Designer Insects.

Hello, today I’m going to be talking about something very interesting.

Some of you may be following this blog (hell, I expect my family is momentarily stalking me when I post something, just to see if I’ve gone nuts or not ) and know that I’m currently studying biology/ecology in a French university.

Actually, I just finished the first “exam” of the year !! (I’m so happy, even though we were tested on just about 3-4 weeks of introductory content).

To my surprise -and delight- The University’s library has got a few magazine subscriptions going, notably to Nature, Science, and, my favorite, NewScientist (I’ve been reading all 5 recent issues out since I began here), and one particular issue of this last magazine has sparked the need for me to share, specifically, the “special” issue of the 21 September (yeah…they’re sadly not THAT up to date, preferring, I think, to get this weeks magazine next week.).

 

So, let’s begin:

Imagine walking down a road on a sunny day in Spain, minding your own business, enjoying the mild mid-day sun near your favorite, shade-giving, olive trees, when you notice something odd, the familiar buzzing of olive fruit flies, which have been driving the local olive farmers mad, decimating nearly a quarter of their crop, isn’t as accentuated as it used to be.

You encounter a group of Scientists, quietly taking notes in the silence, observing that, though subdued, the flies are still present, and, to your shock, releasing MORE of them !!

Demanding to know what they are doing to your local farmer’s crop, you are surprised when the farmer, himself, walks up to you and says:

“Don’t you worry, these here flies work for us !”.

 

 

So, seeing as you probably thought I’d get straight to the point, you might be wondering why I just hit you on the head with a narrative, well, I thought I’d experiment and see if a little storyline helped people remember, understand, or just pay attention to, what I write (You’re free to comment on what effect this had on you, especially if you’ve read some of my other posts in the past.).

 

On to the point then, recently,  there’s been a retake on the idea of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s).

First, there is now a proposal to release GM olive fruit flies “into the wild” (we’re talking a first-step test-release under a bunch of trees covered by a “anti-GM-escapee” mesh so as to study the effect the climate, temperature, environment, etc… has on them, not a full-scale release.).

Now, these flies –maybe a way of the scientific community to prove they’ve learned their lesson– do NOT have pesticide-generating cells, or some other stupid invention reusing old technology.

No, these little buggers are engineered so that the Female offspring sired by the Male GM flies, will effectively die out before even ending their larval stage, which means that, as the generations pass, there will only remain a few female non-GM flies, all the surviving offspring of the GM Males being, well, Male.

This, as many people might have realized upon reading it, is effectively programmed regional genocide, and might appear as a VERY bad move, especially from an ethical view-point.

Now, I shall remind you that, on an ethical level, nearly ALL pesticides currently employed on farms, including the ones employed –though ineffectively– on the olive flies, also tend to kill nearly all other insect and arachnoid species.

Also, their death, caused by pesticides, are, in many cases, slow ones, whereas the GM flies tend to live long enough to live part of their natural lives for the males, and part of their “glorious olive-feasting” larval stage for the females.

 

So, to the ethics in the audience, I pose the following anthropocentric question (based upon not just this case but future cases):

Would you use an ineffective, hard-to-control and highly toxic method, or rather a ‘relatively’ (we have yet to see the test results after all) safe, non-toxic, species-specific method to safeguard crops?

 

Also, as if this wasn’t enough, here’s a little shocker,

They’re already doing similar stuff, and have been for a while :

  • Seven years ago, several millions of GM boll-worms were released in the US, to test a technique of tackling a cotton pest, with no problems arising at the moment (seven years is PLENTY of time to check the basic technique).
  • In Brazil, GM mosquitoes are already a-buzzing, wiping out their dengue-carrying brethren locally, this time more aggressively by preventing any offspring from reaching breeding age.

The company responsible for the GM mosquitoes, and the planned GM flies, is Oxitec, a biotechnology company from England, and Alphey, the co-founder of Oxitec,  is saying the release is more about getting the technology off the ground that proving that it works, since that much is obvious already.

 

 

Source of this article:

  1. NewScientist Issue 2935, released the 21 September 2013, page 5 and 11.

Art and Forts

Today, I’ll just give you some links so that you may reconsider (or discover) a game I’m addicted to, Dwarf Fortress.

