‘There’s not a joy the world can give like that it takes away.’ –Lord Byron


The pandemic is conventionally marked as having begun on 4 March 1918 […] The first wave of the flu lasted from the first quarter of 1918 and was relatively mild […]

The second wave began in the second half of August 1918 […] much more deadly than the first […]

In January 1919, a third wave hit Australia […] then spread quickly through Europe and the United States, where it lingered through the Spring and until June 1919. […] It was less severe than the second wave but still much more deadly than the initial first wave. […]

In spring 1920, a fourth wave occurred in isolated areas including New York City, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and some South American islands. […] Peru experienced a late wave in early 1920, and Japan had one from late 1919 to 1920, with the last cases in March. In Europe, five countries (Spain, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Switzerland) recorded a late peak between January–April 1920. […]

Scientists offer several possible explanations for the high mortality rate of the 1918 influenza pandemic […]

Studies have shown that the immune system of Spanish flu victims was weakened by adverse climate conditions which were particularly unseasonably cold and wet for extended periods of time during the duration of the pandemic. This affected especially WWI troops exposed to incessant rains and lower-than-average temperatures for the duration of the conflict, and especially during the second wave of the pandemic. […] The climate anomaly has been associated with an anthropogenic increase in atmospheric dust, due to the incessant bombardment; increased nucleation due to dust particles (cloud condensation nuclei) contributed to increased precipitation. […]

Some analyses have shown the virus to be particularly deadly because it triggers a cytokine storm, which ravages the stronger immune system of young adults. In contrast, a 2007 analysis of medical journals from the period of the pandemic found that the viral infection was no more aggressive than previous influenza strains. Instead, malnourishment, overcrowded medical camps and hospitals, and poor hygiene, all exacerbated by the recent war, promoted bacterial superinfection. This superinfection killed most of the victims, typically after a somewhat prolonged death bed.

The 1918 Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by H1N1 influenza A virus; the second was the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move

Founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel and some fellow PayPal alumni, Palantir cut its teeth working for the Pentagon and the CIA in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company’s engineers and products don’t do any spying themselves; they’re more like a spy’s brain, collecting and analyzing information that’s fed in from the hands, eyes, nose, and ears. The software combs through disparate data sources—financial documents, airline reservations, cellphone records, social media postings—and searches for connections that human analysts might miss. It then presents the linkages in colorful, easy-to-interpret graphics that look like spider webs. U.S. spies and special forces loved it immediately; they deployed Palantir to synthesize and sort the blizzard of battlefield intelligence. It helped planners avoid roadside bombs, track insurgents for assassination, even hunt down Osama bin Laden. The military success led to federal contracts on the civilian side. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services uses Palantir to detect Medicare fraud. The FBI uses it in criminal probes. The Department of Homeland Security deploys it to screen air travelers and keep tabs on immigrants.

Police and sheriff’s departments in New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Los Angeles have also used it, frequently ensnaring in the digital dragnet people who aren’t suspected of committing any crime. People and objects pop up on the Palantir screen inside boxes connected to other boxes by radiating lines labeled with the relationship: “Colleague of,” “Lives with,” “Operator of [cell number],” “Owner of [vehicle],” “Sibling of,” even “Lover of.” If the authorities have a picture, the rest is easy. Tapping databases of driver’s license and ID photos, law enforcement agencies can now identify more than half the population of U.S. adults. […]

In March a former computer engineer for Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm that worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, testified in the British Parliament that a Palantir employee had helped Cambridge Analytica use the personal data of up to 87 million Facebook users to develop psychographic profiles of individual voters. […] The employee, Palantir said, worked with Cambridge Analytica on his own time. […]

Legend has it that Stephen Cohen, one of Thiel’s co-founders, programmed the initial prototype for Palantir’s software in two weeks. It took years, however, to coax customers away from the longtime leader in the intelligence analytics market, a software company called I2 Inc.

