Friday, September 30, 2011

Is This Historical Reprieve from Violence Only Temporary?

Images via Steven Pinker
In a recent article, Steven Pinker describes how human violence has subsided in recent years. The images on this page are a small sampling of Pinker's visual substantiation of his "reduced violence" thesis. For the most part, Pinker's argument is fairly persuasive.

As seen above, deaths from warfare in the UK have come down significantly from historical times. The chart below illustrates the reduction in European homicides since the year 1200. The bottom graph demonstrates the large peak in genocides in the middle of the 20th century, with subsequent decline. More from Pinker:
Believe it or not—and I know most people do not—violence has been in decline over long stretches of time, and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species' existence. The decline of violence, to be sure, has not been steady; it has not brought violence down to zero (to put it mildly); and it is not guaranteed to continue. But I hope to convince you that it's a persistent historical development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars and perpetration of genocides to the spanking of children and the treatment of animals.

...The extraordinary 65-year stretch since the end of the Second World War has been called the "Long Peace", and has perhaps the most striking statistics of all, zero. There were zero wars between the United States and the Soviet Union (the two superpowers of the era), contrary to every expert prediction. No nuclear weapon has been used in war since Nagasaki, again, confounding everyone's expectations. There have been no wars between any subset of the great powers since the end of the Korean War in 1953. There have been zero wars between Western European countries. The extraordinary thing about this fact is how un-extraordinary it sounds. If I say I'm going to predict that in my lifetime France and Germany will not go to war, everyone will say, "Yeah, yeah; of course they won't go to war." But that is an extraordinary statement when you consider that before 1945, Western European countries initiated two new wars per year for more than 600 years. That number has now stood at zero for 65 years.

And there have been zero wars between developed countries at all. We take it for granted nowadays that war is something that happens only in poor, primitive countries. That, too, is an extraordinary development; war used to be something that rich countries did, too. Europe, which traditionally has been the part of the world with the biggest military might, is no longer picking on countries in other parts of the world, or hurling artillery shells at one other with the rest of the world suffering collateral damage. This change has been extraordinary.

It is worth at least skimming the entire piece, paying particular attention to the graphic images. Civilisation seems to be growing less violent in most of the ways that can be measured -- at least on a historical scale.

But can we expect this drop in violence to continue? To answer that question, one must look at demographic trends. The populations which are growing are those that exhibit higher rates of violence, and those that are shrinking are the ones which exhibit lower rates of violence -- as a rule. For example, populations within Africa, Asia, and South America which exhibit the world's highest rates of violence are also generally showing the highest birthrates. Even within advanced nations, the subpopulations which show the highest rates of violence also exhibit the highest birthrates.

If these demographic trends continue, the shrinking, less violent populations, are apt to either die off, or be killed off. The violent and prolific populations may just inherit the world.

In modern politically correct cultures, violence is often condemned outright, without qualification. But violence in defence of one's life, family, and property is the hallmark of civilisations which survive. Without the threat of defensive violence, the weak and passive become prey to any violent person who comes upon them.

Law enforcement cannot be everywhere, protecting everyone. Any society which forbids individuals from using violence to protect themselves or their property is a society in decay. The law is meant to be taken into the hands of citizens. Otherwise the law will serve only a corrupt oligarchy.

Humans have the choice whether they will transition back to another violent phase of history. If that is the choice, they are going in the direction which will accomodate that decision.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Babcock and Wilcox Moves Ahead With mPower Small Modular Reactor

B&W mPower SMR

Small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) are poised to change the world of power and energy -- if the US government Nuclear Regulatory Commission will do its job of fairly licensing the safe, clean, new nuclear reactors. Instead, developers of newer, safer reactors must jump through hoops, spend exorbitant fees, and wait many years or decades before the fat and lazy NRC will get off its ass and get to work.

One US company -- Babcock and Wilcox -- is apparently willing to spend the money, do the work, and put in the many years it will take to get the NRC to perform like a responsible public service agency. Here is one of the important first steps the company is taking to get its SMR -- the mPower reactor -- licensed:
The Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W) and Generation mPower LLC
(Generation mPower) will dedicate the unique B&W mPower(TM) Integrated System Test (IST) facility in Bedford County, Va., at a ceremony today. The facility is located at the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER) at the New London Business & Technology Center.

The facility contains a prototype of the B&W mPower reactor that will undergo extensive testing to collect data to verify the reactor's design and safety performance in support of Generation mPower's ongoing licensing activities with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The primary technical features of the B&W mPower reactor are included in the IST, although the source of energy is electricity rather than nuclear.

The IST facility supports further development of the B&W mPower reactor technology that represents a new generation of smaller, scalable nuclear power plants. This world-class testing facility was made possible in part by generous support from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission (TICRC), which provided more than $7 million in grants to support construction of the facility and the purchase of process equipment.

"B&W and Generation mPower appreciate the support from all of those involved as we establish this key element of the B&W mPower reactor program," said Brandon C. Bethards, President and Chief Executive Officer of B&W. "The IST facility will allow us the opportunity to demonstrate to the world the value of small modular reactors as a practical and affordable choice for nuclear power generation. Today's dedication marks another step in our progress toward commercializing small modular reactor technology."