Here’s the links to some content that, even thought not directly linked to the game, is linked to the stories that people have been able to live out in the game, and what they’ve made to represent those stories

The !!ART!! of Dwarf Fortress (also known as Slaves to Armok II: [random gory title here for your reading torture]) :

oilfurnace

Bronzemurder, another one by Tim Denee

Timblr link to some DF related stuff

DFwiki’s list of Dwarf fortress webcomics, only tried a few of these myself.

 

And here’s a peek at the l33t glory of Dwarf Fortress in pure ASCII with no graph packs:

 

http://sebsauvage.net/rhaa/images/201107/rha_20110726_df_screenshot.png

Learning on Steroids, or how I invested in learning to learn.

This is the logo of the Learning on Steroids program, also know as LoS ( or LoSemails for the free 1week email boot-camp, introducing basic ideas that i find very interesting, and which can still be found for some time on the aforementioned link).

The material Scott H. Young makes available on his blog for free is extraordinarily interesting even on it’s own, there being articles about such things as Financial Freedom, doubling your reading rate, reading more than 70 books a year, and a lot more (nearly more than 1000 different articles), not to mention his 3 free ebooks, of which I recommend the one about Holistic Learning.

The idea behind his LoS yearly program is that, each month, students who  have paid for the 11~€ monthly subscription, or, like me, those that bought the 79~€ 12 months at once access to make some economies on the full price of the package, get a bunch of ebooks, videos and implementation guides talking about techniques one can use to increase the amount of information you learn, decrease the time you need to spend studying, increase productivity, etc. and have to choose 30 Day Trial ( 30DT in short) where they (we) commit to applying that technique for 30 days without fail, usually making a calendar on which we mark the days off as X’s to keep us motivated and keep us from forgetting about it.

As a example, I’m going to give out the list (not the actual guides, as I don’t feel like having a lawsuit pressed by Scott’s lawyers or anything like that) of the techniques he propose for this first month:

Metaphors, re-imagining abstract concepts into story-lines or characters so as to be able to remember clearly and in a much easier way how to do something theoretical.

Speed Reading, which you can get a taste off at this site

Visceralization, Which is Metaphors (and Visualization’s) big brother and can allow you to memorize things using the brain’s natural tendencies, the fact that our memories are linked to feeling, so that if we remember feelings, like heat, shape, texture, or an adrenaline spike for something, it is likely to ingrain itself into our minds quasi-permanently.

And, last for this month, WDG, Weekly/daily Goals,   Which I am currently on the 9th day of, and has managed to get me to do more stuff already.

 

I highly recommend Scott H Young’s blog, and for those who are interested, here’s a TED talk he made about getting a MIT education for 2000 Dollars.

 

 

 

I hope to hear form you,

Peter.

 

getting back to writing, and how RFID’s can benefit our civilization.

Hi, some of you might already know me, but I bet most of you have no idea who I am.

So, seeing as I’m relaunching this blog ( I sort of let it die back in the beginning of 2012) I tihnk a re-introduction might be in order.

My name’s Peter, and I live in France, come from Denmark and speak English fluently, so I’m pretty much (without taking into account my grammatical errors here and there in all 3 languages) trilingual.

It’s been a month since I successfully finished my inscription into University in the city of Perpignan, France.

There, I will be studying biologie and ecology, something I am very excited to be doing, as I’ve always been fascinated by the mechanism of Life and believe we can truly ”bend” it to our ”will” (the reason these words are apostrophized is that I believe we can, by comprehending the very concepts of Life and being able to control them to a certain extent, begin to truly ”merge”, or at least live in symbiosis with, the other life forms here on earth that we currently believe ( in our anthropocentric view of the universe) are less intelligent than us or are but mere tools for our needs.)

I believe the future lies in merging our technology with nature itself, keeping, of course, certain aspects of nature, including as many of the preceding lifeforms on earth, intact for further study and out of respect towards nature’s undeniable right to exist and thrive.

And to acknowledge that no living being can be our ”tool” or be used by us unless we provide it with something as valuable as the services we force them to do (something factory farms are NOT doing, not even in the  slightest…).

I believe that in the past some animals actually got this treatment, being well cared for and well fed well into adulthood, having life expectancies greater than their wild brethren in exchange for a certain doom (our plates) in their future.