In one adventure missing from the glowing accounts of Palantir’s early rise, I2 accused Palantir of misappropriating its intellectual property through a Florida shell company registered to the family of a Palantir executive. A company claiming to be a private eye firm had been licensing I2 software and development tools and spiriting them to Palantir for more than four years. I2 said the cutout was registered to the family of Shyam Sankar, Palantir’s director of business development.

I2 sued Palantir in federal court, alleging fraud, conspiracy, and copyright infringement. […] Palantir agreed to pay I2 about $10 million to settle the suit. […]

Sankar, Palantir employee No. 13 and now one of the company’s top executives, also showed up in another Palantir scandal: the company’s 2010 proposal for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to run a secret sabotage campaign against the group’s liberal opponents. Hacked emails released by the group Anonymous indicated that Palantir and two other defense contractors pitched outside lawyers for the organization on a plan to snoop on the families of progressive activists, create fake identities to infiltrate left-leaning groups, scrape social media with bots, and plant false information with liberal groups to subsequently discredit them.

After the emails emerged in the press, Palantir offered an explanation similar to the one it provided in March for its U.K.-based employee’s assistance to Cambridge Analytica: It was the work of a single rogue employee.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

Cocaine coming out my pores in the sauna, I’m serious, man, I’m so sincere


As we shall see, the story of the great flood and the voyage of the ark contains so many incredible “violations of the laws of nature” that it cannot possibly be accepted by any thinking person. […]

From the moment the impending storm is announced (Genesis 6:7, 13, 17) and Jehovah sets forth the design and dimensions of the ark (Genesis 6:14-16), problems start appearing. […]

The ark is to be made out of gopher wood according to a plan that calls for the ark to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits tall (450×75x45 feet, according to most creationists. See Segraves, p. 11). It is to contain three floors, a large door in the side, and a one cubit square window at the top. The floors are to be divided into rooms, and all the walls, inside and out, are to be pitched with pitch. Since the purpose of the ark is to hold animals and plants, particularly two of “every living thing of all flesh . . . to keep them alive with thee” (Genesis 6:19), it will have to be constructed accordingly.

Before he could even contemplate such a project, Noah would have needed a thorough education in naval architecture and in fields that would not arise for thousands of years such as physics, calculus, mechanics, and structural analysis. There was no shipbuilding tradition behind him, no experienced craftspeople to offer advice. Where did he learn the framing procedure for such a Brobdingnagian structure? How could he anticipate the effects of roll, pitch, yaw, and slamming in a rough sea? How did he solve the differential equations for bending moment, torque, and shear stress? […]

As if the rough construction of the ship weren’t headache enough, the internal organization had to be honed to perfection. With space at a premium every cubit had to be utilized to the maximum; there was no room for oversized cages and wasted space. The various requirements of the myriads of animals had to be taken into account in the design of their quarters, especially considering the length of the voyage. The problems are legion: feeding and watering troughs need to be the correct height for easy access but not on the floor where they will get filthy; the cages for horned animals must have bars spaced properly to prevent their horns from getting stuck, while rhinos require round “bomas” for the same reason; a heavy leather body sling is “indispensable” for transporting giraffes; primates require tamper-proof locks on their doors; perches must be the correct diameter for each particular bird’s foot (Hirst; Vincent). Even the flooring is important, for, if it is too hard, hooves may be injured, if too soft, they may grow too quickly and permanently damage ankles (Klos); rats will suffer decubitus (ulcers) with improper floors (Orlans), and ungulates must have a cleated surface or they will slip and fall (Fowler). These and countless other technical problems all had to be resolved before the first termite crawled aboard, but there were no wildlife management experts available for consultation. Even today the transport requirements of many species are not fully known, and it would be physically impossible to design a single carrier to meet them all. […]

Genetic problems […]

Marine animals […]