Christofer Mowry, President of Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Energy. Inc. and Chairman of the Board of Generation mPower, said, "We continue to see tremendous interest from potential customers in the United States and abroad for our small modular reactor. Generation mPower is working to meet a need for a reliable, carbon-free power source that can be deployed at a new site or replace an aging facility in North America or overseas."

The multi-year testing program is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2011. _MarketWatch

B&W will be lucky to get its reactor licensed before the year 2020. One of the essential changes within the US government will be the ejection of the Obama regime and its energy starvation agenda, and the replacement of NRC Chairman Jaczko with a person of more expertise, integrity, and impartiality.

As long as Obama is not re-elected, reason is likely to win over leftist prejudice and energy starvation. Eventually, SMRs and other safe, advanced nuclear reactor designs, will receive their licenses, go into production, and change the global face of energy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gas to Liquids and Coal to Liquids Etc: Trillions of Barrels and More

Peak Oil Chased Away by Massive Energy Resources

There is always big money to be made in substituting a lower cost feedstock or commodity for a higher priced one. The obvious big money substitution opportunity in the energy field, is the substitution of low cost natural gas or coal for high priced oil. Natural gas is difficult to transport globally, unless it is transformed into a denser liquid form, such as LPG or GTL. Coal can likewise be made more valuable by transforming it into a liquid fuel. Observe the huge potential quantities of fuels available from coal to liquids and gas to liquids in the chart above.
Gas to Liquids 
The above chart reveals the significant price differential between oil and the equivalent energy of natural gas. Clearly there is a lot of money to be made via efficient conversion of gas to liquids (GTL), via either Fischer Tropsch (FT) or methanol-to-gasoline (MTG).

Shell's gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology is producing high value hydrocarbon fuel and chemicals in Qatar and in Malaysia. But it is very expensive to build large scale GTL plants based on this technology, which limits entry into the field. As the technology proves itself in the market, other big players are likely to step in.

Sasol and PetroSA have GTL plants in South Africa, where rich shale gas fields are coming under development. Shell is moving into those gas fields, and may be thinking about opening its own GTL plant in South Africa, if it can deal with the government corruption.
applications of excess product. Primarily, natural gas is used as feedstock for the Gas To Liquid process. The GTL process converts natural gas to synthetic fuels. This has proven to be far more profitable product for oil/energy and exploration companies to supply into the energy markets. There are currently only two plants in SA capable of refining natural gas to liquid petroleum products. Sasol has its GTL plant located in Secunda and PetroSA has its plant in Mosselbay. _CBN

Australian companies are looking at building GTL plants to take advantage of large gas deposits there, but are somewhat daunted by the high cost of entry. The uncertainty of long term oil prices also causes planners to hesitate.
"Higher oil prices provide the incentive to look at ways and means of producing synthetic fuels, other than simply refining crude oil," Mr Wendt told AAP.

However, he says a major barrier is the high price of setting up a processing plant to make a product that is a commercial alternative to oil-based fuels.

It would cost $1 billion or $2 billion to build a plant that produces synthetic diesel at $40 or $50 a barrel.

But if the price of oil drops dramatically, people won't buy the synthetic product, leaving the owner of the plant unable to get a return on the investment, Mr Wendt said. _ninemsn

There is also debate in Alaska about turning North Slope gas into more lucrative liquid fuels. One of the problems is deciding on the best chemical approach to the transformation of gas to liquid fuel.
For a number of years there has been discussion of the potential to convert North Slope gas to diesel fuel on the North Slope using a process called gas to liquids, or GTL, and then shipping the diesel fuel down the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The core of the GTL process is the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, a chemical process first used in Germany in 1936 to produce synthetic liquid fuel. However, a study of the relative costs of the Fischer-Tropsch process and MTG has indicated that it is significantly cheaper to produce a given volume of fuels with MTG than with Fischer-Tropsch, while the gasoline produced from MTG has a higher value and quality than the diesel from GTL, Van Wijk said. _PetroleumNews

The Oxford Catalyst microchannel Fischer Tropsch GTL approach is just getting started, commercially, but is already receiving "buy" recommendations from Charles Stanley -- assuming the investor possesses abundant intestinal fortitude and staying power.

One of the largest driving forces behind the drop in natural gas prices -- and the opportunity to take advantage of the gas-oil price differential -- is the recent advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking technologies. Gas and oil trapped within shale has existed for eons, only waiting for a species intelligent enough to go in and get it.

Summary of gas-to-liquids technologies
Coal to Liquids 
Synthetic fuels from coal will compose a larger share of the transportation fuels market over the next few decades. This will come about due to more economical processes for coal to liquids (CTL) combined with a long term trend of rising oil prices.