Some animals didn’t even need fences in the old days, and thus they weren’t treated badly, as people knew they had to be treated better than in the wild, or they would be eager to leave them at the first opportunity. but our thinking in the modern world is that EVERYTHING has to be optimized, even animals and agriculture, which has lead to many problems in this day and age (for example, the one that factory-farm chickens seem to be worse off in every respect than any predator could harm them in their natural environment, and have been genetically modified to be UNABLE to escape, we have actually managed to create a concept many of us use only as a joke, DEvolution ).

But enough of my ”little” bursts of personal opinion, I am sure most people came here and reacted to the word RFID.

The RFID system is an interesting one, as it would potentially allow many a thing seemingly coming from science fiction novels (like Makers by Cory Doctorow, an excellent read about the possible future).

Of course, it is being implemented more and more commonly, and examples of its implementation are the wave-by cards, anti-theft protections, and organization systems coming out here and there on the global market.

The ideas behind the use of RFID can be tricky to put into application, especially seeing as there are many possible advantages and disadvantages that have to be evaluated, and the system is more costly than a simple code bar as we are used to.

What I believe is that there can be advantages to certain applications, though the disadvantages of some modern application ( fly-by credit cards, RFID shopping, etc.) seem to clearly outweighs the advantages, at least with the current technology and sensitivity of apparatus.

So, here are some pictures that show possible applications of an RFID system:

http://www.rfid-library.com/en/images/picture-home.png

now THIS looks like an effective library, and, if I was in charge, I’d add a robot arm holding the RFID reader and sliding along rails on each side fo the shelf that could make a complete scan of the library shelf’s and compare it to books that were lent and give the librarians feedback on any stolen or out of order books in, say, an hour, all the while the librarians dust of their desk and enjoy the last coffee of their work day with a nice book they just waved at the computer on their desk to take home… now, doesn’t that sound like a good way to spend your tax dollars on progress ?

This one is an RFID identity Chip of the kind they inject into domestic carnivores, AKA, mostly dogs and cats. It might be more costly for the better variants, but it can potentially hold the entire medical history of your loved companion, so that anyone who finds it can not only find your address and phone number for return, including a name and a list of favorite snack, but can know to give it it’s allergy pills if they can’t return it, maybe even without them having to pay for it, as you would have the doctors prescription on the chip.

That’s a grain of rice on the side, by the way.

(even though these option are probably not implemented, or even imagined yet, it is only a small time before someone thinks of  giving you the possibility to pay a little extra to ”personalize” your pet’s RFID tag information a bit, after all, if the vital and obligatory information is there and there’s still tons of free memory.. why not let people spend cash on some extra features :) . )

http://www.blogcdn.com/www.engadget.com/media/2011/01/wesc-karmatech-01-29-2011.jpg

This one is a bit spooky in my opinion, an RFID in your shoe let’s the welcome mat…welcome you…Personally.

Hey, It might be the new hype of tomorrow to have your coffee cup tell you how much it appreciates your touch…

At least for lonely people, that is…

Of course, there are dangers at improper use of the RFID technology, dangers that warrant  consideration as to how useful a technology has to be versus the power it gives to others before implementing it into your body becomes a viable idea, for example:

http://www.dougbelshaw.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/rfid-info.jpg

Now, would you be willing to record your personal information into an RFID chip that could be scanned by anyone ?

How much security is needed for an RFID chip to be used not just for ease of passage in a restaurant or bank, but with ease of mind too, is there some information that you would rather the avoid putting on a chip?

Technology, as it advances, will always bring loopholes and applications we can never really imagine with our limited foresight, but I, for one, believe the system can at least help for organization ( I am very fond of the Library example above) even though I am not too sure about the rest.

http://endtimeinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/dangers-of-RFID-707x404.jpg

Hum… This activity is called Skimming, and has existed for a while, even though it has been focused on ”skimmer” attachments to pretty much anywhere you would swipe or enter your credit card, I’ve heard of scandals where Skimmers, as the criminals are also known as, installed devices indistinguishable from the normal banks ATM card reader and keypad OVER (the devices tend to be thin in the overlapping part and have the mass of components somewhere where you won’t notice the difference in bulge) a banks ATM, gaining them access to all credit cards used on those terminals.

And now, they’re not even restricted to that anymore, they can literally scan fly-by credit cards through your pockets and save the juicy information to slowly deplete you of your cash.

