According to researchers from University College London, the above formula can be used to calculate happiness. They recently published this formula in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and described its gist like this: “Happiness spikes when we win and our expectations are low—but that happiness gradually fades over time.”
This is all well-and-good, of course, but I do have one major problem that may impede my own happiness: I suck at math!
Anyone have a calculator I can borrow?
In a recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry, German researchers suggested that watching more pornography may be linked to reduced gray matter in the brain and less brain activity in the areas linked to rewards.
Researchers questioned a relatively small sample of men—64 between the ages of 21 and 45, to be exact—about their porn-watching habits and recorded their brains’ reactions to pornographic images. Men who viewed a lot of porn showed less activity in the brain area activated by sexual stimuli—and the part of the brain related to the processing of rewards was also smaller.
Unfortunately, this study could not determine whether porn watching led to these deficits or if some people were born with brain characteristics that resulted in more porn watching.
I’m no scientist, but might it be possible that all the blood rushing out of these guys’ brains and into their nether regions could be causing these issues?
According to the website Dangers of Fracking, hydraulic fracturing is “the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.” And at the moment, there are more than 500,000 active natural gas wells in the United States.
Unfortunately, my home state of North Carolina is looking to add more wells to the mix, thanks primarily to Republicans who hope to remove a state moratorium preventing hydraulic fracturing. And on Wednesday, preliminary approval for fracking passed with a House vote of 63-52, which means permits for natural gas removal could begin being issued as early as next year. Oh joy!
To support their efforts, proponents of hydraulic fracturing focus primarily on two perceived benefits of this controversial practice. The first is obviously more abundant fuel, since natural gas pockets are everywhere. And the second benefit—which is equally obvious—is a boost to the local economies of any towns, cities or counties brave enough to incorporate fracking into their energy plans.
Of course, when you examine the potential dangers of fracking, it hardly seems worth the trouble. Consider the following statistics, which again come from the website Dangers of Fracking:
- Each gas well requires 400 tanker trucks to carry water and supplies to and from the sites.
- It takes 1-8 million gallons of water to complete each fracturing job.
- The water used in fracking is mixed with sand and chemicals to create fracking fluid—and approximately 40,000 gallons of chemicals are used during each fracturing.
- Fracking fluid is created with up to 600 chemicals, including toxins and carcinogens like lead, mercury, uranium, methanol, hydrochloric acid, radium and even formaldehyde. This fluid is pressure injected into the ground through a pipeline—usually down 10,000 feet or more—where it cracks shale rock and creates fissures where natural gas flows into the well.
- During the fracking process, methane gas and toxic chemicals leak out from the system and can contaminate ground water. In fact, the concentrations of methane in drinking-water wells near fracking sites are 17 times higher than in normal wells.
- Only 30-50% of the fracturing fluid is recovered, while the rest remains in the ground… and it is not biodegradable, either.
- The waste fluid is left in open air pits to evaporate and releases harmful VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) into the atmosphere, which can contaminate the air, create ground-level ozone and even cause acid rain.
- To date, there have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near gas drilling areas, as well as cases of respiratory, sensory and neurological damage due to the ingestion of contaminated water.
Sorry, but I’d rather find other ways to provide clean energy—ways that won’t destroy the environment or kill people. Unfortunately, oil companies and other fossil fuel peddlers disagree because ultimately, moving to alternative energies reduces their profits—and we certainly can’t have that, can we?
It’s all pretty sad if you consider that America could run completely on alternative energies and eliminate its reliance on fossil fuels altogether. Combining things like wind, solar, wave, tidal and even geothermal power could make oil and natural gas little more than memories, while also saving an environment that appears to be deteriorating at a much more rapid pace. Of course, all you hear is how expensive it is to fund renewable energy systems, and that’s exactly what lawmakers want you to believe. If we feel we can’t afford them, then we’re far less likely to disturb the status quo or rock the proverbial fossil fuel boat, after all.
Too bad this is a huge, stinky load of horse shit.
