for economic rather than moral reasons. The North represented economic modernity and the ethos of material progress; the economy and ethos of the South, based on slavery, was premodern and static. The West — and with it the shape of America’s economic future — was up for grabs, and the North grabbed it away from an equally determined South. Except for the abolitionists, no whites, North or South, gave a damn about blacks. How the West (like the North and South before it) was grabbed, in an orgy of greed, violence, and deceit against the original inhabitants, is a familiar story.

Even more than in Beard, Berman finds his inspiration in William Appleman Williams. When McKinley’s secretary of state John Hay advocated “an open door through which America’s preponderant economic strength would enter and dominate all underdeveloped areas of the world” and his successor William Jennings Bryan (the celebrated populist and anti-imperialist!) told a gathering of businessmen in 1915 that “my Department is your department; the ambassadors, the ministers, the consuls are all yours; it is their business to look after your interests and to guard your rights,” they were enunciating the soul of American foreign policy, as was the much-lauded Wise Man George Kennan when he wrote in a post-World War II State Department policy planning document: “We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population … In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity … To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives … We should cease to talk about vague and … unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”

As a former medievalist, Berman finds contemporary parallels to the fall of Rome compelling. By the end of the empire, he points out, economic inequality was drastic and increasing, the legitimacy and efficacy of the state was waning, popular culture was debased, civic virtue among elites was practically nonexistent, and imperial military commitments were hopelessly unsustainable. As these volumes abundantly illustrate, this is 21st century America in a nutshell. The capstone of Berman’s demonstration is a sequence of three long, brilliant chapters in Dark Ages America on the Cold War, the Pax Americana, CIA and military interventions in the Third World, and in particular U.S. policy in the Middle East, where racism and rapacity have combined to produce a stunning debacle. Our hysterical national response to 9/11 — our inability even to make an effort to comprehend the long-festering consequences of our imperial predations — portended, as clearly as anything could, the demise of American global supremacy.

What will become of us? After Rome’s fall, wolves wandered through the cities and Europe largely went to sleep for six centuries. That will not happen again; too many transitions — demographic, ecological, technological, cybernetic — have intervened. The planet’s metabolism has altered. The new Dark Ages will be socially, politically, and spiritually dark, but the economic Moloch — mass production and consumption, destructive growth, instrumental rationality — will not disappear. Few Americans want it to. We are hollow, Berman concludes. It is a devastatingly plausible conclusion.

An interval — long or short, only the gods can say — of oligarchic, intensely surveilled, bread-and-circuses authoritarianism, Blade Runner- or Fahrenheit 451-style, seems the most likely outlook for the 21st and 22nd centuries. Still, if most humans are shallow and conformist, some are not. There is reason to hope that the ever fragile but somehow perennial traditions and virtues of solidarity, curiosity, self-reliance, courtesy, voluntary simplicity, and an instinct for beauty will survive, even if underground for long periods. And cultural rebirths do occur, or at any rate have occurred.

Berman offers little comfort, but he does note a possible role for those who perceive the inevitability of our civilization’s decline. He calls it the “monastic option.” Our eclipse may, after all, not be permanent; and meanwhile individuals and small groups may preserve the best of our culture by living against the grain, within the interstices, by “creating ‘zones of intelligence’ in a private, local way, and then deliberately keeping them out of the public eye.” Even if one’s ideals ultimately perish, this may be the best way to live while they are dying.

There is something immensely refreshing, even cathartic, about Berman’s refusal to hold out any hope of avoiding our civilization’s demise. And our reaction goes some way toward proving his point: We are so sick of hucksters, of authors trying — like everyone else on all sides at all times in this pervasively hustling culture — to sell us something, that it is a relief to encounter someone who isn’t, who has no designs on our money or votes or hopes, who simply has looked into the depths, into our catastrophic future, and is compelled to describe it, as Cassandra was. No doubt his efforts will meet with equal success.

Resilient People More Satisfied With Life (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2012) — When confronted with adverse situations such as the loss of a loved one, some people never fully recover from the pain. Others, the majority, pull through and experience how the intensity of negative emotions (e.g. anxiety, depression) grows dimmer with time until they adapt to the new situation. A third group is made up of individuals whose adversities have made them grow personally and whose life takes on new meaning, making them feel stronger than before.

Researchers at the Basic Psychology Unit at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona analyzed the responses of 254 students from the Faculty of Psychology in different questionnaires. The purpose was to evaluate their level of satisfaction with life and find connections between their resilience and their capacity of emotional recovery, one of the components of emotional intelligence which consists in the ability to control one’s emotions and those of others.

Research data shows that students who are more resilient, 20% of those surveyed, are more satisfied with their lives and are also those who believe they have control over their emotions and their state of mind. Resilience therefore has a positive prediction effect on the level of satisfaction with one’s life.

“Some of the characteristics of being resilient can be worked on and improved, such as self-esteem and being able to regulate one’s emotions. Learning these techniques can offer people the resources needed to help them adapt and improve their quality of life”, explains Dr Joaquín T Limonero, professor of the UAB Research Group on Stress and Health at UAB and coordinator of the research.

Published recently in Behavioral Psychology, the study included the participation of UAB researcher Jordi Fernández Castro; professors of the Gimbernat School of Nursing (a UAB-affiliated centre) Joaquín Tomás-Sábado and Amor Aradilla Herrera; and psychologist and researcher of Egarsat, M. José Gómez-Romero.