Category Archives: Science

Tickle and Control

FeatherFor the last two days my son lost access to some internet sites on his phone. He insisted it was due to the router restrictions I had put in place. But I had not changed those settings recently and so I told him that his problem was probably due to some new app he probably had put on his phone. We argued back and forth — needing to walk away from each other for an hour. After collecting ourselves, we experimented with the router — but no help. Then my son realized he just recently put an ad blocker on his phone. He removed it and all the problems went away.

He was terribly apologetic — both for his emotions (he is 14 years-old) and for the things he said. Being a sensitive fellow, I knew he’d feel guilty for a long time if I didn’t offer him a way out. So I said, “Look, massage my feet and I will forgive you.”

Hand ReflexologyHe rejoiced receiving a penance method and proceeded to massage my feet. He did a pretty good job actually, but I said, “Son, if you’d like, I can teach you to massage better — it may come in handy when you are older.” He laughed and the shyly asked to be instructed.

I tried to instruct him using his foot but he was unbelievably ticklish. I showed him how ticklishness is psychological by telling him to try to tickle himself. He was amazed. Then I said, “Look, you are in control of your mind, aren’t you? So just tell yourself not to be ticklish.” He tried but of course it only got worse. We experimented with me wearing gloves, then he putting on socks — nothing worked. The lesson: we are in far less control of our minds than we imagine.

Well, I was able to teach him hand massage techniques — hands aren’t ticklish usually. The principles of hand massage are the same as foot, so at least I knew I left my son with one valuable skill tonight.

  • Image credits: Feather, Hand Reflexology (true or false, it helps in the massage and I included it in my lecture to my son).  By the way, my son read this post and agreed to the posting.



Filed under Health, Massage, Psychology

Punching Walls: Have you?

BoxerFxI remember one of my early days of Emergency Medicine when one of my fellow providers picked up the chart of yet another male patient who had slammed his fist into a wall during a verbal fight with his girlfriend or wife.

“What an idiot!” my colleague said in disgust.

To which I incredulously replied, “Haven’t you ever hit something out of anger”? Wondering how he could have so easily forgotten the stupidity of his youth.

“Hell no! Why would I hit a wall?” he said with righteous surprise.

Well, with that clear signal that sharing my stupidity would not be good, I kept quiet. But I have slammed walls several times and broken my hand twice. And with that conversation, I realized that apparently not all men shared my stupidity, my explosive anger, my reflex to strike. I was actually surprised.

Years later, in a similar discussion with another colleague, I decided to share that I too had hit walls before. He then asked me “Why did you hit the wall?”

To which I unhesitantly replied, “Because my father raised me correctly. He taught me never to hit a woman.” To which my colleague responded with shocked eyes.

We are all different from each other. Sometimes we mistakenly assume that our situations are uncommon, but sometimes we are right. It is always good to find out, but only when it feels safe.

On a positive note, after my second fracture, I learned to go outside to sprint or to pick up tree sticks and therapeutically smash them — I had to dump my testosterone somehow. And it has been greater than 15 years since I even needed to do that. Further, I am proud to say, I have never hit a woman — its almost shameful that such a statement should ever have to be made, eh?

Is my new found freedom from rage due to a fall in my testosterones levels or due to maturity and insight? Unfortunately, I’d bet on the former.

Questions for readers: How about you, have you ever hit a wall? What do you feel about wall-hitters?

Note: I have treated women who have done the same, of course, but they have been far and few between.


Filed under Cognitive Science

The Side Effects of Playback Speed

Faster_Baude_RateRecently I have discovered websites that allow faster playback speed for video lectures — up to two times normal speed.  I now use it constantly!  I will even speed up native New York Speakers to  1.25 or 1.50.  But my usual playback speed is now 2x because it saves me much time in learning and otherwise, I get bored. I love it. I wish I could have sped up my college teachers the same way. But will this play back option cause a problem for me?

I have always been impatient with most other peoples’ slow presentations, and often joke saying, “Would you please pick up your baud rate.”

