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Your hair is like unto a pretty realistic wig, nicely styled,

and your skin like the softly worn vinyl of a subway armrest, warmed by the heavy flesh of Tom

Your eyes like ping-pong balls painted to closely resemble pretty eyes.

You brighten my thoughts like dawn over the exit 170 Park and Ride on a nice day.

Missing you hurts like my funny bone against a marble countertop. Exactly like that.

I do it again and again because the pain reminds me of loving you… (Sonofa)…ok, Jesus, that’s enough now.

Fuck.

When you are away my longing piles up like dishes in the sink,

and my sadness spreads and deepens like socks on the living room floor

 

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A lot of us Fucking Love Science and I’m glad about that but overly romantic thinking about Science means we are naive in a world that exploits naivety. This (happily) working scientist explains the rat race aspects of vocational daily science with a special insight into the perverse role of journalists as sloppy, inaccurate promoters of studies in search of public attention. Journalists shake dollars loose with exciting stories that are sometimes even partly true. This cycle points to the danger of scientists getting sloppy too, rushing to publish,  making headlines sound sexy, and emphasizing results that are rarely replicable just to keep playing the (now degraded) game. We should think about this stuff. Over a long enough period, that’s a death spiral for what we fucking love about science.*


Scientist –

People think my job is to search for deep truths, understand the meaning of life and how the world and the universe works.

In reality, my main job is to write papers and get grants so my institution can build its reputation and get money. Most research that is published is wrong in some way (except for analytical work on theory), and not because we are being dishonest. It’s because we need to publish a lot and there really isn’t time to zero in on some ultimate truth, we just need to get things right enough to publish. And even if we had all the time in the world, there is the issue of experimental design. For one thing, experimental design is very subtle and difficult and most of the papers I read didn’t really do the right experiment to support their point. You can ask them to do more experiments as a reviewer, but as you can expect, this is not your favorite thing to read when your paper is reviewed because it means more time and money you probably don’t have.

That brings me to the other problem, even if you do have the time, do you have the money? Enough people? The right equipment? An infinite number of just the right test subjects? You see where this is going…

So we write our paper and try to make as big a splash as we can so we can get promoted in our jobs, get tenure, and get more grants. (Also because we want to get the information out there for others to use, research that is unpublished is just a hobby.) The institution wants to peddle this work for more clout, so they write up a press release that over-simplified the research and over-extrapolates the possible importance of the findings. This is sent to journalists who don’t read the actual paper, but rather report based on the press release an even more overly simplified version of the paper, now with wildly speculative implications for humanity, the earth, and/or understanding the universe.

This is how you can publish a paper that shows that mice react kind of funny in a statistically significant way to being exposed to a chemical that is commonly used in ink, and then you read in the New York Times about how using ballpoint pens will kill you.

EDIT: My main point here is that people should be skeptical about science, particularly what they read that is written by journalists – whether it is news articles or actual books. Popular science books were once written by the scientists themselves, now more often they are written by journalists. And there are people who are motivated more by telling a good story than showing what science is really like – full of mistakes and uncertainty, and normal pressures of any career, it is not just the pure search for truth.

But I don’t mean at all to say that being a scientist is terrible (I feel the opposite), I just don’t like the over-simplified way people view science as some pure source of distilled perfect truth. It’s not, but that’s not a bad thing. Understanding life is not simple, nor is understanding how the universe works, the fact that it is so complex is what makes being a scientist fascinating – but what makes writing best-selling book that tells the whole story a bit harder.

u/zazzlekdazzle, Reddit

 

*- Like so many other things that depend on stockholders for sufficient funding, the important work becomes hollowed out inside and drifts further from its purpose.

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Details from the necklaces from the Great Death Pit of Ur, around 2500 BCE. Bitumen figurines covered with a sheet of gold and lapis lazuli.

Queenly headdress

gold, lapis, carnelian, necklace with beech leaf iconography

Great DeathPit, PG 1237, revealed rows of skeletons, almost entirely female, 74 individuals in all. The women had gone to their grave dressed in scarlet, wearing ornamental headdresses, and were adorned with gold ribbons, gold wreaths, gold necklaces, jewelry of silver and gold, lapis lazuli, and carnelian.

Six women lay near two lyres and a harp, near the southeast wall. Most of the women had cups or shells containing cosmetic pigments. Body 61, in the upper right corner, was more elaborately attired than the others and she had a silver tumbler next to her mouth.
Half of the women (but none of the men) had cups or jars, as if at a banquet.

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Inspirational quotes from machines. Any resemblance to actual wisdom is coincidental.

 

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“My own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” -J. B. S. Haldane

How do these days taste to you? How do they feel, literally in your heart? Do they sit with you, whispering confused thoughts? Do they weigh on your stomach like a heavy meal?

Life in Covid-19 lockdown has a unique feeling, in distinct contrast with all that preceded it.  If you were writing the great Corona novel you’d observe the climate, character, and ambiance of this time. The form, style, and subject matter would come out of you dyed vividly with the anxious, strange, and haunting uncertainty of this collective experience.

If god forbid, someday in the middle future we find ourselves in quarantine again, all this will hit us like a lead-pipe deja-vu: The dread, uneasily watching spasmodic charts of cases and deaths. Reports from overwhelmed cities and tearful ER staff. Ourselves adrift, unemployed, possibly forever. Time dissolving, as the familiar weekdays drift out of position like objects in space. Untenable haircuts growing like abandoned yards. Every one of these experiences is more than a thought. All of them are sensations in the body, and feelings in the heart.

More subtly, there is something in the air in these altered times. An instability, or fragility, as if everything is suddenly exposed and undefended. There is an ominous sense of something bad, just out of sight. You feel vulnerable but vulnerable to what exactly you don’t know, you just feel exposed, vaguely targeted.

This is a psychological state in the wind like an odor: Strangeness like a pressure drop. It makes you check the locks. It makes you alert to small noises.

The next morning you wake up to a normal day, and those feelings are gone. You may think “That was silly getting so weirded out”. But what if last night’s feelings weren’t a mistake, but a perception of shifting reality, gone the next day like a blown-out storm.

“Reality Weather”™ is a metaphor to describe this nameless but omnipresent aspect of life. It’s silly that something so fundamental (if ephemeral) lacks a common handle so there it is. Reality weather is the mood of days, the expression on the face of passing time. Reality weather is the music accompanying the compelled dancing of strange times. I don’t mean the shifting experience of any one single person. I mean the moods and gut feelings that we in the collective experience as external shifts in personal climate. Of course, it is a subjective experience, that’s what experience IS but reality weather is like the simultaneous community experience of a powerful drop in barometric air pressure. It must be experienced, person by person, but reality weather is the connecting Venn circle of persons having a congruent experience. Reality weather is a collective mood-swing. Continue reading

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Telling the truth about something shameful is a really interesting bargain.

We exchange being a worse person who is seen as better, for being a better person, who is seen as a worse one.

That is, we go from being an immoral person who everybody believes to be moral to a moral person who everybody condemns.

We downgrade our reputation and suffer losses for the deeply soulful result of living in truth once again.

There is something about living a lie that is a bit like holding your breath underwater or going around caked in dirt no one else can see. It’s a pure relief then, finally taking a breath or finally being clean.

 

The outrage people feel at hearing they were lied to is also interesting. I want to understand specifically what harm was done.

A lie places the victim in a false location. They are lost but they don’t know it.

A lie steals their autonomy and volition. It prevents them from acting in their own interests or self defense.

A lie repudiates the time it seemed but only seemed, we were loved.

A lie reveals our value at the time of sale. Lower than we imagined.

While the lie was believed we didn’t know where we were, or who we were with. Terrifying.

 

 

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Psycho comes from the Greek word psykho, which means mental. The Greek root word path can mean either “feeling” or “disease.” So psychopath is a word meaning “mental illness”. “Sociopath” is not a clinical term and it is a no-no for mental health professionals to use it. However, I am NOT a mental health professional, and the name is rather on point about the issue: Sick towards society, towards people. In the 1830’s this disorder was called “moral insanity.” By 1900 it was changed to “psychopathic personality.” More recently it has been termed “antisocial personality disorder” in the DSM-III and DSM-IV.

DSM-IV Definition: Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards in the local culture. There is a marked inability to get along with others or abide by societal rules.

It’s easy to take the DSM on faith at face value as sufficient authority to settle the issue of who is or isn’t thoroughly, but the needs of the mental health community and others who have to deal with psychopaths don’t line up perfectly. The DSM criteria depend heavily on observed behaviors while law enforcement and criminal justice must often predict behavior based on personality characteristics. Continue reading

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