Ambre Coal to Liquids
The methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) process is the prime competitor to the Fischer Tropsch (FT) process, in the conversion of carbonaceous mass to liquid fuels. Ambre Energy of Australia is involved in the clean conversion of low quality coal to high quality liquid fuels, using the Exxon-Mobil methanol-to-gasoline process (PDF).
Methanol is usually synthesised from syngas, a mixture of H2, CO, CO2, methane, etc. Syngas can be produced via gasification of coal, natural gas, biomass, or any other carbonaceous material.

Methanol is used as a feedstock to produce fuels or other chemicals. Methanol can also be used as a fuel itself, or as a fuel additive. Methanol is also finding greater use in methanol fuel cells -- a market that is expected to grow very rapidly over the next several years.

Ambre CTL process
PDF description of Ambre CTL
Ambre is involved in a technical study agreement with Synthesis Energy Systems to develop an improved coal to liquids project which will produce both synthetic gasoline and LPG from methanol.
Economical Scaling of Fischer Tropsch 
Up until now, putting together a production plant for converting coal to liquids or gas to liquids would cost you around $1 billion. But the North American subsidiary of a UK company has devised a scalable method of converting syngas to liquid hydrocarbon (diesel) in a "shoebox" sized device. The microchannel Fischer-Tropsch (FT) devices can be combined for a capacity to produce as much or as little diesel fuel from gas, biomass, or coal, as a producer wishes to pay for.
...a major exploration and production company is seriously considering the possibility of incorporating microchannel FT reactors into a planned 5,000 -15,000 barrel per day (bpd) GTL facility onshore in North America designed to convert shale gas into finished synthetic fuels...The shortlisted technologies will be subjected to further evaluation as part of a major high-budget engineering study that will last for several months. The results of the study will be used to select the project’s technology providers. _Engineer

Oxford Catalyst's microchannel F-T technology for converting gas-to-liquids (GTL) is one of the frontrunners to be intensively studied for shale gas to liquids operations onshore in North America.

The technology is already being adopted for offshore applications in Brazil.

PDF presentation on Velocys / Oxford Catalyst's microchannel F-T technology

Microchannel FT reactors developed by Velocys and using a new highly active FT catalysts developed by Oxford Catalysts exhibit conversion efficiencies in the range of 70% per pass, according to Jeff McDaniel, Oxford Catalysts director of commercialisation.

“The high efficiency and modular nature of our microchannel FT reactors makes them particularly useful for this type of application because capacity can be easily increased by simply ’numbering up’ or linking together additional FT reactor modules,” said McDaniel. _Engineer
The potential fuels available from unconventional liquids goes far beyond all known petroleum deposits. And of course, proved deposits of oil, gas, coal, kerogens, bitumens, etc. are only going to continue going up over time, as they have done since humans began using hydrocarbons.

It is time for humans to jettison pseudoscientific garbage theories such as anthropogenic climate doom and peak energy scarcity doom, and move forward into a world of abundant energy.

Nuclear energy such as advanced fission and scalable fusion are much preferred to hydrocarbon energy in general, but we need to pay as we go. Hydrocarbons will serve until we can break through to better energy strategies.

Material above taken from previous postings at Al Fin Energy blog

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Impulsive Violence: Can Brain Implants Affect Poor Impulse Control?

Poor decision making and impulsive behaviour are hallmarks of youth, sociopathy, and the violent criminal.

Interestingly, Parkinson's Disease patients can also exhibit impulsive behaviours -- often as a side affect of treatment. Both drug treatment for Parkinson's and deep brain stimulation (DBS) via implants can increase impulsive and dysfunctional behaviours in Parkinson's patients. Researchers wanted to know why DBS was causing this impulsivity, and what they could do about it.
For their first experiment, the researchers designed a computerized decision-making experiment. They asked 65 healthy subjects and 14 subjects with Parkinson's disease to choose between pairs of generic line art images while their mPFC brain activity was recorded. Each image was each associated with a level of reward. Over time the subjects learned which ones carried a greater reward.

Sometimes, however, the subjects would be confronted with images of almost equal reward -- a relatively tough choice. That's when scalp electrodes detected elevated activity in the mPFC in certain low frequency bands. Lead author and postdoctoral scholar James Cavanagh found that when mPFC activity was larger, healthy participants and Parkinson's participants whose stimulators were off would take proportionally longer to decide. But when deep brain stimulators were turned on to alter STN function, the relationship between mPFC activity and decision making was reversed, leading to decision making that was quicker and less accurate.

The Parkinson's patients whose stimulators were on still showed the same elevated level of activity in the mPFC. The cortex wanted to deliberate, Cavanagh said, but the link to the brakes had been cut.

"Parkinson's patients on DBS had the same signals," he said. "It just didn't relate to behavior. We had knocked out the network."

In the second experiment, the researchers presented eight patients with the same decision-making game while they were on the operating table in Arizona receiving their DBS implant. The researchers used the electrode to record activity directly in the STN and found a pattern of brain activity closely associated with the patterns they observed in the mPFC.

"The STN has greater activity with greater [decision] conflict," he said. "It is responsive to the circumstances that the signals on top of the scalp are responsive to, and in highly similar frequency bands and time ranges."