Of course, there are also counter-measures for these Skimmers, in case you are using a fly by card and I’ve given you a heart-attack (which you hopefully survived…right?!?), there are ways to seriously impede your RFID signals, even though none have been found that could counter  some of the stronger RFID readers at close range, other than maybe specially designed signal jammers to place in your wallet,  and even that could be ineffective against the most sensitive readers (even though those readers might be large enough for you to wonder why that guy just brushed a giant metal box against you pockets…).

Of course, if RFID’s were used in shopping malls, carrying a RFID and/or bar-code-reader-proof bag for your ”free shopping” could become a serious impediment for the technology to be adopted in the mainstream, not that bar-codes would be safer if such bags can be made…

To end this post, I refer you to this intriguing article as to how the show Myth-busters were banned form making a show about the reliability and hackability of RIFDs… most intriguing, especially for RFID-bearing credit card holders.

(no pictures in this post are owned by me, nor do I have the permission to post them, Anyone finding a problem with that will just have to refer to the Declaration of Human Rights, and try to sue me through the French and Danish law systems combined, seeing as I find myself under both jurisdiction because I live in one country and am a citizen of the other.

I’m simply saying… :) .)

Humanity’s lost tales, damnation outside our memories.

Image

 

So, have you ever wondered why history is so focused on war, industry and our “civilization” ?

 

Maybe it’s because We, as a species, have an incredibly short memory.

It is common knowledge (or should be, if we actually listened to the science we adore so much) that human memory is NEVER right.

Scientists have discovered that when we remember something, it is, and sorry for using a computer metaphor,  rewritten like data, updated constantly, changed with whatever we see around us, or feel, or think.

Now, this means that there are some things that we cannot remember correctly, which is why we created History (the big H)…

Sadly, it is pervaded, was probably pervaded already at the beginning, which is why History has always been known as the “tale of the winners”, because the ones that wrote it down were already rewriting it, had already modified it to suit themselves.

We have to face it, History is crap, it’s purpose will never be fulfilled, it doesn’t represent that dreamy “objective” vision of the past we lust for, there will always be doubt, always be lies inside the lies.

 

I’m not saying we can’t learn anything from it, we just have to rethink WHAT we want to learn from it.

History is useless if we want a truly objective vision of the past, but it’s good enough for teaching what errors we shouldn’t commit again, which systems have shown to be too destructive to function, etc..

Of course, we can doubt this view of history, which is why I want to give some examples of how, as a species, we have, in nearly less than 2-3 generations, ripped our world apart:

  • North Africa was a gigantic lush forest,
  • Sahara came into being entirely because we cut the oceanic swath of forest down,
  • Christus, was a carpenter, that we know, but the implication is that he lived in a country of wood, no arid regions have use for carpenters, after all (therefore, nearly all movies going on about that time zone are pretty badly researched).
  • Walrus lived and breed at Nova Scotia,
  • The white bear walked North america, and is only called the polar bear because we’re too lazy to go into the arctic and finish their extinction (Oh…wait… our laziness seems to be killing them off by itself nowadays),
  • Europe had elephants, lions, tigers
  • The Labrador ducks, the sixty millions of bisons of North America, so many millions of species, dying or already dead.

 

Of course, there is not much to say about the state the world is in, it is burning while we speak, thousandths of creatures dying to satisfy the cravings of humanity, to create small plastic goods thrown away the next day, or made to break as easily as possible, so that “the market will grow on, and never give us a *depression*”.

We have to realize there is not much that can be said that will have any effect at all, we are dangerously approaching this “singularity” that everyone is talking about,

But,

as always,

It’s not what technologists, newagists, catholics, or anyone else, for that matter, are expecting…

We are approaching, because of our limitless greed and our unwillingness to change, the most hardest challenge any species faces…

Because we dependt upon this world, We are approaching Extinction.

 

 

PS: And no, I’m not pessimistic, or sad, I’m just spending most of my days thinking about how to slow it down, and maybe moving away from all those “necessities” that are going to come crashing down… the Internet, for example, is not “stable” at all– after all, it is based on the commercial system of capitalism, that an object must be (A) Cheap, (B) flimsy and (C) incomprehensible to the masses ( just have it considered illegal to try and understand how it works… works just as well for those that believe the laws are there “for their protection”), so that the economy will keep growing, and growing…

 

“There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
- RONALD W. REAGAN

 

What to write…

It’s always a nightmare deciding what to write, which words to scribble or type, therefore, seeing as I’m completely out of ideas, I’ll grab the nearest one:

WHY is it so hard to write something down?