Having drawn up a passenger list, the next order of business is to gather them all at dockside. At this point, the creationists themselves are unable to propound any sort of scenario in which Noah and his sons could perform such a feat, so they resort to the convenient dumping ground of the inexplicable: miracles. God himself intervened by implanting in the chosen pair from each species the instinct of migration, and by this mechanism they gathered from the four corners of the world and headed for the Plains of Shinar […] However accurate their suddenly acquired instinct, for many animals it could not have been enough to overcome the geographical barriers between them and the ark. The endemic fauna of the New World, Australia, and other remote regions, as well as animals unable to survive the Near Eastern environment, would find the journey too difficult no matter how desperately they yearned to go. Flood theorists are unperturbed by such obstacles, however, for they simply gerrymander the map to give us an antediluvian world of undivided continents and a uniform, semitropical, spring-like climate.

{ Creation/Evolution Journal | Continue reading }

art { Nobuhiko Yoshida, from JCA Annual 4, 1982 }

‘Retenez ceci : il n’y a de bon, de vrai, de gai, de triste, d’aimable, de variable, de désirable, de potable, de chantable, de célébrable, d’idolâtrable, que le delta qui existe depuis la ceinture d’une femme jusqu’à ses jarretières.’ –George Sand & Alfred de Musset


Pham and Schackelford (2013) argued that men with more attractive partners are at a greater recurrent risk of sperm competition because other men are more likely to woo them into having affairs. Therefore, men with more attractive partners have more reason to be concerned about and more likely to engage in behaviour aimed to detect infidelity. The idea that cunnilingus, oral sex performed on a woman, could function to detect infidelity was proposed in a 2006 book, but this study is the first to test this empirically. The idea is that oral sex may allow a man to detect the presence of another man’s semen through smell or taste. […]

As side-note I’d like to point out that there is a common misconception often advanced by its critics that evolutionary psychology assumes that everything that people do is somehow an evolutionary adaptation and that evolutionary psychologists cannot or will not acknowledge that some behaviours are simply by-products of other adaptations with no special function of their own. This is a gross misrepresentation of what evolutionary psychology is about and in fairness to the authors of the study they were attempting to actually test whether or not their hypothesis about the adaptive function of oral sex is valid, rather than just assuming it is. It is quite possible that oral sex has no evolutionary function in itself. Humans are a highly sexed species compared to most mammals and engage in many non-procreative sexual acts, perhaps for pleasure alone. Oral sex might simply be a by-product of this interest in sex that humans have. However, if it can be shown that this particular behaviour appears to serve a definite purpose that has an evolutionary history, a reasonable case can be made that it has an adaptive function. […]

They found that “recurrent risk of sperm competition” (attractiveness) predicted interest in performing oral sex independently of relationship length, relationship satisfaction, and duration of intercourse.

{ Psychology Today | Continue reading }

‘But where danger is, grows the saving power also.’ –Hölderlin


Heaven is hotter than hell


The temperature of heaven can be rather accurately computed. Our authority is the Bible, Isaiah 30:26 reads,

Moreover, the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold as the light of seven days.

Thus, heaven receives from the moon as much radiation as the earth does from the sun, and in addition seven times seven (forty nine) times as much as the earth does from the sun, or fifty times in all. The light we receive from the moon is one ten-thousandth of the light we receive from the sun, so we can ignore that. With these data we can compute the temperature of heaven: The radiation falling on heaven will heat it to the point where the heat lost by radiation is just equal to the heat received by radiation. In other words, heaven loses fifty times as much heat as the earth by radiation. Using the Stefan-Boltzmann fourth power law for radiation

(H/E)4 = 50

where E is the absolute temperature of the earth, 300°K (273+27). This gives H the absolute temperature of heaven, as 798° absolute (525°C).

The exact temperature of hell cannot be computed but it must be less than 444.6°C, the temperature at which brimstone or sulfur changes from a liquid to a gas. Revelations 21:8: But the fearful and unbelieving… shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” A lake of molten brimstone [sulfur] means that its temperature must be at or below the boiling point, which is 444.6°C. (Above that point, it would be a vapor, not a lake.)