The truth is that if we all worked together—and put financial concerns aside—we could utilize clean, renewable energy across our great nation and end up saving money, lives and the environment in the process. We could also reduce or eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, which in turn would make military operations like those that occurred in Iraq and Kuwait unnecessary. And we all know why America fought so hard to remove Saddam Hussein from power: to protect its oil!
Sadly, money talks and big business opposes anything that might take cash from their coffers, so alternative energies—some of which have been available for decades—remain just that: alternative. And though I remain optimistic that America will eventually “see the light” and start utilizing things like solar and wind power more frequently, I fear nothing will change as long as we allow corporations and politicians to run our country.
In other words, the time for an energy revolution has come, people. So when supporters of hydraulic fracturing come calling, do us all a favor and tell them to “go frack themselves.” The future is now and if there is any “energy hope” left for humanity, it won’t come from fossil fuels and natural gas; it will come from renewable energy.
Too bad lawmakers in North Carolina are too blind, greedy and self-serving to see that. Crazy bastards…
After posting at least one article each day for more than a year and a half, it wasn’t sloth, boredom or even a natural disaster that finally ended my streak; it was a stomach bug.
Yes, for the last two days I have been a wretched and disgusting mess thanks to some kind of stomach virus my son passed on to me. He’s only six and his school is little more than a Petri dish for germs and bacteria, so I certainly can’t blame him. All I can do is try to recover and, to be honest, day two still has me feeling shaky and weak.
I stopped puking my guts out every few hours, so at least I know that I’m getting better.
Of course, blogging yesterday was impossible for any number of reasons, not the least of which was the lack of space for a laptop on the bathroom floor. Even if it had fit, I’m sure it would be useless once I covered it in vomit. And I’m confident that’s how things would have played out, so I didn’t bother risking it.
Feeling slightly better today, I did manage to drag my ass up to my office to access my desktop computer. It’s older and if I destroy it with regurgitated bodily fluids, at least I’ll have an excuse to replace it. I even managed to troll the news headlines, just to see if there was anything that piqued my interest. And it didn’t take me long to find something relatable to my current and miserable state, either.
It was a story about a virus.
Apparently, scientists working in Siberia recently uncovered a giant virus dating back 30,000 years—around the time that wooly mammoths and saber-tooth tigers walked the earth. Pithovirus sibericum—a newly discovered third family of giant viruses that infects amoebas but is harmless to humans—was found in the Siberian permafrost, which like most polar regions is thawing at an alarming rate. And scientists warn that buried even deeper in the ice could be the next big threat to life on this planet.
“This is an indication that viruses pathogenic for human or animals might also be preserved in old permafrost layers,” co-author of the study Jean-Michel Claverie indicated, “including some that have caused planet-wide epidemics in the past.”
Personally, I think I’ll stick with the stomach bug…
This article was originally published on July 13, 2012 and didn’t get much play—you can find the original HERE. However, given all the talk of excessive heat, climate change and natural disasters lately, I figured what the hell? Toss it out there again and see if it strikes a nerve with readers the second time around. It was pretty fun to write—being sarcastic and stupid is a hoot, which is why I do it so often—so I hope you enjoy it. And please remember to do the OPPOSITE of everything you read here. I’m sure that will be obvious in a moment, but it makes me feel better to say it… um, write it, I mean.
Everyone talks about how to save the Earth. They stress the importance of recycling, planting trees, controlling waste and a host of other things that, if practiced by everyone, could return the planet to a healthier state. Of course, I’m not an environmentalist and only seem to “go green” when I have a cold, but all this talk about saving the Earth got me thinking.
What can we do to speed up Earth’s destruction?
Here are some ways you can contribute to Mother Nature’s ultimate demise.
Forget about recycling
Humans use and consume all sorts of different products, from foodstuffs and beverages to plastics and other manufactured materials. The next time you find yourself with waste that could be recycled, why not simply toss it in the trash instead? It’s much more convenient than crushing cans, breaking down cardboard boxes and hauling cumbersome recycling containers to the curb every week. And isn’t life supposed to be as convenient as possible?