1. Anxiety:
We all feel that our words are representative of who we are, and few of us are capable of totally dissociating themselves from judgment rendered onto our ideas.
Therefore, we all feel a certain fear when we prepare to let out our newly-born, innocent ideas into the Big Bad World, especially since any judgment performed on them is seen by us as being one made onto our way of writing and thinking.

2. The Myth of Man The Killer.
This here above article I’ve linked to explains why it’s an unbased fear, but unbased or not, we’re still afraid of it.
In our society, we are constantly subjected to “news” of the latest killings, murders, rapes, ecological destructions, species to go extinct, etc.
This obsession of our media to only tell us of the bad apples –ignoring all the good we are doing !!– is representative of the governments of the entire world trying to retain a last string of control.
But enough about my opinion on the matter, for all of you, it is simply the fact that being reminded of all the evil of man, in whatever forms, makes us fear each other, makes us believe in this “myth” that most people are acting only for themselves… and would willingly kill you if the police and the law system were to break down. And, with this fear, we become convinced , and usually see it as fact, that every negative comment ruins a houndreth positives, that negativity governs positivity and that if there’s even one bad comment on our blogs, about or paintings, or any other form of expression, it means it is bad, ruined, and that you will be forever reminded of this failure.

3. Fear of Giving Up.
The fear of forsaking an idea in it’s midst, of not having the “will” to complete something, not being able to overcome obstacles, tries, and often succeds, to halt us in every creative moment we have.

4. Fear of Being Ignored.
The utter joy of presenting something YOU have made to the world is, at least for our imaginations, very often murdered in it’s tracks by the simplest of facts: “No one is commenting, Oh god it’s so bad it’s not worth flaming !!” and other small thoughts imperil our creativity because, with this negative mindset we have, we simply can’t seem to fathom that not being commented on is a sign of, maybe, not having said something that requires commenting, or having said something that doesn’t interest any of the people who HAVE visited your site, but might interest someone else, we are afraid of being ignored because, for us, these ideas represent more than just thoughts now that they are said, they have become the living embodiement of our love for writing, our fear of failure, and our opinions on this world.

5.Ideas are alive.
This one is a much more personal closer.
It’s the fact that, by writing something down, we give it a certain “power”, we feel compelled to hold to those words, to not change them, to not change opinions, because it’s become a static, living thing on the paper, a creature that governs, in and of itself, what our opinions are.
If we never wrote a word, never scribbled a line, then we would never envounter someone asking about your “contradiction”, asking why you are negating your previous statements, why you are being “inconsistent” in the development of your thoughts.
Sadly, that “person”, the one who makes that comment, very often is yourself, seeing your previous opinion, and having maybe forgotten entirely about it, will startle us by it’s sheer Alien feel, by the way that we can’t recognize it anymore as being “ours”.

Merry meet and merry part, as the wiccans say.

Peter.

Primitive and Modern, and how we’re forgetting the True past.

We have all studied History, the big H one from school, in our youths.

But is this History of ours really significant? Why do we teach it if not to learn from it, and how come our day-to-day society, the one we’re in right now, shows us, for those that dare look at it, that we have learned Nothing ?!

We’re stuck in a society rotten throughout every single layer, and our history teaches us only of what we have to know to perpetuate it, here is a short tirade about the shortcomings of society and History touching every layer of our civilization, from economics, ecology, to the social life and the very core of the work-to-live ethic of our lives :

We have been though that “civilization” has saved us from barbarism, from starvation, that we live better than anyone ever has.

But have you not heard of what the History teachers, be it their will or not, are not telling us?

That it’s a lie, that the old “barbarian” cultures lived with more of what we, in our work-centered ethics, have come to call leisure “time”.

