The Nightshirt Sightings, Portents, Forebodings, Suspicions

Archive for 2008

Cosmic WTF

Wednesday, 17 September, 2008

A new article in Sky & Telescope magazine reports on a recent discovery of a highly anomalous “optical transient” detected by the Hubble telescope in the constellation Bootes. The object, in the location of no known star or galaxy, appeared and brightened to the 21st magnitude over a span of about 100 days, and then […]

The Neolithic Singularity (Cake Wars, part II)

Monday, 1 September, 2008

Ray Kurzweil and other techno-enthusiasts wax ecstatic over the coming “singularity” that will liberate humans from the limits of the physical body. Within a couple decades, through nanotechnology, we’ll be able to re-tool ourselves on the molecular/cellular level; ultimately, we’ll be able to upload our brains into machines and theoretically live forever. By “we,” I […]

Cake Wars (or: The coming food paradigm shift)

Saturday, 30 August, 2008

I work in the office of a small DC nonprofit. Sometimes the Executive Director brings Krispy Kreme donuts to the staff meeting on Monday mornings. Our vendors send us baskets with cookies, chocolates, or other sweets, so the lunch room is always a good place to forage for candy and other baked goods. And a […]

Self-control, willpower, and the “brain fog” effect

Thursday, 28 August, 2008

Even when we acknowledge the social and economic factors that lead to obesity (cheap, fattening food; huge portion sizes; marketing soda to kids; etc.), don’t we all still, ultimately, blame a person’s weight on their lack of self-control? A fat person just lacks willpower. The most compelling and novel part of Good Calories, Bad Calories […]

Good Calories, Bad Calories

Wednesday, 27 August, 2008

One of the best books I read last year, Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories (hereafter, GCBC), is coming out in paperback next month. I’ll probably have to pick it up, because both of my hardback copies (!) are lent out to friends, and you know how that goes. I can’t recommend this book enough. […]

Adventures in Osmazome, Pt. 1

Wednesday, 9 July, 2008

In my eternal quest for the quintessence, I make certain astonishing discoveries. It is my duty to disclose them, for the benefit of mankind. My latest, which will appear in the forthcoming Volume 5 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is Crème Rouge Praecox (for steak): Broil or grill a steak, however […]

Politely ignoring linguistic primitivity

Monday, 23 June, 2008

M.J. Harper (The Secret History of the English Language–see previous post) has been taken to task for an apparent misunderstanding of how evolution works: A form can’t evolve from another living form, goes the dogma; rather, two related forms are said to share a common ancestor. So, for example, humans did not evolve from chimpanzees; […]

The Secret History of the English Language

Monday, 23 June, 2008

Reckoning the origins of words is a politically significant exercise, and etymologies, wherever and whenever they are from, are notoriously full of shit. They always reflect someone’s political vested interests or fantasies of “who was here first.” Yet somehow the old dons who gave us our etymological bible, the OED, have always remained above suspicion. […]

Evolution of the Eye

Tuesday, 1 April, 2008

Wikipedia has a terrific, thorough and readable explanation of the evolution of the eye from earlier structures (directional photodetectors found in simple, even single-celled organisms). It has nice diagrams and pictures of the intermediate forms leading to this astonishing structure. Next time you have lunch with a Creationist or “intelligent design” proponent–who love to flog […]

The Annunciation (pt. 2)

Monday, 21 January, 2008

Alchemy was and remains the only science and art of bowing to the perception, of submitting to what can describe, in worldly terms, as “beauty,” so long as we understand that true beauty, which is formed in the eye of the beholder, is a perception of spirit in flesh, not of flesh alone. (It was […]