We have then, temperature of heaven, 525°C. Temperature of hell, less than 445°C. Therefore heaven is hotter than hell.


In Applied Optics (1972, 11 A14) there appeared a calculation of the respective temperatures of Heaven and Hell. That of Heaven was computed by substituting the values given in Isaiah 30 26 in the Stefan-Boltzman radiation law. […] This is hard to find fault with. The assessment of the temperature of Hell stands, I suggest, on less firm ground.

{ Applied Optics/Journal of Irreproducible Results | Continue reading }

photo { Harold Diaz }

No, that would state that I exist on a linear timeline, while you seek to compare past facts vs future forecasts


The study, reported in The Journal of Neuroscience [2007], provides the first direct evidence that humans, like rats, moths and butterflies, secrete a scent that affects the physiology of the opposite sex. (…)

He found that the chemical androstadienone — a compound found in male sweat and an additive in perfumes and colognes — changed mood, sexual arousal, physiological arousal and brain activation in women.

Yet, contrary to perfume company advertisements, there is no hard evidence that humans respond to the smell of androstadienone or any other chemical in a subliminal or instinctual way similar to the way many mammals and even insects respond to pheromones, Wyart said. Though some humans exhibit a small patch inside their nose resembling the vomeronasal organ in rats that detects pheromones, it appears to be vestigial, with no nerve connection to the brain.

“Many people argue that human pheromones don’t exist, because humans don’t exhibit stereotyped behavior. Nonetheless, this male chemical signal, androstadienone, does cause hormonal as well as physiological and psychological changes in women.” (…)

Sweat has been the main focus of research on human pheromones, and in fact, male underarm sweat has been shown to improve women’s moods and affect their secretion of luteinizing hormone, which is normally involved in stimulating ovulation.

Other studies have shown that when female sweat is applied to the upper lip of other women, these women respond by shifting their menstrual cycles toward synchrony with the cycle of the woman from whom the sweat was obtained.

{ ScienceDaily | Continue reading }

Refuse to admit defeat


Several theories claim that dreaming is a random by-product of REM sleep physiology and that it does not serve any natural function.

Phenomenal dream content, however, is not as disorganized as such views imply. The form and content of dreams is not random but organized and selective: during dreaming, the brain constructs a complex model of the world in which certain types of elements, when compared to waking life, are underrepresented whereas others are over represented. Furthermore, dream content is consistently and powerfully modulated by certain types of waking experiences.

On the basis of this evidence, I put forward the hypothesis that the biological function of dreaming is to simulate threatening events, and to rehearse threat perception and threat avoidance.

To evaluate this hypothesis, we need to consider the original evolutionary context of dreaming and the possible traces it has left in the dream content of the present human population. In the ancestral environment, human life was short and full of threats. Any behavioral advantage in dealing with highly dangerous events would have increased the probability of reproductive success. A dream-production mechanism that tends to select threatening waking events and simulate them over and over again in various combinations would have been valuable for the development and maintenance of threat-avoidance skills.

Empirical evidence from normative dream content, children’s dreams, recurrent dreams, nightmares, post traumatic dreams, and the dreams of hunter-gatherers indicates that our dream-production mechanisms are in fact specialized in the simulation of threatening events, and thus provides support to the threat simulation hypothesis of the

{ Antti Revonsuo/Behavioral and Bain Sciences | PDF }

Intermarriage among all ancestral groups, however, has led to a population reasonably homogeneous in appearance and traditions


{ Cai Guo-Qiang, Head On, 2006 | 99 life-sized replicas of wolves and glass | The wolves were produced in Quanzhou, China, from January to June of 2006. They are fabricated from painted sheepskins and stuffed with hay and metal wires, with plastic lending contour to their faces and marbles for eyes. | Deutsche Guggenheim }



{ Guggenheim Museum, New York; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao }

The nec and non plus ultra of emotion were reached when the blushing bride elect burst her way through the serried ranks of the bystanders and flung herself upon the muscular bosom of him who was about to be launched into eternity for her sake


{ Adrian Piper, Out of the Corner, 1990 }

‘Since men in their endeavors behave, on the whole, not just instinctively, like the brutes, nor yet like rational citizens of the world according to some agreed-on plan, no history of man conceived according to a plan seems to be possible, as it might be possible to have such a history of bees or beavers.’ –Kant


For someone who remembers the old days, the food is the most startling thing about modern England. English food used to be deservedly famous for its awfulness–greasy fish and chips, gelatinous pork pies, and dishwater coffee. Now it is not only easy to do much better, but traditionally terrible English meals have even become hard to find. What happened?