A mathematical model for analyzing the measurements of accuracy and response time confirmed that the elevated neural activity and the extra time people took to decide was indeed evidence of effortful deliberation.

"It was not that they were waiting without doing anything," said graduate student Thomas Wiecki, the paper's second author. "They were slower because they were taking the time to make a more informed decision. They were processing it more thoroughly."

The results have led the researchers to think that perhaps the different brain regions communicate by virtue of these low-frequency signals. Maybe the impulsivity side effect of DBS could be mitigated if those bands could remain unhindered by the stimulator's signal. Alternatively, Wiecki said, a more sophisticated DBS system could sense that decision conflict is underway in the mPFC and either temporarily suspend its operation until the decision is made, or stimulate the STN in a more dynamic way to better mimic intact STN function. _SD

We know that the prefrontal cortices (PFCs) are crucial to good executive function and impulse control. But it appears from the experiments above that the PFCs need help from other brain centres, such as the sub-thalamic nuclei (STN). Understanding the interaction of the various brain nuclei in the control of complex behaviour and decision-making, can help designers of brain implants and brain stimulators to avoid unfortunate side effects of implant therapy, and to increase positive serendipitous effects of such therapies.

Given the importance of impulse control in the prevention of crime and violence, it is likely that brain stimulators and implants will take on a greater role in the penal system. An interesting historical example of the electrical control of violent behaviour, is the curious instance of Dr. Jose Delgado and the charging bull. Law enforcement officers and correctional officers would like to be able to stop a charging maniac in his tracks, like Delgado did with the bull. It is likely that someday they will have that power.

It would be best if society set about training its youth to possess sound executive function from the earliest age, so as to avoid that type of dystopian future.

70 Kg Seaplane from Finland


This one-seater carbon fibre plane lands and takes off on water, and weighs but 70 kg. It was designed by a Finnish aerospace engineer, has a topspeed of around 140 kph, and a wingspan of 5m. It will come in multiple models, with prices starting at US$ 39k. The company plans to start taking orders in 3 months.
The first version, one electric only, and two fuel based versions. The electric-only version has a 20kW engine. The two petrol-based engined run on 24 bhp and 35 bhp, respectively. The top speed on these planes is roughly 140 km/h, with a minimum speed of 70 km/h . The FlyNano has a wingspan of five meters. The plan can support a take off weight of 200 kg, as well as a take off speed of about 70km/h. In theory, the plane can travel about up to 70 kilometers in a single fueling, or charging, depending on the model that you have chosen to fly. _PO

The plane would be mainly for sport and recreation. For lake hopping, island hopping, or seastead hopping, the plane might be practical as a light mail carrier or courier craft. Future STOL (short takeoff or landing) versions of such planes might be convenient for getting out of a populated area quickly. Just be sure to have plenty of fuel caches pre-placed.

Previously published at Al Fin Potpourri

Monday, September 26, 2011

State of the Art in Energy Storage

The state of the art for energy storage leaves a lot to be desired at virtually every scale. Power grids and individual businesses, institutions, and residences are far too vulnerable to power fluctuations and unpredictable outages.
Images via ESA (ht NBF)

For those who are curious about the state of the art, the Electricity Storage Association provides a useful comparison for different methods for electrical energy storage (via Brian Wang).

One significant omission from the ESA list is "Cryonic Energy Storage," which may prove to be the best of the current crop of contenders for now, until "flow batteries" are perfected.
Large -scale stationary applications of electric energy storage can be divided in three major functional categories:

Power Quality. Stored energy, in these applications, is only applied for seconds or less, as needed, to assure continuity of quality power.

Bridging Power. Stored energy, in these applications, is used for seconds to minutes to assure continuity of service when switching from one source of energy generation to another.

Energy Management. Storage media, in these applications, is used to decouple the timing of generation and consumption of electric energy. A typical application is load leveling, which involves the charging of storage when energy cost is low and utilization as needed. This would also enable consumers to be grid-independent for many hours.

Although some storage technologies can function in all application ranges, most options would not be economical to be applied in all three functional categories.

... _ESA

More graphic comparisons from ESA below:
Read the entire ESA comparison sheet for more information.

Cryonic energy storage has far more potential than compressed air storage, given the phase change energies involved.

Among electrical battery storage methods, flow cell batteries are most scalable and versatile in application. Newer approaches to flow cells using more viscous electrolyte media should allow the technology to be used in vehicular power storage applications.