Grow your local landfill
If you do toss out all your waste—including those plastic bottles—then an added bonus will be significant growth in your local landfill. And bigger is always better, right? Furthermore, the crap you send to the landfill contains toxins that over time will break down and produce methane gas, another pollutant that attacks our environment and kills wildlife. Talk about two birds with one stone.
Smoke them if you got them
Cigarettes, cigars and pipes all contribute to air pollution and may even infect other humans who inhale their toxic fumes. If your quest is to destroy the Earth, then I suggest smoking as much as possible. However, be careful not to smoke too close to your fellow humans. The more people who remain on the Earth, the faster we’ll be able to destroy it.
Take up hunting and fishing
The things we do to pollute the planet can be extremely harmful to the world’s wildlife. Streams and rivers full of medical waste kill fish and other organisms. Oil spills bathe birds and other marine life in thick, sweet goo. But somehow most of these species manage to survive and even thrive. To prevent this from happening, why not take up hunting or fishing as a hobby? Grab that shotgun, venture into the forest and start plugging every creature you see. Or take your favorite fishing rod to a nearby river and pull as many fish out as possible. And when you’re done, don’t bother bringing any of the carcasses home. Just leave them where they are so the methane produced from their decomposition will contribute to the air pollution I described earlier.
Trees be gone
As human populations grow, so does the need for more space. High-rise apartment buildings and other vertical structures are fine, but the forests provide even more room for us to spread out horizontally. Taking down as many trees as possible not only provides fuel for heat—along with all the pollutants you create from burning it—but also plenty of materials for building new homes. Those squirrels and deer can find another place to live. And while killing all those plants won’t cause too much soil erosion, I’m sure we can find ways to improve that, too.
Practice unsafe sex
Using condoms, birth control pills and other contraceptives are recommended by many health professionals. Unfortunately, most of what these do is control pregnancy, which certainly doesn’t help when it comes to destroying the planet. What we need are more people, so put these things aside and start banging each other as often as you can… the natural way. With any luck, your one-night stand, girlfriend or wife will start shooting out kids like a Pez dispenser. The more, the merrier!
Trade that deodorant stick for a can
Aerosols provide another great tool for harming the Earth, more specifically the ozone layer. Scientists found a hole in the atmosphere above Antarctica some time ago, but we don’t hear as much about it today. This might be the result of some improvement in the stratosphere, which is totally unacceptable. We can reverse this trend by using aerosols as often as possible, preferably outdoors. And by all means, don’t be stingy. Spray those things as much as you can and I promise you that our goal will be much easier to accomplish!
Even though you might be going around the corner—close enough to walk—why not drive instead? It’s much more convenient and the perks—like air conditioners, cup holders and satellite radios—make it a lot more enjoyable than pounding the pavement. Just be sure to avoid hybrid vehicles and, if possible, use the oldest car you can find, preferably something built before 1980. I also recommend less frequent oil changes because car exhaust is another great way to contribute to air pollution. And by no means should you ever carpool with others!
Green is good, but not always
When it comes to cold hard cash, then green is definitely good. In terms of saving the environment, however, this is something to be avoided at all costs. People may try to convince you to change your polluting ways, or you may encounter green websites while surfing the Internet, but don’t acknowledge them. All they want to do is sell you something—in this case environmentalism—so dodge them like crazy. Focus on collecting as much green money as possible and then spend it on something more practical, like a used car from the 1970s or some chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in those aerosol cans I referenced.
Spread the word
Whenever you get the chance to share some of this advice with others, do it. They may be resistant or even angry at first, but be persistent. And if you ever encounter someone speaking about environmental issues that contradict these ideas, find a way to interrupt or distract them. I find that asking a lot of meaningless or misleading questions works, but you might even try heckling. After all, we don’t need them trying to convince people to save the planet, do we?