Maybe the first question is how English cooking got to be so bad in the first place. A good guess is that the country’s early industrialization and urbanization was the culprit. Millions of people moved rapidly off the land and away from access to traditional ingredients. Worse, they did so at a time when the technology of urban food supply was still primitive: Victorian London already had well over a million people, but most of its food came in by horse-drawn barge. And so ordinary people, and even the middle classes, were forced into a cuisine based on canned goods (mushy peas), preserved meats (hence those pies), and root vegetables that didn’t need refrigeration (e.g. potatoes, which explain the chips).

But why did the food stay so bad after refrigerated railroad cars and ships, frozen foods (better than canned, anyway), and eventually air-freight deliveries of fresh fish and vegetables had become available? Now we’re talking about economics–and about the limits of conventional economic theory. For the answer is surely that by the time it became possible for urban Britons to eat decently, they no longer knew the difference. The appreciation of good food is, quite literally, an acquired taste–but because your typical Englishman, circa, say, 1975, had never had a really good meal, he didn’t demand one.

{ Paul Krugman | Continue reading }

The image of something past or future, that is, of a thing which we regard as in relation to time past or time future, to the exclusion of time present, is, when other conditions are equal, weaker than the image of something present


At some point, the Mongol military leader Kublai Khan (1215–1294) realized that his empire had grown so vast that he would never be able to see what it contained. To remedy this, he commissioned emissaries to travel to the empire’s distant reaches and convey back news of what he owned. Since his messengers returned with information from different distances and traveled at different rates (depending on weather, conflicts, and their fitness), the messages arrived at different times. Although no historians have addressed this issue, I imagine that the Great Khan was constantly forced to solve the same problem a human brain has to solve: what events in the empire occurred in which order?

Your brain, after all, is encased in darkness and silence in the vault of the skull. Its only contact with the outside world is via the electrical signals exiting and entering along the super-highways of nerve bundles. Because different types of sensory information (hearing, seeing, touch, and so on) are processed at different speeds by different neural architectures, your brain faces an enormous challenge: what is the best story that can be constructed about the outside world?

The days of thinking of time as a river—evenly flowing, always advancing—are over. Time perception, just like vision, is a construction of the brain and is shockingly easy to manipulate experimentally. We all know about optical illusions, in which things appear different from how they really are; less well known is the world of temporal illusions. When you begin to look for temporal illusions, they appear everywhere.

{ David M. Eagleman/Edge | Continue reading }

photos { Henri Cartier-Bresson | Ruben Natal-San Miguel }

I’m not that genie in a bottle, I’m in a bag


Sometimes when I’m lying on my back looking at the sky or the ceiling or some other light-colored background, I swear I can see specks and what looks like little threads floating by. They seem to move when I move my eyes, leading me to believe they’re actually on my eyes. Is there some optical phenomenon that allows us to focus that close? Is there a name for this effect?

{ The Straight Dope | Continue reading }

Floaters are deposits of various size, shape, consistency, refractive index, and motility within the eye’s vitreous humour, which is normally transparent.

Since these objects exist within the eye itself, they are not optical illusions but are entoptic phenomena.

One specific type of floater is either called Muscae volitantes (from the Latin, meaning ‘flying flies’), or mouches volantes (from the French), and consist of small spots. These are present in most people’s eyes and are attributed to minute remnants of embryonic structures in the vitreous humor.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }