ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Now this product has potential: heating patches for clothes. They're supposed to be lightweight, flexible, and efficient.  

For me, the usability comes down to comfort: if it feels like soft fabric I can use it, but not if it's scratchy or stiff.  If soft, it would represent a big improvement over adding yet! another! layer! or stuffing a hot sock down my sweater.  There are all kinds of products to trap heat or put heat in, but most of them are clunky.  A truly lightweight one would be awesome, and I would pay extra for it if it was in my budget.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
This article describes an implant that can shut off hunger signals.  It has some positive potential, but also a lot of serious risks that I don't think people are considering.

* It's ideal for treating nonsense hunger.  That is, hunger which does not impose a concrete penalty for ignoring it.  Emotional eating and social eating both fall into this category.  \o/

* It's very bad for situations where the appetite signals hunger, and without eating, penalties such as headache, stomachache, and irritability ensue.  Those need a different solution.

* It doesn't have a user-controllable off switch.  That means you can't, for example, allow yourself to eat a full healthy meal and then use the device to quell urges for snacking.  It seems to get stuck in nibble mode.

* Drastically reducing food intake without improving the quality  of food would greatly increase dietary illnesses.  Most American food is high in calories but pretty low in actual nutrients. Cut the food and people who already aren't getting quite enough vitamins will suddenly be getting up to 40% less.  No, you can't simply replace those will pills, because bioavailability is much lower with pills than with actual food.

Do you think doctors will care about these factors?  I don't.  I think they'll use the same bullying tactics they already do with other things, and once this device becomes available, it'll be "Get this implant and stop being such a pig, or you don't get any health care."  Which will predictably make people's health worse, because many people already avoid health care because they don't wish to be abused about their weight, and that undermines health. But not as much as letting people hurt you, so for many folks it's a valid trade, even if it's less good than what they should  have with good care.  This is regrettable because the device sounds ideal for treating a subset of overeating which is pretty common.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Although the exact causes vary, life expectancy is declining for multiple groups of Americans.

For Hispanics, overdoses and suicides are the leading causes of death.
For non-Hispanic whites, both men and women, overdoses and alcohol-related diseases appear to drive increased mortality.
For non-Hispanic black women, diabetes-related mortality is increasing.
For non-Hispanic black men, leading causes are cancer, alcohol-related diseases and external causes, such as traffic accidents

All of those, with the probable exception of "external causes," can be caused or exacerbated by poverty, social insecurity, and other problems indicative of a dysfunctional society.  All of the substance-abuse problems, and cancer to the extent it is caused by substances such as tobacco, relate to self-medicating to endure a miserable life.  Diabetes and cancer are much deadlier when preventive and maintenance care are difficult or impossible to obtain, and they occur disproportionately in populations with poor environmental health (e.g. next to a toxic waste dump) and diet (e.g. commodity foods, which are harmful to the point of genocide).  Suicide is the most unmistakable and irrevocable "I SAID NO" that a former citizen can give to society, and it is rising not only in oppressed groups but also seemingly "good" lives that are so stressful as to be unendurable.

A couple of groups not mentioned: Native Americans have a ruinously high death rate due to things like suicide, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and substance abuse.  Maternal and infant perinatal deaths are skyrocketing, thank you Texas and the rest of the South.  None of which is an accident.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Discovered because she probably licked a brush while painting with lapis lazuli

Either that, or she didn't think to label her cups "Paint Water" and "NOT Paint Water."  :D
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Warmer oceans make stronger waves.  

If you are a surfer stuck with mediocre beaches, this is an asset.

But to most swimmers, some boaters, people with beach property, and everyone who wants the sand to stay put instead of washing away, it's a bad thing.  Also it's hard on beach wildlife such as grunion and turtles because heavier surf impedes their reproductive successes.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
These tiny robots are soft and flexible, controlled via magnets, and designed to navigate the complex terrain of the human body.  \o/ 
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
This article predicts wilder weather due to climate change.  I've been warning people all along that the Earth can move blindingly fast at times, and that we don't know how the system works that we're messing with, so forget precision in prediction.  You'll have to be satisfied with "FUBAR." 

Also, I have no faith in this new information altering public policy.  Mostly politicians want to stave off change as long as possible. They have that power.  They won't change unless forced to.  As climate change is already upon us and we are long past the point where doing anything about it would mitigate the changes to bearable levels, continuing to fuck around will likely result in a "beyond all recognition" scenario. 

Worth mentioning: impact of sea level rise depends primarily on two factors: total height above sea level and degree of slope.  Nations with a low maximum height (the Maldives is just a few meters at most) and/or a very gradual slope will be largely or wholly inundated.  Those whose coast consists of tall steep cliffs needn't worry on that point.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Here's an article about human stupidity: the shrinking number of crops grown in agriculture.  This is so obviously a bad idea that advice against it goes all the way back to "don't put all your eggs in one basket."  The more diverse an ecosystem, the healthier it is; the less diverse, the less healthy.  That's because pests and pathogens spread rapidly in dense populations, and worst of all in monocultures.  Furthermore, when lots of people plant the exact same cultivars across whole regions, anything that hits one can wipe out a huge portion of the produce.  When I was little we had a corn smut in Illinois, and lost about a third of the crop, because every field with the susceptible cultivar turned black and died.  I said, "That was stupid.  We should stop doing that so this doesn't happen again."  Decades later, the narrowing is even worse in some regards.

On the bright side, we haven't lost all diversity yet, and there are still influential levers within the reach of most people.  You can grow heirloom varieties, or buy them whenever you find them.  Creating a demand for wider diversity will encourage producers to sell it.  Just buying brown eggs helps, because it means stocking something like Rhode Island reds in addition to white leghorns.  Two is better than one.  If you can get pastured eggs from a mixed flock, so much the better.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
This article explores whether people feel that moral rules should apply to robots. Now if the robot is simply a machine, it is not morally relevant; but if it is self-aware, then it is. The study started out showing surprisingly good results: the more a robot was presented as personlike, the more humans were inclined to protect it. This is great! Maybe we're not Matrix murderers after all. That would be awesome. Except then the researchers drew this conclusion:

"The more the robot was depicted as human -- and in particular the more feelings were attributed to the machine -- the less our experimental subjects were inclined to sacrifice it," says Paulus. "This result indicates that our study group attributed a certain moral status to the robot. One possible implication of this finding is that attempts to humanize robots should not go too far. Such efforts could come into conflict with their intended function -- to be of help to us."

They don't want tools.  They don't want AI offspring.  They just want slaves.  That's a really stupid idea.  >_<
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
This article raises some useful issues regarding human enhancement. But it overlooks a lot too.

Read more... )
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
This prosthesis will allow mental control and perception. 
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Humans use nerves in complex ways to detect, transmit, and interpret signals of texture.  Consider the range of sensitivity in the population -- some people wear lace because it's fashionable, others have to cut tags out of clothing.  As I have pointed out many times in the past, this may not be a mental difference at all; it could be physical.  Likely it's a combination of both.  We can only influence the mental aspect; we can't really make a body have more or fewer neurons, and we can only influence their behavior somewhat through indirect methods.  Often it makes more sense to modify the environment instead: thank you, people who invented silkscreened tagless t-shirts.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
A species of fish can pass the mirror test.  Some scientists immediately attempt to move the goals because they have predetermined that fish "should not" pass the test. >_<


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