By now, you should have everything you need to get started down the path to Earth’s destruction. And I hope you’re already doing some of the things mentioned here. It’s never too late to start and, working together, I am confident we can make this happen. When it comes to environmental issues, I find apathy to be a wonderful approach and one that is practiced by millions of people around the world. Join us if you feel like belonging to something larger than yourself. We’re very easy to find.
Buried in the ice was a female mammoth dating back 10,000 years.
“We suppose that the mammoth fell into water or got bogged down in a swamp, could not free herself and died,” explained Semyon Grigoriev, the leader of the expedition and head of the university’s Mammoth Museum.
And let me tell you, we are lucky this ancient beast died in such a manner. Its entire lower body was packed into pure ice and, as a result, researchers found something incredible when they poked the carcass below the belly.
Thick, dark blood flowed out of it. Mammoth blood.
The implications of this discovery are numerous, but number one on the list has got to be cloning. Finding mammoth blood is like John Hammond discovering dinosaur blood in the bodies of amber-encased mosquitoes and using it to stock Jurassic Park with prehistoric creatures.
We have mammoth DNA and we have the technology, so I guess it’s only fitting that someone try to recreate this amazing animal. And it looks like that someone is none other than Hwang Woo-suk, the disgraced scientist who claimed to have cloned human stem cells in 2004 but soon admitted to faking his results.
Woo-suk now heads up the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which will work jointly with Grigoriev to clone a woolly mammoth. For the latest developments in this ongoing story, stay tuned to National Geographic by going HERE.
So there’s the first big implication for this amazing discovery: we may someday go to a zoo whose main attraction will be the once-extinct woolly mammoth. Crazy, but there is another reason to celebrate this historic find, I think.
When the Russian researchers poked the mammoth’s belly and saw blood leak out, they noted that it was still in liquid form. How could this be possible in sub-zero-degree weather, you ask? The answer is cryoprotectant.
And no, that isn’t some kind of Eskimo deodorant, in case you were wondering.
Biology Online defines cryoprotectant as a “substance that is used to protect from the effects of freezing, largely by preventing large ice crystals from forming.” Some amphibians and fish that live in extremely cold climates—primarily near the poles—have this substance in them to minimize tissue damage from freezing temperatures.
Which brings me to my question: Could this same substance be genetically engineered into humans someday?
Doing so would allow human beings to survive in much colder environments, which could come in handy if climate change leads to another ice age—or war leads to nuclear winter—whatever the case may be. At the very least, we could branch out into frozen wastelands and offer more convenient parking at the new Wal-Mart Antarctica location.
I guess what all this boils down to is a vision… a vision of myself on some uncharted and frozen tundra… wearing only shorts and a t-shirt thanks to the cryoprotectant running through me… riding on a nice, warm woolly mammoth the South Koreans made for me… enjoying the crisp, clean air and placing footsteps where they have never before existed.
Ah, the dream of a science nerd. But you have to admit that it is at least possible now, and all because some Russians stumbled across an old, hairy elephant in the ice.
Coincidence? I wonder…
Vampires have always fascinated me. And no, this fascination did not begin with Twilight. If anything, that horrible movie franchise only served to strengthen my love of bloodsuckers.
After all, if I can survive Kristen Stewart‘s terrible acting and vampires who suffer more from teen angst than blood lust, I can handle anything, right?
What I love most about vampires—or the idea of vampires, since we all know they don’t exist (we hope)—isn’t the ability to transform into mist, a bat or even a wolf. It isn’t even the dark, brooding coolness you obtain the moment you turn into the undead.
It’s the immortality. That’s what appeals to me the most.
I know what you’re thinking: Why would anyone want to live indefinitely? Doomed to pay taxes, endure stupidity and otherwise suffer through the banality of a life that never ends? And what’s more, why would anyone choose to live eternally only at night?
Surely there is more to see in the light of the sun than in the glow of the moon.
Yes, I believe there is, but it’s the experience that vampires gain along the way that attracts me to them. Think of all the things they see—even after sunset—that transform our world: new technology, historical events, natural disasters, even evolutionary shifts. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of years of human development, right there at your fingertips.