In the hunter-gatherer/scavenger-gardener societies of old, it was not necessary, as we have been led to believe, to work all 24 hours of the day just to scrape basic sustenance and survive, people were not tortured to death or constantly afraid of the night, rather, they lived in peace with the world surrounding them and — This is the vital part — Understood the nature surrounding them !! They lived in harmony with nature, obeying th rhythms that sustained all life, not maiming and killing the life surrounding them, not burning or destroying as we are, but helping and nurturing the natural rhythms. We have been taught that “agriculture” was an improvement on nature, that we are as gods on earth, free to do what we want to, to eat processed foods and play with our metallic trinkets, ignoring where they come from and what world they have destroyed to be created, but the reality is that there was a form of “agriculture”– more reasonably called bioculture, or naturoculture, because it is so close, most of the time the same as, nature’s normal cycles–  that we cannot “see” it in the past.

As I am writing this, I’m hearing a pub from the TV in the next room, talking about superb cars ready for “anything nature can throw at you”, these adverts, as with every other part of our culture, seems to program us to think of nature as a savage destructive presence that will destroy us, starve us, if we do not “fight back” with ever stronger technology, that gives us “what is our right’ stupid plastic trinkets that have no purpose other than distract us from the way their very production is killing the world we live on.

If we do not react, if we believe that we have the right to do what we want with this world, without realizing how we can never control, tame or domesticate Nature, we will face our deaths in the near future, the deaths of the living, breathing world around us, the death of the Biological world, the destruction of unique life that will probably never see the day again…

It is not, with our current systems of government and centralized authority, possible for humanity to become “sustainable”.

The “sustainability” of something means it can go on and on, wihtout damaging it’s environment, or damaging it so little it has plenty to time to regenerate. Now picture modern society, with it’s mountains of petroleum-based plastics and products, with it’s “sustainable technology” that depends on so much more limited resources and older, destructive technology. Resources, like bauxite and other ores, that are in limited supply on this world, and whose very extraction is dependent on even more destructive technology, and so on, and so forth, until the very world burns in the black smog of industrialism.

The point I am making is that we should not think we can ever make our current lifestyles of resource-wasting “guaranteed entertainment” or ” higher-than-ever-before comforts” sustainable. If we persist in this path, we will do as we always have, realizing too late that the bridge upon which we are treading leads nowhere, that the forest highway we have created leads to a wall of bare rock, and that we have burned the forest behind us, believing we would forevermore find lusher, greener things in front of us, until the end.

Until we see the faces of the murderers we have become reflected in the suffering maimed world we have created.

The True past can be shocking, here’s some food for your thoughts, so that you can see how our agricultural ancestors, those that we descend from and that we worship so much, have destroyed a world that we now believe we are destroying “afresh”, how this world has already been suffering way more than anyone believes. Here’s some facts to show how our technologically-inferior past, after they had betrayed the natural cycles, began what we are ending, did to this world things we believe are “naturally so”:

  • The Sahara desert, which expands by some 30 miles southward every year, was once a fertile forest, complete with it’s own unique plants and animals that have long since gone extinct, just because we decided to “improve” the yields of nature.
  • America is known for it’s vast plains, but have you noticed the fact that deserts are rapidly appearing? did you even know that there were nearly more bisons roaming that continent then there now are humans on earth?! And guess who killed them all… our friendly ancestors the Europeans, those that now call themselves Americans, did it all to eliminate those “pesky” natives who didn’t want to accept our “customs” of land ownership…
  • There are many more examples, just search the ‘net, that tool we use so freely, not tihnking about the fact that it is, itself, part of the destructive system we are trying to reject… Are we truly lost? For no Technology can even pretend to “Neutrality”, when it’s very creation depends on destructive procedures that nature never has the time to recover from.

Here is a list of resources for those that want to open their minds, and for those whose minds are already open, those who feel in their souls every life that is extinguished when they eat a sandwich for which they ignore the origin of the meat, when they drink water they have not themselves taken from the spring, when, ultimately, they proceed to do Anything involving our social norms ,morals and ethics:

Thinking like a Mountain.

Dead Tree’s Publishing Essays.

Anxiety Culture.

Brain in a Box on a Shelve.

The American Sahara.

Articles and Essays by Thomas J. Elpel: Author, builder and more.

Just for the Love of It.

Why work, one of those questions we’re programmed not to ask!

Moneyless.

Nature skills.

primitive ways.

Saving Seeds and Heirloom plants.

The lessons of Eastern Island