Obnoxious, aren’t I? Well, I’ve gotten a little better at not saying that, but just when I have started to tame this nerdy-social-defect, out comes Playback Speed options. Now I am speeding up lecture videos all the time to make the listening more tolerable, and I worry if it will flame my impatience with slow thinkers and slow speakers. Will I embarrass myself as these listeners see my eyes searching their body for a “2x button”?  Seriously, will high playback speeds negatively affect society like violent video games and fast cut rates (within and between scenes) in movies?

Question to Readers: Your thoughts?



Filed under Sociology

Your Skepticism Temperament

Skepticism_MeterA person’s temperament makes skepticism a joy for some, yet uncomfortable for others. In spite of this mechanical fate, we inevitably tend to valorize our own temperaments over the temperaments others. Skepticism can protect us when it sees through lies and delusions but skepticism can also harm us when we find one fault and yet throw out all that is of value attached to that fault. Skepticism can cause further advancement as we throw off long-held misunderstandings, or it can harm us when we hesitate to take action being paralyzed by skepticism concerning inadequate information. Skepticism is a double edged sword.

So, where does your temperament fall on the skeptometer?  What do you feel is the ideal mix of skepticism?  If I were the head of a manufacturing company, I’d want a small percentage of my employees to be manic skeptics, a larger percent to be largely dutiful sheep and everyone else to be a pleasant mix non-confronting skeptics or Bleating Sheep who are joyfully conformative. I think such a company would have better chances than not of being highly competitive and successful against other manufacturing companies.

Well, it seems that perhaps both the human genome and society have realized the competitive advantage of such a mix and thus create a similar mix of temperaments among humans. So if we understand this essentially mathematical Darwinian outcome, we may perhaps be less inclined to unhesitantly declare our own skeptic-temperament to be virtue while imagining the temperament of others to be mere stupidity. Instead, we will understand the inherent frustration of a successful society–its values and dangers.

Questions for readers:  Where do you feel you are on the temperament rheostat?  How would you label the spectrum? Do you ever try to check your own natural tendency to valorize your temperament?


Filed under Cognitive Science

Box Turtles


Box Turtles are so cool.  My kids and I have captured a few around our house.  We raised them for a short while, then let them go.  But I was very surprised to see this little fella on top of building where I was working.  I mean just sitting there peaceful near a large puddle of water.  Walking down a hall, I just happened to be looking out the window and there she was — a funny little box turtle far away from her home.

But then my head did a double-take and my eyes, as amazing as the human eye is, decided to focus in and examine. Scroll down to see what my eyes and brain presented to me next.

Oh how very deceptive is the human mind.  This, of course, has all sorts of implications not only in religion but also in science, relationships and much more.  For it is our mind that does all of that for us.  Alas!

I hope I have set up this post’s visuals well enough so that you may have experienced what I experienced.

Question to readers:  Share a story of when your eye-mind tricked you.
Here is what I saw after focusing, both my eye/mind and my camera:


Filed under Cognitive Science

Autism: Should I care?

Fashionistas pose for photographs in front of a homeless man outside Moynihan Station following a showing of the Rag & Bone Spring/Summer 2013 collection during New York Fashion WeekIn this rather long post, I hope to show you how my title ties together several experiences I had this week.  I ran across the above photo this morning and it triggered me to group these experiences to share with you.  The photo is from Die Spiegel’s collection of photos looking back at 2012.  This photo superbly illustrates the collision of rich-and-poor/sick-and-healthy in America with the obvious subtext being “We don’t care.”  But should we care?

I know next to nothing about “Autism”, mostly because, of the many maladies of life, this is one that does not affect me as strongly as others.  So because of this, I naturally don’t care as much as I otherwise would.  Nonetheless, I recently read three articles about autism and had a conversation with my dentist and my son that made me care a little more this week.  First, let’s start with the three articles:

(1) Antidepressants in water supply may increase risk of autism

This article examines known autism-related gene expressions in fathead minnows brains who were exposed to unmetoblized psychoactive pharmaceuticals in rivers.

