The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer

The US military, concerned about the welfare of children whose parents are abroad spreading democracy (or whatever), have hit upon the brilliant idea of … wait for it … virtual parents.

The proposal outlines the idea as follows:

The child should be able to have a simulated conversation with a parent about generic, everyday topics. For instance, a child may get a response saying “I love you”, or “I miss you”, or “Good night mommy/daddy.” This is a technologically challenging application because it relies on the ability to have convincing voice-recognition, artificial intelligence, and the ability to easily and inexpensively develop a customized application tailored to a specific parent.

As fucked up as this is, I approve of this type of research. Before you say, “think of the children”, think of this: these kids are pretty much doomed anyway. Not having parents means they’ll statistically be at a disadvantage. Giving them a “friend” to talk to can’t possibly hurt, especially when one thinks of all the other internet stuff an unsupervised child might stumble upon.

And the applications could be much further-reaching than virtual parents. I’d go more into this, but your imagination is probably better than mine. Once again it seems the sci-fi writers have predicted the state of things to come.

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Legal hallucinations

Here are a series of methods that will trick your brain into hallucinating. Is it just me or are some of these a little kinky?

Men to be extinct real soon now

According to this, significantly fewer males are being born, and those that are have smaller genitals and lower sperm counts. This is apparently a side effect of pollution.

A host of common chemicals is feminizing males of every class of vertebrate animals, from fish to mammals, including people. Many have been identified as ‘endocrine disruptors’ or gender-benders because they interfere with hormones. Communities heavily polluted with gender-benders in Canada, Russia, and Italy have given birth to twice as many girls as boys, which may offer a clue to the mysterious shift in sex ratios worldwide. And a study at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University showed that boys whose mothers had been exposed to PCBs grew up wanting to play with dolls and tea sets rather than with traditionally male toys. It also follows hard on the heels of new American research which shows that baby boys born to women exposed to widespread chemicals in pregnancy are born with smaller penises and feminized genitals. It is calculated that 250,000 babies who would have been boys have been born as girls instead in the US and Japan alone. And sperm counts are dropping precipitously. Studies in more than 20 countries have shown that they have dropped from 150 million per milliliter of sperm fluid to 60 million over 50 years.

I’d like to think that genetic engineering your child’s gender will advance to the point where this is no longer relevant, but still… kind of ominous.

Here’s something fun

Nine scientists and one sci-fi writer made predictions on how the world will likely end. Volcanoes, asteroids, and alien attacks are all represented. Interestingly though, nobody makes any mention of global thermonuclear war. We still have all those bombs, remember?

I, for one, welcome our new ordure-dwelling spore-flinging Verdien overlords

Nicholas Money’s students, in a justified fit of ecstasy, have created the first fungus opera. Behold:

Kink and politics is cool and all, but damn! sometimes geeky stuff like this gets me all worked up.

The “bad” gene

30% of us inherently resist learning from our mistakes, apparently.

“If there is one thing experts on child development agree on, it is that kids learn best when they are allowed to make mistakes and feel the consequences. So Mom and Dad hold back as their toddler tries again and again to cram a round peg into a square hole. […] But not, it seems, all kids. In about 30 percent, the coils of their DNA carry a glitch, one that leaves their brains with few dopamine receptors, molecules that act as docking ports for one of the neurochemicals that carry our thoughts and emotions. A paucity of dopamine receptors is linked to an inability to avoid self-destructive behavior such as illicit drug use. But the effects spill beyond such extremes. Children with the genetic variant are unable to learn from mistakes. No matter how many tests they blow by partying the night before, the lesson just doesn’t sink in.”