“Today, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.”
– Fawzi Ibrahim
Until we challenge the entrenched values of capitalism – that the economy must always keep growing, that consumer wants must always be satisfied, that immediate gratification is imperative – we’re not going able to fix the gigantic psycho-financial-eco crisis of our times.
That challenge is a deeply personal one: in a world where every inch of the capitalist system is bullying you into submission, can you resist? When advertisers hound you day and night, can you escape? This Black Friday, a massive, absurd, and destructive consumerist machine will coordinate against you for one simple reason - to convince you to max out your credit card to buy shit you don’t need so that a broken system stays afloat. So when they say "BUY!", will you say NOTHING!”?
Buy Nothing Day is legendary for instigating this type of personal transformation … as you suddenly remember what real living is all about … you sense an upsurge of radical empowerment and feel a strange magic creeping back into your life.
Join millions of us in over 60 countries on November 28/29 and see what it feels like. Then, after Buy Nothing Day, take the next step … for generations, Christmas has been hijacked by commercial forces … this year, let’s take it back.
And why not get playful while you’re at it!? … Put up posters, organize a credit card cut up, pull off a Whirl–mart, or a Christmas Zombie walk through your local mall.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Monday, November 24, 2014
Here are a few links that have been hanging around in my browser for the last few days (or weeks). Hope you find them interesting - follow the title links to read the whole article.
Stuart Bradford for The Chronicle Review
By Gary Marcus, Adam Marblestone, and Jeremy FreemanNovember 12, 2014There is real reason to believe that the field is on the verge of a number of methodological breakthroughs: Soon we will be able to study the operation of the brain in unprecedented detail, yielding orders of magnitude more data than the field has ever seen before.And that is a good thing. On virtually any account, neuroscience needs more data—a lot more data—than it has.
To begin with, we desperately need a parts list for the brain. The varied multitude of cells in the human brain have names like "pyramidal cells," "basket cells," and "chandelier cells," based on their physical structures. But we don’t know exactly how many cell types there are—some, like Cajal-Retzius cells (which play a role in brain development) are quite rare. And we know neither what all these different cell types do nor why there are so many. Until we have a fuller understanding of the parts list, we can hardly expect to understand how the brain as a whole functions.
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James GormanNovember 10, 2014Research on the brain is surging. The United States and the European Union have launched new programs to better understand the brain. Scientists are mapping parts of mouse, fly and human brains at different levels of magnification. Technology for recording brain activity has been improving at a revolutionary pace.The National Institutes of Health, which already spends $4.5 billion a year on brain research, consulted the top neuroscientists in the country to frame its role in an initiative announced by President Obama last year to concentrate on developing a fundamental understanding of the brain.
Scientists have puzzled out profoundly important insights about how the brain works, like the way the mammalian brain navigates and remembers places, work that won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for a British-American and two Norwegians.Yet the growing body of data — maps, atlases and so-called connectomes that show linkages between cells and regions of the brain — represents a paradox of progress, with the advances also highlighting great gaps in understanding.
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How light therapy can treat disorders from depression to Alzheimer’s disease.
By Katherine HobsonNovember 20, 2014
ILLUSTRATION BY SHANNON FRESHWATER
Exactly how light works isn’t known, but many researchers suspect that bright lights help SAD sufferers by regulating their sluggish circadian clocks. Those clocks involve the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, which is a small area of the brain’s hypothalamus that dictates the rhythms of a host of bodily functions, including waking, sleeping, body temperature, and alertness. Absent external cues, those rhythms circulate for slightly longer than 24 hours for most people. (They stabilized at 24:30 for a man who lived in a dark cave for two months.) But normally these rhythms are harmonized with the external 24-hour day/night cycle when light hits a cluster of special retinal cells that are sensitive to sunlight but not always involved with vision.
People with SAD may have problems syncing their internal clocks in the winter, such that darker mornings allow their body’s natural rhythms to drift later. Exposure to an artificial bright light in the morning usually improves their moods, says Lewy, presumably by changing the ebb and flow of the stress hormone cortisol or other bodily processes orchestrated by the SCN.
However, circadian rhythms appear to be disturbed in non-seasonal maladies too, which means there is a potential for light therapy beyond SAD, says Anna Wirz-Justice, professor emeritus at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel. She adds that light therapy has appeal for good reason. When it works, it does so quickly—usually within a week or two. Also, the side effects appear to be mild: Some patients have headaches or a slight nausea at the beginning of treatment, and some report agitation. For researchers like Wirz-Justice, the choice to use light rather than drugs for depression and other mood disorders when possible is obvious. “Light is an active pharmacological agent hitting the brain,” she says. But does it work?
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Idea that intestinal bacteria affect mental health gains ground.
Companies selling ‘probiotic’ foods have long claimed that cultivating the right gut bacteria can benefit mental well-being, but neuroscientists have generally been sceptical. Now there is hard evidence linking conditions such as autism and depression to the gut’s microbial residents, known as the microbiome. And neuroscientists are taking notice — not just of the clinical implications but also of what the link could mean for experimental design.
“The field is going to another level of sophistication,” says Sarkis Mazmanian, a microbiologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “Hopefully this will shift this image that there’s too much commercial interest and data from too few labs.”
This year, the US National Institute of Mental Health spent more than US$1 million on a new research programme aimed at the microbiome–brain connection. And on 19 November, neuroscientists will present evidence for the link in a symposium at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington DC called ‘Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience’.
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In a rare departure from technology and user-centered design topics, this edition of the Namahn lecture series welcomed the world-renowned biologist and primatologist Dr Frans de Waal, voted in 2011 by Discover as among the 47 (all time) Great Minds of Science. De Waal’s work with primates and other animals suggests that morality is neither man-made, nor exclusive to us, but a consequence of evolution.
De Waal argues that morality is older than religion. All religion did was appropriate innate human nature. Among people who do not believe in evolution, many contest this view. In the US, where De Waal now lives, Creationists believe that God created man, and that we only have morality because of God. Even some American scientists claim that Moral Law cannot be explained and will never be explained by evolutionary biology.
This does not prevent Social Darwinists from applying so-called Darwinist ideas (survival of the fittest) to society: "if you can’t afford it, tough." But De Waal argues that the approach of these Social Darwinists is incorrect: it does not correctly reflect either what Darwin proved or our true nature as humans. If our ancestors had not cooperated millions of years ago, we would not be where we are today.