Source Article: Thomas MA, Klaper RD (2012) Psychoactive Pharmaceuticals Induce Fish Gene Expression Profiles Associated with Human Idiopathic Autism. PLoS ONE 7(6): e32917.

(2) Autistic mice respond to bacteroides probiotic

Though I’ve know gut-bacteria are important, I never realized that they may influence depression, MS and autism. A recent study feeds mice a common gut bacteria and their behaviors felt to be autism-surrogate-measures improved.

Sources: I first saw it in this New Scientist article, then saw a FANTASTIC TED-x 6-minute talk by the researcher, Elaine Hsiao.  The I found a group of her research articles here.

(3) Autism: lack of caring vs. hyper-caring

Apparently in the new updated DSM-5, “Aspies” (people with Asperger’s syndrome) will lose their own category and will be classified under the “Autism-spectrum” category (see here and here).  I’m not sure of the consequences but there are sure to be many untoward ones as this is the bible of Psychiatry and used for disability funding and social labeling.  And social labeling has huge effects.

Autistic folks are often typified as lacking empathy and not caring about other people like neurotypicals do. But I read an article describing Autism as an “Intense World Syndrome” with hyper-perception, hyper-attention and hyper-memory which is debilitating. (see Markram et al). The author tells us that people with autism can be overwhelmed by empathic feelings and tend to pull back to avoid pain and fear. Learning skills to limit input and to interact with such an intense world is one of the huge challenges for autism-spectrum people.

Now, my dentist experience:

Cracked_ToothI said, autism-spectrum folks don’t touch my life too much, but occasionally they do, and I care for a moment – as happened this week.

Wednesday one of my wisdom teeth cracked in half. Ouch!  But do you care?  Well, maybe, if you have had a cracked tooth.  But is it me you care about or the way it makes you feel about yourself?

Anyway, back to me.  That tooth and I have a long history. I first chipped it in Pakistan in the 70’s when I chomped down on a little pebble in some rice – boy did that hurt.  With no language skills at that time, and no friends or acquaintences in Pakistan, I finally found a Pakistani army dentist to fix it for me. Twenty years later part of the filling he did fell out. So a Seattle dentist replaced the filling with a gold in-lay.  During this second repair, the dentist remarked, “whoever did the first repair of this tooth was a hack!” I told him the story and he laughed. But I was grateful to that Pakistani dentist for taking away my pain and making a repair that lasted 20 years.

Well after this week’s cracking, that gold in-lay was slicing up my tongue until it was repaired by my third dentist. So I was thankful again to another dentist.

While waiting in that dentist’s chair for my tooth-cement to dry, I was reading some tweets on my phone and saw the bacteria-and-autism post. My dentist asked me what I was reading and when I told her.  She was surprised saying, “My daughter has severe autism. May I look at that article?”  She was excited and said she is going to look more into the issue.  So autism touched my life this week.

Finally, my conversation with my son:

On one of our car trips this week I was explaining the bacteria study to my son. We discussed drug metabolism, water supplies, gut bacteria and more.  He found it interesting but through in a caveat  “Dad,” he said in a serious tone, “at school they tell us about all the horrible environmental stuff happening and about the injustices in many countries around the world. But is it wrong that I don’t really care?”

Wow, I was so very proud that my son felt comfortable enough to ask me that question. We talked a long time about the issue and afterwards he told me felt much better about his supposed heartlessness. I won’t bore you with the details — more important was that we had a conversation about empathy, morality, motivations and information overload.


So, I just flooded you with lots of information today.  Should you care?

My childhood world was much simpler than my son’s.  I was raised with no computers, and only one newspaper and only three TV channels.  My son is flooded daily with may fold more input — and thus many more issues which he is apparently suppose to care about.  Withdrawal from this hyper-information world is an adaptive, helpful mechanism.  I can’t pretend to understand my son’s world and what it means to his growing mind — I never had that experience.   And am hoping the most important thing my son remembers about our conversation is that I don’t condemn his feelings and I understand.  I trust you now see the connection between all the information above — and if nothing more, walk away with that.


