Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Weekly Links, February 1, 2008

Here’s some collected, sorted, and partially digested information for this week. Happy reading! 1.) Scientists have recently created synthetic DNA by splicing base pairs together further providing increasing human capability toward Man-Made Life. As one would imagine, many people are still concerned about the negative impact over humans “playing God” (this is supposing that evolution was arranged and ordered by God or, if you want, that evolution as an order).

2.) Geologists look at the history of the Earth in rather big blocks: eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages. These periods of geological time are classified according to the central factors affecting these periods according to evidence in the rocks. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that in considering the factors affecting the rocks (climate, air, water, heat, vegetation, etc.), geologists have recently proposed that the last 200 years be called Anthropocene (or Man-made) Age, noting the human factor (i.e. industrialization and its CO2 impact) reflected in the rocks.

3.) Can demographic changes, namely the world’s aging population, positively improve international and local political situations and “defuse war on terrorism? Recent studies give us something to hope about concerning the changing demographic and subsequent social nature of certain “hotbeds”:

*Countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia are currently experiencing “youth bulges” (a disproportionately high number of young people in a society) along with high rates of unemployment. Author Mark L. Haas of Duquesne University argues that this has created many individuals with strong grievances against current political conditions and little stake in society. He then cites research showing that population aging and the diminishment of youth bulges - which these countries are due to experience in the next 22 years - has been a source of political stability and economic development in many other regions. *

[…]

For example, Russia’s working-age population (ages 15 to 64) is expected to shrink 34 percent by 2050. The country’s population is already decreasing by 700,000 people per year. Also by 2050, China’s median age is predicted to be nearly 45. Given this fact, their government will be faced with a difficult choice: allow growing levels of poverty within an exploding elderly population, or provide the resources necessary to combat this problem by diverting funds from military spending.

4.) In a country where “87 percent of counties have no abortion provider, and many women who need the service desperately can’t afford to get it,” a battered Roe celebrates her 35 years. Check out these feminist perspectives on the event at the Salon. For my part, I think it’s time to revise the Constitution and, in particular, the Bill of Rights in order to include some new ideas and some new modern or even post-modern rights, like the Freedom of Reproductive Choice.

5.) Children and adults do not cognitively speaking perceive the world and objects in the same manner. In a resent study on cognitive development, three- and four-years as well as adults are asked to describe how to locate an object in a room. The exact scenario is that there is a troll that’s hidden and you need to tell him or her how to find that object. Interestingly enough, in describing an ambiguous object these children used physical property descriptors more often than they used locational descriptors, meaning children use words like size, color, and such more than saying where that object is located in relation to the seeker. The logic extends to claim then that there a difference in the complexity of compression between the child’s and the adult’s perception of ambiguous objects, such that for children “simpler is better.” I’m not so sure about that last part, but the study is interesting in attempting to better understand the very phenomenon of differing perceptions and differing paradigms. While these types of studies focus on the biological and cognitive development of the neurologically-perceptive brain and body, we could even go so far as to imagine the cultural and imaginary development of the perceptive brain and the lived body.

6.) A great map of the United States labeled and colored according to the religious denomination. It helps you put in perspective regional differences in relation to differences in religious perspectives.

7.) Video New Report on Speed-dating and Western romance Chinese-style.

8.) Research finds that deep stimulation of the brain improves memory. Sign me up!


Quote of the Week:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
- George Bertrand Shaw