Adapted from an article at Al Fin Energy

Creative Use of Concrete Shutters for Zombie-Proofed House

All Images from All-that-is-interesting

Above you can see the zombie-proof house with all shutters fully closed. In this setting, the only access into the house is via a drawbridge, which must be lowered for entry.
Now you can see the shutters as they begin opening. Beneath the large front concrete shutter is a secondary steel shutter, for added zombie-proofing.
Concrete shutters are now fully opened, revealing the side windows and front entrance and windows.
Here you can see the lowering of the drawbridge -- the only access to the house when all shutters are closed in full zombie-proof mode.
This is the house as it would normally be seen, with no zombies in the vicinity. Regular patrols by ground and from the air are mandatory, to assure the absence of zombies. A constant seismic surveillance is likewise necessary, to guard against the dreaded tunneling zombies.
After the sun goes down, the house would normally be fully closed in, due to the increased threat of nocturnal zombie attack. Immediately after this photograph was taken, a zombie spotting was reported two houses down, requiring an immediate shuttering-in. Eternal vigilance becomes second nature inside the zombie zone.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Brief Exhilarating Eroticism of Youth

"With girls, Nature has had in view what is called in a dramatic sense a 'striking effect', for she endows them for a few years with a richness of beauty and a fullness of charm at the expense of the rest of their lives; so that they may during these years ensnare the fantasy of a man to such a degree as to make him rush into taking the honourable care of them, in some kind of form, for a lifetime – a step which would not seem sufficiently justified if he only considered the matter." _Schopenhauer, "On Women"

Girls of Jakarta
The beauty and eroticism of youth is powerfully striking. It can be of great use to the young woman who knows what to do with it, and a great curse to the young woman who does not. In the field of prostitution, youthful beauty is a highly profitable asset. But in that often rough and tumble world that frequently is mixed with drug abuse and every bad health habit known to man, youthful beauty fades even more quickly than in girls living more conventional lives.
Catherine Hakim, a research fellow at the London School of Economics, has published a book entitled "Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital." The book discusses the erotic power that women are capable of wielding, and bemoans the lack of awareness of this power on the part of too many young women.
According to Hakim, there’s a ''beauty premium’’ in the workplace – she cites a US survey that found good-looking lawyers earn between 10 and 12 per cent more than dowdier colleagues. Hakim also claims the ''beauty premium’’ makes it more likely that an attractive person will land a job in the first place, and then be promoted. And, says Hakim, erotic capital isn’t limited to the boardroom – ''marriages where the wife is more attractive are happier than those where the husband is the more attractive’’. _Telegraph

If the young woman "strikes while the iron is hot", or "makes hay while the sun shines," she is able to leverage her youthful beauty into a long lasting advantage for herself and her children.
...erotic capital – has until now been ignored but, according to Hakim, is just as important as the other three [ed: economic capital, social capital, human capital] and may be even more so because it affects you from the moment you are born. This last point, like much in the book, is dubious. Money surely makes a big difference from early childhood too, as does intelligence.

Hakim has assembled a good deal of evidence to show what we know already: that life tends to be easier and more rewarding for the beautiful. But far from saying that this is unfair, she argues it is just as it should be: the attractive are nicer to be with, get on with people better and are, therefore, more productive.
And so Hakim urges women to make the most of their erotic capital. Don't waste your years of beauty on frumpiness and grumpiness, she urges young women. Maximise your assets and use them to get ahead.

Some of this reminds one of maverick feminist Camille Paglia -- particularly Hakim's emphasis on erotic power and capital.
We are living through a particularly parched and dry sexual cycle -- in no small part due to the constipated dominant feministic ethos. Rather than liberating women, modern hyper-continent feminism attempts to paint women into an ideological and lifestyle corner, with little freedom of choice or movement other than to follow the PC dictates of feminist dogma. The beauty, eroticism, and fecundity of youth are thereby sacrificed to the shriveled and bloodless mindset of rigid, brittle feminist ideology.

For young women, puberty is a treacherous passage which is only rarely traversed in optimal fashion. Peer pressure, popular culture, and dysfunctional ideology combine in oppressive fashion to flog the unprepared youth along from hazard to hazard. And when the accoutrements of eroticism -- desire for companionship, home, family -- are not skillfully integrated with the passion -- the eroticism can tend to die too early. The desire for home and family can then either remain unfulfilled, or be realised in a tragically sterile and passionless way.

Sex and eroticism need to maintain elements of both daring and innocence. Of the forbidden and of the earned adventure. When eroticism is hobbled by dogma -- either religious or political (as in leftist feminism) -- the fun and excitement drains away.

No one can tell you what to do with your erotic capital. But you should know what it is, and how to use it if needs be. Everyone should be given that opportunity.

Too many young women begin to lose their erotic appeal, just as they are beginning to learn how to use it in a functional way, for their long term benefit. Most likely, they have received very little help from their parents in understanding their erotic capital. Modern child-raising methods too often either ignore a young woman's burgeoning sexuality, or try to suppress it as long as possible. A father is not supposed to notice his daughter's sexuality, and a mother is frequently too envious of her daughter to give her proper assistance in understanding what is happening to her.

Because eroticism is tied in to sexuality -- and sexuality is tied in to pregnancy, emotional turbulence, and STDs -- parents are naturally cautious when introducing their children to erotic ideas. This leaves the field of eroticism open to popular culture and peer pressure, which almost never have the best interest of youth in mind.

Advertising culture and popular entertainments geared toward youth distort sexuality and eroticism in a manner meant to induct youth into unthinking habits of consumption and counter-productive approaches to sexual exchange. When dysfunctional feminist anti-eroticism and anti-femininism are thrown into the perverse mixture, a young woman is quite lucky to have any erotic thoughts or feelings which she can call her own.

Still, as Tom Robbins said, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." But it would be better if it were to happen the first time through, in the context of wise and loving parents, in the midst of a wise and functional culture.

Adapted and expanded from an article previously published at Al Fin, You Sexy Thing!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Men Waiting to Start a Family: Mature Men and Younger Women

Young women hold a strong erotic attraction to men of all ages. So it is natural for mature men, once they have achieved success and comfort in life, to seek relationships which give him the most pleasure. Throughout history, older men have started families with younger women, who are still in their fertile period. In most human cultures such things are considered normal and natural.

But in many decadent western societies, ideologically radical feminism has taken over politically correct cultures. Relationships involving older men and younger women are strongly discouraged by the PC thought police.

Scientific research in mice has been performed in an attempt to prove that older fathers lead to disabled and dysfunctional children. But however much feminists would like for human males to be mice, humans are not actually mice and should not be treated as such. A better science would look at human subjects in order to determine the facts about the children of older fathers and younger mothers.

And that is what Sweden's Karolinska Instutute has done, in a massive study:
This present study is based on data from over 135,000 children in Stockholm, who left compulsory school between 2000 and 2007, and tested the hypothesis that any negative consequences of the father's age on the child's IQ would be offset by the social advantages that being raised by older parents brings.

"To the delight of fathers choosing to wait before having children, our results suggest that children of older fathers perform no worse in school," says Anna Svensson, study leader at the Department of Public Health Sciences. "When we studied children's final year-nine grades we could see no difference between children of fathers in their 50s and children of fathers in their 30s."

Children of even younger fathers performed slightly worse in school, although these difference could largely be attributed to differences in the parents' own educational background. _SD
According to the report above, children of older fathers actually performed better than children of younger fathers.

The point is not to advocate the pairing of older men with younger women. The point is rather to be honest about the consequences of such pairings, in order to allow humans to make informed choices. When science is subsumed within political ideology -- as in modern PC science -- no one can truly trust the results of such politicised research.

From "climate science" to cognitive science to reproductive science to energy sciences and technologies, the destructive influence of PC leftism and lefist green dieoff.orgiasm has cost modern societies trillions of dollars in dysfunctional economic and social policies. Much of the modern economic and cultural malaise being suffered by modern societies is directly due to the malignant influence of a dieoff leftist influence on science, politics, and culture.

In modern times it takes men longer to mature and become financially independent, on average. The pairing of mature and economically self-sufficient men with younger, fertile women of erotic appeal, makes a lot of sense when these men do finally get around to starting a family.

If feminists cannot keep their hands off normal human relationships, perhaps it really is time for the backlash.

Update 8Oct2011: Here is a news report of a Dutch study that attempts to link older sperm with mental disabilities in offspring. The actual findings do not actually support the claims being made for the study, and in fact contradict actual results studies performed by the Karolinska Institute, as noted above.

Just as older mothers increase the risk of chromosomal and genetic problems in offspring, it is also logical that a theoretical risk of genetic problems from older fathers also may exist. But such a risk still needs to be proven beyond the merely theoretical -- and needs to be quantified and individualised so that appropriate precautions can be taken, if needed in the particular case.

In the meantime, humans should be free to go about their lives without being held hostage by a feminist-overlord culture of PC repression.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Human Babies Born with Intuitive Sense of Numbers

Humans have an intuitive sense of number that allows them, for example, to readily identify which of two containers has more objects without counting. This ability is present at birth, and gradually improves throughout childhood

Johns Hopkins scientists have tested the Approximate Number Sense (ANS) in human pre-schoolers, then compared their ANS scores with later standard tests of math ability administered in school at age 6. They discovered a high correlation between the ANS score in preschool and the later math ability scores at age 6.
The Approximate Number System (ANS) is a primitive mental system of nonverbal representations that supports an intuitive sense of number in human adults, children, infants, and other animal species. The numerical approximations produced by the ANS are characteristically imprecise and, in humans, this precision gradually improves from infancy to adulthood. Throughout development, wide ranging individual differences in ANS precision are evident within age groups. These individual differences have been linked to formal mathematics outcomes, based on concurrent, retrospective, or short-term longitudinal correlations observed during the school age years. However, it remains unknown whether this approximate number sense actually serves as a foundation for these school mathematics abilities. Here we show that ANS precision measured at preschool, prior to formal instruction in mathematics, selectively predicts performance on school mathematics at 6 years of age. In contrast, ANS precision does not predict non-numerical cognitive abilities. To our knowledge, these results provide the first evidence for early ANS precision, measured before the onset of formal education, predicting later mathematical abilities.

...Further longitudinal studies are needed to evaluate whether and how mediators of the relationship between ANS skills and symbolic mathematics vary as a function of other child characteristics, and how ANS skills might predict not only math performance at a given time but also trajectories of growth in formal mathematics skills over development. _PLoS (Full paper)
The authors were unable to determine whether ANS skills could be improved through early childhood intervention. But their findings add to a growing body of knowledge demonstrating a wide range of cognitive abilities between individuals, starting from a very early age. One should note that ANS precision correlates only to later math skills, and not to language skills.