And every so often, an actual human beneath your hungry fangs, blood warm and salty sweet, as you steal their life to sustain your own cursed existence.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Alas, it will never happen, but there are other ways to taste immortality. And these days, they don’t come from superstition or folk-lore; they come from science.
Among many science fiction geeks—including me—there is a dream… sort of a fantasy… about having your brain or at least your consciousness transferred to a robot, android or synthetic human. In this vessel, and free from the expiration date of human meat, you can live forever, at least theoretically.
Well, fellow geeks and science nerds, we are one step closer to realizing that dream. Check this out.
The researchers showed their subjects a rubber hand being stroked by a paintbrush. At the same time, they performed the same action on the subject’s hand, which was hidden from sight. After a while, the subjects began to think of the rubber hand as their own.
In other words, their brains were tricked into thinking that artificial body parts were their own bodies. See where I’m going with this?
You just wait.
Flash forward to present day and Mel Slater, a computer scientist at the University of Barcelona who decided to take the rubber hand illusion one huge step forward.
Slater and his team used virtual reality to determine if the human mind could be fooled into thinking a computer-generated body was its own. Subjects wore head-mounted displays that allowed them to look down at their virtual bodies. These bodies came in one of two varieties: either they looked similar to their real bodies or were gross distortions of them.
Next, Slater introduced cooling devices and had his subjects place their hands on them. Using slight temperature changes—both real and virtual—he noticed something very interesting: subjects with more realistic “avatars” seemed to consider their virtual hands as their own—they experienced temperature changes in the virtual world that did not exist in reality.
What this means is that the real bodies and the virtual bodies of these subjects merged into a single perception. Their minds accepted the artificial vessels, and that’s what makes this so important in realizing “The Dream.”
I know we don’t have brain transplants and haven’t figured out how to upload someone’s consciousness to a computer or artificial being yet, but this new development at least shows that our minds could handle it. And that, my nerdy friends, brings us one step closer to immortality.
Techo-immortality, I suppose, but immortality nonetheless.
If I ever find myself channel surfing on the television and come across the 1998 film Armageddon, I normally stop to watch. Like many of you, I have seen the Bruce Willis–Ben Affleck film so many times that I can basically quote it from memory, but it’s still pretty entertaining.
And before last month, it also seemed kind of far-fetched. Now I’m not so sure.
It all started in February when that meteor exploded over southwestern Russia, injuring more than a thousand people and destroying property (especially windows) for miles around. The same day, a huge asteroid passed within 17,000 miles of Earth.
Sounds a little like Armageddon, don’t you think?
I’ve heard that neither of these pose any threat to our planet, but you never know.
What worries me more is a huge asteroid that’s scheduled to pass by Saturday afternoon. It’s supposedly the size of a city block, around 260 feet wide. At its closest, it should be roughly 600,000 miles away from the Earth, which translates to more than twice the distance from the Earth to the moon.
In other words, we should be good. There haven’t been any warnings on the news and people aren’t rioting in the streets, so I assume we’re safe from this space rock.
But there will be others.
The frightening thing about this massive asteroid is that scientists only discovered it last Sunday. Humans don’t yet have the technology to find large objects like this one until they get pretty close. Our telescopes just aren’t strong enough.
Here’s what this means to me: there could be an asteroid of planet-killing size heading right for us. And if there is, we will only get a week’s advance notice before it slams into Earth and destroys every trace of life on our planet.
Okay. That sounds a little paranoid, but it certainly could be true. I certainly hope not, but it is mathematically possible.
Of course, the mathematical possibility of this happening used to be one in a zillion or something—or so we all heard around the time Armageddon was released—but it looks like the odds have improved, at least from the asteroid’s perspective.
Hypothetically speaking, what would have happened if this huge asteroid (known as 2013ET) impacted the Earth rather than floating by it? For a scientific explanation, I turn to Marshall Brain, founder of HowStuffWorks.com, and his essay “What if an asteroid hit the Earth?” He actually describes the potential consequences of a 200 foot asteroid hitting our planet. Granted, 2013ET is slightly larger, but this should give you a good idea:
If the asteroid is as big as a 20-story building (200 feet on a side), it has an amount of energy equal to the largest nuclear bombs made today — on the order of 25 to 50 megatons. An asteroid like this would flatten reinforced concrete buildings five miles from ground zero. It would completely destroy most major cities in the United States.
That’s pretty scary, if you ask me. And if 2013ET were a mile wide (over 5000 feet), all life as we know it would end. Thank goodness neither of these happened.
At least for now.
But the Big One could be out there somewhere, slowly drifting towards Earth and bringing with it what all humans fear: the real Armageddon.
Someone better have Bruce Willis on standby!
At approximately 9 a.m. Friday morning, a meteor ripped through the sky above Russia’s Urals region, exploded with a loud boom and produced a shock wave that damaged buildings and injured more than 700 people.
Although injury reports continue to climb, the majority have been minor cuts and scrapes resulting from the glass shattered in buildings where people work or reside. Thankfully, though, no deaths have been reported, at least not yet.
Schools and hospitals were also affected, but again no one was seriously hurt.
According to Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, one large meteoroid entered Earth’s atmosphere and shattered into fragments, sending meteors of varying sizes across the Russian landscape. The governor of Chelyabinsk even reported finding a large chunk in a nearby lake.
This isn’t the first time Russia has been slammed by space debris. In 1908, a huge asteroid exploded over Siberia and levelled trees across an area of more than 800 square miles. Of course, the area was so sparsely populated that humans remained largely unaffected.
Heck, I’m not even sure Siberia is all that populated now. Isn’t that where Russia ships its worst inmates to serve out their sentences in cold, remote prisons? Granted, I’m American and may be completely misinformed, but that’s what I’ve always heard.
I have to admit that this story is exciting, but it’s also kind of troubling. Films like Armageddon and Deep Impact considered what might happen if a large asteroid came barreling towards Earth. And I’m not talking about some little space rock, either. I’m talking about a big boy capable of destroying us all.
In each film, humans reacted by sending a team of astronauts, miners, drillers and other “specialists” into space to plant bombs on the asteroid and blow it to smithereens before it even came close to our planet. In reality, though, something like this would never happen. Aside from the exorbitant cost of such a mission, which would have to be shouldered by many nations rather than a few, the odds of people actually working together and coming to some agreement quickly might be impossible. By the time all the politicians and military leaders finally do agree, it will likely be too late.
The fortunate thing is that most experts discount the possibility of this ever happening or consider the odds extremely remote. Then again, there is an asteroid known as 2012 DA14 that is supposed to pass by Earth soon and could destroy us if it decides to change course. The last report I heard estimated its size at roughly 45 meters (or 50 yards, for those of you not comfortable with the metric system). And even though it’s estimated to come no closer than 17,000 miles from our celestial home, I won’t breathe easy until it’s finally moving in the opposite direction.
Doomsday preppers and other would-be soothsayers will probably view this Russian meteor explosion and the impending asteroid fly by as signs that the end is near. And who knows? They could be right.
For me, though, this represents just one more thing that could spell disaster for humankind. It just has to get in line behind violence, economic meltdowns, climate change and everything else that plagues our society.
Since the petition garnered roughly 34,000 signatures, and since the White House responds to all petitions with 25,000 signatures or more, it was only a matter of time before the request was answered.
And on Friday, that answer finally came: NO.
“The administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon,” Paul Shawcross wrote in the official White House statement. Shawcross is chief of the Science and Space Branch of the Office of Management and Budget.
“Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that’s helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations,” Shawcross continued. And then he tipped his hat to the Lucas science fiction universe and proved that he was also a fan.
“Even though the United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we’ve got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we’re building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun.”
So it looks like a Death Star will have to wait, but for how long?