Filed under Science


Whack_CreationistMy post called “Is Evolution a Theory” has 127 comments! However, many of them are complete Creationist nonsense — like these little moles. Fortunately, I have some very educated, generous readers who share fantastic info in their comments. One of those readers, Ian, while correcting a creationist said,

“At least then we might be able to have a sane discussion about some topic. Rather than playing rhetorical whack-a-mole.”

WhackI had not heard the expression “whack-a-mole” so I looked it up.  It is a fantastic description of a common form of debating.  I actually have a post called “Fart Logic” that describes a similar style of bad debate.  Anyway, I was so excited to learn the phrase “whack-a-mole” that I created these series of images appropriate to the context Ian mentioned it in.  Hope you enjoy them!

The Wiki article on “Whack-a-Mole” mentions several uses of the phrase:

  • a repetitious and futile task: each time an adversary is “whacked” it only pops up again somewhere else.
  • It is used in the computer and networking industry to describe the phenomenon of fending off recurring spammers, vandals or miscreants.
  • In the military it refers to ostensibly inferior opposing troops who keep re-appearing.

Ian works in computer science (and other fields) but I can also imagine him having a few arcade games in basement with whack-a-mole being one of them.


Filed under Evolution, Science

Faith in the Theory of Evolution

Some update on my son’s science teacher’s classes on Evolution:

1. Faith in the Theory:

When asked how a question about Evolution the teacher prefaced the reply with: “Well, it depends on your faith in the theory.”  Arggghhh.  There is the issue with theory, again.

2. Humans don’t come from Monkeys:

The teacher told the class “they have not discovered any skeletons that link monkeys to humans.”  Ouch — very true but bad teaching.  Humans don’t come from monkeys.  Monkeys, Apes and Humans all shared ancestors.  The rest you know.

 3. Factual and True:

When my friend asked his daughter if she felt evolution as if it were factual and true, the daughter said, “Yes”.  But when he asked if she felt that her teacher thought it was factual and true, she said, “I don’t know”.  Ouch.  But it would be tough if she didn’t believe.  It is these other lines that are getting to us.

Planned Approach:  We have decided to let the teacher finish this section and gather information.  Then we will approach the teacher at the end of the year after our kids are safely out of her class.  I wager she has more information to offer us before then.


Filed under Events, Science

“Holes” in the Theory of Evolution

As a quick update on my last post:  Yesterday my son’s science teacher gave a short presentation on “The Evidence for Evolution”. During that presentation my son raised his hand and asked:

“You said the Theory of Evolution had lots of holes. Could you tell me what they are?”

She gave two reasons:

  • Second Law of Thermodynamics: “Things become more disordered, not more ordered”.  To this, my son countered saying, “But that is only for a closed system”.  But he says the teacher did not respond.
  • Irreducible Complexity:  “How can something so complex come from something so simple.”
    My son did not have an opportunity to respond to this.  He said to me, “I wish I was faster on my feet.” 🙂

After telling me this, my son said to me, “I am really disappointed.  I use to think my teacher was a very rational person.”  To which I responded.  “Look buddy, I am sure she is very rational.  It is just that we ALL can become illogical and sloppy when he feel something precious to us is under attack.”

My friend and I are still considering how and when to respond.  I think those of you that know the generic Creationists ‘arguments’ can easily see how it now seems pretty clear where the teacher stands now.


Filed under Science

Is Evolution just a Theory?

GravityMy son has a skilled science teacher who just finished teaching him an accurate, detailed overview of genetics. Today they began studying Evolution. My son related these three claims that the teacher made today:

  • “Evolution is JUST a theory”
  • “Evolution is FULL of holes”
  • “Evolution can not be proven”

This teacher’s statements are generic ID, anti-evolution propaganda and shows either the ignorance of the teacher or her significant religious blindness or both. A friend and I are going to try and address this at the school.

Question to readers: How would you approach this issue?


Filed under Evolution, Science