It is important for scientists and educators to determine how much of individual cognitive capacity can be improved, and how much is relatively fixed. This should be done on an individual-to-individual basis to avoid prejudgement, and to better customise and optimise the education experience for each child.

This Johns Hopkins study offers some suggestive hints as to the nature of pre-verbal and non-verbal metaphor development in young children, prior to any formal math training.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

EU: Europeans Must Learn to Live on Insects


It is easy to grow tasty insect larvae almost anywhere, on scraps and waste. But these plump, juicy larvae are not only suitable for fish bait. According to the EU, an entire continent of humans can and should be taught to live on insects.
Experts in Brussels believe insects and other creepy crawlies could be a vital source of nutrition which will not only solve food shortages but also help save the environment.

They have launched a three million euro (£2.65 million) project to promote the eating of insects while also asking national watchdogs like the UK's Food Standards Agency to investigate the issue.

...According to one study, small grasshoppers offer 20 per cent protein and just six per cent fat, to lean ground beef's 24 per cent protein and 18 per cent fat.

Crickets are also said to be high in calcium, termites rich in iron, and a helping of giant silkworm moth larvae apparently provides all the daily copper and riboflavin requirements. There are even claims that bees boost the libido.

Insects emit less greenhouse gases than cattle and require less feed, supposedly making them environmentally-friendly. And supporters claim they could help feed [Europe], because they are so abundant they provide at least 200kg of biomass for every human.

The European Commission is offering the money to the research institute with the best proposal for investigating "Insects as novel sources of proteins". _Telegraph

Europe's population is imploding, due to low birthrates. Europe's elites and overseers are looking for ways to cut costs, to meet the increasingly burdensome social obligations of Euro nanny-states, in the face of a shrinking demographic and disappearing taxpayers.

It is not clear how the rapidly growing Muslim population of Europe will accept new EU food guidelines.
H/T ImpactLab

Monday, September 05, 2011

Brave New Baby: Genius Training for Infants

Image Source

We have heard of the "better baby" and even the "superbaby." But those approaches to creating the "brave new baby" have been around for a while, and yet, here we are. Still looking for workable ways of training smarter, more cognitively capable children.

University of London researchers have come up with a new approach, beginning with 11 month old infants:
The researchers trained 11-month-old infants to direct their gaze toward images they observed on a computer screen. For example, in one task, a butterfly flew only as long as the babies kept their eyes on it while other distracting elements appeared on screen. Infants visited the lab five times over the course of 15 days. Half of the 42 babies took part in training, while the other half watched TV. Each child was tested for cognitive abilities at the beginning and end of the study.

Trained infants rapidly improved their ability to focus their attention for longer periods and to shift their attention from one point to another. They also showed improvements in their ability to spot patterns and small but significant changes in their spontaneous looking behavior while playing with toys.

"Our results appeared to show an improved ability to alter the frequency of eye movements in response to context," Wass said. "In the real world, sometimes we want to be able to focus on one object of interest and ignore distractions, and sometimes we want to be able to shift the focus of our attention rapidly around a room -- for example, for language learning in social situations. This flexibility in the allocation of attention appeared to improve after training."

The fact that the babies' improvements in concentration transferred to a range of tasks supports the notion that there is greater plasticity in the unspecialized infant brain.

...The findings reported online on Sept. 1 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, are in contrast to reports in adults showing that training at one task generally doesn't translate into improved performance on other, substantially different tasks. _ScienceDaily

Study abstract from Science Direct

This type of research is likely to continue and intensify -- particularly in parts of the world with more authoritarian government control. It is likely to continue because it is quite probable that infant brains can eventually be functionally shaped to approximate a preconceived "ideal." Infant brains are highly plastic, and experience incredibly rapid shaping and re-shaping of local neuronal assemblies and white matter pathways.

Of course there are ethical approaches to this type of research, which should be freely carried out in more open societies. And of course individual parents are free to incorporate elements of such research into their child's overall, well-rounded upbringing. It is likely that there are easily devised "games" which the baby would enjoy playing, which could lead to a faster-thinking, more imaginative child. Perhaps even a child capable of multi-tasking in many ways.

But experimenting parents should beware. The super-baby which you raise may rapidly grow beyond your ability to comprehend and control. Children are essentially amoral creatures who are capable of incredible destruction if given too much power too soon, without superb training in executive function.

It is not wise to train a child in particular areas of genius without incorporating safeguards, executive function training, and ethical training in the overall program. This training should resemble an assortment of games and engaging interactional narratives to the very young child.

At the Al Fin Institute for the Brave New Baby, we are concerned about current trends toward a dumbed-down future. We will share the results of our research into brave new babies as it becomes available.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Important Information for Would-Be World Dictators

By manipulating the activity of particular brain areas, scientists can now make people more vulnerable to marching in lock-step with the crowd. Controlling conformity will make it easier for would-be world rulers to capture the masses in one fell swoop.
Volunteers whose posterior medial frontal cortex, an area in the middle of the brain that is associated with reward processing, were exposed to the magnetic pulses suffered reduced levels of conformity.

The researchers believe this part of the brain dates back a long way in the evolution of animals and is responsible or automatically "correcting" our performance when we fall out of line with a group.

They say that by suspending this mechanism, it allows people to think and behave differently. They now believe it may be possible to develop drugs or behaviour changing techniques that could increase or decrease people's conformity.

..."Drug manipulation of dopamine could also affect conformity."

Such drugs would be controversial, however, as they could be used by companies hoping to make their employees more reliable or to help control rebellious individuals.

In the study, the researchers asked 49 female volunteers to take part in a study where they were asked to rate the attractiveness of 220 photographs of female faces, but they were allowed to change their ratings after seeing what others in the study had scored.

When Transcranial Electromagnetic Stimulation (TMS) was used to inhibit the activity of the neurons in the posterior medial frontal cortex, the participants did not change their ratings of the photographs so they were more in line with the rest of the group. _Telegraph

We already know that using TMS to stimulate the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex has the effect of decreasing inhibition and increasing risk-taking behaviours. Further experiments will determine more specific areas of cortex involved in judgment and decision-making. TMS can be used to either reduce the activity of the part of the brain that is targeted, or to increase the activity.

The Telegraph article discusses the idea of using drugs to increase or decrease conformity. But a more effective method for would-be dictators would be to utilise targeted nano-capsules which contain genetic programming for more long-term alteration of outlook and allegiance to the collective.

The USSR collapsed because science had not developed far enough to provide these useful tools to the guardians of the collective. In the future, managing the loyalties of large collectives should become easier, using these new methods of brain control.

As far as world dictatorship, the main threat will be multiple stable regional dictatorships which refuse to assimilate into a central world collective. Al Fin cognitive scientists have been asked to provide solutions to this possible complication, but at this time we are maintaining a strict neutrality. We are, however, moving strategic labs and offices of the Al Fin Institutes to a secure, undisclosed, island location.

For those who remain in the population centres, resistance may very well become futile. The chances are growing, that you will be assimilated. Try to resolve yourselves to your likely fate. It will be easier that way.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Improving Higher Education in the US

Many universities, and not a few colleges, have come to resemble Fortune 500 companies with their layers of highly paid executives presiding over complex empires that contain semi-professional athletic programs, medical and business schools, and expensive research programs along with the traditional academic departments charged with providing instruction to undergraduate students. Like other industries, higher education has its own trade magazines and newspapers, influential lobbying groups in Washington, and paid advertising agents reminding the public of how important their enterprise is to the national welfare. In contrast to corporate businesses, whose members generally agree on their overall purpose, colleges and universities have great difficulty defining what their enterprise is for. What is a college education? On just about any campus, at any given time, one can find faculty members in intense debate about what a college education entails and what the mission of their institution should be. Few businesses would dare to offer a highly expensive product that they are incapable of defining for the inquiring consumer. Yet this is what colleges and universities have done at least since the 1960s, and they have done so with surprising success. _NewCriterion
James Piereson has published an incisive review of US higher education -- and of recently published scholarly books which examine US higher education. He summarises some key reforms which should bring about critical improvements in relatively short order:
(1) Shelve the utopian idea that every young person should attend college and also the notion that the nation’s prosperity depends upon universal college attendance. Many youngsters are not prepared or motivated for college. Let them prepare for a vocation. The attempt to push them through college is weakening the enterprise for everyone else.

(2) Terminate most Ph.D. programs in the humanities and social sciences. There is little point in training able people in research programs when they have no prospect of gaining employment afterwards. The research enterprise has also corrupted all of these fields, particularly in the humanities.

(3) Develop programs in these fields that will allow students to earn graduate degrees based upon teaching rather than research. Such programs will be intellectually broad rather than specialized and will equip graduates to teach in several fields in the humanities. This will strengthen teaching in the liberal arts and perhaps even revive the field from its current condition.

(4) Reverse the expansion of administrative layers, especially those offices and programs created to satisfy campus pressure groups. If campus groups want their own administrative offices, they should pay for them themselves, rather than asking other students (and their parents) to do so. Colleges and universities should make it a practice to hire at least three new faculty members for every new administrator hired.

(5) Bring back general education requirements and core curricula to ensure that every student is exposed to the important ideas in the sciences and humanities that have shaped our civilization. There are many ways of doing this. Columbia University has always done it through a “great books” approach; other institutions do it through a series of survey courses in the sciences and liberal arts. How it is done matters less than that it is done. _NewCriterion
Al Fin education specialists assert that these reforms should be seen as a bare beginning. US higher education is in need of a thorough overhaul, which is only likely to happen in the lee of some very unfortunate events for society as a whole. Much of the dead weight in the staff and faculty of US colleges will be ejected as a result of upcoming economic difficulties occurring in both the private and public sectors of the US economy.

Dead weight government programs which affect education, such as affirmative action, Title IX, etc. will cling to existence for as long as possible -- to the detriment of affected institutions and society at large. Eventually, they too will have to fall by the wayside.